Spiritual Fitness

To be open to the Spirit of the Sacred (aka, God) we must nurture our body, our mind, and our soul or human consciousness which makes us who we are. St. Paul compared spiritual development to a race toward a goal (Phi 3:14). Runner must train to develop and strengthen their energy for a successful run.

The spiritual disciplines (also called dynamics) are the various ways we develop the energy that the Sacred gives us to reach our goal of spiritual maturity. Such dynamics as wisdom, understanding, guidance, fortitude, knowledge, fervor, passion, wonderment, discernment, and awe, cultivate a mature spirituality that results in such human qualities or characteristics as Charity, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Generosity, Gentleness, Faithfulness, Modesty, and Self Control.

Physical wellness requires adequate nutrition, exercise, and emotional health.

Mental health consists of self esteem, intelligence, prudence, altruism, perseverance, discipline, resilience, honesty, integrity, and character.

Altogether, this makes us who we are- our Self or Soul, our human consciousness or awareness of the Sacred. We are then capable of being the ultimate conduit of the Sacred presence in the universe. No other creature, or element of creation has this consciousness that enables us to unite to the Sacred which is our fulfillment. The Sacred is the alpha and the omega- that in which we have our beginning, and that in which we end in unity.

“Now faith is the assurance of {things} hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Heb 11:1 Faith is confidence in the power of the Spirit to enhance our consciousness of the Sacred. This then enables us to fulfill the mandate of Jesus–

“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others.. Mt 5:14-16

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Planet Earth: Our Common Home

What is the Season of Creation?

The Season of Creation is a monthlong prayerful observance that calls the planet’s 2.2 billion Christians to pray and care for God’s creation. It’s a time to reflect on our relationship with the environment — not just “distant” nature, but, crucially, the place where we live — and the ways in which our lifestyles and decisions as a society can endanger both the natural world and those inhabiting it, both humans and other creatures.

The ecumenical steering committee that plans and promotes the season each year put it this way:

The Season of Creation is a time to renew our relationship with our Creator and all creation through celebration, conversion, and commitment together. During the Season of Creation, we join our sisters and brothers in the ecumenical family in prayer and action for our common home.

It’s a time of prayer, contemplation and, increasingly, calls to action.

Read more here: https://www.ncronline.org/news/earthbeat/what-season-creation

In sync with all of Creation

Christians around the world are called in this month of September to intensify their joint efforts and prayers in order to protect “our common home”

The World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation, which is marked each year on September 1, is now well established among many Christian communities around the world.Bartholomew I, the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, established the observance in 1989 for the Orthodox Churches. And Pope Francis decided in 2015 that the Catholic Church would also participate in this annual global prayer effort.This day also marks the beginning of the Season of Creation, which ends on October 4 with the feast of St. Francis of Assisi.

Read more at: https://international.la-croix.com/news/editorials/in-sync-with-all-of-creation/16529

Brigantine Beach, NJ USA July 2022
Brigantine Beach, NJ USA July 2022
Brigantine Beach, NJ USA July 2022
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Does God Need Our Worship??

“I don’t want your sacrifices—I want your love; I don’t want your offerings—I want you to know me. Hosea 6:6

Acceptable Worship by Kurt Struckmeyer  https://followingjesus.org/

In his letter to the Christians at Rome, Saint Paul suggested that an ethical life of compassion, service, peace, and justice is the single form of worship that God desires. According to Paul, it is the only form of worship that God deems good, acceptable and perfect.

I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:1-2)

Here is how Eugene Patterson paraphrases these two verses:

So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.

In an unpublished essay, Dr. Lesly Massey, a Disciple of Christ pastor in Dallas, Texas, quoted Ernst Käsemann (1906-1998), an eminent Lutheran theologian who was a part of the Confessing Church in Germany during the reign of Adolf Hitler. Käsemann, who after World War II spurred a renewed quest to understand the historical Jesus, saw in Romans 12:1 an unequivocal summary of Paul’s view of worship as a follower of Christ.

Christian worship does not consist of what is practiced at sacred sites, at sacred times, and with sacred acts. It is the offering of bodily existence in the otherwise profane sphere, as something constantly demanded. This takes place in daily life, whereby every Christian is simultaneously sacrifice and priest.

Les Massey comments:

In other words, Paul does not define worship in terms of rituals or ceremonies performed by Christians when assembled together, and therefore segregated from routine life. On the contrary, true worship is offered through the believer’s daily life by means of a noble ethos practiced openly in the world. God’s will is accomplished through that which is seemingly profane, and with such God is well pleased…

In a sense, Romans 12:1 illustrates Paul’s inclination to decentralize religion, specifically the Christian’s life of service to God, removing the holy presence from a stone temple and placing it within each believer, and within all believers as a community of faith and the true temple of God…

True worship, therefore, amounts to an approach to mundane activities that gives evidence of an inner conversion and transformation by the living presence of Christ. This to Paul was the appropriate response to divine grace, and the only sensible, beneficial, and proper means of honoring God. In order to “worship” God one must offer a “service to God.” The interests of God, the will of God, are not “served” by rituals, symbols, gestures, ceremonies, or platitudes. Paul was convinced, from his understanding of the teaching of Jesus, that God cannot be patronized by human lip-service. Rather, God is served by noble and exemplary living motives, attitudes, perspectives, choices, and actions that demonstrate divine love and goodness in the world.

Many of the prophets of the Hebrew Bible declared that human justice was the form of worship that a God of justice desired.

And the biblical writers repeatedly stated that God loved justice. This is especially true in the Psalms:

“The LORD loves justice.” (Psalm 37:28)
“The LORD is a lover of justice.” (Psalm 99:1, 4)
“The LORD is righteous, he loves justice.” (Psalm 11:7)
“The LORD loves righteousness and justice.” (Psalm 33:5)

But we find it also in the books of the prophets

“For I the LORD love justice.” (Isaiah 61:8)
“I am the LORD, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight.” (Jeremiah 9:24)

John Dominic Crossan writes:

There was an ancient prophetic tradition in which God insisted not just on justice and worship, but on justice over worship. God had repeatedly said, “I reject your worship because of your lack of justice,” but never, ever, ever, “I reject your justice because of your lack of worship.”

