THE DIVINE EQUATION: THE MATHEMATICS OF BEING

In my quest to find out how all reality fits together, I have had some help to give me additional assumptions that get me closer to solving the Mystery of Faith. Some of these ideas I have written down for you to try to make sense from them. I am in a state of wonder right now, a sense of excitement that happens to the scientist when she is almost on the brink of a discovery that is just out of range, but very close. Mathematics is a language, a discipline to look at reality both as applied and theoretical dimensions. Can mathematics (theoretical physics, chemistry, cosmology, logic) not define but describe that which cannot be measured by the languages we now use? Can there be mathematics of being? Depends.

When trying to decipher the complexity of how all reality fits together, I have determined three universes, which I call the Rule of Threes (three separate and distinct universes, each with separate functions, each with their own rules of existence, yet one reality). The ideas came from my Lectio Divina meditations, not at all scientific but real for me. I use this Rule of Threes to help my limited human reasoning to approach those ideas that are just beyond mathematics, physics, chemistry, philosophy, religion, but, taken together, make up the totality of all that is or will be. I asked myself, “Do we know all these is to know about mathematics and science?” My answer is, of course not, all of these languages are dynamic and we will know more about all of the reality the more we uncover how to perceive it in all its complexities. Like the James Webb space telescope, our ability to observe what is has been extended, but one would be wrong to think that where we are not in our understanding of the physical universe is where we will be a year, a hundred years, or more. You get the point, don’t you?

THE PHYSICAL UNIVERSE — Right now, the physical universe is our laboratory for reality. This is everything that has a beginning and an end. It is all that we can see. Its laws are based on matter, time, space, energy, and the compilation of change or deterioration due to time itself. Humans, indeed all life on earth, are subject to this universe because we have roots in everything that ever lived. We even have roots in the cosmos in the makeup of stars and their movement from simplicity to complexity. Why is it that baboons and ants can’t ask, “Why is that?” and “How does all of this fit together?” They follow an invisible rule based on the reality of the physical universe that everything is, lives, procreates, and then dies. That is the way, as the popular series, the Mandalorian, keeps telling us over and over. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LaiN63o_BxA This universe is good. How could a butterfly be evil? As long as it acts consistent with its nature, it has resonance and not dissonance. The way in this universe, in which humans live as Spiritual Apes, is nature, the default. The truth exists in how nature moves from simplicity to complexity. The life is one that has a beginning and an ending. That which has no beginning nor ending lifted up all of physical reality into having a beginning and an ending. That power is one of resonance, of self completeness, of producing pure energy by its energy. This pure energy left its DNA (to use an imperfect description) on matter, one that moves inexorably to it cosmic end. Is that all there is?

THE MENTAL UNIVERSE — This is a universe where only humans exist? How do you know that there is a universe with only humans? Is all this stuff fantasy? You judge that, and by the way, ask yourself the questions: “Why is it that you can know that Stephenson 2-18 is the largest star in the observable universe (so far) but it can’t know that you know about it?” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QPV–iHy1oQ Also, why is it that you can design languages that probe the physical and mental universes to search out why how, when, and what is outside of yourself, but your pet dog or cat can’t? Why is that? One of the things that the individual and the collective mind can do is reason and make choices that determine their own destiny, choices that may even be bad for them and for which they are unaware? Humans have reason for a reason and also the ability to choose against any religion, philosophy, or mental paradigms that seek to explain how all of this fit together. The mental universe, through acquired knowledge, moves towards an unseen future, not just the Physical Universe alone. In the future, I suspect that the languages that are come from human reasoning alone will be evolved enough to even probe the mathematics of being itself, right now a seeming contradiction. This combination of physical and mental universes we call The World because the way, the truth, and the life all come from the human mind, both individually and collectively. If you use the wrong assumptions in this universe, nothing outside of it makes any sense. By itself, science seems to provide the answers to the physical universe (which it does) but doesn’t do well with that next universe, the spiritual universe. Why? There is nothing to measure? Right? I suggest that you are using the wrong assumptions and measuring tools.

If everything was perfect, there would be no problem with the world, but there is indeed a problem. It is dissonance, it is the imperfection and the bad behavior of some of us by murder, rape, pedophilia, stealing, lying and cheating, coveting the goods and the wives of others. This is a condition of Original Sin, one of dissonance in terms of what humans should be but are not. There is no cure for bad behavior or the choices that hurt others to the exclusion of oneself. Humans come from what is good (the physical universe) but, because they don’t know how to use reason and the gift of freedom to choose their own good, they make poor choices, hence the need for God to become human to show us the way.

Right now, I see three distinct universes of reality, one physical, our base of existence, the other the mental universe, our base of knowledge, and our spiritual universe, the fulfillment of our human destiny and containing the answer to the divine equation. We are not quite there yet but are approaching an integrated view.

THE SPIRITUAL UNIVERSE — Spirituality is one of those amorphous concepts that any true scientist worth their salt will rebel against by ridicule or simply denial. There are no atoms, nor matter, nor time in this universe. It is the universe that makes sense of the other two (physical and mental). Where science looks at what is using the technology they have today then makes statements and deductions, the spiritual universe looks at what is from the viewpoint of our next step in human evolution, from rationality to spirituality. This spiritual universe focuses on the present, learning from the past to see the future, one beyond death.

I hold that the Spiritual Universe is the answer to the Divine Equation for several reasons. In this universe, people only enter because of their free will and choice. It is a choice for goodness and not evil or remaining under the control of evil. We humans still have reason and the ability to choose good or evil, but now there is an option that takes away Original Sin while still leaving its effects. This is the Christ Principle, the pivotal change of time itself to add another universe, one we enter by choice but also one that has no beginning and no end. Our life is spent learning how to live in this rarified condition and prepare to do so for all eternity. We learn how to do it because God became one of us to show us. (Philippians 2:5-12)

THE ABILITY TO CHOOSE IS NOT THE SAME AS CHOOSING WHAT IS RIGHT

The fact that we humans all have the ability to say “No” or “Yes” to our own inclinations, which may or may not be authentic, is not the same as what we choose as good or evil. Genesis 2-3 is an incredible story of human nature and why some of us are seduced by evil while some of us make the choice for the reason and choice of another’s will to guide us. This power outside of ourselves we call God (with all the baggage that that entails for each of us when we say that word).

The archetypal choices of Adam and Eve come down to only two options, with the snake being the wild card of Original Sin in which we live out our seventy or eighty years, if we are lucky.

OPTION ONE: This choice is at the core of my being, that which I think makes me happy, fulfilled, have a purpose, and the reason I find myself able to know that I know. This choice originates within me and my reason plus my ability to choose what I think is good for me (using the environment of the world and its values of what it means to be human). In this option, I am the only one in the whole universe that can say “Yes” or “No” to what I think is my destiny. This approach is consistent with my human nature and is as it should be. So why is this dissonance? It is dissonance not because I am free to choose this or that. It is dissonance or Original Sin, because of what I place as the center of my life — my false self, in the words of Cistercian (and many other) authors ask, “Is that all there is?” In the physical and mental universes alone, I am able to choose only what I select as meaningful as the world sees it.

OPTION TWO: This choice is at the core of my being, that which I think makes me happy, fulfilled, has a purpose, and the reason I find myself able to know that I know. Are these two options the same? My ability to choose is the same in each option. It is my reason as I view reality with three universes (physical, mental, and spiritual) that are different. This is a universe where I must ask to enter. This asking depends on my being humble of heart and renouncing my false self (I am the center of the world) in favor of obedience to the will of someone outside of myself as the kingdom, the power, and the glory.

Here is the conundrum. I am the center of the world but being that center, I am the only one who can say “No” or “Yes” to God with no recrimination. Obedience means I recognize that the spiritual universe, in which I want to play, is God’s playground, not mind, and so the rules are also His. Although I am the center of all reality in the universe, I pledge that God’s will be done each day and not my own. The consequences of this choice are far reaching (beginning with my Baptism and ending in Heaven, forever.)

Read what St. John has to say in his Gospel.

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,a2* 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.5Now 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.o26 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.”

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/john/17

THE INTENDED CONSEQUENCES OF CHOICE TWO

One of the characteristics of the spiritual universe is that it turns everything upside down. I liken it to a polar shift, when what was North is not South. This actually happened to the earth.

My Lectio Divina meditations presented me with this notion that, once the Christ Principle became human, things change, or there was a change in spiritual time. In terms of the Divine Equation, you won’t be able to solve it with just the knowledge, experiences, sciences, philosophies of the World (physical and mental universes alone). God had to leave the comfort of the Trinity to send His Only Begotten Son to become one of us (Philippians 2:5-12) because we needed help to decipher the formula. This formula has six parts, six awarenesses of questions that must be answered before our hearts can approach God through Christ.

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

In the Old Testament, God spoke through the Word and the Prophets (e.g., to Moses in the burning bush). We still did not get how to achieve resonance with God, so Jesus took on human nature to bring us the way, the truth, and the life. Jesus actually showed us how to walk the walk and not just talk the talk. The Christ Principle is the answer to each of these six questions. The answers do not come from me but from Christ. I recognize that God is God (humility) and that God’s will needs to be done and not my own.

The Lay Cistercian way of life (there are others out there, too) seek to choose Christ as their center and to do the practices and charisms that sustain our resolve to have Christ increase in me while I decrease. This does not mean I am less human. Far from it, it means I fulfill my destiny as an adopted son (or daughter) of the Father by seeking to be what I am, by acting my nature.

Everything in the spiritual universe is the opposite of the physical and mental universes. That is why it is so difficult to grasp, in terms of logic. As fox suggests to the Little Prince, “…it is only with the heart that one sees rightly, what is essential is invisible to the eye.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d33AQNo8H6U When the mathematics of being has evolved to include the heart as well as the power of the physical and mental universes, then we will have true resonance.

Christ gave each person the solution to the Divine Equation and it has always been right in front of us. Because of Original Sin and the influence of dissonance, I must struggle to put resonance where the default is dissonance. All the while, Satan tries to dissuade me from loving others as Christ loved us. This is a daily battle of my will trying to conquer God’s will. It is only by renouncing self to follow Christ that I can answer each of those six questions authentically. The late Father Aidan Kavanaugh, O.S.B. taught me sacramental theology back in ’63 or so. He mentioned a little ole lady who used to sit in the back of a darkened church with eyes lowered and just smiling because her heart touched the heart of Christ. He told us that Mrs. Murphy, as he called her, knew more that all the theologians and wise men and women who study about God and use things like The Divine Equation to explain what is so far beyond us to be a sign of contradiction, a paradox of reason that the world advocates.

This is the mathematics of being. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Y4xacvLUXo This Divine Equation is not to be solved as to be lived in order to fulfill our destiny.

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THE DIVINE EQUATION: CAN YOU SOLVE IT?

Here is an opportunity to solve the Divine Equation. All humans, from Adam and Eve onward must solve the Divine Equation correctly to be admitted into the next phase of their human evolution (from non-life to life; from life to animality; from animality to rationality; from rationality to spirituality). Can you solve it? Here are some assumptions about this equation which may help describe the context.

  • The divine equation is a set of six statements (questions to be answered, if you prefer) about the results of your seventy or eighty years on this earth.
  • Both the questions as well as the answers come from outside our human time and experience. How do you know there are only six and what the answers are? Someone told me. Who told you? Some outside our human time and experience yet one who has both divine and human nature.
  • To solve this equation, the person taking it must be totally free to use whatever knowledge or experiences they have encounted in their lifetime.
  • There is only one correct answer but there are no consequences for getting it wrong.
  • The six questions must be answered in sequence and depend upon the answer you give before it.
  • All six answers must be completed before you die, but the purpose these questions is to help you fulfill your destiny as a human and begin to prepare for the next step in your evolution.
  • You have the answers before you and can use the individual resources of your reason and your freedom to choose whatever you wish to place as your answers.

You become what you answer in these six questions.

To answer these six questions, you must use the resources of the physical universe (what is), the mental universe (why is it?) and the spiritual universe (the solution to all six questions that fulfill human destiny).

You answer these six questions in the remaining time you have left. When your physical body dies, you will be graded by the one who gave both the six questions and the correct response. There is only one truth, one way, and one life to answer these six questions authentically.

  1. You have until you die to determine what answers are authentic and correct.
  2. You can change your selection at any time.
  3. You write the answers not on paper (although I do provide you with a learning aide) but in your heart.
  4. The answers must be short, such as a phrase, a drawing, a poem, or a quote from Scripture.
  5. You must be humble and obedience to reason and free will outside of yourself to begin to answer the questions. You must believe in a power greater than you, outside of yourself. (like Alcoholics Anonymous)
  6. You may ask for help, if you know who to ask that has the correct answers.
  7. There is no punishment for selecting and maintaining the wrong answer, but there are consequences for whatever you choose (you become what you choose).

QUESTION ONE: What is the purpose of life?

QUESTION TWO: What is your purpose of life within that purpose of life?

QUESTION THREE: What does reality look like?

QUESTION FOUR: How does it all fit together?

QUESTION FIVE: How do you love fiercely?

QUESTION SIX: You know you are going to die, now what?

There you have it.

I wrote several books on this topic.

https://amzn.to/2RZbmch

THE DIVINE EQUATION: OUR NEED FOR INTIMACY

Intimacy is one of those topics we don’t like to talk about unless it is in the context of darkened room with the person you trust the most in life, and even then, just with hushed tones and deflections of what you really mean. Like our avoidance of talking about sexual intimacy, ironically, it is argueably one of the most critical lessons humans can learn about what it means to be.

Intimacy is so important because it helps to unlock the mind to access the heart in a way that fulfills what it means to be human. It is, in a word, love. Like thinking about God, it is nearly impossible to define intimacy. I seek it every day as I try to have in me the mind of Christ Jesus (Philippians 2:5), mostly falling far short of my resolve but always starting the quest again in a fresh day. I share with you some reflections I received from the Holy Spirit in my latest Lectio Divina.

  • Intimacy means the feeling a mother has when she sees her baby for the first time and places it on her chest.
  • Intimacy is going home to see mom and dad at Thanksgiving or Christmas.
  • Intimacy is the unmutable bond that exists between husband and wife when they are old when their eyes connect from across the room.
  • As knowledge has to do with the mind, intimacy has to do with sharing the heart with others.
  • Intimacy may happen with one person (marriage) or with groups of people (gatherings).
  • Intimacy with God must be done according to our nature.

THE INTIMACY OF GOD

At the center of who God is, is love. At the center of who love is, is all about sharing intimacy. God shares his being within the Godhead with the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. How do we know that? God told us. Why would God tell us something so far out of the norm? Because we are adopted sons and daughters of the Father and this means we are intimate with God, as much as a human can be. God thought so much of all humans that He gave them reasoning for a reason and the ability to choose what is right or wrong for them. The Christ Principle is the only one that is authentic enough to lead us to our destiny. Why? It came from the very persons who created us. God left the imprint of his DNA on all that is, to use a somewhat imperfect analogy.

THE INTIMACY OF CHRIST PRINCIPLE

Jesus went to all the trouble to tell us about what we could not deduce with our logic, science, philosophy, or religion to share what the next stage of our evolution is, the spiritual universe. (Philippians 2:5-12) Christ became human to show us the way. Read what St. John says in Chapter 14:

* “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith* in God; have faith also in me.2In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If there were not, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you?3* And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back again and take you to myself, so that where I am you also may be.a4Where [I] am going you know the way.”*5Thomas said to him, “Master, we do not know where you are going; how can we know the way?”6Jesus said to him, “I am the way and the truth* and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.b7If you know me, then you will also know my Father.* From now on you do know him and have seen him.”c8Philip said to him, “Master, show us the Father,* and that will be enough for us.”d9Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you for so long a time and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?e10Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I speak to you I do not speak on my own. The Father who dwells in me is doing his works.f11Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else, believe because of the works themselves.g12Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes in me will do the works that I do, and will do greater ones than these, because I am going to the Father.h13And whatever you ask in my name, I will do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.i14If you ask anything of me in my name, I will do it.

The Advocate.15 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.j16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate* to be with you always,k17 the Spirit of truth,* which the world cannot accept because it neither sees nor knows it. But you know it, because it remains with you, and will be in you.l18I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you.*19 In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me because I live and you will live.m20 On that day you will realize that I am in my Father and you are in me and I in you.n21 Whoever has my commandments and observes them is the one who loves me. And whoever loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and reveal myself to him.”o22 Judas, not the Iscariot,* said to him, “Master, [then] what happened that you will reveal yourself to us and not to the world?”p23 Jesus answered and said to him, “Whoever loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him.q24 Whoever does not love me does not keep my words; yet the word you hear is not mine but that of the Father who sent me.25 “I have told you this while I am with you. 26 The Advocate, the holy Spirit that the Father will send in my name—he will teach you everything and remind you of all that [I] told you.r27 Peace* I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid.s28* You heard me tell you, ‘I am going away and I will come back to you.’t If you loved me, you would rejoice that I am going to the Father; for the Father is greater than I.29 And now I have told you this before it happens, so that when it happens you may believe.u30 I will no longer speak much with you, for the ruler of the world* is coming. He has no power over me,31 but the world must know that I love the Father and that I do just as the Father has commanded me. Get up, let us go.v

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/john/14

Intimacy means Christ won’t leave us orphans after He ascends to the Father. Intimacy means we have the Advocate within us to keep us on the message until we die. We can’t hoard intimacy in our hearts. It is meant to be shared with others. What must be shared? The love of Christ.

THE INTIMACY OF THE GATHERING

Sharing intimacy that God shared with Christ and the Holy Spirit means that is the template for what it means to be a Catholic Universal. We give to others the Peace of Christ during the Eucharist before we receive the real body and blood of Christ. This Peace is not the absence of strive in us but the presence of love that we then share with those in Church, but also through the time until we gather together to proclaim the death of the Lord.

When we gather together in the name of the Lord, we do so mindfully of the seven unities that bind all things into one. Read what those unities are and ask yourself, “If God is one, what does that say about being intimate with those around us?”

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

Diversity of Gifts.7But grace was given to each of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift.g8Therefore, it says:

“He ascended* on high and took prisoners captive;

he gave gifts to men.”h9What does “he ascended” mean except that he also descended into the lower [regions] of the earth?10The one who descended is also the one who ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.11* And he gave some as apostles, others as prophets, others as evangelists, others as pastors and teachers,i12to equip the holy ones for the work of ministry,* for building up the body of Christ,13until we all attain to the unity of faith and knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood,* to the extent of the full stature of Christ,j14so that we may no longer be infants, tossed by waves and swept along by every wind of teaching arising from human trickery, from their cunning in the interests of deceitful scheming.k15Rather, living the truth in love, we should grow in every way into him who is the head,l Christ,*16from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, with the proper functioning of each part, brings about the body’s growth and builds itself up in love.m

Renewal in Christ.*17 So I declare and testify in the Lord that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds;n18 darkened in understanding, alienated from the life of God because of their ignorance, because of their hardness of heart,o19 they have become callous and have handed themselves over to licentiousness for the practice of every kind of impurity to excess.p20 That is not how you learned Christ,21 assuming that you have heard of him and were taught in him, as truth is in Jesus, 22 that you should put away the old self of your former way of life, corrupted through deceitful desires,q23 and be renewed in the spirit of your minds,r24 and put on* the new self, created in God’s way in righteousness and holiness of truth.s

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

INTIMACY OF THE INDIVIDUAL

Both you are I will die, sometime in the future. We have just seventy or eighty years on this earth, if we are lucky. Why is that? Part of solving the Divine Equation is about knowing the language of the spiritual universe. I must cultivate intimacy with Jesus and the Holy Spirit by using Lay Cistercian Practices and Charisms as tools. St. Benedict wrote his Rule as a School of Love to help us focus on Jesus in our hearts. Only Christ (Faith) allows each of us to grow in holiness of truth. It is also possible when those gathered together to give glory to the Father through the Son in union with the Holy Spirit pray and share the Holy Spirit within them with each other. Such an event is the Lay Cistercian Gathering Day for me, among other opportunities to be present to the heart of Jesus and just be there.

LEARNING POINTS

If, as St. Paul points out, there is One Lord, One Faith and One Baptism, what does this have to say about my sharing what Christ has shared with me?

Do you share this intimacy you received from Christ with your children? You can leave them money or property but if you don’t leave them how to be intimate with the unapproachable God, what have you left them as an inheritance.

Those loved ones who have died, now share the intimacy of Christ face to face in Heaven. Do you act as though they are still living but in the presence of the Throne of the Lamb? Do you talk to them and ask them to be an advocate for you while you still live on earth? Why not?

Don’t forget to take the test to see if you can answer the six questions of life. (See next blog)

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THE DIVINE EQUATION

My Lectio Divina meditations usually group up into a unified theme, eventually. Right now, what comes to my mind is about cosmic influences of the Christ Principle, certainly a macro approach to reality. Let me share what I mean by that. I have been thinking of how the Triune God has an equation that each human must unlock in order to move to the next level of their progression, the spiritual universe. I say that because, although Christ came to save all humanity and gave them the key to opening the door to the next level of their evolution, it is one which each person must willingly open (Baptism). Christ is the key to the door, the Gate through which all must pass.

The Good Shepherd.1* “Amen, amen, I say to you,a whoever does not enter a sheepfold* through the gate but climbs over elsewhere is a thief and a robber.2But whoever enters through the gate is the shepherd of the sheep.3The gatekeeper opens it for him, and the sheep hear his voice, as he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.4* When he has driven out all his own, he walks ahead of them, and the sheep follow him,b because they recognize his voice.5But they will not follow a stranger; they will run away from him, because they do not recognize the voice of strangers.”6Although Jesus used this figure of speech,* they did not realize what he was trying to tell them.7* So Jesus said again, “Amen, amen, I say to you, I am the gate for the sheep.8* All who came [before me] are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them.9I am the gate. Whoever enters through me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture.10A thief comes only to steal and slaughter and destroy; I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly.11I am the good shepherd. A good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.c12A hired man, who is not a shepherd and whose sheep are not his own, sees a wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away, and the wolf catches and scatters them.d13This is because he works for pay and has no concern for the sheep.14I am the good shepherd, and I know mine and mine know me,15just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I will lay down my life for the sheep.e16I have other sheep* that do not belong to this fold. These also I must lead, and they will hear my voice, and there will be one flock, one shepherd.f17This is why the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again.g18No one takes it from me, but I lay it down on my own. I have power to lay it down, and power to take it up again.* This command I have received from my Father.”h19Again there was a division among the Jews because of these words.i20Many of them said, “He is possessed and out of his mind; why listen to him?”j21Others said, “These are not the words of one possessed; surely a demon cannot open the eyes of the blind, can he?”k

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/john/10

The Christ Principle is a term that I use to make sense out of what Christ left us to help us turn that key and open the Gate. Everything that is, the atoms, the energy, even time itself, must pass through Christ, the Gate in its inexorable rush to the end, the Omega.

I think of the word energy in terms of The Rule of Threes. Those who have read my blogs know that I keep raising this paradigm up over and over. It is my hypothesis about how I can look at reality and see the Christ Principle at work. To refresh your thinking, there are three distinct and separate universes that comprise one reality (physical universe — all matter, all time, all energy, all life, including humans; the mental universe– only humans live in this universe. We have reason for a reason and the ability to choose meaning; the spiritual universe, one entered only by free act of the will and sustained by the Christ Principle).

THE ENERGY OF GOD

First of all, I don’t pretend to know the energy of God and even describe it except through what Jesus taught us about the Father and the Holy Spirit. Who knows the mind of God or who has been his counselor, says the Psalmist? What I can begin to describe in the world in which I live, one that has energy as a constant in all three distinct universes (physical, mental, and spiritual).

When I think of energy, limited as my understanding is, I think of power.

Power in the Physical Universe

What is the greatest physical power in the known universe? I looked it up and it is a hypernova. https://www.forbes.com/sites/paulmsutter/2020/02/05/whats-more-powerful-than-a-supernova-a-hypernova/?sh=2566ce866b6e

This is important for us in that we humans could not withstand the energy of the physical universe. This is the physical power of the universe. We just happen to be on a spot where we can develop and move forward (even if it is only seventy or years for each individual). Why is that? Although the energy of matter is more powerful than any human, why is it that we know that there is a powerful energy source called the hypernova, but it does not know about us?

Power in the Mental Universe

We find ourselves on a gaseous rock moving through space and time and can ask why so why is that? We can probe what makes up all around us by using mathematics, chemistry, physics, and other languages that explain what is happening to us. Only humans can do this, and not all humans have the capacity or the capability to do so. Why is that? This mental universe is what we call the world and is the result of human reasoning and regulations that seek to allow us to exist without killing each other. Is that all there is? This is the power of the human mind, both individually and collectively, compounded through the centuries. Again, why is it that I can know about other animals, but they can’t know about me? What is more powerful than physical reality? Mental Reality. Think about it. Is that all there is to life? I hope not.

Power in the Spiritual Universe

The missing part of the Divine Equation is the spiritual universe, that which is the product of energy outside of the scope of human consciousness overshadowing all of reality to open up the destiny of humanity, to live with God forever outside the physical and mental universes. That is so unbelievable to those who don’t have the assumption that God had to become human nature to tell us and show us how to live in this spiritual universe, one at odds with the world, one that is the opposite of what the world teaches is the fulfillment of being human, that it takes help from God in the form of Faith to even help humans to get an inkling of what that means. God gave us six questions (my hypothesis only) to solve the Divine Equation as well as the answers that will unlock that Gate in our minds and allow us to fulfill our destiny as human being.

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

The questions come from our openness to what Christ reveals to us through Scripture and the teachings of the Church through the ages. The answers come from our openness to what Christ came to tell us and show us how to solve this equation which fulfills the physical and mental universe and produces the energy of love to sustain us in the Kingdom of Heaven. What is more powerful than the physical and mental universes? In the divine equation, the answer to the purpose of life is the Christ Principle, the next dimension of our evolution. Why is that? Both the Alpha and Omega reveal to us how the spiritual universe. This is not our normal world, although we live in it until we die and pass over to the next dimension in our evolution (Baptism).

Since this Lectio Divina is a long one, lasting over ten days, I will just give you my thoughts in spurts. This first spurt is on about who has the power in the universe. If God is so powerful, can He make you do anything you don’t choose to do? The answer is as old as the hills (Genesis 2-3) and has to do with choice. Using my Rule of Threes hypothesis, let look at energy in three dimensions or universes. I will do so using the following ideas:

THE PHYSICAL UNIVERSE — Energy in this universe, in which we survive under very tight conditions, is the natural law, how things are with the interactions of gas, matter, time, gravity, and the periodic table. I eluded up above about the most powerful object in the universe being a hypernova. Power in this universe is doing what nature intended, be they galaxies, monkeys, butterflies, humans– all matter and time. Humans are not the most powerful object in this universe, in terms of physical energy. But is that all there is?

