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.

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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.

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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

From the Point Of View Of Spirit …

“Crux Fidelis”, Benedictines of Mary, Queen of Apostles, from the album “Lent at Ephesus”, (2014)

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The Isenheim Altarpiece is an altarpiece sculpted and painted by, respectively, the Germans Niclaus of Haguenau and Matthias Grünewald in 1512–1516

Today I have used images taken from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, The Isenheim Altarpiece is an altarpiece sculpted and painted by, respectively, the Germans Niclaus of Haguenau and Matthias Grünewald in 1512–1516.

I will not just copy everything they have to say about it but suffice to say go on over and visit it and read the article, it is worth one’s time to understand better the past history which contributed to Western European Civilization’s rise, especially since we are in such a hurry to blow it all away in our modern progressive wasteland.

So after the last blogpost it might appear we have swerved off the road, but in fact all of the items, objections, observations, and situations complained about, and judged, and questioned in that post are firmly rooted in my own biases, attractions, beliefs, and narratives in and about this material world.

In short, my ego, my “self” is intimately enmeshed in all my observations and conclusions, MY plans, MY dreams, MY opinions, MY understanding. I don’t believe that I am uniquely blessed. I believe that we all share these attachments to the material, especially if we strongly believe that this time based material reality is all there is.

Viewed through my human nature, all these things are ultimately important, but viewed through my soul nature they are really seen to be unimportant and irrelevant, mere distractions on the path. And yet … and yet … we insist on refusing to see what is right before us. We dive into the unreal and forsake the real for the sake of our passions, our tastes, our desires, our egos.

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Grunewald – Isenheim Altarpiece – First View

Barabbas is in each one of us. We are scoundrels, experts in selfishness, boasting, lust, violence and greed. We are bandits, taking God’s many gifts and ungratefully neglecting them and squandering them.

We take for granted the most precious realities of life: family, life, nature, health, faith, and the sacraments.  We squander our talents, our money, our time, and the love others offer us.

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Grunewald Isenheim Second View

We are quick to criticize and judge, to steal others’ honor and sully it with our moral and intellectual myopia. What do we, who are so flawed, so weak, so slow to repent, and so reluctant to serve — what do we deserve?

Certainly not God’s love, certainly not his continued forgiveness, certainly not redemption, hope, peace, and heaven. Strictly speaking, we deserve to be cut off from the kingdom against which we have so often rebelled — just like the murderous insurgent Barabbas.

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Grunewald Isenheim Third View

And yet, Jesus overlooks what we deserve. It is Passover, and the angel of justice passes over the sinner to wreak his punishments on the Lamb of God instead. Look at the Lord with the eyes of Barabbas. Is there any heart that loves you more than His Sacred Heart? Is there any heart more trustworthy than the heart that died so that you might have abundant life? John Bartunek, LC, ThD.The Better Part”, pp321

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Grunewald’s Risen Christ

We insist on refusing to see what is right before us — we refuse to see reality through the eyes of our spirit/soul — we clutch at our “self” and our passions, appetites, vices, and sins, because, as Screwtape says (about half way down one of my posts): “you must remember that he (us) takes Time for an ultimate reality”.

As we walk through this “valley of death”, this mortal world full of evil both without and within, we find that the closer we cling to the visible, material, temporal vision, the more we fear.  Because when you really look at everything around us, the happenings, and events, and personal relations, and national relations, the EVERYTHING in TIME, the more we fear.

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Mathis Gothart Grunewald’s “St. John The Baptist” illum oportet crescere me autem minui (Vulgate, John 3:30 ), “He must increase, but I must decrease.

Because, if we actually pull our collective heads out of the “sand” (or wherever) the more we have to acknowledge that there is not one damned thing we can do about any of it and if this is all there is then we may just as well end it all. If this is all there is then what is really the point? 

This morning I visited another WordPress blog which I follow at “Finding Hope”  Often I am encouraged and given hope reading what this person writes. This time I found there a story specifically about this struggle with “What’s The Point”. It brought me to tears and to prayer:

A Prayer of Sorrow

” I have fallen, Lord, once more. I can’t go on. I’ll never succeed. I am ashamed.  I don’t dare look at you. And yet I struggled, Lord, for I knew you were right near me, bending over me, watching.

But temptation blew like a hurricane, and instead of you I turned my head away. I stepped aside, while you stood silent and sorrowful. Lord, don’t look at me like that.

