Tuesday, May 23, 2017

ONE HUNDRED THOUSAND

     I want to thank all my readers for moving this blog forward to the 100,000 visitor mark.  This is something I never expected to see.  It shows me the great interest there is in Spirituality, not only in America but throughout the world.  Readers in 85 countries have visited this Blog. 

    Again, my deepest appreciation to you all.

All blessings,

Anthony     

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

THE VIEW FROM YOUR WINDOW

   A vision is our world-view, the view we get from our window and from our imagination and mind. 

 Our new spiritual vision calls for us to see deeply, mystically.  To see mystically is to  see with the eyes of faith.  Each of us is an everyday mystic.

   Here's one way to see mystically.  Look at yourself and your surroundings.  See your computer or I-Pad, your desk, the room you're in.  Then look at the scene from your window.  See your immediate surroundings.  Now imagine a panoramic view of people, cities, fields, mountains, trees, plants and flowers, animals, rivers, bridges, oceans and sky.  Imagine the entire swirling universe.

   Keep looking at them and see a light begin to glow within them.  See the light brighten, grow strong and vibrant.  See the light glowing in everyone and everything, making them look sharper, clearer, more true and vibrant.  Understand that you are seeing the whole world aglow with the inner presence of LOVE, which, as I noted above, makes the whole world/universe the global/universal Christ, i.e., the entire divine-love filled world/universe.  This understanding adds contemporary meaning to one of St. Paul's favorite expressions, i.e., that we live in Christ.

   Now look within yourself and see the education, talents, interests and opportunities--big or small--that you have and that you can use to help others brighten the light within themselves, ourselves and others, and where necessary, correct ourselves, themselves and others in the humble love of Christ's grace, so that all can move forward toward our divinely intended fulfillment of wholeness in love.  

   Very importantly, we must not only see and understand what we are doing, we must deeply and genuinely care about what we are doing.  And we must show that we deeply and genuinely care.  People will respond more easily and deeply to our caring than to our ideas and understanding.

   Is all this too far fetched?  Too utopian?  With the way things are these days, we can easily believe that the odds against our making any progress are just too great.

   In response, may I make bold to speak for Jesus.  "I lived in a country that was occupied by the brutally cruel Romans.  Among my own people, the rich oppressed the poor.  I healed the sick, blessed the poor and preached love for everyone.  My own political/religious leaders were jealous of their power and fought me at every opportunity.  In the end I was arrested and illegally tried and executed.  

   Despite all that, I give you the vision and reality of ever-flowing resurrection.  The presence and energy of my Spirit in you empowers you to do the things I did and even greater things than I did.  (Cf. Jn. l4:12). I have given you eyes to see the suffering of this world.  I have given you a heart to feel and ears to hear the cries of people who need you. I have given you the Spirit to know how to work against the odds to move the world forward toward its fulfillment of wholeness in love.  I have given you a heart to care. 

   See that my Kingdom of Love is within you and within all whom you will touch.  Go forward and help to build it. Work hard and be patient.  I am always with you."

   Was Jesus naive?  Utopian?

  Now look out your window again.  Look at your room.  Look at yourself.  Is the global Christ naive?  Utopian?....    






   
        

   















             

Thursday, April 13, 2017

A NEW SPIRITUAL VISION (Part 2 of 2)

  I wrote Part 1 first and it has now moved below this part.  And I don't know how or if I can flip it up before this entry.  So please check Blog Archive on the right side of this page for 
 A New Spiritual Vision, Part 1

   Our new vision depends on the facts and the truth.  For example, in politics, the fact is that House Speaker Paul Ryan said his version of the Health Care bill would guarantee that everyone had access to health care.  But the truth is that his version of "access" means that not every American would actually have health care.  So he was playing with words.  Further, the truth is that the government has an obligation to ensure that everyone has health care.  This is not "socialism."  The government's obligation to provide healthcare for all is one of "justice for all."

   Someone may ask, "How are you so sure what the truth is?"  I respond that in this case I know the truth in two ways.  One:  I know the English language and I know when it is being manipulated to tell a lie.  Two:  Being endowed with the grace of Christ I can discern the obligations of social justice that pertain to all humans.  Now I invite you to join me in seeking and seeing the truth together.

   In my previous Post I spoke of the tension between an arguing husband and wife that put them in a dualistic world.  Each one was opposed to the other.  The therapist supplied a third, higher element, their mutual love, making their dualistic situation a trinity.  As a result, the therapist 1) created a way for the coupl
                     2) to heal and save their marriage, and
                     3) to move forward and evolve in their lives.  
   Here we have the three elements of our vision:  Creativity, Healing/Saving, and Transforming/Evolving Life.  These elements are those of God, who is ONE Creative, Healing/Saving and World Transforming/Evolving, Living LOVE.  

   In theology, we can say that God is Infinite/Eternal, Creative LOVE (Father), flowing into and begetting World Healing/Saving Love (Son), giving rise to World Transforming/Evolving Love (Holy Spirit). 

   Also, divine LOVE is never static.  Divine LOVE is a flowing, in fact overflowing LOVE, always creating, always healing/saving, and always urging the world forward in its evolution.  We experience God dynamically when we experience LOVE calling us forward from the future, to our best possible fulfillment. 

   Our first and best guide to living the vision is Jesus, the individual human being who was the universal Christ, i.e., the whole universe saturated with God's overflowing love. (Cf. A New Creation Story) Like Jesus, the vision starts here and now in the flesh, on the ground.  Like Christ, it expands to embrace the entire world, the earth, the universe and infinity/eternity.  It is the one vision that is fully worthy of our complete human reality and dignity as beloved and sacred images of God.