THE MENTAL UNIVERSE –Obviously, because you are reading this blog, there must be another dimension of power beyond physical energy, namely, mental energy. This is not physical energy but enables us to look at reality to discover why we are, who we are, and so what. Humans are the only ones in this universe. We use languages developed by humans over time to sort through what is true from what is false. This is the universe of free choice, but also one that has reason to determine the results of those choices. In this way, Adam and Eve had reason to know about the Garden of Eden and how to be happy. Something happened to all human nature (the archetype of living in time), and we chose poorly. It is a question of how we humans learn to deal with reason and the freedom to choose that which might be bad for us. None of us choose what will be bad for us. Rather, we make choices we think will make us happy. Is that all there is to life? If so, you can have it.

THE SPIRITUAL UNIVERSE — This last universe is one humanity could not attain by themselves. It is by invitation only. The good news is all humans are invited if they can solve the Divine Equation and answer these six questions correctly. In the mental universe, there are competing elements that say, “I am the way,” “do this and you will be saved.” Because humans live in the physical and mental universes (called the World), we get our answers from all the interests that compete for our attending (including Satan). We enter this Kingdom of Heaven on earth to prepare to live in the Kingdom of Heaven with Christ, but we must choose to do so. This is where God has a problem with humans, beginning with Adam and Eve, down through Cain and Abel, through the tribes of Israel worshipping the Golden Calf, to our day with secular humanism replacing God’s way, truth, and life.

You are born on earth and live for seventy or eighty years. If you are strong, then you die. Why is that? In all those powerful galaxies and the energy of billions of Suns, you are more powerful than all that. In all those that life, of all the animals, of all other humans who have ever lived, you are the most powerful of all of them. This energy is the power to choose what is right over what is easy. Not even God, whose power is beyond any descriptions humans might ever conceive, can’t make you say Yes. You have the power of saying No. No is a blocking word, and you alone can choose what is right, or as Adam and Eve found out, the results of eating the fruit of the tree of good and evil.

God gave each of us the power to be adopted sons and daughters of the Father. This means that the only thing God does not posses is our free will to say “through Him, with Him, and in Him, all honor and glory be to the Father and the power of the Holy Spirit, forever and even.” –doxology at the end of the Eucharistic Prayer

Think about it, I mean really think about it. You are so important to God and loved so much that you have human reasoning for a reason and the freedom to choose God’s will or think all this Jesus stuff is so much poppycock.

In my journey as a Lay Cistercian, I am just beginning to realize how important to Jesus I am (remember, I am born, seeking meaning each day, love others, to realize how important to me are others who open up the Holy Spirit, and then to die, with with a caveat of the Resurrection.) Christ says he has chosen me from before the creation of the world. Why would He do that? I want that kind of love in my heart, the type that fulfills my destiny as a human while preparing me to take the next step in evolution.

I am the only one who ever was or who ever will be that can offer my obedience to the Father and say “…for Thine is the Kingdom, and the Power, and the Glory, forever and ever. Amen.” I am the center of the physical, mental and spiritual universes. Still, I am fulfilled only with Christ as my mentor and guide, one who says, “Follow me in obedience to the Father’s will using the power of humility.” My choice, based on Faith informed by reason, is that I am not the center of reality, but it is Christ who is the authentic center and the answer to those six questions about life. This is my offering through Christ in the Eucharist, as I do Lectio Divina daily, as I pray the Scriptures to become what I read, as I try to have in me the mind of Christ Jesus using Lay Cistercian practices and charisma. I am far from reaching the end of the race, but I try to seek God each day where I am and as I am. This is the intense joy that enables me to call God Abba, that is, Father.

It is that love of the Christ Principle that I share with others as I am capable. I try to die to self so that I might rise with Christ to become what I have always intended to be– one who asks each day for God mercy on me a sinner and to share what it is my heart what I received in meditation and contemplation from sitting on a park bench in the dead of winter and being present to Jesus, both God and human.

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 is to come at the end of the ages. Amen and Amen –Cistercian doxology

THOUGHTS FROM THE EDGE OF TIME

Sometimes I get thoughts from so far out of the blue that they must be from the edge of time…or beyond. This is just another way of saying that the Holy Spirit is not limited to my personal agenda of what I would like to think about (meditation) but allows me once in a while to push toward His agenda (contemplation).

I don’t speak for the Holy Spirit, I just take dictation.

Here are some thoughts in my recent Lectio Divina (Philippians 2:5). Like all my Lectio sessions, they seem to build on one another and are all liked together at a high enough level.

ONE: Everything has a beginning and an ending in the physical and mental universes. Remember, I use the Rule of Threes (one reality with three separate universes) hypothesis. It helps me dissect reality into manageable concepts, so my poor brain can approach the Mystery of Faith (notice, I said approach, not comprehend). I asked the Holy Spirit why that was important, and He told me that using only the physical and mental universes (the World) is not enough to propel individuals to Heaven.

TWO: Everything was going as planned and then Adam and Eve stepped in and threw off the resonance of that plan. Dissonance entered the world a.k.a. Original Sin, the archetypal explanation of why humans do such crazy things with their powers of human reasoning and freedom to choose that which is against their nature (apologizes to B.F. Skinner). From that point in our collective evolution or maturation to today, we are born into the world in a state of alienation from God, even though Christ died for all of us. As individuals, we must claim our adoption as sons and daughters of the Father and live out our lives with Christ as our Principle of the way, the truth, and the life. This is important because it is this Christ principle that enables those marked with the sign of the cross to enter into the next level of human evolution, the spiritual universe. It is so unlike the first two universes, even though this is where we live and learn and love and die, that it is more like the opposite.

THREE: The spiritual universe is not just the anthesis of the physical and mental universes, it is the synthesis. Christ makes all things new each day. Some see this and some don’t have a clue. Christ is the solution to the Divina Equation, admittedly one that most people don’t or can’t solve because they don’t hold the correct assumptions about Christ.

FOUR: Christ did not leave us a guidebook to follow, but empowered those around him to write down their ideas about what it means for each of us to prepare to live now on earth so that we might fulfill our destiny in the next level of evolution, one that begins with Baptism on earth for each of us and ends in the Love of Christ forever.

FIVE: From the moment of Baptism, we are strangers in a foreign land (earth). We prepare for the trip to the Kingdom of Heaven where we can enjoy our Lord’s joy along with all the others who die in the sign of Peace.

SIX: YouTube has accounts of Elton Musk having SpaceX ships that take us to Mars and beyond. There is talk of travel at light speed to escape the earth and its limitations. When we enter the spiritual universe through the energy of God, we begin astronaut training to use a crude analogy. We begin training in how to live in a condition beyond human reasoning and does not correspond to anything we experience on earth. We are asked to love others as Christ loved us as our only task while we live. I don’t know if there is a containment field in Heaven where we live out those authentic experiences of God’s love and mercy toward us, but I am not worried. Reflect on this passage from St. John, Chapter 14. Read it slowly three times. (I don’t usually use quotes to prove anything as much as for you to read the whole passage and allow you to listen to the Holy Spirit with the “ear of your heart.”)

Last Supper Discourses.1* “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith* in God; have faith also in me.2In my Father’s house, there are many dwelling places. If there were not, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you?3* And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back again and take you to myself, so that where I am you also may be.a4Where [I] am going, you know the way.”*5Thomas said to him, “Master, we do not know where you are going; how can we know the way?”6Jesus said to him, “I am the way and the truth* and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.b7If you know me, then you will also know my Father.* From now on you do know him and have seen him.”c8Philip said to him, “Master, show us the Father,*, and that will be enough for us.”d9Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you for so long a time and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?e10Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I speak to you I do not speak on my own. The Father who dwells in me is doing his works.f11Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else, believe because of the works themselves.g12Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes in me will do the works that I do, and will do greater ones than these, because I am going to the Father.h13And whatever you ask in my name, I will do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.i14If you ask anything of me in my name, I will do it.

The Advocate.15“If you love me, you will keep my commandments.j16And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate* to be with you always,k17the Spirit of truth,* which the world cannot accept because it neither sees nor knows it. But you know it, because it remains with you, and will be in you.l18I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you.*19In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me because I live and you will live.m20On that day, you will realize that I am in my Father and you are in me and I in you.n21Whoever has my commandments and observes them is the one who loves me. And whoever loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and reveal myself to him.”o22Judas, not the Iscariot,* said to him, “Master, [then] what happened that you will reveal yourself to us and not to the world?”p23Jesus answered and said to him, “Whoever loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him.q24Whoever does not love me does not keep my words, yet the word you hear is not mine but that of the Father who sent me.25“I have told you this while I am with you.26The Advocate, the Holy Spirit that the Father will send in my name—he will teach you everything and remind you of all that [I] told you.r27Peace* I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid.s28* You heard me tell you, ‘I am going away, and I will come back to you.’t If you loved me, you would rejoice that I am going to the Father; for the Father is greater than I.29And now I have told you this before it happens, so that when it happens, you may believe.u30I will no longer speak much with you, for the ruler of the world* is coming. He has no power over me,31but the world must know that I love the Father and that I do just as the Father has commanded me. Get up, let us go.v

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/john/14

SEVEN: Christ did not leave the Apostles a book to describe what to do going forward, He left a second advocate to show us and be with us as we journey to tomorrow. Contemplative practice is just allowing those prayers and good works to place us in the proper focus to be present to Christ and the Holy Spirit. Lay Cistercian practices are not ends in themselves but lead us to have in us the mind of Christ Jesus (Philippians 2:5) each day. It is the Christ Principal that is the Kingdom, the Power, and the Glory…forever. We humans tag along with Christ in humility and hopefully, obedience to God’s will, in the Hope that we will be in Heaven what we aspire to on earth.

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EIGHT THOUGHTS ABOUT GOD TAKING ON HUMAN NATURE

I admit that this Lectio Divina (Philippians 2:5) idea is as far out as the edge of time, but so is the Holy Spirit. Imagine how Jesus felt when, as the Son of God the Father, he knew all that is but could not easily convey this love to humans. In this sense, Jesus had to learn how to teach others about what is beyond a human capacity to appreciate. He chose parables (Matthew 13) ad similes (the kingdom of heaven is like…) to get across what it not only is but what it feels like. He took what humans know and pushed it a little to what they did not know by reason alone. The phrase of Christ in Philippians 2:5-12 about emptying the nature of God has flown over my head for most of my life. Now, I think it means that the divine nature of Jesus would not infuse the human nature of Jesus with pure knowledge. Christ was like us in all things but sin by taking on our nature. The only way that makes sense to me is that this “emptying” (kenosis in Greek) means God did not let his divinity diminish what his humanity would or could experience about the human condition that he would have to challenge. What would be the price Christ paid for our redemption if it was a done deal and just a gentleman’s agreement to come down, be born as a human, and then die a natural death? Philippians 2:5-12 makes a point that Christ had to suffer. Imagine how difficult that would be for Jesus to be both God and man at the same time. This emptying must be the power of God, the same power that the Holy Spirit used to overshadow Mary, that kept the humanity of Jesus pure and integral. In my Lectio on Philippians 2:5, I experienced the following thoughts.

  1. THE EMPTYING OF GOD MIGHT MEAN THAT THE DIVINITY OF CHRIST HAS TO STAY OUT OF THE WAY OF HIS HUMANITY. For this gift of redemption to be authentic, Christ had to complete his mission on earth as both God and Human. What that felt like is beyond my ability to know or feel. It is about the love of the Son of God, consistent with who that is, being in the same body as the Son of Man, consistent with all that being human implies.
  2. THE EMPTYING OF GOD MEANS THAT GOD ALLOWED CHRIST TO SUFFER, DIE, BE BURIED SO THAT THE SECOND ADAM MIGHT REDEEM BY LOVE WHAT THE FIRST ADAM DESTROYED BY PRIDE AND JEALOUSY.
  3. THE EMPTYING OF GOD MEANS THAT DYING TO SELF IS A TEMPLATE FOR THE FOLLOWERS OF CHRIST TO MAKE ROOM FOR CHRIST TO MOVE FROM FALSE SELF TO TRUE SELF.
  4. IT TAKES PROFOUND LOVE FOR ANY HUMAN TO EMPTY THEIR OLD SELF TO PREFER NOTHING TO THE LOVE OF CHRIST. One of the complex mysteries of our Faith is that only Jesus can provide us with the grace to love others as Christ Himself loved us. Profound love, like profound listening, exists at the deepest level of our humanity. It penetrates through the filters that we use to protect ourselves from Original Sin’s effects and shines its light on the place where none of us want to look. It is that inner room in which we must invite others to share in our most intimate thoughts and emotions. It is the inner room Jesus talks about in 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. 6 But 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.*8 Do not be like them. Your Father knows what you need before you ask him.” https://bible.usccb.org/bible/matthew/6

5. GOD’S DIVNITY HAD TO PROTECT CHRIST’S HUMANITY SO THAT JESUS COULD EXPERIENCE WHAT IT MEANS TO BE HUMAN, EXCEPT FOR SIN.

Did Jesus have to learn about how to love profoundly? I am no theologian but my sense is yes, his humanity was like us in that we learn progressively and not with infused knowledge. Human behaviors for Jesus had to be experienced, emotions had to be felt and what is good from what is bad had to be tested, all like us, except in Christ there was no sin. When Jesus was frightened or confused, Mary and Joseph helped him to be strong. When he cut himself and felt pain, he bled and had to heal just like us. When he suffered rejection and the disappointment of rejection by those closest to him (Peter, Judas, and other followers) he had to endure humiliation without retaliation and transform hatred into love for all. This is a part of what it means to love others as Christ loved us. Christ endured his suffering so that, no matter what we experience in life, be it depression, cancer, even death itself, He has overcome it with his Resurrection and Return to the Father.

6. JESUS’ PRIVATE LIFE BEFORE HIS PUBLIC MINISTRY WAS SPENT IN LEARNING WHAT IT MEANS TO BE HUMAN AND CHOOSING GOD’S WILL OVER THE TEMPTATIONS OF THE WORLD.

7. HAVING GOD AS A BROTHER AND FRIEND CAN TEMPT US TO THINK JESUS IS JUST HUMAN. Don’t forget! Jesus has two natures (divine but also human). These two natures are one because of the power of God. Just as Mary was overshadowed by the Holy Spirit, her human nature raised to its ultimate perfection that any human can attain, so Jesus is overshadowed by the same Holy Spirit, but with this important caveat. Mary is not two natures, only human. Jesus is two natures. We don’t know and maybe can’t know what it is like to be divine nature, even though the power of the Holy Spirit gave us adoption as sons and daughters of the Father. This is why I like the passage in St. Paul’s Letter to the Philippians 2:5-12. I selected this as my personal center and spend all my time writing blogs and doing Lectio Divina on this one astonishing act of complete abandonment (kenosis). St. Benedict states in his Chapter 7 of the Rule on the steps to attaining humility that the first one is Fear of the Lord. Humility is the key to recognizing who you are in the sight of God and obeying the command of Christ to love one another as He loved us.

8. IF GOD DID NOT ALLOW HUMANS TO BE GENUINELY FREE TO MAKE CHOICES AND THEN TO ACT ON THEM, EVEN IF THEY ARE SINFUL AND REPREHENSIBLE, THERE WOULD BE NO FREE ACT. This freedom is the ultimate hands-off by God to see if we can choose what is right over what is easy based on our thoughts that we are god. I had the thought in this Lectio Divina that only God could empty Himself to the extent that he gave humans the power to be stronger than even God, in the sense that God doesn’t force us to do either good or evil. He trusts us that the Scripture, His grace, the Son that He became human nature to show us how to love, is enough. My grace is sufficient, He says. Ultimate freedom exists in the context of trust and hope that those with the responsibility of choice will choose that which God says will fulfill them as humans in their next level of evolution, the Kingdom of Heaven. This new life, the New Jerusalem, begins when Christ accepts us as sons and daughters of the Father and, in turn, proclaim Jesus as Lord and Savior of all reality for all time. All of this so that our Faith informed by reason can continue to choose that Christ is indeed Messiah, Son of God and that by believing in Him, we might have life forever. John 20:30-31. It is this constant giving back to God of the power, honor, and glory due to Him and not us that we fulfill the last dimension of our human evolution. We don’t covet the power for ourselves; we don’t hide our good works that come from Christ under a bushel basket but allow it to shine forth, not as anything we do, but to glorify our Heavenly Father, the light that enlightens our small light. We do join with Christ as our Mediator and Advocate in Heaven that through Him, with Him, and in Him, all praise, honor, and glory be to the Father.

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NOW, WHERE DID THAT COME FROM?

My Lectio Divina (Philippians 2:5) took me to this place recently, asking a series of questions, which, of course, only the Holy Spirit had the answers. It is like playing Spirit Games with my second Advocate (Jesus is numero uno). I am going to write it down just as I received it and you try to answer them. In Lectio, I always get the questions from the Holy Spirit in meditatio and get answers (as I “listen with the ear of the heart”) in contemplatio. The answers don’t always come as fast as I would like because I have the impatience of a human in a state of Original Sin. The key is to keep coming back each day, passionately, relentless in humility with Christ. I offer to you what I myself received, in no order and without comments.

  • When you think of anything, do so using the Rule of Threes. For example, everything that exists in time and space has three dimensions, the physical universe which is our base of existence (includes all living things with humans sharing the animal world with all their instincts), the mental universe (only humans live in this universe, literally), and the final part of our evolution, the spiritual universe, (the solution to the divine equation, the Christ Principle, and from which and to which all reality has truth and is our final destiny).
  • When you think of the Rule of Threes, think of St. Paul’s description of the dichotomy of the World and the Spirit. Read these wise words about how we should look at reality.

When I came to you, brothers, proclaiming the mystery of God,* I did not come with sublimity of words or of wisdom.a2For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified.b3I came to you in weakness* and fear and much trembling,4and my message and my proclamation were not with persuasive (words of) wisdom,* but with a demonstration of spirit and power,c5so that your faith might rest not on human wisdom but on the power of God.d

The True Wisdom.*6Yet we do speak a wisdom to those who are mature, but not a wisdom of this age, nor of the rulers of this age who are passing away.7Rather, we speak God’s wisdom,* mysterious, hidden, which God predetermined before the ages for our glory,8and which none of the rulers of this age* knew; for if they had known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.9But as it is written:

“What eye has not seen, and ear has not heard,

and what has not entered the human heart,

what God has prepared for those who love him,”e10f this God has revealed to us through the Spirit.

For the Spirit scrutinizes everything, even the depths of God.11Among human beings, who knows what pertains to a person except the spirit of the person that is within? Similarly, no one knows what pertains to God except the Spirit of God.12We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit that is from God, so that we may understand the things freely given us by God.13And we speak about them not with words taught by human wisdom, but with words taught by the Spirit, describing spiritual realities in spiritual terms.*14Now the natural person* does not accept what pertains to the Spirit of God, for to him it is foolishness, and he cannot understand it, because it is judged spiritually.15The spiritual person, however, can judge everything but is not subject to judgment* by anyone.16For “who has known the mind of the Lord, so as to counsel him?” But we have the mind of Christ.g

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/1corinthians/2
  • When you think of the one rule that you must practice while on earth so that you can play in God’s playground after you die, be careful. You get to choose that rule. It is called your center, and it determines your destiny. You have reason for a reason to be able to choose the authentic center. You have the freedom to choose something other than God, if you want, without God condemning you to Hell. Your destiny after you die depends on what you learned about that rule while you are on earth. If you choose poorly, as the Indiana Jones movie portrays when choosing the wrong chalice, you will die. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VA7J0KkanzM Only the Christ Principle is the living water that shows the way to the truth, which is life…forever. When you choose your center, learn from The Master what is most important for our being with Him forever… love. This is the way, as you might have seen in The Mandalorian. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vZWS7Xy-5BE

Read the Gospel of St. John very slowly and let this beautiful passage permeate your being.

The Vine and the Branches.1* “I am the true vine,* and my Father is the vine grower.a2He takes away every branch in me that does not bear fruit, and every one that does he prunes* so that it bears more fruit.3You are already pruned because of the word that I spoke to you.b4Remain in me, as I remain in you. Just as a branch cannot bear fruit on its own unless it remains on the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in me.5I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing.6*c Anyone who does not remain in me will be thrown out like a branch and wither; people will gather them and throw them into a fire and they will be burned.7If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask for whatever you want and it will be done for you.d8By this is my Father glorified, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples.e9As the Father loves me, so I also love you. Remain in my love.f10If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and remain in his love.g11“I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and your joy may be complete.h12This is my commandment: love one another as I love you.i13* No one has greater love than this,j to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.14You are my friends if you do what I command you.15I 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.k16It 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.l17This I command you: love one another.m

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

When you think that all of this Jesus stuff is just too incredulous to believe, you are correct, if you only live in two universes (the physical and the mental). With the Christ Principle as the answer to the six questions of life that everyone must seek and answer correctly, we are blessed indeed. These six questions are;

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

How much does all this cost? EveryTHING you have.

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Be sure to read Chapter 4 of the Rule of St. Benedict every day.

Order The Christ Principle from Amazon.com I am compensated for anything you purpose and proceeds go to sustain this blog and support my books for prisoners ministry.

https://amzn.to/2Q2HiMk

JOUSTING WITH JEALOUSY: THE WALL THAT YOU WON’T SEE COMING

My Lectio Divina topics as applied to the “Lectio” phase have gone from me choosing the small phrases to ponder to letting go in favor of the Holy Spirit challenging me to make it fit with Philippians 2:5, my personal center. The results are always beyond my wildest expectations and have led me to the last phase of my life, that of seeking how I fit into whatever God gives me to consider. In the early part of my life, Faith was like sitting in a comfortable chair and dozing off now and then. Now, Faith is like putting on the breastplate and helmet to fight the hidden enemies that seek to derail my Lay Cistercian resolve. One such temptation is jealousy. In ancient mythology, Loki was jealous of Thor and the resultant behavior was dissonance rather than resonance.

Jealousy sometimes gets a backstage press report to its first cousin, Pride, and Envy. When I think of Jealousy, I remember that Lucifer, the Archangel that fell from grace, due to pride, and experienced temptations of jealousy that preceded the fall. Jealousy of someone else has to do with self-esteem. In the spiritual universe, Jealousy predates any of the sins. It is true in Genesis 2-3 for Adam and Eve. It is true for you and me. When I am jealous, I want to be like someone else. I always remember looking at my grading lists in High School to see where I was ranked among the two hundred persons in my class. I kept looking at those at the top of the report and wishing I could trade places with them. My grades were atrocious in High School. While jealousy might not seem a big deal in the physical and mental universes, Jealousy in the spiritual universe paves the way to weaken my resolve to do good because I focus on what is not real and unattainable for me. Lucifer must have been Jealous of God for a long time before he just quit.

I love this passage from St. Paul describing the charisms of being a follower of The Master.

If I speak in human and angelic tongues* but do not have love, I am a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal.a2And if I have the gift of prophecy and comprehend all mysteries and all knowledge; if I have all faith so as to move mountains but do not have love, I am nothing.b3If I give away everything I own, and if I hand my body over so that I may boast but do not have love, I gain nothing.c4* Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, [love] is not pompous, it is not inflated,d5it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury,e6it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth.7It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.f8* Love never fails. If there are prophecies, they will be brought to nothing; if tongues, they will cease; if knowledge, it will be brought to nothing.9For we know partially and we prophesy partially,10but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away.11When I was a child, I used to talk as a child, think as a child, reason as a child; when I became a man, I put aside childish things.12At present we see indistinctly, as in a mirror, but then face to face. At present I know partially; then I shall know fully, as I am fully known.g13* So faith, hope, love remain, these three;h but the greatest of these is love.

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/1corinthians/13

For a Lay Cistercian, conversion of life is about small wins and small losses. St. Paul asks us to get rid of those qualities of our false self to, as St. Benedict writes in Chapter 4 of his Rule, “to prefer nothing to the love of Christ.” If jealousy is a roadblock, take it down.

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STARTING OVER

When thinking about my Lectio Divina (Philippians 2:5) subject, the concept of starting over came up. Usually, I just slough it off as if it were an unrelated piece of the puzzle and I didn’t know where it fit. This time, I thought of my own life and how there are patterns in my observations about reality that somehow make sense as I get older.

My life is all about starting over from zero. That is not completely true because, even if I begin each day as a new one, I am not the same person as I was at the end of that time. What changes are the intangibles, the way I interact with people and situations that come my way, the center of my being (Philippians 2:5) against which I measure if I am doing God’s will or my own, the Cistercian Way, which is a way for me to sustain my struggle against mediocrity and the temptation to seek my own will and not God’s. My life is a series of segmented growth rings, like those in a tree. In my case, I notice that the move to entirely new situations with new beginnings, new relationships, new skills, and new awareness. Let me elaborate.

BIRTH: The First Beginning

You can have a new start until you have had your first start. For me, that was on September 24, 1940, when my parents gave me life and I was born into the world. It is interesting to me to look back at that event from the perspective that my mom and dad received life from two others, just as I did. If you take that back far enough, you end up with the first life on earth, and before that is nothingness. However, this is not the physical universe, which has a beginning and an end, but the nothingness of the divine being, which, along with somethingness (Alpha and Omega) makes up all that is. My birth was just the reconfirmation of the birth of the universe going from that which has no beginning and end to that which has a beginning and an end. What may sound too philosophical (my wife calls it living in la-la land), is actually the mega-paradigm in which all life must find itself existing. As a human being, I have two things that separate me from all other living things. I know that I know and I can choose what I can choose. My human nature has reason to allow me to peer into the future and to see my destiny as going beyond just my death. The Christ Principle allows me to now only know how to do that but gives me the strength to choose what is correct to fulfill my human destiny, designed to live in a place foreign to my normal perspective of time and matter.

I have seventy or eighty years to discover the answers to the six questions or foundations of human existence, which, coincidently, is also the same questions I need to reach Heaven.

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

What differs is the World (secular society with no god except itself) provides answers to those who only live in two universes (the physical and the mental ones) whereas the Christ Principle has the answers to the divine equation of all reality, the physical universe, the mental universe, fulfilled by the spiritual universe. To discover both the authentic questions and answers, each of us must choose to answer them. In my experience, there are only two possible ways to answer these six questions.

A. Reality has only two universes. The first way is to use what the world says is important through reason, logic, mathematics, science, and the assumptions that come from believing in only the physical and mental universes. These are the languages of the world. We use language to communicate.

Lest you think me too radical, I do not propose that this first way is wrong, so much as it just doesn’t answer the six questions that allow me to solve the divine equation. I wrote a blog some time ago with the title The Place Where Steven Hawking Could Not Look. My purpose was not to discount in any way science or physics but to put forth the proposition that reality in its totality consists of more than that which we can observe with the languages of science and psychology. This assumption leads me to the second way I use to ask and answer the six questions of life.

