I’m a regular reader of Fr. Matthew Fox’s Daily Meditations and todays was particularly insightful. You may enjoy it too.
Holding Afghanistan in the Light
More broadly, it is far past time for the United States to acknowledge that peace and real security can never be achieved through military force, and to therefore abandon the failed endless war paradigm completely.
— Read on www.fcnl.org/updates/2021-08/holding-afghanistan-light
The horrific attacks at Kabul Airport must not be used as a pretext for more war. The military industrial complex and its supporters have kept the United States in a wartime footing since 1939. The present war in Afghanistan has depleted our National treasure long enough and has done nothing to end terrorism nor advance the cause of world peace.
The Sheep and the Goats
Earlier today I came upon a quote from Matthew 25 which sums up the Jesus message.
“I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me.”
The Jesus message which is often overlooked is about relationships. Too often the emphasis is on his death on the cross. Many if not most Christians believe in the doctrine of ‘original sin.’ Jesus never talked about original sin in any of the Gospels nor is it mentioned per se in the New Testament. So much emphasis has been placed on original sin that the relationship message of Jesus is given short shrift. I recently participated in a class where the emphasis for many was on ‘the fall.’ You know the story I’m sure about how Eve gave Adam the forbidden fruit from the tree of knowledge and then it was all down hill from there.
The idea that people are damned because Eve gave Adam an apple in a metaphorical allusion in a mythological explanation of the creation story was always something I questioned. Why would a supreme being create a cosmos that was flawed in such a manner to exclude that same creation from fulfillment. It doesn’t make any sense. Nearly twenty years ago I heard about the theology of John Duns Scotus and later St. Bonaventure both of whom were inspired by their seraphic father St. Francis that posited an alternative. In short the reason for the incarnation was to demonstrate the creator’s love for creation. Jesus never excludes anyone from the banquet. In fact the more sinful you are the more welcome you are at the banquet. He welcomed prostitutes, tax collectors and other sinners. It was the church people who crucified him. His preaching was too scandalous for them. He upset the status quo with this radical message of relationship.
In Matthew 25 he articulates clearly that what you do for the least of your fellows is what earns you the reward of eternal life. Getting baptized, saying that you accept Jesus as your Lord and savior and then turning a blind eye to the injustices that surround us is not going to get you into the kingdom according to what is written in Matthew 25:31-46. That’s always been my favorite verse in the New Testament. The golden rule is the recipe for happiness in this life and the next.
Today’s Gospel in Catholic churches everywhere is drawn from the Matthew 20: 1-16. It’s a familiar parable of the landowner who is hiring people to work in his vineyard. You’ve heard it many times I’m sure. The landowner goes out at 9:00 AM and hires folks to work and agrees to pay them a the usual daily wage. He went out again at noon and at three o’clock and hired more workers to for the usual daily wage. He hired more still at five o’clock. In the evening he summoned the foreman and told him to pay the workers beginning with the last and ending with the first. Each received the usual daily wage. Those who had been hired first began to grumble. They thought they deserved more because they had labored the entire day.
And on receiving it they grumbled against the landowner, saying,‘These last ones worked only one hour,and you have made them equal to us,who bore the day’s burden and the heat.’He said to one of them in reply,‘My friend, I am not cheating you. Did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage? Take what is yours and go. What if I wish to give this last one the same as you? Or am I not free to do as I wish with my own money. Are you envious because I am generous?’Thus, the last will be first, and the first will be last.”Matthew 20:11-16
As I reflected on these word today I realized that in the Kingdom of God as proclaimed by Jesus we see radical equality. There is no seniority, no frequent flyer miles. Everyone is compensated equally for their work. Some would call this socialism today but is it really? Imagine a world where such as this existed. Isn’t this what life should be like?
The moral theology of evil
Earlier today I saw a clip where Franklin Graham attributed the coronavirus pandemic to the sinfulness of the world. According to him God is capricious and looks for ways to inflict pain and sadness on us. This reminded me of a chapter in Thomas Merton’s, New Seeds of Contemplation, which was published many years ago.
“The devil has a whole system of theology and philosophy, which will explain, to anyone who will listen, that created things are evil, that men are evil, that God created evil and that He directly wills that men should suffer evil. According to the devil, God rejoices in the suffering of men and, in fact, the whole universe is full of misery because God has willed and planned it that way.”Thomas Merton, New Seeds of Contemplation
This runs counter to my own experience of God. It even runs counter to what Jesus said in the Gospels, “I desire mercy and not sacrifice.” I have to feel sorry for folks who’s image of God is like that of the harsh businessman waiting to exact revenge for transgression.
My grace is sufficient
Today was one of those year ending days in school when it all got a bit overwhelming with tests, test results, people who needed help. I was down and shared that with my colleague and friend David who always has a good word or joke to share. His enthusiasm and kindness are legendary. Today while we were sharing, he told me that the important things in teaching and learning are not the test scores, but the impact that we educators have on our students. He related how he had seen students vying to be the first to enter my classroom each day. Later in the morning I received a scripture quote from him which helped to buoy my spirits.
