Monday, August 31, 2009

Greetings to my Muslim, and Arabic, friends

I have not stopped thinking about you, and am certainly in solidarity with you in the worship of our one God as you observe the month of Ramadan.

And I am not neglecting my interest in Arabic, even though I am the first to confess that Latin is much easier for me ;-) and obviously I have much more experience with it! However, I do have in my room the Arabic alphabet, which I inscribed myself, and am still working on learning my Alif, Ba, Ta...

Learn Latin with me - 2

(And I am not joking, since even though I know these phrases by sound, I am certainly improving my correct spelling of them! ;-)

We learned Oremus, which means "Let us pray."

We learned Credo in unum Deum, which means "I believe in one God." That is the first line of the long statement of Creed, our set of beliefs and thus, also, the first line of musical compositions, such as the one by Bach, of that Creed.

Here is another first line that I think we can all agree on in principle :-)

Gloria in excelsis Deo. This means "Glory be to God on high (in heaven.)" It is a simple but fundamental exclamation of praise to God, giving Him all the glory. This is the first line of what is called The Gloria, which is a prayer that praises God.

During the Catholic Mass, when this prayer is recited, like the Credo, the priest sings this first line. I love that the first line is sung and it is always splendid, because of the uninhibited devotional meaning, whether the priest has a superb singing voice or not!

Here is another short phrase we can all learn and agree on, which is simply to thank God.

Deo gratias. "Thanks be to God."

You can see how Spanish and Italian are descended from Latin in the similarity of many words.

I could write more about why I love Latin, but I'll save it for another time :-)

I love this painting of Christ blessing children

Here is a note for people who do not know much about sacred or devotional art (or young people, *hi there* who are just beginning to learn about it).

Don't be put off by the fact that the great artists did not even attempt to provide historically authentic costume and settings in their art. Artists for most of human history, but particularly those of sacred subjects, tried more for capturing the essence of the moment being portrayed, rather than whether Jesus, for example, was dressed poorly, average or richly, or if the people are in more of a medieval setting than in the small poor towns or ancient Jerusalem. This picture, for example, is trying to portray tenderness, and also the nobility associated with that feeling which was not, as the Bible explains, common at the time. The disciples tried to shoo the children away, while Jesus insisted they come to him to be blessed. Thus the successful artist portrays to the best of his or her ability the virtue, the teachings and the blessedness of Jesus, and how this was appreciated by the children and their parents, rather than details of authentic historic costume and setting.

So this is one reason I very much like this painting!

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Bible Reading: Luke 1:46-55

And Mary said, "My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior; because he has regarded the lowliness of his handmaid; for, behold, henceforth all generations shall call me blessed; because he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name;

and his mercy is from generation to generation on those who fear him.

He has shown might with his arm, he has scattered the proud in the conceit of their heart. He has put down the mighty from their thrones, and has exalted the lowly. He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty.

He has given help to Israel, his servant, mindful of his mercy

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Some very wise words about love

This is from Archbishop Fulton Sheen's book "The World's First Love," which is about Mary, the mother of Jesus. I thought this section was wonderful about the general topic of love, something that I think there is terrible aridity and misunderstanding about in these increasingly freak show modern times. So read this and think about it, especially you young people (hi again, with much affection) who are drowning in the previous generation's abandonment of genuine love.

Freedom is ours really to give away because of something we love. Everyone in the world who is free wants freedom first of all as a means: he wants freedom in order to give it away. Almost everyone actually gives freedom away. Some give their freedom of thinking away to public opinion, to moods, to fashions, and to the anonymity of "they say" and thus become the willing slaves of the passing hour. Others give their freedom to alcohol and to sex and thus experience in their lives the words of Scripture: "He who commits sin is the slave of sin." Others give up their freedom in love to another person. This is a higher form of surrender and is the sweet slavery of love of which Our Savior spoke: "My yoke is sweet and my burden light." The young man who courts a young woman is practically saying to her: "I want to be your slave all the days of my life, and that will be my highest and greatest freedom." The young woman courted might say to the young man: "You say you love me, but how do I know? Have you courted the other 458,623 young eligible ladies in this city?" If the young man knew his metaphysics and philosophy well, he would answer: "In a certain sense, yes, for by the mere fact that I love you, I reject them. The very love that makes me choose you also makes me spurn them-and that will be for life."

Love therefore is not only an affirmation; it is also a rejection. The mere fact that John loves Mary with his whole heart means that he does not love Ruth with any part of it. Every protestation of love is a limitation of a wrong kind of free love. Love, here, is the curbing of freedom understood as license, and yet it is the enjoyment of perfect freedom-for all that one wants in life is to love that person. True love always imposes restrictions on itself-for the sake of others-whether it be the saint who detaches himself from the world in order more readily to adhere to Christ or the husband who detaches himself from former acquaintances to belong more readily to the spouse of his choice. True love, by its nature, is uncompromising; it is the freeing of self from selfishness and egotism. Real love uses freedom to attach itself unchangeably to another. St. Augustine has said: "Love God, and then do whatever you please." By this he meant that if you love God, you will never do anything to wound Him. In married love, likewise, there is perfect freedom, and yet one limitation that preserves that love, and that is the refusal to hurt the beloved. There is no moment no sacred in freedom than that when the ability to love others is suspended and checked by the interest one has in the pledged one of his heart; there then arises a moment when one abandons the seizure and the capture for the pleasure of contemplating it and when the need to possess and devour disappears in the joy of seeing another live.

And an interesting insight into love is this-that, to just the extent that we reject love, we lose our gifts. No refugee from Russia sends a gift back to a dictator; God's gifts, too, are dependent on our love.

Fulton Sheen, 1952
(Note: hence his reference to the dictator of Russia which was in full out Communism at that time, which thankfully has changed since the 1990's. Still the analogy holds true: When one escapes from oppression, slavery or dictatorship, one does not send back a "thank you gift.")

I'll let you all mull this over, as it's one of the wisest things I've seen about love and you need no real commentary from me. Do, however, compare this to the "meat market" and "shopping for the hottest at the time" mentality that so many of the past two generations have, and realize that is real slavery, not freedom, per the Archbishop's explanation and analogy of dating and comparing one's choice to all the other young ladies in an entire city!

Learn Latin with me ;-)

Here is a phrase in Latin that is very important, that is easy to learn, and I think everyone who is a believer can agree with:

Credo in unum Deum

I believe in one God

The "e" in Credo and in "Deum" is pronounced like a long English "a," like it would be "Craado in unum Daaum." It is sung during the Mass by the priest and is also the title of various sacred music compositions, such as by Bach, so you can hear audio clips for the correct pronunciation!

It is the beginning of The Credo, the profession of faith.

Those of you who speak English and other Romance languages descended from Latin will see that there are similarities, of course, between certain of your language's words, and the Latin that they descended from. Here is the introductory paragraph of Wikipedia's Latin entry:

Latin (lingua Latīna, pronounced [laˈtiːna]) is an Italic language historically spoken in Latium and Ancient Rome. Through the Roman conquest, Latin spread throughout the Mediterranean and a large part of Europe. Romance languages such as Italian, French, Catalan, Romanian, Spanish, and Portuguese are descended from Latin, while many others, especially European languages, including English, have inherited and acquired much of their vocabulary from Latin. It was the international language of science and scholarship in central and western Europe until the 17th century, then it was gradually replaced by vernacular languages, especially French, which became the new lingua franca of Europe. There are two main varieties of Latin: Classical Latin, the literary dialect used in poetry and prose, and Vulgar Latin, the form of the language spoken by ordinary people. Vulgar Latin was preserved as a spoken language in much of Europe after the decline of the Roman Empire, and by the 9th century diverged into the various Romance languages.

See. when I was growing up, Latin was still the language used in celebration of Mass in the Roman Catholic Church. Far from being "exclusionary" or "haughty," it was the closest to a global language that was ever achieved. Yes, English is becoming the language of both business and ordinary speech around the world. But when Latin was celebrated in Mass globally, people of wildly different native languages could attend a Catholic Mass in any church and, using their Missal (prayer book) follow along just as they did in their home land. Any Catholic could say to another Catholic "Oremus," and be understood as saying "Let us pray." People who refer to Catholic Latin speech as "gibberish" just do not understand the missed opportunity when the Church, going along with the "modern and hip" thinking of making the "Mass" "relevant" to "local people," took away the chance for one billion Catholics to have a common language.

By the way, as an aside on my teaching about "watching for hypocrisy," notice that secularists had that stupid dream of a "global language" called Esperanto (notice the spin trying to make it sound like anyone cares Wow, that was a real success, wasn't it?

If the Catholic Church had not caved in, we'd have one billion people (with dual language Missals) being able to pray together and speak to each other of their faith.

So just as a fun and educational thing, I thought I'd provide a few sentences in this and future blogs that are "easy to agree with" basics of faith.

Credo in unum Deum.


