what does Advent mean to us?

 

three kings day

FAN Newsletter (FranciscanActionNetwork)

Sunday, December 1st, marks the beginning of the Christian season of Advent which leads up to the announced birth of Jesus, the Christ, Christianity’s reason for the season.  Have you, whether a professed follower or a non-believer, ever wondered what would happen to this child if he were born in the year 2019?

“I cannot help but think of the journey of the children, women and men forced to migrate.  In September [2019] the number of migrants globally reached 272 million, outpacing the growth rate of the world’s population.”  Sr. Maryann Mueller, CSSF

Most of us who were raised in the comforts of an American Christian community surely remember the sweet stories about baby Jesus wrapped in swaddling clothes in a manger being adored by the shepherds and wise men and lovingly attended by Mary and Joseph.  We remember the art masterpieces depicting a handsome Jesus, obviously an Anglo-Saxon man, decorating the church wall.

We were somewhat dismayed upon learning that this proclaimed savior of the world was probably a brown-skinned, short man with curly black hair born into poverty to just one of numerous illiterate families earning a meager living working for the wealthy, religious elite.  They were, of course, Jewish and followed Judaic traditions.  Undoubtedly, they experienced hunger and probably did not have clean water or adequate sanitation.  Security was to be found not in material wealth but in their devotion to the God of their ancestors and the cooperative charity of fellow villagers.

If Jesus were born today, he and his family would probably be immigrants on some nation’s border, possibly ours.  He would risk violence at the hands of racial prejudice or trafficking in child sex trade.  On the southern border of the wealthiest nation in the world, Jesus would likely be separated from Mary and Joseph and caged with other immigrant children.

Not much has changed, has it?  Two thousand years later and we still treat immigrants as if they somehow do not really matter to the Father/Mother of us all, that they are less loved than we are.  We continue to hang on to that image of Jesus, the privileged, Anglo-Saxon white man adorning the church wall.  We noisily thump our Bible to support our prejudice while reading the words which state explicitly that every person on earth is made in the image and likeness of God.  We somehow ignore the scriptures which tell us that we are to love our neighbors [earthly brothers and sisters] as ourselves.

The season of Advent is a journey for the Christian world leading up to the birth of its proclaimed Christ child.  In addition to all the joy, jingle bells, gifts and Santa Claus let’s set aside time to contemplate what it would be like to be an immigrant.  What if you and your family were forced to leave the comfort and security of your home and your community because of political or economic turmoil?  What if the people on the other side of the border which you must cross hated you because of your skin color, creed or social status.  What if you were financially disadvantaged and had to rely of the goodness and compassion of strangers to provide for your family?  Would you be afraid?

If we justify our intolerance and lack of compassion for immigrants by citing the need to protect our families or protect our faith tradition or protect our racial purity, or protect white identity, then truly what we cherish is but a heap of rubbish, is it not?  We are denying the reason for the season.  How can we proclaim amazing grace at the altar while disregarding the message given to us through the life of Jesus, the impoverished immigrant?

LOVE

 

OCTOBER 2

 

 

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Are you an advocate for non-violence?  Do I commit on a daily basis to non-violence in my life?  It is fitting that the International Day of Non-Violence be celebrated on the birthday of Mohandas Gandhi who was born October 2, 1869.  Bestowed the title of Mahatma (a person who is revered and respected) he led to the independence of India from British rule by mass non-violent civil disobedience.

Concurrently reported on the same news page which tells of Gandhi and today’s celebration of non-violent actions to confront the world’s affinity for violence, is an account of a national leader suggesting in a private meeting with aides that the immigration “problem” could be resolved by “shooting them in the legs” or “topping a 2000 mile electrified border wall with flesh piercing spikes.” MSN NEWS

We can only hope that this account of the President’s words were a summary of foolish and facetious statements by one who attempts to lead by division and fear.  Other actions and speech, however,  confirm that our nation is not governed by policies of non-violence.  Peace through enforced powers of violence is not what Gandhi had in mind when crusading for independence from Britain.  It is an unsustainable truce in which the oppressed must submit to an oppressor.

Who is my personal oppressor?  Yours?  What inner powers keep us from knowing peace?  What violence do we inflict upon our souls?  Perhaps the most significant factor in world-wide violence is absence of self-love.  No, not talking about ego and its deceptive need for attention, rather, the realization that compassion and tolerance of others begins with an attitude of compassion and tolerance for me.  I MUST LOVE ME BEFORE I CAN LOVE OTHERS.

