Mercy? Self-Compassion?

“And what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”  Micah 6:8

A simple calling that many of us aspire to practice in all our daily affairs.  Micah is ancient, from the Old Testament, 686 B.C., telling us the importance of justice, kindness, and humility.

We may secretly believe we are doing a fine job – or may even boast of our temporal success!  The latter instantaneously crashes our spiritual intentions before our vocal cords cease vibrating, before the words form, before sounds from the air on our God given breath escape our mouth, our humility is lost.

If only we had errors of omission to be concerned about perhaps we could get a pass for these transgressions.  What about our active permission or even execution of unjust acts, meanness, a simple claim of moral superiority or self-righteous indignation.

We are a long way from Micah’s days and have had generations to lose our sense of spirituality, of universal truths, of a desire to have and maintain a conscious contact with God.  So far removed are we as a people that we are numb to micro and macros transgressions we see every day — hunger, poverty, oppression, violence, and the many forms of the seven deadly sins.  Even if we were to claim that we are powerless over the society in which we live, we still have our own individual actions which no doubt fail not only God’s standards, but our very own watered down standards, which at the slightest provocation, can be adjusted to meet our sense of our grandiose circumstances.  Our afflictions are so high even Job would tremble to be in our shoes.  Sometimes I think he actually might be trembling for our human condition these days.  All is not lost.

Author Anne Lamont presents a solution for our miserable actions in her book Hallelujah Anyway.  As far as I can tell Anne has had plenty of challenges herself (mental health, alcoholism, and trauma) in her life and has come out the other side with a career of multiple successful books.

This book takes a look at the “lingering effects of Trauma and Paralyzing Fear” on people’s ability to live a holy life and maintain a conscious contact with God – or even to maintain a conscious contact with their own sense of self.  Mercy and forgiveness are foundational:[i]

Practicing Mercy towards others and towards yourself is the answer she defines for all the broken souls that are seeking peace.  Anne Lamott says “Mercy is radical kindness.” This is not a unique concept for excellent health – it has many authors from many different fields promoting its value.

Kindness

Starting with oneself is almost always a good idea.  I know several of my weaknesses can be captured by Thomas Merton’s broad stroke of a pen:

“Knowing at the same time the weakness and imperfection of my own soul fettered by attachments, I will above all pray earnestly and humbly for the grace without which I can never hope to conquer my impatience, irritability, aggressiveness and self-righteous impulses to judge and punish other men.”[ii]

I have not lost these negative traits since reading his book, though I like to believe, I have arrested and entangled their freedom to run rampant without circumspection, constraint, or outright arrest!  And what about all the resentments of others past – and those current, that show no restraint or awareness at all of the harms they are committing?

How am I to cope with my own fallibility while also contending with historical “trauma and fear,” current stressors and insecurity, and outright insanity of other people?

Mercy

It is not just the old man Micah that recommends Mercy.   The Bible has many references to a Merciful God.[iii]  Understanding the importance of mercy and forgiveness is a lifelong journey and can cover quite a broad terrain of concrete action.[iv]    If you prefer a psychological look at Mercy and Forgiveness perhaps “The Enright Process Model of Psychological Forgiveness” can shed some light on the power of Mercy or at least the how to approach Mercy for self and others.[v]  Or checkout the International Forgiveness Institute[vi].

I prefer for this writing to stay focused on the spiritual calling to practice Mercy in all our affairs.

“We do not have a God Who is incapable of understanding and sharing our weaknesses. Quite the contrary! Precisely because of His mercy God became one of us: ‘For by His incarnation the Son of God has united Himself in some fashion with every man. He worked with human hands, He thought with a human mind, acted by human choice and loved with a human heart. Born of the Virgin Mary, He has truly been made one of us, like us in all things except sin’. In Jesus, therefore, we are able not only to touch the mercy of God with our hands, but we are inspired to become instruments of His mercy. It is easy to speak of mercy, yet more difficult to become its witness. This is a path that is lifelong and which should not be interrupted. Jesus has said to us that we must be ‘merciful as the Father”. It is a lifelong endeavour.”