Friday, August 28, 2009

Isn't drug addiction so wonderful, smart, chic?

He survives a plane crash, and dies like this (apparently, "pending toxicology" of course).

Another sad, stupid, tragic waste of a God given life.

People, how about starting to get each other OFF of drugs for a change? Just a thought.

Peace out.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Brave Israeli navy kills a fisherman



GAZA CITY — A Gaza fisherman was killed on Thursday by a shell fired by Israel's navy, Palestinian medics said.
Mohammed Attar, 25, was hit by shrapnel, according to Muawiha Hassanein, who heads the territory's emergency medical services. He had apparently been in his boat just off northern Gaza's shore when he was hit.
There was no immediate comment from the Israeli military.
Navy vessels enforcing Israel's blockade of the Palestinian territory regularly fire at Palestinian fishermen to prevent them from venturing more than a few kilometers (miles) from shore.

Gaza – Ma’an – A Palestinian man was killed on Thursday when the Israeli navy shelled a fishing boat just off the coast of the northern Gaza Strip.The director of Emergency Services and Ambulances Dr Mu’awiyah Hassanein said that Israeli shells took 25-year-old Muhammad Nady Al-Attar’s life when his head was severed from his body. One other fisherman was injured in the attack, which occurred while they were fishing. There was no immediate comment from the Israeli military.Al-Attar was buried later on Thursday after a funeral procession in his home town of Beit Lahiya.

If you do a news search for articles, you'll notice something interesting. Often the Jewish news reporters bundle in the same article the killing of this fisherman with other "bad" Palestinian activities, such as a recent shelling or tunnel digging, to make it look like killing this fisherman was "justified," even before the Israeli military responds with their, um, investigation!

How familiar and sad this sounds. Always a "reason" for the inexplicable.

About heaven: attention parents/young people

While watching Mass this morning an analogy to help understand heaven occurred to me, one that is based on obvious scriptural statements as made by Jesus, but with a modern context so that even the very young can understand it.

This analogy will help everyone understand heaven, faith and the issue of sins better, but it will most especially help young people, particularly little children, thus I want to teach this to parents. Young people, especially as you go into the world (school, college, etc.) this understanding will be an enormous help to you too.

Heaven is like your home that you leave before going on a long journey. It can only be opened with one key and you carefully guard that key, which you must take with you, as you travel from place to place. At the end of your journey you put the key in the lock, open the door and return home forever.

Now, here is why this analogy is so scriptural and illuminating. First of all, the key is your soul, given to you when you are conceived, as your soul is made by God in heaven. So God makes every person their individual "key" to "return home," after death, to heaven.

You can explain this to very young children very easily, as soon as they are able to understand that they are watching mommy or daddy use a key to open the family house or apartment. You can explain that God has given to you an individual, but invisible, key that allows you to open the door to your place in heaven when it's time for you to go there.

As children grow older and they begin to be exposed to other children of unbelieving parents, and are put in increasingly unbelieving places, such as school, you can explain it as this. If mommy or daddy allowed the key to be lost or bent, it will no longer allow the family home to be opened (don't traumatize your kids about actual lost keys, LOL). Explain that just like if the parents were irresponsible about the house key, a child who is tempted to do bad things by other kids is risking making their key dirty, bent or lost. So they need to feel sorry for kids who don't understand that they have God given keys, and who put their keys at risk, but do not be tempted to do the same. That is how you can start to explain sin (in addition to the traditional way of it being a bad thing), by putting it in an absolute God context, but one that is lovingly oriented rather than punishment oriented.

Young people, as you become preteens and teenagers, college students, drop outs or new to your first jobs, (Hi again, always happy to know that many of you read my blogging! ;-) you can now really relate to how I am describing the key. This key is not a computer generated key, easily duplicated, like keys to dorms or many hotels. There's not a locksmith who can duplicate based on the shape or number of your God given key another key if you lose it. This is an individual eternal key, only for you and irreplaceable.

So when you are tempted to sin by your posse or by the many opportunities around you, understand that you are giving your key a whack, or getting some serious dirt on it, that may rust or bend it, especially over time. That's the risk of lots of "little sins," as Neil Young said, "rust never sleeps." It's not just the big one time sin that one must worry about, but continued abuse of your key resulting in it being so abused it no longer fits in the lock, or it is lost, in the sense of only opening a door to hell, rather than opening the door that has been prepared for you and is your birthright in heaven.

No one who is human is perfect, but Jesus Christ, even as he was incarnated in human flesh, he alone was both perfect and perfected by God. Jesus was perfect and sinless from the moment of his conception, but he was also perfected in a process by God in order to be the Messiah and Savior. The analogy is that if perfection is gold, Jesus was born as pure gold, and then shaped into a form that all human beings can wear. That's how something that is already perfect, and in this case only Jesus was perfect, can be "perfected" by God. That's what the scripture means when it says Jesus "learned." It's not like he didn't "know" everything that was God's will, but he was being shaped in his perfection to be accessible in his public ministry and also ultimately as fulfilled Savior to be accessable to all who seek him and believe.

Thus there is a continual balancing act of knowing that one is not perfect and is increasingly surrounded by an increasingly sinful and imperfect people with recognizing that God is forgiving and merciful. If you understand the key analogy you understand how you can sin and be forgiven, but you can also have a bad surprise that you have pushed it too far and your key is lost or ruined when you die. This will help you to better discern what temptations are "worth" taking, such as they are. Little children who hit other children, for example, in addition to getting traditional parental discipline and behavior formation by their parents can also have it explained to them that when they hurt someone like that, it is as if mommy or daddy used the key to their house to hit someone. Not only is it wrong and it hurts but it also risks damaging the key.

Now, here is where this analogy can help you to understand the difference-the very dire difference-between a sin that is of the usual sort and a sin that leads others to sin. When you sin you damage, rust, and otherwise put at risk your key's condition, one that, thankfully, can be forgiven and restored by God if confessed and repented sincerely by you, and that path of sin is totally abandoned. However, what if you are a false prophet who leads others to sin and/or to false beliefs about God, including the occult and the denying of Jesus Christ and the one true God? You are damaging other people's keys, and you can never restore them again. People you lead astray from the faith go through their lives with damaged keys, and you cannot ever repair what is done to their keys (only God can do that, but if these people do not believe and repent, and become pure again to God, and not tainted by the false beliefs and sin you have led them to, and they've now adopted, how will they ever avail themselves of God's ability to forgive and "repair" them and their keys).

That is why Jesus warns that it is better to pluck out one's own eye or cut off one's own hand if that is the limb or organ being used to sin. Jesus is warning you that it's better to have only one hand than two if you still have your key intact. (This is not a pagan self mutilation formula by the way, but an ANALOGY by Jesus. Anyone but an ego maniac and/or drug or booze addict would understand that one is not expected to body mutilate in reality, I mean, duh). This is why I think my analogy supports the scriptures in a modern context. Even a blind man can find the lock on his house and insert the key if he (or she) had kept the key safe and intact.

This is why Jesus issues too a most dire warning to those who lead children to sin (saying they might as well put a heavy stone around their necks and throw themselves into the water). Jesus is warning that even worse than leading one's own self to sin (and thus one should symbolically cut off that eye or that hand), one's entire life (and key) is lost when one encourages and leads children to lose their keys to heaven. I tell you, you should shudder, as this is not the imaginary hippy groovy Jesus who thinks smart mouth unbelieving drug taking mean and sexualized children are a product that you should be honing and developing in any way shape or form. Those who not only lose, bend, rust and profane their own keys but also lead other, especially the children, who have no choice, to do so are truly totally doomed. Trust me, hell is packed with both false prophets and also those who lead children to sin (and thus put them on sinful paths that destroy their own keys as adults when they grow up bent).

OK, that's the dark but truthful side, suitable for adult/teenager discussion. Let's go back to the light filled and hopeful side, which is to use this gentle, but totally scriptural, analogy of the key to help your children know, love and serve God better, and preserve their own places in heaven, more easily, in an increasingly poisoned and difficult world.

As an aside, I've mentioned before that young children need to be told about the reality of God, particularly, for Christians, through Jesus Christ, from the earliest age. This is usually done by mentioning God daily (such as saying Good Night to him, particularly as parents do nightly prayers with their kids). I've mentioned that a traditional way is to have a picture of Jesus and have the very young kiss Jesus good night, or at least tell him good night :-)

What I wanted to mention is that, sadly, those of you who are married to military service people, who are away on duty, have much experience with children remembering their parents through pictures, while they are gone. Kids get messages from their on duty parents through the computer, videos, phone messages and calls, and also photographs. Just as that works and is very helpful, you young people can now understand the wisdom of the traditional believers several generations ago, who used to have their kids know and love Jesus through even perhaps only one faded picture in the Bible or on the wall. It's just as if a modern child has the comfort and continuity of a picture of their in service parent. Again, it is crucial that, both new parents and those of you who have neglected this but still have kids you can talk to, you regain these traditional ways of making God part of your child's life from the very beginning.

