Tuesday, July 19

Charlie and the City of God

Charlie's City of God
No no, this isn't a 'lost story' of Raold Dahl, but rather another white-water rafting trip through Tim's brain.  This story starts on Saturday, where our recessional hymn was Dan Schutte's 'City of God'.  This has turned into an earworm recently, but things (as they do) took an interesting turn.

I read last night that Commissar Archbishop Chaput has been called in to clean up fill the episcopal seat in Philadelphia.  I have many things that I could say about Charlie Chaput, the more generous of which would be that he has done more to destroy Catholicism than a dozen Dickie Dawkins' could and that, apart from a cluster of jack-booted clerics and SSPX wannabe's, we shall all be the better by seeing the back of him.  As you can see, even my own Jobian patience wears thin when it comes to Charlie. 

Yet my frustration and anger at Charlie's machinations made me think about why the Vatican would have chosen Chaput for this post (because he's in line for scarlet and he gets results) which further led me to try and suss out how he thinks and why he has come to the place he has.  As I have mentioned long ago, this is a common mechanism for me to better understand people.

All of this gets us to the City of God and how each of us perceives it.  For Charlie (and those of his ilk) their vision seems to be that the City of God is a perfect gem, an ordered paradise replete with high walls and pearly gates to ensure that the 'evils of the world' are kept out. It is a stable, static place of holiness where the privileged are permitted to enter once they have proven themselves suitable.  This is the City of the Church Militant, a temporal replica of Heaven where the ancient and hoary traditions are held and solemn masses are conducted by those worthy to be in persona christi to venerate Christ (so, themselves after a fashion), until the Eschaton occurs and the Church Universal is united.  

My view is...different.

My City of God
I see the City of God as a place where the Body of Christ dwells.  It is a raucous and ebullient thing, teeming with life.  There are no walls or gates, but open arms and open doors.  It is a place where the people of God of all sorts, colours and faiths come together and celebrate the truly awesome and evolution of creation which is God-with-us and God-in-us.  It is here that the tears are turned into dancing and the cries of the poor are changed into the laughter of children.  That's the City of God which I wish to build. 

Thursday, July 14

Who you are vs. what people see.

"I haven't had this much sex since I was a Boy Scout leader"
This post started out as a quick comment in response to a reply made in another blog about all of the rational, reasonable arguments which can be made regarding same-sex rights and such and why those self-same arguments are unpersuasive.

In short, it comes down to a difference in understanding of internal versus external, what I would refer to as orientation versus presentation.  Someone who likes the same sex has the orientation of gay whether or not anyone else knows.  Conversely person can act, dress, and generally 'present' as gay all day long, but if they like the opposite sex, then they are oriented as straight.  Put differently, a person can 'present' as a religious person, going to Church, saying the right words, etc. etc., but if they are not 'oriented' as a religious person, then it is without value.

The current position of those who are 'in power' is that matters of conscience and personal beliefs are fine and dandy, but if they conflict with correct thinking (as defined by those in power), then expressions of or actions based upon those beliefs are wrong.

In short, "We (those in perceived authority) can't change your orientation, but we can browbeat you into the closet to ensure you never present". Put more bluntly, "God may have made you like that but I'll be d-d if I have to put up with it".  The key to understanding this is that the thought process applies to religious doctrine, political views, social justice and a variety of things besides sexuality.  "You may believe in Vatican II, but you best not talk that tripe in Our church" or "Don't you dare talk any of that socialist, liberal crap around here", etc. etc. etc..  Ignoring religious/Christian issues with this attitude, the ideology is defeatist, sanctimonious, alienating and dismissive.  Going through life afraid that any threat to your authority will undermine your ideological structure (whether in politics, society or religion) is a very vulnerable and uncomfortable place.

Wednesday, July 13

Hey you, schmart guy.

