Why Advent?

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Through Him, With Him and In Him.

 “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. – John 15:5

The western world has very much affirmed the ego of man. That is the great difference between the East and the West. In the eastern world, where there is an overemphasis on the sovereignty of God, God does everything, man does nothing. That is the reason why there’s been very little technical progress in the East. In the western world, man does everything, God does nothing. The balance between the two is, “I can do all things in Him who strengthens me.” – Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen

At the 2012 Democratic pre-convention delegate meetings a news release revealed that the mention of God was no longer a plank in the party’s platform. When the news broke there was quite the stir. So much so that a special vote of the delegates had to be taken in order to re-instate God’s name to the platform. It took three attempts to vote Yay, before it could questionably be determined that the majority was in favor of reinstating reference to God. It could rightly be argued that the nays out weighed the yay vote.

The reason I bring up the 2012 Democratic Convention controversy is because God has always held a special place in the founding of our country. Not all of the founding fathers were deemed religious in practice nor in personal belief. Many were men of the Enlightenment. However, they must have believed that if this fledgling democracy was to ever have a chance to survive, it had to be based upon a foundation of an irrefutable objective truth that could only be found in God. And not built upon the rationalized subjective truth of men. Men are fallible, God is not. Those who see the value in this, accept the Constitution as a static document. As an immovable doctrine. Those who do not believe the Constitution is a living document. And therefore open to re-interpretation and manipulation. Times do change, yet when whimsical interpretations of the Constitution take hold, which are not motivated by common sense application but rather political, then not only is diminished the spirit of the document, but its very stability is threatened. When rational but unreasonable men believe that they are the foundation of democracy, then the order of divine objective truth soon will be replaced by chaos and division. All we need for proof of this is to simply look about us.

When God is rightly granted a place in the civilizations of men and women, then, prosperity, harmony, peace and longevity abide. But if mankind is left to itself, then what remains is an unbridled ego that will set humanity firmly on the road to perdition.

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The Narrow Gate

 
  “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. “For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it. – Matthew 7:13

narrow-gate

There was once a one panel comic in, I believe, a Reader’s Digest that I found quite funny, yet revealing. At the gate of heaven there was a log jam of souls all trying to enter while arguing about which of their religions was the true one. Off to the side of the panel there is a solitary soul, not at all interested in the argument, who separated himself from the fray. Along the wall of the Kingdom of God, away from the commotion, was a narrow passage and an open gate. Through which he entered in unimpeded.

Was this soul a follower of the true religion? That fact cannot be determined. But what one can determine is that he was different from all those caught in the scrum at the front gate. What obviously kept the crowd from entering was pride. What the solitary soul possessed was humility. He thought himself no better than the others at the main gate.

There is one thing that is true of those entering heaven of which all must agree. Any soul that does not reflect the image and likeness of God, the molder of humanity, will not enter through the narrow gate. And in that we all will then be of the one true religion. The particular religion through which God intended to relate to and love His creatures.

All who find themselves in heaven will all be one with and in God. Those not perfected as such, must be so before entering. The essence of God is like the purity of water. If sugar is dissolved in water, the appearance is the same yet the flavor is not. If a die is mixed in, the color stains its clarity. If oil is added, the texture produces a film to the touch. All these will not preserve the likeness of water. Yet, if water is added to water, who can then distinguish that which was added and that which was already present. Until we are a complete follower of Christ we are not a complete member of His church. And in that imperfection, are not yet fit to enter the promise that is heaven.

Our humble soul in the comic had found his way to heaven by way of the cross. For the cross evokes humility not pride. The cross lacks pleasure, power, wealth and honor. That which so many of this world seek to possess. But a problem arises when we no longer possess them but, rather, are possessed by them. One must empty oneself before being completely filled with God. We must make His will ours and immerse our hearts in His. We must be free of those four things that Christ did not take part, especially, when on the cross. And only then will one know true happiness. We come into the world with nothing and will take nothing from it when we leave. Except for the imprints on our souls of the virtues or vices that we have given ourselves to.

If the imprints upon our souls include remnants of past sins not fully amended, yet have not completely barred us from God’s grace, then, by His mercy, our hearts will be purged and made pure. Thereby satisfying the prerequisite for admission to Heaven.