It's not "up to them" or even is it up to your Church or Sunday school to do that, because if you do not tell them about their key in the home, they have no context for understanding God as a part of their real life, rather than later where God is an abstract set of rules, to be "believed or not." I mean, would you let your kid decide whether his father serving in Afghanistan "is real or not?"

I hope that this has helped.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Senator Ted Kennedy *sigh*

The *sigh* is because this just isn't a topic I want to blog about. It's the type of thing I'd more like to discuss in person with small groups, perhaps while having tea. But I know that people will wonder what I think, so here it is.

First of all, people are saved by grace (through faith) not works. So you can forget all the fund raising, the caring nice guy, etc regarding whether he achieves heaven or not. Being a good charitable Christian is expected of a Christian, not a check off list for salvation. Faith and God given grace are required for entry to heaven.

For those who do not understand the faith vs. works issue, here's a simple analogy. Millions of believers have achieved heaven who have never had the financial means to perform "good deeds" as people refer to them today. It's only the modern mindset that thinks that donations and legislation for "good causes" issues a "get in heaven easy pass." Millions and millions of people who have lived during the past thousand years by scratching the fields with a stick and keeping their families from starving have achieved heaven without "good deeds" because they had belief and faith in the one God, through Jesus Christ. I hope that helps you to understand that if you really honor the poor, you recognize that entry into heaven is for the poor who believe but who are unable to "perform good deeds," "fund raise" or "lobby for good causes."

Having said that, as I've repeatedly said, God has provided a means for genuine confession and repentance for sins. Only the Senator's confessor knows the status of his completeness in availing himself of that process, instituted and promised by Jesus Christ himself. Denying him a church funeral Mass would be churlish and wrong, assuming a knowledge that one simply does not possess, which is between him and God, and witnessed by his confessor priest.

My far greater worry is that many men and women of influence, in politics, government and law enforcement, have accepted assistance in their office from providers of false idols (money) and those who practice occult beliefs (influence). If Senator Kennedy has tainted his Roman Catholic beliefs with either idolatry or occult beliefs, even if he did "only a little of it," that would, of course, put him in a very precarious position with God. I really hope that he neither did this, but frankly, so many do and are in dire peril of their souls, and thus I also hope that if he did that he genuinely repented and confessed before his passing.


Tuesday, August 25, 2009

A simple night prayer

fill this night with your radiance.
May we sleep in peace and rise with joy
to welcome the light of a new day in your name.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.

From the "Christian Prayer: Liturgy of the Hours."

About the importance of prayer

I wanted to just post a simple prayer, but while flipping through my books I found that I wanted to first share with you three paragraphs written by the late Pope John Paul II. This is from his book "Crossing the Threshold of Hope" where he responded to questions including the one "How Does the Pope Pray?" Here are three paragraphs from his longer answer.

The Pope's prayer, however, has an added dimension. In his concern for all the churches every day the Pontiff must open his prayer, his thought, his heart to the entire world. Thus a kind of geography of the Pope's prayer is sketched out. It is a geography of communities, churches, societies, and also of the problems that trouble the world today. In this sense the Pope is called to a universal prayer in which the sollicitudo omnium Ecclesiarum (concern for all the churches; 2 Cor 11:28) permits him to set forth before God all the joys and hopes as well as the griefs and anxieties that the Church shares with humanity today.

Prayer in our time, prayer in the twentieth century, should also be discussed. The year 2000 marks a kind of challenge. We must look at the immensity of good that has sprung from the mystery of the Incarnation of the Word [my note to my blog readers, for non-Christians the Incarnation of the Word means the birth of Jesus as the will and the word of God made into human flesh form] and, at the same time, not lose sight of the mystery of sin, which is continually expanding. Saint Paul writes that "where sin increased" ("ubi abundavit peccatum") "grace overflowed all the more" ("superabundavit gratia"; cf. Rom 5:20).

This profound truth presents a perennial challenge for prayer. It shows how necessary prayer is for the world and for the Church, because in the end it constitutes the easiest way of making God and His redeeming love present in the world. God entrusted to men their own salvation; He entrusted to them the Church, and, in the Church, the redeeming work of Christ. God entrusted this to all, both to individuals and to humanity as a whole. He entrusted all to one and one to all. The prayer of the Church, and especially the prayer of the Pope, must constantly reflect this awareness.

Here is another paragraph on this topic, so relevant to these times.

The Church prays for the dead and this prayer says much about the reality of the Church itself. It says that the Church continues to live in the hope of eternal life. Prayer for the dead is almost a battle with the reality of death and destruction that weighs down upon the earthly existence of man. This is and remains a particular revelation of the Resurrection. In this prayer Christ Himself bears witness to the life and immortality, to which God calls every human being.

One reason that I included this fourth paragraph is that I wanted you to understand that praying for the dead is not depressing and pointless, but the ultimate expression of faith and hope by the individuals and body of the Church in the immortal life to which God calls all. Implicit in this, though John Paul II does not address this here, is that even if someone who you know has deceased in a state where you might be quite certain that they had not accepted God, had not shunned lives of sin, and had might likely, therefore, "not been saved," it is an expression of your faith and hope that, if you so wish, pray nonetheless for your deceased loved one. The point is that no prayer is "wasted." Sometimes true faith is demonstrated only when you trust God in what seems to be impossible situations.

Mark 10:26-27
They were exceedingly astonished and said among themselves, "Then who can be saved?" Jesus looked at them and said, "For human beings it is impossible, but not for God. All things are possible for God."

Faith coaching for priests (pastors, rabbis, imams...)

This is the first in hopefully a series of quick coaching that I am directing toward priests of my faith, the Roman Catholics, but I also of course hope that not only any Christian pastor but also Jewish and Muslim spiritual leaders will find this helpful. The focus will be how priests need to understand and strengthen their own faith while thus at the same time strengthening the faith in the truth for not only their flock but the greater community. The concern being addressed is the way that modern society (both values and supposed "intellect") erode believers' faith, seeming to have "strong arguments," when they are simply wisps in the wind and totally fallacious.

How do I hope you use this material by the way?
1. Understand it yourself and read the scriptures that illuminate the points. I am structuring this series to be a "we believe in the Bible and the word of God" versus the "the Bible's not true and just made up stuff anyway" problem.
2. Discuss it with your friends, family and colleagues and watch for examples of what I speak of in the press.
3. Be more open to, in addition to your pastoral duties, seeking ways to communicate your faith and how you refute (gently but firmly) such arguments, not only in sermons but wherever you find an opportunity (get to know media people, ha).
4. But do not become a media hound. Allow your better understanding to simply permeate outwardly from you. As your faith is strengthened through better understanding of the truth, like osmosis other people will better understand the truth and thus their faith increases.

Here is the coaching point I am covering in this particular blog posting.

1. Recognize modern intellectual hypocrisy and point it out. Do not be intimidated by it because hypocrisy is, of course, the weakest of all foundations for either intellect or spirit. It is not by coincidence that Jesus focused on pointing out the hypocrisy of the religious leaders of his time.

I have selected a very pertinent and popular topic for the hypocrisy example. There is a fascination in modern society, one that is increasingly perverse and warped, with "living forever" or at least extended life to be centuries or more in length. You may not think this is a "hot topic," but priests, you must recognize the undertow of what seems like disconnected interests of moderns. The undertow, this belief that humans can in and of themselves find a way to greatly extend life and even eliminate death, is exhibited in seemingly separate events such as these, which have been going on for decades by the way.

1. Paid for legitimate research into "special techniques" for extending life. Probably the most well known is by scientists who have linked a kind of starvation diet (very low calories) to long life spans of I think some sort of worm.

Now, I am not being critical of proper science that tries to correlate life style and genetics with those who tend to live longer, and then postulate some sort of potential beneficial advice for humans. I am simply pointing out that this is a hot topic for legitimate research.

2. Marginal "popular" research for extending life. This is more dodgy type of research, often fulfilling the researcher's (usually a book selling author with products) life philosophy that long life, even indefinitely long life, is possible.

The most common examples are those who advocate certain diets or food supplements.

3. The dark fascination in the media's science fiction and fantasy genre with life that is very long, both good life but more often a life of "superior oppressive beings" that live forever and oppress the dummies under them.

The Matrix series is an obvious example. While presented as drama and entertainment, two generations of young people have grown up with the thoughts that "maybe" some "eternal or long living evil alien force" is "manipulating humans." A normal person kind of wants to shoot themselves in the head with depression after watching some of this "entertainment." I'm bummed out to the max even thinking about it. But many kids have a constant diet of this type of paranoia and disconnect from reality, that eternity is "possible" but that right now "bad aliens" have it (or maybe "good aliens" can 'offer it.')

4. The vampire genre that is like a cancer among young people today.

Do not mistake that under the sex and drama and teenage angst of these films is the temptation to believe that by drinking blood one lives forever.