The Hebrew bible went even further, not just suggesting that justice was more important than worship, but that justice was worship. Here is what the Hebrew Bible tells us about true worship:

Is this not the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see them naked, to cover them, and not to hide yourself from your own kin? (Isaiah 58:6-7)

If you oppress poor people, you insult the God who made them; but kindness shown to the poor is an act of worship. (Proverbs 14:31)

I hate, I despise your worship, and I take no delight in your religious gatherings… Spare me the din of your praise singing; let me hear none of your strumming on guitars. But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream. (Amos 5:21,23-24)

I desire love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings. (Hosea 6:6)

With what shall I come before the Lord and bow myself before God on high? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings… with ten thousands of rivers of oil?… He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? (Micah 6:6-8)

What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices? says the Lord;… Trample my courts no more;… I cannot endure solemn assemblies with iniquity;… even though you make many prayers, I will not listen;… Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean;… cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow. (Isaiah 1:11-17)

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The Catholic Abortion Quandary

“then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.” Gen 2: 7

Biblical  based on belief

Genesis 1:26 “Then God said, “Let us make man (adam or mankind) in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”

27 “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. 28 And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” 29 And God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food. 30 And to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the heavens and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so. 31 And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.

Genesis 2:7 “then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature…”

Does a a fetus become a person at its “first breath”?

God literally breathes life into Adam in what can only be described as omnipotent CPR, or in the words of Isaiah 42:5, where God is referred to as the Creator who “gives breath to [the Earth’s] people,”

The Quandary

For most Christians and Catholics in particular, Jeremiah 1:4-5 is often cited to argue against this definition, as it states that “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you.” But the verse only refers to one person: Jeremiah. And even then, God is only referring to the knowledge that Jeremiah is destined for greatness, not a living and (ahem) breathing person.

In Exodus 21:22-25: A fetus isn’t as alive as its mother. But let’s say for a moment that life begins some undetermined amount of time before the fetus takes its first breath. The Bible still credits the mother with being more-alive than the fetus she is carrying.

If people are fighting and hit a pregnant woman and she gives birth prematurely or has a miscarriage but there is no serious injury, the offender must be fined whatever the woman’s husband demands and the court allows. But if there is serious injury, you are to take life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise.

Setting aside the suggestion that a beating-induced miscarriage doesn’t constitute “serious injury,” the logic is fairly straightforward: “Life for life” applies to a woman, but not to the fetus she’s carrying. In other words, the fetus is definitively placed in the ranks of not-alive.

In Numbers 5:11-31: Abortion is preferable to bastardization. This quote or “Word of God” outlines the trial by ordeal that women must go through if their husband suspects that the baby she’s carrying may not be his. As the verses outline, if a husband thinks that his wife has been unfaithful he is to take her to the priest, who then performs a ritual. The priest is to take holy water; mix it with dirt from the temple floor and the ink from a curse he has just written down; and make the woman drink the mixture. If she hasn’t committed adultery, nothing will happen; if she cheated, “her abdomen will swell and her womb will miscarry” — the pregnancy will literally be terminated on the spot.

Depending on whether or not you attribute the magic and mysticism behind the trial-by-ordeal to the intrinsic sin behind adultery, or to God’s own intervention, you’re left with one of two conclusions. Either God mandates abortion in cases of adultery or God is performing the abortion him/herself. Whichever is the case, the teaching is clear: It’s better to abort a fetus conceived out of wedlock than to carry that fetus to term.

In Ecclesiastes 6:1-6, content and quality of life matter in conjunction with mere life This is one of the more interesting philosophical questions surrounding whether it is acceptable to prevent potential life from becoming actual life. If bringing a new life into the world will be a net-negative in terms of humanity’s happiness and overall well being, is it acceptable to end the process by which that new life would begin?

 “I have seen another evil under the sun, and it weighs heavily on mankind: God gives some people wealth, possessions and honor, so that they lack nothing their hearts desire, but God does not grant them the ability to enjoy them, and strangers enjoy them instead. This is meaningless, a grievous evil. A man may have a hundred children and live many years; yet no matter how long he lives, if he cannot enjoy his prosperity and does not receive proper burial, I say that a stillborn child is better off than he. It comes without meaning, it departs in darkness, and in darkness its name is shrouded. Though it never saw the sun or knew anything, it has more rest than does that man— even if he lives a thousand years twice over but fails to enjoy his prosperity. Do not all go to the same place?”

An historical, theological conundrum?

St. Antonius archbishop of Florence

“For starters, the great St. Antoninus—proclaimed by Pope Pius II as “a brilliant theologian”defended early abortions when necessary to save the pregnant person life. This was no small category in the medical conditions of his time. His pro-choice position created no stir since there were other notable theologians who held the same view and allowed for a number of other exceptions. Nor did the hierarchy object. Rather, the humble and very gifted Antoninus was appointed Archbishop of Florence in 1446 before being canonized a saint of the then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature Catholic Church in 1523. There are Catholic parishes named for this pro-choice saint in Cincinnati, Ohio, and Newark, New Jersey.” Daniel C. Maguire is a professor of ethics at Marquette University, a Jesuit institution, and past president of The Society of Christian Ethics.

St. Antoninus was not a pro-choice loner in the Roman Catholic tradition. In the sixteenth century, another Antoninus from Corduba declared that abortifacient medicines could potentially be taken even later in the pregnancy because, he said, the woman had a jus prius—a prior right. That is the polar opposite of the modern anti-choice view which denigrates the moral status of the pregnant person while almost divinizing the fetus. (Images have, in fact, appeared of a fetus nailed to a cross.) Nothing better illustrates the poisonous misogynist roots of the anti-choice position. Antoninus de Corduba, Quaestionarium theologicum, q. 38, dub. 3 (Venice, 1604). The Roman Catholic Church and Abortion: An Historical Perspective – Part II by Donald DeMarco, PhD

The pro-choice Catholic tradition continued into modern times. Jesuit theologian John Connery said that in the Bible itself “the fetus did not have the same moral status as the mother.” Father Joseph Donceel, S.J. states “the embryo is certainly not a human person during the early stage of pregnancy and consequently it is not immoral to terminate a pregnancy during this time, provided there are serious reasons for such an intervention.” This clearly isn’t a perfect fit with the contemporary pro-choice position, which is based on bodily autonomy and not solely on “the right” reasons, but it does present a significant challenge to the contemporary anti-choice position. Furthermore, as ninety percent of abortions in the United States are done in the first trimester, a shift toward this standard would effectively cover many cases.

Over the centuries, the Church has not held that women who have abortions should be executed, and this is because the Church has held that they have not committed murder. Aquinas held that the embryo does not even have a soul during the first few weeks of pregnancy (a view later adopted by the Council of Vienne in 1312). By the 15th century, a line of moral reasoning had developed which held that a woman has a “prior right” in decisions relating to abortion. A variant of the argument was the fetus could be considered an “unjust transgressor” toward which a woman should be allowed, when necessary, a defense. (The theologian was Thomas Sanchez, a Jesuit. Ronald Reagan once expressed a version of this theory.) For most of Christian history, the status of “person” was denied an embryo or fetus, so that a fetus could not be baptized, given a Christian burial or interred in consecrated ground.