B. The Unity of All Reality with three universes. My assumption is that Christ became human (Philippians 2:5) to tell us (knowledge) the way, to show us the truth (love), and to first practice what it means to be an adopted son or daughter of the Father (service). This third universe is one of free choice, we must want to join it. Then we must use the gift Christ has given us to sustain us in those seventy or eighty years we have to discover the solution to the divine equation. Some people see that, while others have no idea, and still, others don’t care at all. There is a catch to the third universe. It is the opposite of both physical and mental universes of the secular world. With the physical and mental universes, the laws of nature and human intervention determines reality moving from simplicity to complexity. Since the spiritual universe is God’s playground, He sets the rules and principles, one of which is the Christ Principle, that from which and through which and in which all reality has its fulfillment. In this scenario, everything moves from complexity to simplicity. God is Love. God just is. Read 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

KNOWING: I began learning and reacting to my environment immediately. The template for knowing is to go to school beginning in Kindergarten and moving up as life dictates. I had to begin my formal education at some point. Learning what it means to be a human also began with my awareness of the dignity of the human person, as taught to me by the Catholic Church. Going through Grade School and High School and into College, I learned about the various languages that would or could help me with my career (mathematics, physics, biology, chemistry, English, German, Latin, Greek, Hebrew, literature, philosophy, music, poetry, cosmology, metaphysics, Scripture, Theology, Sacrament Theology, History, Morality, Pastoral Education, to name a few). Every time I began high school, college, theology, summer school, or doctoral courses at Indiana University, I had to begin from zero once again.

CAREER: Over the course of my lifetime, there have been many work changes. From full-time ministry to US Army Chaplain, from management trainer to multiple jobs after retirement. Each time, I started from zero: Zero seniority, starting salary, zero knowledge of the politics of the office (who works and who just talks).

RETIREMENT: Retirement is starting over in a big way. No friends from work call, no deadlines to complete, no office intrigue, and the feeling that all you have left in life is drinking ice tea and watching the Weather Channel for excitement.

DEATH: Death is a new change for humans. You most definitely begin again, if you believe in an afterlife. If you don’t, you just die (and then face whatever fate awaits you).

THE CHRIST PRINCIPLE AND STARTING OVER

Earlier, I spoke of those who believe that the words of Christ are true and that are three universes, one beginning with Baptism and ending in Heaven…forever. I offer you some of my reflections on the impact that Christ has made in my Lay Cistercian approach to having in me the mind of Christ Jesus. (Philippians 2:5)

  • The Christ Principle is the center of all reality in all universes. How we don’t quite know yet.
  • The Christ Principle is the key to unlock the divine equation. The Holy Spirit of Truth possesses both the correct questions we must ask and also the authentic answers. All I have to do is use contemplative prayer to listen with the ear of the heart.
  • The Christ Principle makes no sense to the world but is actually the living reality that restores resonance to an otherwise dissonant existence.
  • The Christ Principle shows us the way, what is true, and the life we must lead now to fulfill our destiny as adopted sons and daughters of the Father.
  • The Christ Principle provides us with Himself in the Eucharist and Sacraments to sustain us in our journey to the parousia.
  • The Christ Principle enters into our hearts through the Holy Spirit so that we might join with, through, and in Him as we approach the Father with all honor and glory at each Eucharist.
  • The Christ Principle makes all things new by forgiving our sins and our firm purpose to go and sin no more.
  • The Christ Principle is the pure energy of God that bids us learn of Him, for He is meek and humble of heart, and we will have rest for our souls.
  • The Christ Principle shows us HOW to get to Heaven, not how the heavens go (that is the role of science).
  • The Christ Principle is there when we are tempted to throw out what we can’t possibly comprehend with our human reason to believe.
  • The Christ Principle fulfills all of reality and is the Alpha and Omega of everything that has a beginning and an ending.
  • The Christ Principle is the Messiah who comes to fulfill the Scriptures and Prophets and make us inhabitants of the New Jerusalem, the Church Universal.

The Christ Principle is pure energy, pure thought (The Word), pure love, and pure service. There is but one God, and, incredible as it may seem, God wants all humans to share in the joys of Heaven, as their human capabilities and capacities allow. Cistercian contemplative practices and charisms focus on growing that capacitas dei (capacity to know, love, and serve God on this earth so that we continue to share with each other that joy in heaven).

As you can tell from this brief reflection, to have in us the mind of Christ Jesus (Philippians 2:5) means we seek first the kingdom of heaven and all else falls into place. This is my personal quest, a journey to forever that is not without its roadblocks and false starts, but one shared by my advocate friends, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit.

Each day is an opportunity for me to make all things new again. Each new Cistercian practice is a tool to allow me to enter into the presence of Christ and be overshadowed by the Holy Spirit. I look forward to starting over with Christ because it is always a new way to be with the one I love. The thing about starting over with Christ is you never begin from zero. I am the sum of my experiences and opportunities to love others ad Christ loves me. And you know what? I take all that with me to Heaven, not what I gave to God but however, he has blessed me.

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

THE JOSEPH FACTOR

In business, politics, and yes, even in religion, there are abrupt changes that occur, ones that alter the trajectory of history and completely overturn existing patterns of stability and routine. A new manager comes in and the organization stops to catch its breath as new alliances must be forged, new policies created or ratified again. Everything is in a state of flux.

That just happened in politics with President Trump coming into office. It was no longer Republican against Democrat to see who has more power, President Trump was a new paradigm shift that left both political parties without their traditional alliances. There was dissonance rather than the comfort of resonance.

In religion, any one of them, they are impacted my a new person in charge. In the Catholic Church, those who hold that the law is the Faith are upset when a Pope Francis emphasizes love and charity are normative.

The Joseph Factor is something I coined a long time ago when I taught management theory to managers who did not want to be there. This is the story of Joseph in the Scriptures. It has to do with one of the most radical statements in all of the Bible. You know the story. Joseph was sold into slavery and became the Chief Operating Officer of Pharaoh, Inc. “Then a new king, who knew nothing of Joseph,* rose to power in Egypt.”

Jacob’s Descendants in Egypt.1These are the names of the sons of Israel* who, accompanied by their households, entered into Egypt with Jacob:2* Reuben, Simeon, Levi and Judah;3Issachar, Zebulun and Benjamin;4Dan and Naphtali; Gad and Asher.5The total number of Jacob’s direct descendants* was seventy.a Joseph was already in Egypt.6Now Joseph and all his brothers and that whole generation died.b7But the Israelites were fruitful and prolific. They multiplied and became so very numerous that the land was filled with them.*

The Oppression.8c Then a new king, who knew nothing of Joseph,* rose to power in Egypt.9 He said to his people, “See! The Israelite people have multiplied and become more numerous than we are!10Come, let us deal shrewdly with them to stop their increase;* otherwise, in time of war they too may join our enemies to fight against us, and so leave the land.”11Accordingly, they set supervisors over the Israelites to oppress them with forced labor.d Thus they had to build for Pharaoh* the garrison cities of Pithom and Raamses.12Yet the more they were oppressed, the more they multiplied and spread, so that the Egyptians began to loathe the Israelites.13So the Egyptians reduced the Israelites to cruel slavery,14making life bitter for them with hard labor, at mortar* and brick and all kinds of field work—cruelly oppressed in all their labor.

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

THE JOSEPH FACTOR AND THE CHRIST PRINCIPLE

With one change of position, Joseph became expendable to Pharaoh because he grew up and had no appreciation for what went before. That reminds me of what I observe happening to our Catholic communities these days. When the Church is the center of a person’s life, they build on rocky ground. That is why so many of my relatives and friends who are second-generation Catholics fall away from the Faith. I heard a saying when I was a Freshman in High School (1955) that went something like this: Faith must be caught before it is bought. Funny how those innocuous sayings stay hidden in the cobwebs of my mind and then burst out decades later. All the more strange because I can’t remember if I took my medicine this morning.

Since the governance of the Church uses fallible humans to govern, mistakes are bound to happen. New people mean new alliances, new power structures, new goals, what becomes important is not what went before, and whom should you trust.

In my Lectio Divina (Philippians 2:5), I reflected on how Jesus was the new Joseph for the Jews of the time, those expecting a Messiah to save them from their temporal bondage and slavery. What they and people today look for is someone to make life easier for them, to give them an easy path to Heaven instead of the rocky road they are on. Just because your road is rocky, doesn’t mean you are on the wrong road. Christ our true Savior, is “the same today, yesterday, and tomorrow.” The new Pharaohs of today come and go. Christ is there for all time. The Psalmist says “Do not put your trust in Princes.” Our trust must be in God alone.

  • Woe to those Pharaohs who change the meaning of the Christ Principle and water down the significance of the Resurrection.
  • Woe to those Pharaohs who think everything is a conspiracy to cheat and defraud people and that only they have the ear of God. Flee from these ones who have been seduced by Satan to deceive the Faithful.
  • Woe to those Pharaohs who have no humility in the sight of God and think they speak for the Holy Spirit every time the Holy Spirit speaks to them.
  • Woe to those Pharaohs who seek to add to their kingdom (and bank account) and tell you, you must do what they say to gain Heaven. Hypocrites. Your reward will be Satan will laugh in your face that you made the wrong choice and miss the message of Christ to satisfy your own greed and pride…forever.
  • Woe to you Pharaohs of all churches who are more interested in keeping the Law for the sake of the Law rather than in loving others as Christ loves us. Matthew 25.

The Judgment of the Nations.*31f “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit upon his glorious throne,32g and all the nations* will be assembled before him. And he will separate them one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.33He will place the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.34Then the king will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.35h For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me,36naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.’37Then the righteous* will answer him and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink?38When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you?39When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?’40i And the king will say to them in reply, ‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.’41*j Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.42k For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink,43a stranger and you gave me no welcome, naked and you gave me no clothing, ill and in prison, and you did not care for me.’44* Then they will answer and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or ill or in prison, and not minister to your needs?’45He will answer them, ‘Amen, I say to you, what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me.’46l And these will go off to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

HOW TO KNOW IF YOU ARE A JOSEPH OR A PHARAOH?

Here are five questions to ask anyone to separate those who seek their own gratification rather than Christ.

  1. Who wears the shoes of the fisherman right now as we speak?
  2. What is the center of your life?
  3. If you are god (small g), then who goes to heaven?
  4. Do you fit into what God says, or does God fit into what you say?
  5. What does it mean to say, “Outside the Church there is no salvation?”

Read Matthew 22:36 and Deuteronomy 6:5

You are not me; I am not you; God is not you; and remember, human, you are not God. –mc

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CONTEMPLATIVE PRACTICE IN NINETY SECONDS

Holy Mother's Center

I can explain to you what I know about contemplative practice that comes from the Cistercian spirituality of the monks and nuns from the year c.1090 AD in ninety seconds. However, it takes more than a lifetime to know, love, and serve God using that interior approach to loving others as Christ loved us.

This is a contemplative way of thinking, of acting, of loving, of praying which stresses seeking God internally in silence and solitude, using prayer and work, but always in the context of the gathering of community.

Erich Fromm, in his book, The Art of Loving, makes the case that love is not a natural product of being human but must be learned by doing. He goes on to suggest that there is authentic love and unauthentic love and that we must work to cultivate this most precious of human qualities.

I have tried to encapsulate a definition of contemplative practice as I know it to be from the Lay Cistercians, only to realize I can’t fit anything into such a tiny hole. All I can do is describe it as I know it today.

MY REFLECTIONS ON THE LAY CISTERCIAN WAY

The Center for Contemplative Practice uses Cistercian spiritual tools and techniques to enter the place where no one wants to go — the inner self. The Art of Contemplative Practice is a mindset that chooses to see reality in three’s: the physical universe, the mental universe, and the spiritual universe. This is the divine equation that enables humans to use science, philosophy, religion, and spirituality to ask and answer the six questions each person must resolve to move from dissonance to resonance in life:

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?

What does it mean to love fiercely?

You know you are going to die, now what?

It is only with the spiritual universe that these six questions may be answered, the divine equation. The spiritual universe is available to all but requires a choice to enter. The answers to these questions come from God and are the opposite of what the world says is important. The physical and mental universes ask the questions but the spiritual universe provides the answers, but ones you might not expect. Not everyone gets this divine equation correct. The measuring stick for truth lies outside human reasoning to encompass the ontic possibility of the manifest ability of all beings. Access to this truth is free to everyone but requires the key. This key is the Christ Principle, that from which and into which all reality emanates, the God who is, who was, and who is to come at the end of the ages. Human reasoning cannot unlock what cannot be conceived. Faith informed by reason allows humans to die to self in order to discover the Mysteries of Faith while one earth and so pack for the journey to tomorrow.

THE EFFECTS OF ORIGINAL SIN ON MY CONTEMPLATIVE PRACTICE

One of those lessons I have had to learn over and over is struggling against my human nature (the world) when I attempt to attain mastery over my struggles to be an adopted son of the Father. I wish is was not a struggle but it is, never ending, always present, and with only the promise that “my grace is sufficient” for all the failures and false promises I make to Christ.

I bring this up because this is the latest Lectio Divina (Philippians 2:5) at 4:45 a.m. today. I asked why I, Lord, can never reach my goal of loving others as Christ loves us? Why do I have to begin each day anew, taking up my cross for this day, trying to wait for the Lord to come to me? Why do I practice the practice of Lay Cistercian spirituality each day, day in and day out, when attaining something new? My answer, as it always does, comes from the same Spirit that overshadowed me with the question. My only part in this is to keep my mouth shut and write down as much as I can remember. I am not very good at that but learning more each day.

ORIGINAL SIN AND THE PROCESS OF BECOMING HUMAN

Here are four effects of Original Sin not taken away in Baptism.

I. WANTING INSTANT GRATIFICATION

I think of the movie, Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (Gene Wilder) and the scene with Barucka Salt. Wanting something and wanting it now is a condition of original sin and one at odds with silence and solitude (with stillness). Watch the scene on YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pqsy7V0wphI

My temptation in Lectio Divina or any Cistercian practices is to get up, get on, get over, and get out. “Let’s get through this because it is taking too much time (for what, I have no idea).” This is the struggle to slow down, like the song says: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=So0ZrTwf8vI Rather than just being a waste of time, wanting silence and solitude is all about being present to Christ and listening with “the ear of the heart.”

Slow down your prayers. Listen to the monks as they chant the Liturgy of the Hours. They slow WAY down for a reason. The purpose of prayer, and prayer, is not to complete the prayer and make God happy, but rather to slow down, reach resonance in the dissonance of Original Sin around you, and sit down with Christ as a brother, friend, savior, Son of God, and messiah.

Slow down your life. Life has its own pace. You can’t live faster than time allows because we exist in the context of Original Sin. We only live in a succession of NOW’s, where we use our reason and choices to move to another NOW moment. This happens so quickly that we don’t freeze-frame the moment. Our choices have consequences. Original Sin means I exist in the condition of the corruption of matter and mind, two universes that are not evil in themselves but corrupt in the sense that everything dies, moves from what it was to what it will be. Everything is our life experience, every single thing, has a beginning and an end. Perhaps this is what we must begin each day as though it were the only one we ever live.

Focus on what is important. If winning the Lottery is the purpose of your life, your train has already left the station. Original Sin, because we live with the effects, seeks to imprint its default values of the World on us. The choice is clouded by Original Sin, that inexorable pull to seek our own self satisfaction. Taking up the cross daily and denying self to allow Christ to grow in capacity in our hearts, is useless and meaningless.

  • You are the center of the universe.
  • Fulfillment means you do what makes you happy.
  • Morality is what you say it is.
  • There is no god except what you think it should be.
  • The Church is irrelevant.
  • There is no spiritual universe because we can’t see it.
  • No one tells me what to do with my body.
  • Social justice is what my group holds it to be to the exclusion of anyone else.
  • It’s only sex.
  • There are no consequences after I die for my actions as long as I believe.

Baptism takes away the sin of the world. This is the sin of Adam and Even and the sin for which Christ died on the cross, rose from the dead, ascended to the Father in reparation. Everyone is born with this Original Sin in their lives. Only Baptism takes away the sin of the world, but there is a catch. We have to live out whatever time we have left with the effects of Original Sin (pain, suffering, being a victim of the sins of others, having to struggle with keeping Faith alive in our hearts with Christ’s help). Those who are Baptized are now adopted sons and daughters of the Father. There is sin after Original Sin for the faithful, but Christ forgivess our sin and lack of faith through the Church and in our hearts and makes all things new, over and over and over, until we die. Death changes us into sons and daughters of the Father. Our purpose is to lead a life of Christ as the way, the truth, and the life, to love others as Christ loved us. Our reward is determined by Christ in our particular judgement when we die. We are judged according to our works, says St. Paul.

God’s Just Judgment.1* Therefore, you are without excuse,a every one of you who passes judgment.* For by the standard by which you judge another you condemn yourself, since you, the judge, do the very same things.2We know that the judgment of God on those who do such things is true.3Do you suppose, then, you who judge those who engage in such things and yet do them yourself, that you will escape the judgment of God?b4Or do you hold his priceless kindness, forbearance, and patience in low esteem, unaware that the kindness of God would lead you to repentance?c5By your stubbornness and impenitent heart,d you are storing up wrath for yourself for the day of wrath and revelation of the just judgment of God,6e who will repay everyone according to his works:*7eternal life to those who seek glory, honor, and immortality through perseverance in good works,8but wrath and fury to those who selfishly disobey the truth and obey wickedness.f9Yes, affliction and distress will come upon every human being who does evil, Jew first and then Greek.10g But there will be glory, honor, and peace for everyone who does good, Jew first and then Greek.11*h There is no partiality with God.

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/romans/2

II. WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE SEXUAL AS A HUMAN BEING?

This effect of Original Sin is the strongest urge we have, that invisible tingle in our stomach every time we encounter another person, the automatic response when we see someone beautiful in body, mind, or even spirit. We want to possess that quality and as such them. This is coveting and a core warning of the Ten Commands. To covet is an urge we have from moving from animality to humanity. That urge does not change when we are Baptized, but we are given the tool to focus on the true meaning of love. Parameters are set: fornication, adultery, incest, Beastiality, trafficking in human slaves, and pedophilia, are urges which we are all capable of but must struggle to keep focused. Baptism does not take away these urges, which the Devil uses to seduce us into think are okay as long as no one is hurt. Baptism gives us the power to resist these urges and reorient them to a higher purpose. It is with Christ’s help that we can go against our natural inclinations to move to a higher level. We, humans, are not animals, nor are we just humans. Because of the redemption of Christ we live on a yet higher level, the kingdom of heaven on earth where we await our destiny in heaven. Cistercian spirituality, with its emphasis on seeking God daily, is a good way that I use to try to combat the illicit urges of my human nature to be worthy of being an adopted son of the Father. Some days are better than others.

If you view, as I do, reality having three separate universes, humans belong to that first one, the physical one as well as the second one, the mental universe. Humans share the physical universe with all other matter, energy, living things. We evolved from this physical universe to the next one, the mental one. We did this because all reality contains God’s DNA at creation, moving from singularity to complexity.

The only rules in the physical universe are natural ones, those that exist without the intervention of humans. The rules in the mental universe are more complex. Humans have reason for a reason as well as the ability to make independent choices for good or bad. We still experience the pull from our animality, particularly with procreation and sexual urges, but our mental universe tempers them with reason. Humans enact laws that suit their pleasure or political persuasion. Some are good, while others are bad for humans.

Then, there is the third universe, one that is voluntary, one where God accepts us as acting as adopted sons and daughters. This universe is one where Jesus became one of us to show us which way to go that is correct, what the truth is, and how to live a life that will enable us to fulfill our destiny as being sons and daughters of the Father. Some people see this, others do not. Baptism, in this context, takes away the sin of the world (Original Sin) but the effects still remain. I have accepted Lay Cistercian spirituality as a way to live out whatever time I have left. Other authentic ways exist (Dominican, Franciscan, Jesuit, Augustian, Basilian, etc…). Lay Cistercian spirituality is not for everyone. I have to keep my energy high to overcome the effects of Original Sin that mitigate against my seeking God each day.

I can not be a sexual human being (don’t trip on the double negative). The question becomes,
“What does it means to be fully human, including sexuality, in all three universes?” What is authentic sexuality as God intended it? Doesn’t God limit me in being created in His image and likeness? All these rules about what is authentic love and what is false love seem overwhelming and contradictory. It all goes back to my choice to be an adopted son of the Father, as experienced by Baptism. Original Sin means that, after my Baptism to remove the Original Sin, I fail often in my attempts to measure myself against the love that Christ had for us. (Philippians 2:5). Read Chapter 4 of the Rule of St. Benedict for a great examination of what Lay Cistercian spirituality should be. https://christdesert.org/prayer/rule-of-st-benedict/chapter-4-the-tools-for-good-works/ The Sacrament of Penance renews that Baptismal commitment I made to keep Christ as my Principle, my Center. When I stray, and that happens a lot, the Sacrament of Forgiveness and Reconciliation re-focuses me on Christ. Christ set up these seven ways to make all things new so that He Himself could provide the grace I need to persevere on my journey. The Church is a gathering of gathered believers in heaven, on earth, and in purification that is inseparable from my individual seventy or eighty years on this earth.

III. THE STRUGGLE TO FOCUS ON MORE THAN TEN SECONDS

Contemplative Lectio Divina is all about moving within to be in the presence of Christ through the Holy Spirit. The techniques of silence and solitude shape the external reality around you so that you might more fully focus on the interior (listen with the ear of the heart). Because we all live in a condition of Original Sin, we humans find it difficult to focus on anything for more than a few seconds. Those who have these gifts innately are fortunate, usually the scientists and deep thinkers. For the rest of us, we must endure The Art of Contemplative Practice by working to develop this skill. This takes time and requires a constant focus on your center (Philippians 2:5) to ease into a longer and longer meditation. The feeling deep within you to pack up your bag and get out of the chapel during Lectio Divina is part of the transformation that must take place to move from false self to your true self (capacitas dei).

IV. THE STRUGGLE TO SEEK YOUR COMFORT LEVEL

Nothing about being a true follower of Christ is comfortable. Do you think taking up your cross daily and following Christ comes without passion? Two kinds of passion: Christ underwent a Passion as part of the Death and Resurrection Atonement for our sin. Christ also had a passion, a single-minded focus on his mission from the Father. St. Paul says Christ became sin for us to save us from being held hostage to the effects of Original Sin. Those effects of Original Sin are still with us and don’t go away just because you say “Jesus is Lord.” The struggle to be spiritual is one that entails constantly living in a condition where the World wants us to stop believing in the way, the truth, and the life, and instead replace it with what is comfortable. It is the fight to keep your spiritual head above water by doing what is right versus what is easy. The cross is no dead symbol that athletes and movie stars hang around their necks with gold chains to convince themselves they are righteous, but a sign tattooed on your soul, a reminder that you must love others as Christ loved us. If your Christ is one that does not suffer for the sins of all humanity, then you may have a Christ made in your own image and likeness, comfortable but hardly a redeemer.

FIVE DAILY HABITS OF HIGHLY SUCCESSFUL LAY CISTERCIANS (my opinion only)

  1. SEEK FIRST THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN

Dependence on God.*25n “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat [or drink], or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?26Look at the birds in the sky; they do not sow or reap, they gather nothing into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are not you more important than they?o27Can any of you by worrying add a single moment to your life span?*28Why are you anxious about clothes? Learn from the way the wildflowers grow. They do not work or spin.29But I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was clothed like one of them.30* If God so clothes the grass of the field, which grows today and is thrown into the oven tomorrow, will he not much more provide for you, O you of little faith?31So do not worry and say, ‘What are we to eat?’ or ‘What are we to drink?’ or ‘What are we to wear?’32All these things the pagans seek. Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.33 But seek first the kingdom [of God] and his righteousness,* and all these things will be given you besides. 34 Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself. Sufficient for a day is its own evil.

2. EAT THE BREAD OF HEAVEN (John 6)

The Bread of Life Discourse.22* The next day, the crowd that remained across the sea saw that there had been only one boat there, and that Jesus had not gone along with his disciples in the boat, but only his disciples had left.23* Other boats came from Tiberias near the place where they had eaten the bread when the Lord gave thanks.24When the crowd saw that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they themselves got into boats and came to Capernaum looking for Jesus.25And when they found him across the sea they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you get here?”26Jesus answered them and said, “Amen, amen, I say to you, you are looking for me not because you saw signs but because you ate the loaves and were filled.27Do not work for food that perishes but for the food that endures for eternal life,* which the Son of Man will give you. For on him the Father, God, has set his seal.”l28So they said to him, “What can we do to accomplish the works of God?”29Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in the one he sent.”30So they said to him, “What sign can you do, that we may see and believe in you? What can you do?m31* Our ancestors ate the manna in the desert, as it is written:n

‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’”32So Jesus said to them, “Amen, amen, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave the bread from heaven; my Father gives you the true bread from heaven.o33For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”34p So they said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.”35* Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst.q36But I told you that although you have seen [me], you do not believe.r37Everything that the Father gives me will come to me, and I will not reject anyone who comes to me,38because I came down from heaven not to do my own will but the will of the one who sent me.s39And this is the will of the one who sent me, that I should not lose anything of what he gave me, but that I should raise it [on] the last day.t40For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in him may have eternal life, and I shall raise him [on] the last day.”u41The Jews murmured about him because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven,”42and they said, “Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph? Do we not know his father and mother? Then how can he say, ‘I have come down from heaven?”v43Jesus answered and said to them, “Stop murmuring* among yourselves.w44No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him on the last day.45It is written in the prophets:

‘They shall all be taught by God.’

Everyone who listens to my Father and learns from him comes to me.x46Not that anyone has seen the Father except the one who is from God; he has seen the Father.y47Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life.48I am the bread of life.49Your ancestors ate the manna in the desert, but they died;z50this is the bread that comes down from heaven so that one may eat it and not die.51I 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.54Whoever eats* my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day.55For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink.56Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him.57Just 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.b58This 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.

3. LEARN FROM ME FOR I AM MEEK AND HUMBLE OF HEART

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.”

Philippians 2:5–

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 being of the same mind, with the same love, united in heart, thinking one thing.a3Do nothing out of selfishness or out of vainglory; rather, humbly regard others as more important than yourselves,b4each looking out not for his own interests, but [also] everyone for those of others.c5Have 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 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.i

Obedience and Service in the World.*12j So then, my beloved, obedient as you have always been, not only when I am present but all the more now when I am absent, work out your salvation with fear and trembling.*13For God is the one who, for his good purpose, works in you both to desire and to work.k14Do everything without grumbling or questioning,l15that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation,* among whom you shine like lights in the world,m16as you hold on to the word of life, so that my boast for the day of Christ may be that I did not run in vain or labor in vain.n17But, even if I am poured out as a libation* upon the sacrificial service of your faith, I rejoice and share my joy with all of you.o18In the same way you also should rejoice and share your joy with me.

