Saturday, November 26, 2022

Discipleship and the Spiritual Battle


The Kingdom of Heaven is like a treasure hidden in a field which someone has found; he hides it again, goes off in his joy, sells everything he owns and buys the field.
Matthew 13:44


From St. Marcarius the Great:


The heart itself is but a small vessel, yet there also are dragons and there are lions; there are poisonous beasts and all the treasures of evil. And there are rough and uneven roads; there are precipices. But there is also God, also the angels, the life and the kingdom, the light and the Apostles, the treasures of grace – there are all things.


And one more quote for you, from the top of this blog:


"If you would enter into the mystery, then, like Christ Himself, you must become small, weak, poor, misunderstood, and willing to be broken.  You cannot know Him if you refuse to be like Him.  This is the only path that is truly Christian.  Outside the mystery, there is nothing to be known, nothing that will save." Fr. Stephen Freeman.


Everyone is familiar with the question, “Are you saved?”  For me, an Orthodox Christian, I guess I would reply something like, “Yes, I am, but I am also being saved, God is not done with me,” or something like that.  But truly, what I would like to say is, I think this is the wrong question to ask.


We must be disciples of Jesus.  We must do our best, as our life unfolds, to become more and more like Him.  As we do that, this will do more to spread the Gospel than our verbal interactions with people.  There is an authenticity in actions that just doesn’t happen all the time if we stick to the “faith alone” idea.


The Psalms and the prophets, even our Lord, speak phrases like, “What right have you to recite my statutes, to take my covenant on you lips, when you detest my teaching, and thrust my words behind you,” Psalm 49 (50):16-17.


Many voices in our culture speak to us like the Sirens that confronted Odysseus and the Greek sailors returning to Ithaca after the Trojan War.  These voices are telling us that sin is not that bad.  Everyone is doing this or that.  The evil advocated by culture is claimed to be good.  Being a disciple of Christ, and acting on His grace, and not to merely give lip service, helps us to discern the lies from the truth.


In fighting the spiritual battle, remember, this battle takes place primarily in the heart.  We don’t have to run around and tell everyone they are going to hell.  We must fight this battle inside first.  As situations arise, we can use our humble stance before God as the sinners we are, and find a way to love others.  This love will eventually open doors to God, to eternity.  God is patient.  We must be too.  God is not finished with me.  He is not finished with others.


A place to go to learn how to be, to learn what God’s will is for us, is the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew, chapters 5-7. I’ll have more articles about this sermon soon.)  Read it right now with fresh eyes, like you have never read it before.  Listen to the words of Jesus.  He is telling us what to do.  He is telling us what God’s will is in our lives.  But these words are hard.  I mean, He tells us things like, “Offer no resistance to the Evil One,” Matthew 5:39.


I know that there are some very “spiritual” understandings about this foundational sermon by Jesus (basically to explain it away).  One of my friends tells me that we don’t have to listen to Jesus here because He was speaking to the Jews.  Others say that this is the impossible ideal that He knows we can’t even come close to following and that’s why the Bible teaches that we are saved by faith alone.  So, we don’t have to do any of these things because they do not contribute to salvation in any way.  That was done on the cross.  


Well, I beg to differ.  Take this one phrase about giving no resistance to evil.  On one hand we can say that it doesn’t apply or that it is impossible or even that it is wrong.  Of course, we must resist evil!!  God would not want us to give in to evil, right?  So, what does He want us to do?


First, how do we typically confront someone when we are threatened?  We use violence, don’t we?  It might be a punch in the nose, a baseball bat, or a gun.  These are common forms of physical violence that we use to offer resistance.  Or, it might be verbal.  We use threats, name calling, or other violent words that inform the other person of what we will do if they do not stop.  


I think what Jesus is telling us is to resist but by non-violent ways.  Let’s read on past verse 39 in this section of the sermon.


“On the contrary, if anyone hits you on the right cheek, offer him the other as well; if someone wishes to go to law with you to get your tunic, let him have your cloak as well.  And if anyone requires you to go one mile, go two miles with him.  Give to anyone who asks you, and if anyone wants to borrow, do not turn him away.”