See, these are four modern secular examples of the same underlying temptation, which is to 1) seek to extend human life to eternity by totally human means and 2) disbelieve the Bible. Where does the Bible disbelief come into play here? I'm glad that you asked :-) because that is where the hypocrisy lies.

If one wants to truly and truthfully study how human life is extended, and how eternal life is obtained, one must believe the truth that is already documented, which is the Bible.

Point number one:

Genesis 6:3
Then the Lord said: "My spirit shall not remain in man forever, since he is but flesh. His days shall comprise one hundred and twenty years."

Now, modern disbelievers (plus believers weak in faith) need to understand, as you need to understand, one simple point about this passage. The author of the Book of Genesis, Moses, knew what 'scientifically' no one knew yet at the time, which is indeed that the length of human life is capped at one hundred and twenty years (Wikipedia has a great tracking of the "oldest" human beings in various articles, such as the woman who lived to 122 years). This is a really simple example that you must remember yourself and share with others that thousands of years ago God told Moses something that neither Moses or anyone else could have known through scientific means or the power of observation, since people barely made it out of their thirties for most of their existence until the last one hundred years or so. (See my previous blogging about this topic).

So this is where a hypocrite who is fascinated with extending life must agree with a true believer that even if the hypocrite still denies the Bible and God "being real," that the Bible is accurate in this fact. Keep it simple: recognize that God in the Bible tells Moses that humans shall "comprise" (for the most part) be able to expect from within one hundred twenty years for their lifespan, and modern statistics demonstrate that that has been and continues to be true. Agree to agree there that the "Bible got that one right."

Ah, but now the hypocrite will say, "But who is to say that science and human 'genius' and 'development' cannot extend life? We will do it in the laboratory!" That's great, because you do not, as a true believer, disagree that very long life is indeed possible!

Point number two.

Genesis 5
5. The whole lifetime of Adam was nine hundred and thirty years; then he died.
8. The whole lifetime of Seth was nine hundred and twelve years; then he died.
11. The whole lifetime of Enosh was nine hundred and five years; then he died.
14. The whole lifetime of Kenan was nine hundred and ten years; then he died.
17. The whole lifetime of Mahalalel was eight hundred and ninety-five years; then he died.
20. The whole lifetime of Jared was nine hundred and sixty-two years; then he died.
23. The whole lifetime of Enoch was three hundred and sixty-five years.
27. The whole lifetime of Methuselah was nine hundred and sixty-nine years; then he died.
31. The whole lifetime of Lamech was seven hundred and seventy-seven years; then he died.
32. When Noah was five hundred years old, he became the father of Shem, Ham and Japheth.

This whole section of the Bible, Genesis, including Chapter 6 which comes after it is so misunderstood yet it is so simple to understand when one has faith AND logical reasoning. If the Bible were "fiction," then it would be filled with wondrous stories of what those long lived guys were up to during their nine hundred plus years of lifespan! Instead, Moses dutifully recorded what is basically the faith genealogy, such as... they were named this, they had these sons, and they lived this many years. That is hardly the stuff of riveting fictional adventure. If dry elderly Jewish men recorded that someone lived to be 777 years old, then that guy lived to be 777 years old!

So here is the hypocrite's problem. He or she believes that "someday" humans can "overcome death" and live very long lifespans, yet he or she does not want to believe the evidence that you present, in the Bible, that this has indeed already been done! Most scientists are happy when they have valuable data from a time in the past that supports their hypothesis. Hypocrites do not like data that supports even their own ideas, if that data comes from anything associated with God. They fear that if they believe that part of the Bible, then they have to believe the whole "package."

So you can attempt to get such a hypocrite to, like in point one, to agree with you that the very thing they argue is possible is documented in the Bible as having already happened. You'd think they'd be happy to know that some humans did indeed live to be almost one thousand years old, no? ;-)

The reason most hypocrites will resist agreeing that even having Biblical evidence that extremely long life is possible is that 1) they don't want to accept the whole God package, since they'd rather be free to sin, thank you very much and 2) they are looking ahead to disagreeing with you about the reasons for possible long life, so that will be point three.

Point three starts with repeating point one's passage, since that is why I quoted all the ages from Genesis 5, because God now says, basically, that the gift of some having these incredibly long lives is 1) provided by me, God, personally and 2) is going to be taken from you.

Point three:

Genesis 6:3
Then the Lord said: "My spirit shall not remain in man forever, since he is but flesh. His days shall comprise one hundred and twenty years."

Thus God is explaining to human beings two things. One is that the reason that these select people have lived so long is that God's spirit was in them. Read carefully "since he is but flesh." What that means is that God has, like with all the other animals, a limit to how long humans can live because flesh can and will deteriorate and die. God's spirit within certain humans overcomes the falling apart of flesh and keeps the person vital and alive for those many centuries. Remember, the Bible does not say that everyone (such as the wives or all the relatives, or the rest of the community, or other human beings) lived those long lives! It does not say that all human beings lived long lives at all. Rather, specific people are listed, those who have the spirit of God in them and are essential links in the chain of faith history. In other words, God extended the lives of those who handed on the truth of faith and its authoritative knowledge of the one true God from generation to generation. These old guys had the spirit of God in them to provide oral continuity from generation to generation about God, his ways and his will. Remember there was no writing or cave painting or whatever in the generations after Adam and Eve. So God kept each link in the faith chain alive enormous lengths of time due to his Spirit within them so that they can keep the faith alive and well formed in each generation. Thus around the time of Noah is when God starts to warn that he will no longer do this routinely.

Now, I have to go off topic for a moment because anyone who is a hypocrite will force you off topic in Genesis 6 because of the "sons of heaven" who "appeared on earth" and were "heroes of old, the men of renown," sounding all like alien angels and super beings arriving on earth. Not exactly.

We are all adults here so let's try to wear long pants and think like adults. We all know that Adam and Eve were the first parents, but we also know that their kids went and married humans who were around. Every five year old asks in Bible school "If Adam and Eve were the first people, who did their children marry?" Generations of nuns have squirmed about that question, LOL. Adam and Eve were the first faith parents, the first to whom were raised up from the dust because God spoke to them. I know, I know, those of you who don't believe that one of God's tools for creation is evolution are unhappy with me, but you have to read the Bible and believe. Adam and Eve's kids did not marry lions, deer, giraffes or turtles. Adam and Eve's kids married other humans who were around.

Likewise, as the faith grew and generations had fruitful future generations being born, they started bumping into other humans, nonbelievers (since they did not yet know God), those who built early human empires and who had made up mythologies.

Genesis 6:1-3
When men began to multiply on earth and daughters were born to them, the sons of heaven saw how beautiful the daughters of the men were, and so they took for their wives as many of them as they chose. Then the Lord said: "My spirit shall not remain in man forever, since he is but flesh. His days shall comprise on hundred and twenty days."

What is happening here is clear if you just slow down and stay rooted in reality. People began to do pretty good, having many healthy children, and so they expanded, looking for husbands and wives for their growing brood (plus remember, not being in Eden they had to migrate and toil for their daily food). They bumped into marvelous people, calling them, as we do today, "heavenly." I mean, duh! The Bible does not say that flying saucers landed. If they had the Bible would say so, since God has nothing to hide. Notice that God immediately speaks in the now three times I've quoted line about the lifespan of mankind. Why does God explain to Moses (since this was all way before Moses' time, so he got all the information about Genesis directly from God) that the people started intermarrying "heavenly" people and that God was now going to withdraw his life extending spirit? Because now the people had to encounter and intermarry pagans and bring them into the faith. I mean, duh! It is what it is in the context of the times, not what fervid overactive modern imaginations make it to be. You'd understand it quite well if it read like this:

People began to have so many children, plus they had to migrate to find land and food, that they started bumping into some really tough and awesome people. They had some great treasures and incredible inventions! They thought our women were hot and so they eagerly intermarried. God then said, "Well, there you go, be fruitful and multiply. It's up to YOU to now educate the pagans about me, because I'm not going to make these old guys live to be nine hundred years old just to keep the faith alive from generation to generation." As soon as people started intermarrying these awesome heavenly people, other groups of new folks also came along ["the Nephilim appeared on earth" Genesis 4:6] and they explained that they came from the gods Bozo and Fifi who were filled with awesome sword swaggering deeds."

Um, duh, as the believers, the descendants of Adam and Eve, intermarried pagans, their kids eagerly picked up on all the local mythology and hero excitement of the new folks' histories (both real and imagined). So that's why when skeptics snicker that the Bible "includes mythology," well, duh, the people intermarried with people with mythology. Sometimes it just is what it is. And when "sons of heaven" "appeared on earth," that means some presumably God sent awesome dudes and chicks were bumped into that they had never met before around the next mountain range. When people say "appear on earth" they don't mean what moderns mean, which is to drop out of the sky, I mean, duh. People who had never traveled more than ten miles in their whole life consider anyone they met while migrating fifty miles or a few hundred miles away as "appearing" "on earth."