4. WITH CHRIST, MAKE ALL THINGS NEW (Revelations 21)

The New Heaven and the New Earth.1a Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth. The former heaven and the former earth had passed away, and the sea was no more.*2I also saw the holy city, a new Jerusalem,* coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.b3I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, God’s dwelling is with the human race.c He will dwell with them and they will be his people* and God himself will always be with them [as their God].*4He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there shall be no more death or mourning, wailing or pain, [for] the old order has passed away.”d5The one who sat on the throne* said, “Behold, I make all things new.” Then he said, “Write these words down, for they are trustworthy and true.”e6He said to me, “They are accomplished.* I [am] the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty, I will give a gift from the spring of life-giving water.f7The victor* will inherit these gifts, and I shall be his God, and he will be my son.g8But as for cowards,* the unfaithful, the depraved, murderers, the unchaste, sorcerers, idol-worshipers, and deceivers of every sort, their lot is in the burning pool of fire and sulfur, which is the second death.”h

5. THE GREATEST COMMANDMENT (Matthew 22)

The Greatest Commandment.*34i When the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together,35and one of them [a scholar of the law]* tested him by asking,36“Teacher,* which commandment in the law is the greatest?”37j He said to him,* “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.38This is the greatest and the first commandment.39k The second is like it:* You shall love your neighbor as yourself.40*l The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.”

HUMILITY: FEAR OF THE LORD

When I think of humility, I try to be humble about it. Realizing who I am in the sight of God reinforced my personal center, “Have in you the mind of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 2:5). At the same time, I am so insignificant in the larger scale of humanity, yet I am the only person who can say Jesus is Lord, with the grace of the Holy Spirit. This is not a dichotomy as much as synchronicity.

The fear of the Lord is the first step in the Rule of St. Benedict’s Chapter on Humility. https://christdesert.org/prayer/rule-of-st-benedict/chapter-7-humility/ For me, it is a daily, sometimes even hourly challenge to choose Christ over the world. Pride has a way of sneaking up on me and seducing me with false promises. The great deceiver is one who counts on my struggle with being humble to tempt me with other options that don’t include the love of Christ.

I have wondered about what it means to fear the Lord. Is it being afraid of God because He is powerful and we are weak? Does it mean God is a punisher of those who do not keep His commandments, one to be avoided at all costs because he is so frightening?

This weeks funeral of H.R.H. Prince Philip was the occasion for me to have a thought about fearing the Lord in terms of Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II. I asked God to be merciful on Prince Philip, the Queen, and me. When I looked at the funeral, I saw Her Majesty sitting alone grieving in the choir stalls of the Chapel. She is just like all other human beings, I thought, yet she goes through the same grief that all of us do. Then, it occured to me that seeing her is like fear of the Lord. What does this fear feel like? She is like us but not like us because of her title. This is how I think fear of the Lord can make sense.

I must remind myself that, even when I ask God for his blessings on me, or when I take Christ into my heart in the Eucharist, Jesus is God, or the Christ (anointed one). Humility is my awareness that God is God and I am me, that I am not God. This fear is more like respect like we have for Queen Elizabeth II. Humility helps me to place God number one, with all else falling into place.

PLAYING WITH THE HOLY SPIRIT

In my last Lectio Divina, the Holy Spirit asked me if He could play a game with me. You can imagine my surprise during this meditation. How do you play a game with God the Holy Spirit? I don’t know if all this happened because I had been watching a basketball game earlier, but I said, “Why not?” The Holy Spirit told me, “Here are the rules: everyone wins; there is only one rule, “love God with all your heart, with all your mind, and with all your strength, and your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:36) Here is the game. I will give you the question for you to consider, then give you the answer, if you complete your part of the game. I asked what part of this game is mine. The Holy Spirit answered, “Listen with the ear of your heart.” It does work, this game I played with the Holy Spirit because I realized that these are God’s games, not the one I usually play on god, which is my game. Humility is the key to being in the presence of God and just being happy to listen.

LESSONS

  • God is God and must always be related to as such.
  • Just because Jesus became one of us doesn’t mean we can discount Him also being God.
  • Humility is the beginning of wisdom.
  • Humility allows me to see myself as I am, recognize Christ as not only human but divine.
  • Humility is necessary for me to continue seeking God each day to become more like Christ and less like me.
  • You are not me; I am not you; God is not you, and you, most certainly, are not God.
  • We know what humility is because of Christ (Philippians 2:5-12).
  • Without Faith, there is no humility; without humility, Faith can not be sustained.
  • I know how fear of the Lord feels.

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PERUSING THE OBITUARIES

Old people do weird things. At least in my case, I like to look at the obituaries on my St. Meinrad Alumni website. http://www.saintmeinrad.edu It beats watching the plastic flowers grow in my office.

This may be morbid, but I like to look up those who have passed from this life to the next one and see their accomplishments. Obituaries are all about touting what the deceased has done in their lifetime, but rarely, if ever, looks at their life as having ups and downs.

Reflecting on my Lectio Divina today, my own life came into thoughts and what my obituary would look like. Not one that was written by someone else, read and then forgotten, but one that I wrote and reflects what really was at the core of my life that I want to pass on to my loved ones, you. Here it is, unorthodox as it may be.

OBITUARY OF MICHAEL F. CONRAD

If you are reading this, it means I have died. More correctly, my body is no more, but my life has changed, not ended, and I continue it in Heaven if I am judged to be worthy.

As the world sees it, I have been a complete failure in terms of success and accomplishment. As a management trainer, I never rose above the level of instructor, although I applied to be a manager over twenty-one times. I was not good enough, or, if truth be told, I was probably deemed too old. I never made a lot of money, although I earned more than my dad did, and he was a public school teacher and coach. I spent sixteen years as a Catholic priest, pastor, teacher, and US Army Chaplain but left to seek greener pastures. I found out that the pastures I sought were greener because more manure was on that side of the fence. It seems that everything I tried to do was a failure. To be honest, my life is not a complete waste except in the measurements of the world. I have been accepted by God as an adopted son of the Father on September 29, 1940, and have been given gifts to help me service the journey to forever. Along the way, I was ordained a Roman Catholic Priest and became a pastor, US Army Chaplain. I was Laicized by Pope Benedict XVI and petitioned and was accepted as a Lay Cistercian by Our Lady of the Holy Spirit Monastery (Trappist). I wrote 65+ books on contemplative spirituality (www.amazon.com/books and type in A Lay Cistercian’s Lectio Divina Series) plus a blog on contemplative practices, more specifically Cistercian spirituality as I know it (https://thecenterforcontemplativepractice.org)

Along the way, I have unraveled the divine equation, the six questions each of us must ask and answer before we die. The questions come from my ability to reason and the choices I make for what is authentic about reality. If I get the correct answers, I can fulfill my potential as a human and an adopted son of the Father. I have discovered that Christ alone has the answers to these six questions. Nothing is secret about them. In fact, they are always right in front of my face all along. I just did not see them. They are:

What is the purpose of life? Deuteronomy 6:5 and Matthew 22:36

What is the purpose of my life within that life? Philippians 2:5

What does reality look like? The physical universe, the mental universe, and the spiritual universe

How does it all fit together? The Christ Principle is the answer. John 12:32

How can I love fiercely? John 13:34

You know you are going to die, now what? Seek first the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 6:33

I leave behind my treasures, a wife, Young Soon Conrad, a daughter, Martha Michelle Conrad, plus one brother and four sisters. My parents have gone before me, marked with the sign of Faith (the cross), and await me. I take with me the treasures that are God’s, not mine. My last words are Psalm 27. 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


PERFECT UNION WITH GOD

During our Gathering Day for Lay Cistercians of Our Lady of the Holy Spirit Monastery (Trappist) last month, new Lay Cistercian novices were asked to profess their desire to enter the Novitiate while old novices were asked to make one year promises to be faithful to the Lay Cistercian covenants as Juniors. I am always impressed with the way the Holy Spirit speaks through each of us.

Our topic of discussion was based on Thomas Merton’s book, The Waters of Siloe, Chapter XII.
“The question was: Merton Writes, “Everything in the Cistercian life, every detail of the Rule of St. Benedict, was ordered and interpreted and understood in relation to that one end: perfect union with god (Page 208). What do you think “Perfect union with God” means? How would you describe it to someone? To a child?”

This question about explaining it to a child is one that made me think. Here is what I share with my Lay Cistercian colleagues. I don’t know with perfect union with God is intellectually. This is due to who God is and the tools I have to reach a perfect union. I would talk to a child as a mother would(or the child in each of us) using this language.

Come and sit on my lap and let’s talk. You were asking about how you know God loves you. Let me show you. It is cold outside, don’t you think? I love you so much, that I can’t even express it. That is how God feels. He uses me and your dad to show you how much He cares about you. When I think of how much God loves me, I think of the both of us sitting here in the rocking chair and God wraps both of us in a warm blanket of love, the kind of blanket that is toasty warm. I have a cozy feeling when I feel God’s arms wrapped around me like I do with you. God tells me not to worry about anything. He will take care of me so that I can take care of both of us. That love from God is such a good feeling that I want it to continue forever. It will and it does.

May it be so.

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MOMENTS WITH ST. MICHAEL

THE BACKSTORY

Although it has been over two years ago, I still remember it vividly as though it were yesterday. A group of us gathered together to say Office of Readings, Morning Prayer, Rosary, then then Eucharist at 9:00 a.m. We came together as we could on a consistent basis for several years. During that time, I met several of these men and women on a deeper level when we shared the stirrings of the Holy Spirit with each other after the Eucharist. In particular, George Unglaub, recent convert, his wife, Vanessa, at that time in discernment to join us in the Catholic tradition of those who practice having in them the mind of Christ Jesus (Philippians 2:5) each day, was absolutely rooted in the one concept of “seeing Jesus” in, with, and through reception of the Eucharist. What is remarkable about George is that he did not suffer fools gladly and was a bit of a ladies man before his conversion. Now, all George could talk about was what Jesus did for him, when he went into the tiny chapel at Good Shepherd Catholic Church in Tallahassee, Florida, and just sat there seeking Jesus. What he found changed his life, for sure, but it also changed the lives of his wife, Vanessa, and certainly my own. George was 83 when he died, surrounded by those who surrounded themselves with Christ as their Lord and Savior. When I think of George these days, I am reminded of St. Paul who was nearly struck by lightning and woke up singing the beauty of the resurrection, or St. Augustine, who was a bit of a rake before his conversion (thanks to the prayers of St. Monica) but focused on the love of Christ who was broken on the cross for broken humanity on the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

Moments with St. Michael is my tribute to George and Vanessa and how, through their journey of Faith and Love meandered down the path of righteousness with all us proclaiming Jesus Christ is Son of God, Messiah, and that believing in his name, we might all have eternal life together in Christ. (John 20:30-31)

LECTIO DIVINA

Today, at 2:33 a.m., after my bathroom break, I fell back asleep as is my normal routine, asking St. Michael the Archangel, my namesake and in whose name I was dedicated to Christ on September 29, 1940, The Feast of Michael and all Angels, to put a good word in for me with Jesus. I never presume to control or shape the conversation with St. Michael, things just pop into my head (actually my heart) and I just lay their with my mouth open wondering where it the world that popped into my mind. Here is my latest Moments with St. Michael (with George as my Master of Ceremonies).

My question this time was: If humans cannot look upon the face of God and exist to tell about it because God is pure Love, how can we stand in the presence of God, much less be happy in an existence that has no bearing on the life we have just departed, one of matter, space/time, energy, and has a beginning and an end?

St. Michael: Michael, my lad, do not let your heart be troubled at what you are incapable of knowing, loving or serving in God’s Kingdom. Here is God’s problem. If God, whose nature is so beyond belief and the human experience, that to glimps God as He actually exists would fry your neurons, how can you ask someone to want to fulfill their destiny as humans in a condition where none of the physical attributes that make us matter, time, energy as we know it, exist so that we could relate to them? That is why Jesus came, to save humans from an existence of only seventy or eighty years, and to share with them Love to the extent that each one is capable to receive it as a human. The Christ Principle is the One who lifts up all peoples to Himself, to protect them from the dangerous harm of looking into the Sun without special glasses, to keep their souls, minds, and bodies at their peak, to fulfill the next step in their human evolution, from human to adopted son and daughter of the Father.

Michael, Christ is everything as the way, the truth and the life. If you don’t worry about what you will be in heaven, that might cause your human intelligence to say all of this is meaningless, but if you apply the sign of contradiction (the cross) and have Faith that the words of Christ in Scripture are true, then you will survive to be here with all of us. As we speak, I stand guard at the Gates of Heaven with my flaming sword, the fire of purification. I also stand with you and those who seek my aid to resist the temptations of Satan, the great deceiver, who seeks to keep you from your destiny. I ask you to stand with me in unity with all those of the Church Militant who await their particular judgement before Christ.

Michael, some of the Mysteries of Faith you will never grasp, nor are you capable of knowing. What you can know is how to love others on earth as Christ loves you. That is at the heart of what being a child of God means. Don’t worry. The Blessed Mother, the Saints, the Martyrs, all those have called upon the name of the Lord are one with Christ who makes all things new again and again…forever.

Glory be 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

THE ART OF CONTEMPLATIVE PRACTICE: Waiting

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. 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 really have to give you the last drop of my blood to make restitution for the sin of Adam and Eve? My human nature has doubts about 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 time 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 bring 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 I am tempted 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. 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.

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

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TAKE TIME TO BE ONE SENTENCE

I may be making a grand assumption that you have read my blog on TAKE TIME TO READ TEN SENTENCES. I want to see if you can read ten sentences that may be life changing, then you might take time to read JUST ONE sentence, one that you have selected as the core of what makes life worth living.

If you could choose just one sentence or phrase as the center of your life and focus on that center with all your heart, all your mind, all your strength, would it change you for the better, or just make life interesting.

Write down your one sentence. Have a passion about it so much so that you would trade or sell all the money in your bank, all your houses, your cars, your inheritance to posses and keep it (having and keeping something are different sets of skills). What would that center be?

This is the second, in what I consider are the six fundamental questions each human must ask and answer to reach fulfillment (now and in heaven). The six questions are:

  • 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 that you are going to die, now what?

If you do have the Christ Principle as your center, all your actions, your motivations, your goals, are all informed in, with, and through Jesus. In this context, being a Lay Cistercian makes so much sense, since my whole focus is on moving from my false self to my true self uses Cistercian practices and charisms (as I know them).

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TAKE TIME TO READ TEN SENTENCES

One of my more reckless endeavors in Lectio Divina (Philippians 2:5) is to say to the Holy Spirit “I am here, what is on your mind?” This has a risk associated with it because my the capacity and the capability for me to assimilate and accumulate pure energy from the Holy Spirit is extremely limited. Perhaps that is why St. Thomas Aquinas gave up trying to comprehend and contain the fullness of who God is and just tried to believe with all his mind, all his heart, and all his strength. (Deuteronomy 6:5).

We, humans, want everything right now. Actually, it takes a lifetime to learn how to love in human terms and to practice the art of contemplation in spiritual terms. Some of us get it and some never do. Impatience with results is a distraction when I am trying to meditate and hopefully move on to contemplate.

TEN SENTENCES THAT WILL TAKE ME A LIFETIME OF SEEKING TO UNRAVEL ITS MYSTERY

  1. Seek God every day where you are and as you are. Each day begin a new opportunity to expand the capacitas dei in my capacity to love others as Christ loved us. Each day, I am just a bit better than I was the day before because of the Christ Principle.
  2. It your life is easy, maybe you are not living the correct life. You are signed with the mark of the cross for a reason. Do you know how to take up your cross daily and follow Christ? Daily.
  3. In the beginning was the Word.
  4. The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us.
  5. The purpose of Scriptures is to give us examples of how to love others as Christ loved us. (John 20:30-31)
  6. You have not chosen me, I have chosen you from the world began.
  7. My flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. (John 6)
  8. Mercy will be shown to those who show mercy to those around them.
  9. Do not overcome evil with evil but overcome evil with good.
  10. Place your light on a stand so that it might shine for all to see your good works and give glory to the Father.

If you read these ten sentences and think about them, do they do anything to bring you closer to having in you the mind of Christ Jesus?

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THE CHRIST PRINCIPLE: RESURRECTION MOMENT

May you experience the joy of Christ being raised from the dead as did the Apostles and followers on that moment in time that opened to our adoption as sons and daughters of the Father. Although this event happened or didn’t happen, if you should be one of those who do not believe Jesus is Son of God, Savior, all reality is now centered around the Christ Principle as purpose and meaning for humans. Humans now had the opportunity to reach another plateau of their natural progression, that of fulfilling the failed attempt of Adam and Eve to be friends of God and heirs of His Kingdom. The Kingdom of Heaven is the result of Christ taking on our human nature, becoming sin, as St. Paul says, the ransom for many, the way, the truth, and the life. All we individuals, who only live seventy or eighty years, if we are strong, have to do is enter this kingdom of heaven on earth using our free will and sustain ourselves against the minefields set out to entangle us in our own weaknesses and folly by Satan and his minions.

The Christ Principle is the Son of God made human through the power of the Holy Spirit in a vessel so pure and spotless for a human, that God overshadowed this person with grace to extent that her humanity could not hold another drop of the divine presence. She was Mary and her response is the type of all responses made by all others after her, “Be it done to me according to Your Word.”

The Resurrection is the ultimate sign of contradiction and makes no sense if God became one of us only to just show us how to die a death that is brave in the face of being wrongly convicted of a political crime. It does make sense if you apply the Christ Principle, which says that all reality may be understood with the Rule of Opposites. Three concepts in my book entitled The Three Rules of the Spiritual Universe, are that the world does not know the answers to the six questions humans need to ask and answer themselves to attain the fullness of their human nature.

The Rule of Opposites is that the six questions we must all answer before we die is not possible using only the logic or science or philosophy or psychology that the world provides. It is only with the spiritual universe, the sign of contradiction that we can answer these six questions correctly. The six questions 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?
  • What does it mean to love fiercely?
  • We know we are going to die, now what?

WHAT IF…

What if, like skeptics who think there is a great conspiracy by early believers, there is no resurrection?

There is no purpose beyond what is meaningful for you.

You should get all you can out of life, while you live.

Death is the end, not a phrase of transformation.

All this spirituality about Lay Cistercians is just la-la land.

There is no hope for anything beyond the grave.

Everything you believe about the Trinity, the Church, Contemplation is so much make-believe.

Faith is a myth.

Love is measured by you not something outside of yourself.

We say we are saved by Christ by his passion, death, and resurrection. Saved from what? Whenever I use the Christ Principle as my measurement for these six questions, I get answers that do not make sense in terms of what the world says is true. This contradiction actually makes sense as answers to these six questions of human nature.

My hope is that the words of Christ to his followers are true.

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CREEPING TOWARDS THE PAROUSIA

Three things we humans are conditioned to do because of Original Sin are:

  • expect immediate results;
  • become restless and anancy when we are not doing something, anything to fill up dead time;
  • become compulsive about filling in the hole in our lives.

I have noticed these tendencies in myself some time ago, but it is only when I began to discover the contemplative side of my being that the change has become noticeable. This change is the application of Cistercian practices (as I know them) to how I perceive the whole realm of the Sacred. The change is almost imperceptible except for the behavioral change in how I think, what my priorities are, how I have slowed down life to, as they say in the slogan, “smell the flowers.”

The Parousia is the end result, the terminus of all efforts on earth to be with Jesus in Heaven. It is the Second Coming of Jesus, the resurrection of the body we recite in our Creed, the fulfillment of what it means to be human, and the full circle from Garden of Eden through the Garden of Gethsemane to the Kingdom of Heaven. My particular journey from false self to true self in the Christ Principle, has been one of minute changes, baby steps, as I practice each day to seek God where I am and as I am. As I wobble down the pathways of whatever I confront each day, it is like taking a nap and then waking up to a world where I am not the same person, although I only see life as one day at a time. Here are a few observations about my current behavior that I am convinced is due to the silence and solitude of trying to approach life from a contemplative point of view.

I AM MORE AWARE OF THE SILENCE AND SOLITUDE OF CONTEMPLATION AS I ENCOUNTER IT. I moved from taking an hour or more to place myself in a situation where I might experience silence and solitude (no phones, no talking with others about anything, or no watching television or YouTube) to being content to use what time I do have and make still my heart just to be present to Christ and await the Holy Spirit. I am learning to say less and listen more “with the ear of the heart” as St. Benedict bid us do in his Prologue to the Rule. I have not mastered it yet, nor will I even do so, but I am now more aware of what is going on around me.

I DO NOT THINK OF CISTERCIAN PRACTICES AS ACTIVITIES TO BE ACCOMPLISHED AS MUCH AS OPPORTUNITIES WHERE I AM PRESENT TO CHRIST AND LISTEN. I am more aware that life is not about filling holes with STUFF but with the Christ Principle.

I DO NOT WORRY ABOUT ABOUT A TIME TO DO THIS OR THAT CISTERCIAN PRACTICE, ALTHOUGH I FIND I AM PRAYING MORE THAN EVER. The change here is that the whole day becomes an opportunity to seek God in whatever comes my way (or doesn’t).

I CAN SEE JESUS IN THAT WHICH IS HIDDEN OR INVISIBLE. The problem with invisibility is you can’t see it. I am in the process of becoming more and more aware that what I have done in the past is linked through, with, and in the Christ Principle of the NOW to what I hope will come about in the future. I am reflecting more and more on my past failings and using this to try to transform how I act NOW. I can’t redo the past, but I can learn from my mistakes and ask God’s mercy on my faults and failings. I am not sin-centered but love-centered more and more. I am not there yet, but am aware of much more of the transformational processes at work within me due to just being in the presence of the Holy Spirit. I actually feel the overshadowing which envelopes me like a warm blanket and keeps me toasty warm.

I AM MORE KEENLY AWARE THAT IT IS NOT I WHO TRANSFORMS MY SPIRIT BUT THE HOLY SPIRIT IN SILENCE AND SOLITUDE MAKING A NEW PERSON CARVED IN THE IMAGE OF CHRIST. I realize that I must continue to be faithful to the promises I made in my Cistercian promises to Christ. That new person, the person I am being transformed into is ever so subtly inching toward the Second Coming. I am aware of more, I see Jesus more in daily living, like a souse who loves their significant others each hour of the day, what propels me forward is the desire to be with Jesus now and in the future in heaven, that permanent state of love and peace, the Parousia.

I DON’T WORRY ABOUT BEING CISTERCIAN IN PRACTICE AS THE TERMINUS, BUT RATHER SEEK GOD BY PRACTICING OVER AND OVER HOW TO LOVE CHRIST IN CISTERCIAN PRACTICES AND CHRISMS, THOSE THAT BRING ME INTO THE PRESENCE OF GOD, THEN LET GOD JUST BE AND I LISTEN WITH THE EAR OF THE HEART. THIS IS COSMIC RESONANCE AND ITS RESULT IN THE CANTICLE WE RECITE IN THE LITURGY OF THE HOURS ON SUNDAYS. Chapter 3 of the Book of Daniel has a powerful insight into how all creation, including me, praises God by just being. Read the Canticle three time: First time read it for meaning; the second time, read it slowly realizing all creation love the Christ Principle just by being what they are created to be: the third time, pray these words that you become one with the totality of all that is in a hymn of praise and “glory to God the Father and God the Son and God the Holy Spirit, now and forever. The God who is, who was, and who is to come at the end of the ages.” –Cistercian doxology. I have included the whole text so that you get the context of this Hymn of Creation.

The Fiery Furnace.1King Nebuchadnezzar had a golden statue made, sixty cubits high and six cubits wide, which he set up in the plain of Dura* in the province of Babylon.2He then ordered the satraps,* prefects, and governors, the counselors, treasurers, judges, magistrates and all the officials of the provinces to be summoned to the dedication of the statue which he had set up.3The satraps, prefects, governors, counselors, treasurers, judges, magistrates, and all the provinces’ officials came together for the dedication. They stood before the statue which King Nebuchadnezzar had set up.4A herald cried out: “Nations and peoples of every language,5* when you hear the sound of the horn, pipe, zither, dulcimer, harp, double-flute, and all the other musical instruments, you must fall down and worship the golden statue which King Nebuchadnezzar has set up.6Whoever does not fall down, and worship shall be instantly cast into a white-hot furnace.”7Therefore, as soon as they heard the sound of the horn, pipe, zither, dulcimer, harp, double-flute, and all the other musical instruments, the nations and peoples of every language all fell down and worshiped the golden statue which King Nebuchadnezzar had set up.8At that point, some of the Chaldeans came and accused the Jews9to King Nebuchadnezzar: “O king, live forever!10O king, you issued a decree that everyone who heard the sound of the horn, pipe, zither, dulcimer, harp, and double-flute, and all the other musical instruments should fall down and worship the golden statue;11whoever did not was to be cast into a white-hot furnace.12There are certain Jews whom you have made administrators of the province of Babylon: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego; these men, O king, have paid no attention to you; they will not serve your god or worship the golden statue which you set up.”13Nebuchadnezzar flew into a rage and sent for Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who were promptly brought before the king.14King Nebuchadnezzar questioned them: “Is it true, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, that you will not serve my god or worship the golden statue that I set up?15Now, if you are ready to fall down and worship the statue I made, whenever you hear the sound of the horn, pipe, zither, dulcimer, harp, double-flute, and all the other musical instruments, then all will be well;* if not, you shall be instantly cast into the white-hot furnace; and who is the God who can deliver you out of my hands?”16Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered King Nebuchadnezzar, “There is no need for us to defend ourselves before you in this matter.17If our God, whom we serve, can save us* from the white-hot furnace and from your hands, O king, may he save us!18But even if he will not, you should know, O king, that we will not serve your god or worship the golden statue which you set up.”19Nebuchadnezzar’s face became livid with utter rage against Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. He ordered the furnace to be heated seven times more than usual20and had some of the strongest men in his army bind Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. He cast them into the white-hot furnace.21They were bound and cast into the white-hot furnace with their trousers, shirts, hats, and other garments,22for the king’s order, was urgent. So huge a fire was kindled in the furnace that the flames devoured the men who threw Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego into it.23But these three fell, bound, into the midst of the white-hot furnace.

Prayer of Azariah.*24They walked about in the flames, singing to God and blessing the Lord.25Azariah* stood up in the midst of the fire and prayed aloud:

26“Blessed are you, and praiseworthy,

O Lord, the God of our ancestors,

and glorious forever is your name.

27For you are just in all you have done;

all your deeds are faultless, all your ways right,

and all your judgments proper.

28You have executed proper judgments

in all that you have brought upon us

and upon Jerusalem, the holy city of our ancestors.

By a proper judgment you have done all this

because of our sins;

29For we have sinned and transgressed

by departing from you,

and we have done every kind of evil.