On this last point, St. Luke’s gospel has even stronger language, “And if you lend to those from whom you hope to get money back, what credit can you expect?  Even sinners lend to sinners to get back the same amount.  Instead, love your enemies and do good to them, and lend without any hope of return.  You will have a great reward, and you will be children of the Most High, for He Himself is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked,” 6:34-35.


Do you see how “every day and practical” this is?  Lend your money, but don’t even ask for it back, is one way to fight evil, or evil in your heart.  You will be fighting greed big time if you can do this.


Not so many years ago, I was in big trouble financially.  A  friend of mine gave me loans three separate times.  He never asked for money back.  Eventually, I was able to pay him back when I got back on my feet.  But it was years!  From the first loan to the final payment, it was a total of about $6,000 and 10 years.  He never kept track!  He always had to ask me, “Oh, did I give you a loan?  Oh!  How much do you owe me?”  This is a true story.  And because of my good, Catholic friend and the Sermon on the Mount, I am doing the same with people who come to me.  And let me tell you, this teaching of Christ is absolutely, fundamentally life giving and will set you free from greed and the disease of grasping for and wanting more.  Please try to emulate this as much as you can in life.  Jesus’ words and teachings  will set you free from a whole host of things.  Don’t think it is because we mentally agree with them.  We have to actually do them!  We have to risk it!  There is no risk by saying, “Oh!  I believe Jesus is right!  I’ll like Him on Facebook.”  No.  That is not the Gospel.  You have to do it.  You have to risk it.  You have to suffer for it.  Especially when the other person DOESN’T pay you back!


I’ll end with a two more quotes.


“How can you find out if you are living within the will of God? Here is the sign: If you are troubled about any thing, this means that you have not completely given yourself over to the will of God. A person who lives in the will of God is not concerned over anything. And if he needs anything, he gives both it and himself over to God. And if he does not receive the necessary thing, he remains calm nevertheless, as if he had it. The soul which has been given over to the will of God is afraid of nothing, not of thunder nor of thieves - nothing. But whatever happens, she says, "Thus it pleases God." If she is sick, she thinks: this means that I need to be sick, or else God would not have given it to me. Thus peace is preserved in both soul and body.”

 

St. Silouan the Athonite



If you think that you love God, and there is ill disposition in your heart albeit towards one person, then you are in sorrowful self-delusion.


St. Ignatius Brianchaninov




Peace my friends.


God bless you and keep you in all things


Dionysius the Little


Saturday, November 19, 2022

Where Are We?

The spiritual battle is primarily an inner fight. 
Use these disciplines to sharpen your skills.


I ran across the following essay in the American Conservative a few days ago.  Find it here.


The essay is about the ancient gods of old, demons, that were actually worshiped by name in ancient times.  They are making a comeback.  Of course, they are not being worshiped by name now, especially by secular people who really don’t have a belief in God, or the gods, or even a spirituality, but the characteristics of these demons are prevalent in our modern culture.  


It is traditional Chrisitan teaching that when people start to believe that demons do not exist, this is when they become the most powerful.  Their message is that any evil is good.  It is goodness and godliness that are the bad things in the culture.  The other strong message is to reject God and anything that has to do with God.


Consider these points: A 2009 poll of people who identified as Christians said that 47% did not believe that Satan, or some personal evil force, existed but rather was symbolic of evil in the world.  Will we ever stop hearing about how good it is to be trans by the media?  Or how wonderful abortions are?  These types of sins, and plenty more, are called good.  Traditional Christian beliefs are more than called into question, they are called evil and bigoted.  Even some of our more famous politicians say that religion needs to change or the government is obliged to make them illegal. 


Two things to remember, first, this was a 2009 poll.  I highly doubt this number is getting better.  Two, this was a poll of people who said they were Christians.  


There are many people, including Christians, who say that there is no spiritual battle to be fought.  I just say, “Look around.  Open your eyes.”


