LENT, WEEK 2 – Judgement; Measure for Measure

Jesus said, “Don’t judge and you will not be judged: do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven; give and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap; for the measure you give will be the measure you get back.” – Luke 6:37-38

JUDGING OTHERS”

Judging our fellow human beings is as perplexing as the perceiving of colors on a spinning top. When it is at rest, or on a fixed state,…we think we can well judge his character.  But when we see him in the whirl of motion of everyday life…all his goodness and badness blur into indistinctiveness. There is so much goodness at one moment, badness at another, sin in one instance, virtue in another, sobriety at one point, excess in another, that it is well to leave the judgment to God…. 

The way we judge others is very often the judgment which we  pronounce upon ourselves…Every dramatist, scriptwriter, novelist, and essayist who attacks the moral law has lived against it in his own life. These men may not know it, but in their writings they are penning their own autobiography…. – Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen, GUIDE TO CONTENTMENT

At times the good that we do is to offset some bad that we have done. We may give our attention to amend our inattentiveness elsewhere. We offer charity in recompense for being uncharitable. We express contempt toward atrocities when in our hearts we know that our own thoughts and behavior have been other than honorable; all in an attempt to balance the scales of justice. In and of themselves, these good works are commendable; yet would be of more value if their provider did so not to ease a guilty conscience, but rather to fulfill a merciful heart. 

And if we are true to ourselves we come to realize, because of our own weaknesses and failures, that we are in no position to judge others. Our efforts would best be spent in straightening our ways and living right in the movement  toward spiritual perfection. And, in so doing, we discover that we no longer have the desire to measure others; because we now understand that the concerns of judgment belong only to He who is flawless, and bears neither speck nor beam in eye as we.  

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Lent and The Paradox Of The Cross

LENT

The season of Lent begins on Ash Wednesday; with the participants being marked with ashes and the words “Repent and believe in the Good News” are prayed. The expectation is to imitate the example of Jesus’ prayer and fasting in the desert by our prayers, fasting and charitable works. Lent is a time for all followers of Jesus to examine their consciences and reflect on changes each can make in their lives and resolve to incorporate them, not just during the Lenten season, but as a permanent improvement as they strive to grow spiritually and perfect their souls in Him. “In this sense, Lent is a movement from one point of view to another, or, perhaps, from one interpretation of life to a different interpretation.” – Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen

Lent is a forty day preparation for Easter Sunday; beginning with Ash Wednesday and ending at the Triduum (the three-day period which includes Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday). As discussed above, this forty day observation is in commemoration of Jesus’ isolation from all, when He allowed Himself to be tempted by the devil. And through Satan’s failure to win Him over to sin, ensures that Satan can never defeat God. For the  great deceiver can never deceive the One who is incapable of deceiving or being deceived.

THE PARADOX OF THE CROSS

Jesus carried the cross an estimated distance of 650 yards. Which is a little less than a quarter of a mile. The same distance many may walk leisurely in the morning with a cup of coffee in hand or in mowing one’s lawn on a warm summer day. But for one who had just been scourged within an inch of His life, undergone intensive interrogation, suffered abuse and had little if any sleep or nourishment, that distance must have seemed like that which one would run in a marathon.

[Pheidippides, a Geek messenger, legend sates, was sent from the battlefield of Marathon to Athens to announce that the Persians had been defeated in the Battle of Marathon(in which he had just fought), in 490 BC. It is said that he ran the entire distance without stopping and burst into the assembly, exclaiming “Victory,” before collapsing and dying.} 

It as been debated whether Jesus would have been able to carry His cross that distance considering the state of His condition. Historians tell that those condemned to crucifixion would carry the cross-bar and not the stem of the cross. Still the weight of the cross-bar was between 80 to 110 pounds. It has been shown that even a healthy man of Jesus’ presumed stature would not be able to carry the cross-bar the distance from the beating, on a path, known as the Via Dolorosa or the “way of suffering” (which was a narrow street of stone, probably surrounded by markets and crowded at the time), to the crucifixion site at Golgotha.

Along the way a centurion, anxious to get on with the crucifixion, forces a North African onlooker, Simon of Cyrene, to carry the cross; after the third fall of Jesus. Jesus follows along still bleeding and sweating a cold clammy sweat of shock, until the journey from the fortress Antonia to Golgotha ends.