Summa Theologica delineates St. Thomas Aquinas’s opinion on the moral status of the embryo or fetus and the act of abortion. His discussion of sin, morality, and murder indicates his views on the development of life within the womb. These sections show that Aquinas believed in the progression of life from a “vegetable”-like, inanimate state to an animal life and finally to a human, animated state. Summa Theologica offers no defense of abortion as a permissible act at any stage in the pregnancy, but it does specify that once the fetus has become animated (when he believed ensoulment of the living human being took place), it is homicide to kill it. This measure of ensoulment or delayed hominization (the belief that the embryo or fetus was not a human life with a soul until a particular event after conception) is typically equated with the stage at which quickening took place—defined by Aristotle as forty days for boys and eighty days after conception for girls.

It is the concept of delayed hominization that seemingly pits these comments of St. Thomas Aquinas against the modern Roman Catholic Church; when it comes to ensoulment, the Church now defends the position that an embryo is infused with a human soul upon fertilization, making any intentionally procured abortion a sin of murder (because it kills a living being with a human soul). St. Thomas Aquinas’s opinion on abortion and fetal development receives much attention from people on both sides of the debate over abortion. Typically, pro-choice advocates claim that Aquinas’s position shows an inconsistency in Church belief throughout history on the topic and a defensible option for pro-choice Catholics, while pro-life advocates point out that Aquinas never discusses abortion as an acceptable option and furthermore would most likely not have maintained his delayed hominization theory had he been privy to the marvels of modern science.

The law does not provide that the act abortion pertains to homicide, for there cannot yet be said to be a live soul in a body that lacks sensation…. —Augustine

The intellective soul [true person] is created by God at the completion of man’s coming into being.--Thomas  Aquinas

To admit that the human fetus receives the intellectual soul from the moment of its conception,when matter is in no way ready for it, sounds to me like a philosophical absurdity. It is as absurd as to call a fertilized ovum a baby. —JacquesMaritain

Many people believe that the Roman Catholic Church’s opposition to abortion stems from its conviction that a new human person exists from the first moment of conception…It is clear that this is not now, or has ever been, official church teaching on the matter.–James T. McCartney

Some text is available from Wikipedia under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License 3.0;

It seems that the Roman Catholic Church contradicts its theology and moral teachings and scripture.   (I guess that even the Church believes what they want and yet they seek to IMPOSE their beliefs upon a nation that upholds RELIGIOUS FREEDOM, in other words no one can impose their beliefs upon anyone!! 

Consequently, the SCOTUS (with 4 Catholics) violates the Constitution. American hypocrisy is the biggest scandal to the world.

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Contemplation- the ultimate type of prayer

Some would say that the small number of people “praying” to God is the reason that human life and behavior are not improving. But I believe that the futility of prayers becomes more obvious as world hatred and violence become more frequent in the 21st century. Reasonable women and men are coming to realize that we humans are expected to “listen” with our hearts and minds to the Sacred’s “voice” through the cries of the poor and those suffering from oppression of every sort.

The secularization of human cultures in the Western nations is the result of believing that God favors those who profess belief in God and punishes those who do not. Churches are emptying because the younger adults do not believe in the traditional description of a theistic God. Religions of the East, like Buddhism, Taoism, Hinduism and other non-theistic religions may offer a more “reasonable” understanding of the “creation” of the universe. To those of younger generations who have studied science, physics, and astronomy, the world is no longer subject to an interactive God. These and other sciences provide more factual explanations for planetary conditions, human disease, and even the make up of the universe.

The need for a different kind of prayer, like contemplation can result from the observation, reflection or meditation about any aspect of life. Such prayer can lead to another interpretation of the Sacred or divine which many refer to as “God”.

According to Ilia Delio, OSF, “The Teilhardian view of contemplation is complementary to that of Bonaventure and Franciscan spirituality on the whole. Whereas for Thomas Aquinas contemplation is an inner activity of divine union whereby one expresses the fruits of divine union in the world, a reflective act, for Bonaventure contemplation is an ascent into divine love whereby one hands oneself over in the act of contemplation. Stated otherwise, contemplation is the act of handing oneself over to God.  Hence one is led through suffering and death into matter’s dark brilliance of divine light. I think this is what Teilhard de Chardin, S.J. perceived as well in his “Hymn to Matter” below.”    

The thoughts and prayers of Pierre, while being somewhat traditional, are unconventional and even Deistic in some manner.          

Patient Trust by Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

Above all, trust in the slow work of God.

We are quite naturally impatient in everything

to reach the end without delay.

We should like to skip the intermediate stages.

We are impatient of being on the way to something unknown, something new.

And yet it is the law of all progress

that it is made by passing through

some stages of instability – and that it may take a very long time.

And so, I think it is with you;

your ideas mature gradually – let them grow,

let them shape themselves, without undue haste.

Don’t try to force them on,

as though you could be today what time

(that is to say, grace and circumstances acting on your own good will)

will make of you tomorrow.

Only God could say what this new spirit gradually forming within you will be.

Give Our Lord the benefit of believing

that his hand is leading you,

and accept the anxiety of feeling yourself

in suspense and incomplete.

– Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, SJ

A PRAYER FOR COMPASSION

Oh God, I wish from now on

to be the first to become conscious

of all that the world loves, pursues, and suffers;

I want to be the first to seek,

to sympathize and to suffer;

the first to unfold and sacrifice myself,

to become more widely human

and more nobly of the earth

than of any of the world’s servants.

— Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, S.J. (1881–1955)

A Hymn to Matter   or A Prayer over the Earth 

“I bless you matter and you I acclaim: not as the pontiffs of science or the moralizing preachers depict you, debased, disfigured—a mass of brute forces and base appetites—but as you reveal yourself to me today, in your totality and your true nature. . . .

I acclaim you as the divine milieu, charged with creative power, as the ocean stirred by the Spirit, as the clay moulded and infused with life by the incarnate Word. . . .Raise me up then, matter, to those heights, through struggle and separation and death; raise me up until, at long last, it becomes possible for me in perfect chastity to embrace the universe. Teilhard de Chardin, Hymn to the Universe, 68 – 70.

Admittedly, many think it’s foolish to have faith in a God that cannot be proven to exist. Even Paul of Tarsus, the author of many letters to early Christian communities, thinks those he addresses feel the same way, at least about the crucifixion of God’s Son, Jesus.”

Even a more hermeneutical understanding of the crucifixion of Jesus can reveal the difference between the theistic God of Jesus who cries out “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” and the Deistic God, who expects humans to follow the “Way, the Truth, and the Life” of Jesus, who found the different path to the Sacred than his fellow Jews.