Read the essay.  Is all of it true?  I don’t know.  But I do know that I have been seeing and talking about these kinds of things for many years and I see we are sinking further and more rapidly into the abyss.  I’m not a doom and gloom kind of person, but I think this is real and there will be real consequences for remaining true to our Christian convictions, our ancient and traditional teachings.  We must stand firm united to the martyrs, if called upon.


Often, in the past couple of decades, I have pointed out to people we are approaching the year 476, the date of collapse of the Roman Empire in the West.  Yes, Rome was plundered by invaders, but this was made possible by a centuries long decline into filth and rot of what became a very decadent society.  


Another date we are approaching is 313, but in reverse.  This is when Christianity was legalized throughout the Roman Empire.  While we have constitutional protections in place, voices in the media, the business world, and our general population, are not just rejecting Christianity, but we are excluding Christians from the public square.  More and more, Christians are being told to keep their message to themselves or their own church and that we do not have a right to speak in public.  We are even told that it is hate speech  to speak of Our Lord Jesus and what He taught.  


One final note: I am not against Christians participating in politics.  However, I would say that it is a mistake to believe that politics is going to save Christian culture and beliefs.  I think the culture war is largely lost already.  We need to strengthen ourselves and our families through prayer, fasting, and almsgiving and to participate as fully as we can in our churches.  By and large, the culture has stopped listening to us.  Electing people and passing laws will not bring Christianity back in vogue.  I think it will have the opposite effect.


On that note, please read the essay.  We are in a spiritual battle.


Peace in all things

Dionysius Exiguus.


Saturday, November 5, 2022

Spiritual Warfare III







Before we learn how to fight, we must understand what we are fighting for.  We are fighting for what is called Christian perfection.  


You are saying, “But no one is perfect.  And even if some people can, I cannot.”


Christian perfection is not about being perfect or never committing a sin.  It is the desire to come near to God and dwell in union with Him.  This too, may seem to be a daunting task, but I would emphasize the word “desire” in the phrase above.  


When someone embarks on a journey to become an expert pianist, he or she does not achieve the desired “perfection” over night.  No!  People who know about becoming an expert say that it takes 10,000 hours of practice or doing something to become an expert.  For our purposes, we could say to achieve perfection.  


All during the journey of 10,000 hours, the journeyman pianist makes many errors.  He might even have days when he gives up in anger and disgust.  But later, she might come back after regrouping and have a great practice session.  The person perseveres out of love for making music.  Errors will always be something that happen.  Even during a performance, it isn’t always “perfection.”  Hopefully, the errors are small and not noticed by the audience.  The musician does not have time to worry about that though.  If an error occurs, she must continue on and strive to do better.  Part of the discipline in becoming an expert, or becoming perfect, is to learn how to handle our mistakes and never give up, but continue.


The same is true in the spiritual life.  We make mistakes, we fall, we sin, but we must learn how to pick ourselves up and let our love for the Lord and our desire to become like Him drawn us towards Him.  


And so, more specifically, this Christian perfection involves becoming more and more like Christ.  You remember, St. John the Forerunner, “He must increase, I must decrease.”  First of all, it is a journey of love.  Love of the Lord must be our fuel.  We fight against our passions. 


What again are the passions?  A better modern word would be addictions.  What is it that we are attached to and cannot do without?  These addictions make us slaves.  Whether we are talking about alcohol, sexual sins, a tendancy to gossip or tell bad things about someone, maybe it’s greed, or that we are violent in our speech and actions.  The possibilities are endless.  But there is only one solution to our passions: spiritual warfare.  


While we may employ anger in this warfare, it isn’t as violent as we might think.  We employ spiritual means to overcome our passions.  Jesus offers us healing.  This is the ultimate cure to these passions.  We are addicted to things because we are wounded.  We fight until we are healed and no longer need to fight.  Healing sets us free and we no longer need that which we were addicted to.


Many Christians want to fight the battle “over there.”  But this is not the way to fight.  We must take up our swords and armor and do battle with the self.  This is the first step!  Prepare yourself for labor, sweat, and a struggle as you make your first steps on this battlefield.  Sacrifice all to God and strive to do His will in everything.