For I am ashamed and sorrowful. I am down, shattered, with no strength left. I dare make no more promises. I can only stand bowed before you.

 Come, Child, look up. Isn’t it mainly your vanity that is wounded? If you loved me you would grieve but you would trust. Do you think that there is a limit to God’s love? Do you think that for a moment I stopped loving you? But you still rely on yourself.

 You must rely on me. Ask my pardon and get up quickly. You see, it’s not falling that is worse, but staying on the ground.”

Wow …

If we are not careful we find ourselves angry with God because “He is doing this to me!” and we can’t bring ourselves to recognize our own failings and faults, and that God is not really “doing this to us” but just watching us sorrowfully from His eternal NOW as we do these spiteful things to “punish” Him.

And then consider how much of what we do daily is out of spite and passive aggression.  Spite at family members, spite at neighbours, spite at friends, spite at groups of people we “have a bone to pick” with, spite at other drivers, spite at other folks in public places or in the news, spite at professional groups, anyway, you get my drift.

Matushka Juliana Schmemann, Fr. Alexander Schmemann, and Alexander Solzhenitsyn

Matushka Juliana Schmemann, Fr. Alexander Schmemann, and Alexander Solzhenitsyn

Our spiritual point of view completely obscured by passion , resentment and pride, so we do and say things we later regret or find are mistaken in their target and intent. “Every evil screams out only one message: “I am good”! And not only does it scream, but it also demands that the people cry out tirelessly in response: ‘You  are good, you are freedom, you are happiness’ “(Father Alexander Schmemann)

All of these passions painting layer upon layer of darkness on the vision of our soul/spirit, completely obscuring reality. These “little sins” of spite, of holding grudges and passive aggression until vengeance be meted out are really great big sins of pride, of our ego, of needing to be seen and heard and esteemed, even by God, if we still remember Him.

My mother (God rest her soul) went to her grave, “died unshriven”  as they say, or bás a fháil gan sagart” as our Irish ancestors would say, that is “not having confessed sins to a priest and been given absolution”  after 32 years of rejecting God and the church and the sacraments. Because she just couldn’t accept that God’s plan for her life did not align with her plan for her life. After my father died, at 57,  my mother (always a very stubborn woman) rejected the church, priests, God, religion, holding out for her plan, until vengeance be meted out.

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Fyodor Dostoyevsky

In her early life, although we were poor, she did her best to raise us children so that we never wanted for anything essential, even including making our clothes.  She looked out for us with devotion and worshiped my father as her eternal love.  She died a unhappy woman at 92 still holding out for the material reality of her plan and rejecting the soul/spirit view of eternity.

God gave her 32 more years after he took Dad, to come to an understanding of reality and we discussed it and argued about it countless times for 32 years. I must have been a real pain in the ass when all she really wanted was to be left alone in her bitterness.

In some ways she reminded me, in the last 30 years of her life, of “The Old Woman and The Onion” fable which appears in Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s novel “The Brothers Karamazov“.  My mother refused to give up her narrative and her plan regardless of the cost.

And all that misery and bitterness because she took TIME for reality and could never bring herself to accept that this world didn’t matter, that she had to give up HER plan for life and accept God’s plan:

15Love not the world, nor the things which are in the world. If any man love the world, the charity of the Father is not in him. 16For all that is in the world, is the concupiscence of the flesh, and the concupiscence of the eyes, and the pride of life, which is not of the Father, but is of the world. 17And the world passeth away, and the concupiscence thereof: but he that doth the will of God, abideth for ever. (1 John 2, Douay-Rheims Bible)

We would be better to write poems of Love to God:

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Ah, Love, let us be true to one another!
For the world, which seems
To lie before us like a land of dreams,
So various, so beautiful, so new,
Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,
Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain;
And we are here as on a darkling plain
Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,
Where ignorant armies clash by night.”

(Mathew Arnold, English Poet, 1822 — 1888)

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“An Taiseirl (The Resurection)”, Noirin Ni Riain and The Monks Of Glenstal Abbey, from the album “Vox de Nube”, (1996)

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Inuit Snow Goggles

It seems obvious at this point what reality is and what the choice is that must be made, between a short syllable of time or all eternity, to devote our short lives to chasing happiness and success in this world or take off our goggles and pursue eternity.