I will refresh the weary and satisfy the faint.” Jeremiah 31:25
That’s one more way that he encouraged and strengthened me. It was a God send on a very taxing day. Our principal was equally kind to me and encouraged me as only principals can do. During the day as I walked the halls another of my favorite quotes kept me afloat.
“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:9-10
Thank you to Dave and Tom and all who reminded me that we are brothers and sisters and that community is more important than anything else in the world.
A few days ago the faculty advisor for this year’s senior class at Franklinville Central School approached me with a problem. He’s got some seniors who cannot attend this year’s senior trip because their parents recently lost employment. Now, I know compared to many of the world’s ills this is truly minor. But, if you’re a kid in Franklinville, New York where so many of our students come from low income families the senior trip can be an experience that provides these young people with a vision of what life could be like. If you’re interested in helping, the Senior Class Advisor is Ed Butler. Ed’s a very caring person and a great man for the job. He has a heart for children especially those in need. The students raise a lot of the money for the trip themselves by working at car washes, bake sales, spaghetti dinners and you know the drill. There is a portion however that comes from in kind contribution by the student and usually that falls to the parent or parents. You can contact Ed via email if you’d like to help. Thanks and peace.
Health care reform is good for business
This story comes from a story and video I’ve just seen on one of my favorite blogs. Elizabeth Edwards, wife of Senator John Edwards, a woman currently battling cancer really does a great job of debunking some of the myths surrounding the health care debate which have heated up quite a bit this week. Some national Republicans are calling this Waterloo for Obama. Health care critics are always citing phony number and I’ve had a sense of that for sometime, but the statistics shown in this post are remarkable.
A few years ago I was speaking to a technical support representative of a major printer manufacturer. In our conversation I noted that he sounded very Canadian, which in fact he was. I quizzed him about why his company had located their technical support in Alberta. Why Alberta? Why put your technical support people in the middle of the Canadian Rockies. Why such a remote location? His answer was that the company wanted highly skilled English speakers but could not afford health care costs so they moved their operation to Canada. The light came on for me that day. As a business owner and an American citizen who wants to see my country grow and prosper I began to realize the imperative of health care reform. Small business will not be saddled with benefit costs which have been driving many out of the market place. Health care reform is therefore our patriotic duty. Taking advantage of people in the fashion that health care conglomerates have is very un-American not to mention un-holy.
Sadly the American health care system is deadlier than our neighbors to the north. Take a look at some numbers that come from this link.
Circulatory disease deaths per 100,000:
- Canada: 219
- United States: 265
Child maltreatment deaths per 100,000:
- Canada: 0.7
- United States: 2.2
Digestive disease deaths per 100,000:
- Canada: 17.4
- United States: 20.5
Infant mortality rate per 1,000 live births
- Canada: 5.08
- United States: 6.3
Intestinal diseases death rate
- Canada: 0.3%
- United States: 7.3%
Proability of not reaching age 60:
- Canada: 9.5%
- United States: 12.8%
Respiratory disease child death rate per 100,000
- Canada: 0.62
- United States: 40.43
Heart disease deaths per 100,000:
- Canada: 94.9
- United States: 106.5
HIV deaths per million people:
- Canada: 47.423
- United States: 48.
Radical Mercy and Forgiveness
Today a friend called to tell that another friend had died and suddenly at that. The fellow who died was a very good friend and I’ll miss him a lot. He was a good friend. We’d spent quite a bit of time together this winter. We’re both fathers and Navy veterans and both drove PT Cruisers. I hadn’t seen Pat in about a month and only the other day I thought of sending him a text message. Earlier this winter while we were having a lengthy discussion I told him that I loved him and I did. I’m glad I was able to say that because I’ve often found it difficult to come right out and say that to another who is not in my own family. Today, though I was filled with sadness over Pat’s passing I was glad that those words had passed between us. Life is short, shorter than we imagine sometimes.
All of this got me to thinking about the Gospel of Jesus. I read a couple of different places that Christian churches are in decline and that we’re in a post-Christian era. I’m not always sure what these writers mean when they write words like that, but for me there is a huge difference for what passes as Christianity most places and what was written in the Gospels. Many Christian churches have become so wrapped up in politics that they are no longer prophetic, but pathetic instead. I believe the Gospels were mainly about radical mercy and forgiveness. I don’t even think Jesus came to found a church, he came in fulfillment of the scriptures. To me all of that is secondary to the message and that message is about forgiveness that knows no bounds and mercy beyond compare. I came across an article written by Fr. Richard Rohr, OFM that summarizes much of what I think.
You don’t know mercy until you’ve really needed it. As Thomas Merton once said—and I’ve quoted it often—“Mercy within mercy, within mercy.” It’s as if we collapse into deeper nets of acceptance, deeper nets of being enclosed and finally find we’re in a net we can’t fall out of. We are captured by grace. Only after much mistrust and testing do we accept that we are accepted.
–Richard Rohr, OFM