If you are now just embarking on this journey, you will fall many times.  Keep getting up.  Don’t use anger against yourself.  Don’t put yourself down.  Remain positive.  Use your anger against the demons.  For some passions that are deeply ingrained, you may battle for years.  This is ok.  Use the battle to deepen your trust in God.


There are four things needed in this stage of the battle:

  1. Never rely on yourself in anything.

  2. Bear always in your heart a trust in God alone.

  3. Strive against the passions (addictions) without ceasing.

  4. Remain constantly in prayer.


Here you have it, step one in your battle.  Some of you might be wondering why we don’t fight the enemy out in society.  I mean, just look at all the evil.  Wars, abortion, abuse of people, famine, and the list goes on and on.


My own opinion on this, for what it is worth, is because our own personal sin, whether committed alone or with and against others, reverberates throughout the universe.  It affects everything and everyone.  And we will never get rid of all our sins.  We do well to make a dent in our sinful ways and habits while strengthening our trust in the Lord.  Cleaning up our own act and the healing involved, reverberates throughout the universe too, carrying with it peace and love.


Another reason is we must never condemn others.  If I am fighting the battle against others, it is too easy to make the leap to judge and condemn other people.  As Scripture itself says, we must see others as better than ourselves and seek to take the log out of our own eye first.


I’ll leave you with some quotes:


Philippians 2, “I appeal to you, make my joy complete by being of a single mind, one in love, one in heart and one in mind.  Nothing is to be done out of jealousy or vanity; instead, out of humility of mind everyone should give preference to others… Make your own the mind of Christ… work out your salvation in fear and trembling…. Let your behavior be free of murmuring and complaining so that you remain faultless and pure, unspoilt children of God…”


Philippians 3, “I have accepted the loss of all other things… so that through faith in Christ… I may come to know Him and the power of His resurrection, and partake of His sufferings by being molded to the pattern of His death.”


“These things, “carnal thoughts and desires,” happen to everyone.  It is a war of the tempter that will pass.  So fight strongly against the passion and shortly, with God’s help, you will be delivered.”  St. Joseph the Hesycast.


Peace and love,


Dionysios Exiguus


Saturday, October 29, 2022

Spiritual Warfare II

 

Michael the Archangel


Today I want to outline a few specific things that each of us can do to further the cause of peace and of goodness in the world. Again, we can't rely on the politicians. We have to rely on Christ and His help to turn this around. But it is more than showing up at church or voting Republican. This is not going to work. It never really did, but with our culture falling apart, it is very important to fight the spiritual battle.

First, this isn't my stuff. I'm not too smart. Alone, I am not going to outsmart, let alone fight and win, against the darkness that has cast a veil over our culture. The book that I am using is called “Unseen Warfare.” It is an Orthodox version translated by and rewritten here and there by St. Nicodemus of the Holy Mountain and St. Theophan the Recluse. The original was written by a Catholic priest Lorenzo Scupoli in 1589 under the title “Spiritual Combat.” Both versions are pretty heavy reading. You can find both in pdf form for free on line. Or you can purchase them in book form too.

Other titles that might interest you are “The Tools of Spiritual Warfare,” by Joy Corey and “God's Path to Sanity,” by Dee Pennock. Both of these titles are written by Orthodox lay women and are excellent. And on one hand, being written by lay people, you may find that you identify with what they are writing more than the other titles. I highly recommend them. A final book that I enjoy is a Catholic classic, “The Imitation of Christ,” by Thomas รก Kempis, written around the year 1425. While these last two books are not about the spiritual battle per se, they are definitely about becoming like Christ and how to do that. And at least in Orthodox theology, the goal in life is union with Christ, and we can't do that unless we are willing to become like Him. And I would add that living a truly Christian life IS a spiritual battle, it IS warfare. Our disintegrating culture is constantly pulling us to reject our Christian beliefs and lifestyle. In fact, it seems few Christians even try to live a lifestyle as outlined by Christ. We need to rediscover this in our time.

