The Inner Struggle

Does It Spark Joy?

“Ladies in Lavender”, Joshua Bell, from the album “the Essential Joshua Bell”, (2005)

Looking back at my last post and reconsidering the feelings and emotions expressed therein. In the post titled “Stupid is as Stupid does: When you have a lot of letters after your name …” I find myself slipping back into old modes of thought and attribution when considering aspects of what I read daily in the media.

Favorite sacred cows of outrage resurface with an alarming facility and I find myself revisiting old modes of thought, old narratives from which no good ever flowed. This is not good for my soul nor conducive to establishment or maintenance of “Peace” in my emotional world. Is it indicative of “trash not put out in the dumpster of my mind”?

Kondo Marie A razor I have used successfully when deciding what is important and what to consign to the big blue bin in my back yard is a mantra learned from a young Japanese author,  Marie Kondo , who wrote a book entitled: “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up”;  to paraphrase: as you contemplate the possession in question ask yourself “Does it spark joy?”. Most often the answer is no, or even in fact the complete opposite, it sparks distress for myriad reasons.

I have considered the possibility of one applying this razor to one’s thoughts about our life and times, our culture, our news, our entertainment, our justice system, our leaders, our contemporaries.  Do they spark joy? In Kondo’s method of tidying up once one settles on the lack of joy in a possession it is permanently consigned to the dump, thrown out for good, never to be retrieved.

I find myself discovering in the back of my mental closet a pile of old shoe boxes containing all the little trash and trinkets of past lives and past modes of thought, past judgements and past sins. I have failed to dispose of these failed thought patterns, rather like Bilbo heading out on his final quest all the while firmly resisting parting with the One Ring of Power.

https://findinghopecatholic.wordpress.com/Again, inspired by a recent post on another site I visit regularly, by a young lady with bipolar. This post too seems appropriate when my busy world is filled with daily crosses and my prayer life is beset by aridity and the temptation to just chuck it all.

As Kasani says: “So how does one achieve peace? It’s actually startlingly simple. The plain, uncomplicated truth is that you will never have peace if you make it a goal in and of itself. Why? Because true peace is simply a side effect. It’s the result of something else. And that something else is trust.”

and in the words of Pope Pius XI:

“The man who prays looks above to the goods of heaven whereon he meditates and which he desires; his whole being is plunged in the contemplation of the marvelous order established by God, which knows not the frenzy of earthly successes nor the futile competitions of ever increasing speed.” –Pope Pius XI

Ultimately it seems that “trust” is found only in “Trust in God”, trust in his love, his forgiveness of all our multitude of transgressions and betrayals, that “Trust” which is articulated in sincere prayer. I find some light to shine on my situation in a little book published in the 1940’s by Father Eugene Boylan, an Irish monk.

Difficulties in Mental PrayerDom Eugene Boylan, O.C.R., was an Irish-born Trappist monk and writer who was born in 1904 and died in 1964. Ordained a priest in 1937, he began writing on spiritual topics, and in the 1940s he published two books, “This Tremendous Lover” and “Difficulties in Mental Prayer”, which became international bestsellers and were translated into many languages.

In the late 1950s he undertook an extensive lecture tour of the United States (“This is the best retreat we ever had at Gethsemani,” commented Thomas Merton after Boylan’s visit there), and in 1962 he was elected the fourth abbot of Mount St. Joseph Abbey in Roscrea, Ireland. Two years later he died in an automobile accident. His book which I am currently reading is calledDifficulties in Mental Prayer“.

In a section entitled “Goodness of Life”, starting on page 66, paragraph 3,  Fr. Boylan writes: “But the greatest difficulties in prayer, and the greatest obstacles to its progress, have their roots outside prayer in the general condition of our spiritual life. On the sincerity of our purpose, the truth of our loyalty, the genuineness of our love—on such things does our prayer greatly depend. Everything that can make or mar friendship and its intimacy will make or mar prayer.” … 

Oboe Concerto in D Minor”, Adagio, from “The Ultimate baroque Album”, (2004)

Jesus in the wilderness… “Prayer will not develop unless the soul is advancing toward the fourfold purity of conscience, of heart, of mind, and of action.” …In its perfection, purity of conscience consists in a firm disposition of the will never to consent deliberately to any offense against God or to any departure from His holy will, and is such that as soon as any act is seen to be opposed to the will of God, it is immediately retracted.”  pp 67 …

… “Purity of heart consists in keeping all the heart for God alone. It is not enough to rule out all sinful attachments, for if our heart is divided by any inordinate attachment, even to lawful recreations, to our work, to persons, or to anything else, we cannot say that we love God with our whole heart. There always will be attachments in the human heart, but they must be subordinate to God and to His will so that they can never usurp His place as the mainspring of our actions.” pp 68  …

Chartres Cathedral Stained Glass Window… “Under purity of mind we include the careful and constant control of our thoughts and memories, by prudently excluding all that is unnecessary, frivolous and vain, and by gradually building up a continual recollection of God and His works. This is also one of the most important of all mortifications  for those who would progress in the spiritual life and far more effective than the most penitential macerations of the flesh.” pp 69  …