So point number three to make to hypocrites, which is usually a point of genuine confusion for many of the faithful, but also a great red herring for those who have an "alien believing" and "non all powerful God" agenda, is that there is an easily understandable progression of events that follows both what the Bible says and also human nature as we know it. God gave certain faith bearing humans really long lives, but as the human species got fruitful and on their way, God said, "You're on your own now, and you have to encounter nonbelievers and intermarry."

But see, how well did that turn out?

Genesis 6:5, 11-2
When the Lord saw how great was man's wickedness on earth, and how no desire that his heart conceived was ever anything but evil, he regretted that he had made man on the earth, and his heart was grieved...In the eyes of God the earth was corrupt and full of lawlessness...all mortals led depraved lives on earth...

The Bible agrees with human history since it is human history. Believers fell astray all on their own (think of Cain, for example) plus they obviously fell down at bringing the faith to the pagans, and instead, adopted lives of depravity and lawlessness.

I'll leave this important, but a tangent, to our basic purpose of discussing the hypocrisy of the long life interest but denying Biblical evidence, and hope that you better understand that you have to read the Bible in context, how people were in those times and how God spoke to them accordingly. A modern thinks that "heavenly" means from the sky, while an ancient believes "heavenly" means sent by God (and that could be just some hairy pagan sent by God from across the street). "Appeared on earth" means to a modern that it wasn't on the entire globe terra before, and thus came from the sky, while "appeared on earth" to an ancient means "Wow, I just encountered something entirely new."

Point four:

Genesis 9:29
The whole lifetime of Noah was nine hundred fifty years; then he died.

God made clear that he was weaning the faithful away from having very long lived humans who acted as faith links across many generations, and so Noah becomes the last one mentioned in this way. If you read all of Genesis 10 and 11, notice two things. No longer is anyone mentioned as having long lives. Second, the geneologies start to mention the faith fathers having children at ages of twenties and thirties, not the very ancient ages of before.

Genesis 11:25-6
Nahor lived one hundred and nineteen years after the birth of Terah, and he had other sons and daughters. When Terah was seventy years old, he became the father of Abram, Nahor and Haran.

So now a life of 119 years is extraordinary, rather than the nine hundred plus years of life. Right on target of the expected maximum age, based on flesh, not God's spirit, for humans. Nahor is the grandfather of the man who became the Patriarch of the Jewish, Christian and Muslim faiths, Abram (renamed Abraham by God).

Point four, then, to show to your hypocrite friend, is that just as humans are prospering, and presumably eating better and having better hygiene and medicine, the incredibly long lived examples disappear. This is the heart of where your disagreement with hypocrites will be exposed because they will resist knowing that what they want is "possible" but it has already been done, since it is not works of humans that result in incredibly long existences of individual lives, but only the firsthand occupation of that flesh by the Spirit of God, which overcomes while the Spirit is there the inevitability of the limits of human life. Remind them we are not discussing "spirituality" or "holiness," but the actual raw, full Spirit of God keeping them alive, something God has not only said but demonstrated that after Noah he will no longer do.

God promises Abram that his descendants shall be as numerous as stars (Genesis 15:4), not the years of his lifespan, or of anyone else's. But this man obviously was filled with so much grace from the Lord that his body could not help but respond accordingly:

Genesis 25:7-8
The whole span of Abraham's life was one hundred and seventy-five years. Then he breathed his last, dying at a ripe old age, grown old after a full life; and he was taken to his kinsmen. [That means both buried in the family place and also with those who had died before in heaven with God. Jesus confirmed that Abraham is in heaven with God in Luke 16.]

So you have to point out that if the Bible was just self glorifying made up stuff, why would not the longest "made up" life be assigned to the man who was the Patriarch of the three monotheistic religions, Judaism, Christianity and Islam? I mean, why would the fictional authors of the fictional Bible assign really long made up ages to men whose names are mentioned only that one or two times and had no great deeds, while Abraham is expected to be characterized as the role model of the God given full life in his service and actual physical presence of "only" 175 years? Because it really is just as it is. Abraham is the example of how the Spirit of God filled this one man, after the others, when God would no longer do this to keep faith guardian continuity, and yet achieves indeed eternal life by being with God after a full life on earth.

As an aside, many Christians totally miss that Jesus in Luke 16 is mentioning by name how the Patriarch Abraham is alive in God in heaven, not asleep: "When the poor man died, he was carried away by angels to the bosom of Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried, and from the netherworld where he was in torment, he raised his eyse and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side...Abraham replied, 'My child, remember that you received what was good during your lifetime while Lazarus likewise received only what was bad; but now he is comforted here, whereas you are tormented..."

Here is the point, the crux of what you must testify to non-believers, but also understand for your own faith. What is the reward for the man who singularly was the great Patriarch, who walked with, served without question, dined with, and advocated on behalf of sinners to God? A full (but not extraordinary) life but eternal life in God, where is he is seen, active, speaking and very real in life in heaven's eternity. So yes, we agree that long life is biologically possible, but not through human deeds in the laboratory.

Point five:
We agree that it is possible to live forever, but not in the laboratory and not because of aliens, but because when the flesh passes believers who have served God will have eternal life with him in the Spirit in heaven.

Hypocrites imagine "storing one's memories and identity" in a computer and then "loading it into another body," and THEY view THAT as a real "possibility," but they think the Bible, which affirms the immortal soul that is "transfered" upon death out of body to either heaven or hell, the spiritual realm, as "fantasy." That is the heart of the hypocrisy. Which is the sound of truth, the believer who has evidence in the Bible of the eternal soul, or someone who wants to become a parts junk yard for people who want to cling to some sort of "life," yet thinks only of earthly memories, personalities and nutty theories of recycled souls to load into some manmade flesh, and what, then, of the real soul, the one and only one given to each person by God for their one and only life? It's just not going to happen, friends. Not only because God has promised that it will not happen, but because life just does not work that way. Eternal life in fake bodies and you can't deal with AIDs? Swine flu? Feeding the starving? Keep a vaccination record for your kids so they don't get diseases that were defeated decades ago? And how about a world of robot ADHD people, with their bipolar and whatever? They don't seem to handle three decades of life well, say nothing of be "ready" for theoretical manmade "eternal life." A society that does not consistently wash their hands for hygiene sure does not have to worry about having eternal life in a body on earth, LOL.

Do you see the fulness of validation and logic for all that is in the Bible? Just as those few patriarchs had actual Spirit of God in them to prolong their life and their witness to their children and the other generations, upon death the faithful enter into the Spirit of God in heaven. On earth God infused each of the long lived patriarchs with his Spirit. In heaven they are alive eternally because they are put into the Spirit. It is only the Spirit that is the source of either eternal life after death, or of extraordinary genuine life on earth, but God has said he will no longer do that and of course that is true. It is up to humans to do the best they can do with having full lives, and allowing their neighbors to have full lives too, and to witness to the faith while they await eternal life that is promised to them in heaven, or eternal punishment if they profane God's gift of human life and thus lose eternal life in bliss.

Kids need to understand that the reality is much more beautiful than the fiction. Why does blood drinking "eternal" vampires seem so romantic? Because they have lost access to the true joys of life, of the type of joy that a man like Abraham had, in true family and kinship and service to God, and yes, decent adventure too.

Dear priests and other friends reading this blog, I hope and pray that you have found this to be helpful in your faith and to support the true faith of those who need it in these modern times.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Dealing with feelings of "unreality," "alienation"

Everyone has that occasional moment of feeling somewhat unreal. To put it simply, it is normal because it is like a brain "hiccup." You usually are not aware of what brought that moment on, but usually there was some outside stimulus that is unconscious to you. Like the feeling of deja vu, it is a burp, just a bit of a disruption in how the brain perceives what is actually going on, and it just lasts for a minute.

Deja vu (the "I've been here before") feeling, by the way, is also easily explained. Let me address that because when it happens some people get all paranoid about its "meaning." Rather than a "burp" or a "hiccup" like unreal or alienated feelings, deja vu is a momentary case of misidentification by the brain. You know how you get a glimpse of someone in a crowd and think you know who it is, but then realize it is not he or she? Well, the reason humans have such superior intellect and brain capacity (compared to animals) is that human brains are built for speed, to do very rapid processing, and brains are wired to do very rapid "pattern matching." Thus one can see an automobile and not each and every time go, "Hmm, what is that object? It has wheels and an ignition and a passenger cab. Ah, it must be a car!" Imagine if you had to think all that through every time you saw an auto! Instead, your brain rapidly "pattern matches." Your brain has pictures stored within it of things you already know, and when you see something it quickly compares what you are seeing to what it has in storage. When it sees a match it assumes, but tells you with certainty, that it is what it is. Deja vu happens when something that you see, or are feeling, or experiencing matches very closely, but incorrectly, something in your brain's picture gallery and memory bank. So you have a "deja vu" feeling that you have been there before, but that is because your brain jumped to a conclusion of familiarity because it found a weak match with a portion of something you have already seen before, or felt, but would not at all think they are alike if someone asked you. Your brain-all brains-once in a while make mistakes. So that's the deja vu problem. Let's get back to the main topic of feelings of unreality or alienation.