Of course there are other books and other fine guides. I would only urge you to stay within the guidance of the Church. This is very important. Satan is a cunning fellow. We do well to follow the saints and other wise people who are within the safety net of the Church.

The how, when and where of the spiritual warfare is a question we must tackle next. Two are answered in this one quote as given in the forward of “Unseen Warfare:”

The arena, the field of battle, the site where the fight actually takes place is our own heart and all our inner man. The time of the battle is our whole life.”

The paragraph below is a paraphrase of Monk Maximos of the Holy Mountain that really puts our battle into perspective.

We must discover the darkness within ourselves. The more we progress in the spiritual life (and in humility), the more of our own inner darkness God will allow us to see. There is no authentic encounter with God that does not result in the awareness of our own unholiness. It's this acknowledgment of our own weakness that seems to attract the love of God to us. And this changes us and far from abasing us, it sets us free. This awareness becomes a holy wound that is healed by God. It's like St. Peter when he first encounters Christ. He didn't have any luck fishing. Jesus told him to put out his nets again and they were filled to overflowing. And Peter prostrates before Him and says, “Depart from me, O Lord, for I am a sinful man.”

In this phrase from Peter is the great beginning for us all. It is a prelude of our understanding of who Jesus is and also of who we are.

Next time, we will go further in understanding this spiritual battle that calls all of us to arms, for one side or the other.

Peace to all,

Dionysius Exiguus

Saturday, October 22, 2022

Seeing Christ in the Outcast

 

"Our problems stem from our acceptance 

of this filthy, rotten system."

Dorothy Day


I remember oh, maybe 10 years ago, I was in the grocery store and someone who would say he was a committed Christian was going on about how he can't wait for God to punished this certain group of people and send them to hell when they die.  That was going to make him feel good.  I said, "Well, I see God using these things to teach us and heal us and not to burn our butts."  Of course, two minutes later, I found out for about the 15th time that I was going to hell too.   Maybe he's right.  I'll find out.  Anyways,

I think there is just something wrong about using hell to motivate someone to love God.  It isn't love then, is it?  We sin because we are wounded.  Because bad things happen to us or when we are mistreated.  Lots of reasons.   And in Orthodox understanding, because we don't treat people well and we cause others pains and wounds, we are all responsible, at least in part, for the sins of others.  Your sin is my fault, because if I'd be a true Christian and be like Jesus, I wouldn't hurt you with my actions or words, etc.

And Jesus comes to heal us of our pain, but He wants our participation in this too.  He takes our pain seriously, He identifies with it (Matthew 25, "you gave me food, drink, visited me in prison etc.)  Getting the picture yet?  Don't condemn anyone.  Start a conversation.  Offer your love and healing.  And of course, maybe after a while you go crazy. 

I just watched "Entertaining Angels: The Dorothy Day Story, for the 85th time tonight.  I highly recommend it.  It's one of my favorites.  I love Dorothy Day.  She fed thousands daily during the depression, ran homeless shelters, protested wars, got thrown in jail countless times, and she loved all these people that were unlovable and poor, who were drunks and prostitutes etc.

Well she came to a crises and many of her companions were going to leave because one of the homeless, someone who was mentally ill, had just committed suicide.  She didn't know what to do.  She went into the church.  And screamed for Jesus to listen.  "Where are you?  I need you.  Speak to me!"  She went right up to the front and stood below the giant crucifix.  And she started to cry.  "How could anyone love you?  You're a drunk.  You stink.  You vomit on the floor.  You wet your pants.  Nobody can love you.  I can't love you anymore either."  (Great theology, by the way.)  Jesus said nothing.  And she left.  And she left with the intention that she was going to quit.  Her helpers were right.  And she was a failure.  She was penniless and had a daughter.  She needed a job and a normal life. 