… “Purity of action, which is often called purity of intention, in a continual watch over the motives which animate our actions and in a constant effort to act only for the love of God and according to His will. It demands a relentless war on that self love that is always seeking to inspire all our deeds.” pp 69 …

… “This perhaps may seem too hard and may lead only to discouragement. But perfection of this fourfold purity is not required for progress in prayer, for such perfection is synonymous with sanctity; we must, however, continually strive toward these dispositions of purity. We must desire this purity, we must pray for it, we must make earnest efforts to acquire it. But without a special help from God, it is unlikely that we should achieve a sufficient measure of it. There is, however, no limit to God’s goodness. and it is at this stage that He is accustomed to intervene, taking compassion on our infirmities.” pp 70.

Cheers

Joe

empty oneself of every trace of belief in one’s “goodness”.

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The Inner Struggle

We secretly seek ourselves in everything we do …

“River Flows In You”, Yiruma, from the album “Yiruma Piano Collection” , (2001)

Schloss BernhartLooking out from my library windows over the windswept chilly world around me after a night of violent storm and a lot of rain. Trees down, roofs stripped of shingles, walls bare of siding, across a wide swath of our fair land.

Today I am ruminating about “suffering” and the source of same. It seems that suffering would be significantly reduced if only we focused more on improving ourselves instead of focusing on correcting the perceived faults of those around us.

Focusing on ourselves and our own faults we would not be so disturbed by the resistance of others to our opinions and desires. But, often something inside or something outside draws us along and we secretly seek ourselves in everything we do.  And yet we are mostly oblivious to that.

We continue peacefully along when everything unfolds and is done according to OUR will and as WE judge, but if things turn out against OUR will, we move quickly, almost reflexively, to dissension, strife and unhappiness.

Differences of opinion and thought are the most common source of all dissension, strife, unhappiness and, frankly, suffering, arising out of disputes between family and friends and groups of otherwise sincere and well meaning folks.

Old habits of thought are difficult to put aside and much suffering arises from our clinging to old narratives, and old modes of reacting to perceived wrongs. No one is willing to go further than they see or are happy with. Any dissenting voice gives rise to “suffering”.

But, If one relies only on one’s own reason, thought, and work one seems unlikely to achieve peace, falling rather into self-justification and recrimination. Enlightenment and happiness appear further away than ever.

firedragon found on Pinterest - no attribution

Dragon of Self

It seems, simply, that if one cannot put aside the “self”, then, inevitably, much suffering will be one’s lot in life. The fatal trap is “self”.

The death of “self” is freedom and the gate to peace, but Oh what a monster is “Self” and so difficult to slay, rather like performing surgery on oneself without benefit of anesthetic.

It proves insidiously difficult to tell the dragon of Self: “You Shall Not Pass!”

The commonest reaction to this suffering of dissent seems to be to get upset, excited and angry or annoyed and to fight against the suffering and the dissent, to assert the rightness of one’s own position and necessarily the wrongness of the positions of others. In other words, we focus on the suffering and struggle against it in any way we can.

The effect is that the dissent and the suffering dominates our every waking moment and that, added to self pity, increases our suffering hundreds of times. Fighting against the suffering makes it a LOT worse. What really makes suffering difficult to bear is our own exceeding impatience, our refusal to accept it. This irritation with dissent increases our suffering tremendously and robs us of our peace, and our energy, and of our ability to focus on and to get on with life.

Over a year ago I posted about embracing suffering as a way of overcoming suffering in the same way one can embrace fear as a way of overcoming the fear. I find, after a year of trying, that the techniques I learned for overcoming fear don’t work quite as well when applied to suffering.

It seems that it is relatively easy to identify the locus of fear, the germinating grain from which the fear arises within oneself and thus come to grips with fear as an aspect of self, and self control.

Suffering, however seems another beast entirely, less reflexively identifiable as originating within the self and more easily experienced as originating from without, the fault of something or someone outside our self, and therefore outside our self control.

I begin to believe that a more “granular” approach is required to “deal” with suffering, that in fact it is not the fact of suffering one has to deal with but rather how the self reacts to that suffering that is problematic.

This journey doesn’t get easier as one goes along. It is not that it gets harder exactly but rather that things always seem to be more complicated than one first assumed when first confronting the windmills.

Cheers

Joe

desert walkAlways remember, “be charitable in your judgements, and never take yourself too seriously”

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The Inner Struggle

The Real Presence …

“Eternity’s Sunrise”, Bill Douglas, from the album “Eternity’s Sunrise”, (2000).

Meditating on eternity and the implications for daily life. Why should we care about eternity? Thinking about “Pascal’s Wager” for probably the millionth time over the last 30 years.

Blaisse PascalEither God is, or he is not. But to which view shall we be inclined? Reason cannot decide this question. [Remember that Pascal’s Wager is an argument for skeptics.] Infinite chaos separates us. At the far end of this infinite distance [death] a coin is being spun that will come down heads [God] or tails [no God]. How will you wager?

