When I was mandated to enter the hermitical life, my spiritual director told me, by checking the news channels of various countries, to stay aware of everything impacting our brothers and sisters throughout the world, amid the culture of darkness and death, to treasure every human being in my heart, offering each Holy Mass, everything I am and do as intercession for everyone, with love.
As I write, millions are anticipating a joyous event, the marriage of Prince Harry and Megan, while yet again there is grieving in the Unites States in the aftermath of yet another school shooting.
This is the intense paradox of human beings – our capacity to love, to commit to one another, to life, and our capacity for hate, hate that morphs into violence.
In his book KING LEOPOLD’S GHOST, Adam Hochshild makes a seminal statement: ….the world we live in – its divisions and conflicts, its widening gap between rich and poor, its seemingly inexplicable outbursts of violence – is shaped far less by what we celebrate and mythologize than by the painful events we try to forget. [ from: Ch. 19- The Great Forgetting, 1999 ed.]
In 1826 James Fenimore Cooper published his THE LAST OF THE MOCHICANS.
What is fascinating about this novel is it shows how the European powers, in their conquest of the Americas, took advantage of the pre-existing hatreds, wars, cruelty, slavery existing among the Indigenous peoples by, for example the French and British, who used these pre-disposed enemies of each other, such as the Iroquois and the Huron, to further their attempts to dominate the fur trade, gain more territory.
Cooper, long before Hochshild, shows a fundamental sin among human beings: hatred morphing into violent attempts, sometimes successful, to dominate those deemed ‘not like us’.
Nowadays individuals, groups, even governments expend inordinate amounts of energy in the blaming of others for all woes, even engaging in revisionist history to assert their insatiable demands for re-dress, going so far as to override natural law, which is Divine Law, itself inscribed in every human heart, when it comes, for example, to the sacredness of human life from the womb to the tomb, the sanctity of Holy Marriage, the objective God created reality of us as human persons who, in His image and likeness are indeed, male and female.
In stark contrast to this hate filled, blaming, death dealing, divisive, cognitively dissonant century, is Jesus.
Jesus who teaches us how, by His words and example, to de-poison our hearts, to escape the painful bondage of memories we cling to with anger, bitterness, blaming, for in refusing to forgive, in refusing to allow the open wounds to be healed by choosing not to be a perpetual victim never able to be satisfied with any form of re-dress, be it through the justice system, financial compensation, having society change to adjust to us, in a word only imitating our merciful and forgiving Jesus can we be restored to the sanity with which we were born, only through authentic forgiveness and loving those who have hurt us can we finally become mature, free, whole, indeed holy, persons: Mt. 18: 21-25; 6:95; Lk. 23-24.
Every race, religion, nation, tribe, clan, family, individual on earth, because satan and sin exist, has been/is sinned against or has/does sin.
This is the stark reality of having free will, a gift so precious God does not take it away from anyone, no matter how that person may abuse freedom to hurt, damage, dominate other[s].
Satan wants victims to be perpetually so.
Christ wants victims to be healed and set free, but that means exercising free will to accept the offered healing.
When as an individual person, or as a member of a group of persons sinned against, we refuse to forgive those who have/or the one who has sinned against us, we remain prisoners, perpetual victims and the victimizer retains their power – a share of satan’s power – over us.
Thus, refusal to love, to do good to those who persecute, to forgive our enemies, means allowing poison to become such a part of us our minds, hearts, bodies, souls are perpetually infected.
We can become enmeshed in a culture of victimhood, become insatiable with a relentless demand for a redress than can never cleanse us of the poison or free us from the dank and lonely prison we refuse to leave, even when, as He did for Lazarus, Jesus flings open the door, calls us forth, orders we be unbound.
St. Matthew chapter 5 is the template for becoming unbound, unvictimed, freed, is the template also for authentic Christian living.
It is within this, frankly insane 21st century, I have become a stranger – which I take as a blessing – living amid a human family, in a country, I no longer recognize, understand less and less.
Somehow it as if we have become bit players in the Scottish play!
From: The Tragedy of Macbeth: Act 4-Scene 1: William Shakespeare: Second Witch: By the pricking of my thumbs, Something wicked this way comes. Open, locks, Whoever knocks! Enter MACBETH: How now, you secret, black, and midnight hags! What is't you do? ALL: A deed without a name. MACBETH: I conjure you, by that which you profess, Howe'er you come to know it, answer me: Though you untie the winds and let them fight Against the churches; though the yesty waves Confound and swallow navigation up; Though bladed corn be lodged and trees blown down; Though castles topple on their warders' heads; Though palaces and pyramids do slope Their heads to their foundations; though the treasure Of nature's germens tumble all together, Even till destruction sicken; answer me To what I ask you.