Pope Francis:  Vigil of Divine Mercy Sunday, April 2, 2016[vii]

And thankfully we are not alone in seeking and providing Mercy:

It is love which takes the first step, which does not depend on human merit but on immense gratuitousness. It is divine solicitude that nothing can impede, not even sin, because it is able to go beyond sin, to overcome evil and forgive it.[viii]

The Holy Spirit

Practicing Mercy while being just, demonstrating kindness, and maintaining humility is a way of life that is difficult to maintain in today’s world.  While there are many psychological, physical, and spiritual benefits to living this way that is not why we should live this way.

We should live this way as it is God’s will and to live in accordance with God’s will is right and just.  But how do I know what is God’s will?   You cannot trust your own sense of providence alone.  Too many people are deceived by false shadows of religiosity that are far from holy.

If you are Catholic perhaps some reflection on the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit.[ix]  Depending on the immensity of the decision you are facing – having others (spiritual advisors, friends, professionals) maybe a good adjunct to your spiritual journey and practicing discernment.

I would be remiss to not mention Saint Faustina Kowalska, an uneducated Polish nun who, in obedience to her spiritual director, wrote a diary of about 600 pages recording the revelations she received about God’s mercy.[x]       I have a preference for non-formulaic prayer and conversation – meditative and/or Lectio Divina.    Sometimes the readings of Saints or theologians can spark the spiritual imagination.

Perhaps the best advice I have is pray, strive, and do not take yourself too seriously if you are putting your best self out there.  We are imperfect creatures.  Trust in something higher!

Jesus I Trust In You

[i] Hallelujah ANYWAY by Anne Lamott

[ii] [i] Thomas Merton, Spiritual Direction and Meditation (Action and Union)

[iii] 2 Samuel 24:14, Psalm 86:5, Psalm 145:9, Luke 6:36, Ephesians 2:4, Titus 3:5, Hebrews 4:16, 1 Peter 1:3, Matt 9:13, Psalms 51:1-2

[iv] http://www.stamadison.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/Fr-Zyg-handout.pdf

[v] https://couragerc.org/wp-content/uploads/Enright_Process_Forgiveness_1.pdf

[vi] https://internationalforgiveness.com/about-us.htm

[vii] https://www.ncronline.org/blogs/francis-chronicles/popes-quotes-mercy-god

[viii] https://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/audiences/2016/documents/papa-francesco_20160113_udienza-generale.html

[ix] http://www.stpatpv.org/rcia/gifts_of_the_spirit.pdf

[x] http://www.thedivinemercy.org/message/

 

Is your God Dead by George Yancy[i]

“Open your eyes and look within. Are you satisfied

with the life you’re living?”[ii]

On June 19, 2017 George Yancy challenged you via New York Times opinion piece to consider is your God Dead?

What does it mean to believe in a “Living God?”  My belief is in a living God.  However, I cannot attest to having seen him in person, to have heard his voice, or felt his touch.  My God is not available to me with the realm of the five senses.  I have experienced my God with a subjective sixth sense, a spirituality that relies on intuition, faith, and the grace of God.  My belief, however, is useless to the seeker of God who has no access to the presence of God within him.

We do have traditions, manuscripts, and archaeological evidence for much of the scriptural text that have been preserved and passed down to us.    Still that is a dead letter as well without something more.

Dead letter dept.

Yancy argues that your God, or at least the God of many is dead.   The evidence is all around us as we collectively accept the poverty and inhumanity of the Human condition.  He makes his point very personal.  Raises it on an individual level as to what do you represent as the living word of your God.  In the end, belief without action is not belief at all.   He quoted Friedrich Nietzsche’s observation:

“There was only one Christian and he died on the cross.”

A very pessimistic view indeed amidst all the suffering and chaos we see today.  That being said, our biblical ancestors were not free of terrible suffering, oppression, and sin either.  Our religion has evolved and progresses with our progression as a human species.