Before I explain how the "burp" or "hiccup" occurs, let's start with a clean table of understanding how things work normally when one is a living being, in a state of being alive within a real world. As I've mentioned in my recent blog about addictions, you gain a lot of information and solid grounding in wisdom when you remember that humans and animals share common biology. Animals and humans both have to breathe, eat, ingest fluids, have bodies that are composed of hard and soft tissue, internal organs, a way to reproduce, a way to move and so forth. Humans are basically animals with really big brains and a body that promote agility. (By that I mean, imagine a really smart dinosaur; even if he was really smart, without clever little fingers etc I doubt he could ever build a computer microchip! :-)

So you have to observe animals to understand humans, yourself, since it is like looking in a mirror. Do animals ever doubt their reality? No, they do not; they never doubt their reality. Ha, I can hear you saying, "You can't prove that!" Yes I can. Time for that time honored but forgotten and abused talent called logic and reasoning.

If a living being doubts their reality, this causes confusion in their state of being, obviously, since the person, for that moment, is not even sure if he or she "is real" or is "really part of this world." When one has that "burp," one usually stops what one is doing and mulls it over. The normal response is to realize that while creepy and unpleasant, it is just a burp and move on. The goofy and all too common response is to get whack job cultish, and get together with other paranoid people and worry "what if we are all really movies being shown on a projector," or "what if I'm imagining this," or "I must be remembering a 'past life' or a 'spirit being'" blah blah blah. It's like if you burped or hiccup you run out to find other people to see if they ever burp or hiccup, and when you find out they do, you go "Ah ha! Gosh! I knew it meant something." Then instead of researching how the lungs work and why burps happen you assume that little invisible aliens must be squeezing you with their cute webbed hands, "trying to get your attention." Ah, if only I was really joking, but sadly I am not.

So if animals had feelings of unreality, how would they cope with the sudden and harsh reality of life in nature, which, as we know, "is red in tooth and claw?" OK, now you are watching a nature show, such as one that shows African wildlife. You know that a scene of a lion stalking prey, such as a small wildebeest, is de rigour for such shows. How many times do you see the following?

Scene one: Lion sneaks up on potential prey, a grazing wildebeest.
Scene two: Lion makes a noise and gives away its presence, or it makes its move and leaps and runs toward the wildebeest. Either way the wildebeest is now aware of the lion.
Scene three: The wildebeest has a moment of "alienation" and "unreality," and wonders if it is real and/or if the lion is real (even though it is smelling, hearing and seeing lion with big teeth and claws in a dead run at it).

You don't have to "know" what an animal is "really" "thinking," because with animals all you need to do is observe what they do. Modern humans (not even traditional humans) are the only ones who think the obvious over and wonder about it. Why is this? Because it is what we call a "survival trait" not to think things over, but to quickly act to preserve life, while it is an anti-survival trait to think about whether or not the lion is real that is bearing down upon you and about to rip you apart. What human stands in the middle of a road and wonders if the bus that is about to run him or her over is "real," or if he or she is "really there." The answer is usually, "No one except the mentally ill or someone ingesting or abusing a substance." Mental illness, substance abuse, and some of the effects of a highly unreal media diet are the primary reasons for chronic, over analyzed and misunderstood feelings of "alienation" or "being unreal."

There is no species of animal that would last for the hundreds of thousands (and often tens of millions) of years that they have lasted as a species if any or all of them had "feelings of alienation and unreality." Any species that had such feelings would quickly die out if they were at all prevalent. First of all, animals have nothing to compare reality to in the first place, since animals have no conception of unreality. Animals do not understand that something is "made up" and thus "not real." Animals are entirely rooted in reality. But just so you understand, let's suppose that one wildebeest with too big a brain or who watched too much TV did have a feeling of "unreality" or "alienation." So he wonders if that lion that is leaping upon him is "real," or if he is "real." Yeppers, you guessed it. That wildebeest would become lunch for the lion and would never pass his overly clever but stupid genes onto future wildebeests. Any anti-survival trait is stomped on by the reality of nature, whether individually or as a species. Once an animal does anything that is not one hundred percent in response to reality, it is a goner and so are its potential offspring. So we can see from thousands of years of intelligent observation of animals by humans that animals are entirely reality based. Thus the cure, the detox, for people who have persistent self induced feelings of unreality are to reconnect with reality and get over yourself.

Why do I say "get over yourself?" Because almost always, unless the person is truly mentally ill, they have a grandiose feeling of having stumbled onto some great hidden "truth" when they have these "mysterious" "feelings." The answer, of course, is to let the moment of the brain burp or hiccup pass and simply reconnect with reality. People do try to self heal, and so the instinct to reconnect with reality is there, even in the nuttiest of people who deliberately cultivate their moments like this (again, I'm not speaking of the genuinely mentally ill who need to be understood in their confusion and treated with great kindness and appropriate medicine).

So the correct thing to do is to reconnect with normal reality. The incorrect thing to do is connect with an overstimulated and equal artificial "reality."

Stupid approach: "I have these feelings of unreality! I think I was a space angel! Or maybe I am not really here! Or maybe you are not really here! So I guess if I jump off a cliff I will find out!" *Splat*

Correct approach: Do something that you know is when you are least likely to have these feelings. If you cannot do it at the moment, then recall it in your mind or with a friend in conversation. Here's a perfect example. People rarely have inflated feelings of "alienation" or "unreality" when they are waiting in a long, slow line for something they either really want (a new release of a video game, etc) or are really dreading (motor vehicle bureau, inland revenue office, etc.). Notice you and your pals do not feel "unreal" when you are eagerly waiting for something that is a real treat, like that new video game or concert tickets. Equally you do not feel "unreal" when you are dreading with each step what the auditor is going to say to you about your taxes when it is your turn at the head of the line.

See, humans, up until the last one hundred years, like animals, could not escape mundane reality and thus never doubted it. When you have to go and hoe the crops by hand every day or your family will starve to death (really), you are so "connected with the earth" and "reality" that people simply never had those weird burps or hiccups. Again, one does not feel "unreal" unless someone has something to compare it to. Before there were movies, TV, radio, books, the printing press, etc, people did not have an "unreal" to think that they may be part of in the first place! People (and their brains) were always totally in reality since that is all that was offered to them. Again, going back to animals. A giraffe does not have a moment when he imagines he is "not really there" or is "maybe a carp instead" because he does not have the experience of what being something else, or of something being "real" or "imaginary" is like! I mean, duh! It's only when humans started to 1) isolate themselves from reality, since they no longer had to toil each day, unless one is still in those "less developed" "regions," in reality, to prevent the very reality of one's family starving to death and 2) started being exposed, through books (such as fiction, which are lies in print, LOL) and later electronic media to things that are totally imaginary and unreal.

By the way, most of you probably know without realizing it that one of the first things one does to someone he or she is torturing is to disrupt their connection with reality.

So to reconnect with reality one should really study animals as they are, and observe how they are entirely real and of the real world. Then remember that humans are still biologically like animals and hence are very connected to reality too (I doubt many people thought that they were imagining being swept away in the Asian tsunami). The third thing to do, then, is to accept the occasional brain "burps," but don't over analyze it as if you are something special (the tsunami swept away "smart" and "dumb" people alike). That "I am special" is a real problem to good mental health and logical living. So the fourth thing is to work on one's humility. The fifth thing to do is not to ingest substance that inflates one's ego or further disrupts one's connection with reality. As I pointed out in the addictions post, you don't see animals seeking medications; they are one hundred percent reality based. Not only don't animals seek mind altering medications, but they do not seek out physical medications, such as when they are wounded. Why is that? Because animals are entirely reality based and so they learn reality coping mechanisms. For example, if afflicted by flies or other insect pests, animals might roll in the mud, in the sand or immerse in water. They respond reality-to-reality (pest reality-barrier to pest reality). They don't wait around to get bitten and then seek out a pain medication. Animals are evolved to endure the reality and to have coping and survival mechanisms.

So humans have to be very careful in modern times to not become so disconnected from reality, and then worse, be a paranoid carrier of inflated beliefs about "alienation" and "unreality" so that others self reinforce, because society and life choices are increasingly disconnected, yet reality never goes away. Reality is reality because it is real, LOL. I mean, duh. So you can imagine and feel all unreal and alienated until you do get caught in a tsunami, or the bills aren't paid so your satellite TV is disconnected and you can't imagine that the series "Stargate" "might be real," because now your real family and your real rear end is about to be kicked out of your real house because your real mortgage did not get paid to the real banker with the real outstretched hand because your real boss really did fire you from your real job!