A few days ago, I met with my pastor and we had a long and fruitful discussion about discernment, the process and some of my concerns/misgivings.  Key among those concerns is the amount of study and erudition required and the end of that erudition.  Know for certain that I am not proclaiming that willful ignorance or eschewing scholarship is, in any way, of value. Rather, I keep being reminded how easily it is to get sidetracked, confused and wrapped up in '-ologies' that one loses sight of the Spiritual.  This comes into razor-sharp focus with today's reading.
At that time Jesus exclaimed:
“I give praise to you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned you have revealed them to the childlike.  Yes, Father, such has been your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son wishes to reveal him.” (Mt. 11:25-27)
The wise and learned are the scribes and pharisees, who have studied and know the '-ologies', but it is that very erudition which shields their eyes from the truth of the Word.  It is the ignorant, the childlike, who are receptive to the Word and it's truth.  That doesn't mean that one should walk away from study and such, for even the greatest of the Doctors of the Church came to realise the Spiritual over the '-ologies'.  Rather, it is a concern to keep in the front of your mind lest one be taken away by fanciful mental constructs and enmeshed in intellectual webs.

Recall that all of this is about relationships (both to the Divine and to each other) and relationships aren't book-learning, but life-learning. 

Monday, July 11

Are you listening?

"He who has ears, let him hear.”

And the disciples came and said to Him, “Why do You speak to them in parables?” Jesus answered them, “To you it has been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been granted. For whoever has, to him more shall be given, and he will have an abundance; but whoever does not have, even what he has shall be taken away from him. Therefore I speak to them in parables; because while seeing they do not see, and while hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand.In their case the prophecy of Isaiah is being fulfilled, which says,
“But blessed are your eyes, because they see; and your ears, because they hear. For truly I say to you that many prophets and righteous men desired to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it."(Mt. 13:9-17)

"He who has ears, let him hear.”  
 Christ uses this expression at least 5 separate times in the gospels.  As we can see plainly from this reading, he is not referring to mere auditory acuity, but rather to the openness of the heart to receive the message.

Reading about so many of those in the church hierarchy (of various stripes), this passage rings true to me.  Their hearts have become dull, their vision dim and their hearing deafened to the Word.  They have become captive to the letter of the law and no longer see the spirit in which the laws were written. Ironically, most cannot see that this has even happened and are happy to quote chapter and verse as to why they are justified in being exactly as those whom Christ decried.

On the other hand, many people today function in a post-modernist world where there are no absolutes and Truth as an objective entity does not exist.  These people may hear the Word, but cannot listen, see it but do not perceive the Truth.  I believe that this is the kernel of wisdom in the Vatican's refutation of 'modernism' and 'secularism'. (note that many consider post-modernism to be an evolutionary development of modernism and is part of the same movement with the underlying premises of relativistic and atheistic thought). 

Note that Christ does not call those people wicked or foolish, but says that prophets and the righteous are counted in the deaf and blind.

So, on the one hand we have an aging group of well-meaning religious folk who appear to no longer hear the Truth being spoken and, on the other hand, a group of people who are so detached from the natural world that don't understand the Truth when it is given to them. 

Thus, you use parables.  I recall a discussion about the use of parables where it was highlighted to me their importance.  As the conscious mind wrestles with the wording and structure of the parable, the meaning is allowed to slip past that gatekeeper and into the deeper mind, delivering the message.  While you consider that, let me tell you a story....

Friday, July 8

Ranting...you've been warned.

You're supposed to read it, not clobber people with it.
I normally try not to do this sort of thing, for it generates heat without light, but a series of pictures combined with yesterday's reading just sent me round the twist.  Feel free to move on.

As most of you are familiar, Archbishop Timothy Doyle is the head of the USCCB, making him (effectively) the prelate of the US RC church.  He is also the archbishop of New York (city) and used all of his clout to actively work against the recent same-sex marriage legislation...to the point of brow-beating the RC governor, Andrew Cuomo.  As we know now, that didn't work and the cause of freedom of choice and primacy of conscience won out over threats and legalism. 