Why are we here? What is the point of life? At one point almost thirty years ago I found myself alone, sitting cross legged on my living room floor, holding my favorite Ruger Red Seal Over & Under and trying to decide whether to put the barrel in my mouth and pull the trigger, or wait until tomorrow and reconsider my future.

As “luck” would have it I waited, and never got around to revisiting that pit, and a few weeks later a friend of mine walked out into his back yard and put HIS shotgun barrel in his mouth and blew his brains out. I was cured of the suicide solution. So why ARE we here? What IS the point of life?

The years since that nadir have been spent in searching for Truth, finding faith, finding fatherhood, finding a purpose in life that transcends me, myself, and I.

The thing I like about Pascal’s Wager is that it appeals not to some high ideal, like faith, hope, love, or proof, but to a low one: the instinct for self-preservation, the desire to be happy and not unhappy. But on that low natural level, it has tremendous force. That instinct for self preservation is what keeps most folks from considering suicide seriously and it does in fact have tremendous power.

Today, all the classic arguments for the existence of God are no longer popularly believed in our culture. What can a Christian say to the skeptical mind of this modern age? A typical modern mind lacks both the gift of faith and any confidence in reason to prove God’s existence.

“I simply don’t care even one little bit for your facts, Joe, your logic, your beliefs, your faith, I just want to have a good time with my friends”. So I have been clearly told by some people I was once fairly close to. So is that all there is?  A good time was had by all and then they died. Short pathetic lives spent in self indulgent gratification of appetites and desires. What’s the point?

I make my living by selling products to customers. I sell a variety products to people, many of whom are older than I, and many of whom are facing all the physical and mental crisis of our elder years. The good times are long gone and all that is left is the end game.

When one reaches the end game the bravado of our younger years is gone and folks are faced with stark reality. We are about to die. That’s permanent. Can’t ask for or expect a redo. Can’t get our money back and go to another hotel.

What we believe and what we face becomes important. The folks with a Faith life, that is those who choose to beleave, to have confidence in the truth, the existence, or the reliability of God and Eternity, and rules for right living, although without any absolute proof that they are right in doing so, without exception seem to do much better, all in all, physically, emotionally and intellectually, than all the folks who lived for the good times.

I think we were created for Faith, Love, Charity, and God. Absent those items the human animal doesn’t seem to end well no matter how well one did materially in life, or how much “fun” one had.

So what about pascal’s Wager? Suppose someone precious to you lay dying, and the doctor offered to try a new “miracle drug” that he could not guarantee but that seemed to have a 50-50 chance of saving your beloved’s life. Would it be reasonable to try it, even if it cost a little money? And suppose it were free—wouldn’t it be utterly reasonable to try it and unreasonable not to?

Suppose someone tells you that your house is on fire and your children are inside. You do not know whether the reports are true or false. What is the reasonable thing to do—to ignore them or to take the time to run home or at least phone home just in case the reports are true?

Suppose a winning sweepstakes ticket is worth a million dollars, and there are only two tickets left. You know that one of them is the winning ticket, while the other is worth nothing, and you are allowed to buy only one of the two tickets, at random. Would it be a good investment to spend a dollar on the good chance of winning a million?

No reasonable person can be or ever is in doubt in such cases.

But deciding whether to believe in God is a case exactly like these, argues Pascal. It is therefore the height of folly, even insanity not to “bet” on God, not to bet on the “House”, even if you have no certainty, no proof, no guarantee that your bet will win.

Agnosticism is the state of “not-knowing”, of maintaining a skeptical, uncommitted attitude. Agnosticism seems to be the most reasonable option to the modern mind. The incontrovertible reality of the modern day is that most folks are Agnostics. The agnostic says, “The right thing is not to wager at all.”

But Pascal replies, “But you must wager. There is no choice. You are already committed [embarked].” We are not outside observers of life, but participants. We are like ships that need to get home, sailing past a port that has signs on it proclaiming that it is our true home and our true happiness.

The ships are our own lives and the signs on the port say “God”. The agnostic says he will neither put in at that port (believe) nor turn away from it (disbelieve) but stay anchored a reasonable distance away until the weather clears and he can see better whether this is the true port or a fake (for there are a lot of fakes around).

Why is this attitude unreasonable, even impossible?

Because we are moving inexorably through life. The ship of life is moving along the waters of time, and there comes a point of no return, when our fuel runs out, when it is too late.

Pascal’s Wager works because of the fact of death. That rude, unavoidable, fact of death, which I face in many of my customers every day.

For many people it seems fairly easy to ignore the “possibility” of death in their daily lives. They manage to ignore it until they find themselves faced inescapably with the fact of their own death, the fact that they have been refusing to accept for their entire lives. At that point, “I don’t care about the facts” just doesn’t cut it any more.

There is an interesting “fact”, provable by simple observation, that serving members of the military and law enforcement, and veterans, all share some form of “Faith”, some denomination of religious belief, and have a Faith life. It is not just some statistical anomaly that the military, all branches, share the highest declared membership in religious communities of all the population.