Discernment or perception in the absence of judgment, with a view to obtaining Sacred or spiritual guidance and understanding is the result of reflection, meditation, and ultimately contemplation. As a result of this understanding, evolution and the other many discoveries of science have supported the belief and confidence that humans can arrive at what is best for the planet and those who live on it. Surely the observation and information provided by Copernicus, Newton, Galileo, and others has changed the way we view the planet and the universe. This should allow us to consider another more modern description of the Sacred and how one prays.

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A Mysterious God

Does our understanding of God need updating?

A God of LOVE or a God of Revenge?

A God of compassion or a God of punishment?

A God which is an image of Humans?

A God without an Image?

The following is shared from: https://en.wikipedia.org/

Conceptions of God in monotheist, pantheist, and panentheist religions – or of the supreme deity in henotheistic religions – can extend to various levels of abstraction:

  • as a powerful, personal, supernatural being, or as the deification of an esoteric, mystical or philosophical entity or category;
  • as the “Ultimate”, the summum bonum, the “Absolute Infinite”, the “Transcendent”, or Existence or Being itself;
  • as the ground of being, the monistic substrate, that which we cannot understand; and so on.

Some Formal Religious Conceptions of God

Brahman is the eternal, unchanging, infinite, immanent, and transcendent reality which is the divine ground of all matter, energy, time, space, being and everything beyond in this Universe

Sikhism

Main article: God in Sikhism The term for God in Sikhism is Waheguru. Guru Nanak describes God as nirankar (from the Sanskrit nirākārā, meaning “formless”), akal (meaning “eternal”) and alakh (from the Sanskrit alakśya, meaning “invisible” or “unobserved”).

Jainism

Jainism does not support belief in a creator deity. According to Jain doctrine, the universe and its constituents—soul, matter, space, time, and principles of motion—have always existed. All the constituents and actions are governed by universal natural laws. 

Buddhism

The non-adherence to the notion of a supreme God or a prime mover is seen as a key distinction between Buddhism and other religious views. In Buddhism, the sole aim of the spiritual practice is the complete alleviation of distress (dukkha) in samsara, called nirvana. The Buddha neither denies nor accepts a creator, denies endorsing any views on creation and states that questions on the origin of the world are worthless.

Denial of God

Satanism ( Not what most people understand about this “religion”

The word Satan is the English transliteration of a Hebrew word for “adversary” in the Bible. With the definite article, the Hebrew word denotes “the adversary” par excellence,

his brand of satanism was not about evil or animal and child sacrifices, family members said. It was more about rational freethinking and a disdain for the hypocrisy he believed corrupted Christianity.

He preached living for the day, instead of for an afterlife that nobody can prove exists, they said. He did not believe in the devil as an anthropomorphic being with horns and a tail, but rather as a Jungian archetype conjured up by mankind.

 LaVeyan Satanism Anton LaVey, founder of the Church of Satan, espoused the view that “god” is a creation of man, rather than man being a creation of “god”. In his book, The Satanic Bible, the Satanist’s view of god is described as the Satanist’s true “self”—a projection of his or her own personality—not an external deity. Satan is used as a representation of personal liberty and individualism. LaVey discusses this extensively in The Book of Lucifer, explaining that the gods worshipped by other religions are also projections of man’s true self. He argues that man’s unwillingness to accept his own ego has caused him to externalize these gods so as to avoid the feeling of narcissism that would accompany self-worship.

“If man insists on externalizing his true self in the form of “God,” then why fear his true self, in fearing “God,”—why praise his true self in praising “God,”—why remain externalized from “God” in order to engage in ritual and religious ceremony in his name?
Man needs ritual and dogma, but no law states that an externalized god is necessary in order to engage in ritual and ceremony performed in a god’s name! Could it be that when he closes the gap between himself and his “God” he sees the demon of pride creeping forth—that very embodiment of Lucifer appearing in his midst?”

— Anton LaVey, The Satanic Bible, pp. 44–45

Satan is viewed as a positive archetype representing pride, carnality, and enlightenment. He is also embraced as a symbol of defiance against Abrahamic religions, which LaVeyans criticize for suppressing humanity’s natural instincts and encouraging irrationality. The religion propagates a naturalistic worldview, seeing mankind as animals existing in an amoral universe. It promotes a philosophy based on individualism and egoism, coupled with Social Darwinism and anti-egalitarianism.

Thoughts about the existence of God

Blaise Pascal

Pascal’s wager is a philosophical argument presented by the seventeenth-century French philosopher, theologian, mathematician, and physicist, Blaise Pascal (1623–1662). It posits that human beings wager with their lives that God either exists or does not.

Pascal argues that a rational person should live as though God exists and seek to believe in God. If God does not exist, such a person will have only a finite loss (some pleasures, luxury, etc.), whereas if God does exist, he stands to receive infinite gains (as represented by eternity in Heaven) and avoid infinite losses (an eternity in Hell).

The original wager was set out in Pascal’s posthumously published Pensées (“Thoughts”), an assembly of previously unpublished notes. Pascal’s wager charted new territory in probability theory, marked the first formal use of decision theory, existentialism, pragmatism, and voluntarism.

The wager is commonly criticized with counterarguments such as the failure to prove the existence of God, the argument from inconsistent revelations, and the argument from inauthentic belief.

Confucius once said, “Death and life have their determined appointments, riches and honors depend upon heaven,” and “Heaven means to be one with God.” Confucius also taught an important principle of philosophy, that “The object of the superior man is truth.”

“In the absence of any other proof, the thumb alone would convince me of God’s existence.” Isaac Newton

“God in the beginning formed matter in solid, massy, hard, impenetrable, movable particles, of such sizes and figures, and with such other properties, and in such proportion to space, as most conduced to the end for which he formed them.” Isaac Newton

“Atheists who keep asking for evidence of God’s existence are like a fish in the ocean wanting evidence of water.” Ray Comfort

“He who denies the existence of God, has some reason for wishing that God did not exist.” Saint Augustine

“Now it would be as absurd to deny the existence of God, because we cannot see him, as it would be to deny the existence of the air or wind, because we cannot see it.” Adam Clarke

“A god who let us prove his existence would be an idol.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer

“God writes the Gospel not in the Bible alone, but also on trees, and in the flowers and clouds and stars.” – Martin Luther

“Never lose an opportunity of seeing anything beautiful, for beauty is God’s handwriting.”