   (The Church sees salvation outside of Jesus.  Jews, Muslims, Hindus, et al., and even people who don't know Jesus but live in consistent good will and love, will be saved.  That's because salvation comes in Christ, i. e., in living a life consistent with the LOVE saturated world.  Since Jesus was the Christ, in him we see the fullness of our way to salvation.  In our way of seeing, though not everyone agrees, everyone who lives in Christ therefore automatically lives in Jesus, even though they don't know it.)

   Starting on the ground, we begin with ourselves by looking more clearly at our own talents, abilities and opportunities, all of which show us our vocation in and for today's culture and society.

    For example, people competent in education can work to create a school program (public and Catholic) that will truly create in the children an ever more intense desire for learning.  As someone whose name I cant remember said, education is not filling buckets, it's setting fires.  The program will heal the children's ignorance with humanizing, edifying knowledge.  And it will move the children's lives forward in their ongoing human evolution of understanding how to make a living and how to make a life.  Such an educational program will include appreciating the talents, possibilities, respect, dignity and transcendent purpose that each child possesses as a beloved and sacred individual member of the human community.

   Those competent in business and economics can work with businesses to create stronger motivations to produce the best possible goods and services at fair prices.  They will work to heal any of the business's shortcomings, e.g., in providing clean and safe working conditions, fair living income for its workers, and respect for the environment, and they will help move the business forward in justice by helping the business give retraining opportunities to employees who are fired because the business sends their jobs to another area of the country or overseas, in order to maximize profits.  Thus they will also help move the business forward as a respected, contributing member of the community, nation and world.

   In sum, when we come face to face with the degradation of our humanity and the earth, we will speak up and act to correct it and to elevate our humanity, making our humanity more luminous in the Creative, Healing/Saving and World Transforming/Evolving love of Christ. 

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Wednesday, April 5, 2017

A NEW SPIRITUAL VISION (Part 1 of 2)

   In the 20th century we had to arise from the devastation of the Great Depression and World War II.  Vatican II was the church's effort to attain such a new rising.  So far, it hasn't succeeded, although Pope Francis is working hard to bring it new life.  In his own way, he is working to create a new vision for our time.
 
   In the spirit of Pope Francis, I propose a new vision for our consideration

  Let's begin with an example.  A young therapist was stuck between a quarreling husband and wife.  When he sided with the husband, the wife got angry.  When he sided with the wife, the husband got angry.  He couldn't find any room for compromise.  So he consulted his director. His director said, "Your job is not to take either side.  You have to go higher than just looking for a compromise on the level of their tension.  You have to help them rediscover the love they share.  If that love is still there it will give them higher common ground on which they can see the real facts and truth of their quarrels.  And they can work from there." 

   The tension between the husband and wife was obscuring the facts and truth behind their disagreements.  They needed to find "higher ground" on which they could come together and approach their disagreements from the same point of view. Their love for each other, if it still existed, was the key to solving their quarrels.  

   Here's another example.  In politics there is a natural tension between liberals and conservatives.  In bad times, such as today, the views of each side are so stubbornly and at times irrationally clung to that there is no possibility for any effective solution.  For the good of the nation, and the world, both sides must find "higher ground" on which to find the facts and the truth, so they can then create solutions based on the facts and the truth.  In this case, the higher ground is the fact and truth that they were elected to serve the people, and that they are all Americans.  They are to serve the people in a way that serves the common good of their constituents and of all Americans--and even to serve the common good of the whole world, e.g., in matters of climate change and peace.

   So the "blueprint" for the new spiritual vision requires finding the "higher ground", the true point where we come together to find the facts and the truth and use them to find solutions to our tensions and challenges.  At first glance, this may seem too simple and even naive an answer.  It is not.

   To begin with, today the sad fact and truth is that many of our political and religious leaders are of such poor quality that we cannot realistically look for much good to come to our communities, churches and nation in the short term.  So while we protest against our poor leadership and search for higher quality people to lead/serve us, we must work on creating the new vision ourselves.   

   The basic problem is that we naturally see a dualistic world, e.g., husband-wife, liberal-conservative, dark-light, big-little, American-foreigner, rich-poor, Black-White, yin-yang, etc., etc.  These dualities are natural to us.  They show us the wonderful diversity of reality.  But they often clash, as in the examples above.  Let's look at the dualities more closely.

   When we fall into quarrelsome tensions, we say we have to find a compromise.  Now, Einstein said that a problem cannot be solved on the same level which it was created.  So compromise has to be founded on willingness to find a higher level or value than the level of the individual views that are in contention.  Compromise founded on a lower level or value is bad and even dangerous, e.g., compromising one's values, or the safety of children in a school.

  The new vision will take us to the highest levels of our lives.  It will be 
    1) Creative:  it will discover and create new levels of connectedness and life between the dualities
    2) Healing:  It will heal the separation and hurt between the people caught in the duality.
    3) Evolutionary:  It will move the lives of the involved people forward toward greater human fulfillment. 

   To attain the new vision, we will move upward in steps.  First, the higher level is the fact that we are all human. Our basic identity is our shared, common humanity.  We are humans first, and individual persons second.  But in today's culture, our individuality comes first and our community as humans comes second--if we care to pay attention to it all all.  For example, how many young married couples speak of their their marriage, and focus on the bond they share, and how many speak of their relationship, and focus on their individuality and possible lack of full commitment to their marriage?

   How many corporations consider their employees as an integral part of the corporation?  When they send their employees' jobs overseas, how many help their fired employees train for new jobs?

   Even today's science tells us that there is first one universe, and then there are trillions of individual galaxies, solar systems, planets, etc.

   The law of Reality is Community First and then Individuality-Within-Community.  If we have only community, our individuality is suppressed.  If we have only individuality, our common bond is suppressed.  In either case, our humanity is suppressed.

   Our common humanity gives us our shared dignity, integrity, respect, and transcendent purpose.  It identifies us as rational, reasoning, feeling, loving, caring, homo sapiens.  And today we must also account for the very important fact that our humanity is not static but in motion.  We are ever-becoming-ever-evolving humans.  I don't exist; I am existing.  If we don't move forward in our humanity, we will move backward.  Compare today's progress in science with our political and religious backwardness.