When she got back to the shelter, a long time friend, Maggie, was staying there, Dorothy caught her stealing money to go buy some alcohol.  Maggie had become lost, a whore, a drunk, and a thief.  She hit Dorothy with an piece of iron.  Cut her head open.  Dorothy fought back and Maggie fell on the floor.  Dorothy was going to hit Maggie, when it happened.  Dorothy saw "Light" in Maggie.  And she understood how Jesus takes all this personally.  That He not only loves the poor, the drunks, the prostitutes etc., He IS the drunks, the poor, etc.  He is inviting us to share in His healing ministry.  And so, the Lord did speak to Dorothy, didn't He? He speaks to all of us, when we learn how to listen.  Sometimes we need to get that knock on the head.

But sadly, we are condemning people to hell before we can see that these people are wounded or that they are in fact, "Jesus in distressing disguise," as Mother Teresa would say.

Dorothy stayed.  And her volunteers stayed too.  The movie mostly takes place in the 1930's.  Dorothy wrote many books too.  I've read them all, some 20-25 years ago.  She was the first saint (although she hasn't been officially named one yet) that I got to know well.  She's one of my best friends.  And who along with St. Francis, formed my Christian attitudes and the things I do with my spare time (which I do my best to keep a secret).  Check out one of her books.  There are three favorites that I have:  The Long Loneliness, From Union Square to Rome, and Loaves and Fishes.  Dorothy continued after the depression to house, feed, and help the poor and to advocate for peace.  She spent a lot of time in jail for protesting wars and nuclear bombs.  She died in 1980, at the age of 82, having lived a life rich in faith, and absolutely dirt poor in material things.  Hers was a lonely life but one lived very near to God and His beloved poor.  Check her out.  Peace to all.



Monday, October 17, 2022

Spiritual Warfare I

 



Lately, I have been caught up with all the violence in our world. I also see that so much of the evil in the world is also coming from the Western world. Our leaders tell us all the evil in the world is coming from Russia, China, or North Korea. I'm not saying these other countries are holy and good in everything they do, but I also think that we are being lied to at an incredible rate. One example, Pope Francis has often called for Western countries to stop what he calls “Ideological Colonization”, or the imposition of Western ideas, culture, or ways of doing things on poorer countries, especially in Africa, in exchange for monetary benefits or aide. Some of these ideas are things like gay and trans ideology and abortion. Even the war in Ukraine has me wondering what the Western powers are up to. You can easily find things on the internet, by some very credible people, like Jeffrey Sachs from Columbia University, describing how the West has pushed Russia into this war with Ukraine. The Ukrainians are caught in the middle, an expendable and convenient battlefield for the West. I think the Western governments real aim is a weak Russia, not freedom for Ukraine. We shall see how it turns out, but I am concerned that other powers are going to get involved or maybe nuclear weapons will be used.  Lots of prayers and fasting are needed here!

Domestically, the Culture of Death prevails on many fronts with abortion and assisted suicide gaining the approval of a slim majority. Resistance isn't tolerated when lewd and disgusting behavior is foisted on young children, including indoctrinating kids with trans ideology. The federal government has arrested parents at school board meetings and calls them “domestic terrorists” for speaking their minds on this, peacefully I might add. And the drag queen reading program at the library and increasingly at schools too. Yes, they are sexualizing our toddlers! And if they can confuse them enough so that a seven or eight year old thinks they should be the other gender, all the better, in fact, I believe this is the goal. The outright destruction of innocence and the family as we have known it. 

How do sane people fight against this?

First of all, realize that if you think these kinds of behaviors are wrong and that war is wrong and our government's almost constant involvement in war over the past 20-25 years is wrong, you are not the one who is insane. Many people in our government, and many activists, want you to think that you are the one with the problem, you are not tolerant, you are against freedom etc. This is not true. We still have a great country with many freedoms that are just a dream to many in the world. But constant war? Constant tearing down of the family? Groups such as BLM are very vocal about the destruction of the family, and many of our biggest corporations give them millions! What is going on? Who is going to stand up to this nonsense?

Good people must stand up and stand out! That's you and me. Let's see how we can do this.