The close proximity of death in one’s job, or the high possibility of death on any given day, makes it real. I have buried more people than I have friends and family. Trust me, death is a very real end to life, sometimes sooner, sometimes later, but always unavoidable no matter what we would rather pretend.

Jesus in the Wilderness“Suppose Romeo proposes to Juliet and Juliet says, “Give me some time to make up my mind.” Suppose Romeo keeps coming back day after day, and Juliet keeps saying the same thing day after day: “Perhaps tomorrow.”

In the words of a small, female, red-haired American philosopher, “Tomorrow is always a day away. And there comes a time when there are no more tomorrows. Then “maybe” becomes “no”. Romeo will die. Corpses do not marry.

Christianity is God’s marriage proposal to the soul. Saying “maybe” and “perhaps tomorrow” cannot continue indefinitely because life does not continue indefinitely.

The weather will never clear enough for the agnostic navigator to be sure whether the port is true home or false just by looking at it through binoculars from a distance.

He has to take a chance, on this port or some other, or he will never get home.”  From The Argument From Pascal’s Wager“.

You have to choose! It can’t be dodged. Everyone HAS to choose.  YOU HAVE TO CHOOSE!

MTF

Cheers

Joe

Desert Walk

 

 

 

 

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The Inner Struggle

Naked came I …

“En Priere”, Bill Douglas, from the album “Kaleidoscope”, (1993)

*****

20naked JobThen Job rose up, and rent his garments, and having shaven his head fell down upon the ground and worshipped,

21And said: Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither: the Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away: as it hath pleased the Lord so is it done: blessed be the name of the Lord.

22In all these things Job sinned not by his lips, nor spoke he any foolish thing against God.  Job 1: 20-22

*****

From Job 1: 20-22 Old Testament to Luke 22: 1-13 New Testament

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SatanThe treason of Judas. The last supper. The first part of the history of the passion.

[1] Now the feast of unleavened bread, which is called the pasch, was at hand. [2] And the chief priests and the scribes sought how they might put Jesus to death: but they feared the people.

[3] And Satan entered into Judas, who was surnamed Iscariot, one of the twelve. [4] And he went, and discoursed with the chief priests and the magistrates, how he might betray him to them.

[5] And they were glad, and covenanted to give him money. [6] And he promised. And he sought opportunity to betray him in the absence of the multitude.

[7] And the day of the unleavened bread came, on which it was necessary that the pasch should be killed. [8] And he sent Peter and John, saying: Go, and prepare for us the pasch, that we may eat.

[9] But they said: Where wilt thou that we prepare? [10] And he said to them: Behold, as you go into the city, there shall meet you a man carrying a pitcher of water: follow him into the house where he entereth in.

[11] And you shall say to the goodman of the house: The master saith to thee, Where is the guest chamber, where I may eat the pasch with my disciples? [12] And he will shew you a large dining room, furnished; and there prepare. [13] And they going, found as he had said to them, and made ready the pasch.

*****

All is gift, and nothing have we here which we deserve or earn but by talents and abilities given us at birth by God the Father. And all that we earn is apportioned in goods of this world, all of which have their origin in God the Father. We do not create anything but rather are more or less talented manipulators of what the Creator made or set in motion.

Jesus betrayed by JudasSt. Luke directs our attention to the actions and motivations of Judas Iscariot, and points out that  Satan entered into Judas. Satan made use of Judas’ free will and his natural human propensity for self interest and evil.

All that follows is orchestrated by Satan using his “minions” and “useful idiots”.  The conduct of the humans  in this account and in the affairs in this world down through the ages reveals clearly what Satan desires.

Destruction, dissension, selfishness, suffering, dishonesty, suffering and misery, all the clear outcome of Satan stirring up all that is evil in the human heart.

And yet Christ has intimate and detailed knowledge of all that is to come, and Satan and humans, all creatures of the Father, have free rein because the omnipotent Father and the Son embrace that freedom in their creatures.

Satan and Judas freely decide to betray Jesus and Peter and John freely decide to obey Him. And all four of them equally prepared the Passover  in accordance with God’s will.

C.S. Lewis calls these aspects “simple good” and “complex good”. The obedience of John and Peter is simple good, the good that comes out of the evil of Satan aided by Judas is a complex good, in other words good wrought by God out of the evil of mankind.

We are all of us faced daily with exactly this choice, to obey, or to disobey, and thereby choosing our path and the next set of choices we are faced with.

Cheers

Joe

Desert walkIt is not our part to master all the tides of the world, but to do what is in us for the succour of those years wherein we are set, uprooting the evil in the fields that we know, so that those who live after may have clean earth to till. What weather they shall have is not ours to rule.” Tolkien, “The Return of the King

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The Inner Struggle

Old Boy Scouts – “Be Prepared” …

Kojo No Tsuki (Rentaro Taki), performed by Yo-Yo Ma, Michio Mamiya, & Patricia Zander, from the album Japanese Melodies (1990)

Aizu Castle, JapanA little nostalgia, remembering all the ruined castles of our dreams.

