A SIGN OF CONTRADICTION

The message of Christ does not make sense. Scripture says that it is folly to the Gentiles and a stumbling block to the Jews. That is another way of saying you won’t “get” what Christ is saying unless you use the Rule of Opposites. What follows is my Lenten reflections on the folly of God, “O, Happy Fault” (From the Exultet Jam Angelica Turba Choelorum, of the Easter Vigil Hymn).

In my book, Three Rules of the Spiritual Universe, I set forth three rules that apply whenever I look at anything spiritual. These are cross-cutting themes that transcend my notion of three universes (physical, mental, and spiritual), all with different measurements, all distinctly one. http://www.amazon.com/books Type in: Dr. Michael F. Conrad.

  1. THE RULE OF THREES Humans have their reason for a reason. The purpose of life is to look at every day with fresh eyes, even if they are sleepy. Those who are spiritual see with three universes, the physical sight, mental enlightenment, and spiritual wisdom. All truth is one, but with three layers or universes, each quite distinct.
  2. THE RULE OF REVOLVING CENTERS Humans are spiritual animals, but animals nevertheless. While in the physical universe, there is a constant battle between the spirit and the flesh. It is only with spiritual energy from God that humans can consistently and persis- tently keep their centers intact. To aid humans, the Master gives us help, both individually and collectively.
  3. THE RULE OF OPPOSITES What may seem true in the physical universe is just the opposite in the spiritual universe. When you are weak, then you are strong. If you wish to be a leader, you must serve all. If you wish to get to Heaven, you must be as a little child. With this rule, you learn to speak and think spiritually.

When I think of the Mystery of Faith, the compendium of all reality, the way, the truth, and the life for humans, the sign of contradiction that makes sense, I can only do so by applying these three Rules. Science has its rules, its special language. If you look at physical reality, you need to see if with the principles of mathematics, chemistry, and physics. Whenever you ask the question, “What does reality look like,” the answer you get depends upon what assumptions you use to discover what is real, what is true. Similarly, in the spiritual universe (one that makes sense only if you use the Rule of Opposites), answering the question, “What does reality look like” must be answered by Christ, who tells us, then shows us the purpose of life so that we can discover our personal purpose in life. Christ uses parables to explain to those in his age the meaning. Although this is a somewhat long passage, read it in its entirety to get the full import of the meaning of parables and how Christ uses them to teach us about how to love.

Matthew 13 (NRSVCE)

The Parable of the Sower “13 That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the sea. Such great crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat there, while the whole crowd stood on the beach. And he told them many things in parables, saying: “Listen! A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seeds fell on the path, and the birds came and ate them up. Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and they sprang up quickly, since they had no depth of soil. But when the sun rose, they were scorched; and since they had no root, they withered away. Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. Other seeds fell on good soil and brought forth grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. Let anyone with ears[a] listen!

”The Purpose of the Parables10 Then the disciples came and asked him, “Why do you speak to them in parables?” 11 He answered, “To you it has been given to know the secrets[b] of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. 12 For to those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away. 13 The reason I speak to them in parables is that ‘seeing they do not perceive, and hearing they do not listen, nor do they understand.’ 14 With them indeed is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah that says:‘You will indeed listen, but never understand, and you will indeed look, but never perceive. 15 For this people’s heart has grown dull, and their ears are hard of hearing, and they have shut their eyes; so that they might not look with their eyes, and listen with their ears, and understand with their heart and turn—and I would heal them.’16 But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear. 17 Truly I tell you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see, but did not see it, and to hear what you hear, but did not hear it.

The Parable of the Sower Explained 18 “Hear then the parable of the sower. 19 When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what is sown in the heart; this is what was sown on the path. 20 As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; 21 yet such a person has no root, but endures only for a while, and when trouble or persecution arises on account of the word, that person immediately falls away.[c] 22 As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the lure of wealth choke the word, and it yields nothing. 23 But as for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.”

What is missing? It is you. It is up to each individual to use the parable to use it to his or her advantage. If it is true that “whatever is received is received according to the disposition of the recipient,” then each of us can look at these parable stories and come up with different views, depending on our assumptions. For example, someone who only sees reality in terms of two universes (physical and mental) will not know how to makes sense out of it because the language is not what the World expects but what Christ taught us. Those who hear the word of God, and understands, it bears fruit. Those who do not see or hear (the spiritual universe) will not get it and it remains just a nice story like Aesop’s Fables. To those who can use the Rule of Opposites (using Faith, God’s gift of energy), it can be a transformation from self to God.

