The Good Christmas Thief – repost

What follows is a 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 Good Christmas Thief”

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. As a result, his last act on earth was that of a thief; for he stole heaven.

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Kate

“However, so that we do not offend them, go to the sea and throw in a hook, and take the first fish that comes up; and when you open its mouth, you will find a shekel. Take that and give it to them for you and Me.” – Matthew 17:27

On July 1, 2015, 32-year-old Kathryn Steinle, while walking with her father and a friend along Pier 14 in the Embarcadero district of San Francisco, was shot by Jose Inez Garcia Zarate. He initially claimed that he fired at a sea-lion, then that he fired accidentally while picking up the gun which he claimed he had found moments before, wrapped in cloth beneath the bench on which he was sitting. The shot ricocheted off the concrete deck of the pier striking the victim in the back. Steinle died two hours later in the hospital as a result of her injuries.

The shooting elicited controversy and political debate over San Francisco’s status as a sanctuary city, as Zarate is a Mexican national unlawfully residing in the United States. He had been deported on five separate occasions on felony charges, returned to the United States and then harbored by the adopted state sanctuary law. – Wikipedia

In the chosen opening Bible passage, Christ, Himself, although God and law itself, obeyed the tax laws of the region. He tells Peter to take the coin and pay the tax for both of them so not to create a scandal. Not only in this instance, but, again, He would submit Himself to Roman law under Pilate at a much greater price. After Pilate, frustrated by Christ’s silence, told Him: “Don’t you know that I have the power to crucify you or free you;” Christ made it clear that Pilate would have no power over Him if it had not been given to Pilate from above.

Christ through word and action reveals to us that authority, whether of God or man, must be respected. And by his death on the cross we find that authority can be on occasion unjust and illegitimate, if, like Pilate, those who possess that authority do not acknowledge that they do so by God’s good grace.

As there were two sides to the coin retrieved from the fish, so too there are two types of laws. Those directly conveyed by God and those derived by man. Laws fashioned from man can never be perfect, for man himself is flawed. Only laws fashioned from God can avoid absurdity. The death of Christ had divine purpose. For through his death, eternal life and humanity’s relationship with God is restored. Kate’s assailant was found not guilty of murder or manslaughter. In this case Kate is left in absurdity, for her death will only serve purpose in right justice. Common sense alone tells us that this travesty of justice can only be resolved, not only in the refutation of the case outcome, but also in the renewed effectiveness of law itself, when the rights and protection of citizens are of the first order.

Often events as these that seem so distant from us are closer than we may think. To bring home this point let’s return to that pier on that sunny warm beautiful day. All is as it was, except, that it is you who hears Kate’s final words: “Dad, help me!” In place of Kate there lie’s your daughter struggling for breath as she clings to life. It is you, in anguish, who helplessly holds her in your arms. And for an instant you recall the day your daughter was born; the innocent and purest part of yourself, for whom this tragic moment was not the future promise that you had envisioned.

Action and inaction have consequences. The consequences of that day in July would have with great certainty ended with both father and daughter returning home with a fond memory of a beautiful day shared. Rather, the calm – which is all too often taken for granted – is in an instant changed to chaos, ushered in by a shot that rang out and a bullet that found a mark. The day ended not in the warm comfort of home, but in a cold hospital morgue.

This event was uncalled for. This absurdity need not have come to be. The Supremacy Clause of the Constitution establishes federal law as the highest form of law in the United States legal system.  It requires the state judges to defer to federal law even if state laws or constitutions conflict. “It is estimated, by Americans for Legal Immigration, that more than 3,000 U.S citizens lose their lives each year due to the insufficient enforcement of our existing border laws. Had the San Francisco authorities held Zarate in custody until federal warrants were obtained rather than turning him loose into the public, then there would have been no motivation for this post. For, Zarate would not have been on that pier that day in July. And Kate and her family would not have suffered such an unnecessary      grievous fate.

Governmental agencies, lacking a firm grip on objective truth, must enact an abundance of convoluted laws to avoid chaos and achieve some semblance of  commonality among its citizens. Christ, who is absolute truth itself, voiced but two simple cohesive yet challenging laws for mankind to follow: To love God and to love one another. When we fail to properly administer and obey laws, no one is safe nor saved. 

 

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Advent Perspective: Reblog

Why Advent?

Advent is a season observed in many Western Christian churches. It is the beginning of the liturgical year in the Catholic Church, as well. It is a time of both anticipation and preparation for the celebration of the Birth of Jesus at Christmas.

But, why? Why the need for the Incarnation? Why did God find it necessary to come to man as a man; while maintaining His divine nature?