30Your commandments we have not heeded or observed,

nor have we done as you ordered us for our good.

31Therefore all you have brought upon us,

all you have done to us,

you have done by a proper judgment.

32You have handed us over to our enemies,

lawless and hateful rebels;

to an unjust king, the worst in all the world.

33Now we cannot open our mouths;

shame and reproach have come upon us,

your servants, who revere you.

34For your name’s sake, do not deliver us up forever,

or make void your covenant.

35Do not take away your mercy from us,

for the sake of Abraham, your beloved,

Isaac your servant, and Israel your holy one,

36To whom you promised to multiply their offspring

like the stars of heaven,

or the sand on the shore of the sea.

37For we are reduced, O Lord, beyond any other nation,

brought low everywhere in the world this day

because of our sins.

38We have in our day no prince, prophet, or leader,

no burnt offering, sacrifice, oblation, or incense,

no place to offer first fruits, to find favor with you.

39But with contrite heart and humble spirit

let us be received;

As though it were burnt offerings of rams and bulls,

or tens of thousands of fat lambs,

40So let our sacrifice be in your presence today

and find favor before you;

for those who trust in you cannot be put to shame.

41And now we follow you with our whole heart,

we fear you and we seek your face.

Do not put us to shame,

42but deal with us in your kindness and great mercy.

43Deliver us in accord with your wonders,

and bring glory to your name, O Lord:

44Let all those be put to shame

who inflict evils on your servants;

Let them be shamed and powerless,

and their strength broken;

45Let them know that you alone are the Lord God,

glorious over the whole world.”46Now the king’s servants who had thrown them in continued to stoke the furnace with naphtha, pitch, tow, and brush.47The flames rose forty-nine cubits above the furnace,48and spread out, burning the Chaldeans that it caught around the furnace.49But the angel of the Lord went down into the furnace with Azariah and his companions, drove the fiery flames out of the furnace,50and made the inside of the furnace as though a dew-laden breeze were blowing through it. The fire in no way touched them or caused them pain or harm.51Then these three in the furnace with one voice sang, glorifying and blessing God:

52“Blessed are you, O Lord, the God of our ancestors,

praiseworthy and exalted above all forever;

And blessed is your holy and glorious name,

praiseworthy and exalted above all for all ages.

53Blessed are you in the temple of your holy glory,

praiseworthy and glorious above all forever.

54Blessed are you on the throne of your kingdom,

praiseworthy and exalted above all forever.

55Blessed are you who look into the depths

from your throne upon the cherubim,

praiseworthy and exalted above all forever.

56Blessed are you in the firmament of heaven,

praiseworthy and glorious forever.

57Bless the Lord, all you works of the Lord,

praise and exalt him above all forever.

58Angels of the Lord, bless the Lord,

praise and exalt him above all forever.

59You heavens, bless the Lord,

praise and exalt him above all forever.a

60All you waters above the heavens, bless the Lord,

praise and exalt him above all forever.

61All you powers, bless the Lord;

praise and exalt him above all forever.

62Sun and moon, bless the Lord;

praise and exalt him above all forever.

63Stars of heaven, bless the Lord;

praise and exalt him above all forever.

64Every shower and dew, bless the Lord;

praise and exalt him above all forever.

65All you winds, bless the Lord;

praise and exalt him above all forever.

66Fire and heat, bless the Lord;

praise and exalt him above all forever.

67Cold and chill, bless the Lord;

praise and exalt him above all forever.

68Dew and rain, bless the Lord;

praise and exalt him above all forever.

69Frost and chill, bless the Lord;

praise and exalt him above all forever.

70Hoarfrost and snow, bless the Lord;

praise and exalt him above all forever.

71Nights and days, bless the Lord;

praise and exalt him above all forever.

72Light and darkness, bless the Lord;

praise and exalt him above all forever.

73Lightnings and clouds, bless the Lord;

praise and exalt him above all forever.

74Let the earth bless the Lord,

praise and exalt him above all forever.

75Mountains and hills, bless the Lord;

praise and exalt him above all forever.

76Everything growing on earth, bless the Lord;

praise and exalt him above all forever.

77You springs, bless the Lord;

praise and exalt him above all forever.

78Seas and rivers, bless the Lord;

praise and exalt him above all forever.

79You sea monsters and all water creatures, bless the Lord;

praise and exalt him above all forever.

80All you birds of the air, bless the Lord;

praise and exalt him above all forever.

81All you beasts, wild and tame, bless the Lord;

praise and exalt him above all forever.

82All you mortals, bless the Lord;

praise and exalt him above all forever.

83O Israel, bless the Lord;

praise and exalt him above all forever.

84Priests of the Lord, bless the Lord;

praise and exalt him above all forever.

85Servants of the Lord, bless the Lord;

praise and exalt him above all forever.

86Spirits and souls of the just, bless the Lord;

praise and exalt him above all forever.

87Holy and humble of heart, bless the Lord;

praise and exalt him above all forever.

88Hananiah, Azariah, Mishael, bless the Lord;

praise and exalt him above all forever.

For he has delivered us from Sheol,

and saved us from the power of death;

He has freed us from the raging flame

and delivered us from the fire.

89Give thanks to the Lord, who is good,

whose mercy endures forever.

90Bless the God of gods, all you who fear the Lord;

praise and give thanks,

for his mercy endures forever.”

Deliverance from the Furnace.91Then King Nebuchadnezzar was startled and rose in haste, asking his counselors, “Did we not cast three men bound into the fire?” “Certainly, O king,” they answered.92“But,” he replied, “I see four men unbound and unhurt, walking in the fire, and the fourth looks like a son of God.”93Then Nebuchadnezzar came to the opening of the white-hot furnace and called: “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, servants of the Most High God, come out.” Thereupon Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego came out of the fire.94When the satraps, prefects, governors, and counselors of the king came together, they saw that the fire had had no power over the bodies of these men; not a hair of their heads had been singed, nor were their garments altered; there was not even a smell of fire about them.95Nebuchadnezzar exclaimed, “Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who sent his angel to deliver the servants that trusted in him; they disobeyed the royal command and yielded their bodies rather than serve or worship any god except their own God.96Therefore I decree for nations and peoples of every language that whoever blasphemes the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego shall be cut to pieces and his house made into a refuse heap. For there is no other God who can rescue like this.”97Then the king promoted Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the province of Babylon.98* King Nebuchadnezzar to the nations and peoples of every language, wherever they dwell on earth: May your peace abound!99It has seemed good to me to publish the signs and wonders which the Most High God has accomplished in my regard.

100How great are his signs, how mighty his wonders;

his kingship is an everlasting kingship,

and his dominion endures through all generations.b

I AM MORE CONSCIOUS OF THE GREEN OF THE TREES AND THE PASSIONATE COLORS OF THE SUNSET THAN BEFORE. I DON’T TAKE FOR GRANTED THE BLUE SKY, THE VARIETY OF GREEN TREES, THE ORANGE TREE IN MY FRONT YARD, OR THE SMELL OF THE NEW DAY AS I BEGIN TO SEEK GOD THAT DAY. ALL GIVE GLORY TO THE FATHER.

As I inch forwards toward Point Omega for me and the Alpha and Omega in the Christ Principle, what is important are not THINGS at all but the power of love as demonstrated by the Resurrection and Ascension.

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THE LITANY OF REDEMPTION

On this Good Friday, my reflections wander through the great love Christ had for us to lay down his life for us, we who can’t even keep watch with him in the Garden of Gethsemane. Humans, wounded by Original Sin, are redeemed by God becomeing one of us to do for us what we could not do because of our human nature. The price for this redemption was a sacrificial offering, the fulfillment of the sacrifice of Abraham, the completion of the Forty years wandering in the desert, the Word made flesh and dwelling among us to show us the way, the truth, and the life. And even when we humans were given the Ten Commandments, we worshiped the Golden Calf instead, we mocked did not heed the prophets to repent of our sins, we even killed the Son of the Father whom He sent into the world to show us how to be adopted sons and daughters of the Father. When Christ needed us the most, we were found asleep three times in the Garden of Gethsemane. Christ keep tell us us to pray that we not enter into temptation, but true to our nature, we slept through it all. Christ died on the cross as a ransom for many, but only John and his Mother and friends were weeping at the foot of the cross. After his death, he appeared to many, including the Apostles and disciples cowering in fear and without hope in the Upper Room. Jesus, once more, left his Real Presence for us in the form of the Second Advocate, the Spirit of Truth, to guide and energize those remnants who would be faithful to try to love others as Christ loved us. Without Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit to sustain us, we lose our Faith no matter that we believe. The power of the Resurrection exists each and every day we seek God as we are, wherever we are. We lower our eyes to the dust from which we all came, not daring to look upon the one we have all crucified with our sleeping and failure to accept Jesus as our Savior, Messiah (John 20:30-31), asking only that Jesus, Son of David, to have mercy on us all, sinners. The resurrection happens each time we rise above this apathy we have created by choosing self over God. This resurrection is my chance today to rise above my slugglishness and preoccupation with putting me before I first seek the kingdom of heaven this day. Each day is a resurrection. Each day is an opportunity for me to rise above my false self to move, every so silently and slowly to God, with God’s own energy as my reward.

Here is prayer on this Good Friday that I received this morning. It is not mine, but given to me as I contemplated on the sign of the cross, the contradiction of the world, the promise of our future glory. I would ask that you read this three time, each time more slowly than before. The first time, read it for the words; the second time, pray it that God may be merciful to you and your loved ones; the third time, think Church Universal and pray for all of humans that God will be merciful and forgive the foolishness of our human nature and bring us the peace and love of Christ to share with others around us.

The passion and death by itself would be enough, but the resurrection and ascension of Christ to the Father completed the cycle and bring resonance to the dissonance of Adam and Eve (all humanity). In the section that follows the Litany, make sure that you listen to the Exultet Jam Angelica, the ancient song of the Joy that comes from waking up to the Spirit in each of us so that we can proclaim Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of the Father. When you feel Easter in your heart as did the Apostles in the Upper Room, you have placed God in his rightful place as way, truth, and life. That in all things, may God be glorified.

THE LITANY OF MERCY AND REDEMPTION

Jesus, Our Savior, stay by our side as we weave our way down the path life has given us. We beseech you, hear us.

Lord of Love, we repent of our sins and ask for the grace of the Holy Spirit to be with us each day as we seek to do your will. We beseech you, hear us.

Lord of Light, we seek to love others as you loved us. Give us your life-giving energy on our way this day. We beseech you, hear us.

Emmanuel, God with us, we ask your forgiveness for our sins of neglect and laziness to praise you each day as we can. We beseech you, hear us.

Lord of our minds and hearts, may we sit next to you on a park bench in the middle of winter and just be with you to listen in the stillness of the snow. May it be so, Lord Jesus.

God of mercy, may we have in us the mind of Christ Jesus to flood our hearts with your Holy Spirit and call you “Abba”, Father. May it be so, Lord Jesus

God of mercy, we ask mercy on your Church for its sins against those who do not believe as we do, against innocent children by fallen clergy, against the coverups by those who seek what is easy rather than what is right. Be merciful to us, O Lord.

THE REWARD OF THE RESURRECTION

The depth of your Lenten conversion will be the reward you experience in the joy of the Resurrection. Reward always comes at the end of a period of challenge, prayer, fasting, almsgiving, and denying oneself to follow Christ each day. If you do not feel the joy of the presence of Christ as you moved from your false self to your true self, maybe you did not move at all. The price Christ paid for redemption was to suffer, die, and return with humanity as a gift to the Father in reparation for the sins of Adam and Eve. If we should follow Christ, should we do no less in our hearts?

THE EXULTET JAM ANGELICA

Listen to the ancient song of deliverance with the “ear of your heart”. (St. Benedict’s Prolog to the Rule)

Here is a wonderful YouTube from the place where I went to school, St. Meinrad Archabbey, Indiana. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vmx-LA4kadQ This is the Exultet, the Easter Song of Joy.  Listen to it and savor the words.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g4cXnHTUCY4 

Joyful Easter! 

THE JOY IN THE RESURRECTION

May the Peace of Christ be with you. This is not the peace that the world gives but the presence of Christ’s love in us and through us to our unique world. Here are a few of my reflections as a result of my Lectio Divina (Philippians 2:5).

  • There can be no joy of the Resurrection unless each of us pays the price for that treasure. This one time a year reminder of the Resurrection is just a remembrance of each day where we must die to ourselves to rise with Christ to new life. It is not a one-time event, but something that we infuse into each day to give us meaning and purpose. It becomes so automatic that we sometimes don’t appreciate it fully. The Church Calendar provides those willing to pay the price of their free will and time to enter into this joy. Contemplation is free but it costs you abandoning everything for the love of Christ.
  • The more you prepare for this cosmic event of the Resurrection the more you will realize what it is in your life, something you would sell all you have to possess. If this is not the case, the train has left you standing at the station once again, as it has me in the past.
  • The Resurrection is a sign of contradiction, a paradox that cannot be explained by the world in which we live. If you can’t see this, then you need to clean the glasses you received from God at your Baptism. You put those on when you accepted Christ as your Savior, the Messiah (John 20:30-31) and if you can’t see, you need to receive the Sacrament of Making All Things New (Reconciliation) to wipe them with the cloth Mary used to wipe Christ’s face while he hung on the cross. This is total folly to the Gentiles and a stumbling block for the Jews, but for those who keep trying to have in them the mind of Christ Jesus (Philippians 2:5) each day, it is a joy that comes from abandoning all THINGS in favor of possessing the heart of Christ.
  • Church is not only the place you go to on Easter to fulfill your obligation as a Catholic, it is much more. Church is taking the mystery of the Eucharist that happens in that building into your heart and carrying it with you each day. You are a Christopher (Christ-bearer). To those that love Him, Christ has entrusted His own love to us to share it with those around us.
  • It is not you who have chosen Christ (although we believe in Him) but rather we are chosen by the Father to be adopted sons and daughters. At the Nativity, we are blessed that God loved us so much that he gave his only begotten Son to be our Savior, to pay the price for our redemption by dying on the cross and voluntarily giving up his life for the sins of humanity. 
  • One of the most horrifying pictures of the Devil in my mind is one where I see him laughing uncontrollably at me because I was too busy with my agenda to see the true reality of the Resurrection unfolding around me each day. Satan would say to me, “You fool! You had everything in that life could possibly offer you, riches, cars, adulation, fame, happiness with your family, and you missed the total purpose why you are here. You had all the hints and chances in the world to see Christ but you were blinded by your own pride and obstinance. You were so preoccupied with yourself that you did not even know what you did not know, that you are destined to be an heir of the kingdom of heaven. You blew it! Welcome to my kingdom where I will remind you every day how ignorant and lazy you were to think that you could be god. God even sent his Son to give you the divine equation with which you could have unlocked the mysteries of life itself, but you could not see nor hear what Christ told you. You failed to go within you to listen to your heart. You got what you deserved, ME, forever. Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! “
  • See what Satan looks like, at least in the movie, “The Little Prince.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xXonK8EBqmk
  • The Resurrection means Christ is alive, now, each day, just as He was when he walked the streets of Jerusalem and felt the warm sun on His face. The Eucharist is the proclamation of Faith that Jesus does not die but is present transubstantially as the body of blood of Christ, true soul, and divinity of the Son of God. If you don’t believe this, you need to wipe off your glasses again. Reason alone won’t get you there, any more than reason alone can bring you, love. 
  • The Christ Principle is the solution to the formula of divinity, the divine equation. There are three separate universes: physical, mental, and spiritual. The Christ Principle is the spiritual universe and makes all things new.

OTHER SITES YOU SHOULD KNOW ABOUT Here is a wonderful YouTube from the place where I went to school, St. Meinrad Archabbey, Indiana. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vmx-LA4kadQ This is the Exultet, the Easter Song of Joy.  Listen to it and savor the words.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g4cXnHTUCY4 Joyful Easter! 

LENTEN CONVERSION: Scariest scripture passage

My picture of Scripture is one of a series of love letters to humans, telling how much God wants us to be with Him in Heaven as our terminal state of being. Sometimes, I think of Scriptures are presenting a frightening picture of the consequences that a human has as a result of abandoning hope and accepting darkness instead of light in their heart. I can still remember sitting in the back of the Church, reading my Scripture about the passion, death, and resurrection of Christ and coming across this passage in St. John’s Gospel. It is only four words long but caused me to have goosebumps.

I want you to read this passage from St. John’s Gospel five times. Each time, slow it down from the previous one. Each time, focus on just one point of how it relates to where you are spiritually or in terms of your contemplative journey. I have bolded the passage that I think is one of the most terrifying in all of the Scriptures. Do you agree? Think about other terrifying passages.

The Washing of the Disciples’ Feet.*1 Before the feast of Passover,* Jesus knew that his hour had come to pass from this world to the Father. He loved his own in the world and he loved them to the end.a2The devil had already induced* Judas, son of Simon the Iscariot, to hand him over. So, during supper,b 3 fully aware that the Father had put everything into his power and that he had come from God and was returning to God,c 4 he rose from supper and took off his outer garments. He took a towel and tied it around his waist. 5* Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feetd and dry them with the towel around his waist 6 He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Master, are you going to wash my feet?” 7 Jesus answered and said to him, “What I am doing, you do not understand now, but you will understand later.” 8 Peter said to him, “You will never wash my feet.” Jesus answered him, “Unless I wash you, you will have no inheritance with me.”e9Simon Peter said to him, “Master, then not only my feet, but my hands and head as well.”10Jesus said to him, “Whoever has bathed* has no need except to have his feet washed, for he is clean all over; so you are clean, but not all.”f11 For he knew who would betray him; for this reason, he said, “Not all of you are clean.”g 12 So when he had washed their feet [and] put his garments back on and reclined at table again, he said to them, “Do you realize what I have done for you? 13 You call me ‘teacher’ and ‘master,’ and rightly so, for indeed I am.h14 If I, therefore, the master and teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash one another’s feet. 15 I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do.i16 Amen, amen, I say to you, no slave is greater than his master nor any messenger* greater than the one who sent him.j17 If you understand this, blessed are you if you do it.18 I am not speaking of all of you. I know those whom I have chosen. But so that the scripture might be fulfilled, ‘The one who ate my food has raised his heel against me.’k19 From now on I am telling you before it happens, so that when it happens you may believe that I AM. 20 Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever receives the one I send receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me.”l

Announcement of Judas’s Betrayal.m 21 When he had said this, Jesus was deeply troubled and testified, “Amen, amen, I say to you, one of you will betray me.” 22 The disciples looked at one another, at a loss as to whom he meant.23One of his disciples, the one whom Jesus loved,* was reclining at Jesus’ side.n24 So Simon Peter nodded to him to find out whom he meant. 25 He leaned back against Jesus’ chest and said to him, “Master, who is it?”o 26 Jesus answered, “It is the one to whom I hand the morsel* after I have dipped it.” So he dipped the morsel and [took it and] handed it to Judas, son of Simon the Iscariot. 27 After he took the morsel, Satan entered him. So Jesus said to him, “What you are going to do, do quickly.”p 28 [Now] none of those reclining at table realized why he said this to him. 29 Some thought that since Judas kept the money bag, Jesus had told him, “Buy what we need for the feast,” or to give something to the poor.q 30 So he took the morsel and left at once. And it was night.

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

THE HERESY OF THE INDIVIDUAL

Heresies are not something I write about very often, in fact, I would not be writing about this topic at all except that it presented itself to be at 2:30 a.m. this morning as part of my Lectio Divina. My Lectio Divina has always been Philippians 2:5. This morning I waited for Christ to stop by to chat, and thus the topic. I don’t control those topics, but I like to push deeper to discover what might be hidden.

At first, it seemed like this topic was like falling down the rabbit hole as in “Alice in Wonderland,” gradually, as they most always do, questions pop forth. Such questions are: What is heresy? Why should I worry about something that doesn’t mean anything? What are the characteristics of the heresy of the individual? What can I do to keep from being seduced by this insidious thought process? Am I a heretic?

What is heresy?

I used the Catechism of the Catholic Church, one of my favorite sources for meditative reading, outside the Scriptures, to find out what it means to be a heretic. I offer you this quote in its entirety for your Lenten meditations. Read it at least three times. The Christ Principle is the one core against which all reality is measured. Look it up for yourself at: https://www.usccb.org/beliefs-and-teachings/what-we-believe/catechism/catechism-of-the-catholic-church

PART THREE
LIFE IN CHRIST

SECTION TWO
THE TEN COMMANDMENTS

CHAPTER ONE
“YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND”

ARTICLE 1
THE FIRST COMMANDMENT
I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself a graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them or serve them.3

It is written: “You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.”4

I. “YOU SHALL WORSHIP THE LORD YOUR GOD AND HIM ONLY SHALL YOU SERVE”

2084 God makes himself known by recalling his all-powerful loving, and liberating action in the history of the one he addresses: “I brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.” The first word contains the first commandment of the Law: “You shall fear the LORD your God; you shall serve him. . . . You shall not go after other gods.”5 God’s first call and just demand is that man accept him and worship him.

2085 The one and true God first reveals his glory to Israel.6 The revelation of the vocation and truth of man is linked to the revelation of God. Man’s vocation is to make God manifest by acting in conformity with his creation “in the image and likeness of God”:There will never be another God, Trypho, and there has been no other since the world began . . . than he who made and ordered the universe. We do not think that our God is different from yours. He is the same who brought your fathers out of Egypt “by his powerful hand and his outstretched arm.” We do not place our hope in some other god, for there is none, but in the same God as you do: the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.7

2086 “The first commandment embraces faith, hope, and charity. When we say ‘God’ we confess a constant, unchangeable being, always the same, faithful and just, without any evil. It follows that we must necessarily accept his words and have complete faith in him and acknowledge his authority. He is almighty, merciful, and infinitely beneficent. Who could not place all hope in him? Who could not love him when contemplating the treasures of goodness and love he has poured out on us? Hence the formula God employs in the Scripture at the beginning and end of his commandments: ‘I am the LORD.'”8

Faith

2087 Our moral life has its source in faith in God who reveals his love to us. St. Paul speaks of the “obedience of faith”9 as our first obligation. He shows that “ignorance of God” is the principle and explanation of all moral deviations.10 Our duty toward God is to believe in him and to bear witness to him.

2088 The first commandment requires us to nourish and protect our faith with prudence and vigilance, and to reject everything that is opposed to it. There are various ways of sinning against faith:

Voluntary doubt about the faith disregards or refuses to hold as true what God has revealed and the Church proposes for belief. Involuntary doubt refers to hesitation in believing, difficulty in overcoming objections connected with the faith, or also anxiety aroused by its obscurity. If deliberately cultivated doubt can lead to spiritual blindness.

2089 Incredulity is the neglect of revealed truth or the willful refusal to assent to it. “Heresy is the obstinate post-baptismal denial of some truth which must be believed with divine and catholic faith, or it is likewise an obstinate doubt concerning the same; apostasy is the total repudiation of the Christian faith; schism is the refusal of submission to the Roman Pontiff or of communion with the members of the Church subject to him.”11

* Hope

2090 When God reveals Himself and calls him, man cannot fully respond to the divine love by his own powers. He must hope that God will give him the capacity to love Him in return and to act in conformity with the commandments of charity. Hope is the confident expectation of divine blessing and the beatific vision of God; it is also the fear of offending God’s love and of incurring punishment.

2091 The first commandment is also concerned with sins against hope, namely, despair and presumption:

By despair, man ceases to hope for his personal salvation from God, for help in attaining it or for the forgiveness of his sins. Despair is contrary to God’s goodness, to his justice – for the Lord is faithful to his promises – and to his mercy.

2092 There are two kinds of presumption. Either man presumes upon his own capacities, (hoping to be able to save himself without help from on high), or he presumes upon God’s almighty power or his mercy (hoping to obtain his forgiveness without conversion and glory without merit).

* Charity

2093 Faith in God’s love encompasses the call and the obligation to respond with sincere love to divine charity. The first commandment enjoins us to love God above everything and all creatures for him and because of him.12

2094 One can sin against God’s love in various ways:

– indifference neglects or refuses to reflect on divine charity; it fails to consider its prevenient goodness and denies its power.

– ingratitude fails or refuses to acknowledge divine charity and to return him love for love.

– lukewarmness is hesitation or negligence in responding to divine love; it can imply refusal to give oneself over to the prompting of charity.

– acedia or spiritual sloth goes so far as to refuse the joy that comes from God and to be repelled by divine goodness.

– hatred of God comes from pride. It is contrary to love of God, whose goodness it denies, and whom it presumes to curse as the one who forbids sins and inflicts punishments.

II. “HIM ONLY SHALL YOU SERVE”

2095 The theological virtues of faith, hope, and charity inform and give life to the moral virtues. Thus charity leads us to render to God what we as creatures owe him in all justice. The virtue of religion disposes us to have this attitude.

* Adoration

2096 Adoration is the first act of the virtue of religion. To adore God is to acknowledge him as God, as the Creator and Savior, the Lord and Master of everything that exists, as infinite and merciful Love. “You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve,” says Jesus, citing Deuteronomy.13

2097 To adore God is to acknowledge, in respect and absolute submission, the “nothingness of the creature” who would not exist but for God. To adore God is to praise and exalt him and to humble oneself, as Mary did in the Magnificat, confessing with gratitude that he has done great things and holy is his name.14 The worship of the one God sets man free from turning in on himself, from the slavery of sin and the idolatry of the world.

* Prayer

2098 The acts of faith, hope, and charity enjoined by the first commandment are accomplished in prayer. Lifting up the mind toward God is an expression of our adoration of God: prayer of praise and thanksgiving, intercession and petition. Prayer is an indispensable condition for being able to obey God’s commandments. “[We] ought always to pray and not lose heart.”15

Sacrifice

2099 It is right to offer sacrifice to God as a sign of adoration and gratitude, supplication and communion: “Every action done so as to cling to God in communion of holiness, and thus achieve blessedness, is a true sacrifice.”16

2100 Outward sacrifice, to be genuine, must be the expression of spiritual sacrifice: “The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit. . . . “17 The prophets of the Old Covenant often denounced sacrifices that were not from the heart or not coupled with love of neighbor.18 Jesus recalls the words of the prophet Hosea: “I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.”19 The only perfect sacrifice is the one that Christ offered on the cross as a total offering to the Father’s love and for our salvation.20 By uniting ourselves with his sacrifice we can make our lives a sacrifice to God.

Promises and vows

2101 In many circumstances, the Christian is called to make promises to God. Baptism and Confirmation, Matrimony and Holy Orders always entail promises. Out of personal devotion, the Christian may also promise to God this action, that prayer, this alms-giving, that pilgrimage, and so forth. Fidelity to promises made to God is a sign of the respect owed to the divine majesty and of love for a faithful God.