We are at a turning point in America that is stunning.  We profess outwardly belief, but when pressed our convictions can be witheringly weak, our actions hypocritical, and our proximity to a conscious understanding and unity with God shattered.    Yet many will wear their affiliation on their sleeve.  Affiliation and baptism alone will not alleviate our guilt. What guilt?  You go to church.  You pay your taxes.  You voted pro-life.  You even gave to charity! You pray often.  Perhaps this is not enough:

After all, prayer and rejoicing can also function as forms of narcissism, as ways to drown out the screams of the poor, the oppressed.

It is not enough if we walk by our neighbor in distress, if we support global poverty and oppression, if we stand idly by as our democracy turns its back on both local and global responsibilities. This can and should be a nightmare for us as Christians and other faiths as well:

“The prophet’s word is a scream in the night.” I wait to be awakened by that scream. I have not yet heard it. It is that scream, that deep existential lament, that will awaken us to the ways we are guilty of claiming to “love God” while forgetting the poor, refusing the refugee, building walls, banning the stranger, and praying and worshiping in insular and segregated “sacred” spaces filled with racism, sexism, patriarchy, xenophobia, homophobia and indifference.”

If we are at all spiritual, the prophet’s words must be ringing in our souls during quiet contemplation.  Perhaps it is a simple as a Marley song, open our eyes, look within, and examine if we are satisfied with the life we are living?

Yancy concludes the article with the following quote:

“I await the day, perhaps soon, when those who believe in the “God of Abraham, God of Isaac, God of Jacob” will lock arms and march on Washington, refusing to live any longer under the weight of so much inhumanity.” 

 god of

If your God is not dead, reveal him to others in your actions and words.  Keep your prayers to yourself – but let the light of your God shine brightly in compassion and love of all people.

[i] https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/19/opinion/is-your-god-dead.html?action=click&contentCollection=Middle%20East&module=Trending&version=Full&region=Marginalia&pgtype=article

[ii] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nv584jRwh0s

 

Spiritual Direction and Meditation by Thomas Merton

Seeking a greater union with God through prayer and meditation I sought out the works of Thomas Merton.  This very tiny book, Spiritual Direction and Meditation, after much discourse and examination of the benefits of pray informed meditation, enough to provide a course of action and reassurance, takes aim at our human ego just after cresting the mid-way point of the book:

 “Knowing at the same time the weakness and imperfection of my own soul fettered by attachments, I will above all pray earnestly and humbly for the grace without which I can never hope to conquer my impatience, irritability, aggressiveness and self-righteous impulses to judge and punish other men.”[i]

Irrevocably drawn in by the power and beauty of seeking greater unity with God by this point, flight from my own human failings is not an option.   But what if the book started off this way?  Would I have continued to read it with the same investment?  Would you?

I adore many of my worldly attachments to the point of constant distraction from unity with God.  Many of these attachments are perfectly healthy and rational affections that could even be defined as my calling and my duty (family, work, friends, and writing).   Others not so much like chess, poker, political junkie, sports and other adrenaline inducing activities.  Not so long ago the allure of the dark side of alcohol as well.  Aside from the latter, I have no intention of divesting myself from these attachments!

As for my impatience, irritability, and aggressiveness – is this not a normal response to the insanity we are faced with every day?   Some of these attributes drive innovation and success in my life.   Do I have a self-righteous impulse to judge and punish other men?  No, I have a self-directed mission to be an advocate for the oppressed and underserved.  I have an obligation to be decisive and to act.  God did not give us ability to have it buried in the ground hidden away.

It is easy to fall into the trap of arrogance with only a droplet of spiritual attainment being granted to the individual soul.  But note the last part of the quote – “to judge and punish other men!”  How often do we judge other men?  How often do we punish others based on our judgments?  Do not rule this out.   Punishing another can take many different forms that may not be obvious initially and be far from a benevolent act despite one’s intention to right a wrong.