   Our new spiritual vision embraces the whole person, at ever level of our personhood.  It is as earthy as Jesus.  It includes our body and emotions, our personality, our psychological and mental attributes, and our social and individual make-up.  Today it even includes the basic understanding of ourselves that is presented by quantum physics.  

   We can even say that the famous equation e=mc2 helps us understand who we are as humans.  We are each a focus of immaterial energy (e) that is showing up as an individual mental/physical/social person (mc2).  In sum, we are completely made of energy.  Wow!

   Spiritually speaking, energy, like all created reality, is an image of God.  God is not Someone who is here or there, but infinite/eternal Living Energy that is LOVE that permeates the whole universe.  Created energy permeates the whole universe.  The whole universe is made of energy.  So the universe, the world, and we are made of love-energy (e) that is showing up as love in the form of air, water, fish, birds, soil, flowers, mountains, and people, (mc2).  The new vision shows us that we humans are living love.  Our humanity is made of love.  We are love and we are beloved humans, living in a beloved world that is made of love, on beloved earth that is made of love.

   Finally, the new vision also shows us that we are sacred humans.  We are sanctified by LOVE's presence within us and within the earth and our societies and cultures.  Further, the presence of LOVE within the universe and ourselves makes the universe and us expressions of Christ.  The divinely saturated world is the Universe, Cosmic Christ Reality.

   With the shallowness of much of today's spiritual understanding, I have to emphasize that I did not just add "beloved and sacred expression of Christ" to our humanity and the world, as it was the icing on a cake that we can take off and still have the cake.  It is the cake itself.  To sound silly, we can't take the cake off the cake and still have the cake.  It is just as silly to say we can remove beloved and sacred expressions of Christ from the human and still have the human.  Also, we cannot remove beloved and sacred expressions of Christ from the world and still have the world.  Our vision shows that being human is the being beloved and sacred expression of Christ.  We are beloved, sacred human expressions of Christ living on earth, which itself is a beloved and sacred expressions of Christ.  And as humans, we are called and empowered to act accordingly.

  When we can tangled up in our dualities, we are called and empowered to raise ourselves to the level of being beloved, sacred expressions of Christ.

  In my next Post I will continue to build our new vision for living in today's world. 
                                   
   
      
















                   

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

ACKNOWLEDGING EVIL

   In a previous post I said I would write about creating a new vision and "changing the conversation,"with which we start to build a new society, which will move the Kingdom of God on Earth forward.  This is necessary because, even despite millions of citizens trying hard to live moral lives, our present public society can justly be said to be beyond repair.  We cannot correct it; we have build a new society along side it.  Hopefully, a renewed church will arise within this new society.

   In sum, we have to look within what's wrong with our society and discern and acknowledge the evil that is active within it.

    We naturally have trouble using the word, "evil."  With good reason we resist calling a person evil.  That judgment belongs to God alone.  Rather, when we see people engaging in violence, murder, racism, sexism, and hatred of all kinds, we prefer to say that they are wrong, or mentally ill, or criminal.  But as spiritually serious persons, we can and must go deeper and judge that such actions are evil. 
 
   How do we see and understand evil today?  To begin with, it is true that to err is human.  We are not perfect; we all make mistakes and do things we should not do.  Honest mistakes are not evil.  

   Here we have to clarify how some Christians understand evil.  They read the story of creation and understand it to mean that we were created as perfect humans and that we fell from perfection, and it was our own fault.  This is a misunderstanding.  The ancient Hebrews who created the story believed that everything that God did was perfect.  (They added the seven days of creation to the original story because in Hebrew, seven is the number of perfection.)  So to explain our human imperfection, they created a Fall from perfection.  That was the best they could do with the understanding of that time.  Christians later came to understand the Fall as Original Sin.

   Today we know that there was no Fall from original perfection.  We evolved from pre-human hominids.  We make mistakes because we are space/time creatures, and nothing in space/time in perfect.  The fact that we are imperfect is not our fault.  It is our human nature.

   As humans we can think, reason, understand, wonder and love.  These are the gifts--the graces--we use to overcome our imperfection and move forward and evolve in our humanity.  We will never be perfect here in space/time. 

   But there is a rub.  We also have the ability to say "No" to our humanity, to abuse our own nature and fool ourselves into believing that we are God.  We see this, for example, in authoritarian people who "know it all" and who dictate laws and rules to others and who will not tolerate any ambiguity or human fraility.  Such people are intolerable and can be dangerous.

   Our ability to say "No" to our human nature is actually our "Original Sin."  Believing we are God contradicts our own nature.  And that's were evil come in.  Evil is a self-contradiction.  It its a lie that pushes us into absurdity and unreality.  Ironically, when we raise ourselves to the level of God, we actually degrade ourselves and lower ourselves to a sub-human level.  

   Evil is deep within us and our society.  It cannot be discerned by shallow people or a shallow society.  It can be only be discerned by spiritual adults who can see the dark absence of grace that evil represents in people and society.  So while it is just and humble to say that people who inflict political, economic and religious corruption upon us are not evil, we have to be able to discern that evil is the root of the corruption that their actions inflict upon our humanity.         

   For example, spiritually mature people can discern evil at the root of a federal budget that takes food away from sick and elderly people, or takes health care away from people, without clear assurance that the states or the people themselves can make up for this loss.  They can discern evil at the root of actions taken by corporations who pollute the earth without any care for the earth or for people who suffer from the pollution.  Evil is at the root of the judgment leveled by religious leaders who condemn those who walk away from their church because their church is not spiritually nourishing them.  In today's spiritually shallow society, we are beyond the ability to correct these misdeeds on their own level.  We have to go deeper.  And this means we have to bypass today's society and build a new society.  
        
