A WORLD WITHOUT GOD

One of the most interesting YouTube programs I have watched is one with the hypothesis, What would it be like if, all of a sudden, all humans would disappear? The video is worth watching for its profound implications for Original Sin and the natural law (physics and morals). Look it up on YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Of1NS66Wn14

I don’t know how, but this topic resonated from my Lectio Divina this morning. (Philippians 2:5). I share what came my way with you, and you draw your own conclusions.

What if there was a world without God? What if God got so fed up with all the calumny, detraction, envy, duplicity, hatred, jealousy, lack of faith that humans have that God said, “I can’t take this anymore, and made the choice that humans would have no God anymore?” Here are the thoughts that are part of my answer, in no order of importance.

NO GOD ANYMORE

There is no resurrection from the dead anymore. Jesus is not the Son of God, merely a fiction writer (although he wrote no books).

The followers of Jesus believed his message to love one another as He loved us. If there is no God, we have no destiny other than the grave. Here today, gone tomorrow. Get what you can of life.

If there is no God, only the strong prevail. The weak and the poor do not have a message of hope.

Being a Lay Cistercian is a waste of time because there is no God for me to sit down next to on a park bench in the dead of winter and just be thankful to be an adopted son (daughter) of the father.

Only special interest groups fulfill the soul’s longing for belonging to something meaningful.

There is no mortal sin, nor any sin. There is no target for me to aim and make or miss shooting my arrow.

What has been the exception is now the rule. There is no God and no afterlife, no humility and no obedience to a higher power than myself.

Religion is worthless. Only politics defines morality, and those that shout the loudest get the worm.

While there are societal norms, such as public safety, and rules, there is no choice to follow what God has taught us all these centuries because there is no God, only the personal god of my choices.

I can still help and love others, but this love is based on the corruption of time and space and is not permanent.

People descend into the Hell of living without hope, in the dissonance of cosmic chaos, of never fulfilling what is in the human heart.

We have only the Nobel Prizes of Peace, Science, Literature with no other dimension than to fulfill our destiny on earth.

A world without God looks a lot like the one we live in right now. What you see is what you get, and what you don’t see, you don’t get.

There is no spiritual universe.

I can’t communicate with a God that does not exist and is condemned to be god within my lifetime, accountable only to my whims of good and evil.

No one can tell me what to do because there is only one choice I can make, “I am the center of the universe.”

There is no Eucharist or Penance for me; Church is not relevant because, without a head, there is no dynamic body.

I get my morality from the vagaries of my human nature and what makes me happy right now.

Pleasure, for the sake of pleasure, is my center. No one does anything that they think is bad for them. If I want to steal and justify it, then stealing is not immoral. Adultery, prevarication, fornication, debauchery (I had to look that one up), and all those mentioned in Galatians 5, are the norm and not the exception. There is no God, but the devil still exists to reign over the world’s kingdoms, and we have no energy (grace) to help us resist the lure to be selfish.

8Then the devil took him up to a very high mountain, and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in their magnificence,9and he said to him, “All these I shall give to you, if you will prostrate yourself and worship me.”*

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/matthew/4

No one gives us enlightenment, such as the Holy Spirit.

There is no purpose outside of myself, and no one can tell me what to do with my body.

There is love in the world and even service to others, but they can and will not propel me to a higher level of existence if there is no God.

God becomes a god.

I don’t need to fast and pray lest I fall into temptation. The choice is taken away, and God as a choice is no more.

The destiny of humans is destined for oblivion.

There is no reason we evolved reasoning, no reason to have free will, no need for any power higher than me.

Each person is their own god, their own church, their own pope, their own source of energy.

I don’t have to deny myself, take up my cross each day, and follow Christ. There is nothing to follow.

There is nothing beyond death.

Jesus was just a dreamer wanting to be god, and so he made up all these ideas, and his followers wrote down some of his thinking.

There is no Trinity of three persons and one nature, and all of this is a fairy tale.

There is no such thing as a spiritual journey or heaven or hell.

The devil doesn’t exist.

Temptations are fairy tales, and there is no corruption of matter. People commit crimes against the state, not God.

Humans can create their own god; their political parties, religions that worship power and seek to dominate the world, ways of thinking that are racially biased and exclusionary of others, hate groups of both the left and the right political persuasion.

There is no coveting riches, other women or men.

Suicide is socially acceptable and eventually the moral norm of societies.

Looting the property of others is acceptable as long as you don’t get caught. Power to the powerful.

Without God, the choices we make depend on what I think is just. Society makes laws that I must follow, and who makes those societal laws can be either good or bad, depending on what philosophy of life they hold at their center.

Euthanasia becomes socially acceptable and then eventually morally acceptable without God.

Abortion of any kind depends on the individual’s morality, and there is no other norm against which humans measure themselves.

No one can tell you what to believe, what to do with your body, what is right or wrong if there is no God. Life becomes relativistic, with the strong or politically powerful becoming the moral imperative.

The center of morality is the state or highest authority with power.

There is no marriage other than what the state says it is. Two people can marry, both female, both male, one male, one female, multiple partners because everyone should have the right to marry as their choice.

God is no more, so adultery and fornication are okay if you don’t hurt someone.

Rape becomes normative, depending on human society and its norms of behavior. Societies change, so morality is relative.

Original Sin does not exist and is made up to scare little children.

No one can prove anything about a god that does not exist, so why the argument?

HUMANS NATURE AND THE ABSENCE OF GOD

What will life look like without god? Actually, it is much like it is right now with god. Human nature is neither good nor evil without God, for there is no measuring stick to measure ourselves against. There is no power outside of ourselves greater than the individual or as a society (a collection of individuals).

What is good, and there is bad as defined by society. There is no God for society to take for its center.

There is good in the world without God, and there is bad. The battle depends upon human nature that has been wounded. Without God, the world and its future become a crapshoot.

SOME PERSPECTIVES ON LIVING WITH THE FRINGES

I do not consider myself living on either fringe of the road of life. My goal is to “Have in me the mind of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 2:5), which is down the middle of the road. The fringes are not necessarily progressive Socialist Democrat or Ultra Conservative Republican, nor left or right. Fringes to me mean dropping off the path created for me by Jesus so that I could weave and wobble down life’s challenges and try to overcome the “reside of sin” left from Original Sin. What complicates things is that each human has a road they must follow. This road consists of our choices along the way, both good and bad. Even if we do fall off the road completely (due to loss of Faith, loss of perspective that there is such a thing as a spiritual universe), those baptized in the blood of the Lamb have a way to get back onto the path of righteousness once again through the Sacrament of Penance. Jesus tells those who believe in Him to take up their cross daily and follow Him. In addition, we must take our roadsigns in life from those left by Christ for us to follow. Christ does not take up our cross for us but says we must deny ourselves and choose what God tells us to do rather than interpret the roadsigns of life as the world sees them.

The choice I make is where I don’t want God telling me what to do (the sin of Adam and Eve) or the difficult path of the cross that Christ challenges me to make. Don’t kid yourself; we are not baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit with the sign of the cross for show. We bear the marks of Christ in his life and death in that path we walk down. At the end of our lifetime, we should be bruised and hobbling down our pathway, having fought the good fight with many bloody encounters with the residue of sin (some wars we win, while others we lose). Christ tells each of us that if we are faithful to his teachings to love one another as He loved us, we will win the war (even if we lose some of the battles).

Using the Genesis moment as my guideline to decipher the mystery of human nature, I develop archetypal answers to the fundamental questions about why it is evil in the world. Here are some of my thoughts:

There is no evil with God, nor is He the author of what we consider evil on earth. What is evil comes from our choices collectively and individuals that make us happy.

Like the evolution of matter, these choices accumulate, and they are also subject to the residue of sin or the corruption of everything in the physical and mental universe.

Christ came as our savior to give us the option (belief) to have a life beyond death or this corruption of matter. This is an invisible universe that can only be entered by invitation. The invitation from God is for all humans to have a chance to live in this universe begins on earth with the baptism of water and the Holy Spirit and ends with God as His adopted sons and daughters…forever.

If humans only live in two universes (the physical and the mental), they will not be able to look in the one place where we can meet God and seek to fulfill that next dimension of our evolution– adoption.

It is not without a reason that the Church on earth is called The Church Militant.

The prayer of Thomas Merton (Father Mary Louis Merton, O.C.S.C., comes to mind at the conclusions of my thoughts.  

Thomas Merton

My Lord God,
I have no idea where I am going.
I do not see the road ahead of me.
I cannot know for certain where it will end.
nor do I really know myself,
and the fact that I think I am following your will
does not mean that I am actually doing so.
But I believe that the desire to please you
does in fact please you.
And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing.
I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire.

And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it.
Therefore will I trust you always though
I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death.

I will not fear, for you are ever with me,
and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.

“The Merton Prayer” from Thoughts in Solitude Copyright © 1956, 1958 by The Abbey of Our Lady of Gethsemani. Used by permission of Farrar Straus Giroux.

https://reflections.yale.edu/article/seize-day-vocation-calling-work/merton-prayer

THE TABLE OF THE LORD: Being a penitent Lay Cistercian

If you wish to love Christ as He loved us, you must be a penitential person. How you that depends on your capacitas dei (capacity for God) and listening with the ear of your heart (St. Benedict in the Prologue to the Rule).

This blog is the first of four parts about the Table of the Lord. It is the first leg of my table.

My Table of the Lord has four legs and a top, like all functional tables. The four legs are:

  • Ways to Pray the Seven Penitential Psalms (Being a Penitent Lay Cistercian)
  • Eucharistic Energy (Consuming Pure Energy as a Eucharistic Lay Cistercian)
  • Lectio Divina (A Lay Cistercian practices silence, solitude, work, prayer, and community each day)
  • Church Universal confronts the “residue of sin” each day on the journey to parousia (A Lay Cistercian lives the signs of contradiction in the struggle to move from false self to having the mind of Christ Jesus) Philippians 2:5

Now to confuse you, even more, this first leg, developing a penitential perspective, has seven different blogs, corresponding to the seven penitential psalms. My Lectio Divina meditation centered around how I could do Lectio (oratio, meditatio, oratio, meditatio, and Pope Benedict XVI’s addition, actio). This is the first of those seven Lectio Divina sessions that I share with you for your penitential, contemplative practice.

I share with you not only what I did but HOW I did it. USCCB has a wonderful audio version of both The Penitential Psalms and Songs of the Suffering Servant. I plan on doing one of these each day, in addition to my other Lay Cistercian practices.

  1. Reading full Psalm at least three time:
  2. One time just listen to the Psalm. Get the flavor of the Psalm.
  3. Second time, read it very slowly, line by line. Pick out three ideas that you want to remember. You may wish to write them down.
  4. Third time, get inside the mind of the Psalmist. What does he feel that he would make such a Psalm with so beautiful examples of penitence. Read the

THE SEVEN PENITENTIAL PSALMS

https://www.usccb.org/prayer-and-worship/liturgical-year/lent/seven-penitential-psalms-songs-of-suffering-servant

SONGS OF THE SUFFERING SERVANT

https://www.usccb.org/prayer-and-worship/liturgical-year/lent/seven-penitential-psalms-songs-of-suffering-servant

MY PRAYER

As I sit on this park bench in the middle of winter, waiting for my mind to show up to be near the heart of Christ, I am overwhelmed with gratitude that you would count me worthy to be called a friend and more than that, an adopted son (daughter)of the Father. Lord, I am not worthy that you come under my roof. Only say the word, and my soul will be healed.

Glory (Thanks) be to the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, now and forever. The God who is, who was and who will be at the end of the ages. Amen-Cistercian doxology

THE TABLE OF THE LORD

Being a Lay Cistercian is one of not only discovering what it means to be Cistercian and a Layperson, but also how that openness to the heart of Christ transforms me into something I was not before.

If I am a Table of the Lord, I build myself in vain if God does not inspire me. Through Him, with Him, and in Him are all glory to the Father, through the Holy Spirit. The tools to build my Table of the Lord come from my instruction book (Scripture and Cistercian practices (for me)), all nicely set forth by St. Benedict in Chapter 4 of the Holy Rule.

My Table of the Lord has four legs and a top, like all functional tables. The four legs are:

  • Ways to Pray the Seven Penitential Psalms (Being a Penitent Lay Cistercian)
  • Eucharistic Energy (Consuming Pure Energy as a Eucharistic Lay Cistercian)
  • Lectio Divina (A Lay Cistercian practices silence, solitude, work, prayer, and community each day)
  • Church Universal confronts the “residue of sin” each day on the journey to parousia (A Lay Cistercian lives the signs of contradiction in the struggle to move from false self to having the mind of Christ Jesus) Philippians 2:5

Each day, I must set my table with what will sustain me for just one more day. I am free to choose to place on this table anything I wish, anything in my past that will help me towards whatever center I have selected to be my core principle. For me, it has been Philippians 2:5 since 1962, “Have in you the mind of Christ Jesus.” If life has not always been kind to me, and there have been some rough patches, this center in my rock, my fortress, my North on the compass of daily martyrdom of the ordinary.

In the next series of blogs on my Lectio Divine experiences, I will touch on these four legs of the table. Right now, I want to introduce you to a concept that puts this whole Advent and Lenten season in perspective for me.

THE MARTYRDOM OF THE ORDINARY

At least in my world, which is the one I inhabited for the past eighty-one years, life is not about finding those human experiences that will give me pleasure for the sake of pleasure or power for the sake of power, or even riches for the sake of riches. Ninety percent of my life has been just living out whatever comes my way in a kind of boring way (to paraphrase some teens who told me that Eucharist is boring). It is boring for them because they are boring. I seek the joy that comes from having in me the mind of Christ Jesus each day. This is a joy that can only come by my heart being next to the heart of Christ (Love) and just being grateful that I am His adopted son (daughter). Only I can choose to do that, and it takes a martyrdom of self (martyrdom of moving from my false self to my new self) to go against what I think the world is telling me and showing me is happiness. For the world, happiness is feeling good. It is like wanting to be on heroin high all the time. Life is not like that for the non-heroin-dependent person (me). I have other addictions (thorns of the flesh) that I must bear. Martyrdom means I am not privileged to shed his blood for Christ but rather suffer cuts and bruises of everyday, ordinary living, often with some depression that life is not more exciting. In the end, life is only as exciting as I make it. When I choose the Christ Principle as my center, it doesn’t make life any easier; it means my purpose is to transform the ordinary of my life into one to give glory to the Father through, with, and in Christ, using the power of the Holy Spirit. St. Pauls puts it this way in Galatians 5:

Freedom for Service.*13For you were called for freedom, brothers.j But do not use this freedom as an opportunity for the flesh; rather, serve* one another through love.14For the whole lawk is fulfilled in one statement, namely, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”*1But if you go on biting and devouring one another, beware that you are not consumed by one another16l I say, then: live by the Spirit and you will certainly not gratify the desire of the flesh.*17 For the flesh has desires against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; these are opposed to each other, so that you may not do what you want.m1But if you are guided by the Spirit, you are not under the law.n19* Now the works of the flesh are obvious: immorality, impurity, licentiousness,o20 idolatry, sorcery, hatreds, rivalry, jealousy, outbursts of fury, acts of selfishness, dissensions, factions,p21 occasions of envy,* drinking bouts, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 In contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness,q23 gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.r24 Now those who belong to Christ [Jesus] have crucified their flesh with its passions and desires.s25 If we live in the Spirit, let us also follow the Spirit.t26 Let us not be conceited, provoking one another, envious of one another.u

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/galatians/5

This is a type of martyrdom where we must shed the blood of self-denial of what appears to be what will titillate our senses towards self-gratification, to become more like Christ who shed His own blood for the ransom of many. Self-gratification is not so bad as it is incapable of setting our table with anything that will nourish our true self in Christ Jesus. To find something in the ordinary purposes of life that will satisfy the hungry heart, I choose four legs of my table of the Lord to allow me to taste and see how good the Lord is.

It is the martyrdom of self (false self) that goes against the illusions of who is powerful, who is the greatest, who can hate others the most, and who is god. Anyone stuck in this mode of thinking not only won’t see reality as having The Christ Principle as its center, but can’t do so. Read the whole context of how Jesus could not work miracles. Christ, being Son of God, has full power, but somehow this power is not actualized by individuals because people he knows can’t bring themselves to open themselves up to the possibility of the manifest ability of the Messiah.

The Rejection at Nazareth.1a He departed from there and came to his native place,* accompanied by his disciples.2* When the sabbath came he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astonished. They said, “Where did this man get all this? What kind of wisdom has been given him? What mighty deeds are wrought by his hands! 3b Is he not the carpenter,* the son of Mary, and the brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him. 4*c Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his native place and among his own kin and in his own house.”5 So he was not able to perform any mighty deed there,* apart from curing a few sick people by laying his hands on them. 6 He was amazed at their lack of faith.

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/mark/6

What is this “lack of faith” all about? It surely isn’t that Jesus is Messiah because even the Apostles needed the Holy Spirit to give them the power to believe. As crazy as it seems, I thought of Chapter 7 of the Rule of Benedict about humility and the first of twelve steps: Have fear of the Lord. Here, English does not impart the depth of meaning contained in the idea of “fear.” As best as I can tell, it means, “Don’t forget that Jesus is also God, and you don’t mess with God. Just be aware that this Jesus, whom you call human, is also divine in nature. Be respectful for all that he has done.” This appreciation or gratitude is the subject of one of my next blogs.

Applied to the situation of Jesus and his hometown, his neighbors never thought of Jesus as the Son of God, Savior. Their lack of faith means that their disposition towards the choices they make does not allow them to open themselves to the possibility that Jesus is also The Christ Principle.

The early Church Universal is sometimes called the Church of the Blood of the Martyrs because they not only believed in Jesus as human but because they also believed that the words of Jesus to us to “love one another as He loves us” and that He is “Son of the Father.” Our martyrdom is one of boredom and taking for granted everything Christ has gifted us since the Ascension. The Holy Spirit is the very breath of God with the Church as it wobbles down the crooked path of humnity in each age, but also within our seventy or eighty years, we have to discover the meaning of the Divine Equation and answer the questions authentically. God, through Jesus, and the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit, provide the answers that cause resonance in our relationship with God and each other. Deuteronomy 6:5 and Matthew 22:35ff.

Lay Cistercian practices and charisms (and other systems of prayer, e.g., Franciscans, Dominican, Ignatian, Basilian) all provide a structured approach to loving Christ, one that is a School of Love. Within this context of living out my end of life, I transform what might seem like ordinary or boredom to the world into the resonance of being one with the center, The Christ Principle. This association must produce energy, not my energy, but that of God, and I receive it according to the totality of who I am from the choices I have made in the past and present. Being in the presence of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament changes or transforms me in ways I don’t even begin to understand. The martyrdom of the Ordinary is my struggle to give my life to die for Christ by blood but to live for Christ by faith so that, each day, I might “Have in me the mind of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 2:5)

next: Ways to Pray the Seven Penitential Psalms (Being a Penitent Lay Cistercian)

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THE CHRIST PRINCIPLE: Rowing against the current of life

The following excerpt is from a book entitled Profound Listening: A Lay Cistercian reflects on habits that help “listen with the ear of the heart:” Due out in December 2021.

ROWING AGAINST THE FLOW OF LIFE

The struggle to be spiritual may be compared to a rower paddling upstream. When we are baptized, God tells us that we are rowing in the wrong direction to reach Heaven. We must go against the natural flow of the water and work or struggle to get where God tells us. In Chapter 4 of the Rule, St. Benedict tells his monks (and those who will listen profoundly) to follow the inclinations of the Spirit rather than their human nature (just flowing down the river of life). Read what St. Benedict says about the struggle to be spiritual.

1 First of all, love the Lord God with your whole heart, your whole soul, and all your strength, 2 and love your neighbor as yourself (Matt 22:37-39; Mark 12:30-31; Luke 10:27).

3 Then the following: You are not to kill,

4 not to commit adultery;

5 you are not to steal

6 nor to covet (Rom 13:9);

7 you are not to bear false witness (Matt 19:18; Mark 10:19; Luke 18:20).

8 You must honor everyone (1 Pet 2:17),

9 and never do to another what you do not want done to yourself (Tob 4:16; Matt 7:12; Luke 6:31).

10 Renounce yourself in order to follow Christ (Matt 16:24; Luke 9:23);

11 discipline your body (1 Cor 9:27);

12 do not pamper yourself,

13 but love fasting.

14 You must relieve the lot of the poor,

15 clothe the naked,

16 visit the sick (Matt 25:36),

17 and bury the dead.

18 Go to help the troubled

19 and console the sorrowing.

If you read these tools for good works, using profound listening, can you tell how it feels to deny yourself, take up your cross each day and follow Christ? Each of us baptized with the sign of the cross must struggle each day, without exception, to move from the false self that the world touts as being saved to our true self, becoming more and more like Christ. https://christdesert.org/rule-of-st-benedict/chapter-4-the-tools-for-good-works

If you are rowing downstream just sitting in the boat, allowing the current to take you anywhere, it flows then you are not free at all, even if you go with the flow and without any effort.

When each of us is baptized with the sign of the cross, in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, and thus are chosen by Christ to be adopted as sons and daughters.

We have not chosen Him as much as He has chosen us.

Read the following Scripture passage using profound listening. Don’t read Scripture as you would prove you are correct and some other religion is wrong, and you are missing the point. Let the love of Christ’s presence overshadow you as you sit there in silence and solitude and ponder what it means to assimilate the author’s feelings about the passage. Listen to the love Christ has for us, the trust he places in sinful humanity, the hope He has that we are grateful for what the Father has planned for each of us.

“10 If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and remain in his love.

11“I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and your joy may be complete.

12 This is my commandment: love one another as I love you.

13 No one has greater love than this,j to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.

14 You are my friends if you do what I command you.

15 I no longer call you slaves because a slave does not know what his master is doing. I have called you friends because I have told you everything I have heard from my Father.

16 It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name he may give you.

17 This I command you: love one another.

The World’s Hatred.*

18 “If the world hates you, realize that it hated me first.

19 If you belonged to the world, the world would love its own; but because you do not belong to the world, and I have chosen you out of the world, the world hates you.

20 Remember the word I spoke to you, ‘No slave is greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours.

21 And they will do all these things to you on account of my name, because they do not know the one who sent me.

22 If I had not come and spoken to them, they would have no sin, but as it is, they have no excuse for their sin.

23 Whoever hates me also hates my Father.

24 If I had not done works among them that no one else ever did, they would not have sin; but as it is, they have seen and hated both me and my Father.t

25 But in order that the word written in their law* might be fulfilled, ‘They hated me without cause.’

26 “When the Advocate comes whom I will send you from the Father, the Spirit of truth that proceeds from the Father, he will testify to me.v

27 And you also testify, because you have been with me from the beginning.”

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/john/15

But there is a challenge there. If we believe that all we must do is follow ourselves and inclinations, float down the river of our lives, and accept what comes our way, we do not have profound enlightenment nor profound listening, and we are headed the wrong way and may not even know it.  

Profound listening means we must accept the challenge of rowing our whole life upstream because that is what Christ tells us to do. He showed us what to do.

When we are in the midst of the Holy Spirit, we know when we struggle to go against our nature to embrace the opposite of what the world says is successful and meaningful. In many instances, what the world says is not bad; it is more like it is insufficient to row upstream with the tools of good works that it offers. This daily conversion through aggressive conversion each day to have in us the mind of Christ Jesus (Philippians 2:5) provides us with the energy from the Holy Spirit to not only know our destination is the kingdom of heaven now and later on, but the stamina to overcome the temptations to give up and go with the flow of life. God does not take away the struggle we face in rowing against the current of our false selves. Original Sin may be forgiven in Baptism, but that sin’s effects continue with us our whole lifetime. It is the reason why we struggle to keep our boat afloat and must expend our energy to row against the current. The Holy Spirit provides us with the art of contemplative practice, not to take away our struggles but to give us the tools we need to persevere until we reach Heaven, our port of final call. You could call these rowing lessons from the Holy Spirit.

THE ART OF CONTEMPLATIVE PRACTICE:

Maybe you do not, but I keep wondering why I have to continue my practice and practice of trying to love God each day with all my heart, with all my strength, and with all my mind, plus my neighbor as myself, and nothing happens. I do my Cistercian practices as faithfully as an old buzzard who is 80 years old can, and it sometimes seems as though I am just waiting my time. Is my goal unattainable? Am I living in La-La land, as my wife thinks? If my contemplative practice is so good, why does God not answer me instead of allowing me to wait in that hidden room in my heart and keep thinking that I am in my Physicians’ waiting room? Why can’t I reach what I seek each day? There you have it. I face the struggle each day, just as surely as Christ had to face himself in that last temptation from Satan in the Garden of Gethsemani, “Not my will but your will be done.”

All of this has to do with my human nature’s desire to put a cap on a thought or finalize any activity. Achieving what we seek for the moment is our nature’s default, and that is called fulfillment. What Christ was asking the Father is a human default, the result of Original Sin. Let this cup pass from me. As I see it, He was saying, “Do I have to give you the last drop of my blood to make restitution for the sin of Adam and Eve? My human nature doubts going through all this suffering for those who don’t even believe in me. ” To a much less degree but no doubt in the same feeling, I say this many times I go to Lectio Divina, Eucharist, Rosary, Reading Scripture, Liturgy of the Hours, spending time in the presence of Christ in Eucharistic Adoration. I say, “I don’t see how just saying prayers brings me into the presence of Christ? I feel like I am wasting my time focusing on Christ through the Holy Spirit when I could be watching First Things First and Get Up, my favorite sports programs” (I have given up watching calumniating national news channels.)

Silence and solitude, both Cistercian charisms, are forged on the crucible of my nature which is a contact battle for who is stronger. This is why prayer is a struggle, a good battle if I conquer my human nature in favor of my life in Christ, a bad one when I am weak and do not wait patiently for God to overshadow me with the warmth of his presence.

