Mine is better than yours. Really?

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“At their most mature levels, religions have a common goal: union with all beings and with God. Unfortunately, many religions and Christian denominations have over-emphasized differences and claimed that their particular brand is superior to others. Jesus didn’t come to start another religion but to reveal God’s presence in all of us. The Christian name for the universal incarnation is Christ, but it is known by innumerable other names.” cac.org – Richard Rohr

“….it is known by innumerable other names.”

I also believe that Jesus did not appear in 1st century Nazareth  to start a religion called Christianity.  The church fathers in the 3rd and 4th centuries did that in pursuit of theological and political power.  They approved or disapproved the writings to be included in their Bible and severely persecuted those mystics and wisdom writers who disagreed.  Mysticism, however, did persist with Francis of Assisi, 1181-1226, being the salient, well-known proponent.  His followers were the beginnings of today’s Franciscan brotherhood.

“A “better” world is one in which we recognize that all people possess an incomparable value that we are morally obliged to respect . . . in social, political, and economic terms. Honoring the humanity of your fellow beings means that if they are hungry, ill, or oppressed, you must exert yourself to help them. . . . But this . . . runs up against our inherited instincts of self-protection, greediness, and desire to dominate others. . . .” cac.org – Richard Rohr

Following the above suggestion is a lofty goal of enlightened spirituality – I fail miserably on many fronts.  But, as with all goals, perfection is not the destiny; progress is.  Especially, today’s political and social climate can lead me astray in a heartbeat.  I want to rant, I want to berate, I want to wander off into profanity and name-calling when I read the day’s headlines or listen to media news programs.  After all, that is just human, isn’t it?  But, then remembering what Jesus endured and suffered as a human, what authorities of religion and government inflicted on him, I am forced to accept that this life’s suffering is the price to pay for spiritual enlightenment.  None of us, not one, will reach the other side unscathed.

If we could rearrange energy from within—if we more often nurtured our companions and promoted their well-being, we would suffer much less. Rearranging energy from within is what mysticism does.” cac.org – Richard Rohr

Not an easy task, but we must start somewhere if we expect our species to survive.

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Giovanni Bernardone

Just another traveler on life’s highway hanging out in the slow lane.  It’s quiet.  It’s peaceful.  Beyond the horizon is rest calling my name.  Green pastures, still waters, my cup is overflowing.

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You and I have read in the Gospels the verses where Jesus says, “Sell your possessions and give the money to the poor” (Matthew 19:21), “Consider the lilies and the sparrows and do not worry about tomorrow” (Luke 12:24,27), and “Love your enemies” (Matthew 5:44).

Challenging?  Absolutely.  Then, when I am convinced that these are unattainable directives, I remember that I am following a suggested program of spiritual recovery.  I can never do it perfectly in this lifetime.  On the practical side, Jesus in his life on earth probably never had material wealth with which to concern himself.  He did not share the wealth of the Romans or the Jewish religious hierarchy.

Jesus also said not to worry about tomorrow.  For us in today’s world of turmoil and tribulation this also is a difficult directive to follow.  Tell that to the federal employees who worked without a paycheck for 34 days, or the father of four who has been told his company is shutting down next week, or the single mother who is trying to provide for her family on a minimum wage job.  C’mon Jesus, this is 2019.  We have a lot more about which to worry.

And as for enemies, Jesus, even though you were crucified, you didn’t have nuclear weapons controlled by madmen poised to obliterate you, your city and your country.  I don’t mean to slight your perspective, but we live in different times.  There are people who seriously hate us because of who we are.  And you want us to love them?

Francesco faced the same issues in his home town.  Pietro Bernardone returned from a business trip to France to learn that in his absence his wife had birthed a son whom she baptized Giovanni honoring John the Baptist.  Pietro was furious.  He did not want a man of God – he wanted a man of business.  He renamed his son Francesco.

Francesco enjoyed a very happy, privileged childhood.  As he grew up, he became the leader of a crowd of young people who loved to party and carouse.  Thomas of Celano said of him, “In other respects an exquisite youth, he attracted to himself a whole retinue of young people addicted to evil and accustomed to vice.”

But Francesco did not want to be a businessman like his father.  He wanted to be a fighter and got his chance to do so when his town declared war on the nearby town of Perugia.  Captured and thrown in prison, he was finally ransomed after a year and returned to his life partying with his friends.  But he still wanted to be a noble, a knight of distinction.