   Here's a good, practical example of how to handle and defeat evil.  Recently, a guest on Joy Reid's TV show said that President Trump's budget cuts are evil and could result in people's death.  Then a smug commentator trivialized the matter saying that we should "tone down the rhetoric."  In today's society, "rhetoric" means, "meaningless talk."  He then added that the Congress will deliberate on the budget.  He thereby presented two popular "defenses" for evil:  first he minimized the problem and then he tried to divert the conversation away from it.

   But Joy would have none of it.  She cut him off saying (I paraphrase), "Let's not go into politics.  We're talking about President Trump denying food and health care to needy people.  Stick to the facts!"  That was it.  Joy showed us how to face and defeat evil:  Recognize it and then without hesitation rebuke it and refuse to converse or negotiate with it.  Then get back to the facts at of the matter and search for the truth.

   Recognizing and rebuking evil clears our minds and spirits and makes room in our mind and spirit for us to create the vision of a new society of justice, peace and love, and a new conversation to go with the new vision and society. In my next Post, I will begin to create our new vision and the new conversation that will arise from it.

   God is calling us to recognize the signs of the times, both the good to be retained and the evil to be removed, so we can work to continue building the Kingdom of God on Earth that Jesus prayed for--which is why we're here on earth.
 

      








 

     

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

WE NEED AN OPEN "CATHOLIC" SYSTEM

   Literally millions of Catholics have walked away, and are still walking away, from the church in protest against the way it is being run.  The church has not presented them with an understanding of God and our faith that has real meaning for their deepest and most precious needs in today's world.  They are not spiritually indifferent.  They are search elsewhere.  As they say, they are spiritual but not religious.

   One very important reason the church has failed in its responsibility to today's Catholics--and to the world at large--is that it operates as a closed system.

   A closed system is one that operates within itself without relating to the world outside itself.  In contrast, an open system operates in a living, mutually nourishing relationship with the world outside itself.  Especially since the Reformation, the church has closed in on itself.  At that time, it convened the Council of Trent (1545-63) and pronounced excommunication on anyone who disagreed with its teachings.

   The birth of the Modern World in the 1600's, with its modern science, modern nation states, and the Enlightenment, which replaced the faith with reason alone, moved the church to close in on itself even further.  It began speaking to the outside world, and preaching judgmentally at the world.  From within its theologically walled-in borders, it didn't notice that little by little the world was no longer listening.

   A closed system is structured in a way that separates the levels of authority from one another.  In the church, authority is structured along a hierarchy of pope, bishops, priests, religious sisters and brothers, and laity.  Authority moves in one direction, from the top down.  There is no true conversation among the various levels of authority, and therefore no true community.  This system created the unhappy description of the laity as passive, "pay, pray and obey sheep."

   An open system stays alive by nourishing itself from sources both inside and outside itself.  Such a church doesn't "run out of gas," whereas a closed system church does "run out of gas."  In the 17th century, the church began to run out of gas.  By the 20th century, following the moral and spiritual disaster of World War II, it was pretty much running on "Empty."  Pope John XXIII saw this condition.  He knew that the "internal gas" the church ran on was the Holy Spirit, and its "external gas" was openness to the fast changing world, where the Spirit was also present.

   So he called an Ecumenical Council to "open the windows" of the church so that the Holy Spirit could "fly" in, and to "open the doors" of the church so that it could dialogue respectfully with the outside world, where the Spirit also lived.  In sum, he wanted Vatican II to change the church from a closed system to an open system.  Unhappily that has not yet happened, although Pope Francis and some bishops, e.g., Cardinal Cupich of Chicago, are working, against strong opposition, to make it happen. 

   Until Vatican II, the church councils were written in "closed system" language.  Following the example of the Roman Empire, they used the legalistic language of a political state.  Most bishops were church lawyers who understood this language and taught in the language of church law.  As lawyers study laws, sins were catalogued and studied from every angle.  In the 1960's Fr. Bernard Haring tried to change the emphasis from legalism to an emphasis on love.  He is reported to have said, "If you want to know about morality, don't pick up the Code of Canon Law, pick up the Gospels."

   Rahner's emphasis on love and understanding, as well as the input from many outstanding theologians, greatly influenced the teachings and language of Vatican II.  The council is written in "open system language," or "pastoral language."  But many of today's bishops, still living in their legalistic world, still don't understand the language of Vatican II.

   Vatican II wanted to change the church from a top-down, judgemental church to a brotherly/sisterly community of all the faithful, from pope to laity, who, within their sphere of their vocations and positions contribute to the church's living faith, with full respect and dignity accorded to every member.  The church's teaching authority (which is called, "The Magisterium,") arises not from any private revelation to the pope and then on down, but from the faith of the whole church.

   In an open system church, the important feature of membership is the people's common baptism, and their faith as they live it in the everyday world.  The church is not only the church of Sunday morning but the church of every weekday,  God speaks to all the people of the church, where they live, work and play, as well as where they worship.  All have the privilege and responsibility to make their faith known to the church so that the church leaders have the information and discernment necessary to make informed decisions as to what God want of us.  Popes teach infallibly what the whole church already believes infallibly.    

   Further, an open system church acknowledges that God speaks to people outside the visible boundaries of the Catholic church.  Salvation is open to all people of consistent good will.  Everyone in the world has the call and opportunity to respond to the INFINITE/ETERNAL LIVING LOVE that permeates the world, urging the world forward in its slow and bumpy, ever evolving and unfolding way toward wholeness in justice, peace and love.  So the church needs to enter into respectful and humble dialogue with all peoples throughout the world as it offers them the fullness of their salvation.  In a word, the church needs to be completely catholic (small "c"), i.e., open to the whole world.