How many fervent Catholics go astray with judging and condemning women walking into Planned Parenthood?  Are they inspired by true compassion and love when they are walking the pavement with murder signs held high?  Are they doing it for the glory of God, to defend the unborn, or to raise their own sense of righteous indignation?  How many are ready to punish these women regardless of any circumstance?

worthy

But what are we to do when confronted with the many evils of today?  This is our suffering.  This is our cross.  Thomas Merton says we are “obliged” to follow the example of Jesus Christ and to reproduce in ourselves his patience, meekness, and tranquility.  “He who does not take up his cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.”[ii] What an order.  All “I” wanted was meditation, prayer, and peace!

No wonder Mystic St. John wrote “The Dark Night of the Soul”[iii] that captures what can be a violent confrontation.  It is easy to get ahead of oneself and get lost in “false mysticism.”  Let’s take a step back.

Hence, entering into prayer and meditation I must pray humbly for grace to guide my meditation, my prayers, and my actions.  Thomas Merton’s book is packed with singular lines that can be expounded on ad infinitum.  However, the true intent is to inspire spiritual meditation that brings one closer to God, but here and now, and at the end of times.

Only way to evaluate the writing is to apply the knowledge.  On completing the book, I decided to apply Merton’s writings to my adoration hour.

“This implies trust in God and a sincere abandonment to the Holy Spirit, from whom we can at any time rely on the light of divine Counsel, provided that we are conscientious religious and try to be men of prayer.” 

This is another metaphysical challenge to jump with for complete abandonment and rely on the Holy Spirit for divine counsel.  I don’t know about you, but most believers, even the most devout, have had the grace of direct revelation from the Father, The Son, or The Holy Spirit.  And the latter is the most challenging concept.  Merton does not pause on this and presents simple direction on practical matters (no one can meditate for you) and principals that can guide (seeking union with God, having patience, having humility, having faith*, and with sincere searching and love ask for guidance).

*“We cannot possibly bring our souls to renounce our most powerful natural desires unless we somehow have a real and conscious appreciation of our contact with something better.”

But where do I begin.  Merton recommended “Lectio Divina” as a normal foundation for an interior life of meditation and prayer.  I am somewhat familiar with this from the influence of St. Ignatius spiritual practices.  Simply stated read sacred scripture deeply and sit with it meditatively or with spiritual imagination.

I placed myself in a sacred space (adoration chapel).  I prepared myself for prayer.  I humbly asked for grace and guidance for the time I was to be present and praying that evening. A large bible was within arm’s reach.  The gospel of John, chapter 14, on Last Supper Discourses was the scripture that presented itself.[iv]

John 14

Spiritual imagination transformed me to being in the room.  Disciples Thomas, Philip and Judas were struggling to accept Jesus’s plan to depart.   Anger, fear, disillusionment permeated the room.  I myself could not accept having travelled so far with Jesus, to have such an abrupt end.  Truth be told I did not think an end would come once I saw his miracles with my own eyes. But now, everything is upside down.  Outside these doors are enemies that I cannot stand up too without Jesus.  I do not hear the word of the father the way he does.  I do not trust my fellow disciples to stay.  My friends and family from my past will ridicule me on return – not listen to me preach the words of Jesus.  Jesus speaks to me.  At this point meditative prayer is broken with the hilarity that I could summon up the words Jesus would say to me!  His words to the other apostles sufficed.

And then, after clearly detailing the inevitability of his departure, Jesus tells me about the advocate he will give us:

The Advocate, the Holy Spirit that the Father will send in my name—he will teach you everything and remind you of all that [I] told you.

This is important to me.  I have been delving for a week or to now into prayer seeking greater understanding of the Holy Spirit and not quite getting it. And hear, Jesus was telling me directly about the advocate.  My complaining about following Jesus all this way above in my spiritual imagination became my complaining about my life journey and its hardships.