Flashback, remembering that being a Boy Scout, a Venturer and a Ranger in the 60’s was a totally different experience for young males from the Progressive, New Age, Inclusive Boy Scouts of today which is all about gelding the violent male child and turning him into a passive little herd creature waiting for instructions from his betters.

Back then my leaders were all vets including my Ranger leader who was a recently mustered out Army Ranger (Airborne) and the focus was very macho male, very action oriented, lots of both self reliance and team work.

Lots of time in the field, camping and “survivalist training” in all weathers and seasons (suck it up princess). The modern Boy Scouts would not permit these sort of activities because of “risk” nor would they consider our old leaders as suitable or trustworthy models for modern children of any sex.

Winter camping in the bush at -40 degrees and surviving comfortably with only what you carried and built for yourself (under the watchful eyes of the leaders) changes how you look on yourself and at life forever. I remember the Airforce Survival Manual was my favorite book. It all stood me in good stead later in boot camp.

The whole thing (both the nature and the nurture) probably influenced my later choices in life, going into Cadets, then Reserves then the regular Military and then Corrections Service after the Military. And my father (ex Airborne) was one of the leaders and support volunteers and highly approved of our activities. My father’s approval was important to me even though he didn’t show it very much since he was the “silent type”. I can’t imagine the horror of growing up without a father.

Anyway, a little nostalgia about “Be Prepared” …

Douay Thiems Old Testament 1609Much of today’s post is taken from the Douay-Rheims Bible , Luke 21. It is all about being prepared. The Douay-Rheims is my Bible translation of choice, for the language and because my edition (from India) has the Latin text opposite the English translation on opposing pages.

At the same time I am preferring the Navarre Bible, Old and New Testament in 19 volumes, for the commentaries and annotations.

Anyway, here is Luke, Chapter 21 in its entirety on the theme of “Be Prepared”.

The Poor Widow’s Offering
(Mark 12:41-44) (these verse references are to other scriptural references)
1AND looking on, he saw the rich men cast their gifts into the treasury. 2And he saw also a certain poor widow casting in two brass mites.

3And he said: Verily I say to you, that this poor widow hath cast in more than they all: 4For all these have of their abundance cast into the offerings of God: but she of her want, hath cast in all the living that she had.

Temple Destruction Foretold
(Matthew 24:1-4; Mark 13:1-9)

Destruction of Jerusalem by the pagan Romans, 70 AD

Destruction of Jerusalem by the pagan Romans, 70 AD

5And some saying of the temple, that it was adorned with goodly stones and gifts, he said: 6These things which you see, the days will come in which there shall not be left a stone upon a stone that shall not be thrown down.

7And they asked him, saying: Master, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign when they shall begin to come to pass? 8Who said: Take heed you be not seduced; for many will come in my name, saying, I am he; and the time is at hand: go ye not therefore after them.

9And when you shall hear of wars and seditions, be not terrified: these things must first come to pass; but the end is not yet presently.

Witnessing to All Nations
(Matthew 24:9-14; Mark 13:10-13)
10Then he said to them: Nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. 11And there shall be great earthquakes in divers places, and pestilences, and famines, and terrors from heaven; and there shall be great signs.
12But before all these things, they will lay their hands upon you, and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and into prisons, dragging you before kings and governors, for my name’s sake.

13And it shall happen unto you for a testimony. 14Lay it up therefore into your hearts, not to meditate before how you shall answer: 15For I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which all your adversaries shall not be able to resist and gainsay. 16And you shall be betrayed by your parents and brethren, and kinsmen and friends; and some of you they will put to death. 17And you shall be hated by all men for my name’s sake. 18But a hair of your head shall not perish. 19In your patience you shall possess your souls.

The Destruction of Jerusalem
(Matthew 24:15-25; Mark 13:14-23)

Destruction of Jerusalem by the pagan Romans, 70AD

Destruction of Jerusalem by the pagan Romans, 70AD

20And when you shall see Jerusalem compassed about with an army; then know that the desolation thereof is at hand. 21Then let those who are in Judea, flee to the mountains; and those who are in the midst thereof, depart out: and those who are in the countries, not enter into it.

22For these are the days of vengeance, that all things may be fulfilled, that are written. 23But woe to them that are with child, and give suck in those days; for there shall be great distress in the land, and wrath upon this people.

24And they shall fall by the edge of the sword; and shall be led away captives (slaves) into all nations; and Jerusalem shall be trodden down by the Gentiles (Pagans); till the times of the nations (Pagans) be fulfilled.

The Return of the Son of Man
(Matthew 24:26-31; Mark 13:24-27)
25And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations (Pagans), by reason of the confusion of the roaring of the sea and of the waves; 26Men withering away for fear, and expectation of what shall come upon the whole world. For the powers of heaven shall be moved; 27And then they shall see the Son of man coming in a cloud, with great power and majesty. 28But when these things begin to come to pass, look up, and lift up your heads, because your redemption is at hand.