Are you a movie fan or prime time TV viewer?  Ever question the need for all the blood and violence being shoved into your head?  Yes, it gets terrific ratings above and beyond any ratings SOUND OF MUSIC or I LOVE LUCY would garner.  But, it shows a complete absence of reverence for life.  Self-love and non-violence begin in a place of reverence for all life, all creation, all races, all tribes, all creeds, all religions, all lifestyles.  Doesn’t mean I need to understand or agree with your choices, but I must respect your right to live your choices.  Namaste, my fellow earthlings.  Have a blessed INTERNATIONAL DAY OF NON-VIOLENCE.

PRIDE7

 

burning mid-night oil

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I’m sure there has been a song written for this sleepless night of worry and insecurity that is keeping me from my comfortable bed drinking coffee when I should be cutting ZZZZZZs.  Fortunately, I don’t have a job which will set my alarm clock to jingling at 5 o’clock AM – or perhaps not having a job is unfortunate.  Is that why I worry?  If  I had an income other than my monthly social security, I would probably not worry and feel insecure.

Naw, I would worry anyway about other things.  Where is the USA heading?  Tonight I believe I’ve been blowing smoke up my butt about this country which I have learned to love, the one which I served in uniform many years ago, the one which I boasted to be the best in the world on so many occasions.  Could I have been so blatantly bamboozled about its people all these years?  Is it possible we are nothing more than a racist tribe of self-serving bigots who are just now creeping from our underground sewers?

I would worry about the plight of our earth.  Assault after assault on its delicate balances and natural beauty will not be tolerated by our Mother much longer.  We devastate in the name of profit and threaten mass destruction in the pursuit of power.  She will prevail in the end, but I fear we, the human species, will not be here to witness her victory.

I would worry about my blogging friend, Jill.  She steadfastly burns the late night oil informing her readers of the corruption and deceit being foisted upon us by a government which obviously does not serve WE THE PEOPLE.  Like me, Jill is also tired.  I wonder if she worries.

Ahhh, I think maybe now I will go to bed.  The sun is about to rise as it has for billions of years, the birds will greet its rising, the oceans’ tides will flow, the stars will retire for the day, and mankind will continue to confound the creating powers with his violence, greed, pride and lust for power.  Nope, not much has changed since we appeared on the scene and me worrying about it won’t change a damned thing.

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And yes, there has been a song written about tonight…..thanks to Freddy Fender

I will not!

“The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong in the broken places.  But those that will not break it kills.  It kills the very good and the very gentle and the very brave impartially.  If you are none of these you can be sure it will kill you too but there will be no special hurry.” ERNEST HEMINGWAY

broken hearted

The very good and the very gentle and the very brave – let’s focus on those words.  The world system seems to despise those who have a moral compass, those who are peacemakers, those who have the courage to march to a different drummer.  Governments, religions, and financial systems do not honor a man/woman who answers their demands with “no, I will not live that way.”

We are labeled ‘unpatriotic’ if we do not toe the current disgrace posing as a legitimate government.  When we kneel in obeisance to compassion and tolerance rather than stand pledging  allegiance to the cloth symbol of a nation, we are castigated as revolutionary and disrespectful.  Well, maybe we are.  All great accomplishments in governing have been manifested by protest.  No, I cannot be silent when brothers and sisters of a different color or creed do not equally enjoy the fruits of the nation they have served in battle and embraced as home.

I will not profess the creeds of religions which deny even the most basic human understanding that all creatures are made in the image of the One whom they profess as God and Savior while simultaneously endorsing locked cages of children on our border and a war in the Gulf which threatens the citizens of Yemen with epic, catastrophic starvation.  No, I will not.

I will not participate in the corporate destruction of our sacred ecosystem for the sake of increased profits of corporations which have abdicated ecological responsibility in lieu of financial extravagance.  While much of the world’s population  lives without the basic comforts of adequate food and clean water, placating the luxuriant appetites of the privileged at the expense of the marginalized poor cannot possibly advance the survival of our species materially or spiritually.