   In such a church all its members work together and contribute to the whole.  Everyone who values our humanity, our world with its need for good families, good ecology, good government and schools, good economics, good relations among all nations, etc., will want to be active participants.  Such a church will be marked by people on their way to ever deeper and effective spiritual growth and maturity.

Note 1:  A necessary way to bring about an open church is to "change the conversation," i.e., to learn how to talk about such a church in a way that is easy to understand and implement.  In future posts I will try to help work out such a language.

Note 2:  What pertains to the church today also pertains to our government.  Our Federal government is closing in on itself and closing our country in on itself.  "American First!" has a certain appeal, but it can be toxic in today's world that needs positive inter-communication and inter-relationships very badly.

Note 3:  Thanks to Sr. Elia Delio for her ideas on open and closed systems in her wonderful book, Making All Things New -- Catholicity, Cosmology, Consciousness










 












  

  
 

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

A NEW CREATION STORY

   I have once again rewritten the page, "A New Creation Story."  I believe this new version has more meaning and impact for our spirituality in today's society.  I especially recommend it for young people who are looking for an understanding of faith and spirituality that is relevant to their lives in today's society and culture.

Monday, February 6, 2017

SEEING THE WATER

   I remember a story told a few years ago by a commencement speaker.  I don't remember his exact words, so here's a paraphrase.  Two young fish were swimming along in a stream.  An old fish came swimming toward them.  As he approached them, he said, "The water's fine today, isn't it."  When he had passed, one of the young fish said to the other, "What's water?"

   During Vatican II, Pope John XXIII told us to "read the signs of the times."  It was his way of saying that we should get to know and understand the "water," i. e., the world, we live in.

   We therefore should take a good, clear and honest look at America today.  Our way of looking at America is to see it from within the Spirit of Christ, who dwells deeply within America (and the whole world).  In this way we will see all things from the viewpoint of the indwelling wholeness in love that is slowly and with difficulty working its way outward, ever unfolding, ever evolving, toward visible wholeness in love.  

   We see that deeply within our country, wholeness in love already exists.  And we see it working its way outward, slowly and with difficulty, toward ever unfolding wholeness in love in our country--which is what makes us a great country.

   Jesus even gave us a "Spiritual Constitution" by which we could check to see to what extent we are evolving as a great country. It is the Beatitudes.  America is a great country if it blesses: 
    the poor;
    those who mourn;  
    the meek, i.e., those who temper their righteous anger with reason and humility; 
    the clean of heart;
    those who hunger and thirst for righteousness;
    those who are persecuted because they stand for Christ and his healing, saving, self-sacrificing love for the world.

   With our "Constitution" in mind, I believe we can say that America is a great country in the following ways:

   1.  Our founding principles of unalienable right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness--for all Americans.  By "liberty" our founders meant not just freedom but socially responsible freedom.
    2.  The freedoms contained in the Bill of Rights and the Amendments to our Constitution
    3.  Our sense of  youthfulness, inventiveness, innovation and progress in so many fields
    4.  The millions of American individuals and families who love one another and all people.
    5.  The millions of Americans who work to protect our environment
    6.  The millions of Americans who are peaceful and want peace for all Americans and all the world
    7.  The millions of Americans who are actively involved in working to make America a more free and loving country.
  
   America is not a great country in the following ways:
     1.  A radical sense of uncaring individuality shown by those who see all others as rivals and competitors to be defeated

     2.  Those Americans who show a deep distaste for commitment that militates against marriage and family life

     3.  A shallowness among those Americans who have not grown past the Facebook, Tweeting and Radio/TV "Reality" level of social development.

     4.  A breakdown in American education that has resulted in millions of Americans who are not properly educated, e.g., in civic knowledge and appreciation, in history, in thinking and judging skills.  One result of this breakdown is the rise of the number of people who listen to fake news and believe, act and vote with their emotions, without clear understanding and judgment.

     5.  A dehumanized and dehumanizing Capitalist system that:
         a) cares only for maximized profits
         b) is coldly uncaring for workers who lose their jobs
         c) freely pollutes the environment and expects taxpayers to pay for the clean-up
         d) skews the tax system to its own benefit
         e) helps divide our society between the "haves" and the "have-nots"

   In its present form our Capitalist system contradicts the Spiritual Constitution so much that it makes America small, not great.  From a spiritual point of view it needs a radical reshaping.  


   6A dehumanized and dehumanizing political system that is at a dangerous level of breakdown.  Our Ship of State has crashed upon rocks of incompetence, pettiness, hypocrisy, lies, delusion and hate, beginning at the highest level and traveling through society at large.  
      Millions of Americans don't even bother to vote.  Millions live in a delusional world of fake news, "alternative facts," and "honest mistakes" about massacres that never happened.  In the war that is today's politics, truth is the first casualty.

   7.  A Christian religion (not Faith) that is in serious disrepair, to the extent that it is either irrelevant to people who could bring a new birth of Faith to our country, or virulent in the hatred it preaches.
         One source of light in this dismal situation is those who proclaim that they are "spiritual but not religious."  Many young people are truly searching for deeper meaning in their lives.  They "see the water" in which they are swimming and see that it is polluted with the problems I mentioned above.  They are truly looking for a Faith that can enlighten and energize them to understand, face and solve today's problems.  Unhappily, I don't see anywhere near a sufficient number of spiritually knowledgeable and well-formed leaders who can guide them into more "saving" water.     

   I believe we can conclude that the "waters" of America today, while shining with some clear springs, are in very vital ways so seriously polluted that America is in real danger of falling apart.  I am old enough to see and feel that we are in a period that eerily resembles Germany in the 1930's.  When I see how our federal government is now operating, I remember Protestant Minister, Martin Niemoller's heart-rending words:

   They came for the Socialists...for the Trade Unionists...for the Jews...and I did not speak out.  He saw the water of his time with prophetic clarity.  Today I hear, "They came for the Immigrants, the Afro-Americans, the Poor, The Muslims, the LGBTQ community...