In a crack of silence, the journey and providence of traveling from Pelham bay in the Bronx as a child to the middle of Delaware was filled with the unseen hand of God at different turning points in my life.  And still in my obstinacy, despite all the graces I have been given, I question God…..Dela Where?     In an instant the worry and hindsight on how I arrived at where I am today were insignificant.

Significance is that ultimate truth lies within us if we pursue listening to our spiritual consciousness and are open to the mystery of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  The advocate is there for us within us if we ask for it and we look for it with pure intention and sincerity to want union with God.

That sincerity will acknowledge the weakness and imperfection of our fettered souls with a desire to seek him. I do not know about conquering my imperfections.  I can only humbly ask God’s grace to eliminate those that can be ameliorated, help me carry those imperfections that are my cross bear, help me to not hurt others as a result of my weaknesses, and empower me to live loving as Jesus Christ exemplified.

Untethered thoughts cascaded into pleas:

I am no saint.  I am not a bible thumper or theologian.  I am damaged by my own fears and desires. I am engulfed in humanity and vulnerable to the attractions of the seven deadly sins. I cannot possibly meet God’s expectations or even my own!  I am in need of help and forgiveness every day for myself and for brothers.

Solemnity settled into the still room.  Neither elation nor despair was present.  As the disciples knew, challenges awaited them when they left the last supper.  So too challenges awaited me as I exited the chapel – not of course on the grand magnitude of those by Jesus’s side.

The night air was peaceful.  The Moon was bright.  Unseen I departed from the quiet place with my thoughts.   Perhaps I can conquer many things that create distance between me and God with the advocates help and prayerful meditations and actions.  it is not that complicated to pray.

“Meditation is almost all contained in this one idea:  the idea of awakening our interior self and attuning ourselves inwardly to the Holy Spirit, so that we will be able to respond to His grace.”

merton on life

[i] Thomas Merton, Spiritual Direction and Meditation (Action and Union)

[ii] Luke: 14:27

[iii] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=21Rwj9sPBTc

 

[iv] http://www.usccb.org/bible/john/14:1

 

Trump and Terrorist

Ruminating on the Evils of War and Fighting an Invisible Enemy

Despair 

St. Michael

On the Eve of Battle
God of power and mercy,
maker and love of peace,
to know you is to live,
and to serve you is to reign.
Through the intercession of St. Michael, the archangel,
be our protection in battle against all evil.
Help me [us] to overcome war and violence
and to establish your law of love and justice.
Grant this through Christ our Lord.

Under Donald Trump our nation may be killing more civilians than our Russian adversaries.[i]  This is important, aside from the tragedy of killing innocent people, it undermines our moral high ground.  I cannot see Archangel St. Michael interceding in such actions.  It also arms the enemy with propaganda.

It minimizes the sacrifices our sons and daughters are making every day.  Their sweat, courage, valor, and in too many cases, long-lasting physical and psychological harm cannot be taken for granted.  And that is if they are lucky.

Three troops passed away on foreign soil serving our country last month in Syria, Iraq, and Iraq (Al Anbar Province):  Sgt. 1st class Robert Boniface, Staff Sgt. Austin Bieren, and PFC Brian Odiorne.

data=RfCSdfNZ0LFPrHSm0ublXdzhdrDFhtmHhN1u-gM,uwB_vHK9vIbtQ5tf-iWeDcYaxw2MSRM0f43QBVUZdqE5IZlaocouqHAjJLkfjfCQ5qSITCyO3oy7GqhOK2sSVV9a15_j3DZKN0Fh-88OXeAyZHd6fRwnrQupX57mpdSTXUIwnezQvi0IH

All three are listed as non-combat related by the military times.[ii]  All three have died young in a foreign land.  I felt it important to note the location.  It should not be anonymous.  They should not be anonymous.  For them, their families, and loved ones it does not matter the designation.  We owe them gratitude and support for the ultimate sacrifice.  We owe them more than that as well.  We have to understand and know what war is and why we are at war.  And how we are fighting the war.