Macbeth himself embodies the hubris and narcissism so prevalent in our contemporary society.
By using this character and his story Shakespeare has given us a study of the psychology of, indeed the philosophy of evil we would do well to study, that we might defend against evil with all the tools given us by the Holy Spirit.
The ancient Greeks with their panoply of gods, associated stories, their philosophies, had a fair grasp of the human condition.
Our modern word Hubris derives from the Greek concept of extreme overconfidence in oneself, including behaviour which challenges the gods.
Narcissus, the son of a river god and a nymph, was in bondage to pride to such an extent he disdained others, even those who loved him, so the gods dispatched one of their own, Nemesis, to deal with him. She lured him to a deep pool of water where, seeing his own reflection, he was transfixed. Unable to turn his gaze away from himself, he lost his will to live and died.
In Western countries it is the hubris and anti-god pride of baptized men and women in government, the supreme courts, universities, etc., who, having discovered they are smarter than God, have set in motion the relativism, and all the culture of death flowing therefrom, as a tsunami of darkness engulfing human beings.
Blindly carrying on their agenda, with apparently no idea they are so embedded in cognitive dissonance it escapes them they are being persistently seduced by the god Nemesis, a.k.a., satan.
“The devil is a great liar. Don’t talk to him or even get close. He tries to seduce and like a chained rabid dog, if you caress him, he bites…….He has this ability; this ability to seduce. This is why it is so difficult to understand that he is a loser, because he presents himself with great power, promises you many things, brings you gifts – beautiful, well wrapped – -‘Oh, how nice!’ – but you do not know what’s inside – ‘But, the card outside is beautiful.’ The package seduces us without letting us see what’s inside. He can present his proposals to our vanity, to our curiosity…..“ [excerpts from a homily of Pope Francis, May 8.18]
We need to see evil for what it truly is: the disingenuousness of those who rail about climate change and keeping fossils fuels in the ground – all the while unwilling to forego the diesel trucks that bring their organic food to market; past the mentality which ignores the stark reality no matter how many laws and temper tantrums to the contrary, no two people of the same gender can ever have a true marriage, and it matters not a wit the extent of liturgical babble, no woman can be ordained in persona Christi, because what is lacking in the first example is common sense and honesty and in the latter two examples, are the essentials for the Holy Spirit to make sacrament real: proper matter and proper form.
And to another He said, “Follow me.” But he replied, “Lord, let me go first and bury my father.” But He answered him, “Let the dead bury their dead. But you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” [Lk.9:59-60]
It is a struggle as I write this to avoid the pitfall of listing and detailing all the various elements of contemporary life in my own country and throughout the world which have led to the awareness I am indeed – and frankly blessedly so – a stranger in a strange land.
The child’s father and mother were amazed at what was said about Him; and Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this Child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted and you yourself a sword will pierce so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.” [Lk. 2:33-35]
Then the dragon became angry with the woman and went off to wage war against the rest of her offspring, those who keep God’s commandments and bear witness to Jesus. [Acts. 12:17]
As far back as 1979, writing under his given name of Karol Wojtyla, in his book SIGN OF CONTRADITCION, St. John Paul teaches that whoever is:….strong with the strength given him by faith does not easily allow himself to be thrust into the anonymity of the collective….
Jesus comforts, strengthens, mandates, reassures us in our vocation to be signs of contradiction in imitation of Himself.
We should not fear what they may to do us, anymore than St. Maxmilian Kolbe or St. Benedicta of the Cross, both martyred in the past century by the Nazis.
Jesus assures us He has come to bring fire upon the earth, the fire of love, of metanoia, of life [cf. Lk.12:49], that by the power of the Holy Spirit and the sacrament of Baptism we are indeed, amid the culture of darkness and death: light! [cf.Mt.5:14].
Become strangers in this strange land of the 21st century we need not fear being lost, for we only need keep our eyes fixed upon, our hearts attentive to He who is our way, our truth, our life. [cf. Jn.14:16]
Already in the 3rd century men and women had gone deep into the deserts, away from the chaos, to pray, fast, intercede for the human family.
Among the greatest of these: Abba Anthony, known as the friend of God.
Aware the future – for these holy men and women of the desert kept informed about the outside world – was likely going to be even more chaotic, some of the monks came to Abba Anthony before he died and asked his vision of the future: “The day will come when they will come to us and tell us we must be crazy because we are not like them!”
As a stranger in this strange land of Canada, this strange land of Western democracies I note: the day has come.