In “The Last Crusade,” one of the sequels in the Indiana Jones adventure series, there is a scene appropriate to this discussion. Indiana is hanging from a ledge, trying to grasp the Holy Grail, the cup that Jesus used to consecrate wine into His sacred blood at the Last Supper. Indiana’s father has him by the hand. As he is losing his grip, Indiana’s father frantically implores him to give him his other hand or he is going to fall into the abyss. Indiana insists that he almost has the cup and ignores his father’s pleas. Just as he is about to slip away, at the last moment, his father says in a tone of calm authoritative love, which penetrates the din; “Indiana…let it go.” Indiana turns his head and looks into his father’s eyes and obeys as any trusting son would to a father who has proven himself worthy of that trust. He let’s the cup go and gives his other hand to his father who then lifts him from certain death.

Those who strive to assume the image and likeness of Christ are designated by Him to be His brothers and sisters. And in that kinship we are also sons and daughters of God. God our father, too, beckons us to let go. And, as did the father of Indiana, stretches out His hand to each of us, offering His love, guidance and protection until the day He calls us Home.

The narrow gate to heaven is proportional to the size of our egos. When our egos diminish, the gate widens and with it our hope of entry. We gain the promise of Heaven when we lose ourselves completely to Christ.

 

 

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The False Metaphor: Separation of Church and State. Threat to Religious and Individual Freedom.

The enemies of the faith community seek leverage for their secular efforts behind this metaphor: “Separation of Church and State.”

Longtime Clinton confidante discussed infiltrating the Catholic Church with progressive ideology to foment revolution.

A newly leaked email shows Hillary Clinton’s current campaign chairman John Podesta and a Left-wing activist casually discussing fomenting “revolution” in the Catholic Church.

“There needs to be a Catholic Spring, in which Catholics themselves demand the end of a middle ages dictatorship and the beginning of a little democracy and respect for gender equality in the Catholic Church,” Sandy Newman, president and founder of the progressive nonprofit Voices for Progress, writes to Podesta in an email titled “opening for a Catholic Spring? just musing.”

The emails were leaked in the third round of releases of Podesta’s emails by WikiLeaks.

Newman, who is Jewish, admits he does not know much about the Catholic Church and isn’t volunteering personally to subvert Catholic teachings. “Even if the idea isn’t crazy, I don’t qualify to be involved and I have not thought at all about how one would ‘plant the seeds of the revolution,’ or who would plant them.”

In response, Podesta assures Newman to rest easy for he and his progressive pals have already created organizations explicitly designed to infiltrate the Catholic Church with progressive ideology, though he cautions that the time may not be right for full revolution — just yet…

Mrs. Clinton in a recent campaign video said: “..deep-seated cultural codes, religious beliefs and structural biases have to be changed…” The subject: “Abortion.” This quote validates that she is in line with the above released email revelations.

Whatever your belief system preference or if you prefer nothing at all, this revelation should be quite sobering to all Americans. The attack on the Catholic Church is an attack on all religions and a direct attack on Constitutional first amendment rights of every American. Freedom of individual consciences is now clearly threatened. Mrs. Clinton should make clear her intentions. If these members of her campaign, mentioned in this report, are not removed from their positions, and she not make a condemnation of such efforts against the Catholic Church and all Americans, then she admits her compliance in this injustice.

John Adams, our 2nd president, noted in 1798, “We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Avarice, ambition, revenge or gallantry, would break the strongest cords of our Constitution as a whale goes through a net. Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”

Supreme Court Justice William Rehnquist wrote in a 1985 opinion: “The wall of separation between church and state is a metaphor based on bad history. It should be frankly and explicitly abandoned.” 

Founding Fathers like Washington and Adams believed that Judeo-Christian principles provided an essential framework for preserving our liberties. We can see throughout our society’s present day culture how prophetic their beliefs truly were. And no where in the Constitution or the Bill of Rights is separation of church and state mentioned.

 

 