Chapter 4 of the Rule of St. Benedict has tools for good works that I think of often when the world tries to influence me to be more like me rather than take up the burden of my cross each day and follow the footprints of Christ. These behaviors are not ends in themselves but are only a means to an end, and the End, in this case, is also The Beginning, The Alpha, and the Omega.

20 Your way of acting should be different from the world’s way;

21 the love of Christ must come before all else.

22 You are not to act in anger

23 or nurse a grudge.

24 Rid your heart of all deceit.

25 Never give a hollow greeting of peace

26 or turn away when someone needs your Love.

27 Bind yourself to no oath lest it proves false,

28 but speak the truth with heart and tongue.

29 Do not repay one bad turn with another (1 Thess 5:15; 1 Pet 3:9).

30 Do not injure anyone, but bear injuries patiently.

31 Love your enemies (Matt 5:44; Luke 6:27).

32 If people curse you, do not curse them back but bless them instead.

33 Endure persecution for the sake of justice (Matt 5:10).

34 You must not be proud,

35 nor be given to wine (Titus 1:7; 1 Tim 3:3).

36 Refrain from too much eating

37 or sleeping,

38 and from laziness (Rom 12:11).

39 Do not grumble

40 or speak ill of others.

41 Place your hope in God alone.

42 If you notice something good in yourself, give credit to God, not to yourself,

43 but be certain that the evil you commit is always your own and yours to acknowledge.

Suppose you wait for God to be present to you with all your heart, with all your mind, and with all your strength? In that case, you will eventually, as I have, come to the embarrassing realization that Christ has been sitting next to you all along, waiting for you to be aware enough to sit there in the stillness of your being and wait. Your waiting is itself a prayer, a prayer of profound listening to the heartbeat of Christ.

PROFOUND LISTENING REFLECTIONS

  1. I do profound listening on God’s time, not mine.
  2. When I do profound listening, I am conscious that God speaks to me and not just another human. (St. Benedict, Chapter 7, the first rule of humility, Fear of the Lord.)
  3. Profound listening is done in the silence and solitude of my heart as I sit on a park bench in the middle of winter waiting for Christ.
  4. It is God’s agenda, not my own, for which I listen using the “ear of my heart.”
  5. The Word of God is the energy of God. When I assimilate that into my being, based on the totality of what I have become, then this energy must be shared with others, just as God must share the fulness of His love with humans.

THE CHRIST PRINCIPLE: The enjoyment of the cross in the martyrdom of the ordinary.

This title seems confusing, if not outright contradicting itself. The cross is associated with pain, suffocating rules that take away freedom, and sometimes even acute depression. While it can be that, there is an almost paradoxical twist to taking up our cross daily to follow Christ. It makes me, at least, happy. This is not the world’s happiness like Christ told us about his peace being not of this world, but rather the joy of knowing that you are in a state of resonance with all reality and not dissonance.

Here are some crazy ideas presented for my consideration by the Holy Spirit during my Lectio Divina (Philippians 2:5). I share them with you. You make your own conclusions. Read these contemplative thoughts with the view that they contain treasures that you must unlock with your reason and free will.

THE HOLY SPIRIT SPEAKS

The default of human existence is about seeking pleasure, enjoyment, what makes you happy or feeling good. Enjoyment is not bad according to what the world suggests as much as it cannot fulfill the longing in your heart for the joy that only Christ can give. St. Augustine says that “Our hearts are restless until they rest in You.”

When you were marked with the sign of contradiction, the cross, your world turned upside down. You accepted the mark of the cross on your soul, one that dictates that your life is one where you must deny yourself to find yourself. You deny those material things of the world that do not lead to resonance but rather dissonance. What you accept is the opposite of what the world teaches is the purpose of life.

Having human reasoning for a reason and the ability to choose what is good for you, there is a struggle to choose something that will truly fulfill your human nature, a way of life that, while on the surface it seems illogical and full of fairy tales, actually prepares you to live as you were created to be, as an adopted son or daughter of the Father. What was lost in Genesis in the Garden of Eden is redeemed by Jesus. Jesus had to be God to make reparation to the Father for the sin of the world.

Baptism takes away that sin, but we are still left with the consequences of living out each day with the struggle to transform our lives from our false selves to our true selves as redeemed by Christ. Each day, we are tempted to offer incense to the idols that the world says are important. The martyrdom of the ordinary is what you and I must endure as we await the next phase of our evolution, to live with Christ forever.

The martyrdom of the ordinary is the transformation of the ordinary events each day with the presence of Christ to fulfill your purpose as intended by your Baptism. It takes time to endure the boredom of human living or the martyrdom of ordinary existence. It is a martyrdom because to live as an adopted son or daughter, you must prefer nothing to the love of Christ (St. Benedict, Chapter 4 of the Rule).

All humans must ask and answer six questions that determine if their life is worth living, as Servant of God Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen would say.

  • What is the purpose of life?
  • What is your purpose within that purpose?
  • What does reality look like?
  • How does it all fit together?
  • How to love fiercely?
  • You know you are going to die, now what?

God gives us human reasoning and free will to choose what is right. The problem is we can’t answer those six questions authentically with the correct answers. Just living in the world won’t give us the correct answers, although we do get answers. It is just that the answers of the world are not powerful enough to lift us up to the next level of our evolution, to experience love forever based on the authentic choices we make during our short lifetime.

Jesus loved us so much that he became human just to give us the answers, so great was that love. (Philippians 2:5-12)

The martyrdom of blood is when someone tells you to offer incense to the false idol of yourself, and you say “No.” The martyrdom of the ordinary is when no one tells you to believe this or that, but you continue with your life doing what you always do. This can either be with Christ or without Christ.

Enjoyment of the cross comes with the silence and solitude of the heart as it just ponders Christ and waits for the Holy Spirit to overshadow them. Enjoyment of the heart comes from feeling Christ’s heart next to your heart and, even in the midst of the struggle to be spiritual each day, You don’t do anything to cause this joy. This joy comes from knowing, loving and serving God and others. Joy comes when you realize you are loved so much that you are given the keys to the kingdom of heaven, should you choose to use them.

UP, READY TO FIRE!

Yesterday was Veterans’ Day. I attended the Eucharist to pray for all those I know and don’t know and their families. That brought back some memories.

In 1979, I was awarded The Chaplain of the Year by the Reserve Officers’ Association. I had to travel to Washington D.C. and attend a fancy gathering and give a short speech. For some reason, these ideas came back to me as I prayed my Lectio Divina this morning. (Philippians 2:5). I remember thinking that I had no idea in the world why I would be selected out as Chaplain of the Year. Come to find out that it is awarded every three years to the US Army Reserve Officer Chaplain, the other two years go to the Navy and the Air Force. They told me I got my name on a plaque somewhere in the labyrinth inside the Pentagon. I can remember having to wear my dress uniform and try to look chaplainy. At that time, I had been a US Army Chaplain for only two years and knew almost nothing about the military, mostly tripping over myself with all the mistakes a rookie makes. I remember trying to say something from the heart during my brief two-minute thank you speech. Here is a combination of what I did say and what I think I should have said to those gathered at that event. This only makes sense to me because it is also what I think Christ would have said to his disciples and Apostles in the upper room before He left them alone.

MY THOUGHTS ABOUT WHAT IT MEANS TO BE A US ARMY CHAPLAIN

I am happy to be with you tonight to share this award with my other brother and sister Chaplains. I have been a US Chaplain for two years, and I never thought I would end up where I am. I have never been in combat, nor have I the wisdom that comes from trial and error (mostly error) and learning from those events. Yet, I stand before you a novice, one who does not have the paint of his first military coating yet dry. Yet, I want to share with you four things that I have picked up.

A chaplain has absolutely no authority to do anything, but if they are humble enough, they can greatly influence their commander. Not all chaplains are good, and some of them are complete fools. Commanders can realize that chaplains are not god, but can point out the hotspots where soldiers can get into trouble. A good chaplain is another set of eyes and ears for the commander, respecting confidences but knowing what is really going on in his unit. You don’t get that by sitting on a chair all day. Be out with the troops, and everything else is gravy.

Realize that you are not God’s gift to the Army. The first stop was to my commander to introduce myself, report for duty, and ask what the commander wanted from his religious chaplain. The second stop was to the Sergeant Major. I introduced myself and asked them what they wanted from a chaplain that I was there to help them not be a morals MP. I always asked if there was anything I could do for them that they could not do and where I might be of help.

A chaplain must serve all those in the Commander’s unit. A chaplain is assigned to a unit to perform the spiritual services of that commander for the troops. I considered myself a Roman Catholic Chaplain; that is, I did that for those who wished to avail themselves of the Sacraments. But how I saw my role was to be out there in the field with the troops. This was in the motor pool, in the mess hall, in the stockade, in the places where officers can’t go (Enlisted Club with permission of the Command Sergeant Major). It is the commander’s program for the troops, not yours. You, as a chaplain count, only insofar as you help the troops, all troops.

I spent many a day just walking around the unit, learning how to load an M48A tank, which is where the saying, “Up, ready to fire,” is used. I tried to keep my mouth shut and listen to the troops, where they were from, how things were going, how their families were back home. Yes, I saw all the sexual shenanigans everyone did. No, I did not condone it. Yes, it did not stop me from thinking of soldiers as the reason I joined the Army. I like the saying of G. K. Chesterton: “I don’t need the church (chaplains) to tell me the what I do is bad that I know is bad; I need them to tell me when something is bad that I think is good.”

Pray for the chaplains of all our denominations.

uiodg

THE CHRIST PRINCIPLE: The Center

In its purest form, Lectio is a movement from just repeating one phrase in Holy Scriptures repeatedly before moving to the next sentence. Lectio has never been an end in itself, although beginners will try to move through each of the four steps of Lectio (lectio, meditatio, oratio, and contemplatio) compulsively. As time goes on, the stages or steps just fade away, and I find myself just “doing Lectio” automatically.

Recently, a thought brought up by Father Cassian, O.S.C.O., our monastic advisor, at a Gathering Day, suggested that there might be another step, or one contained embedded in the contemplatio stage of Lectio, that is, illuminatio (illumination). In my reflection on this, the mental approach to belief is called enlightenment because its residence is knowledge. But the heart, influenced by the heart of Christ, is illumination or allowing the mind to see what cannot be seen or hearing what cannot be heart.

In this series of reflections on The Christ Principle, which all emanates and equally towards which all gravitates, I will share what I learned in my Lectio Divina meditations about a center. I will do this through a series of statements, all based on the illumination I received from this statement and the extension from which it flows to another thought. This is similar to existence or living “out in front of oneself,” based on the natural flow of the mind to the heart. In this case, the heart of Christ draws me outside of or “out in front of” my mere mental status, to one based on my ability to receive energy from the Holy Spirit and move from my false self to my true self. The struggle of contemplative practice comes in having to begin each day from zero. Each day is a new chance to seek God as I am (because I exist out in front of myself, my capacitas dei is greater, even if I must transform the moments of each day. Today does not guarantee that I will not be tempted to choose self over Christ. It is a daily struggle of conversion, one managed by the reception of the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist and Reconciliation.

REFLECTIONS ON MY CENTER, THE CHRIST PRINCIPLE

MY CENTER

I get to choose a center in life, based on God’s center. I choose Philippians 2:5, “have in you the mind of Christ Jesus.” My challenge is now to move from my mind to have it in my heart and consistently make it a part of who I am.

All humans have a center to their being, even if they are unaware of it.

Centers are the one spot at the very center of who we are from which all things flow and into which all things converge.

Centers in individuals are unique because your center and my center may be different.

Some centers lead to dysfunction and those that lead to continued life in Christ Jesus. I get to choose not only my center but must keep it secure, lest it wobble, and I replace it with a false one.

No one, not even God, can stop me from putting a center in my life that will hurt it. What God can do, and does do, is tell me, through Jesus and the Holy Spirit, what will let me walk through the minefields (and maybe mind fields) that the world says is my center.

As a human, I can reason and choose as my center anything that I think makes me happy and fulfilled.

But there is more. Where I get the assumptions from which my center chooses, a center that I think makes me fulfilled can come from either the world (the accumulated history and life experiences accessed by my reason so that I can choose what is authentic).

As an individual, I choose my center, which is in the interior of my being, my inner room, my place of refuge in times of stress.

I am the sum of my centers. Centers do not stay anchored at the center of my heart. They are revolving, always trying to flee unless I use free will to contain them.

Each day, in fact, each moment, I struggle with the effects of Original Sin, like Adam and Eve, to choose myself and my center over God as my center. What I put at my center is my god, and it is my choice. What I choose is based on what I think is good for me.

This is where sin comes in. Sin is choosing something in my center that is not authentic for my purpose in life. If my purpose in life is me, then the hell with it, as Flannery O’Connor said about the Eucharist if it was not the real presence.

As an individual, I have two choices for centers: one is God, and one is me. To choose God, I must realize it takes Faith to choose something that doesn’t make sense with the assumption that the world has about God. Faith is God’s own energy overshadowing me, if I so choose, to allow me to live in a world tainted by death, the works of the flesh (Galatians 5), and without the hope inspired by the Holy Spirit.

THE CENTER OF THE CHURCH

The Church has a center, too. As an individual, there are authentic centers and those who fall short, although its adherents sincerely believe they are correct.

Christ is the head of the Church, and we are members of the body. Christ is holy, and we all are sinners (except for Christ and the Blessed Mother).

Outside the Church, there is no salvation. 1. The reason for that is that those who have been found righteous by God at their judgment are in Heaven; 2. Those who are not completely righteous in mind and body have a chance to discover Christ in Purgatory; 3. Those who are on earth, facing the challenge of living in a foreign land (the world with all its false allures and promises) until we die and are judged by God before the Throne of the Lamb,

Heaven is God’s playground, and He allows people to play there that He chooses.

The Center of the Church is Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior of the World. We recite the Creed each Sunday to reaffirm our faith in God, the Father, the Son. The Holy Spirit in the world, having the Church as a mother, keeping an eye on us, brushing away our tears when we hurt ourselves, wrapping us with a warm blanket to keep us secure while we live our individual existence.

The Church is a gathering of those who are adopted sons or daughters of the Father who seek to have in them the mind of Christ Jesus each day and who proclaim that Jesus is Lord, to the glory of the Father in Heaven. (Philippians 2:5-12)

With each new challenge that the world places before us, there is one Lord, one Faith, one Baptism in each age. The world changes, and Christ is the Principle from which all flow and into which all trend.

The Church Universal must struggle to keep its center from slipping away. It is a wonder of the Holy Spirit that our collective self has slipped and slid down through the centuries. We have often lost the way, stressing power, pride, authority, riches, infidelity, and lack of humility. The Holy Spirit will not let the gates of hell prevail, but the Church must constantly have in itself the mind of Christ Jesus to keep on the path of Christ’s way, Christ’s truth, and live Christ’s life. The Church, the Body of Christ, has won the war but lost several battles against the Evil One, always to come back from the blood of the martyrs and the martyrdom of daily living from members who seek to move from false self to true self.

THE CENTER OF CHRIST

If the center of the Church is Christ, then what is Christ’s center?

Christ is his own center, as Son of Son. Christ is also the center of humanity, as Jesus.

The center of Jesus is his mission to make reparation for the sin of Adam and Eve, the archetypal sin of choosing self over God. To do that took sacrifice, a total gift of self to the Father, unconditional and full knowledge of the consequences and yet freely chosen. It is the fulfillment of the sacrifice of Abraham, the Lamb of God sacrificed on the altar of the world to set humans free to live with God once more. It is the ability for God to love us first, then bid us love others, as Christ loved us.

Read this marvelous passage from Scripture. Try not only to read it for the meaning but for the feeling and faith of the author, St. John.

The Prayer of Jesus.*1When Jesus had said this, he raised his eyes to heaven* and said, “Father, the hour has come. Give glory to your son, so that your son may glorify you,a 2* just as you gave him authority over all people,b so that he may give eternal life to all you gave him.3* Now this is eternal life,c that they should know you, the only true God, and the one whom you sent, Jesus Christ.4I glorified you on earth by accomplishing the work that you gave me to do.5 Now glorify me, Father, with you, with the glory that I had with you before the world began.d6 “I revealed your name* to those whom you gave me out of the world. They belonged to you, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word.7 Now they know that everything you gave me is from you,8 because the words you gave to me I have given to them, and they accepted them and truly understood that I came from you, and they have believed that you sent me.9 I pray for them. I do not pray for the world but for the ones you have given me, because they are yours,e10 and everything of mine is yours and everything of yours is mine, and I have been glorified in them.f11 And now I will no longer be in the world, but they are in the world, while I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one just as we are.12 When I was with them I protected them in your name that you gave me, and I guarded them, and none of them was lost except the son of destruction, in order that the scripture might be fulfilled.g13 But now I am coming to you. I speak this in the world so that they may share my joy completely.h14 I gave them your word, and the world hated them, because they do not belong to the world any more than I belong to the world.i15* I do not ask that you take them out of the worldj but that you keep them from the evil one.16They do not belong to the world any more than I belong to the world.17 Consecrate them in the truth. Your word is truth.k18 As you sent me into the world, so I sent them into the world.l19 And I consecrate myself for them, so that they also may be consecrated in truth.20“I pray not only for them, but also for those who will believe in me through their word,21 so that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us, that the world may believe that you sent me.m22 And I have given them the glory you gave me, so that they may be one, as we are one, 23 I in them and you in me, that they may be brought to perfection as one, that the world may know that you sent me, and that you loved them even as you loved me.24 Father, they are your gift to me. I wish that where I am* they also may be with me, that they may see my glory that you gave me, because you loved me before the foundation of the world.n25 Righteous Father, the world also does not know you, but I know you, and they know that you sent me. 26 I made known to them your name and I will make it known,* that the love with which you loved me may be in them and I in them.”

Except for sin, Jesus had temptations, like all of us. The one in the Garden of Gethsemani was the temptation to let this mission be terminated. It is clearly a temptation of the humanity of Christ, whereas the three temptations of Christ in the desert are temptations of his divinity. Sneaky Devil!

The center of Christ is each of us. Each one. This is not just human love, but divine love, love beyond all understanding.

14 And just as Moses lifted up* the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, j15 so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.” 16 For God so loved the world that he gave* his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.k 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn* the world, but that the world might be saved through him.l

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/john/3

WHAT IS GOD’S CENTER?

God, like all reality, has a center. What is God’s center? “I am the one who is.” God is his own center, the self-contained nature that is 100% of its potential (to use an imperfect human comparison).

God is pure knowledge, pure love, and pure service (energy).

God’s output is His input.

God is not male nor female. God has no gender. Angels have no gender. Humans have a gender.

God lives in the Now, not the past, nor the future.

It is astounding to think that this pure energy, beyond our human abilities to get a grasp of what that is, would love us so much that he created all that is from his nothingness so that we could become adopted sons and daughters and achieve our destiny as humans according to the choices we make in our lifetime.

Wow!

G.K. CHESTERTON: Orthodoxy

I came across the following excerpt while reading some Chesteron as part of my spiritual reading. No comments from me. I enjoyed it and hoped that you might, too. What follows is my homage to one who challenges us to reflect on who we are with the Christ Principle.

AZ QUOTES

“Jesus promised his disciples three things—that they would be completely fearless, absurdly happy, and in constant trouble.” ~ Gilbert K. Chesterton

“The problem of disbelieving in God is not that a man ends up believing nothing. Alas, it is much worse. He ends up believing anything.” ~ Gilbert K. Chesterton

“The problem of disbelieving in God is not that a man ends up believing nothing. Alas, it is much worse. He ends up believing anything.” ~ Gilbert K. Chesterton

“Do not be so open-minded that your brains fall out.” ~ Gilbert K. Chesterton

“But the truth is that it is only by believing in God that we can ever criticise the Government. Once abolish the God, and the Government becomes the God.” ~ Gilbert K. Chesterton

“To love means loving the unlovable. To forgive means pardoning the unpardonable. Faith means believing the unbelievable. Hope means hoping when everything seems hopeless.” ~ Gilbert K. Chesterton

“God is like the sun; you cannot look at it, but without it you cannot look at anything else.” ~ Gilbert K. Chesterton

“I don’t need a church to tell me I’m wrong where I already know I’m wrong; I need a Church to tell me I’m wrong where I think I’m right” ~ Gilbert K. Chesterton

“A society is in decay, final or transitional, when common sense really becomes uncommon.” ~ Gilbert K. Chesterton

“Christianity has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and not tried.” ~ Gilbert K. Chesterton

“A dead thing goes with the stream, but only a living thing can go against it.” ~ Gilbert K. Chesterton

“You’ll never find the solution if you don’t see the problem.” ~ Gilbert K. Chesterton

“On the third day the friends of Christ coming at daybreak to the place found the grave empty and the stone rolled away. In varying ways they realized the new wonder; but even they hardly realized that the world had died in the night. What they were looking at was the first day of a new creation, with a new heaven and a new earth; and in a semblance of the gardener God walked again in the garden, in the cool not of the evening but of the dawn.” ~ Gilbert K. Chesterton

“It is absurd for the Evolutionist to complain that it is unthinkable for an admittedly unthinkable God to make everything out of nothing and then pretend that it is more thinkable that nothing should turn itself into everything.” ~ Gilbert K. Chesterton

“Right is Right even if nobody does it. Wrong is wrong even if everybody is wrong about it.” ~ Gilbert K. Chesterton

ORTHODOXY

Nothing more strangely indicates an enormous and silent evil of modern society than the extraordinary use which is made nowadays of the word “orthodox.”  In former days the heretic was proud of not being a heretic.  It was the kingdoms of the world and the police and the judges who were heretics. He was orthodox.  He had no pride in having rebelled against them; they had rebelled against him.  The armies with their cruel security, the kings with their cold faces, the decorous processes of State, the reasonable processes of law–all these like sheep had gone astray. The man was proud of being orthodox, was proud of being right. If he stood alone in a howling wilderness he was more than a man; he was a church.  He was the centre of the universe; it was round him that the stars swung.  All the tortures torn out of forgotten hells could not make him admit that he was heretical. But a few modern phrases have made him boast of it.  He says, with a conscious laugh, “I suppose I am very heretical,” and looks round for applause.  The word “heresy” not only means no longer being wrong; it practically means being clear-headed and courageous. The word “orthodoxy” not only no longer means being right; it practically means being wrong.  All this can mean one thing, and one thing only.  It means that people care less for whether they are philosophically right.  For obviously a man ought to confess himself crazy before he confesses himself heretical. The Bohemian, with a red tie, ought to pique himself on his orthodoxy. The dynamiter, laying a bomb, ought to feel that, whatever else he is, at least he is orthodox.

It is foolish, generally speaking, for a philosopher to set fire to another philosopher in Smithfield Market because they do not agree in their theory of the universe.  That was done very frequently in the last decadence of the Middle Ages, and it failed altogether in its object.  But there is one thing that is infinitely more absurd and unpractical than burning a man for his philosophy. This is the habit of saying that his philosophy does not matter, and this is done universally in the twentieth century, in the decadence of the great revolutionary period. General theories are everywhere contemned; the doctrine of the Rights of Man is dismissed with the doctrine of the Fall of Man. Atheism itself is too theological for us to-day. Revolution itself is too much of a system; liberty itself is too much of a restraint. We will have no generalizations.  Mr. Bernard Shaw has put the view in a perfect epigram:  “The golden rule is that there is no golden rule.” We are more and more to discuss details in art, politics, literature. A man’s opinion on tramcars matters; his opinion on Botticelli matters; his opinion on all things does not matter.  He may turn over and explore a million objects, but he must not find that strange object, the universe; for if he does he will have a religion, and be lost. Everything matters–except everything.

Examples are scarcely needed of this total levity on the subject of cosmic philosophy.  Examples are scarcely needed to show that, whatever else we think of as affecting practical affairs, we do not think it matters whether a man is a pessimist or an optimist, a Cartesian or a Hegelian, a materialist or a spiritualist. Let me, however, take a random instance.  At any innocent tea-table we may easily hear a man say, “Life is not worth living.” We regard it as we regard the statement that it is a fine day; nobody thinks that it can possibly have any serious effect on the man or on the world.  And yet if that utterance were really believed, the world would stand on its head. Murderers would be given medals for saving men from life; firemen would be denounced for keeping men from death; poisons would be used as medicines; doctors would be called in when people were well; the Royal Humane Society would be rooted out like a horde of assassins. Yet we never speculate as to whether the conversational pessimist will strengthen or disorganize society; for we are convinced that theories do not matter.

This was certainly not the idea of those who introduced our freedom. When the old Liberals removed the gags from all the heresies, their idea was that religious and philosophical discoveries might thus be made. Their view was that cosmic truth was so important that every one ought to bear independent testimony.  The modern idea is that cosmic truth is so unimportant that it cannot matter what any one says. The former freed inquiry as men loose a noble hound; the latter frees inquiry as men fling back into the sea a fish unfit for eating. Never has there been so little discussion about the nature of men as now, when, for the first time, any one can discuss it.  The old restriction meant that only the orthodox were allowed to discuss religion. Modern liberty means that nobody is allowed to discuss it. Good taste, the last and vilest of human superstitions, has succeeded in silencing us where all the rest have failed. Sixty years ago it was bad taste to be an avowed atheist. Then came the Bradlaughites, the last religious men, the last men who cared about God; but they could not alter it.  It is still bad taste to be an avowed atheist.  But their agony has achieved just his–that now it is equally bad taste to be an avowed Christian. Emancipation has only locked the saint in the same tower of silence as the heresiarch.  Then we talk about Lord Anglesey and the weather, and call it the complete liberty of all the creeds.