Our nation is ramping up war rhetoric on many fronts as we also limit our diplomacy, distance our allies, and create economic tensions that will only elevate the potential for war.  I am not hearing a commander-in-chief stand before the American people and inform us of where we stand.  I am not confident that he is attuned to or has the knowledge of military interventions and strategy necessary to do right by our country and by our troops.   We must demand accountability in a bipartisan manner – not to divide – but to unite a country that is absent a leader.

What do we owe our soldiers?  Their families?  How do we honor them?

Where is the news and accountability for stewardship of our Armed Forces? 

I do not want a country divided when it comes to supporting our troops.  I do not want a single soldier sacrificed unnecessarily.  When they do go to battle I hope people are actively praying for them and for the innocents in harm’s way.    I cannot quite brig myself to pray for the terrorist propagating evil – but I can pray for would be terrorist to not be recruited and curret terrorist to seek a true spirituality not of their own making.

Vietnam was not all that long ago.  A hallmark of Vietnam was not telling the American people the truth of what was happening on the ground. This non-transparent presidency, shrouded in mystery, hidden away behind a golf club wall and twitter account is not honoring our soldiers.

Sometimes we are left with only prayers:

For Hope in the Midst of Destruction
God of mercy,
you know the secrets of all human hearts,
for you know who is just and you forgive the repentant sinner.
Hear my prayer in the midst of destruction;
give me patience and hope,
so that under your protection and with you as my guide,
I may one day be reunited with my family and friends
in peace, tranquility, and love.
Grant this through Christ our Lord.[iii]

However, faith also demands action.

How can we maintain our humanity and spirituality in the midst of political chaos, world-wide proliferation of violence and war, and a nation succumbing to hatred and division?  How do we be defenders of freedom without becoming villains of capitalism and self-interest?  How do we not arm our enemies with yielding the moral high ground and losing our moral authority as a nation that stands for freedom and truth?

Our nation has been at war before our soldiers headed for the battlefield.  We are at war within our own borders for justice, truth, and equality.  We are at war to maintain democracy. And we are at war with international players all too willing to exploit our lack of leadership, antagonize and foster our divisions, and drain our resolve to be engaged in the world.  America cannot afford to be disengaged from the world.

Demand the truth.  Do not be misled by blind nationalism or rhetoric.    Be patriotic by making sure our leaders are exercising prudence and due diligence when sending our sons and daughters to battle.

President Trump is battling to many demons, both real and imagined.  We need leadership in the house, in the senate, in the press, in the military, in the pews, in our living rooms and neighborhoods to demand honesty and transparency from our government.  Without it we will succumb.

[i] https://www.thenation.com/article/under-trump-the-united-states-may-now-be-killing-more-civilians-than-russia/

[ii] http://thefallen.militarytimes.com/

[iii] http://www.usccb.org/prayer-and-worship/prayers-and-devotions/prayers/prayer-for-troops.cfm

 

Hallelujah! Hallelujah!

“The moment that you can live here comfortably in these absolutely irreconcilable conflicts is in this moment is when you embrace it all and say:  Look, I don’t understand a “%#$%!#!*^%” thing at all – Hallelujah!  That’s the only moment we live here fully as human beings.”[i]  Leonard Cohen

Leonard traveled the world and had good instincts regarding political turmoil, civil unrest, government chaos, and people.  Our best musicians can turn a phrase and a cord into an expression that defies definition yet ignites passion or feelings that otherwise may lay dormant.  Think of your favorite musicians and the feelings they may evoke (spiritual peace, political outrage, sensual desire, compassionate love, melancholy despair, pure joy).   How true is the above quote today?

The song Hallelujah is based on scripture translations of ancient Hebrew bible and has found a home in religious text of subsequent versions of the bible.   The term in the respected King James Bible (rendered as “Praise ye the lord”) is present in ten psalms of praise and Rev. 19:1, 3,4,6.[ii]

hallu

The story lines jump off from the life of King David and other bible figures with their life struggles intertwined into the song.[iv]  How many times the lyrics or the musical cords and not connected the scriptural references.  Leonard might tell you that the scriptural references became less important over time – as the song is an emotive song that draws on your spirituality as opposed to your religiosity (or degree in divinity)?