The lesson of the Fig Tree
(Matthew 24:32-35; Mark 13:28-31)
29And he spoke to them in a similitude. See the fig tree, and all the trees: 30When they now shoot forth their fruit, you know that summer is nigh; 31So you also, when you shall see these things come to pass, know that the kingdom of God is at hand. 32Amen, I say to you, this generation shall not pass away, till all things be fulfilled. 33Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.

Be Watchful
34And take heed to yourselves, lest perhaps your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting and drunkenness, and the cares of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly. 35For as a snare shall it come upon all that sit upon the face of the whole earth. 36Watch ye, therefore, praying at all times, that you may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that are to come, and to stand before the Son of man.

37And in the daytime, he was teaching in the temple; but at night, going out, he abode in the mount that is called Olivet. 38And all the people came early in the morning to him in the temple, to hear him.

Cheers,

Joe

Lightneng over St. Peter'sSmoke in the Sacristy, smoke on the Tiber …

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Pen as Sword - Social Commentary, The Inner Struggle

Your Best Servant …

“The Beatitudes”, Noirin Ni Riain & The Monks of Glenstall Abbey, from the album “Vox de Nube (Voice From The Cloud)” (1996)

St. Augustine by Botticelli“You who are Truth, reside everywhere to answer all who ask counsel of You, and in one act reply to all though all seek counsel upon different matters. And You answer clearly, but all do not hear clearly. All ask what they wish, but do not hear the answer that they wish. That man is Your best servant who is not so much concerned to hear from You what he wills as to will what he hears from You.” — St Augustine of Hippo, Confessions, trans. F.J. Sheed, 10.26, 192.

Honor, Faith, loyalty, competence, pride, selflessness, integrity, courage, discipline, sacrifice, tradition, virtues to live by. The virtues we strive to live by, for better or for worse, in sickness or in health, onto death or the end of the world in spite of everything the world throws at us in it’s effort to deny life.

The thing that all of these virtues or qualities have in common at their root is they are all about “Giving” to others. Giving away what we have and are for the benefit of others, even unto death.

*****

Luke 19:1-27

1And entering in, he walked through Jericho. 2And behold, there was a man named Zacheus, who was the chief of the publicans, and he was rich. 3And he sought to see Jesus who he was, and he could not for the crowd, because he was low of stature. 4And running before, he climbed up into a sycamore tree, that he might see him; for he was to pass that way. 5And when Jesus was come to the place, looking up, he saw him, and said to him: Zacheus, make haste and come down; for this day I must abide in thy house. 6And he made haste and came down; and received him with joy.

7And when all saw it, they murmured, saying, that he was gone to be a guest with a man that was a sinner. 8But Zacheus standing, said to the Lord: Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have wronged any man of any thing, I restore him fourfold. 9Jesus said to him: This day is salvation come to this house, because he also is a son of Abraham. 10For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.

11As they were hearing these things, he added and spoke a parable, because he was nigh to Jerusalem, and because they thought that the kingdom of God should immediately be manifested. 12He said therefore: A certain nobleman went into a far country, to receive for himself a kingdom, and to return. 13And calling his ten servants, he gave them ten pounds, and said to them: Trade till I come. 14But his citizens hated him: and they sent an embassage after him, saying: We will not have this man to reign over us.

Jesus in the Desert15And it came to pass, that he returned, having received the kingdom: and he commanded his servants to be called, to whom he had given the money, that he might know how much every man had gained by trading.

16And the first came, saying: Lord, thy pound hath gained ten pounds. 17And he said to him: Well done, thou good servant, because thou hast been faithful in a little, thou shalt have power over ten cities.

18And the second came, saying: Lord, thy pound hath gained five pounds. 19And he said to him: Be thou also over five cities.

20And another came, saying: Lord, behold here is thy pound, which I have kept laid up in a napkin; 21For I feared thee, because thou art an austere man: thou takest up what thou didst not lay down, and thou reapest that which thou didst not sow.

22He saith to him: Out of thy own mouth I judge thee, thou wicked servant. Thou knewest that I was an austere man, taking up what I laid not down, and reaping that which I did not sow: 23And why then didst thou not give my money into the bank, that at my coming, I might have exacted it with usury?

24And he said to them that stood by: Take the pound away from him, and give it to him that hath ten pounds. 25And they said to him: Lord, he hath ten pounds.

26But I say to you, that to every one that hath shall be given, and he shall abound: and from him that hath not, even that which he hath, shall be taken from him. 27But as for those my enemies, who would not have me reign over them, bring them hither, and execute them before me.

*****

Jesus, always patient and understanding, explains to his misconstruing followers yet again the Kingdom that they continue to confuse. Since it is a Kingdom of hearts, they themselves will be primary players in it. Jesus will give them three tools they will need to perform their role in the Kingdom.