I hope this helped. Really.


Saturday, August 22, 2009

Understanding prayer to the saints/miracles

Here is a quick explanation of how to understand the reality of deceased Christian saints and their role in the occurrence of miracles in present times. Now, when I say saints, I do not mean the individuals who form the body of the faithful even though Christians have great comfort and assurance that those true to the faith are “all saints,” just as they belong to the commonality of priesthood. In this particular blog posting I am referring to those individuals who are declared saints because of their extraordinary sanctity (remember, this being living life in service to God and keeping one’s purpose holy as best as possible, whether of the laity or ministry) and who have demonstrated extraordinary gifts from God through grace, such as martyrdom or the performing of miracles when they were alive. For example one of the disciples of Jesus, Stephen, became the first martyr after Christ’s death and resurrection, as detailed in the Book of Acts, thus he is in the rolls, “canonized,” St. Stephen. In modern times, however, there has grown increased confusion among many (mostly due to poor faith formation and inter-denominational resentment and misunderstanding) about 1) why do “Catholics pray ‘to’ saints when one should only pray to God and 2) how can dead saints perform miracles. I will clear this up for you here.

First of all, all Christians who study the scripture recognize that only God performs miracles. God has freely, as is His right, chosen human instruments to perform miracles. It is the human hands and the human faith that put the miracle in motion, but God is the cause, the source and the fuel of the miracle. This was true when Moses performed miracles (and you can read in the scriptures how God gives Moses precise instructions what to do), when the prophets performed miracles and in its culmination, when the Son of God, Jesus Christ, performed miracles. By the way this is one of my reflective types of blogs where I’m not going to leaf through the Bible for references, since I know that you can find them yourself J

We know that Jesus Christ performed miracles at God’s behest because there is extensive dialogue where the preparation that Jesus made (such as praying and fasting) is documented in the Gospel and, further, how Jesus coaches the Apostles and the disciples when they are also called upon to perform miracles, such as the casting out of demons. So you can read those parts of the Gospel and recognize that Jesus was given fullness of miracle fulfillment by God, from God alone, so that Jesus’ authority was unquestionable. Jesus would, for example, move into a village or region and cure all of the sick who were brought to him. Yet you can read that there are times Jesus both cannot and will not perform miracles because there was so little faith by the people.

This does not mean that Jesus’ “magic” or “tricks” were not working, or that his ability to perform miracles was less than perfect. This means quite obviously that God would not reward those of no or little faith with the incredible gift of a miracle. Why in the world would God, through Jesus, perform miracles where people were openly of no or little faith. Ironically, as you recall from the scriptures, it was in Jesus’ own hometown where he could do the least in miracles because of their low faith and open disbelief. This is, by the way, as an aside, instructive for you to understand another example of how the Bible teaches what really happened even when it doesn’t detail specifics. What I mean is that by using faith and reasoning you can better understand the “mystery” of “how Jesus spent the first thirty years of his life.” Well, duh, obviously he was not performing miracles, or the belief of his hometown would be higher than elsewhere, rather than lower. So when the scriptures report that Jesus followed in his earthly father Joseph’s footsteps and was a carpenter, well that is what he was doing. The Bible does not need to say “Jesus was a carpenter and because it was not yet time for his public ministry he did not perform any miracles.” I mean, a little common sense, please!

Jesus started performing miracles during his public ministry because that is when God gave him the authority to speak and preach for Him and also to demonstrate as a gesture of faith that he is indeed who he claimed to be, and this was through miracles. Jesus explains that himself, praising those who believe after seeing a miracle, but praising even more those who believe without seeing a miracle.

Therefore Jesus accordingly was empowered by God to allow certain Apostles and disciples the ability to perform miracles. This was greatly increased after Jesus died and resurrected, just as he said would happen, because he sent from God the Holy Spirit to aid them at Pentecost. This is another way for you to see what the Bible does not have to explicitly detail for you that the ability to perform miracles comes from God through the Holy Spirit. Neither St. Peter nor St. Paul’s miracles were of their own doing, of course, but they “worked” because of their faith, their understanding of what to do as Jesus and/or the Holy Spirit have taught them, and also using the power of God through the Holy Spirit. Performing miracles is neither in the “DNA” nor is it “talent.” The reverential authors of each book or epistle in the Bible frequently acknowledge and glorify that what they do is through the Holy Spirit from God, not their own ability.

So you can read in both the Old Testament and the New Testament many examples of God giving the instructions and the authority and the grace to the prophets and the early Christians to perform miracles where it is necessary to be done in order to increase faith and win souls. God does not confer miracles as shortcuts through the difficult realities of life. How do we know that? We know that Jesus cured many who were crippled and lame. If God intended this to be a “shortcut” through a difficulty of life, God would simply have allowed Jesus to miraculously forbid all human bodies to ever have broken or twisted limbs again. If miracles were for anything other than increasing the people’s faith, when Jesus cured the woman of the hemorrhage he could have simply miraculously changed the chemistry and biology of how blood clots or does not for everyone all at once. It is abundantly clear throughout the Bible and most particularly through the many words and deeds, with explanations, of Jesus that the performing of miracles exists at all in order to periodically reinforce faith.

This is because human beings are such limited broken vessels that God, of course, knows that they need visible signs through the ages. Even the Apostles, who had every reason to have ironclad faith since they saw the progression of the thousands of miracles that Jesus performed, would be “wowed” by a particular one and have a further strengthening of faith. I am thinking of how awed they were when Jesus calmed the stormy seas, and walked on the water, even though they had already seen much of the power of God that he exhibited beforehand. No, God most certainly does not allow miracles just for some few, or the many, to have shortcuts through normal difficulties of life, such as illness. God uses miracles as the instrument of faith that he knows human beings always crave and always must have on a periodic basis in order to believe what they cannot see, which is God and His heavenly Kingdom at work.

Now that you understand more clearly how to interpret the very real miracles that are documented in the scriptures by Jesus, the prophets and the saints while they lived, now you can better understand how God allows participation by deceased saints in miracles to strengthen faith.

Again, one must use all: scripture, faith and reasoning in order to understand, as much as possible, God’s ways and his will in these matters. Examine the Book of Revelation, also known as the Apocalypse. God “delegates,” to use a modern term, roles to individual angels. Why is that? I mean, if God is all powerful, which does God have angels perform certain tasks for him? Why doesn’t God just chastise using his own hands the disbelievers on earth during the final days? No one can really say why God does what he does and that is not the point. One is supposed to, like good and observant children, observe what God does and says and learn more about him accordingly. We learn from the Book of Revelation that even in heaven God assigns tasks, for whatever reasons he has, to individual angels! All of the power and the determination of what is to be done is entirely God’s; the miracles and the chastisements are all God’s will, all God’s power, and all God’s implementation. For whatever reasons God has, however, even in heaven God uses individual angels to accomplish his will.

That is an important fact of knowledge one must glean from the scriptures. We can all understand why God sends angels in those extraordinary times that form the scriptures of our faith history to speak to humans directly, as when Gabriel came to speak to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Why, though, would God in heaven delegate activity to angels in heaven? Because that is how it is in heaven. God’s will animates and keeps alive all the eternal spirits who live in heaven, both angels and humans who achieve salvation in paradise. We all know that God created humans in the first place to know him, to love him and to serve him. Does this service stop in heaven, when those blessed by being in heaven are closer to him than ever? Of course not, since that does not even make sense, to think that when alive humans know, love and serve God but when in heaven they know and love him but no longer serve him! Because it is not necessary for faith to know the details of how and why, God does not include the details in the scripture. But we do observe in the Book of Revelation that 1) angels perform tasks for God in heaven and 2) St. John is able to see some humans in heaven, specifically the elders before the throne who cast their crowns down in front of God and worship him.

Having a crown means a person is kingly and glorified. To take one’s crown off and cast it at the feet of another means that one is in total service to the other. That is the message of why St. John was permitted to see that activity in front of the throne, so that he can transmit through what he saw increased faith that 1) humans are indeed in heaven and 2) they continue to serve God.

So, no, it is “not in the scripture” that “dead saints can perform miracles.” But what is in the scripture is that 1) living saints performed miracles at God’s authority and instruction, 2) angels serve God in heaven in heavenly and earthly tasks and 3) blessed human elders in heaven are observed casting their crowns in service in front of the throne of God. There is far more reason to believe that God permits the participation of saints in heaven in God’s tasks, including when he determines a miracle is appropriate on earth, than there is evidence to the contrary.

This is why through the centuries the Church believes the testimony, after great discernment regarding its reliability, of those who have received a great blessing such as a miraculous cure after prayer directed to a saint. The saint is not being worshipped. Prayer is a petition to ask for favor and proper prayer to a saint, such as St. Peter or St. Paul, centers upon asking for their strength of example in earthly matters and their loving intercession with God in heaven. One does not worship St. Peter or St. Paul; one asks St. Peter to be a role model, for example, or for St. Paul to intercede on one’s behalf with God. So let me repeatedly clear up that misunderstanding that praying to a saint is worshipping them.