2102 “A vow is a deliberate and free promise made to God concerning a possible and better good which must be fulfilled by reason of the virtue of religion,”21 A vow is an act of devotion in which the Christian dedicates himself to God or promises him some good work. By fulfilling his vows he renders to God what has been promised and consecrated to Him. The Acts of the Apostles shows us St. Paul concerned to fulfill the vows he had made.22

2103 The Church recognizes an exemplary value in the vows to practice the evangelical counsels:23Mother Church rejoices that she has within herself many men and women who pursue the Savior’s self-emptying more closely and show it forth more clearly, by undertaking poverty with the freedom of the children of God, and renouncing their own will: they submit themselves to man for the sake of God, thus going beyond what is of precept in the matter of perfection, so as to conform themselves more fully to the obedient Christ.24

The Church can, in certain cases and for proportionate reasons, dispense from vows and promises25

The social duty of religion and the right to religious freedom

2104 “All men are bound to seek the truth, especially in what concerns God and his Church, and to embrace it and hold on to it as they come to know it.”26 This duty derives from “the very dignity of the human person.”27 It does not contradict a “sincere respect” for different religions which frequently “reflect a ray of that truth which enlightens all men,”28 nor the requirement of charity, which urges Christians “to treat with love, prudence and patience those who are in error or ignorance with regard to the faith.”29

2105 The duty of offering God genuine worship concerns man both individually and socially. This is “the traditional Catholic teaching on the moral duty of individuals and societies toward the true religion and the one Church of Christ.”30 By constantly evangelizing men, the Church works toward enabling them “to infuse the Christian spirit into the mentality and mores, laws and structures of the communities in which [they] live.”31 The social duty of Christians is to respect and awaken in each man the love of the true and the good. It requires them to make known the worship of the one true religion which subsists in the Catholic and apostolic Church.32 Christians are called to be the light of the world. Thus, the Church shows forth the kingship of Christ over all creation and in particular over human societies.33

2106 “Nobody may be forced to act against his convictions, nor is anyone to be restrained from acting in accordance with his conscience in religious matters in private or in public, alone or in association with others, within due limits.”34 This right is based on the very nature of the human person, whose dignity enables him freely to assent to the divine truth which transcends the temporal order. For this reason it “continues to exist even in those who do not live up to their obligation of seeking the truth and adhering to it.”35

2107 “If because of the circumstances of a particular people special civil recognition is given to one religious community in the constitutional organization of a state, the right of all citizens and religious communities to religious freedom must be recognized and respected as well.”36

2108 The right to religious liberty is neither a moral license to adhere to error, nor a supposed right to error,37 but rather a natural right of the human person to civil liberty, i.e., immunity, within just limits, from external constraint in religious matters by political authorities. This natural right ought to be acknowledged in the juridical order of society in such a way that it constitutes a civil right.38

2109 The right to religious liberty can of itself be neither unlimited nor limited only by a “public order” conceived in a positivist or naturalist manner.39 The “due limits” which are inherent in it must be determined for each social situation by political prudence, according to the requirements of the common good, and ratified by the civil authority in accordance with “legal principles which are in conformity with the objective moral order.”40

III. “YOU SHALL HAVE NO OTHER GODS BEFORE ME”

2110 The first commandment forbids honoring gods other than the one Lord who has revealed himself to his people. It proscribes superstition and irreligion. Superstition in some sense represents a perverse excess of religion; irreligion is the vice contrary by defect to the virtue of religion.

Superstition

2111 Superstition is the deviation of religious feeling and of the practices this feeling imposes. It can even affect the worship we offer the true God, e.g., when one attributes an importance in some way magical to certain practices otherwise lawful or necessary. To attribute the efficacy of prayers or of sacramental signs to their mere external performance, apart from the interior dispositions that they demand, is to fall into superstition.41

Idolatry

2112 The first commandment condemns polytheism. It requires man neither to believe in, nor to venerate, other divinities than the one true God. Scripture constantly recalls this rejection of “idols, [of] silver and gold, the work of men’s hands. They have mouths, but do not speak; eyes, but do not see.” These empty idols make their worshippers empty: “Those who make them are like them; so are all who trust in them.”42 God, however, is the “living God”43 who gives life and intervenes in history.

2113 Idolatry not only refers to false pagan worship. It remains a constant temptation to faith. Idolatry consists in divinizing what is not God. Man commits idolatry whenever he honors and reveres a creature in place of God, whether this be gods or demons (for example, satanism), power, pleasure, race, ancestors, the state, money, etc. Jesus says, “You cannot serve God and mammon.”44 Many martyrs died for not adoring “the Beast”45 refusing even to simulate such worship. Idolatry rejects the unique Lordship of God; it is therefore incompatible with communion with God.46

2114 Human life finds its unity in the adoration of the one God. The commandment to worship the Lord alone integrates man and saves him from an endless disintegration. Idolatry is a perversion of man’s innate religious sense. An idolater is someone who “transfers his indestructible notion of God to anything other than God.”47

Divination and magic

2115 God can reveal the future to his prophets or to other saints. Still, a sound Christian attitude consists in putting oneself confidently into the hands of Providence for whatever concerns the future, and giving up all unhealthy curiosity about it. Improvidence, however, can constitute a lack of responsibility.

2116 All forms of divination are to be rejected: recourse to Satan or demons, conjuring up the dead or other practices falsely supposed to “unveil” the future.48 Consulting horoscopes, astrology, palm reading, interpretation of omens and lots, the phenomena of clairvoyance, and recourse to mediums all conceal a desire for power over time, history, and, in the last analysis, other human beings, as well as a wish to conciliate hidden powers. They contradict the honor, respect, and loving fear that we owe to God alone.

2117 All practices of magic or sorcery, by which one attempts to tame occult powers, so as to place them at one’s service and have a supernatural power over others – even if this were for the sake of restoring their health – are gravely contrary to the virtue of religion. These practices are even more to be condemned when accompanied by the intention of harming someone, or when they have recourse to the intervention of demons. Wearing charms is also reprehensible. Spiritism often implies divination or magical practices; the Church for her part warns the faithful against it. Recourse to so-called traditional cures does not justify either the invocation of evil powers or the exploitation of another’s credulity.

Irreligion

2118 God’s first commandment condemns the main sins of irreligion: tempting God, in words or deeds, sacrilege, and simony.

2119 Tempting God consists in putting his goodness and almighty power to the test by word or deed. Thus Satan tried to induce Jesus to throw himself down from the Temple and, by this gesture, force God to act.49 Jesus opposed Satan with the word of God: “You shall not put the LORD your God to the test.”50 The challenge contained in such tempting of God wounds the respect and trust we owe our Creator and Lord. It always harbors doubt about his love, his providence, and his power.51

2120 Sacrilege consists in profaning or treating unworthily the sacraments and other liturgical actions, as well as persons, things, or places consecrated to God. Sacrilege is a grave sin especially when committed against the Eucharist, for in this sacrament the true Body of Christ is made substantially present for us.52

2121 Simony is defined as the buying or selling of spiritual things.53 To Simon the magician, who wanted to buy the spiritual power he saw at work in the apostles, St. Peter responded: “Your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain God’s gift with money!”54 Peter thus held to the words of Jesus: “You received without pay, give without pay.”55 It is impossible to appropriate to oneself spiritual goods and behave toward them as their owner or master, for they have their source in God. One can receive them only from him, without payment.

2122 The minister should ask nothing for the administration of the sacraments beyond the offerings defined by the competent authority, always being careful that the needy are not deprived of the help of the sacraments because of their poverty.”56 The competent authority determines these “offerings” in accordance with the principle that the Christian people ought to contribute to the support of the Church’s ministers. “The laborer deserves his food.”57

Atheism

2123 “Many . . . of our contemporaries either do not at all perceive, or explicitly reject, this intimate and vital bond of man to God. Atheism must therefore be regarded as one of the most serious problems of our time.”58

2124 The name “atheism” covers many very different phenomena. One common form is the practical materialism which restricts its needs and aspirations to space and time. Atheistic humanism falsely considers man to be “an end to himself, and the sole maker, with supreme control, of his own history.”59 Another form of contemporary atheism looks for the liberation of man through economic and social liberation. “It holds that religion, of its very nature, thwarts such emancipation by raising man’s hopes in a future life, thus both deceiving him and discouraging him from working for a better form of life on earth.”60

2125 Since it rejects or denies the existence of God, atheism is a sin against the virtue of religion.61 The imputability of this offense can be significantly diminished in virtue of the intentions and the circumstances. “Believers can have more than a little to do with the rise of atheism. To the extent that they are careless about their instruction in the faith, or present its teaching falsely, or even fail in their religious, moral, or social life, they must be said to conceal rather than to reveal the true nature of God and of religion.”62

2126 Atheism is often based on a false conception of human autonomy, exaggerated to the point of refusing any dependence on God.63 Yet, “to acknowledge God is in no way to oppose the dignity of man, since such dignity is grounded and brought to perfection in God. . . . “64 “For the Church knows full well that her message is in harmony with the most secret desires of the human heart.”65

Agnosticism

2127 Agnosticism assumes a number of forms. In certain cases the agnostic refrains from denying God; instead he postulates the existence of a transcendent being which is incapable of revealing itself, and about which nothing can be said. In other cases, the agnostic makes no judgment about God’s existence, declaring it impossible to prove, or even to affirm or deny.

2128 Agnosticism can sometimes include a certain search for God, but it can equally express indifferentism, a flight from the ultimate question of existence, and a sluggish moral conscience. Agnosticism is all too often equivalent to practical atheism.

* IV. “YOU SHALL NOT MAKE FOR YOURSELF A GRAVEN IMAGE . . .”

2129 The divine injunction included the prohibition of every representation of God by the hand of man. Deuteronomy explains: “Since you saw no form on the day that the Lord spoke to you at Horeb out of the midst of the fire, beware lest you act corruptly by making a graven image for yourselves, in the form of any figure. . . . “66 It is the absolutely transcendent God who revealed himself to Israel. “He is the all,” but at the same time “he is greater than all his works.”67 He is “the author of beauty.”68

2130 Nevertheless, already in the Old Testament, God ordained or permitted the making of images that pointed symbolically toward salvation by the incarnate Word: so it was with the bronze serpent, the ark of the covenant, and the cherubim.69

2131 Basing itself on the mystery of the incarnate Word, the seventh ecumenical council at Nicaea (787) justified against the iconoclasts the veneration of icons – of Christ, but also of the Mother of God, the angels, and all the saints. By becoming incarnate, the Son of God introduced a new “economy” of images.

2132 The Christian veneration of images is not contrary to the first commandment which proscribes idols. Indeed, “the honor rendered to an image passes to its prototype,” and “whoever venerates an image venerates the person portrayed in it.”70 The honor paid to sacred images is a “respectful veneration,” not the adoration due to God alone:Religious worship is not directed to images in themselves, considered as mere things, but under their distinctive aspect as images leading us on to God incarnate. The movement toward the image does not terminate in it as image, but tends toward that whose image it is.71

IN BRIEF

2133 “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul and with all your strength” (Deut 6:5).

2134 The first commandment summons man to believe in God, to hope in him, and to love him above all else.

2135 “You shall worship the Lord your God” (Mt 4:10). Adoring God, praying to him, offering him the worship that belongs to him, fulfilling the promises and vows made to him are acts of the virtue of religion which fall under obedience to the first commandment.

2136 The duty to offer God authentic worship concerns man both as an individual and as a social being.

2137 “Men of the present day want to profess their religion freely in private and in public” (DH 15).

2138 Superstition is a departure from the worship that we give to the true God. It is manifested in idolatry, as well as in various forms of divination and magic.

2139 Tempting God in words or deeds, sacrilege, and simony are sins of irreligion forbidden by the first commandment.

2140 Since it rejects or denies the existence of God, atheism is a sin against the first commandment.

2141 The veneration of sacred images is based on the mystery of the Incarnation of the Word of God. It is not contrary to the first commandment.


Ex 20:2-5; cf. Deut 5:6-9.
Mt 4:10.
Deut 6:13-14.
6 Cf. Ex 19:16-25; 24:15-18.
7 St. Justin, Dial. cum Tryphone Judaeo 11,1:PG 6,497.
Roman Catechism 3,2,4.
Rom 1:5; 16:26.
10 Cf. Rom 1:18-32.
11 CIC, can. 751: emphasis added.
12 Cf. Deut 6:4-5.
13 Lk 4:8; Cf. Deut 6:13.
14 Cf. Lk 1:46-49.
15 Lk 18:1.
16 St. Augustine, De civ Dei 10,6:PL 41,283.
17 Ps 51:17.
18 Cf. Am 5:21-25; Isa 1:10-20.
19 Mt 9:13; 12:7; Cf. Hos 6:6.
20 Cf. Heb 9:13-14.
21 CIC, can. 1191 § 1.
22 Cf. Acts 18:18; 21:23-24.
23 Cf. CIC, can. 654.
24 LG 42 § 2.
25 Cf. CIC, cann. 692; 1196-1197.
26 DH 1 § 2.
27 DH 2 § 1.
28 NA 2 § 2.
29 DH 14 § 4.
30 DH 1 § 3.
31 AA 13 § 1.
32 Cf. DH 1.
33 Cf. AA 13; Leo XIII, Immortale Dei 3,17; Pius XI, Quas primas 8,20.
34 DH 2 § 1.
35 DH 2 § 2.
36 DH 6 § 3.
37 Cf. Leo XIII, Libertas praestantissimum 18; Pius XII AAS 1953,799.
38 Cf. DH 2.
39 Cf. Pius VI, Quod aliquantum (1791) 10; Pius IX, Quanta cura 3.
40 DH 7 § 3.
41 Cf. Mt 23:16-22.
42 Ps 115:4-5, 8; cf. Isa 44:9-20; Jer 10:1-16; Dan 14:1-30; Bar 6; Wis 13:1-15:19.
43 Josh 3:10; Ps 42:3; etc.
44 Mt 6:24.
45 Cf. Rev 13-14.
46 Cf. Gal 5:20; Eph 5:5.
47 Origen, Contra Celsum 2,40:PG 11,861.
48 Cf. Deut 18:10; Jer 29:8.
49 Cf. Lk 4:9.
50 Deut 6:16.
51 Cf. 1 Cor 10:9; Ex 17:2-7; Ps 95:9.
52 Cf. CIC, cann. 1367; 1376.
53 Cf. Acts 8:9-24.
54 Acts 8:20.
55 Mt 10:8; cf. already Isa 55:1.
56 CIC, can. 848.
57 Mt 10:10; cf. Lk 10:7; 2 Cor 9:5-18; 1 Tim 5:17-18.
58 GS 19 § 1.
59 GS 20 § 2.
60 GS 20 § 2.
61 Cf. Rom 1:18.
62 GS 19 § 3.
63 Cf. GS 20 § 1.
64 GS 21 § 3.
65 GS 21 § 7.
66 Deut 4:15-16.
67 Sir 43:27-28.
68 Wis 13:3.
69 Cf. Num 21:4-9; Wis 16:5-14; Jn 3:14-15; Ex 25:10-22; 1 Kings 6:23-28; 7:23-26.
70 St. Basil, De Spiritu Sancto 18,45:PG 32,149C; Council of Nicaea II: DS 601; cf. Council of Trent: DS 1821-1825; Vatican Council II: SC 126; LG 67.
71 St. Thomas Aquinas, STh II-II,81,3 ad 3.

A LAY CISTERCIAN REFLECTS ON THE HERESY OF THE INDIVIDUAL

Why should I worry about something that doesn’t mean anything? What are the characteristics of the heresy of the individual? What can I do to keep from being seduced by this insidious thought process?

One of the unintended consequences of being in the presence of Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit is that we think we speak for everyone else instead of just me. The Holy Spirit has given authority and legitimacy to those who speak for the whole Church Universal. I use three filters through which I measure the authenticity of my inspirations from the Holy Spirit. Hopefully, with humility and obedience to the words of Christ to the Apostles about the authority to bind and loose, I only offer any ideas as my opinions only. Not that they are not from the Holy Spirit, but that I am only a leaf on the tree of life and not a branch, or the trunk. Christ is the vine and we are all branches. These are the four filters through which I try to fit all of my Lectio Divina meditations, all my readings from Scripture, all my ideas that may be at the fringe of orthodoxy.

It must be Scripturally based. The problem with most Scripture citations is that each person reads it from the perspective of their life and faith experiences. Where most disagreement happens is with the meaning of Scripture.

It must be consistent with early Church theologians. The very early Church had a big problem when bringing the message of Christ to not only Jews but also Gentiles and pagans. Granted that theology and the study of God have advanced from when these people lived in the first and second centuries. It is the Church Universal addressing questions of how the followers of Christ must act, both then and now. There must be a continuity of truth between Scriptures, Early Commentaries of what it means to be a follower of Christ, and my personal insights into how I approach each day as one where I seek God with no conditions.

It must be consistent with the Ecumenical Councils throughout the history of the Church. The Catholic Church Universal is a battered, old warhorse who has been through countless battles, been wounded and thrown off the path several times, but always brought back to authentic truth by the Holy Spirit and the martyrdom of the Saints.

It must be consistent with Catholic Catechism. Being Catholic is not about keeping rules for the sake of rules or even praying your way to heaven, but Christ left us ways of acting and how to pray that we must do to keep our Faith sustained. If I find out that some of my wacky ideas don’t fit into what Christ taught, I change. I don’t ask Christ or the Church to change to conform to what I think. https://www.usccb.org/beliefs-and-teachings/what-we-believe/catechism/catechism-of-the-catholic-church

There is only one command Christ left us what we should worry about:

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.r 33 My 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.s 34 I give you a new commandment:* love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another.t 35 This is how all will know that you are my disciples if you have love for one another.” https://bible.usccb.org/bible/john/13

The heresy of the individual is linked to a genuine humility of mind and heart and the inability to accept obedience from anyone except yourself. During this Lent, we are all challenged to die to self. Part of what that means is to slow down your life, curb your conspiratorial tendencies to find out people who are trying to overthrow your ideas, and just love others. In the room of your heart, there is no room for Christ and heresy. Conversion of morals means you constantly move from your will to opening up your heart to the will of Christ. It takes Faith and is not for the faint of heart. It is the way, the truth, and the life.

LENTEN CONVERSION: IS YOUR JESUS PARANOID?

During this intense time of introspection before the celebration of our delivery from death to life with Christ, it is important to ask the question, What does your Jesus look like? I have never seen the face of Jesus, nor have I seen the face of my great grandfather, but they are a real part of my heritage. We all make up a visual representation of who Jesus is based on our assumptions (those hidden beliefs that shape how we view reality). Your Jesus will look a lot like you and your life experiences. If you have paranoid tendencies, so too will be your Jesus. If you think everything in life is out to get you and that all institutions are just in it to make money and defraud you of your money, this is how you will see Jesus. My point is: whatever is received, is received according to the disposition of the one who receives it.

My Lectio Divina today (this morning at 2:35 a.m.) took me to a place I have never been. I was thinking of a family situation I am experiencing where someone has been seduced by YouTube conspiracy theorist blogs into believing all that nonsense. What I noticed is that their notion of Jesus changed with the addition of these assumptions. I asked myself what is going on and came up with a few plausible explanations.

If a person becomes deluded into a conspiracy mindset and places that at the center of their lives, everything they think about must be seen in terms of that center. The world becomes full of one group trying to overthrow another group. The Vatican is seen as totally corrupt and totally out of touch with their reality (it actually is out of touch with the reality they hold is true). All priests are pedophiles. All physicians are out to make money at the expense of their patients. All police are corrupt and on the take. All Paranoia is unchecked and not balanced with human reasoning so all their concepts of relationships are ones of others taking advantage of them. Physicians are only out for money and the pharmaceutical companies only want to make money at the expense of those too poor to afford their products. Politicians decry all the billionaires wanting money but fail to see their own failures. The list of paranoia goes on and on.

DEMYTHOLOGIZING CONSPIRACY

I have taken some quotes from a website (https://www.mhanational.org/conditions/paranoia-and-delusional-disorders#:~:text=Some%20identifiable%20beliefs%20and%20behaviors,to%20relax%2C% 20or%20are%20argumentative.)so you and I can read the same thing. You make your own conclusions about all of this.

“Symptoms of paranoia and delusional disorders include intense and irrational mistrust or suspicion, which can bring on sense of fear, anger, and betrayal. Some identifiable beliefs and behaviors of individuals with symptoms of paranoia include mistrust, hypervigilence, difficulty with forgiveness, defensive attitude in response to imagined criticism, preoccupation with hidden motives, fear of being deceived or taken advantage of, inability to relax, or are argumentative.

The cause of paranoia is a breakdown of various mental and emotional functions involving reasoning and assigned meanings. The reasons for these breakdowns are varied and uncertain. Some symptoms of paranoia relate to repressed, denied or projected feelings. Often, paranoid thoughts and feelings are related to events and relationships in a person’s life, thereby increasing isolation and difficulty with getting help.”

Each human has reason and the ability to choose what makes sense for them (within limits). When someone is seduced by the allure of the conspiracy view of reality, it becomes “we” verses “they”. If we apply the notion of religion and particularly the words of Jesus in Scripture, this approach to thinking has a Jesus that looks very much as though he is a conspiracist. The lenses through which the paranoid person looks at Jesus become one where Jesus and the person are the same. There is no accountability against the way, the truth, and the life. What that means for someone who possesses this destructive way of thinking is that what they think is not the Christ Principle, guided by Faith informed by Reason, but one of their own imagination and which fits their image and likeness. Since this likeness is corrupted by false thinking, their Jesus comes paranoid just like them. Read from the second letter of Peter, Chapter 2.

False Teachers.*1There were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will introduce destructive heresies and even deny the Master who ransomed them, bringing swift destruction on themselves.a2Many will follow their licentious ways, and because of them the way of truth will be reviled.b3In their greed they will exploit you with fabrications, but from of old their condemnation has not been idle and their destruction does not sleep.c

Lessons from the Past.4* For if God did not spare the angels when they sinned, but condemned them to the chains of Tartarus* and handed them over to be kept for judgment;d5* and if he did not spare the ancient world, even though he preserved Noah, a herald of righteousness, together with seven others, when he brought a flood upon the godless world;e6and if he condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah [to destruction], reducing them to ashes, making them an example for the godless [people] of what is coming;f7and if he rescued Lot, a righteous man oppressed by the licentious conduct of unprincipled people8(for day after day that righteous man living among them was tormented in his righteous soul at the lawless deeds that he saw and heard),9then the Lord knows how to rescue the devout from trial and to keep the unrighteous under punishment for the day of judgment,g10and especially those who follow the flesh with its depraved desire and show contempt for lordship.h

False Teachers Denounced.*Bold and arrogant, they are not afraid to revile glorious beings,*11* whereas angels,i despite their superior strength and power, do not bring a reviling judgment against them from the Lord.12But these people, like irrational animals born by nature for capture and destruction, revile things that they do not understand, and in their destruction they will also be destroyed,j13suffering wrong* as payment for wrongdoing. Thinking daytime revelry a delight, they are stains and defilements as they revel in their deceits while carousing with you.k14Their eyes are full of adultery and insatiable for sin. They seduce unstable people, and their hearts are trained in greed. Accursed children!15Abandoning the straight road, they have gone astray, following the road of Balaam, the son of Bosor,* who loved payment for wrongdoing,l16but he received a rebuke for his own crime: a mute beast spoke with a human voice and restrained the prophet’s madness.m17These people are waterless springs and mists driven by a gale; for them the gloom of darkness has been reserved.n18For, talking empty bombast, they seduce with licentious desires of the flesh those who have barely escaped* from people who live in error.o19They promise them freedom, though they themselves are slaves of corruption, for a person is a slave of whatever overcomes him.p20For if they, having escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of [our] Lord and savior Jesus Christ, again become entangled and overcome by them, their last condition is worse than their first.q21For it would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness than after knowing it to turn back from the holy commandment handed down* to them.r22* What is expressed in the true proverb has happened to them,s “The dog returns to its own vomit,” and “A bathed sow returns to wallowing in the mire.”

What is real may or may not actually be real, since those YouTube conspiracy ideas are received by someone we call pussilanimous (faint of heart) and coveted as true despite evidence to the contrary from their reason. Here are some of the conspiracy ideas I have encountered over my short lifetime.

  • Elvis is alive and living in Las Vegas
  • The Vatican is the evilest organization in the world and seeks to cover up the evidence that Jesus is not god, something is hidden somewhere in the vast labyrinth of the Vatican museum.
  • All physicians are just out to make money. They make money on all the medicines they prescribe and get a kickback from all procedures. They don’t care about you.
  • You don’t need to take medications that your physician says will keep you alive. All of it is just a sham.
  • The Catholic Church is a bunch of pedophiles hiding behind the mask of their religion.
  • The government is run by a few secret billionaires that only want your money.
  • You can’t trust policemen to do their job because they are all on the take.
  • Secret societies are running the drug trade.
  • The Vatican Bank is the mafia’s bank.
  • The world is about to end.
  • Princess Di is alive and well.
  • John F. Kennedy Jr. is alive and well.
  • The world is going to end this year or next year, or the year after that…etc…
  • COVID 19 shots are all bad and just make money for the already rich.
  • These, plus many more fringe thoughts impact the Jesus that each of us has. If left unchecked, we end up with paranoia and maybe worse in our approach to how we interact with others in the name of Christ.

SPIRITUAL PARANOIA

  • A person who is centered around the Christ Principle will be saying words of faith, hope, and love.
  • A person who has paranoia won’t tell you anything about how to take up your cross to follow Christ.
  • There is no love in the vocabulary of someone on the fringe of belief, only conformity to what their warped vision of Christ is. If you disagree, they cut you off immediately.
  • There is no forgiveness from anyone espousing paranoia, only punishment, and conformity.
  • Tearing down people is more important than building them up.
  • Revenge, envy, factions, jealousy, rage are all part of this approach.

LENT AND CONVERSION

When anyone talks about conversion, it is precisely moving from being self-centered to being Christ-centered that is at their core. When you put in a conspiracy mentality as your center, then what follows is the results of your core values. To convert, you must be a penitent person seeking always to move from self to God. Attach yourself to a godly person, if you want to be godly yourself. Be humble and obedient to the will of God rather than serving your own self-interests. Flee from the conspiracy theorists and from watching this garbage on YouTube. What you watch with your eyes, you treasure in your heart. That is why someone addicted to pornography has a heart full of treachery and why those with a paranoid view of Christ think the world is going to end.