To answer the debate of how Jesus could have carried the cross under His dire condition one must look beyond the physical. Jesus is referred to as the “Son of Man” and the “Son Of God.” He was both human and divine in nature. The cross he carried was made of wood, but, in truth, was composed of the sum total of humanity’s sufferings from the trials of body, mind and spirit. All of which were derived from original sin. Jesus was not sent by God to overthrow Roman Rule, but rather “to turn the world upside down in order to turn it right-side up”(G.K. Chesterton), through the conversion of human hearts from sin in order to reconcile God with His people.

To accomplish this reconciliation there must be a sacrifice. For a soul can only be cleansed of sin by the shedding of blood. And for all mankind to be forgiven, God would have to offer Himself in sacrifice. A life not to be taken, but given. It was only the unimaginable perfect love of God that could make the burden of man’s sin, which was the substance of the cross, manageable enough to be carried by Jesus. By divine love alone can the unbearable be borne ; and men and women set free from the burden of sin.

Simon was at first forced to carry Jesus’ cross. And when the journey was done, Simon may very likely had to again be forced; but this time to leave His side. For when the cross that lay upon the shoulder of God lay upon his, the role of his own sin became apparent in this act of deicide. And he too felt the cross made manageable, for his burden, along with that of humanity, had already been borne by this savior, and was now lifted from all  through divine pardon. Simon was the first of many who are called to take up their cross and follow Christ.

So the cross itself is a contradiction-a paradox. It has both a vertical stem and horizontal cross-bar. Vertical represents life, while horizontal represents death. And hanging in the intersection is Jesus the Christ. Who through His death and resurrection has triumphed over death and removed its sting. And in so doing fulfills the promise made to us all; that by following Him we too will do the same.

And with His last breath the Son Of Man bowed His head in death. Three days hence, in the rising of the Son Of God was heard “THE WORD” proclaimed, as was once uttered by the dying Pheidippides; “VICTORY!”

 

 

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St. Valentine’s Day

Valentine (Valentinius: Latin) was a Roman Priest at the time of emperor Claudius, a persecutor of the church. Claudius had an edict to prohibit marriage of young people; based on the theory that unmarried soldiers fought better than married soldiers because married soldiers might be afraid of what may come of their families should they be killed in battle.

Valentine lived in a permissive society where polygamy was quite the norm. Yet many seemed to be attracted to Christian faith. Polygamy presented an obvious problem to the church which thought marriage very sacred between one man and one woman for life, and it was to be encouraged. The idea of marriage in the Christian church was what Valentine was about. So he secretly married many because of the edict.

Asterius, one of Valentine’s judges in the violation of Roman law, had a blind daughter. Valentine was supposed to have prayed for her. The young girl healed with such astounding results that Asterius himself became a Christian.

In 269 AD, Valentine was sentenced to a three-part execution of beating, stoning and finally decapitation, all because of his stand for Christian marriage. His last words, we are told, were in a note to Asterius’ daughter. He inspired today’s romantic missives by signing it, “from your Valentine.” Valentine has come to be known as the patron saint of lovers. – (compiled by  Father O’Gara of Whitefriars Street Church, Dublin, Ireland)

Although his name remains on the list of officially recognized saints, there is enough confusion surrounding the true identity of St. Valentine that the Catholic Church discontinued liturgical veneration of him in 1969. Each year the day on which St. Valentine is commemorated is February 14th.

 

When I say I love pizza, the New York Giants or another person; Do I mean that love in the same sense? Common sense tells me no. Because only one of those three previously mentioned is deserving of love.  However, in the english language there is but one word for love used for a variety of circumstances. There are, in reality, three types of love that pertain to person-to-person relationships.

Eros, is known as “erotic love.” It occurs in the early stage of a man-woman “romantic” relationship. Often it is depicted, in a novel way; when a smitten couple is impaled by an arrow delivered from the bow of a scantily clad cherub named “Cupid.” Eros is based strongly on emotions; Eros is physical.