   Thankfully, some Americans are speaking out.  We need more, many, many more, because
in our great country the water today is dark, sad and frightening.  Along with all people of good will, we need to purify the water in whatever way we can, in the healing, saving, all-loving voice, strength and action of the Spirit of Christ.

   People are suffering.  Waiting is not an option.  May God bless America and the world through our Christ-ed voice and actions.






       
      















   

      

Monday, January 30, 2017

RENDER UNTO CAESAR...

   In Jesus' time Caesar was the legitimate political leader of the Roman Empire.  Today Donald Trump is the legitimate political leader of the United States.  

   However, to be a truly and fully legitimate leader, President Trump must enrich our political identity by touching and enhancing the better angels, the soul, of our nation.  He has to respect the soul of America and lead the nation toward ever more humanizing order, justice, good will, peace, freedom and love.  He needs to be knowledgeable of America's great principles of freedom upon which our nation was founded.  He needs to care effectively about the American people and the peoples around the world.  

   Very importantly, he needs to see the complete, overall picture of our country and the world, and then make decisions that fit together the various aspects of our country and the world in creative, healing and world-evolving freedom, justice, peace and love. That's the way to put American First!

   Sadly, President Trump has not shown that he capable of being the fully legitimate leader of the United States.  He has shown himself to be a danger to our democracy and humanity, and thus to our spirituality, which is the continuing evolution of our humanity toward fullness of life in love.  He is a challenge to our patriotism and to our faith.  

   And thus he is challenging us to make stark spiritual choice:  What shall we render to him and what shall we render to God?  The Gospels show us the way to our answer.  (Cf. Mt. 22:15-22)

   The Pharisees, looking to discredit Jesus, came to him in order to trick him into betraying Israel by giving legitimacy to the hated Caesar.  They asked Jesus if it was lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar.  If Jesus said yes, he would be a traitor to his people. 

   Instead of answering, Jesus asked them to show him a Denarius, the Roman coin used to pay the tax.  It was stamped with the head of Caesar.   Take a moment to imagine this.  Jesus Christ, God in human form, was holding in his hand the image of Caesar, who claimed to be God in human form.  

   Instead of answering the Pharisees' question, Jesus said, "Render unto Caesar what is Caesar's and render to God what is God's.

   What did he mean?  He was saying, "Give to his insane, humanly/spiritually illegitimate leader what is his political right to receive. Pay him his taxes because if we don't, the Roman army will annihilate us."  Jesus was facing the practical, concrete situation that Israel was facing at that time.  So he gave an answer that was sadly necessary under those particular conditions. He was not saying that we should give some allegiance to the political leader and some to God.  He was saying that we should give some allegiance to our political leaders, and all our allegiance to God. 

   He was subordinating politics to faith.  Jesus knew that everything and everyone, including the government, belongs to God.  And so did the Pharisees.  For example they knew well, "The earth is the Lord's and all it holds; the world and those who live there." (Ps. 42:1).  Kingship belongs to the Lord, the ruler over all nations.  (Ps. 22:29).  The story says that the Pharisees were amazed, i.e., confounded, by Jesus' answers.  That's because they were embarrassed that Jesus showed them to be the hypocrites they were.

   So Jesus gives us our answer to our question.  Trump or God?  We accept President Trump within the overall context of our true American patriotism, and within our overarching faith in God and Jesus Christ.  By doing this, we expect President Trump to fulfill all the requirements I listed above, which come under the requirements of both our country and our faith.  All them are of America and of God.   We render to Caesar only what is of God!  And we vigorously reject what of Caesar is not of God.

   Some Americans are saying that this means our country should be a Theocracy.  Some believe that Vice President Pence is of this opinion.  No. Our total allegiance to God does not mean that we should be a Theocracy.  It does mean that we must make sure that our faith is fully adult and up to date, so it can be relevant and effective in our country and world today.  This Blog is dedicated to presenting an adult, relevant, effective faith.   (In my next Post I'll show how Christ opens the way to freedom of religion for all people.)        

   In a previous Post I said that President Trump is a narcissist and psychopathic liar.  Now I must go beyond that sad opinion.  From my experience as a spiritual theologian and a psychotherapist, I believe that President Trump is a narcissist and pathological liar to the point of being delusional.  He is living in a world of his own making.  It is not the world of a democratic government run by laws; it is a world in which he is the supreme, unquestionable Caesar.  In his world, he does not ask advice from professional experts.  He has his own private Court, that feels free to tell the media to "Shut up!" and listen to their delusional views.

  And so, without consulting the experts that are readily available to him, he created his narrow-minded, bullish Executive Order to stop immigrants from entering the country, even handcuffing an Iraqi man who risked his life translating for our troops in Iraq.  With thousands upon thousands of people in the real world protesting, and with ACLU lawyers appealing to judges to correct the Order, he says that everything is progressing well at the airports.  

  And we remember that he "saw" thousands of Muslims cheering on 9/11; and that there were record, overwhelming thousands and thousands of people at his inauguration.  I submit that nothing that he does should be considered to be normal.  The media must look at him and report on him in the context of his being not normal but delusional. 

   Sadly, many of those who voted for him are agreeing with what he is doing.  They are mistaking process for content.  Yes, he is doing things.  But they are destructive things.

   Far too many of our legislators are being quiet and thereby abetting the President's destructive, delusional actions.  With forced calm, White House Chief of Staff, Reince Priebus,  trivialized the President's actions and said everything is ordinary.  And Counselor to the President, Kellyanne Conway, sounded like one of Caesar's centurions when she issued the order, "Get used to it!"  I just heard that Trump has fired the acting Attorney General, whom he hired, for telling the Justice Dept. not to defend the immigration ban.  The White House reported that she has betrayed the administration.  "Betrayed!"  Good "Caesar" word!  Such unhinged words and acts are causing serious damage to our country's reputation and to everybody's sanity.