But there are some people, nevertheless–and I am one of them–who think that the most practical and important thing about a man is still his view of the universe.  We think that for a landlady considering a lodger, it is important to know his income, but still more important to know his philosophy.  We think that for a general about to fight an enemy, it is important to know the enemy’s numbers, but still more important to know the enemy’s philosophy. We think the question is not whether the theory of the cosmos affects matters, but whether in the long run, anything else affects them. In the fifteenth century men cross-examined and tormented a man because he preached some immoral attitude; in the nineteenth century we feted and flattered Oscar Wilde because he preached such an attitude, and then broke his heart in penal servitude because he carried it out. It may be a question which of the two methods was the more cruel; there can be no kind of question which was the more ludicrous. The age of the Inquisition has not at least the disgrace of having produced a society which made an idol of the very same man for preaching the very same things which it made him a convict for practising.

Now, in our time, philosophy or religion, our theory, that is, about ultimate things, has been driven out, more or less simultaneously, from two fields which it used to occupy.  General ideals used to dominate literature.  They have been driven out by the cry of “art for art’s sake.”  General ideals used to dominate politics. They have been driven out by the cry of “efficiency,” which may roughly be translated as “politics for politics’ sake.” Persistently for the last twenty years the ideals of order or liberty have dwindled in our books; the ambitions of wit and eloquence have dwindled in our parliaments. Literature has purposely become less political; politics have purposely become less literary. General theories of the relation of things have thus been extruded from both; and we are in a position to ask, “What have we gained or lost by this extrusion?  Is literature better, is politics better, for having discarded the moralist and the philosopher?”

When everything about a people is for the time growing weak and ineffective, it begins to talk about efficiency.  So it is that when a man’s body is a wreck he begins, for the first time, to talk about health. Vigorous organisms talk not about their processes, but about their aims. There cannot be any better proof of the physical efficiency of a man than that he talks cheerfully of a journey to the end of the world. And there cannot be any better proof of the practical efficiency of a nation than that it talks constantly of a journey to the end of the world, a journey to the Judgment Day and the New Jerusalem. There can be no stronger sign of a coarse material health than the tendency to run after high and wild ideals; it is in the first exuberance of infancy that we cry for the moon. None of the strong men in the strong ages would have understood what you meant by working for efficiency. Hildebrand would have said that he was working not for efficiency, but for the Catholic Church. Danton would have said that he was working not for efficiency, but for liberty, equality, and fraternity.  Even if the ideal of such men were simply the ideal of kicking a man downstairs, they thought of the end like men, not of the process like paralytics. They did not say, “Efficiently elevating my right leg, using, you will notice, the muscles of the thigh and calf, which are in excellent order, I–” Their feeling was quite different. They were so filled with the beautiful vision of the man lying flat at the foot of the staircase that in that ecstasy the rest followed in a flash.  In practice, the habit of generalizing and idealizing did not by any means mean worldly weakness. The time of big theories was the time of big results.  In the era of sentiment and fine words, at the end of the eighteenth century, men were really robust and effective.  The sentimentalists conquered Napoleon. The cynics could not catch De Wet.  A hundred years ago our affairs for good or evil were wielded triumphantly by rhetoricians. Now our affairs are hopelessly muddled by strong, silent men. And just as this repudiation of big words and big visions has brought forth a race of small men in politics, so it has brought forth a race of small men in the arts.  Our modern politicians claim the colossal license of Caesar and the Superman, claim that they are too practical to be pure and too patriotic to be moral; but the upshot of it all is that a mediocrity is Chancellor of the Exchequer. Our new artistic philosophers call for the same moral license, for a freedom to wreck heaven and earth with their energy; but the upshot of it all is that a mediocrity is Poet Laureate. I do not say that there are no stronger men than these; but will any one say that there are any men stronger than those men of old who were dominated by their philosophy and steeped in their religion? Whether bondage be better than freedom may be discussed. But that their bondage came to more than our freedom it will be difficult for any one to deny.

The theory of the unmorality of art has established itself firmly in the strictly artistic classes.  They are free to produce anything they like.  They are free to write a “Paradise Lost” in which Satan shall conquer God.  They are free to write a “Divine Comedy” in which heaven shall be under the floor of hell. And what have they done?  Have they produced in their universality anything grander or more beautiful than the things uttered by the fierce Ghibbeline Catholic, by the rigid Puritan schoolmaster? We know that they have produced only a few roundels. Milton does not merely beat them at his piety, he beats them at their own irreverence.  In all their little books of verse you will not find a finer defiance of God than Satan’s. Nor will you find the grandeur of paganism felt as that fiery Christian felt it who described Faranata lifting his head as in disdain of hell. And the reason is very obvious.  Blasphemy is an artistic effect, because blasphemy depends upon a philosophical conviction. Blasphemy depends upon belief and is fading with it. If any one doubts this, let him sit down seriously and try to think blasphemous thoughts about Thor.  I think his family will find him at the end of the day in a state of some exhaustion.

Neither in the world of politics nor that of literature, then, has the rejection of general theories proved a success. It may be that there have been many moonstruck and misleading ideals that have from time to time perplexed mankind.  But assuredly there has been no ideal in practice so moonstruck and misleading as the ideal of practicality. Nothing has lost so many opportunities as the opportunism of Lord Rosebery.  He is, indeed, a standing symbol of this epoch–the man who is theoretically a practical man, and practically more unpractical than any theorist.  Nothing in this universe is so unwise as that kind of worship of worldly wisdom. A man who is perpetually thinking of whether this race or that race is strong, of whether this cause or that cause is promising, is the man who will never believe in anything long enough to make it succeed. The opportunist politician is like a man who should abandon billiards because he was beaten at billiards, and abandon golf because he was beaten at golf.  There is nothing which is so weak for working purposes as this enormous importance attached to immediate victory. There is nothing that fails like success.

And having discovered that opportunism does fail, I have been induced to look at it more largely, and in consequence to see that it must fail. I perceive that it is far more practical to begin at the beginning and discuss theories.  I see that the men who killed each other about the orthodoxy of the Homoousion were far more sensible than the people who are quarrelling about the Education Act. For the Christian dogmatists were trying to establish a reign of holiness, and trying to get defined, first of all, what was really holy. But our modern educationists are trying to bring about a religious liberty without attempting to settle what is religion or what is liberty.  If the old priests forced a statement on mankind, at least they previously took some trouble to make it lucid. It has been left for the modern mobs of Anglicans and Nonconformists to persecute for a doctrine without even stating it.

For these reasons, and for many more, I for one have come to believe in going back to fundamentals.  Such is the general idea of this book.  I wish to deal with my most distinguished contemporaries, not personally or in a merely literary manner, but in relation to the real body of doctrine which they teach. I am not concerned with Mr. Rudyard Kipling as a vivid artist or a vigorous personality; I am concerned with him as a Heretic–that is to say, a man whose view of things has the hardihood to differ from mine.  I am not concerned with Mr. Bernard Shaw as one of the most brilliant and one of the most honest men alive; I am concerned with him as a Heretic–that is to say, a man whose philosophy is quite solid, quite coherent, and quite wrong. I revert to the doctrinal methods of the thirteenth century, inspired by the general hope of getting something done.

Suppose that a great commotion arises in the street about something, let us say a lamp-post, which many influential persons desire to pull down.  A grey-clad monk, who is the spirit of the Middle Ages, is approached upon the matter, and begins to say, in the arid manner of the Schoolmen, “Let us first of all consider, my brethren, the value of Light.  If Light be in itself good–” At this point he is somewhat excusably knocked down.  All the people make a rush for the lamp-post, the lamp-post is down in ten minutes, and they go about congratulating each other on their unmediaeval practicality. But as things go on they do not work out so easily.  Some people have pulled the lamp-post down because they wanted the electric light; some because they wanted old iron; some because they wanted darkness, because their deeds were evil. Some thought it not enough of a lamp-post, some too much; some acted because they wanted to smash municipal machinery; some because they wanted to smash something. And there is war in the night, no man knowing whom he strikes. So, gradually and inevitably, to-day, to-morrow, or the next day, there comes back the conviction that the monk was right after all, and that all depends on what is the philosophy of Light. Only what we might have discussed under the gas-lamp, we now must discuss in the dark.

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THE CHRIST PRINCIPLE: I am the sum of my life choices and how I learned from them.

The Christ Principle is the center of all reality, the purpose for why all of us are.

I am not you, you are not me; God is not you, and you, most certainly, are not God. –Michael F. Conrad

There is one Christ Principle while each human relates to his energy with the sum of who they are (good and bad).

I don’t worry that I am not like Bishop Barron. I could never be even close to his gifts and talents. Why is that?

I don’t worry that I am not like Dr. Scott Hahn. I am not on that level of spirituality.

I don’t worry that I am not in the same world as Pope Francis in his view of reality. How could I be?

I don’t worry that I am not like Jesus, Son of God, Savior. I am not close to being what Jesus taught. I try to convert myself each day to “have in me the mind of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 2:5)

I don’t worry that I am not the personal mouthpiece of the Holy Spirit. How could I be?

I don’t worry that I must choose to be myself and move from false self to true self as an act of free will.

I am the only one in the history of humanity that lives these seventy or eighty years with my unique choices to love others as Christ loves us.

Like the Old Testament, my life on earth is a dress rehearsal to be with Christ for all eternity.

Like everyone who ever lived (except for Jesus and for Mary, His Mother), I need daily conversion as I seek God each day with who I am and where I am.

Like everyone who is Baptized in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, I need Eucharist and Repentance to make me new each day. My prayer disposition is one of being a penitential person who seeks God’s mercy in my Lay Cistercian prayers and charisms.

Praise be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, now and forever. The God who is, who was, and who comes at the end of the ages. Amen. –Cistercian doxology.

SIRACH: A Perfect Prayer As You Stand Vigil Before The Blessed Sacrament

As I learned about Lectio Divina from Brother Michael, O.C.S.O., our Junior Instructor for Lay Cistercians at Our Lady of the Holy Spirit (Trappist), Conyers, Georgia, this way of praying is at the center of Cistercian spirituality, and so is what we Lay Cistercians place towards the top of our practices. Lectio Divina has four steps (some say five) where its practitioners move through four stages or steps: lectio– a reading from Holy Scripture that we are to read over and over and then move to meditatio — in silence and solitude, reflecting on the various levels of meaning contained in that phrase or sentence; this leads to oratio, a prayer to the Holy Spirit to move to the next level, contemplatio. Contemplation is moving to that inner room all of us have where we retire and seek refreshment. Lectio Divina is all about moving from head to the heart and transforming self because of the presence of the Holy Spirit to be more like Christ and less like your false self.

Sirach is recognized by the Church as being canonical or inspired. It is often overlooked when people stand vigil before the Blessed Sacrament. Standing in the presence of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament can be a somewhat conflicting experience because we humans always want to fill up our time with something, anything, that means our time is productive. Who wants to stand before God and just do nothing. Yet, ironically that is exactly what contemplation is all about, with one exception. The nothingness of God contains more energy than all matter in all universes in whatever is out there. I do not have the capability nor the capacity to begin to wrap my mind around the love that God has just for me (and all of us). What I can do is be there in Lectio sitting on a park bench in the dead of Winter straining to see Jesus walking towards me to sit and talk. Lectio Divina is when Jesus wraps me in the blanket of the Holy Spirit and gives me what I can absorb about love to make me toasty warm. Once that happens to you, particularly as you take time to stand vigil before the Blessed Sacrament, you will sell all you have and empty yourself of all human “things” just to sit next to Christ and feel that warmth again.

I recommend that you read the book of Sirach as you kneel or sit before Christ, present in the Eucharist. Read just one sentence and say it over and over. Savor it and see how it applies to your life, then assimilate it into who you are and how you look at reality. The Wisdom of Sirach is heaven on earth. The Gospels and St. Paul quote from it to show us that being a disciple of Christ is all about “doing” what Christ did to those around you. As Jesus tells us, if you love those who love you, what merit is that? His disciples are called to love those who hate you and belittle you and tell you Jesus is just a wandering carpenter who had thoughts about being God, some say. Don’t forget to use Sirach to help you open yourself to the Spirit, so the transforming grace of God overshadows you each day.

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/sirach/1

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PROFOUND LISTENING: Conditions for listening to the Holy Spirit.

Several years ago, I tried to bake one batch of biscuits to fix biscuits and gravy for my anniversary. “Tried” is the operable word here because I found out baking is not a skill that I have yet acquired, much less mastered. If I stopped trying to bake biscuits, life would still go on, but without my ability to learn how to bake anything. That is what actually happened. This is a lot like my attempts at profound listening. Profound listening is indeed a skill, albeit a spiritual one connected to my contemplative practices. My journey as a Lay Cistercian is like that, too. I am in a perpetual state of trying to do God’s will but not quite reaching it. Again, again, and then again, the heart keeps me trying to learn this art of contemplative practice, how to listen with the “ear of my heart.” I am getting there, slowly but surely. I find that it is time I take to keep trying “…to love others as Christ loved me,” that is itself prayer.

Reflecting, as I am wont to do, on my process of Lectio Divina, I have teased out some conditions that I realize must be present for me to move from my false self to “…have in me the mind of Christ Jesus”. (Philippians 2:5) I must add here that I am not compulsive about following steps or conditions to move forward. I have found I don’t even consciously think of any of them unless there is a distress signal, and I hit a roadblock (usually me) in my quest for contemplatio, my idea of profound listening.

MY QUEST TO LISTEN PROFOUNDLY WITH THE “EAR OF THE HEART. “

Here are some conditions I find present when I “try” to do Profound Listening.

KENOSIS – https://biblehub.com/nas/philippians/2.htm One who contains pure energy emptied that divine energy to become human (still fully God, but not human nature). When I try to do profound listening, I try to emulate The Master (as much as I am capable) and empty my humanity to receive whatever the potter wishes to create with me, the clay. The act of self-emptying by God at the Incarnation is fulfilled in the self-emptying of Jesus the Messiah on the cross in reparation for the sin of Adam and Eve, and consequently our sins. As we continue to live our life trying to love others as He loved us, Baptism, Eucharist, Penance, and Reconciliation continue that emptying of our false self, over and over and over. Those who are adopted sons and daughters of the Father accept that Jesus is their Lord and Savior and wish to follow in those footsteps by taking up their cross daily to transform the world into the kingdom of heaven. Profound listening allows me to do this transformation “with the ear of the heart.”

STILLNESS –– Remember the Rule of Threes (one reality containing three separate universes, the physical, the mental, and the spiritual)? If I apply it to the word, “stillness” it means three levels of reality. Physical–no movement, associated with silence and solitude, like going to Ruby Falls and walking through the underground caverns. Mental — mental stillness is the lack of movement in the mind, quietness, without mental activity, much like a peaceful brook flowing down a mountain stream with birds chirping and butterflies fluttering in the Sunlight. This is nature doing what it is without human intervention. Human intervention is our ability to look at this stillness and make choices about its value and meaning. Spiritual– This is the opposite of the natural stillness of the physical and mental universes (the world). It is dynamic, electric, possessing the entry into the stillness of God, pure energy, pure knowledge, pure love, and pure service. Profound listening allows me to listen to the stillness of God in my own heart and to be aware of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of others who share Christ’s love.

SILENCE –– Silence, in the physical sense, is not the absence of sound but the absence of the ability to hear that sound. In the spiritual universe, silence is always the opposite of what the physical and mental universes hold as real. Physical silence contains and envelopes the body so that the ears cannot hear because there is nothing to hear. Profound silence is the ability of the heart to hear with the vibrations of the heart of Christ beating next to your own. This is communication without words, communication of minds and hearts joined as one, to the extent that humans are capable.

SOLITUDE-– When I attempted profound listening in my Lectio Divina, I used to try to find a place where I could be by myself, then my Lectio Divina prayers could commence. Now, I find that Solitude is not a physical place but the space my mind carves out of what is real right now. Profound listening is my inner room where I do go pray in the silence of my heart. The place Christ talked about in https://bible.usccb.org/bible/matthew/6

Teaching About Prayer.5“When you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, who love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on street corners so that others may see them. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward.6But when you pray, go to your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.7* In praying, do not babble like the pagans, who think that they will be heard because of their many words.*8Do not be like them. Your Father knows what you need before you ask him.

The Lord’s Prayer.9* “This is how you are to pray:c

Our Father in heaven,*

hallowed be your name,

10your kingdom come,*

your will be done,

on earth as in heaven.d

11*e Give us today our daily bread;

12and forgive us our debts,*

as we forgive our debtors;f

13and do not subject us to the final test,*

but deliver us from the evil one.g14* If you forgive others their transgressions, your heavenly Father will forgive you.h15But if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your transgressions.i

PROFOUND LISTENING: How to listen with the “ear of the heart”.

When St. Benedict wrote his Rule at the very beginning of the Prologue, his warning to brothers and sisters was to “listen with the ear of your heart.” Cistercian contemplative practices allow me to have Christ Jesus’s mind each day and be aware that I am aware of my mindset to seek God each day in all that I encounter.  With all the noise flooding my brain, it is increasingly difficult to know what is real from what is false (the classic dilemma of Adam and Eve). Like our prototype parents, we can reason and choose what we think is good for us. Assumptions about what is real and meaningful in life are the basis of our beliefs and the foundation of our behavior. A contemplative approach to reality is an art that we don’t automatically acquire at birth. It takes specialized focus and demands many, many hours of practice within a spirituality system. Profound listening is only a tool to place us in the presence of Christ while we pledge to do God’s will as we understand it. It is the consistent and passionate urge to be in the presence of the one you love that is at the heart of Christ and so should be in our hearts. Contemplation is a way to get there. What follows are several ways I have found to use profound listening to enliven my Lectio Divina, Liturgy of the Hours, and other Cistercian practices so that I may decrease and increase the capacity for Christ in me. Profound listening may be seen in three universes, the last of which, the spiritual universe, allows us to fulfill the covenant relationship of the Old and News Testaments by opening our hearts to the energy of the Holy Spirit in Love. In looking at reality, everything I observe is measured with The Rule of Threes. The first universe is the physical one. The second is the mental universe to allow humans to find meaning in the first and second universes; the third universe gives finality. It solves the Divine Equation, the six questions each human must ask and answer to move forward toward their destiny. PHYSICAL UNIVERSE Listening in this universe, the one we share with the rest of physical reality (time, matter, space, light, energy), is the act of hearing with our ears. Rocks don’t hear anything, but living species do. Humans live in the physical universe. In fact, they evolved from and share the natural law with all other life forms. But, there is a difference with human hearing.  MENTAL UNIVERSE Listening in the mental universe takes our ability to hear in the physical universe. It uses it to find meaning and to communicate with our environment and with each other. This takes language. There are lots of languages out there. Some of them are the language of science, the Laws of Nature, how to read music, German, Spanish (and all the communication languages), and the language of Love.  SPIRITUAL UNIVERSE Listening in the spiritual universe is slightly different because it transfers not only sound but also of energy, God’s energy of Love, knowledge, or service. I am using the term “profound energy” to approach what it means to “listen to God with the ear of the heart.” St. Benedict speaks of this in his Prologue to the Rule. https://christdesert.org/rule-of-st-benedict/  CHARACTERISTICS OF PROFOUND LISTENING The process of profound listening is to place yourself, through various contemplative practices, in the presence of God, then listen with your heart, not just your head. The Church is composed of two elements (for lack of a better way to describe it): the Church of the head and the Church of the heart. The Church of the head comprises all the rules we must follow as outlined in Scripture and by constant practices from Apostolic times. The Church of the heart receives the thoughts and reason coming from our minds and seeks to use them to love others as Christ loved us. This is the Love of the heart. Profound listening is needed to move from the head (Faith is only WHAT you believe) to the heart (Faith is HOW you love Christ by being in the presence of the Holy Spirit).  Profound listening allows each of us to grow deeper into the Love of Christ by using the five levels of spiritual awareness:
  1. Hearing the Word of God with the mind.
  2. Praying the Word of God with the mind and the heart.
  3. Sharing the Word of God with two or three in the name of Christ.
  4. Becoming what you hear, you pray, and you share in the presence of the heart of Christ.
  5. Profound listening is silence, solitude, work, prayer in the context of community.
Profound listening is the intense focus on the heart of Christ in prayer or before the Blessed Sacrament in Adoration of the Trinity. Profound listening allows the Love of Christ to transform you to become more like Him and less like your false self.  Profound listening is the level of spiritual awareness that you always seek in Lectio Divina, Eucharist, Sacrament of Reconciliation, Reading Scripture, and Liturgy of the Hours, going beyond words to enter into the mind and heart of the author. It allows me to become open to the transformation that comes from surrendering worldly self to humility and obedience to the will of the Father. Profound listening means you can never grow deep enough in your Faith to stop and be satisfied with “doing all you can.” Profound listening means only Christ is the source of your energy, not the Church, not your friends, and most certainly, not yourself. Profound listening means you grow so that Christ increases in you (capacitas dei) and your worldly preoccupations with making yourself happy. Profound listening means The Christ Principle is your only center and the North on your compass. Profound listening means Faith informs what you hear, and you “hear what cannot be heard” by the world’s languages. Profound listening means you purposefully and consistently make a schedule each day to transform the moment from just ordinary to sacred and holy. What follows is a series of blogs that I wrote to try to surround my mind with the elements that enhance my profound listening as I pray my Lectio Divina each day. I pray as I can. Some days are better than others. What is constant is my passion to “have in me the mind of Christ Jesus,” each day, to the extent I can. Being conscious that I must “listen with the ear of the heart” allows me to anchor myself in, with, and through Christ, as He offers the timeless sacrifice of the cross, the resurrection, and ascension to sit at His right hand for The Father’s honor and glory. Using Profound Listening, I can tag along with Christ and peek at the Love between the Father and the Son with the Holy Spirit. 

TEN SURE WAYS TO LOSE YOUR FAITH

“Faith,” as a topic has always been a terrible teaser to me. Faith is the substance of what I believe, and yet, it is a Mystery of Faith; one has eluded me at the same time I find myself moving towards some semblance of knowledge. I know that it is a gift from God’s own energy (grace) but one which commands my respect and appreciation that it comes from God and not me. St. Benedict’s twelve steps towards humility begin with the “fear of the Lord,” as a baseline. This is God stuff we are discussing, and human reasoning and meaning do not apply. When talking about Faith, it is God’s language and meaning that are important. The problem is human nature does not comprehend God’s true language (pure energy, pure love, pure knowledge, and pure service) because we have no way to translate the nature of God with human reasoning nor our ability to choose. What sounds like a complete conundrum actually worked out because God realized our limitation and sent His only Son to be one of us, like us in all things but sin. This is the Christ Principle that is, not only human to teach us how we can authentically make sense out of what essentially is beyond our human nature to receive or make sense, but is also the revealed Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, our interpreter, our mediator, our rabboni, our Master, our high priest, our king of kings, our Lord and Savior, and our Messiah. He is all of that not because of any human power or knowledge, but because, as God, Christ lived to teach us to be adopted sons and daughters of the Father and to begin to claim our inheritance in Heaven while we live on earth. We do that only with, through, and in Christ Jesus, the Christ Principle, each day seeking God where we are and as we are. The sign of contradiction, the cross, death, emptying his humanity to form a perfect sacrifice to the Father, fulfilling the Abrahamic covenant, is part of the Divine Equation to unlock some of these mysteries of Faith. Not that we will comprehend them as God is, but rather to live them with the sum of who each of us has become. Dr. Billy Graham hit upon this concept when he talks about giving your life totally to Christ and Christ alone. Individual salvation is the core of why Christ came to save us. Part of the mystery is that we do so in the communion of the Body of Christ. I am the head, says Christ, you are the body, the living body during your seventy or eighty years on earth. The Church Universal is a collegium or gathering of all those who wish to have in them the mind of Christ Jesus (Philippians 2:5) and “do what He tells us.” How a perfectly holy and without sin Jesus would leave humans the keys of the kingdom of heaven is a stunning mystery of how much God loved each person, believer or not. When he ascended to the Father to complete the human hero myth, he did not leave us orphans (John 17) but gave us Himself in the Eucharist to be present body and blood, soul and divinity to you me just as he was to Peter and John. Without Faith from God, none of this makes any sense, a sign of contradiction and stumbling block to the Jews and folly for the intelligence. In Baptism, which takes away the sin of Adam, we gain so much grace to have the potential to actually walk through the minefields of whatever life is being us and come out the other side bruised but not broken. The Devil is a real spirit (not human) whose choice is to confuse each of us in each age with the effects of Original Sin, with pride, envy, jealousy, vanity, deceit, lust, and choosing false gods. The gift of Faith enables those who are faithful and humble of heart to see Jesus in the ordinary events of life and transform life into what becomes their heaven on earth. Even if you have cancer, which I have had, and cardiac arrest, which I also survived, I try to increase Christ in me (capacitas dei) to choose to love God with my whole heart, my whole mind, and my whole soul. (Deuteronomy 6:5 and Matthew 22:36) Satan is there, as he was in the desert with Christ, to tempt me to choose another path, worship another god (mainly myself) and substitute hatred for love. Faith is not my choice to accept Jesus as Lord and Messiah but rather God’s choice to accept me, a sinful and one who walks a crooked mile, to be His adopted son (or daughter) and be happy forever as the ultimate evolution of humankind.

The Devil goes about seeking whom he may devour. You don’t mess with the Devil. The subject of losing the Faith comes up a lot when I hear other speak of anyone who falls away from the Church Universal. Each of us has reason for a reason, and that is to choose whatever we reasoned as being good for us. The fact that we can choose this or that doesn’t mean we are intrinsically evil. It does mean that not everything we choose is good for us just because we might think it is. We all live in a condition called Original Sin, where we are like a piece of iron lying exposed to the air and time. We will rust if we don’t do something to keep our integrity. We will decay if we don’t do something to keep that part of us (our spirit) alive. More than our body will die without the nourishment of Faith by belief, our spirit languishes.