“It is not the objective proof of God’s existence that we want but the experience of God’s presence. That is the miracle we are really after, and that is also, I think, the miracle that we really get.” Frederick Buechner

“Atheism turns out to be too simple. If the whole universe has no meaning, we should never have found out that it has no meaning.” C. S. Lewis

True religion is not about possessing the truth. No religion does that. It is rather an invitation into a journey that leads one toward the mystery of God. Idolatry is religion pretending that it has all the answers. John Shelby Spong

To find love I must enter into the sanctuary where it is hidden, which is the mystery of God. Thomas Merton

People think of science as rolling back the mystery of God. I look at science as slowly creeping toward the mystery of God. Allan Hamilton

It is easier to gaze into the sun, than into the face of the mystery of God. Such is its beauty and its radiance. Hildegard of Bingen

Every blade of grass, every insect, ant, and golden bee, all so amazingly know their path, though they have not intelligence, they bear witness to the mystery of God and continually accomplish it themselves. Fyodor Dostoevsky

So, the question remains: Does God actually intervene (theism) or does God’s creation, nature, happen at the right moment, that is a drought combined with the activity of the moon cause the Reed Sea in that particular area to be so low that the Israelites were able to escape across into the Promised Land? We must remember The Moon’s gravitational pull generates something called the tidal force. The tidal force causes Earth—and its water—to bulge out on the side closest to the Moon and the side farthest from the Moon. These bulges of water are high tides. … High tides and low tides are caused by the Moon.

No one can or should impose any beliefs, creeds, doctrines, conceptions of God unless you allow them to. As you can surmise, humans have been searching for “God”, the source of the universe.

I believe that we each arrive at a conclusion, belief, or realization about “God” that empowers us to exist with the greatest human consciousness possible. The trouble is those who seek POWER, FAME, AND FORTUNE, believe that they are “God” and desire to control others to have them follow and worship them which ultimately results in the destruction of humanity. History seems to indicate that.

Perhaps reaching out in love to one another discloses
the unnamed source of existence.
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The Weakness of God

by KURT STRUCKMEYER 

[God] is weak and powerless in the world, and that is the way, the only way, in which [God] can be with us and help us.
— Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906–1945)

As we enter the postmodern world, the age-old omnipotent God is slowly dying in the human imagination. For many, this supernatural being is already dead. The image of a God who acts with power and might in the natural world and in human society is becoming increasingly incredible.

Yet, there is another image of God, an alternative way of envisioning God, in the Bible. We have no idea who wrote the treatise that we now refer to as the first epistle or first letter of John in the New Testament. Some authorities claim that this writer is the same author who wrote the gospel of John, but without much evidence other than tradition to back that up. Although the writing style is different, the author of “First John” seems to have some familiarity with ideas expressed in the gospel of John and may have come from the same community as the gospel writer. Whoever he was, the author of this letter developed an extraordinary theology sometime around the end of the first century.

Here is what he wrote:

God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. (1 John 4:16)

To think of God as love is radically different than the ancient image of an all-powerful being dwelling on a throne in the heavens. In regards to power, the chief characteristic of God as love is weakness. Love can only act in the world through the relative weakness of human beings.

If God is love, then the converse is also true: love is God. When we say that love is God, the divine is no longer a transcendent reality somewhere outside of the known universe (supernatural theism), nor is God an immanent creative reality woven through the fabric of the cosmos (pantheism and panentheism), but instead God becomes an incarnate reality within our hearts, within our minds, within our relationships, and in our actions. Love is a reality that animates us, empowers us, and transforms us from self-centered and selfish individuals to selfless and self-giving people. Without an omnipotent cosmic God dwelling somewhere out there, we have only human love, intelligence, and compassion to save us. Singly, each of us can do little. United, we can accomplish much if selfless love, compassion, and justice is our collective guide.

Yet, for many, thinking of God as the embodiment of weak human love is a poor substitute for the old supernatural image. Without a powerful cosmic God to fulfill our psychological needs for safety and security, we have to rely on one another to give us comfort and shelter. Without an omnipotent God who can answer our prayers, we must each pray for the strength, intelligence, and courage to change the world ourselves. Because, in reality, we are the answer we pray for. That answer, as Jesus said, is to love one another, to care for one another, and to forgive one another. These actions are the manifestation of the God of love in our world.

Love is often defined as an emotion—a strong affection, a feeling of devotion, an attraction based on sexual desire, a deep feeling of passion, or an ecstatic enjoyment. But love is far more than our emotions, which are fleeting and exist only at the surface of our being. Someone has said that “love is not a feeling; love is a verb.”

Love at its deepest level is an action, an activity, a commitment. True love is a self-giving and self-denying concern for another. One working definition is that love is “a choice to do what is best for another person.” Love in a family involves caring for those we love—feeding, clothing, sheltering, and educating them. It means providing them with the means of life and growth. If God is human love in action, then the purpose of this divine love is to nurture human life and growth, healing and wholeness, change and transformation. The presence of divine love within us calls us to become fully-human agents of love in the life of the world.

The English phrase “God is love” is written in the Greek New Testament as theos ein agapē (THEY-ohs ayn ag-AH-pay). Agapē (ag-AH-pay) is one of four different Greek words which we translate into English as love. Philia (fil-EE-ah) refers to loyal friendship or a brotherly love, eros (ERR-ohs) is used to describe passionate erotic or romantic love, and storgē (STOR-gay) is used in relation to the natural affection of family love, like the love of a parent for a child. Most usages of the word agapē in ancient Greek literature come from the writings of the New Testament where it implies a self-giving love, often an unconditional love. This is the kind of love people saw in Jesus. But the love that Jesus modeled was not a sweet love, a tender love, or a gentle love—much as the Sunday School portraits would have us believe. The love expressed in his life was a dangerous love. It was a radical love of one’s enemies; a call to nonviolent resistance toward evil; an unending forgiveness toward those who have harmed us; an expansive generosity with those in need; an inviting inclusiveness with marginal and despised people; and a fundamental rejection of reciprocation of any kind—both good and evil. The excessive love of Jesus is an uncompromising love that moves us toward lives of reconciliation, forgiveness, peace, and justice in a hostile world.

What we need is a much more powerful understanding and experience of a love that reorients our lives and transforms us into fully-human beings, fully-human agents of the selfless love we call God. If we allow it to be unleashed, the divine love within us will not let us remain the same. The radical love we see in Jesus pulls at us; it pushes and prods us out of our insular shells. It forces us to become more than we are, more than we are comfortable with, and ultimately all we are meant to be.

In the Hebrew Bible, God is proclaimed as a protector of the poor, especially widows and orphans who had no other male protector in society, and immigrants (resident aliens) who had no social kinship network during pressing situations. In a domination system, the rich and powerful don’t need God’s protection. They are in charge. The system serves them and benefits them. The Bible says that God chooses sides—the weak over the powerful—and ultimately moves into the margins of society in solidarity with the poor. You will find the presence of God among those who suffer, grieve, and hunger. Jesus said that the kingdom of God promises to reverse the social conditions of those in the margins.