   Today we face a great and somber challenge.  President Trump is offering us a coin stamped with the face of a false God and demanding we give allegiance to it.  In a peaceful but vigorous way we must oppose him every time he acts like Caesar, and loudly choose allegiance to God.  

   God, please bless America!    

   

                

            










          

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

DEJA VU

   Let me begin by saying that I don't believe America will actually become another Nazi Germany or Communist Russia.  But I am afraid of what we could become.  I have the same eerie feeling that I had twice before in my life.

   In the summer of 1962 when I was studying for my doctorate in Spirituality in Rome, I went to Germany to study German.  After the course I wanted to spend some time with a German family, and my teacher sent me to live for two weeks with her family.

   She sent me with a letter telling her family not to discuss religion with me because I was a Catholic priest and they were Lutherans, and not to talk about the war because I was an American.  In spite of her instruction, one evening her father stayed up with me and told me about his experiences in the war.  He was an officer in the German army who fought--and was wounded--on the Russian front. 

   With a very heavy heart he told me of the way the German people had been propagandized by the government.  He pleaded, "Please understand.  Every day we heard Joseph Goebbels telling us the same things over and over again.  In time we all believed what he was saying."  

   As I listened to him I felt an eerie feeling as I realized as close to first-hand as possible, the human damage that Hitler had done to this man, to Germany and to the rest of the world.

   Fast forward to 1973.  Having resigned from the clergy, I was in the process of setting up a Community Mental Health/Mental Retardation facility for Jefferson Medical University.  I hired a psychiatrist who, with his wife, who was also a physician, had escaped from Communist Hungary.  He told me, "We had to escape.  We had to come to realize that we were never going to hear the truth again."

   So he and his wife arranged for friends who lived in a town on a lake across from the Austrian border to send them a letter asking them to come there because an illness had broken out and they needed doctors.  Taking just a suitcase of clothing and documents proving that they were physicians, they went to the town.  At midnight their friend took them to the lake where a man in a row boat was waiting for them.  In absolute silence they got into the boat and the man began rowing. There was no moon.  It was December and very cold.  The man rowed until just before dawn and then said he was lost.  As soon as they could see the outline of the shore he rowed over to it.

   They got out and hid in some bushes.  At dawn, they looked up and saw that they were still in Hungary and under a Communist watch tower.  They stayed still in the December cold until dark and started out again.  This time the man succeeded in getting them to the opposite shore.

   With deep feeling, he said to me, "Tony, you Americans have no idea how fortunate you are that you have the right to vote as you please.  On our election days,we were rounded up and marched to the polls where we were forced to vote for the Communist party."  

   For the second time, I felt the frightening, eerie feeling of people being deeply damaged by an authoritarian government.

   Now to the present day.  During his campaign, Donald Trump used Hitler's method to win votes.  As Hitler did with Germany, Trump declared that America was weakened, and as Hitler blamed the Jews, Trump blamed scapegoats for America's weakness:  immigrants, Muslims, blacks, the LGBT community,  "elite" liberals, and the media.  Hitler persecuted the disabled.  Trump mocked them. Hitler wanted to make Germany great again.  Trump wants to make America great again.  Sadly, many people who voted for Trump blindly agree with him and enthusiastically hate the "enemies" he has named.  I fear they can become our American equivalent of the Nazi party, going along with President Trump and not caring what he does while they wait for the jobs he said he would create for them..

   So I am again experiencing that eerie feeling that twice turned my heart cold years ago.  

   Beginning from day one of his Presidency, Trump lied to us and has continued to lie on a regular basis.  And his presence at a hallowed spot at the CIA was a disgraceful display of unfeeling-for-others narcissism.  I fear that his cabinet may be forced to follow his lead.  The Fox TV channel is profitably doing its imitation of Joseph Goebbels.  And Kellyanne Conway is offering "alternative facts" to explain what Trump is saying and doing.  If it wasn't so serious, it would be laughable.

   A particular thought troubles me:  Goebbels and the Soviet propagandists knew they were lying.  I strongly believe that President Trump does not know he is lying.  Nor does he care.  As he has already done, e.g., with the crowd count at his inauguration and the non-existent illegal immigrants who gave Hillary Clinton her 3 million vote advantage over him, he will make up reality to suit his purposes.  If he can't be stopped, he must be contained.  This is a serious spiritual problem.  Our American integrity and identity are at stake.

   We must work to create a vision of America and the world that is peaceful and all-embracing without being naive.  I suggest we go back to our Founders and begin with the opening words of our Constitution, noting how well they match the intent of the Lord's prayer for establishing the Kingdom of God on earth: 

       We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, domestic tranquillity, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty for ourselves and our posterity--hereby offer the following all-inclusive vision and programs to heal our divisions and foster our common good with a special option for the sick, poor, vulnerable and outcast.     

   Early signs of a new American vision are promising.  The wondrously large number of women who marched this past Sunday were justly demanding an all-inclusive, wholistic vision for our country.  May they actively continue putting forth their blessed vision! All Americans must now keep in incessant touch with their government representatives, justly demanding that they legislate what is true and just for all.

   The media need to point out loudly and clearly every Trump lie, and call his "alternative facts" the lies that they truly are.  Kellyanne Conway and Press Secretary Sean Spicer need to be vigorously corrected every time they lie.  

   Democratic--and hopefully at least a few Republican--legislators must respond truthfully to the people's vision and just expectations.  And even to Trump's populism.  He says he is for the people.  They must push him to mean what he says. 

   All those Americans who call themselves Christians need to discover anew the true vision and teachings of Jesus and proclaim freedom, peace and justice within God's infinitely abundant love for all people without exception.

