Monday, March 23, 2020

GOD IS WITH US

   French philosopher Albert Camus wrote a novel about a plague that was ravaging a city in North Africa.  A doctor, rather than flee the city to be with his family, stays and does his best to treat the victims.  He has little success.  As he keeps on trying, a priest is preaching throughout the city that the plague is the result of the people's sins.

   One day, the priest comes to the hospital.  The doctor sees him and calls him over to a bed where a little boy is dying from the plague.  He looks at the doctor and says, "Tell me that this boy is dying because of his sins."

    The priest then stops blaming the people and begins to help the victims of the plague.  

    Some of us Christians are saying that God is punishing us with the Corona virus because of  our sins.  No.  That is not true.  God is Love. Jesus came to us  and died to show God's infinite love for us.  Jesus sent us his Spirit who gives us the power to shows God's infinite love for everyone.

    God did not send us this plague.  It has come upon us because we don't live in eternity.  We don't live in heaven.  We live in a created, space/time world this is finite and limited, and that therefore at times is violent with earthquakes, floods, storms, floods, sickness and death.  Nature sent us this plague.

    So instead of asking why God is punishing us, we should be asking how we can show God's infinite love for us by doing all we can to help those who are afflicted, even as we protect ourselves as well as possible.

    We must insist that our governments:  local, state and federal, fulfill their God-given responsibility to do everything possible to provide the means for professionals to treat those who become ill and to find a cure for this pandemic.

    I'll end with a reference to another book.  Some years ago my wife and I went to our local bookstore to hear an author speak about a book he had just written.  As I remember, his name was Frank.  His young son had been killed in an auto accident.  He was so devastated that he lost his memory of what his son looked like and felt like. 

    His wife, a photographer, had just received a contract to photograph Trappist monks in their monastery.  Despite his objections, she convinced him to go with her.   One day he went up to the balcony of the chapel and listened to the monks chanting prayers.  He could think only of his emptiness.  How could these monks be praying to a God who allowed his son to be killed?  They were foolishly praying to no one, to nothing.  As he put it, they were pitching when no one was there catching.

    Then he felt a tap on his shoulder.  He looked up and saw a monk.  To his great surprise it was an old school friend.  The monk quietly said, "Your wife told me what happened. I'm very sorry."  

    Frank looked up at his old friend and asked, "How could God have permitted this?  Why is God punishing me like this?  How could He be so absent?"

     His friend answered, "God is not absent."

     "So where is he?"

     "Frank, He's right here, crying with you."

     Soon after that, Frank remembered what his son looked and felt like.  He could now grieve for his son, not in God's absence, or to or a God who was punishing him, but with God right there, crying with him.

      God is not punishing us with this plague.  God is here, crying with us.











       



















Thursday, February 20, 2020

AMERICA IN DANGER

   Benjamin Franklin famously said that we have a Republic, if we can keep it.  Our founders knew that our Constitution and our country could not work unless the American people had a strong and clear religious faith, strong family life, and a strong commitment to public service.

   Sadly, at this point in our history we have fallen from these ideals.  Our country is now engaged in a social, moral, cultural and political civil war.  We have fallen dangerously below ordinary political differences into a swampland of irrational, vicious separations that are eroding our Constitution and the Rule of Law.  In fact, our present fall is not just in what we are doing, which is our moral life, but it goes all the way to who we are, which shows us our very souls, our very meaning of who we are as humans and as Christians, i.e., it goes to our spirituality.

   The present crisis calls for the deepest possible reawakening of our true meaning as humans and as People of God.  In the process, we need to clarify and deepen our understanding and expression of our faith.  What we do follows from who we are.  Therefore, our moral conduct follows from our spirituality, which shows us that we are images and expressions of Jesus, the Eternal Christ, the presence of Divinity on earth, who is living and acting in today's world in and through us.

   Our faith is vital to our politics because it shows us the wholeness and integrity of who we are.  It also shows how to see and understand the very meaning of our government and country.  In the heart and mind of Christ we do not simply accept all the particulars of any political party.  We choose political leaders and programs that can most realistically work for our whole society, a society that is marked by love for all without exception, with emphasis on the poor, sick, vulnerable and outcast.

   Today, our faith is telling us that we have to make vital, life and death choices.  One very important example arises from the fact that we are divided between the challenge of abortion and the challenge of a broken Constitution rising from a continuing attack on the Rule of Law.  Looking at the whole picture, it seems clear that we have to face the challenge of our broken Constitution and the Rule of Law.  If they fall, America falls.  No empire is guaranteed to last forever.  We don't know what amount of chaos will follow if America falls but in the chaos abortion will be  pushed into the background as we struggle to rebuild our broken country.

   Both challenges are spiritual because, as I said above, both show us who we are as Americans and as Christians.  These are no ordinary times. I suggest that the danger to our country is so immediate and so great that we are being called to put our particular concerns aside, no matter how vital they are, and to focus on the life and death concern to make our beloved country whole again.  

    God bless America. 











Friday, February 14, 2020

LOVE ONE ANOTHER

   (From Mark 22:28-34:  "Which is the first of all the commandments?  Jesus replied, "You shall love the Lord, your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength.  The second is this, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself."

     The second commandment can sound like an impossible one to obey and live by.  How can we love terrorists and those who would destroy us?  How can we love those who disagree with us in today's rancid political atmosphere?  How can we love anyone who would harm us or our society in any way?

     I suggest that the answer to these questions lies in the meaning of "love."  We usually think of love as the beautiful, sentimental affection for someone one.  We want to be with those we love.

      Love can be love of friendship, or sexual love, or love for the sake of the other.  This last kind of love is agape.  Another word for agape is charity, i.e., love that goes beyond affection to the point of our freely sacrificing something of ourselves for the other.  This, for example, is the love of husband and wife, of parents for their children, and even of soldiers in battle who risk and sometimes love their lives for one another.  It is the love of Jesus on the Cross.

      Christianity is not naive.  We don't have to like someone in order to love them.  We can hardly be expected to like those who would harm or even destroy us.  Agape is not naivety, it is spiritual maturity.  It extends to all those who would harm or destroy us and moves us to work to get through to such people so that they can live at peace with themselves and with us.  We must of course protect ourselves against those who would harm us.  That may even call for defensive military action after all peaceful means have been exhausted.  

      It is normal and healthy to get angry at the injuries and injustices being inflicted upon us by the leaders of our society, be they political, educational, corporate, etc.  Such harm to all of us definitely calls for political action.  Likewise it calls for well informed action when our school do not educate our children properly.  And it calls for social action when our culture is attacked and made more crude and even violent. 

      In all cases, it calls for action that is informed and inspired by the Spirit of Christ, the Spirit of creative, healing and world-transforming love.  It is not enough to say what is wrong.  In Christ we must learn and proclaim what is right and then use all the peaceful and just means available to us as citizens and voters to change what is wrong into what is right in the service of the common good.