REFLECTIONS ON TEN SURE WAYS TO LOSE YOUR FAITH

  1. Lose your need to pray. This happens because I don’t love anymore. I don’t care. I don’t take the time to do what in inconvenient to keep love growing. Like a campfire that has no additional wood, I slowly burn out. I don’t even realize what I have done, other than I don’t care about God, our the Church, or dying to self to grow in capacity of Christ within me. None of this makes sense. Life goes on without God and I don’t even know the difference. Prayer is being in the presence of the one you love. If you don’t care, you don’t want to pray, no matter what you have done in the past. Prayer is taking time to talk to the one you love and receive love in return. In the case of Christ, the love you receive is not only human but is God’s love. Only Christ, our brother, can translate human into divine so that we can even approach God with glory, praise, and honor. If love dries up in marriage, what you have is a relationship that is legally married but mentally and spiritually divorced. (I wrote a book on this topic)
  2. Think you are the center of the universe (make God into your image and likeness). More and more, I see the Genesis event at one of the most profound statements about human nature ever conceived. It is a paradigm or even an archetype of how humans are different from animals and why that is so. In my Lectio Divina this morning, my Rule of Threes popped into my mind. The Rule of Threes is that one reality is composed of three seperate universes all eixsting at the same time (physical, mental, and spiritual). Atoms, matter, time, space, exist in this universe, along with animals, humans, and everthing that exists in this universe. On top of it, simultaneous with it, there is the sole exception, humans. In the physical universe, the laws of nature are the default. Of all that is, only humans can reflect upon the physical universe with their various languages (mathematics, chemistry, physics, philosophies, and theologies) and probe what is and why it is. The third universe, the spiritual one is completely at odds with the physical and mental universes, which is why most people don’t even care that it exists, much less use it to propel them to the next level of human evolution. If the Genesis moment suggests that human race is flawed (not evil), it is because of human reasoning can choose between options that we think will make us happy or fulfilled. Not all choices are good for us. In the spiritual universe, which we eneter in Baptism, God gives us gifts to help us make sense out of what otherwise would be folly and a stumbling block. Just to make sure we get the message, Christ takes on human nature to change the Genesis paradigm from one of dissonance to that of resonance once again. But, the effects of what we call Original Sin still exists. With the Christ Principle as advocate, mediator, illuminator, transformer, we can make sense out of what is the opposite of what the world thinks is our destiny. To access this, we must deny our human selves and give up being our own center and, with humility, obedience to God’s will, empty our humanity to embrace the next phase of our evolution, being adopted sons and daughters of the Father. If we don’t care about any of these ideas, then we place ourselves as our own center, and make ourselves in our own image and likeness, and a poor one at that. People fall away from the nurturing of the Faith because they place themselves at the center of their lives. Ironically, each individual human is the center of reality with reason and the ability to choose. It is choosing to have God as our center rather than our own flawed nature, that is an act of Faith. Faith is God’s energy to do what is right, if your will is in resonance with the totality of all that is. In the Lord’s Prayer, we say: You will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. This is at the heart of conversio morae (conversion of life), which, in turn is at the heart of contemplative practice, and which is placing your heart next to the heart of Christ to assimilate love and authentic way, truth and the life. An act of our will, each day is taking up our cross each day to live the sign of contradiction (the cross) and love others as Christ loved us. Falling away from the love of Christ means I don’t care because I have in my center what is unauthentic and bears no fruit. I have met unbelief and it is me. I have also met belief, and it is me.
  3. Listen and practice what false prophets tell you. Cotton candy Christianity verses take up your cross and follow me. You can find crazy, paranoid prophets who proclaim the end of the world, or you must believe in their god to be saved. The Jim Jones’ and Sun Young Moon’s of the world are there to entise the faithful to doubt Christ, the Church, the Holy Father, the Bishops, and even your own Faith. Some people fall victim to this cotton candy approach to the Faith and lose their way. The pussilanimous are those who are reed that bend in the wind, who follow false teachers that permeate our society with false promises and compromized teachings about Faith. There are so many religions that it seems like all of them are phoney.
  4. Do not believe that Christ is really present in the Eucharist. This is at the core of our Faith, the sign of contradiction and also a paradox of the world. Is God present with us only as a memory or really and actually present. One of these ways of Faith defys reason and can’t possibily be true. If it is true, it takes the most astounding act of Faith to not only believe but a conversion of life. This conversion means Jesus is actually here on earth now as He is in Heaven. Believing in the Real Presence (transubstantiation) separates those who believe (with all the diffuculties that brings with it) from those who just don’t care. If Jesus is truely present in the Eucharist, then you want to be close to the one you love as a passion. Eucharistic Adoration becomes a way to be present to Jesus so that He is present to your heart.
  5. Do not convert your heart from self to God. Conversion is at the center of what it means to love others as Christ loved us. Conversion means I am not the same today as I was yesterday. I now grow in the capacity to be present to Jesus and am open to the Holy Spirit. No one falls away from the Faith if they have experienced the love the heart of Christ showers on them. You would sell all that you had to be present to that love. You would prefer nothing to the love of God, as St. Benedict states in Chapter 4 of the Rule.
  6. Be lulled into thinking that God will take care of everything and you don’t need to do anything but passively get on the conveyor belt of life. Passive belief causes Faith to atrophy. Faith can dry up, if it is based totally on giving up the cross and passing the resonsibility for your actions to God. God passed them to you for a reason. Christianity is taking up the cross daily to follow Christ (not your whims). Being Christian is active not passive behaviors. Matthew 25. There is no conversion when you lull yourself into thinking that you just get on the conveyor belt of Faith and get off in heaven. Faith, without the cross and joining my sufferings of being in the world with those of Christ, is not only dead but also means I have seduced myself into thinking that I don’t need the capacitas dei (Jesus increases while I decrease) and I can do whatever I want without any consequences. All choices, or the lack of them, have consequences.
  7. Failure to see the value of using the Church to open up the Holy Spirit for your journey. It is as easy to beat up the Church for for being corrupt and full of sinners, as it is to think all priests are pedophiles just because they are celibate. What not only defies logic is also the sign that the one who holds such thoughts has lost the way, the truth, and the life in their hearts. Christ depends upon us to keep his command to love one another as He loved us. He does that knowing that every single human is prone to the corruption of time and matter on us. He loves us knowing out weakness which is why he left us two ways to make all things new. The Eucharist for food to keep us from walking in the minefield of the world, and Penance and Reconciliation with the Father, just as He did on the cross for all of our sins. Only Christ is the Eucharist, the sign of contradition. Only Christ makes all things new in our hearts so we can begin again (and again and again). If someone can’t see that (use it to help them glorify the Father through Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit), then they have shut out the Church. Only through the Church is there salvation. What seems like blasphmy is a paradox because there is no separation from Christ as Head and the Church as body. One way to know if your Faith is dead is to ask if you can see this mystery of the Church, at once holy yet flawed because we are all sinners in need of God’s daily mercy.
  8. Inability to love others as Christ loves us. In marriage, if you have the inability to love, you have the dead bed syndrome–no love, no sacrifice, no sharing of mind or body, no emptying oneself to Christ in order to place love where there is no love. If you are celibate (men or women), if you have the inability to love as Christ loved us, the sign of contradiction now is not a gift of love back to the Father but just a job, only a eunich without the Holy Spirit to bring to fulfillment that act of sacrifice for the Church. This is how marriages and the priesthood and consecrated religious life because meaningless and a chore to live because of its contradiction has no Christ Principle with which all reality finds meaning and the energy to do the imossible, to live what the world sees at being foolish.
  9. Losing the passion for loving Christ through Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. No one who has devotion to the Blessed Sacrament is far from the kingdom of heaven. No one who has the passion for being an adopted son or daughter of the Father on earth and heirs to the kingdom of Heaven, can describe that love in the heart because Christ has first loved us. Heaven, if one has the eyes to see and the ears to hear, is right in front of us each day. In the Blessed Sacrament is pure energy of God (100% of his nature). We don’t even have human words or concepts of how great this is, only the presence of Christ who became one of us to tell us this good news. (Philipians 2:5). If you are losing the Faith or even never had it to begin with, you won’t have exerienced the profound joy that comes from knowing Jesus as Lord each day, as Savior of the World, redeemer of all humanity from the slavery of Original Sin, mediator with the Father, Advocate along with the Holy Spirit, brother for everyone who is baptized through water and the Holy Spirit, and with us in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament for our Eucharistic adoration. This is the joy beyond all telling. You can’t describe it, but the lives of all the Saints have proclaimed Christ by their intense joy at loving and being loved by Love itself.
  10. Being seduced by the call of the World, the Circe of our age, not to deny yourself nor prefer nothing to the love of Christ. Losing the Faith is such a waste. False prophets, ideologies, teachers with false promises of wealth, abound is all ages. We are constantly tempted by the Devil to set down our cross and follow the world with all its seemingly fulfilling promises of what it means to be a human. Losing the Faith is not about Christ loving you so much that, even though you stray, you are welcomed back in heaven more than the 99 who do not need saving.

If you find yourself without a North on your compass of life, there is hope. There is time for conversion from apathy to profound love. I have experienced that falling away from the Church myself. I have reinserted myself in the presence of Christ through the Church, particularly joining the Lay Cistercians at Our Lady of the Holy Spirit Monastery (Trappist), Conyers, Georgia. http://www.trappist.net I can attest that growing from false self to true self in Christ Jesus is beyond my words to describe the experience. Try it.

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THOUGHTS WHILE FREEZING ON AN ICEBERG

Lectio Divina has taken me to many alarming places, not the least of which has just been an iceberg. It happened this morning at 2:01 a.m. In this mini-Lectio adventure, the Holy Spirit invited me to sit on an iceberg and then just left me there to ponder in silence and solitude the profound why-ness of all around me. It was freezing cold, like sitting on a park bench in the middle of winter and waiting for Christ to stop by for a chat. After a period where I got beyond my surroundings, artificial or not, I stopped complaining about the cold and wind and thought about why the Holy Spirit left me here. There is always a reason for what the Spirit does, even if it escapes me most of the time.

Iceberg. What do I know about an iceberg? It is a big ice cube, that is for sure, and the great part of it is hidden from view, leaving the top portion visible. The problem humans have with invisibility is you can’t see it. It is the bane of the scientific orientation to the physical universe by itself. What is invisible, like the iceberg, makes up almost all of the reality that I encounter. If I seek God every day, and I am now sitting on an iceberg wondering what in the world is happening to me, then I must assimilate this experience into my movement from false self to true self and seek meaning.

Correctly or not, I think of the six questions that each human must discover an answer to move to the next step in evolution, to fulfill the purpose of our humanity as adopted sons and daughters of the Father. They are:

  1. What is the purpose of life? So, what can my sitting on a cold slab of ice have to do with my purpose of life? Nothing, by itself. I must use the Divine Equation to unlock the purpose of meaning like an iceberg has part visible but 90% invisible. What is invisible about the purpose of life? I have human reasoning for a reason and also the ability to choose what is good for me based on that reasoning. I must use the one key or principle that makes all reality fit together in a synergy or resonance of being. There is purpose to life but it must be consistent with the purpose of the one who is the author of all that is. This author gives meaning to what is otherwise dissonance and human nature that is slightly off center. If I look at the iceberg, most of it is beyond my powers to see it, but some of it is. That small part is what I can see using my reason and my ability to choose what is good for me. Like Indiana Jones hunting for ancient treasure that have a key to solve it, purpose of life also has a key. This next step is the key to the purpose of all life. Ironically, I am the one that must discover it and find it. It is the Divine Equation that is right in front of my nose, if I must use the correct combination. The key is not material but, because of the one who made us, a person. This purpose is outside of me, beyond me, and unattainable except through the Christ Principle. The purpose of life is contained in Deuteronomy 6:5 and fulfilled in Matthew 22:36 ff. It is love, but not just any love. This love is pure energy, pure knowledge, and pure service and I approach it, as St. Benedict would say in his Chapter 7 of the Rule beginning with the first step, the fear of the Lord. The purpose of my life is to love God with my whole hart, my whole, mind and my whole self.
  2. What is the purpose of my life? I am born and live within a timeframe and then I die. That is consistent with all matter, time, in fact, everything that is has a beginning and an end. At this point, I am still cold but focused on finding out the key that unlocks the mysteries of the purpose of life and how I fit into all of this. The cold becomes secondary to the heat of my quest. After some penetrating and profound listening to what is going on in the first question, I come to realize that choosing the purpose of my life, the correct purpose, the only one that can unlock the secrets of all that hidden iceberg is within my power. I must choose a center for my life that will unlock the unseen parts of the iceberg and give me the whole picture. It is within me. What I choose, however, must have the power to unlock what cannot be unlocked with here human experiences or methodologies. Other people have tried keys that try to unlock the door of tomorrow using power, money, fame, adultation, corruption, unauthentic sex, drug, and false gods. I don’t find the key to unlocking the truth of reality from the visible part of the iceberg. It is hidden in the vast expanse of what I cannot see. I need someone who knows how to open the gates of knowledge to help me find what is at the center of all that is, the one principle that threads together all reality into oneness of purpose. I come to the realization, after much struggle and challenge, that love is the only key that will unlock this padlock. But there is something wrong here. The love that just comes from the world is not the same love that comes from the author of all that has a beginning and an ending. Love must come from the one who made the key and the lock, the door to tomorrow and me, the one whose purpose in life is to discover the authentic key to place in the true lock, to open the next stage in our human evolution. Not just any love is the authentic key. In the first question, the answer to it lies in discovering that truth leads to the way, which in turn, leads to authentic way to live. This way comes from a power outside of ourself, one that gives us the energy and enlightenment to peer through the darkness of invisibility to see with the help of the one who created us. This light is enlightenment that comes from placing The Christ Principle at the very center of my being. This principle is the light that lights up the darkness to give me light to see the way, to discover the truth, and to therefore lead a life which the world alone cannot provide. My center is one that only I can choose. Everyone has one, even if you have not consciously selected anything. The default is the world. To go deeper, I must knowingly and freely choose to do so. My center, since 1962 has been “…have in you the mind of Chist Jesus.” (Philippians 2:5). This personal selection is my purpose within the purpose of life I solved in question number one. So, where am I now? I am still on that iceberg and wondering how in the world I could be think of solving the Divine Equation like a padlock with six seperate tumblers, each one dependent upon the one before it. I am at tumbler three.
  3. What does reality look like? Now comes the context of my struggle to have in me the mind of Christ Jesus. (Philippians 2:5) Remember, I have two of the tumblers from the Holy Spirit, which allows me to advance to the third one. I use the word “context” because it suggests to me that there are three distinct universes in which I find one reality, the physical universe of time, space, and matter governed by the laws of nature, the mental universe of the collective mind and my own intervention into space and time to find meaning, and the source of what all of this means, the spiritual universe that come from living above nature and the mere human mind, or existere, to live out in front of reality. This is essentially invisible to the eye, with reason and free will allowing me to make choices that lead to the next level of human evolution, to be an adopted son or daughter of the Father. The three universes answer three questions that unlock the tumbler that opens the mind and heart to the Christ Principle from which all reality takes it existence (living out in front of visible reality) to encapsulate invisible reality (love beyond human love and reasoning).
    1. Question One: Where does reality come from and why do we humans find outselves on aball of gases and matter that is so unique we can evolve to the next step in our evolution?
    2. Question Two: Where does human life originate and why do humans alone possess the ability to make choices based on their unique human reasoning?
    3. Question Three: What is the ultimate purpose of life and why is moving to the next level of our evolution one that involves dying to what we know and can experience to choose our destiny which is something beyond our human and capability and capacity to figure it out by ourselves? This uses the six fundamental questions and answers to open up a reality called the Spiritual Universe to all humans. The problem is, it is accessible only by reason and free choice. That free choice is to choose something that does not make complete sense but is, nevertheless, the key to move to the next tumbler in the Divine Equation, how does the Christ Principle reconcile all reality as one reality. The iceberg on which I sit reminds me that almost all of reality that I can see (the physical universe) is invisitle and beyond my senses.
  4. How does it all fit together? The reason for Christ becoming one of us is to show us how to unlock the mysteries of that hidden part of the iceberg. I am not the iceberg, I only sit on it freezing my buns off, waiting for Christ to enlighten me through the energy of the Holy Spirit. Christ, the Christ Principle, is an instructor to tell me and show me that, if I answer the first three questions correctly, I move to this fourth one as the fulfillment of all that went before. There are many false questions out there and even more false answers, some of which may even seem good for me because they are easy. I am reminded that I must “…love others as Jesus loved me.”
    1. Let’s summarize, before we become lost in the weeds. The purpose of all life is love, not human love, but love that is energy, a person (actually three distinct persons).
    2. Within that daily search for love, my choices are governed by my center, which I alone can place at the pinnacle of my existence. I put the wrong center there and I fail to move on, even if I still live in the material and mental worlds.
    3. The context in which I live out my seventy or eighty years is the physical universe and my reason and free will to choose what is real and good for me from what I can see around me. But “what is essential is invisible to the eye,” suggests the fox to the Little Prince. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qz7UX-xDxEM.(I suggest you use the captioning.) To move to this level of reality is love of the heart for another heart. The Christ Principle, the Sacred Heart is one heart for which I spend whatever time remaining tying to be present. This is more than human love, although it is that. The love that God through Christ had for us is at the very center of my being (Philippians 2:5).
    4. How three separate universes but one reality fits together is key to how I look at reality. The answers to any of these questions does not come from me but from the Christ Principle. Lectio Divina is the instrument that I use to be present to the presence of Love outside of me, outside of human corruption, beyond reason, to live out in front of where I am at each second, moving inexorably towards Omega. I can’t stop time, but I can ride its crest to my destiny.
  5. How to love fiercely? In all of these questions, love is the reason for why we are here on earth, why I am here are earth in my timeframe, but HOW do I love in such a way to move me to the next level of human evolution? Again, the Christ Principle in Jesus not only tell us what love is, He teaches us how to love others as He loved us. Scriptures are love letters from God, written through the hearts of indivual authors to speak to our hearts. Love is doing, not just talking about it. Love is taking up our cross each day and moving on, one day at a time, one step at a time. If we drop our cross, Christ will pick it up and make all things new again. The example he gave us in love is what we must do for our neighbor as we would do it for ourself.
    1. Philippians 2:5 is the answer to the second question above. It give the WHY to love and shows that it takes emptying of self to move toward God. Love is doing.
    2. In all these ideas, remember that this is what I have discovered about reality. What you choose will define who you are and, most importantly, who you will become. That is why it so important for the Divine Equation for you to ask the authentic questions and receive the answers that have the energy to propell us to live “out in front” of ourselves. Only the Christ Principle, in my estimation provides the way, the truth and the life to live that vision of reality.
    3. It is only when I die to my false self, those inclinations of my human nature that entise me to choose false centers of anger, faction, jealousy, murden, lust, drukenness, withcraft, that I can move toward true love, true, knowledge, and true service. (Galatians).
    4. Being a Lay Cistercian (or any of the disciplines that Lay people can use to intensely focus on Christ) means I must use St Benedict’s Rule as the basis for my movement for Christ to increase and me to decrease (capacitas dei). https://christdesert.org/rule-of-st-benedict/chapter-4-the-tools-for-good-works/ The Cistercian Way is one that I try to emulate and imitate with its emphasis on silence, solitue, work, prayer, and community. I am not a professed monk but I am a professed Lay Cistercian with promises to convert my life with the helps and charisms of the Cistercian approach to reality.
  6. You know you are going to die, now what? This remaining tumbler is how I plan to live out my life with Christ as my center, the Christ Principle. I use everythng that went before in those five questions with their appropriate answers to seek “…to dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life.” I find that I must have discipline in my old age to form a habit of “…having in me the mind of Christ Jesus.” I know that I am going to die, all of us know that. In addition, I was told that I had cardiac arrest (2007) and was diagnosed with Leukemia (CLL type) (2014), had twelve chemo treatments and, so far, am in remission. I had a pacemaker put in my chest in 2020. All told, it sounds like I am falling apart. I would be but I have a purpose within God purpose, I know what reality looks like, and I also know how it all fits together with the Christ Principle. All of this lead to how to love others as Christ loved me. I use the practices and charisms of the Cistercian order who intrepret the Rule of St. Benedict in order to love “out in front” of myself. I am not alone, but part of the living Body of Christ, both holy and flawed in its individual members, who are One with the Head of the Body, Jesus.

The iceberg allowed me to try to grow deeper beneath the surface in this Lectio Divina. Cold as it is, I am warmed by the blanket Christ put around my heart with himself in the Real Presence. My only wish is that you could experience what I have just felt with the energy of the Holy Spirit enveloping me with Christ’s heart. Some of us think that heaven exists right now if we know how to see it, and conversely, so does Hell. All we have in this short time on earth is to discover how to love. I choose life…Forever, with the help of God’s mercy.

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FIFTEEN WAYS THE DEVIL CAN SEDUCE YOU AND YOU WON’T EVEN SEE IT COMING

If you hold that we are in a spiritual battle with the forces of Evil played out on the playground of the seventy or eighty years we each live, then it is good to know your enemy. With Baptism, we have the energy (from God), and the tools (from Jesus and the Holy Spirit) to at least have a chance to fight the good fight, in season and out of season. Read this whole passage from 2 Timothy 4. Some people hear God’s word then walk away, while others will listen to myths and not hear the truth.

Reward for Fidelity.6*e For I am already being poured out like a libation, and the time of my departure is at hand.7* I have competed well; I have finished the race;f I have kept the faith.8* From now on, the crown of righteousness awaits me, which the Lord, the just judge, will award to me on that day,g and not only to me but to all who have longed for his appearance.

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/2timothy/4
  1. TEMPTATION ONE: “There is no such thing as temptation.” The Devil cannot make choices for you because only you have the power to choose alternatives. The Devil is a spirit and not corporeal but roams as a lion seeking whom he may devour, as the Scriptures says.
  2. TEMPTATION TWO: “Don’t let anyone tell you what to choose, especially God.” Do you feel the jealousy, the anger, the envy, the hatred of the Devil in this choice?
  3. TEMPTATION THREE: “All this religion stuff is just fairy tales.” Perhaps the most seductive thoughts to place in your mind, these are insidious in their permeation of truth. Believing in Christ Principle means you must choose something that goes against your nature for you to actually discover the next stage in our evolution, that of being an adopted son or daughter of the Father.
  4. TEMPTATION FOUR: “There is no heaven or hell. It is only a story to scare little children.” It is quite a story indeed, one that states that each individual human is accountable for how well they loved others as Christ loved us. Scriptures show us how to walk the minefields of sinfulness without setting off the mines. If we do step on one, we have Christ to make all things new again.
  5. TEMPTATION FIVE: “All you need to do is be baptized and you will automatically pass to heaven, no matter what you do in life that is evil.” While true that Baptism takes away Original Sin, we are prone to sin and temptation until we die. We are pilgrims in a foreign land (the World) and we need Christ to be with us each day or we will sink beneath the waters of life. Taking up the cross each day is work.
  6. TEMPTATION SIX: “Jesus is not the redeemer.” Of course he is not, if you don’t have Faith, all this is a stumbling block to the Jews and folly for the Gentiles. Read the Scripture passage above once again. What does it say to you about fidelity?
  7. TEMPTATION SEVEN: “Your God is not as good as my God.” Do you see what the Devil is trying to do with introducing factions into your thinking? God is one, the Lord is one. Do not seek to love others by dividing them into categories that you set up to justify your faith. Do not have these strange gods before you.
  8. TEMPATION EIGHT: “The Church is corrupt so it can’t tell you about Jesus.” The Church is corrupt, but so is all matter living. We are in a condition of Original Sin. The Church is holy because Jesus is without sin. Each and every member is sinful and prone to evil, taking the wrong path, being seduced by riches, power, and adulation. Christ alone is the way, the truth and the life, the Christ Principle. tHE Church is a gathering of those on earth still militant or fighting the good fight, plus those in heaven who pray for us, and those awaiting purification for their sins and omissions.
  9. TEMPTATION NINE: “Jesus is the Eucharist is only a symbol.” The most difficult part of belief is to hold that Jesus is present body and blood, soul and divinity, in the Eucharist. It is no longer bread and wine, but is substantially changed to be Jesus. We can only believe this because the Holy Spirit gives us the energy to die to ourselves in order to live with Christ. All the people in the world can’t make Christ present as real flesh and real drink just by believing. Christ makes it happen. Many who can’t believe, walk away because this is a hard truth to bring into your heart. To those who do, heaven is now.
  10. TEMPTATION TEN: “We all believe in the same thing, so all religion is the same.” It is not. This temptation is one of reletavism– each person has the right to believe so what each person believes is correct. It is not. What is correct? You have a lifetime of using your reasoning and choices to seek the truth. Truth is one.
  11. TEMPTATION ELEVEN “Human nature is rotten and corrupt to the core and will always choose sin and pleasure over the cross.” Human nature is not rotten and corrupt. We live a a world that corrupts the physical properties (everything has a beginning and and ending; iron rusts; the world evolves), mental properties (hatred, murder, jealousy, envy, {Galatians 5}), and spiritual dimension (sin). Our nature is not that of an animal, nor is it to be God. Our place is to be consistent with our human nature and that nature has been granted adoption to be sons and daughters of the Father if you choose.
  12. TEMPTATION TWELVE: “Prayer is useless.” Prayer in all its forms (audible, contemplative, collective, Liturgy of the Hours, Rosary, Eucharist, Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, Reading Scripture, etc…) is our desire to sit next to Christ on a park bench in the dead of winter and feel the warmth of His love by just being in His presence.
  13. TEMPTATION THIRTEEN: “Scriptures and this Jesus stuff is boring.” Repititious may, but it is certainly not boring. Boring people are usually bored with the sameness of life and want to be enterained by new things, ideas, feelings. The Christ Principle is the most boring of all ideas but it NEVER changes. Each of us change because the the capacity we have to assimilate pure energy into our hearts. This is called capacitas dei (expanding Christ in you while you decrease). This change is neverending. This is why those who truly seek God each day in their lives are never bored.
  14. TEMPTATION FOURTEEN: “You can’t see God because he is invisible, therefore he does not exist.” The problem with invisibility is you can’t see it. We have the ability to reason and make choices for the future based on that reason. There are three separate universes but one reality (physical, mental, and spiritual).
  15. TEMPTATION FIFTEEN: “Human existence has no purpose other than to live, love, laugh, and then die.” Actually, human evolution has moved to another plane of existence, spiritual. To reach it, you must die to self (the world) and accept a reality that is completely opposite of the one you live in. You are given instructions and help to live in this lifetime (the Church and Scriptures).