THE PARABLE OF THE PRATTLING PUBLICAN

Several weeks ago, I asked one of my colleagues to discern if they wanted to be an active part of the discernment group I was forming to explore the possibility of starting a Lay Cistercian group in Tallahassee, Florida. I told him that discernment meant no commitment, just follow your heart and let it guide your mind. Most of what we do in the World is dictated by following our mind and our heart follows that.

He told me about all the ministries he was doing for the Church and how his wife told him to cut out some of them so he could have a life (she was actually asking if she could have a life). In what must have been a five minute apologia, he told me why he could not join my group. I sensed that he was getting nervous trying to make excuses for why he can’t be a part of it. He walked away, like the rich young man in the account

Matthew 19. The Rich Young Man 16 “Then someone came to him and said, “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?” 17 And he said to him, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments.” 18 He said to him, “Which ones?” And Jesus said, “You shall not murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; 19 Honor your father and mother; also, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 20 The young man said to him, “I have kept all these;[b] what do I still lack?” 21 Jesus said to him, “If you wish to be perfect, go, sell your possessions, and give the money[c] to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” 22 When the young man heard this word, he went away grieving, for he had many possessions.”

SEDUCED BY THE SACRED

Later on that day, I reflected back on that encounter and had these thoughts.

  • What if Christ Himself was sitting down in front of me and asked me to follow Him? Would I offer excuses as to why I was too busy to listen to the call? Probably! Maybe in six months? Probably not!
  • In terms of how we all approach such questions that demand an unknown and unseen consequence, this was classic avoidance. It is the classic political ploy of kicking the can down the street.
  • I must always be on guard that I am too busy praying instead of paying attention to what God is asking of me in my prayer. Wait for the Lord in silence, solitude, work, prayer and community. Be still my heart.
  • What is Christ telling each of us as we approach him every day with our prayers? Are we too busy with doing what we consider spirituality to be bothered with what the Holy Spirit is telling us, even when we think we are spiritual and pride ourselves on listening to the voice of the Lord? Isn’t Lent supposed to be a time when we seek silence and solitude away from all those “things” and “activities” we think makes God happy to actually listening to what Christ is telling us now, even if our plate is full, especially if our plate is full, don’t you think?
  • This is a very subtle temptation to choose self over God. It is only when, in humility and obedience, when we hear the voice of the Lord, that we become more like Christ and less like Adam and Eve. The danger in romanticizing the spiritual life with Christ is that we are seduced by the words and fail to listen and then obey what Christ is actually trying to say to us. This may be called the “heresy of action.”
    I thought of the saying I prayed that very morning at Office of Readings (Liturgy of the Hours) in the Invitatory antiphon for Lent, “If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.” Take a moment and pray this prayer of the Church Universal below. Think about the Antiphon in terms of the story above.

LENTEN PRAYER TO RE-CENTER OURSELVES ON WHAT CHRIST WANTS AND NOT OUR WILL

Christian Prayer:
Antiphon: 687
Psalm: 820

Lord, open my lips.
— And my mouth will proclaim your praise.

Ant. Today if you hear the voice of the Lord, harden not your hearts.

Psalm 67

O God, be gracious and bless us
and let your face shed its light upon us.
So will your ways be known upon earth
and all nations learn your saving help.

Ant. Today if you hear the voice of the Lord, harden not your hearts.

Let the peoples praise you, O God;
let all the peoples praise you.

Ant. Today if you hear the voice of the Lord, harden not your hearts.

Let the nations be glad and exult
for you rule the world with justice.
With fairness you rule the peoples,
you guide the nations on earth.

Ant. Today if you hear the voice of the Lord, harden not your hearts.

Let the peoples praise you, O God;
let all the peoples praise you.

Ant. Today if you hear the voice of the Lord, harden not your hearts.

The earth has yielded its fruit
for God, our God, has blessed us.
May God still give us his blessing
till the ends of the earth revere him.

Ant. Today if you hear the voice of the Lord, harden not your hearts.

Glory to the Father, and to the Son,
and to the Holy Spirit:
as it was in the beginning, is now,
and will be for ever. Amen.

Ant. Today if you hear the voice of the Lord, harden not your hearts.

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

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