In fact, people “prayed” to each other all the time in old English. “Do, pray tell,” would be an expression one person would say to another when what that person was doing was earnestly requesting someone to disclose something. “Pray” would mean, “Pretty please, I really want you to” do something. Pray thus became a synonym for asking God for something, even if it is just his attention as one prays to him.

Why, then, have centuries of people reliably testified that prayers to, very frequently, St. Joseph, St. Mary (the Blessed Virgin Mary) and St. Jude, one of the Apostles, delivered often miraculous “results?” God is obviously in control and is the one who hears and answers the prayerful petition. Obviously that even if one prayed to St. Joseph, our Lord’s earthly father, for example, God is the one who hears and grants or does not grant the prayer. If it displeased God that the saints be approached for their intercession, then believe you me many of your ancestors would not be around! God has a way of letting people know through the generations what displeases him. Instead we have a solid, documented two thousand year history of average people praying to individual saints and some, at times even many, of them have had their prayers answered by God. Obviously it was the “wrong” thing to do, God would not grant their prayers. The angels repeatedly tell humans in the scriptures not to worship them when they appear, but to worship only God. People who pray to the saints and ask for their help are not worshipping them: they are asking for their intercession with God. Again, you can never go wrong by following the example shown in the scripture. Do not worship anyone but God, but you can and should petition anyone holy to intercede with God, especially if you know that person is in eternal service to God.

Does anyone here reading this blog think that St. Paul, for example, is not in heaven? OK, that’s good. Now, if you were traveling with St. Paul when he was alive, would you have a problem if he were the one to pray to God on behalf of all of the travelers? For example, can you imagine being with St. Paul as he preached to the Gentiles, risking his life and the lives of those (like you) who travel with him, and everyone feels really good that St. Paul is the one praying to God on behalf of everyone present? Is that not, in fact, what happens when a pastor leads a congregation in prayer? Do you jump up and say, “No, I’ve got to pray to God directly myself all the time; you cannot be my ‘go between?’” Of course you would not think like that. Likewise, I invite you to imagine being one of the many thousands of Christians who personally accompanied men and women who would become saints when they were alive. How many of you do not think that everyone with them felt really good when they were the prayer intercessor to God on behalf of the group? I mean, duh.

So now St. Paul is dead these past several thousand years and most certainly in heaven. If he would, and did, gladly pray intercession for those of the faithful who traveled with him on earth, why do you think that he would stop doing so in heaven? Would he mind? Would God mind? This is the beautiful and glorious intersection of faith and logical reasoning capabilities.

Two human expressions come to mind: “No one is ever insulted by a good tip” and “Put in a good word with the boss for me.” If a saintly and holy person while alive would lead a group in prayer, using their service and obedience to God as a way to “put in a good word with the boss” on behalf of all together, why in the world would anyone think that they would be even more stingy, rather than more generous, in that in heaven than on earth? Who when evangelizing or doing missionary work in dangerous areas would be insulting God or St. Paul if they prayed to St. Paul for strength, guidance and intercession with God, he, Paul, who had set the example to be followed in his tireless and painful evangelizing? To not pray to St. Paul for help seems to me like refusing to use the person who “wrote the book,” so to speak, on what you are trying to do! You are not worshipping St. Paul nor bypassing God when you pray for his intercession, any more than you would be worshipping St. Paul or bypassing God if when a living companion of Paul’s in their travels sat nearby as Paul prayed to God and interceded on everyone present’s behalf! How much more so is St. Paul’s ongoing service to God in the strengthening of faith when St. Paul is for all eternity in God’s presence, perhaps casting his crown at His feet!

This is why generations of Christians, and remember, Protestant or not, we were “all Christians together” for one thousand five hundred years, prayed to St. Joseph for intercession in fatherly matters, to St. Mary (the Blessed Virgin Mary) in motherly matters, to various saints for help in health, in matters of virtue, in time of war and grave peril, and to help them in their faith and their carrying the Gospel into dangerous lands and times. Many generations of Christians who could not read or write and who lived primitive lives had a better understanding that they were 1) not worshipping saints and 2) were tapping into the good will of the intercession of the sanctified with God and not bypassing God than modern people seem to be today. Rather in glorifying in the richness of the sanctified who care only about serving God and increasing the faith among those alive, too many have a distrust and a total misunderstanding of their own faith forefathers!

So, then, what can we logically reason, based on our faith, is the reason that God does answer prayers that have been directed to his saints who are in heaven with him? First of all, if you truly are as strong in your faith as you say that you are, you totally understand that God never does anything mean or evil; God is goodness and all goodness comes from God. What kind of God would not answer a request that he is inclined to grant just because it “arrived through a saint.” I mean, what? One must examine one’s own lack of faith in God’s goodness if you feel that a specific same request he would grant if the person prayed “to God alone,” but would “turn down” “because it came through a saint!” Christians need to do much better at witnessing to the all mercifulness and goodness of God. God is not churlish nor is he a jealous bureaucrat. Rather, as Jesus taught, God loves and considers family those who hear him and believe. God simply would never “resent” or rebuff a prayer that “comes to him” (which he of course knows about even before you realized you were going to make that prayer) through one of his beloved family of the faithful.

As an aside, speaking of delegation in heaven, did you notice in Luke 16 that the poor man Lazarus who died and went to heaven is being held in Abraham’s bosom? Why not God’s alone? God’s is big enough, hmm, as he is infinite and thus can hold and comfort all humans who arrive in heaven. Jesus himself states that this man Lazarus is being held in Abraham’s bosom. Abraham, we know, as the forefather of Judaism, Christianity and Islam, who served dinner to God, who argued with God on behalf of the sinners in Sodom and Gomorrah, is much loved by God. Anyone of any faith and Biblical knowledge has to concede that. How does God reward such a man when he arrives in heaven? One could say that just being with God for all eternity is enough reward, and it is. But no human can understand the infinity of God’s love and generosity. Jesus by telling this story not only makes the point about the punishment in hell of the rich man who neglected Lazarus, but Jesus is also implicitly telling all who hear him and understand that God’s work of love continues in heaven, and he shares that joy and that work with those who gain heaven. Abraham in heaven is able to personally comfort an unknown man who was alive centuries after him, treated like the dregs of the earth, suffering and starving to death, when that man reached heaven.

That is one reason that Jesus was cautioning when the mother of the Apostles James and John wanted to delegate in advance that they sit at Jesus’ right and left hand in the Kingdom. We focus on the main points of that particular scripture when we realize that Jesus is staying 1) if they follow me they will be martyrs and 2) only God dispenses who sits at the right and left hand of whom in heaven. But you cannot miss, especially when you combine this with another passage I will mention next, that Jesus is saying that much more goes on in heaven under God and God’s alone direction than humans realize. Remember the disciples asked Jesus the theoretical question about a woman who is widowed and remarried many times, which husband she is married to in heaven? Jesus responds that people are not given in marriage in heaven. Like the question about the right and left hand of Jesus in the Kingdom, Jesus is, without elaborating, letting people understand that God has purposes and plans in heaven too. So Abraham may, or may not be, at any given point in heaven, hanging around with Sarah, his wife. Abraham is also serving God by comforting in blissful heaven a poor peon of a man who had been abused and died nameless and in shameful neglect on earth.

And now I tie the loop together for your understanding the scripture even more. The man in hell asks Abraham if he will allow Lazarus to send to him a drop of water to ease his torment. Do you notice that the man in hell is not saying that God will be mad at him if he asks for intercession through Lazarus or Abraham? I am being a little droll here, but only a little. The Bible says and demonstrates what it says and demonstrates, and Jesus Christ says and demonstrates what he means, what is the truth of what actually happens and “how it works.” The man in hell is now humbled, in eternal torment, and he well understands that the man he neglected, who is now in heaven, is precisely the person to ask for intercession as, obviously, is Abraham. Jesus is sharing a snapshot of “how it looks” and how it “works,” both in heaven and in hell, in this crucial passage in the Gospel. Jesus is not only making the main point that even a presumably pious Jew who is a believer, but who neglected his neighbor, will end up in hell, but Jesus is also giving a snapshot that God shares the bliss in heaven and that the saints/prophets are still active in their service to God, in ways that humans can’t really understand. Abraham is not sitting around with a harp. The forefather of all the monotheistic faiths is comforting in person a man who was the lowest of the low in how he was treated on earth.

If one really reads the passages that I have alluded to above, I’m not sure how anyone can think that the saints, the holy servants of God, are not alive and in his active service in heaven for all eternity. If you would not hesitate to have one of them when they were alive pray to God in leadership and intercession for their companions, including you, if you had been there, why would you doubt the merit and reality of their petitions to God as they are beside him in heaven?

I hope that you have found this helpful.