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LIVE LIFE ONE DROP AT A TIME

In my most recent Lectio Divina (Philippians 2:5), the image of a drop of water kept reoccurring. I stopped worrying about it and asked the question, “What does this mean?” My answer was “You only live life one drop of time at a time.” Upon further reflection, here are some of my drops.

We only live in the now, not the past, nor the future.

Each now, for all humans, is characterized by a series of choices.

These choices are different for each person based on the results of past choices of the moment.

Our choices make up who we will become.

Some choices we have made are not authentic with love. Other choices are dipped in hatred and other vices that cause cancer to the spirit.

Daily, we must battle to stave off the bacteria called Original Sin, that, left unchecked, will choke off life and eventually cause the corruption of the spirit in us.

Baptism gives us entrance into a way of life that gives us the tools to fight the good fight.

Baptism does not take away the effects of Original Sin, just the Sin of Adam.

Jesus came to save us from not knowing what these tools and help are. He told us to take up our cross daily and follow in His footsteps.

He walked the minefield to show us where to step. Being without sin, he could walk without getting blown up. Like us in all things but sin, he allowed us to be adopted sons and daughters of the Father, heir to the kingdom and posessing His strength, as we are capable of receiving it. Some people have lots of energy, some have a lesser amount, and others have none. It depends on how well we love others as Christ loved us.

Jesus left us a map to follow. The map is the continuity between His actions and what each age must assimilate as they seek to understand the meaning of “Learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart.” This map is called by the name Church, and exists for those in Heaven who have used it to achieve their destiny as humans to reach the intended fulfillment as humans. It is intended to give those still on earth a North for the compass. It won’t take away natural pain or human tendencies or prevent sin, but it will give us sufficient grace to combat the Evil One.

Christ did not leave us orphans. He knew the weakness of our human nature and how many times we say we will love others but end up only thinking about ourselves.

Christ gave us of His very self in each age, within the lifespan of each human, in the form of Eucharist, the fulfillment of the Old Testament sacrifices of Abraham, Moses, David, the Prophets.

Humans, by themselves, cannot approach the presence of pure energy, pure love, and pure service without help. That help is Jesus. Read Philippians 2:5-12. It is love that sustains us, being present to Jesus body and blood, soul and divinity, as real as when he died on the cross for our sins.

Because Jesus became one of us, he knew our sinfulness and inclination to worship ourselves. He gave us a way to forgive ourselves for our behaviors that is not in keeping with who God is and to replace it with His own life, grace or energy. Behold, I make all things new.

In my brief time on earth, I have the opportunity to move to become more like Jesus by increasing His love in me and rooting out my false inclinations. Humans are not bad by nature, just prone to weakness and the effects of Original Sin.

Life is lived one drop at a time. My quest is to transform each drop into what is authentic for my humanity. What is authentic for my humanity comes from God through, with, and in Jesus, to the glory of the Father, in union with the energy of the Holy Spirit.

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SYNCHRONICITY WITH GOD

As the accumulated experiences bombard my heart with knowledge, love, and service (energy), more and more, I find topics pop out from my Lectio Divina encounter with the Holy Spirit, ones that were latent and dormant in the synaptic recesses of my brain. Synchronicity is the latest remarkable and unexpected idea from one of my Lectio Divina encounters.

Synchronicity, as defined by Merriam-Webster:

“SYNCHRONICITY
Definition of synchronicity

1: the quality or fact of being synchronous 2: the coincidental occurrence of events and especially psychic events (such as similar thoughts in widely separated persons or a mental image of an unexpected event before it happens) that seem related but are not explained by conventional mechanisms of causality —used especially in the psychology of Carl Gustav Jung.”

You might also find the Wikipedia article offers a bit more meat on the bone. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Synchronicity

Using the concept of being synchronous as applied to God, the following thoughts came through the Holy Spirit this morning at 2:30 a.m. As per all my blogs or books, I supply you with some ideas that I have been romancing and trust that you make your own conclusions.

THE CHRIST PRINCIPLE USES SYNCHRONICITY TO HELP US UNDERSTAND WHAT IS IMPOSSIBLE TO KNOW WITHOUT SOME KIND OF LITERARY REPRESENTATION TO RELATE WHAT CANNOT WE COULD NEVER KNOW WITH THOSE HUMAN EXPERIENCES ALL OF US SHARE.

The primary way God communicates is through Jesus Christ, Son of Mary and Son of God. God became human so we could relate to what one of us said. Because of Original Sin, we don’t all agree about the meaning of words (The Tower of Babel). Each of us has a reason and the ability to choose what we reason. While walking through the minefield of good and bad choices, Jesus tells us, I have been there before you, and I will show you the way, the truth, and the life.

In the Old Testament, God spoke through the Prophets and Laws of Israel. His presence was manifest in the victories Israel had over its enemies (David over Goliath). At least ten of the original Twelve Tribes were assimilated into the surrounding culture and lost their Jewish identity over time. The remnant remained to carry on the covenant relationship with God. Because much of the Jewish collective consciousness was bound up in warfare and being liberated from all types of conquerors, a Messiah to come would be couched in terms of a military victory of the enemies. The people of God had drifted away from God, as warned by all the Prophets.

God intervenes in human history with the birth of Christ, a stumbling block to the Jews and folly for the Gentiles (even today). How will God relate to humans with divine concepts consistent with this nature but never give us the capability or capacity to know God as God is? This is the brilliance of the Christ Principle. God becomes human to tell us and show us how to relate what is around us to Heaven. The problem comes because to be adopted sons and daughters of the Father, each of us has to die to our worldly self and accept Jesus as Savior, one who saves us from being merely human and shows us the purpose of life, i.e., Deuteronomy 6:5 and Matthew 22:36.

The Apostles never did completely comprehend what Jesus came to teach us, even though synchronicity was one of the main ways he related the Kingdom of Heaven in your heart to the Kingdom of Heaven in His heart. Jesus was The Master, Rabonni, the teacher, and He used synchronicity to like what his audience knew to what they did not know (as applied to the Kingdom of Heaven). He taught us how to live that was at odds with what the world says is important, even though both use words like “peace,” “love,” “fulfillment.” They are not the same. To emphasize the difference, Jesus gave us comparisons or “similies” to go from what we know to deeper and more everlasting.

The Christ Principle is a teaching one, one that uses human experiences and literary devices such as Similies, Parables, and Stories to connect us with what is essentially beyond our human abilities to know. The Christ Principle is the great translator between divine nature and human nature. My reflections on the synchronicity with God are on three literary forms:

  1. The Simili — We can’t fathom what the Kingdom of Heaven is, but Christ gives us a hint when he uses a simili to link something completely unrelated with the mystery of Faith. Similis do not come with an explanation but relies on the hearer to use their experiences to make the comparison.
  2. The Parable– Jesus used parables to teach us about how to love others as he loved us. This is the chief way Jesus explained what it means to be an adopted son or daughter of the Father and what we must become on earth to inherit what is in heaven. A famous parable is that of the sower. These usually come with an explanation of how to translate it into today’s metaphors.
  3. Sayings about the Rules of Life— In the Old Testament, God made a covenant with the 12 tribes of Israel and gave them prescriptions to follow. Following these prescriptions meant fidelity to God. In the New Testament God becomes one of us to tell us about how to live our lives in a deeper way, one guided by the Spirit of Truth. Those who follow these rules of life are ones who are adopted sons and daughters of the Father. Ultimately, there is only one rule, one that encapsulates the reason we have prescriptions in both the Old and New Testament. “To love others as Christ loved us.”

The New Commandment.31* When he had left, Jesus said,* “Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him.32[If God is glorified in him,] God will also glorify him in himself, and he will glorify him at once.r33My children, I will be with you only a little while longer. You will look for me, and as I told the Jews, ‘Where I go you cannot come,’ so now I say it to you.s34I give you a new commandment:* love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another.t35This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

I. THE SIMILI –Good examples of synchronicity are the “similies” of the Kingdom of Heaven in Matthew.

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/john/13

The Workers in the Vineyard.*1“The kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out at dawn to hire laborers for his vineyard.2After agreeing with them for the usual daily wage, he sent them into his vineyard.3Going out about nine o’clock, he saw others standing idle in the marketplace,4* and he said to them, ‘You too go into my vineyard, and I will give you what is just.’5So they went off. [And] he went out again around noon, and around three o’clock, and did likewise.6Going out about five o’clock, he found others standing around, and said to them, ‘Why do you stand here idle all day?’7They answered, ‘Because no one has hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You too go into my vineyard.’8*a When it was evening the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Summon the laborers and give them their pay, beginning with the last and ending with the first.’9When those who had started about five o’clock came, each received the usual daily wage.10So when the first came, they thought that they would receive more, but each of them also got the usual wage.11And on receiving it they grumbled against the landowner,12saying, ‘These last ones worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us, who bore the day’s burden and the heat.’13He said to one of them in reply, ‘My friend, I am not cheating you.* Did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage?14* Take what is yours and go. What if I wish to give this last one the same as you?15[Or] am I not free to do as I wish with my own money? Are you envious because I am generous?’16* Thus, the last will be first, and the first will be last.”

Notice the use of simile here. In trying to give us some idea of heaven, Jesus doesn’t tell us about a definition of heaven that cannot be comprehended by human experience or intelligence. Rather, he describes what the on-lookers know from their experiences and moves it to a higher level. Jesus tells us that no one has seen the Father, only the Son.

REFLECTIVE POINTS

A “simili” is a literary device that is not the thing you describe but rather, something else entirely, whose properties or characteristics closely parallel the object you seek to know.

A “simili” goes to a deeper aspect of the comparison.

A “simili” does not define an object, such as direct observation of what our senses see, hear, smell, taste, and feel. It describes one aspect of its essence, a part that may be invisible to the senses. The problem with invisibility is you can’t see it, yet it is part of reality.

A “simili” does not try to identify what that object is because it might be invisible or unknowable, and it does try to make a comparison with what you know and what you don’t know.

Jesus used the “simili” because humans are incapable of knowing God as He is. Jesus came to tell us what we can assimilate based on our human capabilities and capacities.

II. THE PARABLE

The Parable of the Sower.1* On that day, Jesus went out of the house and sat down by the sea.a2Such large crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat down, and the whole crowd stood along the shore.3* And he spoke to them at length in parables,* saying: “A sower went out to sow.4And as he sowed, some seed fell on the path, and birds came and ate it up.5Some fell on rocky ground, where it had little soil. It sprang up at once because the soil was not deep,6and when the sun rose it was scorched, and it withered for lack of roots.7Some seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it.8But some seed fell on rich soil, and produced fruit, a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold.9Whoever has ears ought to hear.”

The Purpose of Parables.10The disciples approached him and said, “Why do you speak to them in parables?”11* He said to them in reply, “Because knowledge of the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven has been granted to you, but to them it has not been granted.12b To anyone who has, more will be given*, and he will grow rich; from anyone who has not, even what he has will be taken away.13*c This is why I speak to them in parables, because ‘they look but do not see and hear but do not listen or understand.’14d Isaiah’s prophecy is fulfilled in them, which says:

‘You shall indeed hear but not understand,

you shall indeed look but never see.

15Gross is the heart of this people,

they will hardly hear with their ears; they have closed their eyes,

lest they see with their eyes

and hear with their ears

and understand with their heart and be converted,

and I heal them.’

REFLECTIVE POINTS

I offer you some of the wonderful websites on parables that I found online. I hope that you take this prayerful time to delve deeply into the meaning of the parable.

http://www.mycatholicsource.com/mcs/pcs/parables.htm

https://www.catholic.com/encyclopedia/parables

https://www.acatholic.org/the-parable-of-the-sower-and-the-seed/#:~:text=The%20parables%20were%20a%20seed%20of%20thought%20that,timeless%20and%20continue%20to%20endure%20to%20this%20day.

III. SAYINGS ABOUT THE RULE OF LIFE —

The Rich Young Man.*16h Now someone approached him and said, “Teacher, what good must I do to gain eternal life?”*17He answered him, “Why do you ask me about the good? There is only One who is good.* If you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments.”18*i He asked him, “Which ones?” And Jesus replied, “ ‘You shall not kill; you shall not commit adultery; you shall not steal; you shall not bear false witness;19honor your father and your mother’; and ‘you shall love your neighbor as yourself.’”20* The young man said to him, “All of these I have observed. What do I still lack?”21j Jesus said to him, “If you wish to be perfect,* go, sell what you have and give to [the] poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”22When the young man heard this statement, he went away sad, for he had many possessions.23* Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Amen, I say to you, it will be hard for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven.24k Again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”25* When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and said, “Who then can be saved?”26l Jesus looked at them and said, “For human beings this is impossible, but for God all things are possible.”27m Then Peter said to him in reply, “We have given up everything and followed you. What will there be for us?”28*n Jesus said to them, “Amen, I say to you that you who have followed me, in the new age, when the Son of Man is seated on his throne of glory, will yourselves sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.29And everyone who has given up houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands for the sake of my name will receive a hundred times more, and will inherit eternal life.30*o But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first.

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/matthew/19

As a teacher, Jesus relates to us what we need to move to the next stage of our evolution, Spiritual Apes. If the Old Testament prepares us to move from a covenant with Israel to that of a being offered adoption as sons and daughters of the Father, the New Testament is what we must do to be saved. Jesus left the task of presenting and sustaining Himself to each age through the Church. When you think of it, Jesus trusted humans to fumble their way along the path of righteousness down through each age, just so you could have the opportunity to choose to be an adopted son or daughter of the Father and heirs to the Kingdom of Heaven.

REFLECTIVE POINTS

Quidquid recepitur ad modum recepientis recipitur. Whatever we receive through our senses as life experiences and the choices we make, we do so based on the accumulated choices and their consequences we have assimilated. We see God through the totality of who we are.

Scriptures are there to help us come to believe that Jesus is Messiah, Son of God and that we might have everlasting life by believing in Him. (John 20:3031)

FOUR LEVELS OF AWARENESS

  • The Old Testament is the period where humanity prepares to receive a Messiah that is the opposite of what the world expects. God does not just drop in our humanity and say, “Surprise!” nor does He tell us about Himself in words that we cannot understand.
  • The New Testament is the time of the Christ Principle where we take the good news and apply it to the whole world, all the while conscious that we must live in a spiritual universe with the opposite values and purpose.
  • The period of Pentecost begins the journey of the Church Universal trying to love God with all their minds, their hearts, and their strength, and to love others as Christ loved us. The Church is the gathering of those who seek the kingdom of heaven first in a communion of the Holy Spirit. It exists as one in each age. Outside the Church, there is no salvation.
  • This period is my life of seventy or eighty years. It is a process of assimilation of love that I have discovered by trying to love others as Christ has loved me. I have the opportunity to be accepted by God as His adopted son (daughter) and prepare to live in Heaven forever. It is lifetime struggle to fight against the magnetic pull of the world to just be merely human.

From the moment of Baptism, I live in a foreign world. I live in it but do not take my purpose of meaning from what it teaches. I try to have “the mind of Christ Jesus” in me each day as I struggle to move from my false self to my true destiny with Christ.

Daily, I must try to reflect on how The Christ Principle shines in the lives of those who seek to “have in them the mind of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 2:5)

I offer it to you because I wish you to see what I see and know what I know. It is one of the top ten websites I use to reflect on all things spiritual. The Holy Spirit speaks to me through the good works of these people. Their light shines for all in the house to see and give glory to the Father in Heaven. Reflect on this passage from Matthew and try to read it until you can feel that “your light” is you, right now, today. After this, read the website from Aleteia and grow deeper into what it means to be a light in the world. It is the martyrdom of everyday living that is at the heart of the Gospel. Each person approaches the Christ Principle differently but there is only One Christ Principle. You are one of those persons.

14You are the light of the world. A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden.j15Nor do they light a lamp and then put it under a bushel basket; it is set on a lampstand, where it gives light to all in the house.k16Just so, your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father.l

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/matthew/5

https://aleteia.org/category/inspiring-stories/

A LAY CISTERCIAN REFLECTS ON LEVELS OF SPIRITUAL AWARENESS

It is true that, once you begin to abandon your will to allow the Holy Spirit to move at will, you are never the same. You may be older or wiser, but encountering the Sacred is an awareness that you can’t describe with mere human words or emotions. Yet, there are several layers of depth, neverending ones, that I find myself paddling down the river of life on my unique journey as a Lay Cistercian. I had always prayed what is called the Lectio Divina prayer, on and off (mostly off) since 1962, and I did not have the intensity nor the focus that becoming a Lay Cistercian provided me. I will confine my reflections to the conversion period of a professed Lay Cistercian, nearly eight years now if you count the discernment phase.

I remember Brother Michael Lautieri, O.C.S.O. telling us about Lectio Divina. He told us that being a Lay Cistercian means constant or daily conversion to become more like Christ and less like us. If you want to be a Lay Cistercian, he said, you must do Lectio Divina daily (one or more times). It is not easy, he said, but if you want to be a Lay Cistercian, this is the center of contemplation.

The challenge for me, as I would imagine for all those not monks, is discipline to set up a schedule to keep, using the four or five steps of Guibo II, the Carthusian Prior who taught the Ladder of Lectio Divina (lectio, meditatio, oratio, and contemplatio).https://blog.theprodigalfather.org/lectio-divina#

Lectio Divina, like any contemplative practice, thrives on consistency and habitual exercise. The habit of contemplative prayer is a key to The Art of Contemplative Practice. Ironically, so is anything labeled “The Art of…” The Art of Love by Erich Fromm comes to mind when discussing how we must acquire love by loving others. How we do that determines if we love authentically or unauthentically. I took Fromm’s comments and moved beyond them by applying them to the Christ Principle and How to Love as Christ Loved Us. We are talking about mastery of a process, which varies with each individual. The vagaries of Original Sin mean we go through periods of calm and rough patches. The habitual routine of prayer often brings us through such “dark nights of the soul,” and those always present doubts that what I am doing makes any difference to me, much less to change my world from self to God.

This past Sunday, the Lay Cistercians of Our Lady of the Holy Spirit Monastery (Trappist) had their monthly Zoom gathering where they reflect collectively on topics that will form the basis of their meditation and prayer for the remainder of the month. One of the topics presented by Father Cassian Russell, O.C.S.O, our Monastic Lay Cistercian Advisor, was Lectio Divina.

My reflections are not centered around what Lectio Divina is nor even how to conduct this prayer. I am conscious of the stages, the phases, the morphing to a deeper awareness of the effects of Lectio Divina on me. I term it the movement from self to God, the steps in Lectio. You might have a different way to describe it. All said, it is a definite movement from self to God, although sometimes diffuse and difficult to grasp.

  1. Saying Lectio Divina (my LECTIO has always been Philippians 2:5, since 1962) and being conscious of the four (five steps). Lectio Divina is wanting to be with the one you love and share in that person’s essece or spirit.
  2. Like any habit, we move from rote phases to just doing it without much thought. An analogy is driving a car. I get it the car and just drive. Lectio Divina becomes more and more about being present to Christ and seeking His love in my heart and less and less about HOW to go through the stages of Lectio Divina. When I am conscious that Lectio is a way that I communicate with the heart of Christ, I have moved from self to God.
  3. As I continue to reinforce my habit by using it consistently and with consciousness of my longing to sit on a park bench in the middle of winter and wait for Christ to come by, I divest myself of mundane thoughts in favor of seeking God.
  4. My contemplatio phase is when I wake up to the fact that I am not waiting for God to be present, rather, God is waiting for me to show up. I do so with silence and solitude and sink ever deeper into the waters of the Holy Spirit that envealop me with the pause that refreshes.
  5. I notice that I skip around from meditatio to oration to contemplatio and add actio (Pope Benedict XVI added this one) to do something with what is in my heart. I mix up the order. It doesn’t matter. I choose to SHARE my thoughts with you, not that they are from God as much as they are what God shared with me and told me to pass it on (actio).
  6. I can do Lectio when parked outside Trader Joe’s or Publix or when I am before the Blessed Sacrament. The scope of my Lectio is my whole day, pledged to God in my morning offering when I trace the sign of the cross on my forehead and say, “That in all things, God be glorified.” (St. Benedict)
  7. Father Cassian suggested that we consider illuminatio as a step of Lectio Divine. I think I have already done that step and incorporated it into what I understand as contmplatio. This is a new concept for me which I will try to assimilate into my ever growing spiritual enlightenment that comes from illuminatio. The key is awareness. Once I am aware, I am never the same old person but living out ahead of myself anticipating the movement of what comes next. Again, these ideas come from my gathering day and my becoming more and more open to the Holy Spirit in others with whom I gather in the name of Christ Jesus.

Praise be to the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, now and forever. The God who was, who is, and will be at the end of the ages. –Cistercian doxology

THE FEAST OF ST. MICHAEL

This coming September 29, 2021, the Church celebrates the feast of St. Michael. In my case, it is the day on which I was accepted by God as an adopted son of the Father and dedicated at Baptism under the protection of St. Michael.

St. Michael’s prayer is one of exorcism (casting out the Devil or evil). This brings up my thoughts about exorcism and how people today seem to casually think they cast out demons. I must admit to being somewhat cautious and almost afraid to bring up the subject.

I am an ordained exorcist, one of the Holy Orders I received from the Catholic Church. This means I have the power to cast out demons that come down from Christ as passed on through the Apostles. It does not mean that I am sinless or better than any other member of the Church Universal. I do not have authority from the Church to conduct exorcisms without the permission of the Bishop and using the ancient prayer of exorcism (at the end of this reflection).

At our Church of Good Shepherd, Tallahassee, Florida, we recite the Prayer to St. Michael every day, sometimes even twice. It is our reliance as a group gathered together in Christ’s name, to pray to Jesus to keep us safe from sin and for protection from the one who “…goes about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.” Read the holy text in its entirety to feel the context of how the Devil seeks to dissuade us from the way, the truth, and the life. I Peter 5:8

Advice to Presbyters.*1So I exhort the presbyters* among you, as a fellow presbyter and witness to the sufferings of Christ and one who has a share in the glory to be revealed.2Tend the flock of God in your midst, [overseeing] not by constraint but willingly, as God would have it, not for shameful profit but eagerly.a3Do not lord it over those assigned to you, but be examples to the flock.4b And when the chief Shepherd is revealed, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.*

Advice to the Community.*5Likewise, you younger members,* be subject to the presbyters. And all of you, clothe yourselves with humility in your dealings with one another, for:

“God opposes the proud but bestows favor on the humble.”c6So humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time.d7Cast all your worries upon him because he cares for you.e8Be sober and vigilant. Your opponent, the devil, is prowling around like a roaring lion looking for [someone] to devour.f9Resist him, steadfast in faith, knowing that your fellow believers throughout the world undergo the same sufferings.10The God of all grace who called you to his eternal glory through Christ [Jesus] will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you after you have suffered a little.g11To him be dominion forever. Amen.

12 I write you this briefly through Silvanus,* whom I consider a faithful brother, exhorting you and testifying that this is the true grace of God. Remain firm in it.13The chosen one* at Babylon sends you a greeting, as does Mark, my son.14 Greet one another with a loving kiss. Peace to all of you who are in Christ. h

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/1peter/5

Ten observations that I make when thinking about the Devil are:

  1. Don’t bring up the Devil in discussion or become obsessed with his power, due to watching all those Devil movies on television and film.
  2. Believe that the Devil is an old wives tale used to frighten children and the weak of mind.
  3. Think that you by yourself can caste out demons. Not only does the Devil have you, but you fall into the sin of Adam and Eve, thinking that you are God and have powers you don’t possess.
  4. Don’t mess with the Devil one on one. You lose every time.
  5. Think that Original Sin does not apply to me and my purpose in life. Evil is real.
  6. Choose a center that is anything other than Christ Jesus.
  7. Those who lack faith or even are cultural Catholics are prone to being seduced by the snairs of the Devil and they won’t even know it.
  8. The Devil uses our reason and ability to choose against us by suggesting that we control our bodies and therefore can abort life, commit adultery because our marriage is stagnant and we deserve to have fulfillment of our sexual desires.
  9. Prayer is a waste of time. Doing penance for past sins is a thing of the past. We do not have to take up our cross each day and follow Christ, but rather seek fulfillment based on our needs.
  10. I do not fit into the Kingdom of Heaven, rather, I make it into my image and likeness.

Read the passage of I Peter 5 once more, this time seeking the power of the Holy Spirit to overshadow you with what is actually our way of acting. Listen with the ear of your heart (St. Benedict’s Prologue to the Rule).

Here is one of my favorite YouTubes on the Devil from the book, The Little Prince. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xXonK8EBqmk

Be careful, lest, through pride, you become what you most abhor. Heaven exists now, so does Hell. Fast and pray that you do not enter into temptation. Luke 22:45-46

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NOTICE:

Below is the prayer of the Church Universal for exorcism. DO NOT READ IT ALOUD.

https://www.catholic.org/prayers/prayer.php?p=683

WHAT I SEE THAT I DON’T SEE

In the previous blog, entitled “What is missing?” I provided a YouTube of what 10,000 days on Mars would be like. At first, I was struck with the sheer brilliance of the future vision and some of the milestones we humans would have to achieve to get us there and maintain our existence in this hostile environment.

Each of us will look at YouTube and have a different take on it. We look at it with the totality of who we are and the results of our choices about the video. In this sense, it is like Faith. God is one, there is one Lord, but each sees and responds to that God in slightly different ways. There is no right way or wrong way to the question of “What is missing?” I hope you took the time to view this YouTube and think about what is not there in the wonderful vision for the future.

When I viewed the video, I had these thoughts.