I believe the Venerable Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen explains it best in the following.

We Are Fallen

“God certainly did not create us this way. We are fallen. All the facts support this view. There is a voice inside our moral conscience that tells us that our immoral and unmoral acts are abnormal. They ought not be there. There’s something wrong in us, something dislocated. God did not make us one way. Or rather, he did make us one way. And we have made ourselves, by virtue of our freedom, in other ways. He wrote the drama and we changed the plot. We are not just animals that have failed to evolve into humans. We are humans who have rebelled against the divine. If we are riddles to ourselves, we are not to put the blame on God or on evolution. But we are to put the blame on ourselves. We are not just a mass of corruption, but we bear within ourselves the image of God. We are very much like a man who has fallen into a well. We ought not be there, and yet we cannot get out. We are sick; we need healing; we need deliverance; we need liberation, and we know very well that we cannot give this liberation and this freedom to ourselves. We are like fish on top of the Empire State Building. Somehow or other we are outside of our environment. We cannot swim back into the stream. Someone has to put us back.” *

We cannot in and of ourselves fix ourselves, as Archbishop Sheen says. And what needs repair is beyond the means which the world can provide. For it is through worldliness that we have become broken. If our watch is not operating properly, then it is not fulfilling its purpose. In order for it to be made right, the malfunctioning watch must be taken to a watchmaker. For as the maker of watches he can best diagnose and restore the damaged watch to its proper operation. So too, God, as our maker, knows best what is needed to free us of our brokeness and restore us to the rightful purpose for which we were intended. And the consequence of fulfilling that purpose is that one day the obedient will return home to Him.

We could not bring our illness to God as we can take our broken watch to the watchmaker. So God made a house call. He could only heal us by coming to us. And in a wonderfully strange contradiction, by an exchange of the exalted for the humbled, God, the creator of all things, chose to enter His own creation as an innocent child. For it is in the restoration of innocence that our cure is found. God, being God, could have come to man in any manner He chose. Yet, by entering the world through the portal of the womb, as anyone of us has, He impresses the importance and sanctity of life.

The king of kings would not be welcomed by prominent men and women with pageantry, replete with fine trappings befitting royalty. Instead, among those who would receive and pay Him homage were domestic beasts, and men and women of meager means. He was not born of a woman favored among the worldly elite, nor surrounded by comparable wealth. Rather, He would be loved and nurtured by a common and sinless woman of His own chosing; not to be cradled in a regal estate, but the humblest of accommodations; a stable beneath the Earth.

“Bethlehem is emphatically a place where extremes meet. All the eyes of wonder and worship which had been turned outwards to the largest thing were now turned inward to the smallest…paradox of the divine being in the cradle.” – G. K. Chesterton (“The Everlasting Man”)

 

 

* Taken from: “Through the Year with Fulton Sheen.” Compiled and edited by Henry Dieterich

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How Have We Lost Our Touch?

“I will tell you how I failed once. I’ve failed many times, but this instance was notable. I was visiting lepers in Biluba, Africa. I had with me 500 silver crucifixes about two inches high. I intended to give each leper a silver crucifix. The first one who came to me had his left arm eaten away by the disease. He held up the stump; there was a rosary around it. He put out his right hand. It was the most foul, fetid, noisome mass of corruption that I ever saw. I held the crucifix above it and dropped it. And it was swallowed up in that volcano of leprosy. All of a sudden there was 501 lepers in that camp and I was the 501st. For I had taken that symbol of God’s identification with man and refused to identify myself with someone who was a thousand times better on the inside than I. Then it came over me the awful thing that I had done. I dug my fingers into his hand and pulled out the crucifix and then pressed it to his hand and so on for all the other 500 lepers. From that time on I learned to love them by touch, by the incarnational principle.” – Venerable Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen

In the light of current events, all should be quite troubled. Scandalous accusations and admittance of improper touching, sexual behavior and harassment has exposed the extent of corruption and abuse of power not only among the custodians from the religious sphere, but, as well, from the entertainment industry, media, and government institutions. Once honored vocations, each has lost their trustworthiness and may have been irreversibly tainted. What, in the name of God, has happened? Is this behavior a tenet of western civilization?By immersing ourselves and reveling in technological innovation, coupled with a relativistic and secular philosophy, we have become oblivious to a mounting moral degradation of human character and integrity. Thus is born the decayed fruit of the sexual revolution, whose adverse effects have regretfully inculcated a culture of cynicism in all aspects of American life.