In the chaos that followed the death of George Floyd there was a tremendous amount of violence across the country and even the world. First, let me say that I do not ever, ever sanction any kind of discrimination or racism. Both of these ideologies are evil! But some people said that in order to be heard, they had to resort to violence, they had to be radical. But we can't be like that. Violence is not radical enough! It isn't. The only thing that is going to turn this around is HOLINESS! Yes. You heard me. Holiness. Don't wait for the pope, your bishop, your pastor, or your wife to get holy first, no! YOU get yourself holy! Don't expect the world to shape up if you and I aren't willing to do the same.

And you know what? I don't care what religion or faith you belong to. I know, it is very much in style for some to pick on the Catholics and how terrible they are. They worship the Pope, Mary, and they even pray in front of statues.  Or the Muslims, and the Hindus, and oh my, those Buddhists! They are soooo terrible. You know what people? We have to unite. Religious folks have to come together. The world is being taken over by the secularists and they are spreading some pretty evil stuff. Be what you are! I became a Roman Catholic 30 years ago. Today I'm a Catholic/Orthodox mix.  But that doesn't make me a hater of other churches or religions.

Many other Christians tell me I'm going to hell for what I believe. Well, let's get over that, shall we? We need each other. This is a war for our families, children, and virtue. I know some Buddhists, a few Muslims, and a couple Hindus. We don't share the same beliefs about Christ, or God, or religion. But what we do share is a belief in the love of God and peace among peoples. And I know there are radical people in every religion that stoke the fires for violence, but like Gandhi, and Martin Luther King, and truly, truly, Jesus of Nazareth, we must beat the drums of peace. The first thing we must understand is that if we are going to achieve our goal of peace in this world, it will come through peaceful means only, never through violence! As it says in the book of Sirach, “Like a eunuch trying to take a girl's virginity is someone who tries to impose justice by force,” Sirach 20:4, New Jerusalem Bible. Violence will never result in peace. Our never ending wars, century after century, should be evidence enough that this is true.

I have heard this since I was young: “People all over the world are basically the same.” And it is true! So why do we have wars? The politicians want to stay in power, and gain more power, and part of the game is to name our enemies. They tell us who to hate. They tell us who our enemies are. In the United States it was the Soviet Union for many of us years ago. After the fall of communism in Eastern Europe, we weren't sure who it was and then 9-11 happened. All of a sudden is was OK to hate Iraq, Iran, and radical Islam. When our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan stared to become too much of a burden, we returned to hating a resurgent Russia. After all, we hated them for 70 years before. It was easy to demonize them again!  Especially because Putin is a dictator.

And so here we are. Look at the world for one minute. How many wars have we been in since World War II? How many years since 1945 have we been in armed conflicts all over the world? How many times have we had violence in our own streets? I believe the majority of our conflicts, foreign and domestic, have been orchestrated by our own government, or at least our politicians. They have pitted us against one another. Whether you speak of Black against White, Hispanic against American citizens, or our problems with Native Americans, or Christians versus Muslim immigrants, our problems have been political. Truly, I don't think we as the people really have a problem with anyone. But when the politicians get involved, then it is like we are at war with each other.  We need to try something different.  Politics is not going to solve our problems.  I think we need to start seeing how politics is the cause of many of our problems!  We need to set aside our trouble and problems with our brothers and sisters! Let us talk with one another. Let us sacrifice for one another! Let us build peace between us!

I believe the message of Jesus is peace with all and between all peoples. My next articles will dwell more on specifics. Please stay tuned. Please share this with your friends. If we keep listening to the politicians, we are only going to enrich THEM! We need to find a way forward for ALL of us! True Christianity offers us a way forward. Please stay tuned. I have much more to offer you. Find a way to love. Always love, never hate. If we can do that, then all shall be well. Surely it will. All shall be well. In all things, it shall be well.

God bless you all!!

Peace to all.

Dionysius Exiguus


Friday, October 14, 2022

Voting and the Kingdom of God

 

Jesus and the Sermon on the Mount


Another election season. Wahoo! Lots to get excited about, right? I sent in my ballot in a couple weeks ago. I voted for "None of the above." Some people get mad at me. Why throw away your vote? Your vote matters!