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Charity

helping_hands
For he did not remember to show kindness, but pursued the poor and needy and the brokenhearted to their death. -Psalm 109:16
Whoever pursues righteousness and kindness will find life and honor. – Proverbs 21:21
Kyle, a freshman in high school, was quite the book worm. Often he was teased and ridiculed by other students. One afternoon, with his arms loaded with books and clothing, a few of the more relentless students knocked his books to the ground as they mocked him. As he struggled to gather up his books another freshman, Matt, a star member of the football team, stooped down to help him. Matt asked Kyle where he lived. When Kyle told him, Matt said: “I’ll walk with you. I live just around the corner from your house.” So off they went. Matt asked Kyle if he’d like to stop by his house and play some video games. Kyle accepted. Soon after that they became fast friends.
As the high school years quickly passed, Kyle blossomed into a fine student and young man. Gathering friends among his classmates. At high school graduation Kyle was named Valedictorian of his class and addressed all there present. To the shock of all in attendance Kyle confessed his intent to commit suicide as a freshman. He then gave recognition to his good friend Matt. Kyle said, “the day that Matt helped me carry my books home from school was the very day that I had planned to kill myself.” “That is why I was so loaded down with books. I had cleaned out my locker so that my parents would not have to suffer through that task.” Kyle looked toward Matt, who was sitting among his classmates and said: “Matt, because of your kindness toward me that day, and continued friendship, you convinced me that I was not worthless. You saved my life.”

 

There is an innate Kindness/Charity that flowed forth from Matt and of which we are all capable, when not hindered by prideful self-interest which prohibits one from walking in another’s shoes. In us is instilled Love of God and neighbor. And with that understanding, it is our duty to do right by others. This is not a challenge for those who put others interests before their own.

Matt’s example opened the eyes of many of his classmates. Not to that which they perceived was lacking in Kyle, but to that which was, in reality, lacking in themselves; “Charity.”

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Divine Invasion

large_ben-hur_blu-ray_6x “There are two loves, the love of God and the love of the world. If the love of the world takes possession of you, there is no way for the love of God to enter into you. Let the love of the world take the second place, and let the love of God dwell in you. Let the better love take over.” – St. Augustine

Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ is a novel by Lew Wallace published on November 12, 1880, and considered “the most influential Christian book of the nineteenth century”. It was brought to the movie screen in 1929, most notably in 1959, and again in the, soon to be released, 2016 modern remake. I recommend the 1959 version. It is most known for its history making filming of the great chariot race, and was released at a time when the subject of such films were revered by the public and not reviled.

The story centers around two brothers; Judah Ben-Hur and his adopted brother, Messala. Judah was born to a prominent family, whose father was a successful merchant. Messala, orphaned and of Roman birth, was adopted by Judah’s father. The two grew to be fast friends and brothers and were always at each other’s side. As time passed and each grew into manhood; Judah took his place as the head of the family business and a prominent leader of the Jewish community. Messala went off to Rome and quickly moved up the ranks in the Roman Empire.

After many years of separation Messala returns as a tribune under the rule in the region of Pontus Pilate. His happy reunion with his brother and boyhood friend and family is short- lived. The tension between Roman rule and the Jewish community under that rule would unavoidably taint their relationship. The innocence of youth had been jaded by the realities of a world wrought with tyranny and oppression under that Roman rule.

During a parade for the new governor of Judea, Valerius Gratus, loose tiles fall from the roof of Judah’s house. Gratus is thrown from his spooked horse and nearly killed. Although Messala knows this was an accident, he condemns Judah to the galleys and imprisons Judah’s mother and sister, Miriam and Tirzah. By punishing a known friend and prominent citizen, he hopes to intimidate the Jewish populace. Judah swears to take revenge.

After three years as a galley slave, Judah is assigned to the flagship of the Roman Consul Quintus Arrius who has been charged with destroying a fleet of Macedonean Pirates. Arrius admires Judah’s determination and self-discipline and offers to train him as a gladiator or charioteer. Judah declines the offer, declaring that God will aid him in his quest for vengeance. When the Roman fleet encounters the Macedonians, Arrius orders all the rowers except Judah to be chained to their oars. Arrius’ galley is rammed and sunk, but Judah unchains the other rowers, and rescues Arrius. In despair, Arrius wrongly believes the battle ended in defeat and attempts to atone in the Roman way by “falling on his sword”, but Judah stops him. They are rescued, and Arrius is credited with the Roman fleet’s victory. Arrius successfully petitions Emperor Tiberius to free Judah, and adopts him as his son. Another year passes. Wealthy again, Judah learns Roman ways and becomes a champion charioteer, but still longs for his family and homeland.

