Flowers and Stars


This line is from Francis Thompson’s poem, The Mistress of Vision. To me it is suggestive of two things. First, Francis Thompson wrote many poems that should be of interest to Christians, not the least of which is The Hound of Heaven. Here he suggests that the interrelationships of all nature may be far more complex and interrelated than we first realize. It encourages a Christian to ponder and, paraphrasing St. Augustine, to behold and see that it is all beautiful. In so doing we see that the beauty in nature is its confession to God and could not have been created or exist without His intervention.

Secondly, this line encourages us to ponder more deeply the things we do and say and even think. The consequences of our actions may be both unexpected and far reaching.


Behold and See, We are Beautiful

Stars of the Lord

“Question the beauty of the earth, the beauty of the sea, the beauty of the wide air around you, the beauty of the sky; question the order of the stars, the sun whose brightness lights the days, the moon whose splendor softens the gloom of night; question the living creatures that move in the waters, that roam upon the earth, that fly through the air; the spirit that lies hidden, the matter that is manifest; the visible things that are ruled, the invisible things that rule them; question all these. They will answer you: ‘Behold and see, we are beautiful.’ Their beauty is their confession to God. Who made these beautiful changing things, if not one who is beautiful and changeth not?”

St. Augustine

Are You Helping to Keep the Universe From Falling Apart?

Man Praying in Water

       If we could ask Thomas Merton now, he would probably say that the term “men” was also meant to include women. He might even agree that “people” would have been a better word. Assuming my interpretation of his meaning is correct, his agreement would be in keeping with the first point of his commentary on detachment, of which the above quote is the very first paragraph. If we are truly detached from ourselves and any created thing, that includes our work and our opinions and any spiritual consolation we might receive from them. 

      He goes on to say: “EVERYTHING you love for its own sake, outside of God alone, blinds your intellect and destroys your judgment of moral values. It vitiates your choices so that you cannot clearly distinguish good from evil and you do not truly know God’s will.”

But as we read on about the importance of detachment from all things not God, be they physical, psychological or spiritual; it’s easy to overlook the second point in that paragraph to which he never specifically returns. All it takes is just a few people (even one or two!) to hold everything together. All it takes is just a few people who have lost their lives in order to save them, who have died like grains of wheat in order to bear much fruit, who have sought first the kingdom of heaven before all things, to keep the fabric (spiritual?) or our universe intact. 

Recall that all it would have taken to save the city of Sodom was ten righteous people (Gen. 18:32). Just ten righteous people could have saved an entire city. We don’t even know if those people had to be as perfectly detached from all things not God as Merton suggests in order to qualify. What we do know is that ten righteous people could not be found and Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed by fire.

Merton’s point is that the sanctity of each one of us is important, not just for our sake but for the whole world. Each one of us is more important than we know. YOU are more important than you know. Everything you do, say and think has implications for the salvation of everyone else. Your prayers for your friends, family, and perhaps especially for people you do not know, living or dead, are heard. And the more successfully you have died to yourself the louder your voice, the stronger you are as a linchpin “keeping the universe from falling apart.”

Jesus Doesn’t Save? Xi Jinping Does?

 November 14 at 6:59 AM

A sculptor works on statues of Jesus Christ in an outdoor workshop in the town of Dangcheng in Quyang county, 155 miles southwest of Beijing, in 2011. (David Gray/Reuters)

“BEIJING — Jesus Christ won’t drag you out of poverty or cure your illnesses, but the Chinese Communist Party will, so take down those pictures of Christ and put up a nice photograph of President Xi Jinping.

That’s what thousands of villagers in southeastern China have been told by local officials, in a sign of the growing cult of personality around the country’s powerful leader, as well as rising pressure on Christian worship.”

So begins the article in the Washington Post. As in other parts of the world the minions of Satan are alive and well in China. Crosses and Christian images are taken down, pictures of Xi Jinping are ordered to be put up. People are told their worldly problems can only be solved by the Communist Party and General Secretary Xi and, by implication, that he supersedes Jesus Christ.

The godless worldly materialism of Communism is only one of the attacks upon Christianity in a world awash in secularism and the multiple cancers of heresy. Yet the messages are so often much the same. Rely on government in whatever form to solve your problems. God won’t. Or rely on yourself, because neither God nor anyone else will solve your problems for you. Or, perhaps worse yet, rely upon one Deified person in whom you can place all your hopes. That is what is happening in China and Russia and what has already happened in North Korea. We want a god to take care of us but an easier-to-believe-in visible god rather than one who is invisible. We cleave to visible power, because the notion of an omnipotent all-loving but invisible God overwhelms our puny human intellect and thus our faith.

Children, it is the last hour; and just as you heard that the antichrist was coming, so now many antichrists have appeared. thus we know this is the last hour. 1 John 2:18 (NABRE)

Yet every Christian knows in faith that the Kingdom of Jesus Christ is not of this world. We know because He said so. The kingdom of this world is the domain of the prince of darkness.

He was a murderer from the beginning and does not stand in truth, because there is no truth in him. When he tells a lie, he speaks in character, because he is a liar and the father of lies. John 8: 44 (NABRE)

And so it is by lies that the faith and the souls of Christians are murdered going all the way back to the lies the serpent told Eve. The truths of Christianity are hard and not always easy to understand. Being a good Christian does not guarantee that you will not be poor or that you will not be ill or that your only child will not die in a car accident. If you’re looking for perfect justice in this world, you’re looking in the wrong place at the wrong time.

I consider that the sufferings of this present time are as nothing compared to the glory to be revealed for us. Romans 8:18 (NABRE)

Does this mean that God does not answer our prayers in this life? Does this mean God is not at work in the world? Certainly not. Of course He is, and He always hears and answers our prayers. But He just might not answer them in the way we want or expect or even recognize. He answers in the way that is best for us; and He knows far better how to nurture us than we do. We think as people think, not as God thinks. God challenges our faith at the same time He strengthens it.

So beware the lies of Satan, who sometimes wears a human face. His lies challenge our faith and understanding where they are weakest, in our desire to see justice, in our desire to do good, in our desire to work our will in the world, in our desire for health, happiness and a sense of self worth. In this life, in the infinite Wisdom of God, we might have all of these things or we might have none of them. Beware the mask of any false god who says he can provide you  with them better than God, because we know whose face is behind the mask.

Be sober and vigilant. Your opponent the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion looking for (someone) to devour. Resist him, steadfast in faith, knowing that your fellow believers throughout the world undergo the same sufferings. 1 Peter 5:8 (NABRE)

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