It is a wonderful representation of what it takes to be the first to undertake this pioneering journey, much like settlers did in moving from East to West in our recent history in the United States.

I was reminded of the words of Joel Barker, futurist and one of the most influential persons in my life, when he said, “There are only two types of people who settled the West; those who were first to break new ground, establish pathways, settle small waysides for those who follow after them. There are the settlers who did not break new ground but benefited from the pain and wanderings of the pioneers. (I paraphrase, of course). These pioneers to Mars confirm what has always been true of humanity–that it seeks to explore what is out there. This is true of the first settlers of Mars and science in its quest to explore the boundaries of getting there with new technologies.

I had excellent feelings about this YouTube video, but then it struck me. Everything looks too antiseptic and fantasy-like. YouTube did not have some of the most important components of being human, and it did not look like our world on earth at all. There was no appreciation of Original Sin, the masterful commentary on what it means to be humans with the consequences accompanying how we live out each day.

There is no recognition of sin, grace, or human evil as the result of choice by Adam and Eve. It is like the Garden of Eden before the fall.

Unless God builds a house, says the Psalmist, you labor in vain to build it.

A song of ascents. Of Solomon.

I

Unless the LORD build the house,

they labor in vain who build.

Unless the LORD guard the city,

in vain does the guard keep watch.

2It is vain for you to rise early

and put off your rest at night,

To eat bread earned by hard toil—

all this God gives to his beloved in sleep.a

II

3Certainly sons are a gift from the LORD,

the fruit of the womb, a reward.b

4Like arrows in the hand of a warrior

are the sons born in one’s youth.

5Blessed is the man who has filled his quiver with them.

He will never be shamed

for he will destroy his foes at the gate.*

Let’s keep all this wonderful, new speculation in the context of the cross and the Resurrection.

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WHAT DON’T YOU SEE?

I enjoy watching the progress of Elon Musk in his drive to colonize Mars. Watching all the promotional videos on colonization, I find something alarming is missing from the whole concept of life on another planet. Look at this YouTube of a possible Mars colonization and ask yourself the question, “What is missing?” Rather than influence how you think, I will write my thoughts in a subsequent blog that will follow this one. Here it is.

What don’t you see?

LITURGY OF THE HOURS: Levels of Spiritual Awareness

When I recite the Liturgy of the Hours, the prayer of the Church Universal, I have noticed that there is a growth from just “saying the Divine Office” to that of “having the Liturgy of the Hours be the occasion where I stand before Christ and am the words I recite.” Here are a few thoughts about Liturgy of the Hours from a broken-down, old Lay Cistercian.

I SAY THE DIVINE OFFICE: I can recite the words in the Liturgy of the Hours either publically or privately. My point is this, I approach the Divine Office with this lowest level of spiritual awareness without much thought with more obedience to the externals of reading the words. I can go deeper when I am aware that the Holy Spirit is there whenever anyone recites this Office, no matter where they are, no matter what their faith persuasion is, no matter what their level of spiritual awareness. There is one Lord, one Faith, one Baptism, and we join together whenever we say this public prayer of the Body of Christ to say Jesus is Lord.

I PRAY THE DIVINE OFFICE: Growing in my capacitas dei (more Christ and less me), I am aware that the words are prayer for me, a vehicle for me to stand in the presence of Christ Jesus and give glory and praise to the Father through the Son, using the power of the Holy Spirit. Both the Eucharist and the Liturgy of the Hours are public prayers, those which bind us together with Christ as we lift our hearts and minds to God. The Liturgy of the Hours is the perfect vehicle to use for this Catholic Universal prayer. We lift our minds and hearts to be next to the heart of Christ in prayer. St. Benedict wrote his Rule to elaborate on praying the Liturgy of the Hours for the monks. Each day is a prayer unto itself based on the Calendar of Saints. Preserve for centuries in the Church, it is our collective reparation for the sins of omission and commission that individuals and the Church make in our quest to have in us the mind of Christ Jesus. (Philippians 2:5).

I SHARE WHAT I PRAY: Nothing that comes from God does so without transforming the reality around it. We may not see any change happening when we pray together. Remember that where two or three are gathered in His name, there Christ is present. This awareness allows the Holy Spirit to get our attention. This awareness is an act of our will to choose God at the moment rather than our comfort. Liturgy of the Hours depends I do this and do not seek my comfort by watching an NFL rerun of Green Bay Packers. My choices have consequences. Sharing is at the center of what love is. God shared Himself through Christ. He shared Himself by overshadowing Mary to prepare humanity to receive the inconceivable. His death on the cross and resurrection paid the price of our redemption and allowed us to become adopted sons and daughters of the Father. He shares how to go to Heaven and be happy and fulfilled as a human being by being aware on earth of what Heaven is like right now. One of those ways is the Liturgy of the Hours and other Cistercian practices. I am obliged to share with others as Christ did with me.

I ENTER INTO THE WORDS OF THE LITURGY OF THE HOURS AND FEEL WHAT THE AUTHOR OF THE PSALMS MEANT: This awareness means when I pray, “Out of the depths, I cry to you, O Lord. Hear my prayer,” that “I” is me right now. I feel the words as my words. I open myself to the transformation from words the world uses to that of the Word. These are not just the words of the author but my words, with my cry for mercy and forgiveness, with my situations.

READ A PSALM FOR THE FEELING Psalm 130

A song of ascents.

I

Out of the depths* I call to you, LORD;

2Lord, hear my cry!

May your ears be attentive

to my cry for mercy.a

3If you, LORD, keep account of sins,

Lord, who can stand?b

4But with you is forgiveness

and so you are revered.*

II

5I wait for the LORD,

my soul waits

and I hope for his word.c

6My soul looks for the Lord

more than sentinels for daybreak.d

More than sentinels for daybreak,

7let Israel hope in the LORD,

For with the LORD is mercy,

with him is plenteous redemption,e

8And he will redeem Israel

from all its sins.f

Try to focus on feeling the words of the Psalmist as your own.

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THOUGHTS TO PONDER

Here are some thoughts which I find compelling and merit deeper reflection.

  • A religion that is not made up of sinful people (all of them) is not worth the cost of Christ’s death and resurrection.
  • I find it difficult to explain how a Church composed of sinful people can have Christ without sin as the head. The sign of contradiction is the cross, not the easy path that caters to our whims and what makes us happy.
  • I can choose what is easy in life or what is right, and what is right always comes at a high price.
  • All humans are redeemed by the blood of Christ on the cross. All humans have a choice to have in them the mind of Christ Jesus or not. (Philippians 2:5)
  • Scientific methodology is not a competition or opposition to the love God has for each human. Rather, it seeks to perfectly describe the physical universe using the mental universe and our human capabilities. The spiritual universe uses the opposite measurements to approach the mystery of the next level of human evolution, spiritual apes, or being heirs of the kingdom of heaven.
  • Life can only come from a higher form of life.
  • People who confuse the right to life with the right to have the freedom to choose what is right are self-delusional.
  • All people are saved by the blood of Christ, who died as a ransom for many. Not all people will make it to heaven, but only because they refuse to believe. All Catholics do not believe in the real presence. Those who do will be saved. Others will go to Purgatory to get a second chance to repent for their lack of belief.
  • When Christ forgives sin through the priest, sins are forgiven, but the consequences of sin still haunt the depths of our being. The penitent man or woman reflects on their sinfulness as long as they live and asks for God’s mercy.
  • No book can lead you closer to Christ, and the Scripture brings Christ closer to you, not the other way around.

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SPIRITUAL TRAINING AT THE PARACLETE GYM

In one of my Lectio Divina sessions, the Holy Spirit presented me with an image of contemplative practice and my Lay Cistercian daily practices in the form of weight and strength training, much like what professional athletes do.

Here are some of the random thoughts that percolated through my mind.

The Holy Spirit is the strength trainer who has a gym for those who wish to go the extra mile with their spiritual commitment to “…love others as Christ loved us.”

Being a Lay Cistercian means I can join this gym and use the exercises to help my spiritual strength and awareness grow (capacitas dei).

I have a pay a fee to join (my free will chooses to have in me the mind of Christ Jesus), and I have to do what it takes to keep myself in shape for the matches to come. (Philippians 2:5)

It takes work to exercise my spirit (Holy Spirit is Spirit with upper case).

I need a workout regime, not just a one-time workout.

I need a spiritual coach to keep me honest and on task. (Holy Spirit gives me all the time I allow.)

Workouts are never easy, and there is the daily temptation that this is all a waste of time.

I need a special diet to keep my body trim and body fat down. (Eucharist)

I need to go to a physician when my body breaks down. (Penance and Sacrament of Reconciliation)

I must exercise every day, or my spiritual muscles will atrophy.

It takes time to prepare to exercise before and after each iteration of training.

I need to trust someone that they know what they are doing in planning my strength training. (Holy Spirit)

Yesterday’s victories and defeats are no indication of today’s successes or failures.

Cistercian practices include Lectio Divina, Liturgy of the Hours, Meditation, Rosary, Private Prayer, Reading Scripture, Reading Cistercian authors, discussing the Rule of St. Benedict.

Chapter 4 of the Rule of St. Benedict are the tools of Good Works.

The result of working out at the Paraclete Gym is to move from my false self to my new self each day.

AUTHORS OF GREAT WISDOM

One of the great delights of my later years has to do with writing down what the Holy Spirit tells me. Again, I don’t speak for the Holy Spirit, but hopefully, the Holy Spirit speaks to me if I am humble enough. So far, so good.

One of the blessings of just being open to the possibility of the manifestibility of the Holy Spirit is the absolute uncertainty of what will enter my mind and my heart. EACH DAY, all I have to do is seek God and listen “with the ear of the heart,” as St. Benedict tells his monks in the Rule.

I have found the URL from AZ quotes very helpful in thinking about life. Various authors have given us snippets of wisdom to think about. Here are some quotes that I have found helpful in my meditations.

Whenever the hatred and confusion of political parties and the steady corruption of the human spirit with the vanities of the world, I just take a tumble through the wisdom of these men and women and become re-energized. Do not overcome evil with evil, but overcome evil with good. These days of the constant bombardment of the forces of those who would have us do what is easy rather than right, we must keep our eyes on the Christ Principle, our North in the Compass of Humanity, that from which and to which all reality flows.

https://www.azquotes.com/author/42759-Richard_of_Saint_Victor

https://www.azquotes.com/author/13447-Fulton_J_Sheen

https://www.azquotes.com/author/38796-Robert_Barron

https://www.azquotes.com/author/18704-Scott_Hahn

https://www.azquotes.com/author/5121-Viktor_E_Frankl

https://www.azquotes.com/author/5198-Erich_Fromm

https://www.azquotes.com/author/2101-Martin_Buber

https://www.azquotes.com/author/10905-Henri_Nouwen

https://www.azquotes.com/author/10004-Thomas_Merton

https://www.azquotes.com/author/3762-Dorothy_Day

https://www.azquotes.com/author/18501-Joan_D_Chittister

https://www.azquotes.com/author/15719-Rowan_Williams

https://www.azquotes.com/author/1124-Venerable_Bede

https://www.azquotes.com/author/1018-Saint_Basil

https://www.azquotes.com/author/5776-Billy_Graham

https://www.azquotes.com/author/9142-Martin_Luther

https://www.azquotes.com/author/2355-John_Calvin

https://www.azquotes.com/author/5099-Pope_Francis

https://www.azquotes.com/author/27992-Ecumenical_Patriarch_Bartholomew_I_of_Constantinople

https://www.azquotes.com/author/65322-Bartholomaus

https://www.azquotes.com/author/38117-Paul_the_Apostle

https://www.azquotes.com/author/39163-Saint_Peter

https://www.azquotes.com/author/41776-Saint_Dominic

https://www.azquotes.com/author/17881-St_Catherine_of_Siena

https://www.azquotes.com/author/28284-Bridget_of_Sweden

https://www.azquotes.com/author/30125-Gertrude_the_Great

https://www.azquotes.com/author/19601-Bernard_of_Clairvaux

https://www.azquotes.com/author/22806-Benedict_of_Nursia

https://www.azquotes.com/author/1201-Pope_Benedict_XVI

https://www.azquotes.com/author/6401-Stephen_Hawking

https://www.azquotes.com/author/12883-Carl_Sagan

https://www.azquotes.com/quotes/topics/dumbledore-inspirational.html

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ST. THOMAS AQUINAS

I am redoing my Lectio Divina on St. Thomas Aquinas based on the input generated during one of my naps (I take two naps a day, one in the morning and one in the middle afternoon).

I read Mortimer Adler’s book, How to Read a Book, while in College (c. 1958-62). What is remarkable is not that I read the book, but that I can remember it. In that book, Dr. Adler puts forward some ways to read a book, such as hopping from front to back, reading one page at a sitting, then coming back and rereading it. His thoughts generated some ways to read spiritual reading, as distinguished from Lectio (one phrase at a time in meditation, prayer, maybe leading to contemplation. Here are some steps I now use when I do a spiritual reading of any kind. 

  1.  AWARENESS Remember that spiritual reading is how God communicates with you through the Holy Spirit. If what you read is a novel, you read it through entirely, sometimes at one sitting. In spiritual reading, the words are conduits for The Word to enlighten you, not at your pace, but in the silence and solitude of your heart. God has pure knowledge, pure love, and pure service (energy). Spiritual reading does something to the reader when this energy overshadows you.
  2. SLOW DOWN Slow down and let the Holy Spirit overshadow you. I love this concept of what happens when I place myself in the presence of God (such as doing the spiritual reading). I am “sub umbra alarum suaum,” under the shade of your wings. 
  3. ASK FOR WISDOM AND KNOWLEDGE  When you read what is holy, you are not reading the phone book. Pray that you become what you read.
  4. In the example below, read each quote from St. Thomas Aquinas (slowly) three times. 
    1.  Read the words.
    2. Read for the Word of God.
    3.  Try to feel what the author feels while communicating with you.

This is similar to someone who learns to play the piano. You need lessons (at least I did). You learn the notes and the language of the piano. You practice for proficiency. You practice more, but this time for interpretation. You practice even more that you enter into the mind and heart of the author to express what they thought about the composition. So it is with spiritual reading. You read the author, in this case, quotes from St. Thomas Aquinas, but what inspires that author is God’s overshadowing. That is what you seek in spiritual reading.

Now try it for yourself.

https://www.azquotes.com/author/490-Thomas_Aquinas

DON’T GET CAUGHT PLAYING THE THREE GOD GAMES

Humans are good at playing games, be it Monopoly, Chess, Basketball pickup, or mind games. There are three mind games that I have identified that are as potentially dangerous to your spiritual well-being as is COVID. It is best not to go there if you want to keep from the clutches of the Evil One. These three will suck you under the rubric of thinking that you are doing God’s will.

MY GOD CAN BEAT YOUR GOD. Here is a seductive approach to spirituality that many of us fall into without thinking about it. If you use your notion of God to beat up other people who do not share your assumptions about who God is, you play the God game. Not that God is not Who He Is. He is. The sin here is Pride, thinking you speak for the Holy Spirit for the Church Universal from Apostolic times. Remember. Anyone can justify anything by thinking that you alone have the truth, and if people don’t believe it, you can kill them. Look at the Inquisition, ISIS, Islamic Fundamentalism, some Christian evangelicals, some Catholics who know the mind of God, and condemn all others who disagree. You will know the tree by the fruit it produces. Rotten fruit is selfish, prideful, envious, speaking garbage, and hated from their mouths.

MY CHURCH CAN BEAT YOUR CHURCH. When the purpose of using Scripture is to prove that your Church is correct and others are false, you are in danger of losing why there is a Scripture at all. (John 20:30-31) This is not evangelization but rather a proselytization. The Christ Principle is the way, the truth, and the life. You have seventy or eighty years to discover why you are here, then do what He tells you (as Mary told the wine stewards at the Wedding Feast of Cana.) Don’t judge others as to their being in the true church or not. Let God judge those outside the Church, and you don’t judge those inside it. You are not Judge, nor Juror, nor Prosecutor, nor Defense Attorney. Hold steadfastly to the truth you received from Christ and handed down by the Church Ecumenical Councils.

YOU ARE NOT ME. I like the saying, “I am not you, you are not me. God is not you, and you, most certainly are not God.” When each of us approaches the Christ Principle, we can only do so by “having in you the mind of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 2:5-12). There is only One Christ. You are not God. You have authority over what you believe from the Holy Spirit. In the Rule of St. Benedict, in Chapter 7, the first step in the Twelve Steps of Humility is fear of the Lord. To speak as though you were the way, the truth, and the life for others is a subtle form of idolatry. Who made you God?

These three temptations are just a few challenges we have to move from our false self to our true self. Awareness of who God is is key to keeping your spiritual equilibrium.

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mis oraciones son tus oraciones

I think I have heard this request a thousand times: “Pray for me.” I ask people to pray for me frequently. What is the meaning behind these words? What are the assumptions that are hidden from others yet are the so-called elephant in the room?

In my view of reality, I always begin by quoting the following Scripture in Ephesians 4.

Unity in the Body.1* I, then, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to live in a manner worthy of the call you have received,a2with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another through love,b3striving to preserve the unity of the spirit through the bond of peace:c4* one body and one Spirit, as you were also called to the one hope of your call;d5one Lord, one faith, one baptism;e6one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.f

These are the seven unities that form the basis of how I link all reality together. The seven unities also describe The Christ Principle, one Word (John 1:1) that links all reality. As St. Paul writes: “..who is over all and through all and in all.” This linking is important for me when I ask someone to pray for me. When we pray, there is only one Jesus, and all of us must go through, with, and in Him, as we offer honor and glory to the Father. Jesus is the end-user of my prayer because only Jesus can approach the Father on my behalf.

When someone asks me to pray for them and their intentions, I add them to my list of those written in my book of life (each person has such a book), and when I raise my mind and heart to God, they are raised up also as part of my process. Prayer simply means I communicate with God (through Christ) by the energy of the Holy Spirit. I do this in Lectio Divina, Liturgy of the Hours, but especially in the holy sacrifice of the Eucharist, where I take Jesus inside me and receive God’s energy to help me transform myself from sinful self to grace-filled self.

When I say “my prayers are your prayers” to the request of someone who asks me to remember them or a loved one in prayer, I don’t just “say a prayer” for them. I add them to the whole day, each day from this time forward, in every expression of love and peace for others.

Here, the meaning of one Lord, one Father, one Baptism comes into play. It is only because Christ loved me first that I can even say Jesus is Lord through the power of the Holy Spirit. I make a choice to put Christ first, then wait for whatever comes in each day to compel me forward. When I join others in my prayer, it becomes “we” and not just “me.” I use the golden thread I received from Christ at Baptism to link them and their intentions to my own and these I offer to the Father in glory and honor.

Church becomes the community in my lifespan of seventy or eighty years where I link as many people to the heart of Christ as I can remember to do. I link my life and all its successes and failures to that of those for whom I pray. Lay Cistercians of Our Lady of the Holy Spirit Monastery (Trappist) let us know if they need our prayers through the Internet Email. This is not something I treat as though it was an advertisement from Amazon. I consciously make a choice to be one with the person for whom I pray, and WE present ourselves to the Father through, with, and in Christ, in all that we do each day for the rest of my life.

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DON’T WORRY ABOUT IT

I find that my Lectio Divina meditations tend to group themselves in clusters of topics. My center is always the same: “have in you the mind of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 2:5) This current cluster is about what is important in my spiritual travels each day and what is not. Here are some examples.

I DON’T WORRY ABOUT MY FUTURE ON THIS EARTH. That doesn’t mean I don’t plan to make whatever time I have left as convenient for my survivors as possible. Do your best and forget the rest, my Dad always said to me.

I DON’T WORRY ABOUT DOING LECTIO DIVINA AT A CERTAIN HOUR. I have written about making a schedule to reduce my retirement to watching the plastic flowers grow on my shelf. That was about ten years ago. Now, I don’t worry about schedules. The transformation just happened due to constantly and consistently doing Lectio Divina each day at 10:00 a.m. Now, I do Lectio several times a day, and it may be while I am sitting in the bathtub, waiting for my wife to shop at Costco or Trader Joe’s, and even while watching my favorite movies about Jesse Stone starring Tom Sellick. I have moved from following a schedule as part of a habit of behavior to assuming the whole day as my timeframe and seeking ways to match whatever comes my way to the Christ Principle. Some days are better than others.

Monks follow a schedule for their day of prayer and work that in all things God be glorified. As a Lay Cistercian, my schedule is whatever faces me during the day and how I use the Christ Principle to link whatever it is to Christ. How I don’t worry about. I just do it and wait for the Holy Spirit to overshadow me as I am open to the energy of God (capacitas dei) within me.

I DON’T WORRY ABOUT WHO GOES TO HEAVEN. I do worry that I continue to fulfill my promises to the Abbot of Our Lady of the Holy Spirit Monastery (Trappist), the ones I made to Christ in the presence of those gathered in his name (monks, Lay Cistercians, friends). Promises are only as good as my ability to sustain my resolve to put them at my center. Christ Principle is my center. I interpret everything else in terms of the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist, alive now just as He was at the Last Supper.

As the Gospel from last Sunday’s Gospel (21 Sunday in Ordinary Time) suggests that not everyone will accept the, everyone is entitled to the banquet. Still, not all will accept the conditions of the host of the banquet– you must have a wedding garment. Read the passage in silence.

Gospel Jn 6:60-69

Many of Jesus’ disciples who were listening said,
“This saying is hard; who can accept it?”
Since Jesus knew that his disciples were murmuring about this,
he said to them, “Does this shock you?
What if you were to see the Son of Man ascending
to where he was before? 
It is the spirit that gives life,
while the flesh is of no avail.
The words I have spoken to you are Spirit and life.
But there are some of you who do not believe.”
Jesus knew from the beginning the ones who would not believe
and the one who would betray him. 
And he said,
“For this reason I have told you that no one can come to me
unless it is granted him by my Father.”

As a result of this,
many of his disciples returned to their former way of life
and no longer accompanied him.
Jesus then said to the Twelve, “Do you also want to leave?” 
Simon Peter answered him, “Master, to whom shall we go? 
You have the words of eternal life. 
We have come to believe
and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God.”

This vignette into the teachings of Jesus confirms what I have long felt was true, namely, that Jesus’ words were not accepted by many because they demanded too much, at least from the viewpoint of those receiving those words. The Scriptures point out that “many of his disciples returned to their former life and no longer accompanied him.” I think the same is true today. It is only with the grace of God (Faith) can we can call God Father. This is not limited to those who belong to the Roman Rite of the Catholic Universal Church. All humans have been redeemed by the blood of the Lamb, but not all will accept this challenge and will turn away because it is too hard.

If you take the time to read Gaudium and Spes, the Constitution of the Church in the Modern World, this provides a wonderful context into which the question of who goes to heaven is approached.

Click to access Gaudium-et-Spes-NFP-Notes-on-Marriage.pdf

In a recent Lectio Divina meditation at 4:00 a.m., the Holy Spirit presented me with a story or parable about who goes to Heaven. Some believe only Roman Catholics go to Heaven, and the idea that there is no salvation outside the Church. Before I share that story, here are some of my assumptions about Extra Ecclesia, nulla salus (outside the Church, there is no salvation.)

ASSUMPTIONS

The Christ Principle saves all humanity (all humans regardless of sex, race, belief, religion, non-belief, un-belief) from just being human. The next step in our evolution as humans is to be adopted sons and daughters of the Father and fulfill our humanity in Heaven.

Individually, each person exists on earth to discover and answer the six questions that propel us to our intended destiny. These are: What is the purpose of life? What is the purpose of my life within that purpose? What does reality look like? How does it all fit together? How to love fiercely? You know you are going to die, now what? Depending on what we select as answers, we can solve The Divine Equation and claim our inheritance.

These questions are beyond human capability to be answered based on just the physical and mental universes of reason and free choice. God provides us with both the questions and the answers that will propel us to fulfill our humanity. The Christ Principle is the way, the truth, and the life we must lead to move to the spiritual universe, in addition to the physical and mental universes.

There is a problem. The spiritual universe is the opposite of the physical and mental universes, which is called the World. The spiritual universe is the Kingdom of Heaven on earth, now and throughout each age.

In the reading above, people left Jesus because his sayings were hard; they could not accept Christ’s proposal. That saying was so hard and incredibly against reason and what the mind says is true, how we should proceed, and the life we lead. Read this passage in John 6 that is as true this very day as it was when Christ uttered it.

51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever, and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.”a52The Jews quarreled among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us [his] flesh to eat?”53Jesus said to them, “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you.54 Whoever eats* my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day.55 For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink.56 Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him. 57 Just as the living Father sent me and I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me.b58 This is the bread that came down from heaven. Unlike your ancestors who ate and still died, whoever eats this bread will live forever.”59These things he said while teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum.

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/john/6

Christianity is the easiest to believe if you don’t have to do what you say you believe. Of the people who say they believe in Christ, it runs the gamut of Jesus is a philosopher or prophet to Jesus is present (transubstantiation) in the Eucharist (no longer bread and wine but the living Jesus.) This is the shibboleth of the Catholic Universal Church. Many people leave Christ because it is so incredible to believe and a hard saying, so they walk away.

What happens to people when they have part of the Faith but not the whole, let’s say 30%? People believe that Jesus is Lord but don’t have the fullness of Christ’s coming to give us gifts to help us get to Heaven.

BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU CHOOSE. IT HAS CONSEQUENCES

Once, a very wealthy man threw his retirement part for his company. He would retire and leave all of his stock to people who had worked for him all these years. He decided to surprise them by throwing a banquet of the ten best foods he had ever tasted to share them with them, then surprise them with the announcement of the stock.

Everyone received an invitation to the banquet. No exceptions. All they had to do is bring their invitations to the banquet hall, enter, eat their fill of whatever they wanted, then receive the reward from the owner.