Plilos love, is the love based on friendship between two people. Philos is a higher type of love than eros. It is a mutual love in a give and take relationship.  Philos is mental. Each of these first two loves must develop to a higher degree.

Agape love, is that highest degree of love. It is unconditional. It is the love of God for man, and the love of man for God. It is selfless love that holds concern solely for the good of the beloved. Agape is spiritual.

 

“I am the light of the world: he that followeth me, walketh not in darkness, but shall have the light of life.”-John 8:12

“Christ is our light; if we are walking away from the sun (for the sun is our symbol of Christ), the shadows are before us. This is one of the reasons we have Catholics afflicted with every manner of psychosis and neurosis, afraid of these lengthening shadows, of the phantoms and fears and dreads. As we walk away from Christ, the further we go, the longer the shadows that appear before us-the resentment, the aggressiveness, just as soon as we are checked and told that we are walking from the light. If however, we walk toward the sun, and intensify our love of Christ, then all the shadows are behind us-all the remorse and regrets. As the sun comes more and more into our life, all these things pass away. Fears are gone, remorse is swallowed up in the intense love of Christ.” – (Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen)

As we can see, light and love are companions. Where there is light, there is love and where there is love, there is light; and both are good because they are of God’s essence.

Why is our love more complete and purer when we are closer to Christ?  Because as the intensity of the light increases, so too does the love that overcomes the shadows of our indiscretions.  Intimacy with Christ impels that all our relationships be pure, just and honorable. Through this intimacy the other love types we experience are then complete in their goodness because of a divinely influenced application of those loves. When we become completely lost in Him, we are found completely in love. In the love that emanates from Him, one finds the strength to do no wrong. True love knows no ego, no pride, no envy, no unkindness, no impatience-no self. Only when love radiates from a selfless and pure heart can it then be nearing perfection. Love’s goodness is found in the light, not in darkness.

This movement toward Agape love is not a biological process of adjustment urged on by outside stimuli in keeping with an evolutionary theory. Rather it is a maturing process, spurred on by a conscious intellectual and spiritual effort, where movement toward the end that is sought ceases at the fullness of perfection.

All movement requires a mover. God is the mover and conserver of the universe and all it contains, including humanity. And when all comes full circle, we, through that movement toward perfection, guided by His will, shall return to Him; where perfection begins and ends. We will then have achieved Agape love – love without imperfection; accompanied by truth without flaws and life without end.

Love cannot be hoarded. It cannot be kept to oneself. For love is valueless unless it is offered to another. Valentine understood this principle and was willing to violate Roman law and put his life at risk to ensure that love would not be diminished, nor marriage marginalized; and for it he was martyred.

“A bell is not a bell ’til you ring it-A song’s not a song ’til you sing it-Love in your heart wasn’t put there to stay-Love isn’t love “til you give it away!”- (Oscar Hammerstein II)

 

 

 

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Obedience

“For as by the disobedience of one man, many were made sinners: so also by the obedience of one, many shall be made just.” (Romans 5:19)

Contained in traditional marriage vows is the phrase: “To love, honor and obey.” Most are comfortable with the words love and honor; although there are many who know not their true meaning. But the word obey sends disconcerting shivers up most spines. To submit or conform in action, can be used to define the term obey. For many in the modern world, who live by the lyrics of the songs, “I’ve Got To Be Me” and “My Way,” every effort is made to avoid the utterance and practice of obedience. In the age of the self, obedience is regarded as an affront to the independent man and woman. The deterrent to obedience is that it requires self-denial; a loss of self. There exist, however, objective guiding principles that compel obedience; which, in turn, fosters the goodness in life.

Those who abhor the notion of obedience fail to realize that it is an integral part of their lives. For we are inescapably dependent upon much. We exercise obedience in our work, our relationships and even in the games we play.

The game of golf can neither be played nor enjoyed if one is disobedient to the mechanics of the swing and rules of the game. Suppose that I chose not to obey the proper use of the golf club by inverting it. By gripping the head of the club and then attempting to hit the ball with the grip one finds that the execution of the shot would be far from what would be considered successful. My disobedience here would make for a bad outcome. Further, in disobeying the rule that states “to play the ball where it lies,” I decide to place my ball in a more advantageous position. This disregard for the rule would be unfair to my opponent, be contrary to the right playing of the game, and compromise integrity. The integrity for which the game of golf is so highly respected. Through my disobedience, by perverting the rule and use of the club, I have made a travesty of the game. And in so doing, have undermined the inherent goodness that is found in the sound fundamentals and rules of golf.