Don’t create a Christ in your image and likeness, but rather have in you the mind of Christ Jesus. Ask for mercy and forgiveness for a mindset that centers around falsehood and deceit.

uiodg

LENTEN CONVERSION: Beware of the default of original sin

Original sin affects everything we do as a human. Baptism takes away Original Sin, the Sin of the World, but we still must live out the consequences of living in a condition where everything has a beginning and an end. I reflected on this corruption of our nature in terms of the six questions each person must ask and answer to move on to the next level of our collective journey, to be adopted sons and daughters of the Father. My Lectio during the last three sessions has been about sin, specifically being a penitential person during Lent. My problem has been, I don’t go around sinning every day, yet every day, I need God’s mercy for my inability to love with all my strength (Matthew 22:36). This is a blog about the need to take up the cross each day and follow Christ, to seek God’s mercy on me a sinful person in reparation for past sins, to gain grace to continue the journey. The conversion of life (conversio morae) is at the core of one who lives a penitential existence with Christ as the center.

Easter is a time of great rejoicing. For those gathered together in the peace of Christ, it is a time to celebrate the victory of Christ over death and the default of Original Sin. Baptism of water and the Holy Spirit is a sacramental sign that death has no more power over us. Easter must take place in each of our hearts as well as in the context of the Church on the feast of the resurrection. My Lectio Divina meditations of late have taken on a dark tone, much like dark love. Dark love means there is a price to pay for love, sometimes painful, often with outrageous sacrifices of patience and forgiveness. Dark love is the passion and death before a resurrection takes place, the price that Christ paid for restoring resonance to a dissonant reality, the opening of adoption as brothers and sisters to Christ, the Son of God, Savior.

As I reflect on my Lectio today (Philippians 2:5), as I do each day, what comes to mind is a macro approach to one of the core questions humans must answer: What is the purpose of life? This is not as easy as it sounds, because, each individual has to answer at least six questions to find out the answer to that question of purpose. Humans find themselves alone in the arc of existing species, alone able to reason and ask and answer why something is, alone in being able to choose that which is against their nature, to choose that which is opposite of what their human reasoning tells them makes sense. Such is the story of salvation. The liturgical season is the complete life of Christ, like the mysteries of the Rosary, like the stations of the Cross, like the Liturgy of the Hours, like the Eucharist and sacrament of reconciliation. The collective gathering of believers comes together to join you and me with the context of the Christ Principle so that we might grow more towards Christ and less towards our mere human selves. What does not make sense in the world (one which is governed only by the physical and mental universe of each individual) makes perfect sense with the Christ Principle, the sign of contradiction, moving beyond reason alone, the default of original sin, to explain that the purpose of all creation is love.

Lent is a time of purification, one that allows us to burn away those encroaching default tendencies of original sin (not the same as temptations to be god from Satan) but the effects that we all inherit as part of being human. The genius of Genesis is to show how God lifts up humanity to have hope after the fall from grace. The effects of original sin are still with us today, making us vulnerable to false prophets, false teachers, ways of thinking that put the individual at the center of all reality. Ironically, the individual is the center of all reality, at least for seventy or eighty years while we live. What our option is, due to the saving redemption of Christ, is for us to have the opportunity to proclaim the purpose of life? What we place at our center is our god. It may be the true self or the false self. Whatever we place at our center, we must work constantly and consistently to keep ourselves from resisting the effects of original sin which pulls us back into a world view without God. That is why we have to take up our crosses daily, pray our Cistercian practices faithfully in season and out of season. We are literally placing our fingers in the dike to keep out the water each day we live. That is why we must call upon the Lord to be with us as we struggle with the effects of original sin. On top of that, Satan tempts us, using our vulnerability of human nature to his advantage. Here are some of the temptations we all face from Satan as we continue to run the race.

Enter the one variable that does not mutate, original sin. It is the condition of being human and what that means physically, mentally, but also spiritually. Original sin is invisible. The problem with invisibility is you can’t see it. Original sin is like oxygen and you are a piece of iron. You think you are strong and will last forever, but oxygen, relentlessly and without seeming to do anything but be itself. Without maintenance, iron will rust and eventually break down. Christ provides the tools we need to keep original sin at bay. (Chapter 4 of the Rule of St. Benedict) We must still do the work to keep ourselves clean, but we can survive. There is no conveyor belt on which we jump on when we are born and jump off when we die. The effects of original sin are with us, even if Baptism redeems our nature by God lifting us up to be sons and daughters of the Father. In this context, there are six temptations of the effects of Original Sin that impact the six choices we must make to sustain ourselves as we live out whatever our life has in store for us.

I. THE TEMPTATION TO BE GODWhat is the purpose of life?

Each one of these questions, plus obtaining the correct answers, builds on the one preceding it. Here is what we have so far.

  • The purpose of life is God wants all humans to be adopted, sons or daughters. (FAITH)

We all experience this because we are human. Baptism takes away Original Sin and opens us up to the opportunity to combat the effects of being human. Jesus became one of us to open us up to being adopted sons and daughters of the Father. There is a catch. We have to live as a pilgrim in a foreign land until we die. This first temptation is about what to place as the purpose of life itself. All our choices have consequences and this selection is no different. What you place here affects the remaining five choices because they build on one another. Not all choices that use “god” words are transformative.

  • False prophets proclaim that they are the way to salvation, those who ply their trade of religion in the name of Jesus promise prosperity with being a member of their body. Jesus told us to watch out for false teachers.
  • False teachers will never preach Christ crucified, love one another as Christ loved us, give up your false self for your true self as adopted son or daughter of the Father.
  • It is only by placing Christ as your Principle from which all flows and into which all terminate that you know you have denied yourself, take up your cross daily, to follow our Lord.

We can either choose what God tells us is the purpose of life, or we can make up one that suits our convenience. If we use the world as the norm, then everyone that has the right to an opinion is correct and there is no truth, only what the individual thinks is true. To choose God means I accept that Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Here is the secret to choosing a purpose in life. This choice is a paradox like so many choices in the spiritual universe. It is a great priority.

When I abandon myself to the will of God as an adopted son or daughter of the Father, like Mary, I make a free choice that God is number one and all else makes sense in terms of that one principle. This is the purpose in which God chooses me to be an adopted son (or daughter) of the Father.

12This is my commandment: love one another as I love you.i13* No one has greater love than this,j to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.14You are my friends if you do what I command you.15I 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.k16 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.l17 This I command you: love one another.m

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

II. THE TEMPTATION TO BE GODWhat is the purpose of your life?

Each one of these questions, plus obtaining the correct answers, builds on the one preceding it. Here is what we have so far.

  • The purpose of life is God wants all humans to be adopted, sons or daughters. (FAITH)
  • I must accept that invitation personally and make the choice of The Christ Principle as my center. (BELIEF)

Again, the default for human existence is to replace God with you as the center of your world. If the first temptation was to replace you as the god of the whole of reality, this second temptation is to make yourself god over what you control, your world.

This is the two-world choice (hypothesis, if you prefer) of which St. Paul stresses. The choice here is that you must make a choice to fit into God’s playground and His rules or to create your own playground with your rules that apply to you and everything else in reality. It is about you controlling who plays in your playground. Original sin is the condition where we are lead to follow the path of least resistance, that of the individual as the center of morality.

The True Wisdom.*6Yet we do speak a wisdom to those who are mature, but not a wisdom of this age, nor of the rulers of this age who are passing away.7Rather, we speak God’s wisdom,* mysterious, hidden, which God predetermined before the ages for our glory,8and which none of the rulers of this age* knew; for if they had known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.9But as it is written:

“What eye has not seen, and ear has not heard,

and what has not entered the human heart,

what God has prepared for those who love him,”e10f this God has revealed to us through the Spirit.

For the Spirit scrutinizes everything, even the depths of God.11Among human beings, who knows what pertains to a person except the spirit of the person within? Similarly, no one knows what pertains to God except the Spirit of God.12We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit that is from God, so that we may understand the things freely given us by God.13And we speak about them not with words taught by human wisdom, but with words taught by the Spirit, describing spiritual realities in spiritual terms.*14 Now the natural person* does not accept what pertains to the Spirit of God, for to him it is foolishness, and he cannot understand it, because it is judged spiritually.15 The spiritual person, however, can judge everything but is not subject to judgment* by anyone. 16 For “who has known the mind of the Lord, to counsel him?” But we have the mind of Christ.g.”

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/1corinthians/2
  • Satan is extremely good at what he does. He controls nothing but influences everything in the whole of existence.
  • He knows your vulnerabilities (jealousy, envy, factions, pride, overindulgence, lust, wanting to take the easy way out of life, wanting to be god, wanting power, fame, fortune, glory, and greed, to name a few). (Galatians 5)
  • Satan is not more powerful than you because you have in you Christ Jesus’s mind, but he knows that we are weak and prone to self-indulgence because of the default of original sin. Satan is definitely more cunning in how to use human weakness against us to entice us to choose the world rather than God. When meditating on what hell is like, I had the thought that Satan and his followers try to deceive us while we live with false promises. When we fail (sin), the Devil laughs at us with that penetrating mockery of how we acted without God and taunts us with how we had the truth but we too weak or ignorant to do what is right. Hell on earth is the battleground we travel as pilgrims in a foreign land. Hell after we die lasts forever. We must fast and pray daily that we might not enter into temptation. We do not want to get into a battle with Satan. God’s grace is sufficient for anything Satan can throw at us if we call upon the name of the Lord. Lay Cistercian spirituality helps me because I try to have in me the mind of Christ Jesus daily using charisms and practices of Cistercian spirituality.
  • In moving from our false self to our true self, it takes energy. Christ won’t do it for us, for to do so would diminish the integrity of freedom to choose. He will give us His energy to help us, as we are capable of receiving it. That is why our constant endeavor is to increase our capacitas dei each day, without fail, not to let our guard down. The Christian vocation is not for the faint of heart.
  • Original sin is that invisible condition we call the world that seeks to corrupt our choice to seek God every day by being present to Christ each day through Cistercian practices and charisma. Like magnetism, it pulls against our choices to place God at our center in favor of doing what is easy rather than what is right. The point is without Christ’s presence to us through the Holy Spirit, we are prone to do what is pleasing to us and prone to sinfulness (not the sinfulness of individual sins we commit, but rather the condition of sinfulness leftover from Adam and Eve’s choice to be a god.) In this second question, God provides each of us with the answer. We choose what center will be the driving force, the passion for loving others, the one that overcomes the world with all its false detours.
  • Life is a constant struggle to choose the spirit and not the world. Without the constant intervention of Christ into our lives and the invitation to seek out His help to combat the corrupting influence of being human, we only live in the world. If all we live in is just the world, we miss moving to the next level of maturation for our humanity, spiritual apes. https://amzn.to/3bQ0Coe

III. THE TEMPTATION TO BE GOD — What does reality look like?

Each one of these questions, plus obtaining the correct answers, builds on the one preceding it. Here is what we have so far.

  • The purpose of life is God wants all humans to be adopted, sons or daughters. (FAITH)
  • I must accept that invitation personally and make the choice of The Christ Principle as my center. (BELIEF)
  • I live out that choice in one reality with three distinct universes (physical, mental, and spiritual). (FAITH INFORMED BY REASON)

This is the third temptation of Original Sin, one that Satan exploits because of the corruption of our nature and the effects of being human. The first one is to choose either God or you as the center of all reality. The second temptation is to the kingdom of heaven first and all else will be lived in terms of that choice of God’s will. This third temptation is to choose a reality that either has physical and mental universes or three universes (physical, mental, and spiritual). Once more, Original Sin is the default with its effects ever-present to seduce us into thinking that words are similar in not only sound but in meaning. This is the temptation to see reality as only having two universes (physical and mental). The other choice for us is difficult, one which doesn’t make sense entirely with human reasoning. It is to see reality with three distinct universes, (physical, mental as well as spiritual). This third universe is only entered by invitation (this invitation was extended to all humans with the resurrection of Christ from the dead). There is a caveat beyond having to choose this universe to enter it (Baptism), which is, like the Tower of Babel story about the confusion of tongues, this universe is turned on its head, a sign of contradiction just like Christ. What is up in the world (physical and mental universes) is answered in this macro equation by the opposite of what the world thinks. The spiritual universe answers the question of what reality looks like, but with a caveat. What is real is this kingdom of heaven is the opposite in the sense of being opposed to what the world says is important.

Reflect on this paradox during this time of penance and humility. Humility and obedience to God’s will by loving others a Christ loved us, is the healing and nourishing place of silence and solitude that is our retreat during times of doubt and frustration at what some of the people in the Church are doing in the name of Christ. Christ provides us with the answer to this question also. Are you beginning to see a pattern? The resurrection opened up the gates of heaven to those who follow Christ in humility and truth. Because Christ set the example and walked the way of the cross, suffering pain and giving up his life on the cross for the ransom of many, we walk that same path in our unique way, sometimes veering off the road, often stopping because the load is too heavy. Christ won’t walk our path for us but will join with us as we seek God daily in whatever comes our way.

The Rule of Opposites is at work in one reality that has three separate and distinct universes. https://amzn.to/2ORGlWa Let me explain. To get to this third universe, Jesus had to become one of us to show us that the kingdom of heaven is the answer to the question of what reality looks like. The Kingdom of Heaven begins immediately for the individual upon reception of Baptism of water and the Holy Spirit. It continues to fulfillment after we die in the hope of the resurrection with Jesus. The Kingdom of Heaven on earth began with Jesus fulfilling the Messiah’s prophecies, dying on the cross and rising with all humanity so that they can enjoy Heaven forever as adopted sons and daughters of the Father. The true fulfillment of what it means to be human is the next step in our evolution from the animal through human to adoption as God’s friend. All the same, humans are and can never be God. Only Christ and the Blessed Mother, who is not God but was lifted up to her intended potential as an adopted daughter of the Father while she was still on earth, are exceptions to this rule. The rest of us must live our seventy to eighty years on earth searching for purpose, seeking our personal center, living as though there are three universes and not just two, to fulfill our destiny.

As Teilhard de Chardin, Jesuit paleontologist, and futurist describes in his book The Phenomenon of Man, our destiny is to see reality as moving from a beginning to an end with Christ as the Omega, as well as the Alpha. https://amzn.to/30MmRow Too outlandish? Of course, because in this temptation, the default of original sin is to think of reality as having only two universes (physical and mental). The three universes concept does not make sense to the world and is a stumbling block for science and non-believes because it does not make sense without the Christ Principle. Scripture, says St. John 20:39-31, are the stories about Christ to allow us to come to believe that He is the Son of God and the Messiah and that believing we might have eternal life in His name. It is the choices we make that define who we are, not our abilities. The problem for humans is we don’t just make one choice and then forget about it until we get to heaven. We must struggle each day with those consequences of Original sin, the pain, the fact that we only live for seventy or eighty years, if we are strong. This question is answered by Christ, which I have termed The Christ Principle.

If you look up into the sky, you will see millions and millions of Suns (and that is just the ones whose light has reached us). Each of these Suns has planets or rocky balls of gas around them. Science has provided the human mind with a grand scale of things in terms of distance and quality. What is out there is simply beyond anything our minds can comprehend, yet it does exist. If you think of each of those stars in the sky as separate universes, each having millions and millions of Suns, each with trillions of planets out there, the scale dwarfs our ability to even conceive is existence. Now, with everything that is, The Christ Principle is and has always been true not just for earth but for all those universes of universes. The Christ Principle is so that we humans might evolve to the next stage of our development, that of Spiritual Apes. Our destiny as humans is not for this earth at all, it is to be lifted up to the next level of existence, one that we could not attain without God reaching down to us (a human term) to enable us to be adopted sons and daughters of the Father.

All matter, all time, all energy, everything that we know or experience has a beginning and an end. We are called by God’s DNA contained in all reality to move to a higher level of awareness, one that does not make complete sense to our human reasoning but more so for the human heart. How do you know that this is the way reality is? How do you know it isn’t?

CONTEMPLATIVE READING RESOURCES TO HELP YOU MOVE FROM YOUR FALSE SELF TO YOUR TRUE SELF

The Six Thresholds of Life. https://amzn.to/3cDbdlk

SPIRITUAL APES: Our Journey to Forever, Volume 1 https://amzn.to/3eEfbgb

SPIRITUAL APES: Our Journey from Animality to Spirituality, Volume 2 https://amzn.to/3tnpCsJ

SPIRITUAL APES: Our Struggle to be Spiritual, Volume 3 https://amzn.to/3vuQicP

IV. THE TEMPTATION TO BE GOD — How does it all fit together?

Each one of these questions, plus obtaining the correct answers, builds on the one preceding it. Here is what we have so far.

  • The purpose of life is God wants all humans to be adopted, sons or daughters. (FAITH)
  • I must accept that invitation personally and make the choice of The Christ Principle as my center. (BELIEF)
  • I live out that choice in one reality with three distinct universes (physical, mental, and spiritual). (FAITH INFORMED BY REASON)
  • Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior, through his birth, teachings, death, resurrection, and ascension, reopened the kingdom of heaven to those who choose to follow his way, his truth, and lead his life in their lifespan. (HOPE)

The problem with human reasoning alone is that by asking the wrong question, we get wrong answers. In each of the questions above, presuming they are the correct questions to ask about being human, wrong answers will not allow us to proceed to the next question. For example, if I choose fame, fortune, and adulation as the purpose of all life, that won’t get me to the next questions. Why? The answers to all of these questions come from God, not from human reasoning. The answers to all these questions are paradoxes and also signs of contradiction. The way to open up the human mind and heart to reveal the treasures God has for us is by humility and obedience to God’s will. We say, “For thine is the power, and the glory, forever and forever.” It is only when we realize that abandoning everyTHING that the world holds of value that we gain admittance to the kingdom of heaven where we gain the treasures awaiting us as adopted sons and daughter of Our Father Who Art in Heaven.

How everything fits together is itself a paradox. The answer is, it doesn’t, and yet it does. Each of the three universes (physical, mental, and spiritual) are separate yet one, just as the Trinity is one nature but three distinct persons. Like the popular notion of “A Theory of Everything” proposed by science, the only way there is one universe is to allow each universe to be what it is. Religion is not Science; Science is not Spirituality. Each exists independently of each other and so do not compete. Rather than smoosh everything together into one universe, each one is unique and has it own purpose as well as measuring stick. The three are one.

The physical universe is what is, the mental universe, allows humans to know the physical universe plus the mental universe and asking the questions:

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

The spiritual universe is the Christ Principle giving us the answer to these six core questions of life. It is not that the World does not give answers to these six questions, it does. They provides answers that lead to a meaningful life while you live on earth. The spiritual universe, The Christ Principle, answers these questions that lead to a fulfillment of what it means to be human while you live on earth, and provides you with the energy you need to move to the next level of human evolution, an adopted son or daughter of the Father capable to living in a dimension beyond time, matter, physical energy, gravity, and the properties of matter. Because we humans are incapable of knowing, much less existing in such a condition beyond our experience, we call that Faith. It is because of the Christ Principle (Philippians 2:-15) who gave us a way to behave that we lead us to what is in store for us, that we call Hope. Again, because of Original Sin, we are not evil at our core nature, but merely prone to a choice of self or God with many things that come our way. In this season of Lent followed by Easter, we reflects again and again on the six questions of life all humans must ask and answer correctly to get to Heaven.

https://amzn.to/3lqHO1Z

V. THE TEMPTATION TO BE GOD — How do you love fiercely?

Each one of these questions, plus obtaining the correct answers, builds on the one preceding it. Here is what we have so far.

  • The purpose of life is God wants all humans to be adopted, sons or daughters. (FAITH)
  • I must accept that invitation personally and make the choice of The Christ Principle as my center. (BELIEF)
  • I live out that choice in one reality with three distinct universes (physical, mental, and spiritual). (FAITH INFORMED BY REASON)
  • Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior, through his birth, teachings, death, resurrection, and ascension, reopened the kingdom of heaven to those who follow his way, his truth, and lead his life in their lifespan. (HOPE)
  • Jesus is the sign of contradiction, the paradox that doesn’t make sense. Fierce love is the energy of God in the world, but only as we have the capacity to receive it (capacitas dei). Contemplative practice allows us to access the presence of Christ through the Holy Spirit, who in turn is our intermediary with the Father. (LOVE)

Erich Fromm, The Art of Loving, is one of my favorite authors. In part, because he taught me that love is not something humans know how to do automatically or from their nature. It is an art, he says, that must be learned. He goes on to describe what authentic and inauthentic love is. After re-reading his book, I kept asking myself the question “Is Contemplative Practice an art also?” It occurred to me the reason we must work to be spiritual (Remember Genesis and the effect of the fall in Chapters 2-3?) was due to the effects of Original Sin. We bear the indelible sign of the cross on our souls for a reason. Like the tattoos of Auschwitz concentration camps, we carry that sign as a remembrance that we must work to keep Satan from gaining sway over our choices of good or evil.

Like an ice cube out of the refrigerator, our spirituality is subject to the room temperature of Original Sin. We live in the world so we don’t notice it because being in the physical and mental universe keeps us alive, but it also means we must work to continuously move from our false self to our true self, or risk atrophying Faith.

Only the spiritual universe, which is life in Christ answers these six questions with the correct answers that lead to the fulfillment of our human nature. The questions are asked by our human reasoning but the answers come from the divine equation, not from this reality. The answers are otherworldly, not just out of the universe, but from the Kingdom of Heaven, which is beyond space, time, matter, energy, science, philosophy.

This is where the contemplative practice is so helpful. It is a constant and daily practice of practices (Eucharist as food for the spirit, reading Scripture as transforming, making all things new through penance and the Sacrament of Reconciliation, moving from self to God through Liturgy of the Hours and Lectio Divina, reading St. Benedict’s Rule, especially Chapter 40. These practices are not ends in themselves but serve to put us in contact with Christ, the way, the truth, and the life. With St. Paul, we can say:

When humans put God number one, there is no number two. Everything, in reality, is in resonance and not in dissonance as it was with the sin of Adam and Eve. Jesus, our Christ saved us by giving his life as a ransom for many to the Father. Resonance is once more restored, with an important caveat. All we need to do is to love one another as Christ loved us.

VI. THE TEMPTATION TO BE GOD: You know you are going to die, now what?

This question has to do with putting together the previous questions correctly and accumulating the answers that lead to this sixth and last question each human must ask and answer before they die. Let’s review.

  • The purpose of life is God wants all humans to be adopted, sons or daughters. (FAITH)
  • I must accept that invitation personally and make the choice of The Christ Principle as my center. (BELIEF)
  • I live out that choice in one reality with three distinct universes (physical, mental, and spiritual). (FAITH INFORMED BY REASON)
  • Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior, through his birth, teachings, death, resurrection, and ascension, reopened the kingdom of heaven to those who follow his way, his truth and lead his life in their lifespan. (HOPE)
  • Jesus is the sign of contradiction, the paradox that doesn’t make sense. Fierce love is the energy of God in the world, but only as we have the capacity to receive it (capacitas dei). Contemplative practice allows us to access the presence of Christ through the Holy Spirit, who in turn is our intermediary with the Father. (LOVE)
  • The Holy Spirit is the Second Advocate, a gift from the Father through Christ. This is how I must sustain my seventy or eighty years on this earth seeking God and moving from my false self to my true self as an adopted son (or daughter) of the Father. (TRANSFORMATION)

One of the reasons God had to become human nature was to give us the answers to these six questions of life. the ones that enable us to fulfill our purpose as human beings. Having reason and the ability to choose, Original Sin is the archetypal story of how humans have not made good choices when left to their own devices. All choices have consequences, and in the case of our prototype parents, Adam and Eve, the consequence of sin is death, not just for them but for all humans. Genesis is a powerful and descriptive tale of human weakness and the consequences of that action of wanting to be god. It is as real today as it was then. The Christ Principle is one that provides authentic answers to the critical questions of life. These answers are not from what the world thinks is a purpose but what God tells us, and through Christ, shows us the way, the truth, and to live that life. For someone who does not recognize nor even know what they don’t know, it is a place where all of us are afraid to look, the interior realm of the kingdom of heaven. Because we have been saved, God has given us adoption and thus the ability to expand our capacity to know, love, and serve God and others in this life, so we can be happy in the next. (Baltimore Catechism, Questions 6). Consistent with the effects of original sin (we have to work for a living, we suffer pain and death), we must constantly challenge the forces of decay and time and replace our false selves with all things new.

The effects of Original Sin challenge the kingdom of heaven but don’t conquer it unless you do not recognize the Christ Principle. This is the struggle we all face when trying to replace or refurbish our Faith with the energy of God. As humans, we have all been conceived in this condition of decay and rust. It is automatic, to the point of being a default. It is like the grass in your front yard. If you don’t mow it, it will get out of hand and become a mess. It takes work to be spiritual. That is what it means to take up your cross daily and follow Christ. He is the way, the truth, and the life. What was his way? The road to Calvary, fraught with temptations to stop his mission to be a ransom for many. We put on Christ, each day when we do Cistercian practices to enable us to have in us the mind of that same Christ Jesus. (Philippians 2:5). Day in and day out, the effects of Original Sin silently mitigate our intentions to love others as Christ loved us. To be a Christian, in this deepest, contemplative sense, is to be in constant vigil mode to be watchmen or watchwomen against human nature itself. This is the struggle of taking up the cross each day and following Christ. We trod our own path each day but, now, because Christ loved us first, we have the doors of heaven open to those who recognize that their destiny is tied up the Christ Principle.

Satan uses our human nature and our human weaknesses to interject temptations (choices that are not God’s) into daily living. This battle is why contemplative practice must be more than just reciting prayers, even seven times a day as in the case of Liturgy of the Hours. The pull of original sin is inexorably strong, like a starfish surrounding its prey, gradually increasing pressure, if not saved. Salvation is not just a one time event that happened during the time of Christ. Christ left imperfect and sinful members to carry on the struggle to have in them the mind of Christ Jesus (Philippians 2:5) in each age. In fact, for each one of us, we constantly fight the good fight against the forces of Satan and the consequences of Original Sin. Those who persevere are saved each and every time they choose Christ over their false selves. Cistercian prayer must fit into a way of living that is creating opportunities for you (and in the case of others, a community) to be present to Christ in order to listen with the ear of the heart to the Holy Spirit. (Prologue to the Rule of St. Benedict)

Catholicism is more than just a catechism and pronouncements from various councils, it is recognizing and sustaining Christ in each and every day as your center, number one in your life. It is a way of living out humanity with faith, hope, and love, as St. Paul says in I Corinthians. And the greatest of these is love. Love, not as the world gives, peace not as the world says it is, but our hearts touching the heart of Christ, which is at the right hand of the Father.

Humility and obedience are not just words that the world uses to separate individuals from God. Jesus came to show us that is by renouncing our personal will and replacing it with whatever God says is good, obedience is not lording it over one gender or another, one race or another, one nationality or another, one political party or another. Love unites us all in, with and through our Lord and savior, Jesus Christ. In his name, we have eternal life, if we but obey God and not the world. John 20:30-31.