The Better Part by John BartunickFirst, Jesus will give them the grace of redemption, an interior renewal of their souls, a fresh start in their relationship with God and their fellowmen — This is the sanctifying grace that comes to us from his passion, death, and resurrection through the sacraments of His Church. The “pound” that the king in the parable gives his servants represents this grace, the same gift received by all.

Second, Jesus gives them an unspecified period of time in which to make this grace grow by living out his teachings and his commandments — most especially the commandments of love and evangelization. This corresponds to the time in the parable during which the new king is traveling to be invested with his kingship, the period after Christ’s ascension.

Third, Jesus gives his disciples the knowledge that he will come again at the end of history in order to reward his faithful followers, but those who have been selfish and wicked, sticking to their old way of life in spite of the gift of grace, will have forfeited their membership in his kingdom.

This parable should be one of the most highly prized treasures of every Christian. It brings all the human condition into sharp, refreshing, unmistakable focus. We are here to receive God’s gifts and make them bear fruit for his Kingdom, to invest our lives in giving witness to Christ in our thoughts, words, deeds, and manner.

This life is brief and only has meaning in relation to the life to come. How clear our Lord makes it for us! How eager he is for us to use our freedom wisely, so that he can reward us richly when the time comes!

The above paragraphs (after the 5 stars *’s)  are quoted from “The Better Part” by Father Bartuneck. This book should be declared a national treasure! We lead tremendously busy lives, with 1,001 things to do. Even so, every saint and renowned spiritual director through the ages has said the same thing: If we desire to become saints, we must spend time daily in meditation.

The Better Part enables us to read, meditate, absorb, and apply the Gospels to our lives. It serves as a catalyst to personalize times of prayer, enabling us to follow the Holy Spirit’s lead along the path of holiness. The portable resource has a ribbon to mark your place and contains detailed indices to help you meditate either on the liturgical seasons or the virtues you feel most in need of developing. As in the Visa advert, this book comes under the heading “Priceless”.

Blaise Pascal (1623-1662)

Blaise Pascal (1623-1662)

Thinking about this life in the context of eternity is a sobering exercise. I have in mind a graphic I once saw relating to Pascal’s Wager. As so often, we are invited to believe and accept, but in this case we are being invited by the creator of the universe. But whether we believe and accept or not is left up to us.

The possibilities defined by Pascal’s Wager can be thought of as a decision under uncertainty with the values of the following decision matrix.

God exists (G) God does not exist (¬G)
Belief (B) +∞ (infinite gain) −1 (finite loss)
Disbelief (¬B) −∞ (infinite loss) +1 (finite gain)

Given these values, the option of living as if God exists (B) dominates the option of living as if God does not exist (¬B), as long as one assumes a positive probability that God exists. In other words, the expected value gained by choosing B is greater than or equal to that of choosing ¬B.

In fact, according to decision theory, the only value that matters in the above matrix is the +∞ (infinitely positive). Any matrix of the following type (where f1, f2, and f3 are all negative or finite positive numbers) results in (B) as being the only rational decision.[4]

Humans have exceeding difficulty seeing beyond the moment and the appetites thereof. People simply are not reasonable, nor are they, by and large, even remotely close to “reasonable”. They (humans) appear for the most part to be all sound and fury, all emotion and feelings. Reason is only appealed to (appeal to authority) in an attempt to “rationalize” what we “feel” we want to do at that moment.

So the parable  about the pounds and God’s gifts and how we use those gifts should be one of the most highly prized treasures of every Christian. It brings all the human condition into sharp, refreshing, unmistakable focus. We are here to receive God’s gifts and make them bear fruit for his Kingdom, to invest our lives in giving witness to Christ in our thoughts, words, deeds, and manner… but only if you Believe. If you choose to not believe and to indulge every desire and passion as you see fit then you are betting against the only house that matters. This life is brief and only has meaning in relation to the life to come. How clear our Lord makes it for us!

Cheers

Joe

Desert WalkAre we so reasonable that we are willing to bet against the house when we cannot even predict the weather a week from now with any degree of reliability.

 

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The Inner Struggle

Older and Wiser …

“The Wind Of Liudao”, Jia Peng Fang, from the album “Faraway”, (2002)

Once a soldier, always a soldier“… Tho’ much is taken, much abides; and though we are not now that strength which in old days moved earth and heaven; that which we are, we are; 

One equal temper of heroic hearts, made weak by time and fate, but strong in will to strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.” Tennyson, “Ulysses“.

Just how do we get from “… not to yield.” to “tired old men”?  From a previous post I recap:

What are our fondest desires, in fulsome pride? Self-Will, to be Esteemed, Loved, Extolled, Honored, Praised, Preferred, Consulted, Approved, Understood, Visited … pretty much covers the entire gamut …

What are our deepest fears? To be Humiliated, Despised, Rebuked, Calumniated, Forgotten, Ridiculed, Suspected, Wronged, Abandoned, Refused … again, pretty much covers the entire gamut of human fears, and yet, and yet …”

When the sum of all our fears grind out the anticipation of our fondest desires … desires forgotten in the mists of the past, crowded out by the realized fears, is that what produces “old and tired”? And yet …

Saint John Paul the Great (1920-2005)

Saint John Paul the Great (1920-2005)

Lord, what I once had done with youthful might,
Had I been from the first true to the truth,
Grant me, now old, to do — with better sight,
And humbler heart, if not the brain of youth …

and

The soul’s dark cottage, batter’d and decay’d,
Lets in new light through chinks that Time has made;
Stronger by weakness, wiser, men become
As they draw nearer to their eternal home.
Leaving the old, both worlds at once they view,
That stand upon the threshold of the new.