But in order to detach from the important material things which fill up our lives and leave us bitter and afraid we have to abandon our “self”–ishness and trust God. Selfishness is rooted in “FEAR” of loosing something good for ourselves or missing out on something which might make us happy, or whatever … we often do not even know what it is we are afraid of loosing or missing out on, but we are sure someone else is getting it and we are not.

The main obstacle or hurdle to overcome when approaching the spirit/soul point of view is self love. It is immensely difficult to develop detachment from this world while fully immersed in the pool of self love where this time based world is everything.

By immersing oneself in the world of spirit, outside time and space, where everything material is unimportant we are able to appreciate and understand just what an infinitesimal part of reality is the part with time, which we choose to believe constitutes all of reality.

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Air Force One

So we have to give up our self and trust God, a difficult target when we have so much trouble trusting our family or our friends, or the folks at work or at the corner store.

Trust; trust God, who knows us so much better than we even know ourselves since he conceived us and created us and he loves us more than we love ourselves and he wants nothing more than our absolute happiness and well being. He knows what we need.

So in conclusion (for now)  “LET IT GO!” We have to move from “My will be done” to “Thy will be done”. Our future depends on it. Salvation does not arrive on Air Force One. Or any other means of conveyance.

Cheers

Joe

 

100-canadian-landscapeWe fight the long defeat because results are not as important as our Father’s delight. We fight the long defeat because we are not the authorities over “success.” We fight the long defeat because the final victory is coming.

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Pen as Sword - Social Commentary, Politics and Economics, The Inner Struggle

Matthew 22:23-33, 1 Wife – Seven Husbands – Poor Woman!

23 That same day the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to him with a question. 24 “Teacher,” they said, “Moses told us that if a man dies without having children, his brother must marry the widow and raise up offspring for him. 25 Now there were seven brothers among us. The first one married and died, and since he had no children, he left his wife to his brother. 26 The same thing happened to the second and third brother, right on down to the seventh. 27 Finally, the woman died. 28 Now then, at the resurrection, whose wife will she be of the seven, since all of them were married to her?”

29 Jesus replied, “You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God. 30 At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven. 31 But about the resurrection of the dead—have you not read what God said to you, 32 ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’[a]? He is not the God of the dead but of the living.”

33 When the crowds heard this, they were astonished at his teaching. (Matthew 22:23-33)

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“More enemies draw near, and another battle ensues. This time the attackers are representatives of the wealthy political leaders, who had different religious views than the Pharisees, but once again Jesus prevails. His enemies still refuse to be converted. And the listening crowd is filled with awe.

That same crowd had long submitted to the harsh and demanding rule of the Pharisees and the Sadducees. Both groups of leaders were far superior to the vast majority of the working population in knowledge, influence, education, and wealth. And they made their superiority felt.

In Christ these searching souls find something entirely different. He neither fears the leader’s power nor bows to their prowess. He confronts them, argues with them, and repeatedly sends them away confounded.

And all the while he generously heals and teaches the ordinary people, so despised by the others. Jesus is right down there among them. They sense in Christ something much greater than any earthly leader, and they also perceive him as someone much closer to them, interested in them, and capable of helping them.

This is how the Lord behaved; this is how his Church continues to behave; this is how his disciples ought to behave.

Instead of calling the Sadducees “hypocrites” as he did with the Pharisees, Jesus simply tells them, “you are wrong”. The Pharisees erred in their willful denial of Christ’s claims, a denial that sprang from malice, from envy and jealousy; the Sadducees err merely in ignorance. They truly think this Nazarene rabbi is just a popularizer of mistaken doctrine, and they try to set him straight. So Jesus Instructs them.

(“The Better Part”, John Bartunek, LG, ThD,  pp. 260-261)

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 ” far superior to the vast majority of the working population in knowledge, influence, education, and wealth. And they made their superiority felt.”

2000 years on and nothing has changed, the elites STILL see Christ as a mortal threat and conduct a steady unrelenting campaign of discrimination and persecution by attacking his followers anywhere they are found. In many parts of the world they even routinely resort to killing his followers and persecuting any earthly presence of his mystical body, the Church.

To what end? Have they no memory or understanding of the past or the future?  70 generations of Sadducees and Pharisees have come and gone and they have learned absolutely nothing.

Cheers

Joe

coptic-desertAlways remember to be charitable in your treatment of others and never take yourself too seriously.

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