Enough is enough.  Enough corruption, enough hatred, enough greed, enough racism, enough killing.  Where will we choose to stand as our country approaches the threshold of despotic, authoritarian leadership?  As the earth’s ecosystem is screaming “enough” where will our allegiance be placed?  The answer for each of us is within.  When that quiet voice of protest within becomes a scream reverberating throughout the universe, then, perhaps, we can be assured that we have done enough.

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pro life – pro choice

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I normally don’t weigh in on this topic because I am…….a coward.  Aha!  You thought I was about to say that as a man I don’t feel qualified to offer an opinion.  My friends, I have survived this life for 72 years by keeping most of my opinions regarding a woman’s rights between me and my Creator.  However, should I be questioned about abortion and a woman’s reproductive rights, I would have to defer to an even greater right which we all have.  And that is the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

But, I must occasionally quiz myself about my views.  If I were a pro-lifer, would I value the life of a homeless woman equally to mine, would I embrace the life of a refugee from a country filled with violence and killing equally to mine, would I support the life of my Muslim neighbor practicing his faith, would I welcome the black or brown man as a life which matters equally in God’s eyes, would I cherish the life of a tiger or lion equally to mine?  Would I value all of Creation equally?

Would I?  Would you?  Do you, who profess to be pro-life, value all life as sacred?

If you and I cannot affirm all of life and every creature’s right to live it’s designed purpose on earth, then we would probably need to approach the issue of pro-life this way:

the labeling is all wrong.

One cannot claim to be pro-life unless one supports every aspect of life, every human’s right to exist , every lion’s right to prowl and hunt, every butterfly’s right to flutter, every fetus’s right to be birthed.  Perhaps some anti-abortion people who exclude a majority of life on earth as irrelevant ought to appropriately call themselves “pro-birthers.”

So, the question to me needs to be presented this way.  “Whom do I choose to offend?”  Whaaaaat?  Did you really believe that after 72 years of survival in a woman’s world that I would offer an opinion?  I may be old, but I am not yet senile.  Yep, I’m a coward.

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Marianne rocks

Marianne Williamson, a Democratic Presidential candidate, has been on my radar screen ever since reading her book ILLUMINATA, published in 1994.  Her approach to Picture40spirituality in relation to the insanity of our world focuses on individual as well as governmental responsibility and dedication to nonviolent interaction.  It is refreshing to see an aspirant for political office who is not pumping international conflict and control.

from ILLUMINATA:

Dear Lord, please lift me up and heal me. 
Cast out of my mind all thoughts that are not of You. 
Cast out of me all harsh and critical nature. 
Cast out of me all violence and all anger. 
Cast out of me all demons from my past. 
For I would be made new.

It all begins within me.  Cast out of me all harsh and critical nature.  Cast out of me all violence and all anger.  Do you realize how difficult that can be in today’s world as we are blasted every day with media reports of raging conflicts, of government corruption, of unnecessary death as a result of violence?  Massacres of citizens in Syria, imprisonment of dissenters in Russia, genocide of indigenous people in African countries, suicide bombings in the Middle East, mass shootings in the USA – the ceaseless world horrors grab our attention each day as we watch the instantaneous news coverage.  How in hell can I ‘cast out all harsh and critical nature, violence and anger?’

It’s impossible unless I retire to my imaginary Mediterranean island with the monks, give up all worldly connections and meditate 24/7.  On that island is peace?  Maybe.  But living in seclusion on an island is not what Jesus taught through his own nonviolent interaction with the Jewish society of his time.  He did not cave, he did not capitulate to the Roman authorities nor the religious corruption of his time.  He participated and embraced all aspects of life in 1st century Israel.

Fr. Richard Rohr at CAC.ORG comments in today’s meditation:

“How is it that many Christians have managed to avoid what Jesus actually taught? We’ve evaded major parts of the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7): the Beatitudes, Jesus’ warning about idolizing “mammon,” his clear directive and example of nonviolence, and his command to love our enemies. I never see the Beatitudes on courthouse lawns. Perhaps we think his teaching is nice in theory but impractical in real life. Perhaps we do not believe nonviolence can actually effect real change.”

He goes on to say:

“Even the common ‘pro-life movement’ is much more pro-birth than about caring for all life—black and brown lives, refugees, the poor, the sick, immigrants, LGBTQIA people, the environment.” In fact, many “pro-lifers” I know are the first in line to oppose any gun regulation.”