A case in point. When I taught, there were occasions when a student would be in need of praise or comfort. A congratulatory pat on the back or a reassuring arm around a shoulder would either applaud a struggling student’s success or provide support to another during a difficult moment. But, due to the present disconcerting circumstances of today a sad distance has become essential; and now only a commendable or understanding word is left to suffice. It is said that a picture is worth ten thousand words. Yet an honest loving touch is worth one million. Nothing is more heartening or allaying than a human touch motivated by pure selfless love. An elderly woman suffering from life-long hemorrhaging two thousand years ago was healed by the simple touch of a garment. Christ, the Word Incarnate, whose divine touch healed the suffering body and soul of many asked but two things from us: 1) To love God and 2) To love our neighbor. In obedience to either one we accomplish the other. What is lacking in our culture is an objective understanding and application of sacrificial unconditional love.

We are all conduits. We can be a conduit for either God or Satan. We can be the distributors of God’s loving touch in service to others, or Satan’s cruel grasp in service to self. And by it we cultivate either a culture of life or one of death. It is plain to see which we have been cultivating for the last six decades. Although we have a myriad of choices, which place us on a multitude of paths, all inevitably converge toward but two destinations; one of light or one of darkness. One destination draws the virtuous, and the other draws those who embrace vice.

Archbishop Sheen came to his senses, in the above humbling experience, when he noticed the rosary wrapped about the leper’s corrupt stump. That rosary revealed that this poor soul’s last hope was not in any mortal entity but rather in a divine Christ, who alone and without cause, saw the greatness within this solitary soul who endured devastating suffering with the grace which could only have flowed forth from the cross. Archbishop Sheen’s epiphany begs a question for the rest of us: What will it take for we, too, as creatures of God, to come to our good senses and again regain our touch?

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Thanksgiving

My sincerest and warm wishes to all my blogging friends and followers for a blessed and Happy Thanksgiving.
-Alan

CROSSROADS-Right Choices

On the Wednesday before Thanksgiving break, mom picked me up from school. We were going to stop by the supermarket, prior to returning home, for a few more Thanksgiving dinner food items. I was anxious to get home and enjoy every minute of the four-day vacation.

Dinner that night would be uneventful, as mom would be spending the better part of the evening prepping for Thanksgiving dinner. That preparation would include: homemade tomato sauce and meatballs, homemade pasta, sausage stuffing for the turkey,  pumpkin pie and, a favorite of mine, icebox cake(ingredients being-chocolate pudding, hand whipped cream, vanilla tea biscuits and chocolate wafer cookies).

When I awoke Thanksgiving morning, dad was still sleeping, having worked the night shift as a pressman. He would soon enjoy the wonderful aroma that I was, as I entered the kitchen. Mom had been up since 6AM stuffing the turkey, which was at this time in the oven. The cold and partially sunlit day, a prelude to the stark winter which lay ahead…

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A Moment of Silence

My first experience with Political Correctness (PC) was as a middle school student in the early 1960’s. One morning in home room when we rose from our seats for prayer and the Pledge of Allegiance, we were instead asked to stand for a moment of silence. The change in procedure at first seemed strange. However, the customary call to obedience that is due our infallible prayer and pledge impelled us to respond here in like manner. We automatically, unknowingly, and respectfully granted that same obedience to the authority of a fallible state. I would not understand the ramifications that this alteration would have not only on the societal fabric of our country, but also the identity mutation that would slowly encroach on our right as a free thinking nation to exercise one’s good conscience. The slow deterioration of tolerance for difference of opinion would curtail discussion, erode our democracy and give rise to the realities of tyranny. One never appreciates the value of a thing until it is lost.

The PC culture has had profound degenerative effects on our country and encouraged division among its people. How can we as a people maintain unity through assimilation when the powers-that-be use diversity to establish lines of division that undoubtedly will cause frustration and disharmony, which in time will morph into hatred? But, that is the plan to take down democracy.

The slow and deliberate implementation of Political Correctness in America has had the same effect on democracy as that of a frog who finds himself in a pot of water on a stove. If you but increase the heat by one degree each day, the unsuspecting frog will boil to death before he becomes aware of the danger. Democracy in America and that frog now share a similar pot. And it is not the altruistic melting-pot which was once this nation’s aim that had made America unique.

Why is prayer such a threat to PC proponents? Because prayer contradicts political correctness; in that, God, who is the object of that prayer, is the antithesis of the State. As charity opposes selfishness and love contradicts hatred. Man cannot tolerate God in this circumstance; for if the goal is to win the confidence of the populace in order to control the populace, man, in the form of government, then must establish himself god. Prayer everywhere must be restricted, because if God is everywhere then the required vacuum for man to replace God cannot be created.

The following is the simple prayer which came under fire and went to the Supreme Court for the landmark decision:

“Almighty God, we acknowledge our (dependence on Thee) and beg Thy blessing over us, our parents, our teachers, and our nation.”