The complete definition of obey is as follows: is to submit or conform in action to some guiding principle, impulse, or one’s conscience. We must admit that there is occasion for us to practice obedience; especially in regard to those things we deem important. Even in bad habits; do we not obey the impulse to do that which brings us temporary relief from unresolved troubles? We may obey the call of alcoholic beverages or the lure of popular opinion, as example, if it satisfies our need. Sadly, too often, we do not consider the long-term harm that this misguided obedience can inflict upon us. Do we regularly disobey any such summoning? In general, the answer appears to be no, because it requires denying the self. Even though, in the end, it would be for the good of self to disobey on such occasions. Disobedience to subjective truth and obedience to objective truth then demands much, for it is an act of the will; requiring sacrifice and commitment.

Obedience can lead to a good or bad end. In choosing to cross a heavily trafficked thoroughfare, on foot, when the crossing signal allows one to do so, would make one fairly certain of arriving safely at the other side. The price to pay for disobedience in this instance may be quite unwelcome. However, in properly obeying the “walk/don’t walk” signal, one will likely be around to disobey another day.

We are all subject to obedience; and we do obey. Whether in right reasoned obedience influenced by common sense, or in imprudent obedience to the harmful things that can enslave. Whichever path you choose in life you will be influenced by events, situations, people or ideals. Each will impel obedience. It would be wise to follow Jiminy Cricket’s timeless advice: “Always let your conscience be your guide.”

When faced with a moment of truth, that to which one gives obedience, will either set one on a course toward unimaginable joy or unfathomable misery.

 

 

 

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Law and Order

“In summing up all events, that, according to everything taught by exact science-there is evidence of an intelligent order of the universe.” – Max Planck

Four cars arrive at an intersection, each from a different direction. There is no traffic light, yet a stop sign is at each corner. The rule in this situation is that the driver to the right has the right-of-way to perform their desired maneuver first. The purpose of this protocol is to avoid a potential accident. The accident being a collision between two or more vehicles should the drivers be left to their own volition. In adhering to the rule, the effects of disobedience will not be suffered.

The rule or law, as in this case, is applied to some known right function of an existing order. The order being considered here is of a physical nature; two objects cannot occupy the same space at the same time. Anyone who has bumped into another person, or has been bumped into by another, understands this principle first hand. This physical certainty has order, and is orderly by virtue of its certainty. If such was a random instance, there would be no need for a law to ensure that it be respected. Therefore, order gives reason to law.

There are several basic forces in nature, each of which possesses a delicate balance within them. These balances have been measured, and verified, to a specific set value in each force called the Planck constant; named after the German Physicist, Max Planck, who originated quantum theory. If any of these constants were to vary in the least, our universe would cease to be as we know it. In some instances, it would not be at all. This reality of constants proves that the universe we live in is orderly. And since we inhabit this universe, we are then subject to that order. We will briefly investigate two of these forces of nature; gravity and electromagnetic force.

 Gravity, although associated with that which affects the attraction of celestial bodies, is a weak force. Its Planck constant is 0.0000000000667 in metric units. If Gravity’s value were to double in strength, the reading on your bathroom scale would show a reading twice what it is now. Also, an object that you may be carrying would be twice its normal weight. Using a vaster example; if gravity’s strength was again doubled, small stars could not form. Furthermore, if its strength was less than its set constant, big stars could not form either, making it impossible to radiate enough to support life on a planet.

The electromagnetic Planck constant is 0.000000000000000000000000000000000662, which allowed a few atoms in the early Universe to merge together and form a little blob that we call your eye. If this constant were to vary slightly, the force that holds atoms together would be too weak to do so. Therefore, all matter, including us, would not have formed. That chair you are sitting on and that computer before you would not exist because the atoms needed to form them would not have come together.