Judah returns to Judea. Along the way, he meets Balthasar and an Arab, Sheik Ildrerim. The sheik has heard of Judah’s prowess as a charioteer, and asks him to drive his quadriga in a race before the new Judean governor Pontius Pilate. Judah declines, even after he learns that Messala will also compete. Judah meets with Messala, as the son of Quintus. Messala is shocked to see Judah standing before him. Judah demands the release of his mother and sister before leaving. When found in the depths of the prison, both were infected with leprosy and banished to a leper colony. The women beg Esther – who was in love with Judah before his arrest – to conceal their condition from Judah so that he may remember them as they were before, so she tells him that they died. It is then that he changes his mind and decides to seek vengeance on Messala by competing against him in the chariot race.Wikipedia

By these events the love that these brothers once shared in youth now has been transformed to a deep seeded hatred. The irreparable conflict was in place; Judah’s unwavering faith in God and responsibility to his people, and Messala’s immovable commitment to Rome. From this point on the twists and turns that life often will take, once, again, has brought the two together. However the reunion brings both tragedy and triumph in the chariot race. In the arena, where there are no rules, scores can be settled without retribution. Judah, here, would not leave vengeance to God. During the chariot race, Messala drives a Greek chariot with blades on the hubs to tear apart competing vehicles; he attempts to destroy Judah’s chariot but destroys his own instead. Messala is fatally injured, while Judah wins the race. Before dying, Messala tells Judah that “the race is not over” and that he can find his family “in the Valley of the Lepers, if you can recognize them.”

The story then does not end in the arena. Judah, having just won a great victory feels only loss. His friend that he loved died leaving both with resentment in their hearts. And now, Judah’s search for his mother and sister, once thought dead, has not come to a joyful end. There will not be rejoicing in their finding, because, although alive, leprosy, brought about by Roman injustice, has ravaged them.

Jesus’ role in this story seems limited to the viewer, yet His presence and role in the history of man will turn out to be life-changing for Judah, his loved ones, and for all tortured souls awaiting God’s promise of salvation.

Although the subtitle of the book is “A Story Of The Christ,” Jesus appears in but three scenes. Yet each is critical to the complete unfolding of the story and the direction of the lives of Judah and Messala.

The first appearance of Jesus:                                                                                        When Judah is being transferred to the galleys from prison, many of those among him sharing the same fate die from thirst and heat of the torturous travel along the way. At a small village called Nazareth, the roman guards stop to rest, water themselves, animals and lastly their prisoners before moving on. Judah, however, is denied his share. A man from the village breaks from his carpentry work, and upon seeing the neglected Judah, brings him water. The roman guard, with whip in hand, confronts the carpenter, commanding that he not be given water. When the guard locks eyes with the carpenter he stops in his tracks and diverts his eyes as though he was looking into the sun. The stern countenance of his face turned to meekness as he shied away. His own commands were turned in on himself. The carpenter was Christ. And all who possess hardened, dark and cruel hearts cannot look upon the face of the Light of the World without revulsion. Judah, drinks his full, is comforted and rejuvenated by the kindness received from Christ. As he moves on to his fate he continues to look back at the good stranger whose charity has restored his hope.

The second appearance of Jesus:                                                                                        In this scene, Ester, encourages Judah to come with her to hear the man called Jesus speak. He refuses because the bitterness that he still holds in his heart is a barrier to accepting any overtures of peace. Ester attends what is now known as the sermon on the mount, and is so moved that she tells Judah that what she heard; “truly were words from God.”

The third appearance of Jesus:                                                                                       Judah in bringing his mother and sister to Christ to hopefully find peace, instead, finds Christ carrying His cross on His way to crucifixion. Judah follows along with the crowd and when seeing Christ fall, out of compassion, brings Him water. When Christ looks up at Judah, Judah then realizes this is the man who brought life saving water to Him while on his way to the Roman galleys. The face of the kind man who once looked upon Judah’s pain and suffering with mercy, is now looked upon by Judah and administered to in like-kind. Judah when pushed aside by the Roman execution detail follows Jesus to the cross and witnesses the crucifixion. He is astonished to hear Christ speak these words as His life is near its end: “Father forgive them for they know not what they are doing.” And at that moment the hatred, that he has harbored in his heart for so long toward Rome for corrupting Messala and poisoning their relationship, left him. He would tell His family that he felt Christ’s words take the sword from his hand. And unbeknownst to Judah, the leprosy leaves his mother and sister as Christ commends His Spirit into the Hands of God.

Christ enters hearts in a variety of ways. But, the most dire circumstances requires the extreme; the likes of a St. Paul on the road to Damascus. For Judah the love that he no longer believed he would ever know again came flooding into his heart when the forgiveness granted to all mankind from the cross washed upon him. The mercy measured out from the cross, not measured to Christ Himself, forced out the hate that Judah harbored in his heart for so long. The mercy and love that follows all forgiveness had Divinely Invaded Judah Ben-Hur. The man who descended from that hill on Calvary that afternoon was not the same man who ascended it earlier. For that is the effect of Christ’s presence;  He turned the world  upside down, to turn it right-side up; and accomplishes the same by turning our hearts inside out.