Some employees received the invitation but did not like the owner and decided not to attend because he made them angry with all his wealth they thought he should have shared with them. Others did not take time to open the invitation, just looking at who sent it and thinking it was a plea for money. Still, others were too busy to attend to anything their employer threw and made excuses that they would be out of town. About two in ten people accepted the invitation to attend and showed up at the appointed time.

The owner had planned to share with them the ten most succulent dishes he had ever eaten. It was a sit-down banquet complete with the best of wines, served by waiters on the finest dishes. To make it easy on people, the owner told them as they entered the hall that they did not have to eat all the dishes but only those that they would choose. No questions asked.

As the waiters brought out each course, the guests would either each course or refuse it. As it turned out, only less than one hundred forty-four persons tasted all 10 dishes and shared their employers’ gifts. Others ate from one dish to nine dishes but were amazed at how good the taste was. Some said they did not like a dish because of its appearance; others wanted to avoid calories and did not eat it; some were vegans and held their noses when the meat dishes were brought out.

When the banquet had concluded, the owner got up to make a speech. He thanked the employees for their contributions to the company and said that he had an announcement. He said he was retiring and was giving the company to those who had shared the banquet with him, each according to the number of dishes they had eaten. And, he added, this will be what you eat after your die…forever.

Many are called, but few are chosen. Those chosen have to choose to eat what comes from the Master’s table, not what they would like to eat.

QUESTIONS

What is the meaning of the parable of the retiring executive?

Who are those who chose not to attend? What was their reward?

Why were all not given an equal share in the shares of the company? Does that have any application to today?

IT DOESN’T MATTER!

In my search for God each day, I do a lot of “What Iffing.” I should refine that statement to say, “In my search for God each day, when I use only the world as my center (money, fame, fortune, adulation, pleasure, being god, thinking that I am the center of the universe), I can’t lift myself up to the next level of our evolution, that of the spiritual universe, by my own power. I don’t have that kind of energy.

In Baptism, God chooses me and lifts me up from my rationality to that of an adopted son (daughter) of the Father. God has the power (Faith) and I concur (Belief) each day. In particular, I use the Cistercian practices and charisms as part of my way to see Jesus every day in many ways that hitherto were there, but I just was not aware of them.

Christ came to give us a way to give praise and glory to the Father through Him. By ourselves, no one approaches the Father, at least no human can give adequate glory because we just don’t have the capacity nor the capability to give God divine glory. Only Christ can do that because he is the Messiah, having both divine and human natures.

Having human reasoning and the ability to choose what I reason is good for me, I am defined by the choices (or lack of them) as I race through the inexorable journey of humanity from Alpha to Omega, from that which has a beginning to that which has an end, to Heaven.

My “What iffing” comes into play when I ask questions along the pathways of my life about what is central to all that is. When I have in me the mind of Christ Jesus as My Christ Principle (Philippians 2:5), I don’t have to worry about anything. This is seeking first the kingdom of heaven right now, and then all things follow in the appropriate order. Here are three examples:

What if…a meteorite was to fall on earth and take out nearly all life forms? It doesn’t matter.

What if…your friends call you names for being a follower of Jesus in the Catholic Church? It doesn’t matter.

What if…someone tells you to join the Taliban or they will cut off your head? It doesn’t matter (this one is the ultimate sacrifice).

The only thing that matters is the Christ Principle. All is contained in that one center.

uiodg

ASKING THE WRONG QUESTION

Here are some fractured thoughts that I had while trying to reposition my thoughts to that of having in me the mind of Christ Jesus (Philippians 2:5).

Too many times, I find I ask questions that are either the opposite of what exists or that require wrong answers. Wrong questions only generate wrong answers. What follows are wrong questions.

This is one of my favorite clips for sayings. Wrong questions give wrong answers.

EXAMPLES

When someone says to me, “I don’t believe in God,” I sometimes respond by saying, “That is the wrong question to ask. What you should be asking is why a God with pure energy, pure knowledge, pure love, and pure service, would believe in you, being a puny and insignificant lifeform?”

Why does a good god allow Bambi in the forest to die at the hands of greedy hunters?

If god is so good why does He allow people to have cancer and suffer terribly?

Why does god allow people to rape, pillage, plunder, cut off heads, be priest pedophiles, and defraud the poor like some televangelists who preach a god that just lines their pockets?

A good god wouldn’t permit evil, or He wouldn’t be good, not so?

Why is the god of Scripture one who punishes those who don’t believe in him. Isn’t freedom supposed to be without constraints?

If god is so powerful, why can’t he stop those who hate him from doing so?

Why doesn’t god stop hurricanes or buildings from collapsing, or flash flooding, or other natural catastrophes?

What are some wrong questions in your life? Christ is the right answer but also the right question. I am the way, the truth, and the life. Either that is true or it is not. If it is true, do you act on it? If it is not, who cares?

PILGRIMAGE TO THE HEART OF CHRIST

We all have taken a trip somewhere, even if it is just to go to Trader Joe’s and buy some delicious root beer drink. Not all trips or vacations are pilgrimages. Muslims celebrate their faith in pilgrimage by visiting Mecca. Catholics pilgrimage to the Vatican to restore their faith or to some other shrine, such as Lourdes. http://www.etstours.com/tours/category/5af07f024c5b614854ef099a/

What is the difference between a pilgrimage and a vacation? Both give rest to the mind and heart. Only a pilgrimage stresses the words of Christ:

The Praise of the Father.25n At that time Jesus said in reply,* “I give praise to you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned you have revealed them to the childlike.26Yes, Father, such has been your gracious will.27All things have been handed over to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son wishes to reveal him.o

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/matthew/11#:~:text=28*%20%E2%80%9CCome%20to%20me%2C,will%20find%20rest%20for%20yourselves.

The Gentle Mastery of Christ. 28* “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened,* and I will give you rest.29*p Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves.30For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.”

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/matthew/11#:~:text=28*%20%E2%80%9CCome%20to%20me%2C,will%20find%20rest%20for%20yourselves.

A pilgrimage is a journey, one of mind and heart, one that may or may not have several stops along the way to think about how Jesus loves us so much that he gave his life for the ransom of many. These sites are holy ones, not like going to Las Vegas to see Cirque du Soleil.

Over a period of four or five blogs (at eight one years of age, I lose my precision but not my reason–so far), I will share with you three or four stops that my group made. Pilgrimages are most effective when you have others to join you so you might allow the Holy Spirit to speak to you through them. I had one partner, Peter Cowdrey, Good Shepherd Parish, Tallahassee, Florida, share these ideas.

ST. MEINRAD ARCHABBEY: Jennifer’s story

You don’t know Jennifer. I didn’t have the pleasure of her company until August 6, 2021, when we stopped by St. Meinrad Archabbey to visit my classmate, Father John McMullen, O.S.B., also 81 years of age. Father John and I grew up in Vincennes, Indiana, together and entered St. Meinrad High School. This was a key stopover in my pilgrimage, perhaps the last time we will see each other this side of the parousia. Who knows.

After breakfast, Peter and I were waiting to attend the Eucharist at Abbey Church at 11:00 a.m. and had some time to kill (a better word might seek God) and went to the Book Store. Because of COVID, there were not yet many visitors to the Archabbey, so we had the place all to ourselves. Jennifer was an employee of the Book Store. Peter and I had a wonderful chat with her, and she shared a story that I will pass on to you. My point is: The Holy Spirit speaks to each of us sinners every day. On the pilgrimage, we were attuned to listening to the Holy Spirit with the “ear of the heart,” as St. Benedict says in the Prologue to his Rule. This is the story Jennifer shared with us over her iPhone.

the best contemplative streaming and youtube sites for 2021

I recently read a list of “Best Of” restaurants. That list prompted me to think back to the URLs that are sites I can’t live without (actually, the only thing I can’t live without is Jesus). I offer them with comments and in no particular order of importance. These are a few Internet sites I want to take to heaven with me as I pack for the journey to forever.

BEST LIVE STREAMING DAILY EUCHARIST PLUS MORNING PRAYER AND EVENING PRAYER OF LITURGY OF THE HOURS https://www.saintmeinrad.org/connect/live-video/

BEST CISTERCIAN HOMILIES: Cistercian homilies from Our Lady of the Holy Spirit Monastery (Trappist) https://www.trappist.net/homilies

BEST LIVE STREAMING LOCAL PARISH HOMILIES: https://www.goodshepherdparish.org/homilies

BEST YOUTUBE ON THE EUCHARIST AND REAL PRESENCE: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UzCPu_lEhe8

BEST YOUTUBE ON THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cx43CrSMni0

BEST YOUTUBE ON SIN AND SUFFERING: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U9WNWplC_zI

BEST YOUTUBE ON THE SEVEN DEADLY SINS: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wG4VF0jU568

BEST YOUTUBE ON CHANGE FROM SELF TO GOD

WHAT IS HELL LIKE, RIGHT NOW?

Hell is not the opposite of Heaven, but rather the absence of it. If that is so, and the kingdom of heaven is right now for us to absorb into our human nature, then would it not be true that hell is also right now? Right or wrong, that is the topic of my Lectio Divina presented to me by the Holy Spirit. So, what does all this mean as I make my way down the rocky road of existence until I die? Is Hell just a place where those who die in alienation from God live forever, a place of eternal fire? Probably. I had this next thought as I contemplated that Heaven is right now, and we accumulate all those good actions and thoughts and take them to Heaven with us.

St. Benedict says in Chapter 4 of the Rule to:

41 Place your hope in God alone.
42 If you notice something good in yourself, give credit to God, not to yourself,
43 but be certain that the evil you commit is always your own and yours to acknowledge.

44 Live in fear of judgment day
45 and have a great horror of hell.”

Contrast Chapter 4 and what is Heaven on Earth with what is below.

SOME EXAMPLES OF HELL ON EARTH

Living with someone who hates your God, your Church, your practice of Lay Cistercian precepts yet not responding in anger to their anger towards you.

Chapter 4: 29 Do not repay one bad turn with another (1 Thess 5:15; 1 Pet 3:9).
30 Do not injure anyone, but bear injuries patiently.
31 Love your enemies (Matt 5:44; Luke 6:27).
32 If people curse you, do not curse them back but bless them instead.
33 Endure persecution for the sake of justice (Matt 5:10).

https://christdesert.org/rule-of-st-benedict/chapter-4-the-tools-for-good-works/

Seeing clergy and professed Catholics who say one thing but do another. This would lead those weak in their Faith to disown Christ or make up a Christ based on their own imperfect image and likeness.

Chapter 4:

59 Do not gratify the promptings of the flesh (Gal 5:16);
60 hate the urgings of self-will.
61 Obey the orders of the abbot unreservedly, even if his own conduct–which God forbid–be at odds with what he says. Remember the teaching of the Lord: Do what they say, not what they do (Matt 23:3).

https://christdesert.org/rule-of-st-benedict/chapter-4-the-tools-for-good-works/

Hatred for others who do not practice religion as you think it should be done. Coveting evil in your mind and so in your heart for others while professing to love others as Jesus loved us. Hell is in your heart, and your bad works betray what your center is. Having a choice between what is easy and right (Abortion, Marriage, Social Justice not based on race). Laughing at chastity if you are a clergy or consecrated religious, and placing sex at your center instead of love that Christ told us to have for one another.

Chapter 4:

62 Do not aspire to be called holy before you really are, but first be holy that you may more truly be called so.
63 Live by God’s commandments every day;
64 treasure chastity,
65 harbor neither hatred
66 nor jealousy of anyone,
67 and do nothing out of envy.
68 Do not love quarreling;
69 shun arrogance.
70 Respect the elders
71 and love the young.
72 Pray for your enemies out of love for Christ.
73 If you have a dispute with someone, make peace with him before the sun goes down.

74 And finally, never lose hope in God’s mercy.

https://christdesert.org/rule-of-st-benedict/chapter-4-the-tools-for-good-works/

Living as though you are god and the center of all reality. Morality is what you think it is. There is no denying yourself to follow Christ. God is dead (and so are you to the Way, the Truth, and Life).

Chapter 4:

10 Renounce yourself in order to follow Christ (Matt 16:24; Luke 9:23);
11 discipline your body (1 Cor 9:27);
12 do not pamper yourself,
13 but love fasting.
14 You must relieve the lot of the poor,
15 clothe the naked,
16 visit the sick (Matt 25:36),
17 and bury the dead.
18 Go to help the troubled
19 and console the sorrowing.

20 Your way of acting should be different from the world’s way;
21 the love of Christ must come before all else.

The struggle to have in you the mind of Christ Jesus (Philippians 2:5) is the kingdom of heaven at this very moment, moment to moment, if you will. Failure to see Jesus through faith, hope and love, is the beginning of hell on earth. Hell on earth may not be full of fire and brimstone or the absence of God. The effects of Hell will be our judgment before the Throne of the Lamb. We will measure ourselves against pure energy (none of us, even if we are saved and sanctified), can stand in the presence of the Light without Christ to help us.

Later on, Satan will claim those who have declared themselves to hate God. He will take them to Hell and thus begins the torment of having the chance to have it all, be happy with God in heaven, as our final step of evolution in human nature. The Devil will stand one inch away from our face (like a Drill Seargent) and laugh at us for making the wrong choice…forever. When you do evil in your laugh, you will have heard the Devil’s laugh.

Hell is real. It happens right now for those who do not recognize the Christ Principle as transforming them from their false self to their true self. May God have mercy on all of us, those marked with the sign of the cross and those who still have a chance to proclaim Jesus as Lord and Savior.

the assumption of mary

Normally, I would give you some thoughts about a subject from my Lectio Divina. No one has ever accused me of being normal, so I will just share with you the magnificent homily from Bishop Barron on Mary. How biblical. These insights have caused my faith to increase by having more of Christ in me and less of my sinful self. I share it with you without comment.

WHEN LOVE HURTS

As I wabble down the ever shorter path to my next portal in life, passing from life to death, I become more aware of how the Scriptures are pertinent to who I am now and how the words of Scripture feel as well say or read them. It is particularly true when I read the Psalms during the Liturgy of the Hours. These words inform my need for intellectual stimulation and the desire in my heart to be one with Christ. Saint Augustine said it so well: “Our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee.”  More and more, as I sit on a park bench in the dead of winter and wait for Christ to sit next to me, the thought of my heart resting next to the heart of Christ is the joy that I have never experienced before. This heart-to-heart can happen anytime, such as when I go to Walmart to pick up my heart medication or sitting alone in the silence and solitude of Good Shepherd Chapel in Eucharistic Adoration. The effect is the same–I begin to experience what it means to share my Lord’s joy.

As I continue to make sense of what life throws at me each day, one thing is constant, in a world beset by hatreds, jealousies, envies, factions, false gods, and those seeking their own pleasure at all costs. I have discovered the Christ Principle, the very energy of God, although I neither know what that is nor am I capable of any rational definition. I can only attempt to describe what I feel when I am allowed to sit next to Christ on that park bench and just be what my nature intended. I realize ever more clearly that God doesn’t fit into my agenda nor preconceived notions of what I need, but rather, as an adopted Son (Daughter) of the Father, I can only sit in the presence of Christ and hope that the Holy Spirit answers my prayers to have mercy on me, a sinner. I sit on that park bench every time I have in me the mind of Christ Jesus (Philippians 2:5) when I realize that I must make an effort on my part to be present to Christ because He is always present to me. Eucharist becomes an occasion of joy for me as I feel the presence of Christ (based on the capacitas dei or extent to which Christ grows in me and my false self shrinks). All occasions to practice the Cistercian practices that lead to the charisms of humility, true obedience to the will of God, openness to the Holy Spirit in all I meet, discernment of evil where it exists, and my attempts to flee from it, all these are foretastes of heaven. Heaven begins each day as I seek God in whatever way He presents Himself. I can’t hide from the Hound of Heaven. Read the poem by Francis Thompson. It is a masterpiece. anymore.https://warwick.ac.uk/fac/arts/english/currentstudents/undergraduate/modules/fulllist/second/en227/texts/thompson-hound.pdf

If joy, in the human sense, is good, then how do we deal with suffering, discomfort, death, cancer, heart problems, alcoholism, drug addiction, mental illness, intermittent explosive disorder (https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/17786-intermittent-explosive-disorder#:~:text=Intermittent%20explosive%20disorder%20is%20a,of%20proportion%20to%20the%20situation), or when love hurts to give it to others? Fortunately, we have the Saints to help us with examples of how to cope. We have the very life of Christ itself that gives us the energy to overcome the “thorn of the flesh,” as Saint Paul describes it in II Corinthians. Read this challenging passage and try to FEEL what St. Paul is telling you through the Holy Spirit. Commentaries I read suggest that “thorn in the flesh” most likely describes pain that comes from dealing with difficult people, as in “pain in the butt.”

1I* must boast; not that it is profitable, but I will go on to visions and revelations of the Lord.
2 I know someone in Christ who, fourteen years ago (whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows), was caught up to the third heaven.
3 And I know that this person (whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows)
4 was caught up into Paradise and heard ineffable things, which no one may utter. a
5 About this person* I will boast, but I will not boast about myself, except about my weaknesses.
6 Although if I wished to boast, I would not be foolish, for I would be telling the truth. But I refrain so that no one may think more of me than what he sees in me or hears from me
7 because of the abundance of the revelations. Therefore, that I might not become too elated,* a thorn in the flesh was given to me, an angel of Satan, to beat me, to keep me from being too elated.b
8Three times* I begged the Lord about this, that it might leave me,c
9* but he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” I will rather boast most gladly of my weaknesses,* so that the power of Christ may dwell with me.d
10Therefore, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and constraints, for the sake of Christ;e for when I am weak, then I am strong.*
Suffering, pain, depression, and negative thinking are not the opposite of love. I call it dark love, for the lack of a better way to describe how love hurts sometimes. Here are some thoughts about what happens when love hurts.
Joy amid the struggle to do what is right rather than what is easy.
Caring for someone with Borderline Personality Disorder, Alcoholism, Drug Addiction, Althzeimers, Dimensia Precox, Intermittent Explosive Disorder, Anger Mood Disorder, Paranoia, or other situations that require the caregiver to love but with pain and suffering.

Christ is our role model for love that hurts. I keep going back to my favorite Scripture passage. Read Philippians 2:5 with the idea of feeling what Christ felt for us as he knew he was to suffer, die, and rise from the dead in expiation for the sins of us all. Can we do no less?

Plea for Unity and Humility.*

1If there is any encouragement in Christ, any solace in love, any participation in the Spirit, any compassion and mercy,
2complete my joy by agreeing, with the same love, united in heart, thinking one thing. a
3Do nothing out of selfishness or out of vainglory; rather, humbly regard others as more important than yourselves,b
4each looking out not for his own interests, but [also] everyone for those of others.c
5Have among yourselves the same attitude that is also yours in Christ Jesus,*
6Who,* though he was in the form of God,d

did not regard equality with God as something to be grasped.*

7Rather, he emptied himself,

taking the form of a slave,  coming in human likeness;*

and found human in appearance,e

8he humbled himself,f

becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross.*

9Because of this, God greatly exalted him

and bestowed on him the name*

that is above every name,g

10that at the name of Jesus

every knee should bend,*

of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth,h

11and every tongue confess that

Jesus Christ is Lord,*

to the glory of God the Father.

When I take the Christ Principle inside me through being present through the Holy Spirit, my pain does not cease. I will still feel the hurt, the humiliation, the disrespect from others as they put down my God and my Church, questioning my motives and making scurrilous comments about my love for Christ. When I had about with Leukemia (CLL type) in 2014, I had twelve chemotherapy treatments, not knowing if they would do any good. They did; thanks be to God. 
Christ gives us not only the example but the same energy He had to overcome temptations he had to flee from the mission that the Father entrusted to Him.  To be one with Christ is to love others as He loved us. It is also the way, the truth, and the life for anyone who must love even though it hurts.
mc

DO YOU STAND BEFORE THE MIRROR OF ERISED?

When beginning to practice meditation before moving to the deeper reality of contemplation, there are some dangers along the way. My latest Lectio Divina Meditation (Philippians 2:5) led me to an unlikely YouTube scene of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. The scene has to do with Harry standing before a mirror being fixated on his mother and father, just sitting there, sitting there, sitting there. Here is the YouTube in question. The mirror is called The Mirror of Erised. Look at it, as I did, as a good visual of what it means to stand before this mirror and gaze at it. When we use our reason and free choice to process what comes from the Holy Spirit, we can stand before The Mirror of Erised, if we are not careful.

Everything looks perfect in the mirror. Professor Dumbledore just happens to find Harry looking at the mirror and tells him what it is about. You think you are seeing something the way it should be or how you would like it to be. Alas, looking at this mirror has a result that it does not produce knowledge or truth.

Professor Dumbledore tells Harry that the danger of looking at this “what if” mirror might be that people waste their lives looking at the wrong image. He goes on to say that the danger is seeing things that you want them to be rather than as they are. The consequences of looking at this Mirror of Erised is that you fail to see the contemplative mindset as it is in the real world of every day, and, instead, view an idyllic picture of yourself of just what you can see in the mirror. The danger of falling into the trap of contemplative practice where you are the center is like the Mirror of Erised.

The Mirror of the Christ Principle shows you who you are in relation to who Christ is. The practices we do are good works as set forth by Saint Benedict in Chapter 4 of his Rule. https://christdesert.org/prayer/rule-of-st-benedict/chapter-4-the-tools-for-good-works/

These rules are there to help us see only Jesus in our personal Mirror of Erised and how we might become more like Christ and less like us. Contemplation is not about me at all. It is about how I can be present to Christ so that He increases in me and decreases. Prefer nothing to the love of Christ, St. Benedict challenges us to become. Don’t be fooled by the fixations the world has to offer. Taking up our cross each day means we must lift that cross (through, with, and in Christ Jesus) ourselves. The road to our destiny in Heaven is not idyllic or smooth and effortless. Just because you find your road is rocky doesn’t mean you are on the wrong road. Stay away from the Mirror of Erised in your contemplative practice.

SEEKING GOD EACH DAY: HOW FAITH IS RIPENED ON THE VINE

All living things need food and water to survive, in addition to the right environment. I have learned much from following the Rule of St. Benedict as interpreted by the councils and constitutions of the Cistercian Order of the Strict Observance (OCSO) and further interpreted by Lay Cistercian spirituality. As a professed Lay Cistercian I know that I need the waters of Baptism and the food of Christ Himself in the Eucharist and Sacrament of Penance to move forward from my old (false) self to my new self. I must discipline myself to seek God not only in the times that I pray, but also all the times I look out at nature and whatever comes my way. That in all things, St. Benedict counsels, may God be glorified.

I am sitting at my desk in my office, placing myself in the presence of God on this Saturday morning, wanting to just be present to Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit. Seeking God each day means I transform the NOW, which is the only time in which I have a freedom to choose to do God’s will or my own, into being resonant with who Jesus is. With this mindset, everything becomes an occasion of grace rather than an occasion of sin.

God is a NOW person. “I am the one who is” says God to Moses. Moses had to process what that means. In fact each person born of woman must process what that means. Jesus, being one of us, also had to learn how to love as a human (the divine nature is love itself). That nexus is one of the questions I plan to ask Jesus: “How does your human self feel being joined as one with your divinity as the Son of God?”

My reflections on the NOWness of God come as I look out the window of my office and notice the Japanese Orange tree in my front yard, Satsuma oranges I think they call them. By the grace from the Holy Spirit, I am aware that all things are connected with each other with the golden thread of Christ’s passion, death and resurrection. As I ponder the goodness of God in nature, I think of how the tree begins just with orange blossoms and then buds, then small oranges. The final product takes time to ripen. It reminded me of my own Faith that the words of Christ to me become flesh through Christ but also through my awareness that God is the Lord of Creation, the Lord of Salvation, and the Spirit of Truth, right before me, as I look out at this tree.

Faith ripens every so slowly and inexorably as long as I am attached to the vine of Christ. I am totally dependent on Christ for my growth from false self to true self, but if I choose not to move forward, my growth stops. By myself, I don’t have the divine energy needed for my branch of the vine to thrive. Feel the passion and energy of St. Paul as he challenges the Athenians to see Jesus.

Paul’s Speech at the Areopagus.22Then Paul stood up at the Areopagus and said:*

“You Athenians, I see that in every respect you are very religious.23For as I walked around looking carefully at your shrines, I even discovered an altar inscribed, ‘To an Unknown God.’* What therefore you unknowingly worship, I proclaim to you.24The God who made the world and all that is in it, the Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in sanctuaries made by human hands,h25nor is he served by human hands because he needs anything. Rather it is he who gives to everyone life and breath and everything.26He made from one* the whole human race to dwell on the entire surface of the earth, and he fixed the ordered seasons and the boundaries of their regions,27so that people might seek God, even perhaps grope for him and find him, though indeed he is not far from any one of us.i28For ‘In him we live and move and have our being,’* as even some of your poets have said, ‘For we too are his offspring.’29Since therefore we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the divinity is like an image fashioned from gold, silver, or stone by human art and imagination.j30God has overlooked the times of ignorance, but now he demands that all people everywhere repent31because he has established a day on which he will ‘judge the world with justice’ through a man he has appointed, and he has provided confirmation for all by raising him from the dead.”k32When they heard about resurrection of the dead, some began to scoff, but others said, “We should like to hear you on this some other time.”33And so Paul left them.34But some did join him, and became believers. Among them were Dionysius, a member of the Court of the Areopagus, a woman named Damaris, and others with them.

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/acts/17#:~:text=27so%20that%20people%20might,’

As Baptized members of His body, the Vine, we are the branches, or orange tree fruit. Our fruit ripens as long as we remain connected to the Vine. Seeking God each day through Lectio Divina and Eucharist Adoration are just a few ways we ripen our faith and keep our fruit from rotting.