A professor at Boston University, John Miltimore, touched on origins of the term ‘politically correct.’ His following article, in double brackets, is revealing.

[[“The notion of political correctness came into use among Communists in the 1930s as a semi-humorous reminder that the Party’s interest is to be treated as a reality that ranks above reality itself,” writes Codevilla, Professor Emeritus of International Relations at Boston University.

The semi-humorous reminder went something like this:

Comrade, your statement is factually incorrect.”
“Yes, it is. But it is politically correct.”

The anecdote was a vital reminder in Stalin’s empire: Stray from the party’s official position and it could mean death. Whether or not something was true mattered less than whether or not it advanced the Idea (i.e. the Party’s interest). Similarly, Saul Alinsky, the Chicago community organizer, used the phrase: “Use any means to achieve your goal.”

How does this apply to America today? Codevilla says progressives, like the Marxists before them, have a simple reason for existence: fix a broken society.

“The formula is straightforward: the world is not as it should be because society’s basic, ‘structural’ feature is ordered badly….For Marx and his followers that feature is conflict over the means of production in present-day society…. For Freudians it’s sexual maladjustment, for followers of Rousseau it’s social constraint, for positivists it is the insufficient application of scientific method, for others it is oppression of one race by another. Once control of society passes exclusively into the hands of the proper set of progressives, each sect’s contradictions must disappear as the basic structural problem is straightened out.”

The methods of the Communists and progressives differ, but the goal is one and the same: achieve “cultural hegemony(control),” a political phrase popularized by Antonio Gramsci (1891–1937), an Italian Marxist and politician who became prominent in progressive circles decades after his death.

Progressives learned that achieving hegemony by criminal punishment is difficult. Intellectuals seeking to remake America—“born tainted by Western Civilization’s original sins: racism, sexism, greed, genocide”, etc.—found a more effective way.

Political correctness, perpetuated by a small class of people ensconced at universities, bureaucracies, and major media, is the ideal tool for achieving cultural hegemony. It is “forceful seduction” in lieu of rape. It achieves “tacit collaboration by millions who bite their lip.”

As a political philosophy, political correctness might seem lifeless and aimless. But Codevilla noted the goal of Lenin and Stalin was not a state built on Marxist principles; it was always party control. The two philosophies are similarly empty.

“Like its European kin, all that American progressivism offers is obedience to the ruling class, enforced by political correctness….Nor is there any endpoint to what is politically correct, any more than there ever was to Communism. Here and now, as everywhere and always, it comes down to glorifying the party and humbling the rest.”

“Political Correctness is a movement 1) fundamentally political in nature; and 2) built on resentment.” – Dr. Jordan Peterson

Peterson said this is no accident. It comes right out of the Saul Alinsky playbook.

“The social justice people are always on the side of compassion and ‘victim’s rights,’ so objecting to anything they do makes you instantly a perpetrator. There’s no place you can stand without being vilified, and that’s why it keeps creeping forward….There’s no compassion at all. There is resentment, fundamentally.”]]

 

The elimination of the fear of God, symbolized by the Supreme courts actions in the matter of school prayer, led to a dramatic increase in crime, venereal disease, premarital sex, illiteracy, suicide, drug use, public corruption, and other social ills. This is documented by Specialty Research Associates, under the direction of David Barton, that has released a report entitled America: To Pray or Not to Pray. Below are just a few of the examples featured in Barton’s (1991) report.


A. Young People

1. For 15 years before 1963 pregnancies in girls ages 15 through 19 years had been no more than 15 per thousand  After 1963 pregnancies increased 187% in the next 15 years.

2. For younger girls, ages 10 to 14 years, pregnancies since 1963 are up 553%.

3. Before 1963 sexually transmitted diseases among students were 400 per 100,000. Since 1963, they were up 226% in the next 12 years.


B. The Family

1. Before 1963 divorce rates had been declining for 15 years. After 1963 divorces increased 300% each year for the next 15 years.

2. Since 1963 unmarried people living together is up 353%

3. Since 1963 single parent families are up 140%.

4. Since 1963 single parent families with children are up 160%.


C. Education

1. The educational standard of measure has been the SAT scores. SAT scores had been steady for many years before 1963. From 1963 they rapidly declined for 18 consecutive years, even though the same test has been used since 1941.