Love will not backward sigh, but forward strain
On in the tale still telling, never told. …

from: The Diary of an Old Soul, by the Scotsman, George MacDonald (1824–1905)

Gandalf the WhiteIt is not our part to master all the tides of the world, but to do what is in us for the succour of those years wherein we are set, uprooting the evil in the fields that we know, so that those who live after may have clean earth to till. What weather they shall have is not ours to rule.” Tolkien, “The Return of the King

Honor, Faith, loyalty, competence, pride, selflessness, integrity, courage, discipline, sacrifice,  tradition,  virtues to live by. The virtues we strive to live by, for better or for worse, in sickness or in health, onto death or the end of the world in spite of everything the world throws at us in it’s effort to deny life.

The thing that all of these virtues or qualities have in common at their root is they are all about “Giving”  to others. Giving away what we have and are for the benefit of others, even unto death.

To develop these “characteristics” one has to live them, repeat them, over, and over, and over, until the repetition ingrains them so deeply into every cell of our being that thought never enters into it. it just IS the way you live, as natural as breathing.

Aristotle makes this point about the virtues in general, with courage as one of the virtues he addresses. As he notes in his Nicomachean Ethics, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then, is not an act, but a habit.

For Aristotle, the key to virtuous behavior (to include courageous behavior) is habituation. We have to habituate ourselves to facing fear and reacting courageously. A great deal of military training focuses on exactly that — the formation of certain military virtues through repetitive training.

Pool of WorshipThe corollary is, of course, that choosing self indulgence also becomes ingrained. We become what we do. “Giving” to others or “Taking” from others for ourselves are the two sides of the coin. We choose what we become.

It is so simple that few acknowledge it, because to do so would mean having to take responsibility for our lives. Not being responsible has become, in our modern culture, literally a “get out of jail free” card. We can do and demand whatever we want and if anyone tries to stop us or hold us accountable THEY are the bad guy.

Honor and loyalty are kind of like a religion, a part of our religion. It is a religious experience.  It’s a belief in the standards, values, morals of an organization and an adherence to them, [but] . . . it’s not a mindless adherence. . . .

Duty, honor, sacrifice: You have a duty, and by properly executing your duty you cause an honor to be associated with yourself,  your profession and your beliefs. “Now do I swear fealty and service to my Lord, to speak and to be silent, to do and to let be, to come and to go, in need or plenty, in peace or war, in living or dying, from this hour henceforth, until my Lord release me, or calls me home, or the world’s end“.

Honor never grows old, and honor rejoices the heart of age. It does so because honor is, finally, about defending those noble and worthy things that deserve defending, even if it comes at a high cost. In our time, that may mean social disapproval, public scorn, hardship, persecution, or as always,even death itself. The question remains: What is worth defending? What is worth dying for? What is worth living for?”William J. Bennett – in a lecture to the United States Naval Academy November 24, 1997

People are worth defendingWhat is worth defending? What is worth living for? What is worth dying for?  In a nutshell? People … the folks … because they are intrinsically valuable and worthwhile as individuals and as a group. and, for the most part, utterly defenseless. they are so defenseless that they don’t even know that they are defenseless. They are, in this aspect, like sheep.

Make no mistake about it … there is evil out there … there are wolves out there who will feed on the flock without mercy? 8 years in the Military and 10 years in the Corrections Service teaches one the reality of evil people. Evil is nothing more than the “absence of good”, and therein lies a whole world of hurt.

In any manifestation of evil the underlying or sometimes overt aspect of evil, the “dead” giveaway, is how the actors value and treat ordinary people. In each and every instance without exception the manner in which any person, organization or ideology treats ordinary people is the hallmark of which side they fall on.

Jesus in the WildernessAnd no matter what the mental and rhetorical gymnastics the perpetrators go through there are ONLY two sides. You are either on the side of the Angels, or on the side of the Demons. There is no middle ground. Even refusing to choose, denying that there is a choice is merely to choose self indulgence and everything that implies. There are no votes of “Present”, to option to “Abstain”, in real life.

There are only two forces in the universe who have died for you – Jesus Christ, and the soldiers, airmen, sailors, police and peace officers and all the rest of the pointy end sheepdogs who put it all on the line for the sheep every time they go to work. Jesus Christ died for your soul, the rest died to make it possible for you to accept Christ’s offer in freedom, peace and safety.

Cheers

Joe

Battle Weary TemplarYou are either on the side of the Angels, or on the side of the Demons. There is no middle ground.

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