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TEN NEW IDEAS ABOUT THE MESSIAH FROM THE EDGE OF TIME

I admit to not taking the notion of Messiah more seriously than it deserves. Not brought up in the Jewish tradition, I just accept that Jesus is Lord and go on about my business. But, as of late, my Lectio Divina meditations (Philippians 2:5) have been trending towards a deeper penetration into the notion of Jesus as Messiah. It all began several years ago (who is counting, when you are over 80 years old?) and I asked the question, Why do we have Scriptures at all? It is just to prove that Christianity is correct and other religions are wrong? Is it so that I can justify my faith through reading about historical and literary sources? Scriptures were written by many different people over the centuries. Why? St. John’s Gospel 30:30-31 gives us a peek at why. It says:

Conclusion.*

“30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of [his] disciples that are not written in this book.s
31 But these are written that you may [come to] believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through this belief you may have life in his name.t”
Here are some of my thoughts about Jesus as Messiah that I can remember from several of my Lectio Divina meditations.
1. Jesus, as the Christ Principle, strattles the Old Testament preparation for the Messiah with one arm outstretched in the Old Testament to the other arm extended to the New Testament. The image is Christ on the cross, where he is the Alpha and the Omega, the person who gives meaning to the longing of the Old Testament for a savior.
2. Jesus, as the Christ Principle, fulfills Israel as the Jerusalem where God can touch humans through sacrifice and adhearance to the Laws. The New Jerusalem is not just the continuation of a tradition of having God on your side, it is the transformation of the covenant to include all humanity that recognize that they must be on God’s side to inhabit the kingdom of heaven.
3. Jesus is not just some dreamy shepherd who used to be a carpenter and had illusions of being God, but rather God who dreamed through His Son that all of us would at least have a chance to fulfill the ultimate destiny of humans, to be adopted sons and daughters of the Father.
4. Jesus showed us by his words and deeds how to love others and bid us to do the same in each age.
5. No messiah that is merely human would have either the mental awareness to be a savior for the ransom of many, much less have a plan of action that clearly is from God’s heart and not from human aspirations of power, exclusivity of being God’s family, and moving to the New Jerusalem (the Kingdom of Heaven).
6. Critics of Jesus who say he was just a dreamy kid with delusions of grandure, fail to answer the questions: How did Jesus make all that stuff up that clearly was not in the Old Testament nor even during his time on earth? Being the Son of God? Where did that originate?
7. How could someone with no formal rabbinical training be seated in the temple teaching the elders about his mission? Where did that originate?
8. Jesus knew he was going to die voluntarily for the sins of many (Romans 5) and yet had to fulfill the mission from his Father. (Philippians 2:5). We have a notion of One God in the Old Testament. We have the revelation of One God having three distinct persons in the New Testament. Christ is the foundation stone of the New Jerusalem built not with brick but with the Baptized disciples who call Jesus Lord.
9. Jesus is the mediator between divine nature and human nature. We get close enough to the Father through Christ to become adopted sons and daughters. What that means and particularly how that will be is not clear. St. Paul tells us in I Corinthians 2:9 that the “eye has not seen nor had ear heard nor has it entered the mind of man what God has in store for those who love him.” Isaiah 64 fortells this in the Old Testament.

As when brushwood is set ablaze,

or fire makes the water boil!

Then your name would be made known to your enemies

and the nations would tremble before you,

2While you worked awesome deeds we could not hope for,*

3such as had not been heard of from of old.

No ear has ever heard, no eye ever seen,

any God but you

working such deeds for those who wait for him.a

4Would that you might meet us doing right,

that we might be mindful of you in our ways!

Indeed, you are angry; we have sinned,

we have acted wickedly.

5We have all become like something unclean,

all our just deeds are like polluted rags;

We have all withered like leaves,

and our crimes carry us away like the wind.b

6There are none who call upon your name,

none who rouse themselves to take hold of you;

For you have hidden your face from us

and have delivered us up to our crimes.

10. The Messiah did not come to dominate but to show us how to be meek and humble of heart, the opposite of what the world sets forth as meaningful. Christ is the sign of contradiction and as such makes sense as the Messiah. You can’t teach that to people, as is evidenced by the fact that Jesus had to become one of us to rescue us from our ignorance with the knowledge, love and service that come from the Trinity.

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DEEP DIVES INTO DIVINITY

I agree with St. Thomas Aquinas that God is “essentially unknowable.” Beneath that statement lies several assumptions:

  1. Human intelligence can never capture the essence of who God is. We are incapable of doing so. It makes sense that God loved us so much that he sent his only son to tell us and more importantly to show us about who God is, but using all the extensions of human nature to do so. Christ used parables, stories and similes to say, not who God is the way we would use a mathematical formula, but how to see Jesus, who, in turn is the only one who can see the Father.
  2. Christ becomes the Christ Principle, in my thinking, the key to unlock the human condition so that we can move to that next stage in our evolution, which is being an adopted son or daughter of the Father (Baltimore Catechism Question 6: What is the purpose of life? To know, love and serve God in this world and to be happy with God in the next.)
  3. Why is all of this esoteric thinking important? When Jesus came and taught us how to love God with our whole mind, our whole heart, and our whole strength and our neighbor as ourselves, people of the time had part of the Divine Equation but could not quite get what God was telling them. Jesus became one of us to speak our language, to mediate with the Father on our behalf, to take away Original Sin brought on by the pride and disobedience of Adam and Eve. (Romans 5). The assumptions Jesus had was that we would never be able to grasp the reality of God because we were not of divine nature. The next best thing was to allow human to grow and develop to their full potential. Adam and Eve were archetypes of what happens when humans are given reason, the freedom to choose what they reason, and no consequences for their actions until after they die.
  4. The Divine Equation are the questions and answers that God gives to those who deny themselves, take up their cross each day, and do the will of the Father, as it presents itself. To live in the spiritual universe, it takes the energy of God (grace) to sustain each of us according to our abilities to love others and do the will of the Father.
  5. What Jesus taught us is like concentrated orange juice. You have to mix it with the water of human condition carried by each individual person to make it drinkable.
  6. This realization that I am limited by my human nature but redeemed from just being a human that does not have a destiny in Heaven. That leaves me with some learning points.
  7. I can’t know the Trinity as the Trinity knows itself. I can know the Trinity through actually doing Scriptures and learning to see Jesus through the power of the Holy Spirit.
  8. The spiritual universe seems like fairy tales to those who do not know how to use the Christ Principle to show how all reality is one with pure knowledge, pure love, and pure service as its energy.
  9. I don’t have to know how all of this fits together since I have neither the capability nor capacity to grasp the divinity as a divine person.
  10. My life as a Lay Cistercian revolves around growing each day in, with, and through Christ, to the glory of the Father, by the power of the Holy Spirit.

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EVERYTHING IS LINKED TO EVERYTHING ELSE

I thought about the notion of a Divine Equation during one of my Lectio Divina (Philippians 2:5) while asking myself the series of questions around “If God did use science and mathematics to formulate all reality, then why did he not communicate the reality in which He exists in terms of mathematics, physics, chemistry, the four (maybe five) forces of matter, the cosmological notions of resonance and dissonance, to name a few anomalies?”

Unity in the Body.1* I, then, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to live in a manner worthy of the call you have received,a2with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another through love,b3striving to preserve the unity of the spirit through the bond of peace:c4* one body and one Spirit, as you were also called to the one hope of your call;d5one Lord, one faith, one baptism;e6one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.f

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/ephesians/4

One of the concepts with which I have had to explore in my Lectio Divina meditations is the notion of linkage. If God is One, everything in reality (physical, mental, and spiritual universes) is linked together. How is a question any human has a problem with because we live in a reality of space and time? We don’t have infused knowledge (direct knowledge from God), but we have to do it the hard way, to learn within the time span of the seventy or eighty years we have on earth? Thankfully, knowledge is cumulative, and we can learn from our mistakes, the propositions that did not prove to be true, and the new research we do base on new technology and the evolution of physics and the sciences. Looking at the bigger picture, all types of languages develop in response to new realities. Science and the physical sciences seem to be the new exciting frontier of knowing. Each of the sciences has its own language and assumptions. There is such a thing as theoretical physics and mathematics in addition to just functional math. My reflections led me to realize that all these languages could be the modern Tower of Bable.

Tower of Babel.*1The whole world had the same language and the same words.2When they were migrating from the east, they came to a valley in the land of Shinar* and settled there.3They said to one another, “Come, let us mold bricks and harden them with fire.” They used bricks for stone and bitumen for mortar.4Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the sky,* and so make a name for ourselves; otherwise we shall be scattered all over the earth.”5The LORD came down to see the city and the tower that the people had built.6Then the LORD said: If now, while they are one people and all have the same language, they have started to do this, nothing they presume to do will be out of their reach.7Come, let us go down and there confuse their language, so that no one will understand the speech of another.8So the LORD scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city.9That is why it was called Babel,* because there the LORD confused the speech of all the world. From there, the LORD scattered them over all the earth.

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/genesis/11

My purpose in using the Tower of Babel as it relates to the modern proliferation of ideas and exciting possibilities is to show that it is important for contemplative thinking to keep a perspective on what is happening in our age. The World with its modern languages of science, philosophy, psychology, and nationalities might be compared to the confusion of tongues. Everything, in reality, is linked to everything else. The only principle that actually draws all peoples and reality to Himself is the Christ Principle. All things flow to him, from him, as the center of all that is.

The Coming of Jesus’ Hour.*20Now, there were some Greeks* among those who had come up to worship at the feast.n21* They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee and asked him, “Sir, we would like to see Jesus.”o22Philip went and told Andrew; then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus.p23* Jesus answered them,q “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.24* Amen, amen, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat;r but if it dies, it produces much fruit.25Whoever loves his life* loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will preserve it for eternal life.s26Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there also will my servant be. The Father will honor whoever serves me.t27“I am troubled* now. Yet what should I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour? But it was for this purpose that I came to this hour. 28 Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it and will glorify it again.” 29 The crowd there heard it and said it was thunder. Still, others said, “An angel has spoken to him.” 30Jesus answered and said, “This voice did not come for my sake but for yours. 31 Now is the time of judgment on this world; now the ruler of this world* will be driven out. 32 And when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself.”z33He said this indicating the kind of death he would die.34So the crowd answered him, “We have heard from the law that the Messiah remains forever.* Then how can you say that the Son of Man must be lifted up? Who is this Son of Man?”a35Jesus said to them, “The light will be among you only a little while. Walk while you have the light so that darkness may not overcome you. Whoever walks in the dark does not know where he is going.b36 While you have the light, believe in the light, so that you may become children of the light.”c

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/john/12

The reason I keep opening myself to the Holy Spirit each day, through Lectio Divina and other Lay Cistercian practices is to place myself in the presence of Jesus. I learn so much about all things are linked together through, with, and in Christ that I find myself longing to be in His presence as much as I can. And, after all, isn’t that one of the definitions of loving others as Christ loved us?

PAINTING WITH THE BRUSH OF CHRIST

St. Benedict teaches his monks that the monastery is a School of Charity or Love where we can learn how to love others as Christ loved us. It takes a lifetime to master the Art of Contemplative Practice.

In one of my Lectio Divina meditations, the Holy Spirit prompted me to think of this School of Love as part of how I view my time since I made profession as a Lay Cistercian of Our Lady of Holy Spirit Monastery (Trappist), Conyers, Georgia, but with a slight twist (The Holy Spirit is always giving me ideas but with his own sense of humor.). In this case, I am to meditate on being a Lay Cistercian as a School of Art, not only a School of Love. This is what I thought about.

A School of Art, as I thought about it, has Master teachers, ones to whom aspiring students gravitate because they want to be like them. Christ is my Master teacher of this School of Lay Cistercian Art. As an apprentice (novice) student, I just know I want to be more like Christ and less like my false self imprinted with decades of what the World says is meaningful. In this school, I must learn to take off the old habits of self-indulgence, pride, envy, power, unauthentic sexuality, hatred, jealousy, factions, judging others’ motives, or if they will go to heaven or not, basically the seven deadly sins. Read what Bishop Barron has to say about the seven deadly sins but also the seven helpful virtues. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vt4aMtCNwCI This moves from my false self (the World) to my true self as an adopted son (daughter) the Father. It takes work to do this, always dying to self to prefer nothing to the love of Christ (St. Benedict Chapter 4 of the Rule).

Every day, and I stress every day, I must convert myself from one born under the influence of Original Sin to one saved through the merits of Christ’s death on the cross. A school of any kind is a place where we focus our attention and seek to improve our skills to meet whatever goal we have. The School of Art is not an end in itself, but a means whereby each student meets the Master and leans those unique skills or practices that lead to becoming more like Christ the Master Artist and less like the past apprentice.

When I signed into this Lay Cistercian School of Art, Jesus gave me some tools to help me learn to see Him in everyday living. The problem with a virtual school is that it is invisible. The problem with invisibility is you can’t see anything. To make Himself real, Christ gave this student instructors, monks that teach us, fellow Lay Cistercians who are fountains of the Holy Spirit on Gathering Day and through linking our minds and hearts through prayer centered on Christ. I can see Jesus with my mind and heart by presenting myself to God in Cistercian practices and seeking the charisms of silence, solitude, work, prayer in the midst of a community of those gathered together in the name of Christ.

Jesus is the paint brush with which I must paint what I see in my mind and heart. What I see is not just scenery but how Christ infused all reality with life, the truth, as the way. From my Baptism, which took away my Original Sin, I must face the consequences or effects of that sin of Adam and Eve, but now I have a canvas on which to paint what I see about the Kingdom of Heaven around me each day. When I get up, I don’t worry about filling up the hole of time to be productive. I am a painter, and whatever comes my way, I paint, much like what St. Benedict said: “That in all things, God be gloried.”

I wrote a poem of what being a painter with the brush of Christ means to me.

The Poem of My Life

I sing the song of life and love…

…sometimes flat and out of tune

 …sometimes eloquent and full of passion

…sometimes forgetting notes and melody

…sometimes quaint and intimate

…often forgetful and negligent

…often in tune with the very core of my being

…often with the breath of those who would pull me down,

     shouting right in my face

…often with the breath of life uplifting me to heights never       

     before dreamed

…greatly grateful for the gift of humility and obedience to The One

…greatly thankful for adoption, the discovery of new life of pure energy

…greatly appreciative for sharing meaning with others of The Master

…greatly sensitive for not judging the motives of anyone but me

…happy to be accepted as an aspiring Lay Cistercian …happy to spend time in Eucharistic Adoration

…happy and humbled to be an adopted son of the Father

…happy for communities of faith and love with wife,      

    daughter, friends

…mindful that the passage of time increases each year …mindful of the major distractions of cancer and cardiac arrest

…mindful of my center and the perspective that I am loved    

     moreover, I must love back with all the energy of my   

heart and strength, yet always falling a little short

 …mindful of the energy I receive from The One in Whom I

      find purpose and meaning in the Mystery of Faith…Forever.

To The One who is, Who was, and Who is to come at the end of the ages, be glory, honor, power, and blessings through The Redeemer Son, in unity with the Advocate, the Spirit of Love.

From The One who is, Who was, and Who is to come at the end of the ages, I seek hope that His words about the purpose of life are true, that He is the Way that leads to life…Forever.

With The One who is, Who was, and Who is to come at the end of the ages, I seek the fierce love so I can have in me the mind of Christ Jesus, my purpose in life, and my center…Forever.   “That in all things, may God be glorified.” –St. Benedict

God gives each human a canvas of life when they are born. In Baptism, Christ gives us not only Himself as a brush (transubstantiation) but is our teacher on how to paint what we see (transformation). Christ uses, in my case, the Cistercian practices and charism to help me practice my craft. Christ won’t paint my canvas for me, but he showed me the canvas of his being, with the sign of contradiction placed on my soul at Baptism. The paint I must use is good works (Chapter 4 of the Rule of St. Benedict) that come from Christ. Jesus is real for those who use Faith alone as the pure energy come down from the Father through Christ and is present now in the Holy Spirit.

I don’t worry if my painting is perfect. I am certainly not perfect. I paint what I see. I try to see Jesus each day in all the various ways life embraces me. Overshadowed by the Holy Spirit, all I can say is: “Be it done to me according to your word.” When I paint something on the canvas, I don’t just look at it and forget it, like a nice sunrise or how the wind blows on my body during a hot, Florida July day. Everything I take the time to paint on my canvas of life with the brush of Christ I can take with me to heaven. After all, it is my picture.

HOW TO BAKE A LAY CISTERCIAN?

If you think the Holy Spirit doesn’t have a sense of humor, then you will not appreciate this blog that I wrote down for my Lectio Divina (Philippians 2:5).

I like to focus these end days (of my life) on how all things move into and out of the Christ Principle. This is a recent appreciation of my Lay Cistercian growth from self to God. When I do Lectio Divina and there is slightly more of God than before, I think of my life in terms of what presents itself to me each day. I had just finished watching a Korean television show on how to make chocolate cake (I love Korean television, maybe because my wife is in Korean.), but somehow that I can’t explain what the Holy Spirit told me,
“Do you know that your life is like that Korean factory that makes chocolate cake?” Now you see why I say the Holy Spirit has a sense of humor.

It has troubled me for some time that I realize my march from false self (the dissonance of Original Sin) to my true self (resonance with the Christ Principle) has to begin each day. Each day, as Jesus had predicted, I must anew take up my cross and seek God as I find Him in whatever comes my way. I kept asking the Holy Spirit to take this cross away from me.

“Just let me believe in God one time,” I pleaded, “and I won’t have to suffer each day to struggle to have to place God’s will over my human inclinations of self-righteousness and self-indulgence.”

What I got back with the Holy Spirit is classic. The Spirit said to me that each day if I sit down on the park bench in the dead of winter and wait for Christ to sit next to me, it is the struggle that Christ had before he entered into his passion and death. “Let this inconvenience pass from me. It is too difficult each day. Some days I don’t even believe or feel that you even care about me, Holy Spirit.”

“My grace is sufficient,” said the Holy Spirit. “When you are depressed or bored with the struggle to be free of the corrupting effects of this world, that is when I am with you the most in your mind and in your heart.”

“Let me help you by using something every day to explain your suffering and frustration. You just watched a television show about baking a cake. Think about this.”

“If your whole life was a cake that you were going to bake, you add ingredients that will make it taste good and become what a chocolate cake should be, not so?”

The Holy Spirit continued, “Each day, you add to your cake from your choices to do God’s will versus what the World says are good ingredients. I give you what makes your cake presentable to God the Father. Christ served up the cake and all of us have a piece of it. I mean the Whole Church Universal, too. Remember the story of the five barley loaves and two fishes? Same thing.”

“Getting back to the Korean cake, you see them putting in ingredients (no talking needed) to the mix that is already there. Each day, you add the flavors of the day to the mix, provided you tied them together for the praise and glory of the Father through Christ.”

“As a Lay Cistercian, your cake began with you adding just a bit here and there and stirring vigorously. It took you many years to keep adding ingredients to the mix. Humility, Obedience to God’s will and not your own, avoidance of the presumption that God fits into your plan and not vice versa. You made an act of Faith in the power of God when you wrote down your Lay Cistercian final promises. Your cake becomes tasty to God because you take that time each day to create life anew. That is why you must seek God daily, using Cistercian practices and charisms. There are ways for you to see God, but only if you have the power that comes from pure energy, our energy we share with you as an adopted son (daughter) of the Father.”

“Relax and just look for ways to be present to whatever comes your way. Know that God is with you as you struggle. Like Christ, the suffering he made for your ransom of many is part of what love is all about.”

That in all things, God be glorified. –St. Benedict

WHO MADE YOU POPE?

There is a controversy in the Church over the use of the Latin language in the Mass. As usual, almost everyone misses the point. This points out a phenomenon that has plagued the Church all the way back to Moses and the Ten Commandments. Remember the story of the Golden Calf and the Israelites, so easily flipped over a God they could not see for a mere statue of gold? This story contains the seeds of what is going on today and has taken place ever since Pentecost. Humans tend to mess up things with the Holy Spirit. They may even think they are correct but be in heresy, the bliss that comes from thinking God speaks through you alone.

GOD SPEAKS THROUGH THE PROPHETS IN THE OLD TESTAMENT– If you do any reading at all about Scriptures, you come to realize that the prophets were those cursed, to tell the truth to Israel, what they did not want to hear. When individuals who are not anointed to speak for God do so, thinking that God speaks through them, Israel strays from the truth. The ten lost tribes of Israel are a case in point. Over time, they listened to the local gods and false prophets and were eventually assumed into what is now Syria. Once again, the Genesis Principle was at work. This question is “Who is God, you or God?” The people (church) decided that they knew better than God and suffered the consequences of their choice. One Faith, One Lord, One Baptism, but there is only One Pope, who is elected to head the Church.

GOD SPEAKS THROUGH THE APOSTLES IN THE TIME OF CHRIST– It is no secret in Scriptures that the Apostles and disciples did not get the message of Jesus before his passion, death and resurrection. It took the Holy Spirit to enter the upper room (Where else would those frightened to death hide?) and breathe the spirit of truth, showing them and the future church the way and how to live a life that focuses on loving others, even those who don’t love you in return. The Holy Spirit released those He overshadowed (first of all the Blessed Mother) from the bondage of sin and allowed them to approach the Father only in, with, and through Christ. Humility and obedience to the will of God as authorized by Peter, the Apostles, and Ecumenical Councils, helps individuals to focus on the basics and not get hung up on what clothes should be worn at Eucharist, what language should be spoken, or how some peripheral teaching goes out of fashion. Christ alone makes all things new. Christ alone is the supreme authority, and he has given that authority to fallible and mistake-prone individuals charged with leading the Church Catholic (those still on earth) through the minefields wrought by pride and disobedience to the whim of the many.

One Faith, One Lord, One Baptism, but there is only One Pope, who is elected to head the Church.

GOD SPEAKS IN EACH AGE THROUGH THE TEACHINGS OF THE HOLY FATHER

Scripture teaches us that the Holy Spirit will not let the gates of Hell prevail against it. Jesus said nothing about some magical incantation to ward off the effects of Original Sin or to combat evil in all its insidious forms. What he did say was that his grace is sufficient for individuals. To be present in each age, Jesus designed the Church to have one person with the primacy of honor and authority over His flock. The Good Shepherd handed over the crux to Peter (not the obvious choice because he was a braggart, sought the favor of Christ, and betrayed him three times). The paradox of God shows itself again and again: Jesus chose the weakest person to be the chief shepherd of his whole flock (Church Militant) on earth, while Jesus is the head of the Church Universal in Heaven. One Faith, One Lord, One Baptism, but there is only One Pope, who is elected to head the Church.

The question is not, “Does the Pope have authority to lead the Church in matters of faith and morals?” but rather “Do you trust the Holy Spirit to overshadow the successor of St. Peter, not to be free from error, but to use the power to bind and lose to the benefit of this age?”

Would Jesus marvel at our lack of faith in his words?

traveling with the holy Spirit

Isn’t the Holy Spirit everywhere? Next time you travel with anyone in the car or truck, try this contemplative practice.

Ask those in the car to think of one idea only as you read this passage. Read Scriptures from Philippians 3:5-12 outloud (not the driver), then wait for three minutes. Have each person give what they received from that passage. One thought only.

For the second time, read the same quote. This time, think of what love Jesus might have had to give up his life for the ransom of many. What ransom?

For the third time, listen between the words. What is God telling you right now, in this car about what it means to love others as He loved you.

uiodg

watching lucifer just for the hell of it

Usually, my tastes in television movies and sitcoms goes from following Jason Statham movies to that of Father Brown Mysteries. I came across a television series entitled Lucifer. I thought it would be about the usual fodder fed by sensationalists to sell movies.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yK5lZTPHozs

I did watch one episode of Lucifer. It turns out those who wrote the script thought of Lucifer as a bad boy punished by God, his father to punish people who go to Hell. Lucifer wants a change of venue and comes to earth to lead a life worthy of the Devil. It is so far apart from who the Devil is and does, that I found it rather amusing, as least for one session. Lucifer, his Dad (God) and Mum (Mum) plus Michael and few other demons make up this tale of romance, love, with a twist of Mount Olympus and Ozzie and Harriet thrown in the mix (somewhere). If you were in a group to design what Lucifer actually is you would end up with an agnostic’s view of the whole God thing. Significantly enough, there is no Christ mentioned anywhere (at least I could not find Him).

If this is what the Kingdom of Heaven is, then the hell with it. These thoughts influenced my Lectio Divina a few days ago. Here are some random ideas about the Devil, Hell, and Lucifer the television series.

In my reality, Lucifer is not the son of God, but a spirit created to be of service to God.

The Devil is a fallen angel. He chose to be jealous of God rather than to submit to His will. It is archetype that all humans must face on a daily basis.

Hell is not the opposite of Heaven, but the absence of it.

Hell is the frustration of knowing you missed the boat and freely chose something you thought was good (Adam and Eve) but it turned out to be a complete shell game.

There are various types of punishments in Hell. What terrifies me most is that it is permanent, that Lucifer will be in my face forever shouting at me, taunting me with the thought that I could have had it all but chose Him instead. He will laugh at me mocking my decision and how he tricked me from my rightful heritage as a son (daughter) of the Father to chose hatred, envy, lust, factions, lying, jealousy, false gods, and other humilitations I have yet to conceive.

The Devil does not have the power to make us do anything. He can only suggest.

The more I keep hatred and those tendencies of my false self as central to my Faith, the Devil has me. It is only when I die to false self and redeem myself with Christ Jesus that I move from hatred in my heart to that of love. Each day, I must begin from zero. This is conversio morae (conversion of life) at the heart of my Lay Cistercian approach to loving others as Christ loves me.

I am not fixated on Hell but on the prize for which Christ paid the price with his passion, death and resurrection (ascension). The price I must pay is to seek God each day with all my heart, with all my mind, and with all my strength. Some days are better than others.

Christ left us several ways to make all things new in our hearts each day. Lectio Divina, Eucharist, Meditation on Scripture, Spiritual Reading from the Saints, all help to keep us focused in having in me the mind of Christ Jesus (Philippians 2:5-12)/

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