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

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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)

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/worldviews/wp/2017/11/14/jesus-wont-save-you-president-xi-jinping-will-chinese-christians-told/?utm_term=.8d63a9ed89ba

“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)

Saving Treyden: Epilogue

Saving Treyden 3If the words Cassie posted on Saving Treyden at Facebook on June 7th are some of the saddest words I have ever read, these words posted yesterday are certainly some of the bravest:

June 13th
Today is one of the first times that I don’t have any words to say.. Treyden received his wings today, he was surrounded by nothing but love. Travis and I held him close and said our goodbyes. We will always be with you Treyden as you will be with us. Love you always and forever for infinity xoxo
Thank you all for your prayers and support for our entire family
Love always
Cassie, Travis and Treyden

No words? Really? What more could you possibly say, Cassie? In those few words, you said everything. In the midst of death you reaffirmed life and love.

Although so many people prayed for a miracle, there was no miracle. Or was there? I have little doubt that Treyden has received his angel wings. But what of the rest of us? We who are left behind must somehow come to terms with living in a fallen world that sometimes brings us disease, suffering and death. How are we to do this?

Two days ago I parked my ATV for a brief respite from my ride. Out of the grass came a piping plover, scuttering on her thin stick legs. She went about 10 feet when suddenly she flopped all askew and cheeped pathetically as if injured. Then she got up perfectly healthy, came over directly in front of me and flopped again. Then I understood. A ruffed grouse mother will do this too, pretend injury to lure danger away from her nest. In other words, this little mother was willing to risk her life for her little ones. Later, I took my wife for a ride and we parked there but this time a distance away. And there was our piping plover with her three little ones, watching them carefully, making sure they didn’t venture from the grass onto the lot. God has built this selfless protective instinct even into his creatures.

Human parents love their children insanely. When they are happy, we are happy. When they are in pain, we feel their pain acutely and ours as well. Like the piping plover, we are there for them, ready to risk everything for their protection. We would gladly suffer in their place. We would gladly give our lives in their place. I can think of no pain deeper or wider than the pain parents have for their children.

God blesses us with children not only to carry on in the world but to teach us about love. Not only how to love but to give us an idea, just an inkling, of how much He loves us. It is no accident that the Lord’s Prayer begins with “Our Father….” If we love our children insanely, He loves us many times that. God is love. Everything He does, He does out of love for us. Not the least of which was sending His only son to suffer and die for us. A man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. He told us the world would send us tribulation but to take heart, because He has overcome the world. In His wisdom, suffering is part of God’s plan. St. Philip Neri once said “the cross is the gift God gives to His friends.” Or as St. Paul said, all things work together for good for those that love God.

There is so much more that could be said, but for now I’ve said enough. I would leave you with the following quote  and reflection from Making Sense Out of Suffering by Peter Kreeft, the opening quote from St. Teresa:

“Everything is grace.”

What do we do about that?

Not a passive resignation. For our activity too is grace. Our struggle against suffering and every form of evil, physical and spiritual, is part of God’s will for us and part of our growing. But at the same time as we thus say no to suffering, disease, death, and diminishments, we also say yes to God’s overall plan, which includes both our efforts and their failure to fully conquer…. Resignation to God but nonresignation to the world, not fighting God but fighting the evils of the world – that is our destiny.

This is what you will find at Saving Treyden, not just the nonresignation and courage of Treyden’s parents but the prayers, support and love of thousands of others, most of them strangers like myself. Cassie and Travis may not have been able to heal their son, but they have helped in the healing of many, many others. Perhaps there was a miracle after all. God Bless you all.

(If anyone would like a more personal visit with Treyden and his family, you can find them at: http://cuethelight.wordpress.com/2013/05/06/a-letter-to-treyden/  and  http://cuethelight.wordpress.com/blog/)

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