I have heard from a few people about preferences for this song.  My daughter prefers the Pentatonix group.  A colleague (musician and friend) sent me Jeff Buckley Live in Chicago.  Even Bob Dylan performed this piece (Cohen spoke to Bob in the early days about his struggle to write it).  I did not include Dylan’s rendition below despite an affinity for his work.  There is also an instrumental version only below.

I have never listened to peace with the intensity as I have the last few days.  Every rendition at a different time has different meaning and impact on the cords of my heart.

Do you have a favorite version?  Is it one of the artist below?  Can you feel their transformation?  Do you think they are carried away with the spirit of the song or are somehow reaching for heavens?

  • Pentatonix:  

http://www.littlethings.com/pentatonix-cover-hallelujah/?utm_source=jesus&utm_medium=Facebook&utm_campaign=singing  5:05

http://damnbored.tv/violin-play-piano-hallelujah/  3:44

The ancient songs of seeking God are alive and living in our world today.  The stirrings of spirit and meaning of life and death remain an unraveling mystery that sometimes are made visible, ever so briefly, in moments of artistic excellence.   Prayer takes many forms. Do you have enough time in your life for theological, spiritual, musical adventures?

hallelujah-preview

Hallelujah Chorus from Messiah by G. F. Handel (1685–1759)[v]

 [i] http://itsallaboutall.com/leonard-cohen/hallelujah-meaning/

[ii] http://www.kingjamesbibleonline.org/Hallelujah.php4

[iii] “After this I heard what sounded like the loud voice of a great multitude in heaven, saying: Alleluia! Salvation, glory and might belong to our God, for true and just are his judgments….. A voice coming from the throne said: “Praise our God, all you his servants, and you who revere him, small and great.” Then I heard something like the sound of a great multitude or the sound of rushing water or mighty peals of thunder, as they said: Alleluia! The Lord has established his reign, our God, the almighty. Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory…”Rev. 19

[iv] https://www.bibleodyssey.org/en/people/related-articles/leonard-cohens-hallelujah.aspx

[v] http://www.mutopiaproject.org/cgibin/piece-info.cgi?id=459

 

The Truth

“The truth is not grasped as a thing; the truth is encountered.  It is not a possession; It is an encounter with a Person.”  Pope Francis, May 15, 2013 General Audience

One word:  Truth.  We assume and lay claim to the truth everyday.  We defend our sense of the truth as if it was absolute, irrefutable, and natural.  We take for granted that our edifices of education, cultural facades, and treasury of historical traditions (oral and written) have bestowed upon us sensibilities that can be relied on to define the world we live in according to our particular understanding.

Fifteen minutes with a skilled philosopher or theologian can overwhelm a defined set of “truths,” whether elaborate or simple constructs of human design.  Politicians rely on the art polemic all the time as do false prophets.   It is uncomfortable to consider our framework is perhaps, not as solidly based on a foundation of truth and natural order as we proclaim.

Pope Francis is defining truth in the ultimate spiritual sense as an encounter with Jesus Christ – the “Person.”  I cannot have that encounter literally in the flesh and am left with remnants of his words and deeds as passed down by oral and written tradition.  I am also left with according to this tradition, the Holy Spirit, the “Paraclete,” or one who comes to our aide.

What a glorious remnant.  A moment of grace, whether in consolation or desolation, when informed by proximity to the spirit, is beyond our sensibilities.   It is at once craved for and avoided. I want it on my terms:  controllable, dispensable, demonstrable, and maintainable.   To have it for a moment and then not is inconsolable.  To have it for a significant duration opens me up to the immense suffering and pain existent today and to the depravity of my own inconsequential existence and sinful ways.

Is it no wonder we run from spiritual truth and build our own edifices of truth in politics, in religion, and in law?  If only they could all be spirit informed and aligned with a greater truth.