Then there is yesterday's reading which is when Christ sends forth the disciples.

"Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, drive out demons. Without cost you have received; without cost you are to give. Do not take gold or silver or copper for your belts; no sack for the journey, or a second tunic, or sandals, or walking stick. The laborer deserves his keep." (Mt. 10:8-10)

and then there is the later exhortation of Christ, decrying the Pharisees:

“Everything they do is done for men to see: They make their phylacteries wide and the tassels on their garments long; they love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues; they love to be greeted in the marketplaces and to have men call them ‘Rabbi.’" (Mt. 23:5-7)

Oh, there are a lot of pictures out there of various prelates in their finery, sitting in state upon a dais and generally acting as a ruler.  Find me pictures of these prelates curing the sick, driving out demons, raising the dead or cleansing lepers.  Heck, I'll settle for images of them feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, tending to the sick, visiting the imprisoned and inviting in the stranger. (Mt. 25:34-46)

If people, be them prelate or prince, legislature or laity, do not act in kindness and humility and love for our neighbours, then they are not acting as Christ taught us.  How many blankets could be bought with the gold laid in that crosier?  How many meals were missed to pay for the lace and embroidery?  When the 'teachers' don't practice the lessons, let alone teach them, what then for the 'taught'?

Thursday, July 7

Connectivity and Catholicism

Virtual connectivity
"We are all connected....
To each other biologically,
to the earth chemically
to the universe atomically."
- Neil deGrasse Tyson

I read again and again about how people preach division and exclusion.  The media rhetoric is filled with how 'they' are so different from 'us' and how 'our' existence and way of life is threatened by 'their' very existence.

I keep coming back to the same truths, the same themes.  If you think it's hard hearing it for the 10th time, imagine seeing it for 100 times for each time I write it.

"I am made from the dust of the stars and the oceans flow in my veins."  - Rush, Presto

What I am is what you are...children of God and creations of the Divine.  We are all unique and distinct images of the Creator, but to focus on that difference is to ignore the similarities.

We are all made from the dust of the stars.  The oceans that encompass the Earth are within each and every one of us.  In a more religious sense, we are all made in the image and likeness of God. It is our choice to recognize these things, to reject them or to ignore them.  It is our choice to see in the stranger the face of God, to see the 'other', or to not see them at all.  Just recall that whatever we choose is what we receive, whether it is inclusion or division, love or hate, life or death, God or man.


Tuesday, July 5

Wu Wei and standing in the stream

Talking with my mother (who had four years of theology in college back when college work was rigorous) this weekend brought to light a trouble I am wrestling with and, in its own way, reflects on the gent to the left here.

You see, back in the day, my si-hing told me that books about Tai-Chi were useless because if you knew the form, they couldn't show you anything you didn't already know and if you didn't know the form, they couldn't teach your anything.  In short, one must experience Tai Chi for yourself.

As I look towards formal formation processes, I seem to run the demand to know the '-ologies' and '-icies'. Read this person, not that person...study this school of thought, not that school of thought.  Other than a cereberal interest, though, I recognize that it is reading about Tai Chi, not practicing Tai Chi, and no amount of study about God will supplant the experience of being WITH God.

So, I'm kind of stuck.  I see the value of study (for there is some value in study), but it is the palest shadow compared to the experience of the Divine and the transformative spiritual power which can from a single moment in Her presence.  I'm not sure if this is a subtle way of Coyote saying that I should consider other paths or what is going on.  Right now, most of what I hear is "You're a smart lad, you'll figure it out."  Thanks, Dad.

I recall when, by being mindful of the stream of life, the Tao, one can feel the currents of the Universe.  By being mindful of these things, one can act without acting (Wu Wei) and accomplish everything without effort.  
Obey the nature of things (the Tao), and you will walk freely and undisturbed.
When thought is in bondage the truth is hidden, for everything is murky and unclear and the burdensome practice of judging brings annoyance and weariness.
What benefit can be derived from distinctions and separations?   (Seng-ts'an, Hsin Hsin Ming)
Guess I need to listen more.