God is more likely to be found in the lives of people at the bottom of the ladder where life is messy, than at the top where life is comfortable and secure. These hurting places are the arenas where Jesus lived, worked, and taught, and this is the arena to which his followers are called. After all, Jesus was a marginal person. He was born a peasant in a landless family who were members of the working poor. He spent his life working to create a just and caring community among his fellow peasants—a weak and powerless people.

Consequently, Jesus lived and ministered in the margins of his peasant society among despised and rejected people: prostitutes, tax collectors, and lepers. It was among those considered immoral and impure that the message of the kingdom of God would be gratefully welcomed. It was here that the kingdom was desperately needed.

a theology of weakness

In recent years, the term “weak theology” has been put forth to contrast the “strong theology” of the ancient creeds and orthodox Christian doctrine. A strong theology represents the character of a strong God, envisioned as an all-powerful creator and supernatural interventionist in history. In contrast, a weak theology describes a God with limited or weak power. Strong theology argues that the reason that God does not intervene to save the weak and oppressed is because God chooses to withhold power, often in the name of free will. In the same way, strong theology contends that the crucified Jesus chose to withhold his divine power in order to fulfill God’s plan for human salvation. But some theologians now see the suffering of Jesus on the cross and God’s inaction to save him as evidence that both Jesus and God were powerless to act in a supernatural manner. A weak theology contends that God and Jesus exhibit a weak kind of power in the world—weak forces like love and forgiveness.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a young German pastor who was imprisoned and executed for resisting Adolf Hitler in Nazi Germany, came to regard God not as omnipotent, but as weak and powerless. In Jesus—as an image and icon of the invisible God—he saw weakness and suffering as the way God operates in the world. He reasoned that if Jesus is the decisive revelation of God’s nature, then the weakness and suffering of Jesus on the cross can be viewed as an image of God’s weakness in the world. In one of his letters from prison, Bonhoeffer said:

Born:
 February 4, 1906 
Died:
 April 9, 1945 (aged 39) 

[God] is weak and powerless in the world, and that is the way, the only way, in which he can be with us and help us . . . Man’s religiosity makes him look in his distress to the power of God in the world; he uses God as a Deus ex machina. The Bible however directs him to the powerlessness and suffering of God; only a suffering God can help. (Bonhoeffer, Letters and Papers, 360–361)

The Latin phrase deus ex machina (DAY-us eks MACK-in-ah), meaning “god out of the machine,” refers to situations in ancient Greek theater in which a crane was used to lower an actor playing the part of a god onto the stage. Bonhoeffer uses the term to refer to the religious hope that God will miraculously step in to resolve a hopeless situation like a comic book action hero. Bonhoeffer believed that God does not step in and does not intervene in history to save us; God has not, does not, and will not. Bonhoeffer’s view of history from the first half of the twentieth century—two world wars, the holocaust, and a global economic depression—was evidence enough that God does not act in this way.

In the gospels of Mark and Matthew, Jesus cries out to God in agony from the cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Jesus receives no answer other than the silence of God, the apparent absence of God, a seemingly complete abandonment by God. God did not step in to miraculously rescue Jesus, nor should we expect God to rescue any of us from suffering and oppression.

Just like millions of innocent victims of disease, hunger, and violence, God does not alter the tragic situations of their lives. God did not save the six million Jews who were murdered in the Holocaust. God did not save the 160 million people who perished in the many wars of the twentieth century. Even today, God does not miraculously feed the 800 million people in our world who do not have enough nutrition to lead healthy, productive lives. Nor does God save the seven million hungry people—including three million children under the age of five—who die every year due to malnutrition.

Theologian Peter Rollins (b. 1973) believes that the crucifixion experience of Jesus is the trauma we all personally experience when we feel the absence of God in our lives. Ultimately, it calls us to give up the most treasured images of a God who will rescue us in times of need.

What is lost here is a way of relating to God as deus ex machina, as some being “out there” who ensures life makes sense. On the cross, Christ becomes the absolute outsider. Everything that has supported him thus far is stripped away. The religious system of the day sought his execution, the political system happily provided it, and his social circle quickly abandoned him. All that would ground him had been fundamentally shaken apart. There is no support here for Christ. On the cross, he is left naked, alone, dying. (Rollins, Insurrection, 27)

For Rollins, to participate in Christ’s death is to personally experience the radical doubt, suffering, and the sense of divine forsakenness that Jesus experienced on the cross. But let us be clear, the God we are speaking of, who abandons us to suffering, is the ancient supernatural theistic God of the human imagination, the all-powerful transcendent God that dwells “out there.” On the other hand, the incarnate God of love is neither dead nor absent, but is found among us in the form of a friend, a neighbor, or even an enemy. The crucifixion is the profound experience that brings an end to a traditional way of thinking about God and opens up new possibilities of theological reasoning.

In His Image Artist: William Zdinak

If God does not act to save us, or if God is incapable of acting to save us, what then does God do? Where is God in our hour of need? Bonhoeffer, who saw God’s presence in Jesus, believed that God is found most definitively in the suffering of Jesus on the cross. Bonhoeffer believed that although God will not rescue us from distress, God is present and suffers with us. “Our God is a suffering God,” he said.

Love is a suffering God, because only the power of love can sustain us in suffering. The omnipotent God of traditional theology does not and will not save us, but an incarnate God of love within humanity powerfully draws us into compassion for and solidarity with the people who experience pain, hunger, violence, and oppression. Love rouses us to action on behalf of those innocents who suffer unjustly. Love calls us to create a more just society that will put an end to the grief, misery, and distress that we encounter daily.

Commenting on the writings by John Caputo (b. 1940) in The Weakness of God (2006),  professor and blogger Richard Beck (b. 1967) concludes:

An incarnate God of love within humanity powerfully draws us into compassion for and solidarity with the people who experience pain, hunger, violence, and oppression.
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Transcendent-Immanence

By  Lynn C Bauman from the Oriental Orthodox Order in the West. 

My instruction to you is this: You are to love God, your One Lord: first, with your heart, then with your soul, and finally with your mind. This is the prime and greatest commandment. But my second instruction, equally important, is this: You are to love your neighbor as your own Self. The entire Torah and all the teachings from the prophets are contained in these two instructions. 

—Matthew 22:36-40

In his early words of public ministry Yeshua spoke of this primal spiritual act: turning toward Transcendent-Immanence—the vertical axis within one’s being and reorienting there (Mark :15). Nothing else can proceed without this first personal spiritual decision to restore one’s soul to its own primary orientation—from the horizontal to the vertical. This is metanoia —the inner turning toward the soul-Source of wholeness and well-being. Spiritually, nothing else can happen without this. Once this change of orientation is made, then the base-line for all spiritual life thereafter is built on these simple and yet profound instructions. Yeshua’s wisdom and its praxis are grounded in three things: inner reorientation, falling in love with the Source, and extending that love out along the horizontal axis into all of human experience. 