I don’t have answers.  But, I do have prayers to instill in my heart and examples of nonviolent success on the world scene to inspire me.  The survival of our world depends on you and me.  We don’t have to be heroes or national celebrities to make a difference.  It all starts with me and what I harbor within.  You, too.  Let’s be instruments of peace.

PRIDE7

 

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cac.org – Richard Rohr

ahimsa

DALAI LAMA

Hindu/Sanskrit word meaning:

“causing no harm, no injury, no violence to any living creature”

Mohandas Gandhi furthered the definition of ahimsa with the following:

“….nonviolence was the active, unconditional love toward others, the persistent pursuit of truth, the radical forgiveness toward those who hurt us, the steadfast resistance to every form of evil, and even the loving willingness to accept suffering in the struggle for justice without the desire for retaliation. . . ” cac.org – Richard Rohr

These words are attributed to Jesus in Matthew 5:9:

“Blessed are the peacemakers; they shall be called the sons and daughters of God.”

This lifestyle of nonviolence is a choice which each one of us has the ability to pursue because we are created as children of a loving and compassionate energy force that has been named God in the Judeo-Christian tradition.  We have been given the option to follow or deny this truth of the human condition.

Peacemakers are not always the statesmen and women who are at the forefront of peace pacts and international treaties.  Normally these people accomplish what they do from a position of power and strength often forcing and enforcing their particular ideals of peace.  Yes, they serve a purpose in the world order, but they are not the peacemakers to whom Jesus referred.

It is you and I who need to be the peacemakers in relation to our neighbors, our friends, our family, our enemies and, most importantly, to ourselves.  It starts from that divine spark within every human on earth.  We have the ability to be the peacemakers who bring peace into the insanity of our world which is spiraling toward a violent, fiery demise.  As Jesus prophesized, we have been blessed, but we have a responsibility to use that blessing.

PACEEBENE.ORG ,a global nonviolent organization of education and action, will be leading an annual CAMPAIGN NONVIOLENCE September 14-22, 2019, working toward a culture “free from war, racism, poverty, and environmental destruction.”  Let’s join and support in whatever way we can.

 

peaceful change

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“The root of violence is the illusion of separation—from God, from being one with oneself and everything else, and from Being Itself. When we don’t know how to consciously live out of union (which is called love), we resort to violence, fighting anything that is not like us and that we cannot control.” cac.org – Richard Rohr

When we apply these words to the insanity of today’s violent, non-sustainable assault on the vulnerable people, the poverty-stricken, the minorities of our planet, and on earth itself, perhaps we can begin to understand that our solutions to these problems do not lie in answering what, how, when, but beginning with the question who.

Who are we?  Americans tend to answer this question with descriptions of their physical bodies, their gender, their accomplishments, their education, their suffixes following their names, their financial gains in life, their country club status, their professional titles.  JUST STOP!  Stop labeling and begin searching.

Look to that interior voice which says, “you are love, you are compassion, you are kindness, you are made in the image of the breath which created you.”

“Contemplative practice teaches us to honor differences and also realize that we are all much more than our nationality, skin color, gender, or other labels which are all aspects of the passing and thus false self. Contemplation brings us back to our True Self, who we are in God.”

JUST STOP!  Stop denying the truth and purpose of the higher Self.  When we become less we become great.  When we become “little enough, naked enough, and honest enough, we will discover that we are more than enough.”  Salvation, enlightenment, end of suffering is not about ascension to the heavens, looking upward to an imaginary God, or living righteously.  No, it is a downward migration into the depths of this world’s poverty of soul and recognizing that here is where reality and truth are to be found, here is where we will change the world, here is where nonviolence begins, here is where God dwells.

(all quotes are from today’s meditation @ cac.org – Richard Rohr)

LOVE

whore? who – America?

“See how the faithful city has become a harlot!  She once was full of justice; righteousness used to dwell in her – but now murderers…..Your rulers are rebels, cropped-black-and-white-black-and-white-boy-1299417-e1556554337831-2.jpgcompanions of thieves; they love bribes and chase after gifts.  They do not defend the cause of the fatherless; the widow’s case does not come before them.”  ISAIAH 1:21,23

Of course Isaiah was directing his admonition to Jerusalem, the city central to Judaic life and justice in the 8th century BC.  Social justice was established within Judaism as a mandate directly from the God whom they worshipped.  To not follow the writings of scriptures regarding care for widows and orphans was anathema to Jewish ecclesiastical doctrine.