   We are at a critical spiritual point in our history--one that I never dreamed I'd experience.  The immediate future of our country is up for grabs.  We will either be led backward and downward by Donald Trump and his allies, or forward and upward by those who have the discernment and will to put forth healing, wholistic ideas and programs for the good of all the American people.  Every step of the way, it is of vital important that we the people play our active role in the fight.






   


















    

   


Tuesday, January 10, 2017

AMERICAN CATHOLICISM IS IRRELEVANT

   I write this for the church in the United States.  But I believe it is valid in other countries, in their own way.

   Recently, when Cardinal Joseph Tobin was installed as Archbishop of Newark, NJ, he said there is a chasm between faith and life.  He was right.  The chasm is caused by the fact that the Church has become irrelevant to life in today's society.  As a result, very many Catholics have confirmed the chasm by walking away from the church.   

   With some exceptions like Cardinal Tobin and Cardinal Cupich of Chicago, most of today's bishops don't understand the faith problem of church-going Catholics and the chasm created by the many Catholics who have walked away from the church.  Looking out from their clerical bubble they blame today's society.  They are unable to see that millions of Catholics have walked away from the church because they can't find a faith there that is relevant to their life in today's society.  They can't find an effective, active, adult spirituality that will help them effectively challenge and correct today's society and elevate our graced, luminous humanity.

  Between the bishops and the people, the priests are left on their own to do whatever they can.  

 What parish organizes its people to actively challenge and correct the harm that our government is about to inflict upon America, especially the sick, poor, vulnerable and outcast?  What parish is actively involved in putting pressure on those who are responsible for our sinful income inequality?  What parish is helping our public schools give our children a truly life-enhancing education?  What parish is actively involved in the ever growing need to save our environment?  All these efforts are essential expressions of today's faith and spirituality.

   Pope John XXIII and Vatican II taught us to "read the signs of the times," i.e., to see the problems, challenges and opportunities of our everyday world, and actively work to correct them where needed and thereby elevate our lives and make us more luminously human.  Today's spirituality is about our evolving in Christ so that we can build up the Kingdom of God on Earth, as Jesus prayed for.  Thy Kingdom come...   As I say in this blog's heading:  People are suffering.  Waiting is not an option.

   Most bishops are living inside their clerical bubble and do not recognize that the spiritual problems, challenges and opportunities I mentioned are the concerns of the church.  From within their clerical mindset they work to get people to come back to the church building, to Mass.  It won't work.  Those who have left know that they will return to a liturgy that is disconnected from their everyday life, with tired sermons on sexual conduct and lessons based in poor Biblical understanding and outworn theology and spirituality.  They know they will receive no meaningful spiritual help or formation for facing today's spiritual challenges as effective, spiritual adults. 

  Even worse, Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia has publicly stated that those who leave are "imaginary Catholics."  They are not even real, not worth the title of "lost sheep" whom the shepherd must go out and search for.  With such an attitude as Chaput's, why would they even want to come back?

   Is all lost?  No.  Today there are millions of young and young-in-spirit people of Catholic heritage who are searching for a faith and spirituality of active and effective good will and love, but without reference to the Catholic church or Catholic religion.  I call them the Spiritual but not Religious People of God.  I fully believe that they are being led by the Spirit of Christ.  They are to be encouraged in every way possible.

   Being Americans, they enjoy a strong sense of individuality.  But they also have a positive sense of community.  (The negative sense is leading young people, e.g., to "drop out" or form gangs.)  For example, they form Internet communities, tech communities, art communities, political communities, e.g., for Bernie Sanders; fan communities for their favorite performers, etc.  And very importantly, they constantly text one another.  So their connectedness already exists.

   Mature individuals know that they live and grow in community without losing their individuality.  Today's science and theology clearly show us that community is the basic, ever-evolving form of nature and of the universe itself.  Sub-atomic particles naturally form a community that is an atom; atoms naturally form a community that is a molecule; molecules naturally form a community that is an element, and so on up the scale.  God, One and Trinity, is a community of inter-related LOVE.  All our positive communities are images of God.  

   If the young seekers are encouraged to move in the right direction, they will naturally begin looking for one another and create small communities of faith and spirituality.  People like me, and this blog, will best encourage them by giving them general encouragement and leaving the particulars up to them.  We should especially encourage them to clarify and fully appreciate the norms and values of being an American, e.g., a community of people of all races, colors, creeds and social and economic standing, who live as one inter-connected, inter-related, inter-dependent people.     

    Very importantly, we need to give them an acceptable contemporary image of God, not of a monarch or judge but of an Infinite/Eternal Community of Inter-related, Inter-dependent, Ever-evolving Living Love.  Simply put, we are expressions of Inter-related, inter-connected, inter-dependent Love.  So just being who we truly are energetically unites us to God. 

   The young will not relate what they are doing to the church they have rejected.  Instead they will relate to the community they have created.  That's fine.  In time, these new communities will coalesce and grow into a new Catholic community.  By that time, "Catholic" will have come to mean, The World-Wide People of Universal Inclusion in the Loving Spirit of Jesus Christ.  It will be a People who are actively and deeply committed to working with all others of good will in building up the all-inclusive Kingdom of God on Earth. It will be ecumenically open to all People who truly want to walk with them the Way of Life and Truth that is relevant to the real, everyday world.

   I am sure that this can happen because it is already happening.  As of us who are deeply experienced in today's world must encourage the young and young-in-spirit to keep doing what they are doing.  With our encouragement and counsel in the general norms and values of life, they will supply the particulars for living a spiritually mature life in their own everyday world.  They are our only hope.

   In the meantime the church will continue to be irrelevant and our country and our culture will continue to decline.  Maybe our country, culture and church will have to hit bottom in order to rise again to new life.  Maybe our young can catch them before they hit bottom.  I don't know.  I can only repeat; they are the only hope we have.

   God bless them.