Monday, July 4

The Tao, the Truth and the Life.

"I am the Way, the Truth and the Life, no man may come to the Father except through me." (Jn 14:6)

"Follow your nature and accord with the Tao, saunter along and stop worrying." - Seng-ts'an, Hsin-hsin Ming

"Follow the Truth, no matter where it may lead." - St. Dominic de Guzman

"You have a choice between life and death; you will get whichever you choose." (Sirach 15:17)

Choose Life, follow Truth no matter where it may lead and accord with the Way and you shall come to the Father.

Conversations from an after-mass gathering.

So, as is becoming my pattern, I traveled to one of our sister parishes to attend their monthly Celtic Mass.  As is becoming traditional, I sang with the choir (because they let me and they are awesome).  After mass, I was invited to a choir get-together at one of the choir members home.  There was food and drink and long conversations on the patio.  In short, it was wonderful.  One of the conversations circled around the twin concepts of fear and love being the two prime motivating factors of the human condition.

This idea isn't new.  My Sihing used to say just that, that Fear and Love drive all other emotions.  What is new is something which came to me during the conversation was the underlying natures of fear and love.

Fear is, at it's core, a selfish, inward emotion.  It is all about you and how others affect you.  It is about judgement, exclusion, pain and separation.  As such, it is the root of all negative emotions.  Fear is most often about closing ourselves off ; from each other, from ourselves, from God.

In direct contrast, love is a selfless, outward emotion.  It is about others and how you affect others.  It is about tolerance, inclusion, joy and communion.  As such, it is the root of all positive emotions.  Love is most often about opening ourselves up ; to each other, to ourselves, to God.

We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. By this, love is perfected with us, so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment; because as He is, so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love. (1 Jn. 4:16-18)
There is nothing, then, to fear in God, for knowing Him is to abide in love and the more we know Her, the more perfectly and completely we are suffused in love.  Being suffused with love, we have nothing to fear from ourselves.  Being filled with love, we have nothing to fear from others.

So very simple, when you think of it.  Putting it into practice may take some more work.  ;)

P. S. - after posting this, something else just came to me.  That we, as creations of the Divine with free will, have the choice to fear or to love.  We choose to live in fear or to live in love.  Consider this carefully. 
We choose to close ourselves off or open ourselves up. 
We choose to live in pain or in joy. 
We choose to live in judgement or in acceptance.
We choose to abide in God or not.

Friday, July 1

theodicy and other, related things

The Problem of Evil...er, wrong evil.
Recently, the question of theodicy has come to the fore of my (albeit limited) attention.  Theodicy is the philosophical/theological study of the question of 'why does God let bad things happen to good people' or, more abstractly, if God is good, why does He permit evil to exist.  These questions pre-suppose that God (by whatever name) is omniscient, omnipotent and omni-benevolent.  Some explanations of the 'problem of evil' pose that God cannot exist or, alternately, that God cannot be omniscient, omnipotent or omni-benevolent.  Others would argue that what is perceived as evil may not be evil at all, that it is a consequence of Original Corruption/Sin, that it is an outgrowth of Free Will and the list goes on.

Now, I have my own thoughts about this, but as I was reading one of the Patristic writers last night (yes, I have that active a night life, shush) his words put a razor-sharp point on discussions regarding such things. 

He said to not concern yourself overmuch with doctrine, for it isn't doctrine which Christ taught...there aren't enchiridions of epistemology, codices of catechisms or lexicons of liturgy which Christ required to be followed to the letter. 

What Christ said was to follow his example, to love God and your neighbour.  Do what's right and trust in the Divine.  That's much harder to do than a rubric of rules or the succor of sophistic substantiation, yet we seem to find it so much more important to argue over the colour of an orange rather than to feed the hungry with it. 

Don't borrow trouble. 
Just do what's right. 
Just sayin.