Like Jesus, it is only when we empty ourselves of all those vices of our false self that we can approach the Father, through Christ, and ask for mercy for forgiveness for our sinful tendencies. Not that we are sin-centered or always go about committing moral sin, the challenge for a contemplative approach to spirituality is to recognize that I am a penitential person each day until I die. I bear the mark of the cross on my soul, the sign of contradiction, I must work to fend off the subtle seduction of Satan to be god by choosing my will over God’s.

From right now until I die, I make a profession or promise as a Lay Cistercian to always have in me the mind of Christ Jesus (Philippians 2:5) throughout the day. My prayer time is not an hour or set period, although I do pray during set times. Rather, it is my awareness that I am in a process of becoming more like Christ and less like me each day. Some days are better than others. Some days I have setbacks and must re-gain control over my life and make all things new through Christ. It is my journey and just because my road is rocky doesn’t mean I am on the wrong road. No road is wrong with Christ walking beside you, like he did with the disciples at Emmaus, teaching them about how he fulfilled the prophets and prophecies of Israel.

When I am present to Christ, he teaches me through Scripture, Lectio Divina, Eucharist, Eucharist Adoration, through the work I do in writing this blog and my books on contemplative practice, in sharing my ideas with others and identifying the Holy Spirit in what they say back to me.

LOVING OTHERS IS A CONSTANT PROCESS USING THE TOOLS CHRIST HAS GIVEN ME

If you have read this blog up to this point, then you know that I am using the six questions of life to answer what Christ has taught us about temptation and original sin.

I don’t have sinning at the top of my “to do” list. Why must I remain vigilant in prayer and fasting not to fall into temptation? My answer is the sinful condition which is the world and its empty promises and allurements to be god. I must keep myself in good spiritual condition to confront the every day effects of Original Sin. Like someone who goes to the gym, I must exercise my spiritual life or lose it. Christ will never abandon me, as he will always keep the covenant of New and Old Testaments, but I am the one who fails. I need the constant energy of God in me to survive to the end of the race. That doesn’t happen without work.

I don’t speak for anyone but myself. My time left will be spent packing for the trip to forever. I realize that heaven begins for me right now if I am aware of it. Sitting on a park bench in the middle of winter waiting for Christ is all I try to do in my Lectio Divina. I am so energized and excited about what my two advocates (Christ and the Holy Spirit) are telling me, that I can’t write it down fast enough.

Here is my “to do” list of what I hope to continue now (or later on in heaven).

  • Finish my manuscript book on The Divine Equation: A Lay Cistercian reflects on a formula of reality that unlocks a few of the mysteries of Faith.
  • Take a trip to the Monastery of Our Lady of the Holy Spirit (Trappist) in Conyers, Georgia, and stay for a Lay Cistercian retreat (when COVID 19 restrictions are lifted)
  • Prepare my estate for when I die: cremation wishes, VA benefits, insurance benefits, church services, burial details, who to call to notify relatives, obituary for the newspaper.
  • Ask someone to help me set up a YouTube site to begin to put them on a vlog.

NOTICE: Some URL books are linked to my Amazon Associates account and I receive credit when someone chooses to purchase them.

LENTEN CONVERSION: FROM FACTIONS TO ONE LORD

In this time of slowing down to catch up to the Christ within us, Lent provides each person with their own unique way of sorting out those false narratives that drag us down from seeking the true Christ to ones that fit our emotional responses to how we look at what is around us. What sounds like a mouthful of marbles speaking is actually one of the keys to making all things new, again. It is the seductive and sophomoric failing of human nature to belong to a group, any group. We have a deep seated fear of being alone and so belonging to some group tends to make us more secure than being our in the woods alone.

Remember that you have been chosen by God to be an adopted son or daughter of the Father so you can claim the inheritance bought by the precious blood of Our Lord on the cross. The Mystery of Faith is one that says we don’t quite know what is in store for us in Heaven but because Christ loved us first, we know that heaven is love. One thing heaven is not is a group of factions. During Lent we need to get rid of those factions and put on the new self in Christ.

Read what St. Paul tells us about moving from the old self (factions) to the one (One Lord). I encourage you to read it three times, very slowly. The first time, read it for the words and the flavor. The second time, read it to see how factions can be insidious pieces of glass in your shoes. The third time, read it with the idea that you must put on those things that move to Christ and away from factions, in particular. I have added the notes at the end of this Scripture for your convenience. This is my Lenten reading which I share with you. Notice the seven unities in verses 1-6. St. Paul provides us with the behaviors we must follow to have in us the mind of Christ Jesus. (Philippians 2:5) https://bible.usccb.org/bible/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,a2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another through love,b3 striving 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;d 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism;e 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.f

Diversity of Gifts.7 But grace was given to each of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift.g 8Therefore, it says:

“He ascended* on high and took prisoners captive; he gave gifts to men.”h 9 What does “he ascended” mean except that he also descended into the lower [regions] of the earth? 10 The one who descended is also the one who ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things. 11* And he gave some as apostles, others as prophets, others as evangelists, others as pastors and teachers,i 12 to equip the holy ones for the work of ministry,* for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of faith and knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood,* to the extent of the full stature of Christ,j 14 so that we may no longer be infants, tossed by waves and swept along by every wind of teaching arising from human trickery, from their cunning in the interests of deceitful scheming.k15 Rather, living the truth in love, we should grow in every way into him who is the head,l Christ,*16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, with the proper functioning of each part, brings about the body’s growth and builds itself up in love.m

Renewal in Christ.* 17 So I declare and testify in the Lord that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds;n18 darkened in understanding, alienated from the life of God because of their ignorance, because of their hardness of heart,o19 they have become callous and have handed themselves over to licentiousness for the practice of every kind of impurity to excess.p 20 That is not how you learned Christ,21assuming that you have heard of him and were taught in him, as truth is in Jesus, 22 that you should put away the old self of your former way of life, corrupted through deceitful desires,q 23 and be renewed in the spirit of your minds,r 24 and put on* the new self, created in God’s way in righteousness and holiness of truth.s

IV. Daily Conduct, an Expression of Unity*

Rules for the New Life. 25 Therefore, putting away falsehood, speak the truth, each one to his neighbor, for we are members one of another.t26 Be angry but do not sin;u do not let the sun set on your anger,*27and do not leave room for the devil.v 28 The thief must no longer steal, but rather labor, doing honest work* with his [own] hands, so that he may have something to share with one in need.w 29 No foul language should come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for needed edification, that it may impart grace to those who hear.x 30 And do not grieve the holy Spirit of God, with which you were sealed for the day of redemption.*31All bitterness, fury, anger, shouting, and reviling must be removed from you, along with all malice.y32[And] be kind to one another, compassionate, forgiving one another as God has forgiven you in Christ.z

* [4:116] A general plea for unity in the church. Christians have been fashioned through the Spirit into a single harmonious religious community (one body, Eph 4:412; cf. Eph 4:16), belonging to a single Lord (in contrast to the many gods of the pagan world), and by one way of salvation through faith, brought out especially by the significance of baptism (Eph 4:16; cf. Rom 6:111). But Christian unity is more than adherence to a common belief. It is manifested in the exalted Christ’s gifts to individuals to serve so as to make the community more Christlike (Eph 4:1116). This teaching on Christ as the source of the gifts is introduced in Eph 4:8 by a citation of Ps 68:18, which depicts Yahweh triumphantly leading Israel to salvation in Jerusalem. It is here understood of Christ, ascending above all the heavens, the head of the church; through his redemptive death, resurrection, and ascension he has become the source of the church’s spiritual gifts. The “descent” of Christ (Eph 4:910) refers more probably to the incarnation (cf. Phil 2:68) than to Christ’s presence after his death in the world of the dead (cf. 1 Pt 3:19).

* [4:46] The “seven unities” (church, Spirit, hope; Lord, faith in Christ [Eph 1:13], baptism; one God) reflect the triune structure of later creeds in reverse.

* [4:810] While the emphasis is on an ascension and gift-giving by Christ, there is also a reference in taking prisoners captive to the aeons and powers mentioned at Eph 1:212:23:106:12.

* [4:11] Concerning this list of ministers, cf. 1 Cor 12:28 and Rom 12:68. Evangelists: missionary preachers (cf. Acts 21:82 Tm 4:5), not those who wrote gospels. Pastors and teachers: a single group in the Greek, shepherding congregations.

* [4:12] The ministerial leaders in Eph 4:11 are to equip the whole people of God for their work of ministry.

* [4:13] Mature manhood: literally, “a perfect man” (cf. Col 1:28), possibly the “one new person” of Eph 2:15, though there anthrōpos suggests humanity, while here anēr is the term for male. This personage becomes visible in the church’s growing to its fullness in the unity of those who believe in Christ.

* [4:1516] The head, Christ: cf. Col 1:18 and contrast 1 Cor 12:1227 and Rom 12:45 where Christ is identified with the whole body, including the head. The imagery may derive from ancient views in medicine, the head coordinating and caring for the body, each ligament (perhaps the ministers of Eph 4:11) supporting the whole. But as at Eph 2:1922, where the temple is depicted as a growing organism, there may also be the idea here of growing toward the capstone, Christ.

* [4:1724] Paul begins to indicate how the new life in Christ contrasts with the Gentiles’ old way of existence. Literally, the old self (Eph 4:22) and the new self (Eph 4:24) are “the old man” and “the new man” (anthrōpos, person), as at Eph 2:15; cf. note on Eph 4:13.

* [4:24] Put on: in baptism. See note on Gal 3:27.

* [4:256:20] For similar exhortations to a morally good life in response to God’s gift of faith, see notes on Rom 12:113:14 and Gal 5:1326.

* [4:26] If angry, seek reconciliation that day, not giving the devil (Eph 6:11) opportunity to lead into sin.

* [4:28] Honest work: literally, “the good.” His [own] hands: some manuscripts have the full phrase as in 1 Cor 4:12.

* [4:30] See note on Eph 1:13.

a. [4:13:1Col 1:10.

b. [4:2Col 3:1213.

c. [4:3Col 3:1415.

d. [4:4Rom 12:51 Cor 10:1712:1213.

e. [4:51 Cor 8:6.

f. [4:61 Cor 12:6.

g. [4:7Rom 12:361 Cor 12:28.

h. [4:8Ps 68:19Col 2:15.

i. [4:111 Cor 12:28.

j. [4:13Col 1:28.

k. [4:141 Cor 14:20Col 2:48Heb 13:9Jas 1:6.

l. [4:151 Cor 11:3Col 1:182:19.

m. [4:16Col 2:19.

n. [4:17Rom 1:21.

o. [4:18Col 1:211 Pt 1:14.

p. [4:19Col 3:5.

q. [4:22Rom 8:13Gal 6:8Col 3:9.

r. [4:23Rom 12:2.

s. [4:24Gn 1:2627Col 3:10.

t. [4:25Zec 8:16.

u. [4:26Ps 4:5 LXX; Mt 5:22.

v. [4:272 Cor 2:11.

w. [4:281 Thes 4:11.

x. [4:295:4Col 3:164:6.

y. [4:31Col 3:8.

z. [4:32Mt 6:14Col 3:1213.

St. Paul provides what we should do, but it that what happens when we live out our lives in the world? Here are some ideas about factions and what they mean to me as I trod through the minefield of everyday living.

  • Factions are all those little sidetracks on the road of life that try to convince me to join them to be free or fulfill my destiny. They are illusions of power or certitude that offer a cotton candy approach how I must lead my life each day.
  • Factions separate brother from sister and families from other famililes because of moral beliefs, political beliefs, financial beliefs
  • Factions cause me to think that I am better than others because I am Catholic (or Protestant or Jewish)
  • Factions cause me to think that my nationality is my true identify rather than putting on Christ Jesus
  • Factions causes pride when I think of how much more Christian I am than those poor wretches that think there is no god
  • Factions cause me to think being male is superior to being female because God is male (actually God is neither male or female, but Jesus Christ is male)

Imagine placing factions as your center rather than the One Lord. The outcomes of such an switch are:

  • envy
  • jealousy
  • factioning (Galatians 5)
  • being one political party and hating the other
  • living only in the physical and mental universes (the world) rather than adding the kingdom of heaven
  • nationalism
  • racism
  • religionism
  • any of the many isms that split us into “me and you” rather than “us”

The wages of sin are death. Life is the reward for those who get rid of all factions. There are no factions in heaven, only Christ. Lent is a time to take stock of how factions in my life pull me down rather than lifting me up to make all things new. Factions are very subtle temptations to be god. Get rid of the insidious virus of factions, if you want to continue to die to yourself so that you can properly sit next to Christ on a park bench in the middle of winter and just hang out.

Once again, re-read what St. Paul says about the rules we should assimilate into our hearts each day, but certainly during this Lenten season of penance and prayer.

Rules for the New Life. 25 Therefore, putting away falsehood, speak the truth, each one to his neighbor, for we are members one of another.t26 Be angry but do not sin;u do not let the sun set on your anger,*27and do not leave room for the devil.v 28 The thief must no longer steal, but rather labor, doing honest work* with his [own] hands, so that he may have something to share with one in need.w 29 No foul language should come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for needed edification, that it may impart grace to those who hear.x 30 And do not grieve the holy Spirit of God, with which you were sealed for the day of redemption.*31All bitterness, fury, anger, shouting, and reviling must be removed from you, along with all malice.y32[And] be kind to one another, compassionate, forgiving one another as God has forgiven you in Christ.z

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

To move from false self to new self in Christ Jesus, be aware of factions and get rid of them all. There is no room for sin and Christ in your house, now or in heaven.

A LAY CISTERCIAN LOOKS AT HOW FACTIONS SPLIT THE UNITY OF CHRIST

One of the hidden factions that the devil uses to tempt us to break off from Christ is to think that I am alone in my spiritual journey and not part of a group of other Lay Cistercians. I break off from the interaction of the Holy Spirit with each Lay Cistercian member and only listen to myself. This faction has no growth, and with me as the only way, truth, and the life. How boring that is.

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HERE ARE TEN TEMPTATIONS FROM SATAN I BET YOU NEVER SAW COMING.

The Devil loves to seduce humans into going against God, then laughs heartily at the offender as being so gullible and weak that he missed out on the purpose of life.

I thought about how the Devil might dissuade me from having in me the mind of Christ Jesus (Philippians 2:5) the center of my life. I thought about how he doesn’t make direct assaults on my Faith but puts up little and seemingly insignificant options for me to consider to make my center wobble and maybe derail. The Devil can’t make me do anything because of my free will, but neither can God. I must freely choose one way or the other. The problem is what way leads to fulfillment as a human and what way leads to death?

Here are a couple of temptations that I have experienced and which you may find of interest.

TEMPTATION ONE: It is foolish to die to oneself so that you can rise with Christ to make all things new.

Satan knows how to use those elements of my spirituality to sidetrack me from doing God’s will and replace it with my own. Each day, I start the day asking God to never let me out of his sight (which is impossible, but I must remind myself of it). Saint Michael’s Prayer is one I saw each day to remind myself that help is there for those who ask for it. The temptation suggests that I should choose only those things pleasing to me, those feelings and emotions that seem to fulfill my destiny such as power, fame, fortune, adulation from others. Christ comes to tell me something unpleasant. Namely that I must take up my cross daily and follow the way, the truth, and the life. This choice of dying to self to rise to Christ only takes place in the spiritual universe. Our human nature (physical and mental universes only) does not accept the notion of the cross, of leading a penitential life, of adding a spiritual dimension to what the world says is important.

TEMPTATION TWO: Speaking for the Holy Spirit

Just because I receive energy from the Holy Spirit in my Lectio Divina and Eucharistic Adoration does not mean that I speak for the Holy Spirit. One of the big mistakes we all make is thinking that the Holy Spirit is our personal wireless phone to the Father. Because of this, the Devil suggests to us that we should require others to follow what the Holy Spirit tells us to do. I have particular knowledge of this temptation because there is a voice that tells me all the time that I must be important if the Holy Spirit talks to me. In truth, it is the Holy Spirit that is important because I keep my mouth shut and listen.

TEMPTATION THREE: My god can beat your god

This temptation pits those whose belief is more on who is the correct church than those who preach the Gospel in season and out of season with patience and kindness. You become the judgment of God over others. You are the final arbiter of who goes to heaven and who goes to hell. God looks a lot like you and certainly sounds like you.

TEMPTATION FOUR: Making your political party god

During this past political season, all political parties are guilty of playing god. The party platform is the Ten Commandments, the political officials are proselytizers of the gospel of their politics. People’s Faith is based on politics rather than the Gospel and they actually hate others and wish them evil. The Devil takes particular delight in this sin of factions and hatred. (Galatians 5)

TEMPTATION FIVE: Being a Catholic Priest or Minister or Rabbi means you can make the rules for others but don’t have to keep them yourself.

This is the sin of clericalism, that of laying burdens on others that you yourself don’t keep. I am speaking specifically of those chosen to be priests, ministers or rabbis rather than Laypersons, although this does apply to individuals who think the Holy Spirit gives them the right to be right (correct). See Temptation Two.

Denunciation of the Scribes and Pharisees. 1a Then Jesus spoke to the crowds and to his disciples, 2* saying, “The scribes and the Pharisees have taken their seat on the chair of Moses. 3 Therefore, do and observe all things whatsoever they tell you, but do not follow their example. For they preach but they do not practice. 4b They tie up heavy burdens* [hard to carry] and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they will not lift a finger to move them. 5*c All their works are performed to be seen. They widen their phylacteries and lengthen their tassels. 6*d They love places of honor at banquets, seats of honor in synagogues, 7 greetings in marketplaces, and the salutation ‘Rabbi.’ 8* As for you, do not be called ‘Rabbi.’ You have but one teacher, and you are all brothers. 9 Call no one on earth your father; you have but one Father in heaven. 10 Do not be called ‘Master’; you have but one master, the Messiah. 11e The greatest among you must be your servant. 12f Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, but whoever humbles himself will be exalted.

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/matthew/23

TEMPTATION SIX: My spirituality is better than yours.

For Lay Cistercians, the application of this temptation is to think that you are somehow special over others who have different ways of centering themselves around the Christ Principle, such as Franciscans, Dominicans, Augustinians, Jesuit spirituality. There is only one Spirit, one Lord, one Baptism. The Devil uses those nefarious human weaknesses of wanting to sit at the abbot’s table, the right hand of God, as did the Sons of Thunder. In humility, as each of us measures ourselves against Christ, we all come up short and must continuously convert our minds and hearts to be more like Jesus and less like our false selves.

TEMPTATION SEVEN: No one can tell me what to believe or what to do with my body.

Humans have reason for a reason, as well as the ability to choose what is good, or in some cases bad, for themselves. This temptation from Satan works on our egos and is that faint whisper that no one is good enough to tell us what to believe. This is a subtle temptation to deny the sign of contradiction that Christ is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. The World is the default for decision-making in this temptation. No Church, no Pope, No Bishop, No Abbot or Abbess, No Superior or Supervisor who is authorized as the visible head of Christ on earth, can tell me anything. I answer to no authority higher than my own ego. None of this religious stuff makes any sense, especially dying to self to rise with Christ to a new life (again and again).

TEMPTATION EIGHT: My choices about right and wrong are mine alone to make. I always choose what is easy over what is more difficult and demands sacrifice. When I am god, no one can tell me what is right or wrong because I make the rules. Adam and Eve fell into this trap from Satan and we all fall in and out of it as we make our way through the minefields of choices. Choice defines who we are.

TEMPTATION NINE: Belief makes something true. Here is a very sophisticated temptation. Faith comes from God in the form of the energy that helps enlighten us and allow us to love others as Christ loved us. Belief is a human response to that Faith. I saw a statistic recently from Bishop Robert Barron in his YouTube on the Eucharist that stated that 70% of Catholics in a Pew Survey did not believe in the real presence. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UzCPu_lEhe8&t=223s In my thinking, Eucharist, the transubstantiation of bread and wine into the actual body and blood of Christ, separates the remnant of those who believe in the sign of contradiction from those whose experience of Christ is like reading a good book.

Belief of all those who ever lived in Jesus as Lord will not make the Eucharist present in the host and precious blood of Christ. Only the authority of Jesus through the Apostles down to us today makes it so. The temptation of the Devil is to seduce those who have been Baptized to marginalize the Eucharist as so much magic and hocus-pocus. The Devil is influential but not powerful. He works around the edges of our weakenesses and unbelief. He counts on humans to be human, to slack off of practicing fidelity in prayer and sacrifices for others. He works the margins of the effects of original sin, as he did with Adam and Eve.

TEMPTATION TEN: There is no such thing as temptation.

In our modern times, we are tempted to discard all old-fashioned thinking in favor of becoming a more perfect person through psychology and self-help gurus. If the Devil can convince us that there is no temptation, no resurrection, that Jesus is not the Messiah, or we don’t have to do all those rules made up by dirty, old men who prey on the weak and take advantage of their power to seduce others, he is home free.

Unfortunately, some of the Faithful will succumb to this temptation whose choices may bode poorly for their Faith in the future. In this time of Lent, I pray first for me, that I may not enter into temptation, then for others in the Church, that they might see what is really going on in the battle between Satan and Christ with our souls being the stage on which all of this plays out.

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 is to come at the end of the ages. Amen and Amen. –Cistercian doxology

A LAY CISTERCIAN REFLECTS ON: MAKING AN EXAMINATION OF CONSCIENCE BEFORE RECEIVING THE SACRAMENT OF RECONCILIATION

Jesus left us several stories and activities that we should do to make him present to us. Clearly, Eucharist, the Real Presence of Christ, the fulfilment of the Last Supper, is paramount among ways to seek forgiveness and ask for God’s mercy. Additional ways to practice being in the presence of Christ are: Liturgy of the Hours, recitation of the Rosary; reading Scriptures with meditation; Lectio Divina. When we receive the Lord’s Prayer together, two great ways to make all things new are: Eucharist and Reconciliation.

One of the consequences of being overshadowed by the Holy Spirit as I make my way through the potholes of life as a Lay Cistercian is being more aware that I must slow down my thinking that my worth is due to the activities I use to fill the holes of my lonliness and lack of productivity. Lectio Divina must have a productive outcome for me to be successful. I must complete Liturgy of the House to be considered holy and a good Catholic. Holiness depends upon how many prayers I say and if I do all the Cistercian practices each day with maximum devotion.

The reality is shocking, even to me as I think I am praying and praying my way to salvation. The slow opening of my heart to the Holy Spirit has opened Pandora’s box of light, but not ones that are evil or demonic. Being more able to sense the presence of Christ with the Holy Spirit in each person I meet has given me a perspective of being a perennial penitent, one who only asks for Jesus, Son of God, Savior to have mercy on me. One of the great help, dare I say tools, to help me is Chapter 4 of the Rule of St. Benedict. I try to say it every day with maximum conviction. Some days are better than others, but, it is a living.

I recommend that you use the checklist of those tools that St. Benedict says will allow us to be in the presence of Christ. I find these items a checklist or an examination of conscience that I use at the end of the day to measure myself against those behaviors and holy actions that Christ says will help me move from my false self to my true self. I will share with you the steps I use before receiving the Sacrament of Reconciliation. This is when I meet Christ face to face in the person of the priest. I prepare to meet Christ by listening to Him with the ear of my heart, as St. Benedict counsels in his Prologue to the Rule.

Chapter 4: The Tools for Good Works

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.

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 prove 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.

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

46 Yearn for everlasting life with holy desire.
47 Day by day remind yourself that you are going to die.
48 Hour by hour keep careful watch over all you do,
49 aware that God’s gaze is upon you, wherever you may be.
50 As soon as wrongful thoughts come into your heart, dash them against Christ and disclose them to your spiritual father. 51Guard your lips from harmful or deceptive speech.
52 Prefer moderation in speech
53 and speak no foolish chatter, nothing just to provoke laughter;
54 do not love immoderate or boisterous laughter.

55 Listen readily to holy reading,
56 and devote yourself often to prayer.
57 Every day with tears and sighs confess your past sins to God in prayer
58 and change from these evil ways in the future.

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).

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.

75 These, then are the tools of the spiritual craft. 76When we have used them without ceasing day and night and have returned them on judgment day, our wages will be the reward the Lord has promised: 77 What the eye has not seen nor the ear heard, God has prepared for those who love him (1 Cor 2:9).

78 The workshop where we are to toil faithfully at all these tasks is the enclosure of the monastery and stability in the community.

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

A WAY TO SEEK GOD’S MERCY THROUGH THE SACRAMENT OF RECONCILIATION

  1. Find a quiet spot in the Church to be alone and pray in silence. For those at home, those who are elderly or have health issues, seek to sit down with Christ on a park bench in the middle of winter and just wait there. Christ is always in the sanctuary of your heart, the same heart marked with his sign of the cross, where you welcome him in humility and obedience to the will of the Father.
  2. Ask that the Holy Spirit, our second advocate, overshadow you with God’s blanket of energy (grace) and that all you seek is to dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of your life. Then, wait. How long? As long as it takes. (Fifteen minutes or there about)
  3. Take up the Rule of St. Benedict and turn to Chapter 4. Read the complete list of Tools for Good Works. Sit in silence and wait. Then read Chapter 4 a second time and think of how far you are from having in you the mind of Christ Jesus as you go through each item on the list. Sit in silence and wait for Christ to talk to you. This last time, read through each items very slowly, pausing after each items to think about how you can move from your false self to your true self using these tools, with the energy of the Holy Spirit to help you. Sit in silence and pray for God’s mercy on you and those you have encountered since your last confession.
  4. Go to Confession and confess your sins in kind and number to the priest and Christ the high priest. Make a firm purpose not to sin again with Christ’s help. Do the penance the priest gives you.
  5. After your confession, return to silence and solitude and pray that you become what you just experienced, to make all things new in, with and through Christ, to the glory of the Father, now and forever. The God who is, who was, and who is to come at the end of the ages. –Cistercian doxology

POINTS OF LEARNING AND ENLIGHTENMENT

  • We, humans, want instant gratification from and for our behaviors. I want instant forgiveness for my sins. The damage done by my sins is not instant but may last a long time. Look at Adam and Eve. The damage caused by this archetypal sin represented all of humanity and lasted until the coming of Christ. Christ saved us from being stuck in Purgatory forever. During this time of Lenten reflection, we must slow down our rush to have Christ present to us and learn to wait.
  • It is the time each of us takes to prepare to receive any of the Sacraments that makes it all the more meaningful to us. Sacraments are seven ways the Gathering of Believers share in special moments where Christ gives us grace. Our default is often rushing in to pray like we have somewhere else more important that we must attend. We want to “get in, get on, get over, and then get out” in our prayer life.
  • This is the subtle temptation of Satan using our willingness to pray but seducing the proper use of humility and obedience to suit our own temperament and will. Subtle indeed. We don’t even know what hit us.
  • The Sacrament is sacred and required appropriate preparation. Chapter 4 of the Rule (shown above) is a way that I try to help me focus on my penitential aspects.

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