 

 

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With Hat In Hand

“Whoever exalts himself will be humbled; but whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” – Matthew 23:12

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. – Matthew 5:8

The expression, Hat in hand, is used to indicate an attitude of humility. The only way one can approach Christ is through humility. That is why He was born in a cave. His birthplace compelled the shepherds and the wise men, the ignorant and the learned, to stoop – bend at waist and knee – before entering the cave; thereby coming before the new-born king in the position of the humbled.

My dad passed away in January of 1969. His last Christmas was spent in the hospital battling lung cancer. In choosing a gift for him I sought to get him something special. Not a gift for someone who was facing an end, but rather someone with an eye on a new beginning. My intent was that after he won his battle over cancer this unique gift would be a symbol of a fresh start on a bright new future. That special gift was a fashionable hat. One fit for wall street, not main street. Yet main street was where a common man like my dad was most comfortable. When he opened the gift in the hospital he expressed his enthusiasm as much as the pain from cancer would allow. But, the discomfort he felt could not keep the smile from his face that encouraged and buoyed my spirits and hope. Yet as so often was the case back then, cancer would have its way and take my father from us soon after the New Year. His new hat was placed beside him when he was laid to rest.

When one approaches the age that impels thoughts of mortality, one wonders what lies beyond the veil of this life. Some think nothing. But, the reasonable man at least has doubt. Men of faith know that no explanation is necessary, and for those who lack faith no explanation is sufficient – St. Thomas Aquinas. With that being said, I know my father had faith. He was not a regular church goer, but exhibited an understanding between right and wrong. And acted accordingly. He maintained a reverential relationship with God. A relationship that must have tightened significantly when I was stricken with polio at age four. When we lose loved ones we may wonder what they experienced when accountability comes due. What follows is an imaginative face-to-face between my dad – as I knew him to be – and Jesus, at dad’s final judgment.

Dad stands before Jesus with his head down and new hat in hand; a natural stance when the imperfect is before the perfect. The final evaluation that will determine his eternal life now begins.

Jesus: “What do you have there Anthony?”                                                                              Dad, without looking up: “It is a hat that my son gave to me as a Christmas gift.”                                                                                                                                                 Jesus: “It is a handsome hat at that.” “Is it a style of hat that you often wore?”           Dad: “No Lord. As a matter of fact I seldom wore hats. So it was a surprise to me that he gave it to me.”                                                                                                                              Jesus: “Your son gave you that hat because you are special to him. That hat represents his love. Your son loved you for the sacrifices in life that you made on his behalf.  It is in that sacrifice that I see myself in you. That love born of sacrifice has won you my mercy.”                                                                                                                                                            Jesus continues: “I see upon you the blemishes of sins that have not yet been amended while on earth.  Justice must be satisfied, Anthony, before my mercy can be given. With that understood, I must now send you away for a while to a place to have those blemishes removed so that you will then be worthy to be in My Father’s presence. The prayers of your son and of others who love you will accelerate that purification process. So, go now and be cleansed until I call you home.”                         

As dad turns from Jesus to go and fulfill His command, Jesus asks a favor of him.

Dad stops and turns to address Jesus’ request; “Anything Lord. What will you have me do?”                                                                                                                                                      Jesus: “When I call you home, I want you to wear your hat.”                                                   Dad: “My hat, Lord?”                                                                                                                     Jesus: “Yes Anthony, wear your hat. For as my crown of thorns, through an act of sacrificial love, became My Crown Of Glory, so will your hat likewise be transformed.”                                                                                                                                     Dad, with a smile and a depth of gratitude that no mortal could fathom, replied: “As you wish, Lord.”

My dad, as we all, lived in a world that can make or break a soul. We will all have our moment before Christ at the threshold of Heaven. Admittance is granted, delayed or denied. Elated are those whose hearts are in line with the heart of God. How closely we have followed God’s will over our own in the course of our lives will determine the measure of Christ’s mercy. A heart, although in the state of grace, may still have the stains of past sins left not amended. The prayers and good works of loved one’s yet to be called to their own judgment can hasten entrance to heaven for those souls who Christ has determined deserving.

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