He got his opportunity when a call went out for knights to join the Fourth Crusade.  He was fitted with a suit of armor decorated with gold and a magnificent cloak, then rode off to join the Crusade.  But, only a day’s ride from his home town, Francesco had a dream in which God told him he was wrong and should return home.

At this point in the story, you and I should ask, “Why would a wealthy, worldly, privileged noble man accustomed to parties and fun-loving friends heed a God-dream and abandon his own personal dream of pursuing honor and fame?”

Upon returning home he was humiliated, laughed at, called a coward and raged at by his father who had funded the expensive suit of armor.

And thus begins the converted life of Francis of Assisi.  God called him and he could only answer, “Yes.”  Reading the passages about giving up all possessions, living for today, and loving his enemies, Francis decided to live as if Jesus really meant what he said in scriptures.  He turned his back on the materialism and militarism of the world and said, “Yes , Jesus.”

I believe that is what Jesus wants us to do.  He doesn’t want us to impoverish ourselves, to live irresponsible lives, or to throw ourselves down at the feet of our enemies.  He just wants us to say, “Yes.”

Francis of Assisihttp://www.cac.org

Giovanni Bernardone  – http://www.catholic.org

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PEACE ON EARTH?

Just another traveler on life’s highway hanging out in the slow lane.  It’s quiet.  It’s peaceful.  Beyond the horizon is rest calling my name.  Green pastures, still waters, my cup overflows.

Is the idea of peace on earth overrated?  Probably so.  By nature man is not an agreeable sort of creature.  Man would sooner throw a few rocks and ask questions afterwards than engage in rational dialog first.  History tells us that man, having never learned to compromise, has resorted instead to heavy clubs, then swords, then artillery, then nuclear weapons that can annihilate every species on earth and it’s habitat.

Mankind seems to be the only creature on earth that does not fit into the natural scheme of flora and fauna.  Plant and animal lifeforms all intuitively know how to grow together, live together, and in many instances compliment the existence of one another.  They do not wantonly kill because of philosophical differences or uncontrolled passions.

No, man is probably not held in high esteem by the world’s other creatures.  Oh sure, that pet dog or cat loves you unconditionally, but stop putting out food for Rover or stop cleaning Fifi’s cat box and it’s just a matter of time before that dog will turn on you snapping at your heels or the feline poop producer will be crapping on your favorite chair.  Don’t kid yourselves.  Man is low on the totem pole of earthly inhabitants.  He does not fit in and the rest of nature knows it.

In order to compensate, a complex system of theologies has been created proclaiming mankind as the master of all species, of all resources on earth in order to justify our existence.  And then theology goes on to say that when our habitat has been trashed and destroyed, miraculously a savior will appear to clean up the mess we have made.  Believe that if you must, but consider this.  The nugget of truth in those earth-renewal philosophies is that mankind can be redeemed through an inner awakening, a fact-finding soul search that reveals our spiritual relevance in a crazy, chaotic world system.  Many mystics have understood this, Francis and Clare of Assisi knew, Jesus the pauper from Nazareth recognized that each individual has within himself or herself the capacity to live in peace with himself, with humanity, with the earth itself.

I love the question following THE BIG BOOK’s (Alcoholics Anonymous) revelation of promises available through sober living. AA PROMISESAre these extravagant promises?  We think not.”

Is this an extravagant promise?  Peace on earth?  The Christian scriptures guarantee it.

“Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you.  Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”  John 14:27

We could rightfully say, “Bah humbug”, considering the turmoil and corruption which is rampant worldwide.  We will continue on our road to destruction and annihilation when we forget that Jesus, in the words of John 14, qualifies his peace: “Not as the world giveth…”

I am chasing down the wrong trail when I envision a peaceful world as one with no wars, no famines, no oppression.  What will save me from the surrounding darkness, from a troubled and fearful heart, is only available within.  Quite possibly that is the peace on earth, goodwill toward men, that the book of Luke attributes to the angels singing to the shepherds watching their flocks.

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”  Luke 2:14

It is an inside job.  When we feed and nourish the soul through introspection, contemplation and meditation, when we read scriptures revealed by the wisdom of the ancients, then we can dwell in our world of peace and then we can extend that peace to all mankind.

Peace to you.  Namaste.  The Christmas season is a great time to discover a peaceful and fearless heart as proclaimed by Jesus the Christ, Buddha, Muhammad and other messengers of the ancient world.  All of them claim a piece to the God puzzle.

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