The parallel to contemporary society is uncanny.  Isaiah may as well be speaking to the institutions, religious and governmental, of our country in 2019.  Some of those who proclaim the Good News of Jesus with the right hand use the left hand to cover their deplorable justification of racism, intolerance, and persecution.  Confinement in cages at our border is acceptable.  Widows and orphans of the unimaginable violence in countries south of us are vilified and labeled by our political servants and errant religious leaders as unworthy of the  compassion demanded of us as children of a universal God.

If you have studied ancient civilizations, you will know that once-proud Israel was not only subjugated by the Roman Empire, it was destroyed from within by the arrogance and greed of Israel’s leaders who at the time were its religious elite and powerful. The final annihilation was completed by the Romans in 70 AD and Israel no longer existed as a nation.  Only in 1948 did it regain its independence.

Can’t happen here?  Why not?  Are we not complicit in child abuse, human rights violations, corruption, deceit, murders?  Has not our once great nation given up its moral compass, its beacon to the world’s huddled masses?  I think we have.  We have become the whore of whom Isaiah prophesied.

“Prophet Isaiah reflects on the condition of Jerusalem. Once the city held to justice, but the present tense reality reveals much corruption, greed and complicity. Injustice plagues the city, seen in thwarted action on behalf of orphans and widows, the city’s most vulnerable residents. Society shows wear and tear, a sign of coming destruction. The failed city is a contemporaneous image. Massive corruption, mass complicity and loud maligning of immigrants and foreigners surround us now.” RED LETTER CHRISTIANS

broken hearted

NAMASTE – is it really so difficult?

“The crises we find ourselves in as a species require that as a species we shake up all our institutions—including our religious ones—and reinvent them. Change is necessary for our survival, and we often turn to the mystics at critical times like this. Jung said: “Only the mystics bring creativity into religion.” [1] Jesus was a richard rohrmystic shaking up his religion and the Roman empire; Buddha was a mystic who shook up the prevailing Hinduism of his day; Gandhi was a mystic shaking up Hinduism and challenging the British Empire; and Martin Luther King, Jr. shook up his tradition and America’s segregationist society. The mystics walk their talk and talk (often in memorable poetic phraseology) their walk.” MATTHEW FOX  cac.org – Richard Rohr 

Do I do that – walk the talk and talk the walk?  How about you?  Those of you who have read my ramblings over the past few years probably realize I have a serious issue with religion and religionists.  Many of them talk a great spiel from the pulpit and the pews of their churches, but then don’t walk it in their lives or in their behaviors.  That is not real; it is not empowering.  If not embraced in lifestyle this pretty rhetoric becomes just more trash on the pile of religious deceit.  Preachers are guilty, parishioners are guilty, black and white are equally guilty, politicians are guilty.  Me too.  I do not always walk the talk.

But I highly esteem those mystics who have.  The four named in the introductory quote are just a few of the many men and women who discovered their inner truth and then lived lives accordingly.  Buddha was human, Jesus was human, Gandhi was human, and Martin Luther King was human, all acclaimed mystics were humans who acknowledged the Divine center of their beings as the most consequential and significant reason to talk the walk and walk the talk.

Our world is racing to the annihilation of the human species.  Accompanied by rabid politics, fear-mongering politicians, greedy capitalism and heretical religions, the voices of those who pursue social justice, peace, and inner searching seem lost in the insanity.  That which could turn the tide and redeem civilization from a sure demise is often obscured by conversations of victory at any cost rather than sensible compromise embracing the rights of all mankind and all earth’s natural resources.

We must come to realize and surrender to the premise that this planet is not a hodgepodge of several billion humans intent on survival as individuals, but rather, an ecosystem which includes all mankind, all animals, all plant life, all resources interdependent on one another and living together as one cohesive environment.

Learning to love ourselves and others begins from a place of reverence for all of life.  This reverence flows forward in the Buddhist greeting, “Namaste”, I honor the divine in you.  Not only other brothers and sisters on this earth, but every part of creation should be viewed and greeted with namaste.

“Honor the sacred.
Honor the Earth, our Mother.
Honor the Elders.
Honor all with whom we share the Earth.
Four-leggeds, winged ones,
Swimmers, crawlers, plant and rock people.
Walk in balance and beauty.” 

(Native American prayer for the earth)