These constants within the existing forces had to have been in place from the start for the Universe to develop as it has. A solely, by chance, evolutionary premise which advocates that the biology of things will adjust as the need presents itself, has no firm footing in an ordered universe. The Planck constants that ensure our very existence could not have come about in a solely evolutionary way. Furthermore, without these constants, there would not be a universe. A universe that is necessary for the evolutionary argument to even be made.

Because of a perfectly planned arrangement, the universe is. The more our intellect perfects, the more we understand this complex, yet delicately designed plan and order. And, again, it is by virtue of order – which we have discovered through observation – that law is needed to maintain and safeguard it; for our good and the good of everything.

We can then gather from the preceding discussion, that law presupposes order. For if there is no order; why a law for order? Herein lies the contradiction; because we do have laws. Laws that govern the large, the minute and all hierarchies of life. So there is order. And despite our tendency toward relativism, that order is preserved by law.

As there is order to the universe, so too, there is order in how we relate to each other.

Animals adhere to natural laws by instinct. They don’t possess the disadvantages of self –  reflection, rational thought or free will as we.  At our level of existence, the potential to act against order, which we alone possess, will have consequences. And those consequences which do not befall us, may very well befall our neighbor.

Man can be disorderly and unlawful because he can rationalize and reflect; allowing him to act contrarily. In following the law of order he can be just, righteous, merciful and content. In diverging, he can be open to deceitful, conniving and manipulative behavior; leading to discontent.  In an orderly environment, we serve ourselves by serving others. Otherwise, we serve ourselves at the expense of others.

If one neglects to obey the law that pertains to a particular order, then a price must be paid. And we now know, whether on a terrestrial or extraterrestrial level, that price is chaos.

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The Good Christmas Thief

What follows is a recent personal experience that evolved into a letter to the editor published in our regional newspaper. I thought I would share it, as it befits the Christmas season.

“The Thief Who Understood Value”

I was disappointed to find that the life-size Nativity was not on display in the Danielson town green this year. A town parks and recreation representative informed me that the display organizers had arranged to have it moved to a church near the park. Reason being, that the baby Jesus which had been taken from the display, but returned in recent years, was not returned last year.

The thief must have been a good thief. Because only a good thief would know the greatest value of something. That is why he or she chose to take the central figure of the display; which so happens to be the central figure of Christmas. The baby Jesus always draws the most attention. Especially the attention of those who need him most.

Two thousand years ago, another thief was not in a park but on a hill. In his darkest moment, he too was drawn to Jesus. And as a good thief himself, saw great value in the man who hung from the cross next to his. His last act on earth was that of a thief; for he stole heaven.

by,

Alan A. Malizia

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Christmas Eve

the-nativity-story-08

“And the angel said to them:Fear not; for, behold, I bring you tidings of great joy, that shall be to all the people: For this day, is born to you a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord, in the city of David. – Luke 2: 10-11

“The One Awaited”

How strange this night; like no other.                                                                                        With silence and stillness beyond compare.                                                                                  So dense the air of forlornness.                                                                                                    Trials of days gone by and trials yet to come,                                                                            pale in contrast to those that lie within.                                                                                         So heavy the burden of life.

All attention is now given to an unoccupied crib, humble in nature;                                     its purpose yet to unfold.                                                                                                            And within its emptiness, so go our hearts.                                                            A weary faithful world awaits.

In an instant of time long measured,                                                                                               the veil of obscurity is lifted;                                                                                                   revealing the eagerly anticipated visage.                                                                                          For now, in the crib resides all beauty, all purity, all innocence;                                empowered by divine love.

The radiance of this infant presence instills light                                                                         in the darkest of human hearts.                                                                                                      And in so doing removes the sting from suffering, despair and death.                                  Order is restored, trust renewed and truth has its place.

So, then, to whom may joyous voices freely sing their praise;                                                   and homage be paid?                                                                                                                       Who is this advocate of salvation, peace and good will?                                                               It is He, God’s gift of love; in whom all hope is well placed.

“Now thou dost dismiss thy servant, O Lord, according to thy word in peace; Because my eyes have seen thy salvation, Which thou hast prepared before the face of all peoples: A light to the revelations of  the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel. – The words of Simeon in Luke 2: 29-32

 

A Blessed and very Merry Christmas to all.

 

 

 

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