This sign-of-the cross with its arms spread out in the four cardinal directions from the interior core of the heart is to become the skeletal structure of all spiritual reality. These instructions, however, are not simple—together they hold everything else. The first establishes a loving relationship that involves nothing less than one’s whole being. You can see that this is not a creedal statement about belief in God, but the establishment of a relationship with God in which one’s entire being and consciousness participates. We know this when we are in relationship with others around us, and the relationship is intimate. It does not touch just one aspect of our lives. It touches everything else too. Yeshua had come into relationship with his Source (the Abba) in just that way. It was deep, intimate, and affected everything else: his heart, his soul, and his mind—perhaps in that exact order. 

The second instruction extends in the horizontal world along each of the four cardinal directions touching both what is near and what is far, and treating it in a way that is unusual for humankind. Again, he is teaching an intimacy, a loving relationship and not just a theoretical concept or an abstract belief that other sentient beings exist and that we must treat them fairly. Yeshua’s instructions escape the literal application of religion law to involve each being in our line of sight in a loving relationship. In a world where we live socially proximate, this changes the way we react and relate to our fellow human beings and all other beings who share the planet and the cosmos with us. Yeshua is teaching and seeing from meta-cosmic perspective. 

Yeshua sees and knows that the “other” is also the larger “Self” of one’s being. Though born a blue collar, common, village laborer, he was metaphysically and spiritually sophisticated (and it is we who consider ourselves to be modern and sophisticated who are often spiritually and metaphysically impoverished and illiterate). We have been taught (that too coming from the wisdom of Yeshua) this means we are to treat others as we would treat ourselves: fairly, with kindness and with care. Yeshua brushes past even that line here, declaring that what we thought of as “other than myself” (different from me) is actually not only a part of me, but the definition of who I actually am. I am not fully myself until all other sentient selves are included in that Self—which I hold in a relationship of love. This is what makes Yeshua’s wisdom a radical Gospel. Notice the image, Yeshua breaks the glass on who my neighbor is!!! This is the baseline, and yet only the starting point. Everything else is eternal and infinite.

 


							
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Jesus Rebuked Violence

Jesus said to the man,
“Put your sword back in its place. People who use swords will be killed with swords.
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Experiencing God Today

The following was written by Anthony Massimini, Ph.D.

We experience God within ourselves and in today’s society and culture. Part 2

God does not reveal doctrines and theological formulas to us.  God reveals him/herself to us–his/her life and love.  We in turn assent to God’s self-revelation by believing in God and returning our life and love to God.  

   As we grow in our experience of God’s self-revelation to us, our understanding grows and we create words, formulas and doctrines that officially express who God is and what God has done for us.  Thus we have formulated the Apostles Creed, and the Nicene Creed that is recited at Mass.  In these creeds, we express the oneness of the faith of the entire People of God, the church.

   Within these Creeds, each of us then understands, interprets and applies the one faith according to our own way of discerning–in common with the discernment of the whole People of God.  This includes our own personality.  Many of us, especially those who are older, will remember that our image of a saint usually came from looking at a holy card.  The artist’s depiction often made the saint look like he or she was experiencing some form of ecstasy, or possibly was about to levitate off the ground.  What does a saint, or even a regular holy person, really look and act like?  The right answer of course is that a saint, or a regular holy person looks and acts like us when we are responding to God’s self-communication according to our own personality.   

  The only changes that would be required would be to correct anything about our personality that would interfere with our relationship with God and others, e.g., a quickness to anger or criticize, a bad attitude, etc.  These faults actually hide our true self, so getting rid of them will help us live as we truly are and  therefore have life in abundance.  

    Fr. Ormond Rush’s book, The Eyes of Faith–The Sense of the Faith and the Church’s Reception of Revelation, is an excellent theological course on the sense of the faith.  In it he says that our response to God is so personal that within the one Catholic faith, each of us writes and lives our own catechism.  So we should get to know ourselves as well as possible.  And we should respect our personal dignity as baptized Christians and 21st century expressions of Christ.  We grow and evolve in spirituality and in our resemblance to Christ, not by separating ourselves from ourselves but by making ourselves all that God intends us to be, in the grace of Christ.

The sense of the faith must be present and alive in today’s culture.  Our challenge is to make our culture an expression of Christ, without imposing our religion on anyone.  In a special way, we do this by working to make our culture a clear and effective expression of the Principles of Social Justice and the Spiritual Disciplines.  

   We must avoid two extremes: 1) imposing our religion on our society and culture, and 2) separating our faith altogether from our culture.  The first extreme especially arises when the bishops try to impose their power on our society.  The  second extreme is the danger that I will discuss below.
In 1994, The National Catholic Reporter printed an article about Briggs & Stratton’s closing of one of their plants and moving their production to Mexico, thus putting many long time, American employees out of work.  In the article, the paper mentioned that the executives are Catholics, and it questioned their adherence to Catholic social principles.  

  The closing of the plant could have been a necessary and ethical move.  That’s not the story. The story is that in 1996, Briggs & Stratton sued the NCR for 30 million dollars for revealing that the executives are Catholics and for questioning their adherence to Catholic social principles.  Along the way, the company’s vice president made this statement, “My religious upbringing has absolutely nothing to do with the basic economic decisions made by the company.” 
Fast forward to today: In this week’s edition of “America” magazine, (June, 2012) a chief executive of a corporation is quoted as saying, “I wouldn’t know the common good if it bit me.”  

   The two statements typify the pressing need for business executives, and people in every part of our society, to take the time and make the effort to find their own sense of the faith, and bring it to life in today’s culture. 

  Executives may know the principles of Social Justice, but that knowledge is useless unless they know how to apply the principles and bring them to full life in their business.  It’s like saying that they have an idea of who Jesus is, but don’t know how to recognize and relate to Jesus in the flesh.  A flesh-less Jesus is not the real Jesus. 

  An abstract understanding of the Principles of Social Justice, and the Spiritual Disciplines that give the principles life, is not social justice in the flesh.  When business executives, along with workers, teachers, health care providers, scientists, artists, et. al. don’t know the real, flesh-and-blood Jesus, they give anemic service to others, or no service at all.  Businesses, for example, do not just provide a profitable service for the entire community.  Instead, they turn business on itself so that “business is business,” i.e., a way of making profit for the few, to the detriment of the workers, the community, and the environment.   People suffer, and our culture suffers.