No it doesn't.

We live in an economic culture. It's been that way from day one. Wealth moves in one direction in an economic culture, towards those who keep the system going, and really all the systems are subservient to THE system. Everything, the health care system, the education system, the military-industrial system, the banking systems, the retirement system, and on and on, we all bow to money. Everything is designed to separate you from your money. Vote for whoever you want, but even if they start out in politics basically middle class, common folk, they are millionaires in short order. The systems buys them off. And they soon support the system, not you. Oh sure, their rhetoric might not change, but make no mistake, they support the system, because the system feeds the politicians and keeps them in power.

And it's hard to separate from the system. I am trying. It's very difficult. It doesn't matter who is in power, each year more money is concentrated at the top. in quarter 4, year 2021, Federal Reserve statistics show the top 1% held 32% of the wealth in the US, the top 10% held 70% of the wealth. The bottom 50% held just 2%.

And the system ensures that this accumulation at the top will continue. One example, the richest 400 families paid an effective tax rate of 23% in 2019. The bottom 50% paid a tax rate of 24%. To top it all off, we live in a country that says nothing about things like the S & L bailout of 1989, to the 2008 bailout of banks, to the billions given to wealthy corporations during the past pandemic.... not to mention the normal billions in annual corporate welfare subsidies, but many sure complain when the little people get $500 in food stamps every month. What's becoming obvious to me is that this is orchestrated. The elite have made the poor the scapegoat so they can keep raking in the dough (with the help from politicians).

Vote for who you want to, but until we start exiting from the systems of this world in large numbers, nothing will change. But this isn't a new problem. John's 1st letter, 1 John 2:15-17 tells us not to love the world or the things in the world.... he's talking about passion, greed, and wealth, and all their trappings... they leave no room for love. He's telling us not to bow down to these things and the systems that they fuel.

Since being blessed with the Presidency of Donald Trump, the kindest thing I can say about any politician is, "I've had enough."

It started slowly within me, but truly, and gradually I have come back to the Sermon on the Mount. Our only way out of this national, and even the worldly mess that we have created for ourselves is the Sermon on the Mount of Jesus. It isn't easy to live this way. I have met very few people who even try. But I am trying. And certainly failing at the same time. But either we take Jesus seriously, especially we Christians, or we don't. Mostly, it is apparent to me that we don't. And, as a Christian, that is sad. I'll give you one example to encourage you, I'm not boasting, but only giving this as an example. I don't want to give you all the details, but in recent years I have been able to get a better job.  It pays more than what I need to live on.  So, my response to the Sermon on the Mount, in part, is to give it away and to give out some personal loans.  If they pay me back, awesome.  If they don't?  Jesus says, "Lend and expect nothing in return."  That's awesome too.  Why?  I'll have to depend on God.  Besides, as I get older, what can I trust my money with anyway?  Everything belongs to God.  To hoard it, pile it up, and not share it, is not the Kingdom way.  Besides, everything I have began as a gift from God.  So I need to cultivate that inner attitude and share whatever it is I have to someone who needs it more than I.  I
 want to live differently, in the Kingdom of God that Jesus tells me is here and now. He says things like love the enemy and lend, expecting nothing in return.

To someone living in an economic culture, that is crazy. Maybe. But I'm going to trust the Lord, not the politicians. And most likely I will die poor, maybe penniless (seeing that my net worth today is still a negative number, that won't be hard to do). But what am I here for? I think we all need to ponder that question real hard. Read the Sermon on the Mount. True religion, true faith is reflected in your lifestyle. That is a good place to start your search for the answer. And I also believe there is enough in this sermon to begin your healing. Yes, healing. It will take a lot of healing to wrench us away from the culture of money. It's an addiction to many, and a way of life for almost all of us. Don't underestimate the stranglehold this has on us. But we can be sure that the Lord is with us.

Peace to all.

Dionysius Exiguus