2. In 1974-75 the rate of decline of the SAT scores decreased, even though they continued to decline. That was when there was an explosion of private religious schools. There were only 1000 Christian schools in 1965. Between 1974 to 1984 they increased to 32,000.

a. That could have an impact if the private schools had higher SAT scores. In checking with the SAT Board it was found that indeed the SAT scores for private schools were nearly 100 points higher than public schools.

b. In fact the scores were at the point where the public schools had been before their decline started in 1963 when prayer and Bible reading/ instruction was removed from the schools.

c. The scores in the public schools were still declining.

3. Of the nation’s top academic scholars, three times as many come from private religious schools, which operate on one-third the funds as do the public schools.

I will interject a thought here: What should be of great concern to parents as regards most schools and Universities today is this: “Rather than teaching students how to think, they are being taught what to think.”


D. The Nation

1. Since 1963 violent crime has increased 544%.

2. Illegal drugs have become an enormous & uncontrollable problem.

3. The nation has been deprived of an estimated 30 million citizens through legal abortions just since 1973. ( to date, the number of abortions in the United States is estimated at 60 million.)

The above statistics impels the question: What would be the state of our country if prayer had remained in our school system? When we turn from a God based democratic system of government to a propagated politically correct  progressive (socialist)  system of governing, we then abandon an ordered society based on objective truth to one that adheres to subjectivism, where everyone does their own thing with little if any regard for their neighbor. Further, democracy is reduced to near dictatorship by flippantly disregarding a just and guiding constitution thereby subverting the rule of law through the establishment of the double standard which is a direct consequence of the PC plan.

If this is what and where we are without prayer, then it is reasonable and logical to conclude that those statistics above would not then apply if prayer and the human characteristics and behavior which are encouraged by prayer were still the norm. A law of physics-and there are many such laws that cannot be manipulated by relativism-states that: two objects cannot occupy the same space at the same time. If a space is vacated, then something else will replace it; as air in an empty glass  is forced out when the glass is filled with water. Are we that far removed from God that we are incapable of returning? The answer is, no; so long as man has the will to conform his will to that of God’s. God never willed our present conflict to be so. However, man did so by exalting pride over humility. Returning to the example of the glass: air can again replace water simply by emptying the glass. So too can a once just society created for the purpose of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness again flourish when man empties himself of pride and allows humility to rightly reign in his heart. I am not so naïve to believe that the lid once removed from Pandora’s box can easily again be replaced. Yet, I do recall one particular quote from scripture : “What is impossible for man, is not impossible for God.” In that all hope is not lost.

The school and class room where I first heard the words, “a moment of silence”, still stand today. That “moment of silence,” as we well now know, has been silenced completely. The advocates, foot-soldiers and custodians of the PC culture have done their work well, and, for the moment, have the upper hand. Be that as it may; for history has always shown that the proof is in the pudding. And political correctness has at best proved itself to be wrong; at worst proved itself to be a lie.

If man fails to purge himself of pride and restore his humility, then the sad circumstance of our present age will persevere.

 

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Just A Thought (just for a laugh)

With the end of Daylight-Savings Time soon upon us I offer the following brief discourse for those who often may wonder, as do I; “Am I doing this correctly?”

Charles P. Stone, a former New York advertising executive, who passed away in 1993, coined the Daylight-saving time slogan, “Spring Forward, Fall back.”

With all due respect to the late Mr. Stone, I believe there can be some confusion in properly setting one’s time pieces when using this slogan.

One does not always fall back. My personal Polio experience required locked braces for mobility. Therefore, I found that falling forward was as easy as falling backward. But, one thing always remained true; whether forward or back, I always fell down. Gravity continually draws objects in that direction. And in Spring one thinks of spring flowers that spring up. I have never seen a flower spring forward. Also, should a skunk cross your path it wouldn’t be prudent to spring forward. Your first reaction would be to spring back.

One cannot help but see the erroneous nature of the late Mr. Stone’s slogan. So to provide a sure-fire reliable aid to correctly setting clocks for daylight-savings time I offer, in keeping with my case made above, this alternate slogan: “Spring up, Fall down. Whatever time of day or night in the spring, set your time-pieces up one hour-up; that, i.e., then being up from 5PM to 6PM. Conversely, in the fall, set your time pieces down one hour-down; that, i.e., then being down from 5PM to 4PM. Angst from uncertainty is then avoided and accuracy is calmly achieved.

This is just one common sense way to remove one concern from the many concerns which burden our country. Now, that having been said, some U.S. states and territories continue not to follow the daylight-savings practice. Those are parts of Arizona, and includes: Hawaii, American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands. Thereby, confirming that even in time-keeping we as a nation manage to remain divided. Ah, relativism, does truly screw up the works.

Well, I know this topic  seems to be of no great consequence, yet it still is important to those of us who see the importance in being on time.

Again, Just a thought: Happy Daylight-savings time!

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