   Vatican II’s language is a bit clumsy but it’s message on this point is clear and strong: 

  They are mistaken who, knowing that we have here no abiding city but seek one which is to come (cf. Heb. 13:14), think that they may therefore shirk their earthly responsibilities.  For they are forgetting that by the faith itself they are more obliged than ever to measure up to these duties, each according to his proper vocation (2 Thess. 3:6-13; Eph. 4:28).  Nor, on the contrary, are they any less wide of the mark who think that religion consists in acts of worship alone and in the discharge of certain moral obligations, and who imagine they can plunge themselves into earthly affairs in such a way as to imply that these are altogether divorced from the religious life. This split between the faith which many profess and their daily lives deserves to be counted among the more serious errors of our age.

June 11, 2012
         Mythologist Joseph Campbell once told the story of two policemen in Hawaii who were driving a patrol car along the top of a cliff when they saw a man about to jump off the cliff.  As the driver screeched the car to a halt the other policemen ran out and grabbed the man just as he jumped.  For a long frightening moment, the policeman held on to the man’s wrist at peril to his own life, until the other policeman arrived and joined in pulling the man up.

   When people asked the policeman why he held on, especially since he was married and had children, he explained that he never had any thought of letting the man go.  Campbell explained that the policeman’s act showed our basic human oneness.  The same oneness shows when a soldier falls on a grenade to save his buddies.    

  We all share in this same oneness; it is built right into us and into the universe itself.  Our individuality and uniqueness arise from it.  As unique as we are, we basically depend on one another. The basic energy of our lives is to love one another.  In the sub-atomic realm, if any particle separates itself from the whole, it loses its meaning and dies.  The same is true for us.  

   Our sense of faith is calling to us to realize and appreciate our oneness with all others, and with nature.  And we don’t have to experience extreme danger in order to experience our oneness.  Contemplative Thomas Merton once was assigned to go into town with another monk to buy some things for the monastery.  When they arrived at the store, the other monk went inside and Merton stood outside on the sidewalk.  As he watched the people passing by he spontaneously realized that he was totally in love with every one of them.  His monastic contemplation had opened him to putting his oneness with others right up front in his consciousness. 

   Merton gives us the way to “hear” God within us and realize and appreciate our oneness in God and with one another.  Just as it took time and effort for Merton to arrive at his contemplative sensitivity, we must take time and effort in our own way.  Our sense of faith gives us both the content of our faith and the ability to receive God’s revelation of that content.  It disposes us to realize our loving oneness with God and all others.  

   If we look deeply into ourselves, we will find there what T. S. Eliot called, “the still point of the turning world,” that silent place within ourselves where God speaks in a whisper.  (1 Kings 19:12,13). Notice that Eliot did not say, “the still point in the turning world:, but “of the turning world”.  We don’t stop the world, or our culture, to hear God within us; we “hear” God while the world is turning, while our culture is running at the full speed it runs at today.  On the PRAYER page, there is a short explanation of Contemplation.  I suggest that you read it and meditate on it.  Clearly, contemplation is not easy in today’s noisy, fast-moving, hyper-individualized culture.  Our Congress, for example, seems deaf to God’s call to oneness.  But as I noted, God has already disposed us to “hear” him, in ourselves and in today’s signs of the times.  Hearing him and responding to him is one of the aspects of our being a spiritually adult, 21st century expression of Christ.       
Jesus did not come to be with only the Jews in first century Palestine.  Nor only with the Gentiles of the Roman Empire.  He came to be intimately present to the whole world–everyone and everything in it, all the way back to the world’s inception and all the way forward until he returns and changes our world into an eternal “new Jerusalem.”  In Jesus we have all of humanity and the rest of nature–all the space/time world, united to eternal/infinite divinity.  Jesus not only represents evolving wholeness-in-love; he is evolving wholeness-in-love.

   To be spiritual adults in today’s world we have to live in the constant consciousness of evolving wholeness-in-love.  While we certainly pay attention to our own views and needs, we have to be able to see beyond them to the views and needs of all others.  As spiritual adults, we have to see the big picture.  When Bobby Kennedy was a senator, he once said, “I have to constantly decide whether I’m a New York senator or an American senator.”  Sometimes he had to vote against New York’s particular need in order to satisfy the bigger American need.

   For example, we have a new health care bill that requires people to buy health insurance so that everybody can have health care.  The principle is clearly a Christian one–we are here to help one another.  But today’s deeply polarized culture militates against our having a reasonable discussion as to what is the best way to fulfill this principle. Not long ago,  I was addressing a Catholic audience and said, “We’re now going to have a Catholic discussion on the best way to provide health care for every American.  Then I laughed and added, “And if anybody gets partisan, you’re out of here!”  The discussion never got started.

  Our sense of wholeness arises from our sense of faith.  In faith, we see as God sees–we see all individuals first within the context of their one, human wholeness. Then we see their individuality and uniqueness.  This of course contradicts our culture’s way of seeing;  we first see ourselves and our own needs, and then we see others and their needs, if we have time or the disposition.  For example, it is legitimate to ask if the corporate executives who send jobs overseas care about the Americans who have lost their jobs in the process.  Christian wholeness (cf. the social principle of Solidarity) shows us that while the foreign workers also need jobs, American corporations have some responsibility to help find jobs for the Americans who lost their jobs to the foreign workers.  In simple terms, we’re all in this together!

   Today’s science sees wholeness-in-love in a similar way, although few if any scientists would use that expression.  Take us for example:  our sub-atomic particles are nestled within our atoms.  Our atoms are nestled within our molecules.  Our molecules are nestled within our cells.  Our cells are nestled within our bones and organs.  Our bones and organs are nestled within our body.  Our body is a nestled expression of the energy that is our soul.  Every part has its own unique individuality, and yet if we remove any part of this progression of nestings, e.g., if we put our atoms on their own, we will fall apart and die.

   Some young people show a problem with wholeness when they hold back from getting married.  They live together for a while, but if this arrangement doesn’t satisfy their individual needs, they split up.  They never quite get to the point where they’re satisfying their common needs.  They show their fear of commitment by not using the word “marriage,” but instead, preferring the word, “relationship.”  By this, they mean they are in an arrangement where they are standing off a bit from each other, fearful of losing their individuality.  Similarly, many say, “I am spiritual but not religious.”  But you can’t be spiritual all by yourself.  We all have to be a loving, giving and “nesting” part of some whole. 

  Recall the statement of Bishop Camara, “When I give food to the poor, the people call me a saint.  When I ask why the poor have no food, the people call me a Communist.  We should all be deeply embarrassed that the people did not call him a Catholic.  Physically, psychologically and socially, we are “designed” to operate within our deep, natural wholeness;  ours is a spirituality of family, friendships, schools, businesses, and all the various social,and religious organizations we are part of, and of our loving oneness with God.  As 21st century expressions of Christ, we operate from our “home base” of wholeness.  

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