23 October 2016

You Can't Go Home Again

In 1940 there was a book published called "You Can't Go Home Again" by Thomas Wolfe. He took the title from a conversation with the writer Ella Winter, who remarked to Wolfe: "Don't you know you can't go home again?" I think that many people have confirmed this for themselves, perhaps at a high school reunion or even a Thanksgiving gathering of the whole clan. The devil is always lurking in the shadows of suspicion, envy, fear, and doubt. Suspicion and doubt are part of human nature and often serve us by keeping us free of harm. That is why unscrupulous demagogues use it to prey on our fears and bend us to their will. Our Lord Jesus Christ experienced this suspicion and doubt when he went home to begin His ministry, and the demagogue was Satan himself.

The idea of religion and divinity is repugnant to many people because they want to be their own god, just like Satan. Their inflated ego and lack of humility cannot accept the thought that there is a natural law of right and wrong that one must abide by in order for society to function properly. They also do not believe in a divine law which one must follow in order to achieve enlightenment and eternal life in the hereafter. For them truth, humility, tolerance, and brotherly love are stumbling blocks. When Our Lord tried to preach this message to his own people “He was astonished at their unbelief” (Mark 6:6).

After the miracles at Cana, and at His baptism in the River Jordan where the voice from Heaven proclaimed His divinity, Jesus Christ returned to his home town of Nazareth. He arrived as the sun was setting on a Friday evening when the Jewish Sabbath began at the local synagogue, the same synagogue that Jesus had attended since he was a boy. The following morning Jesus went into the synagogue and very likely the news had already been made known to the local people and had brought the people to a high pitch of excitement and expectancy..."And Jesus came back to Galilee with the power of the Spirit upon Him" (Luke 4:14). Jesus then took His turn to read the scriptures out loud, "And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, and to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (Luke 4:17-19).

Jesus chose that scripture from Isaiah because it announced Him and it also declared the Jubilee. The laws of Moses provided that every fiftieth year was to be one of special forgiveness and restoration. For example, all debts were canceled and all bonded servants were given their freedom. It was a safeguard against monopolies and imbalances in the community that affected social tranquility. After Jesus read the passage from Isaiah he added, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing” (Luke 4:21). He realized that the people were expecting a political leader who would throw off the yoke of Roman occupation but that was not His purpose. His purpose was to redeem mankind from their sinful nature and prepare them for eternal life.

After Jesus spoke to his home town brethren they rejected him saying, "Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary?" (Mark 6:3) They found it hard to believe that the promised Messiah was only a carpenter. They didn't realize that He is of the same Being Who created the Heavens and the Earth. He told them, "A prophet is honored everywhere except in his own hometown and among his relatives and his own family" (Mark 6:4). The Jewish people at that time could not conceive of the humiliation of God in the form of a man as even today many people cannot. The truth is that they are right, that a "mere man" could not be God but God could be man while still remaining God. The very nature of God is that with Him all things are possible. Christ as the Messiah is the Son of God Who shares the nature of the Father, but as the Son of Man, the Father is greater than He. Christ had been in Being with the Father from eternity, well before His human nature was formed and He had come forth from the Father to assume a human nature, and when clad in it He was at the same time divine.

The hometown crowd became so upset with Jesus that they attempted to throw him off a cliff. A short distance from the Nazareth synagogue there was a cliff that dropped down to the Plains of Esdraelon about eighty feet below. Tradition has it that there they tried to do away with him but he passed through their midst and escaped. The time for the death and resurrection of Jesus had not yet come and he had much more to do. How about you? Does He abide in you or have you rejected Him too? It is not too late to change your mind. He is knocking at the door to your heart right now. Open it and let Him in. Don't worry about going to church to seek Him, and don't put it off for tomorrow either.  I am reminded of an old quotation of a man named George Cecil that went "On the plains of hesitation lay the bones of countless millions who, when nearing victory, sat down to rest and while resting died." Please don't lie down until you have that chat with Jesus. You never know about tomorrow. It's better to be safe now than sorry later.

21 October 2016

Honorable Mention

Cursed be the work that gets honorable mention,
While necessity awaits to spring forth invention.
What we seek is a fare, a one way ticket somewhere,
But hesitation keeps us marking time where we are.
It's not right and it isn't fair, for all the scratching of my hair,
I can't seem to figure out what the devil goes where,
So what else can one do but wander around searching,
Like a man looking one way and walking another,
Who doesn't sleep deep but wakes up very slowly.
Well why to I mention this? I don't really know.
Ask my computer. It governs me, I govern it not. 
We risk our future to feed desires of social fantasy
And we give our souls short shrift and bad press.
Most decisions can be traced to vanity, food, or sex.
Our food habits go from one stoke hole to the next,
And food passes quite rapidly from the table to latrine.
We live rapidly and we die hard, sad, and often alone.
Then six others carry our carcass, to the grave.
We need to acquaint our body and soul ahead of time,
And make the proper arrangements for separation,
That when the role is called up yonder we'll be there.


16 October 2016

On Paying Taxes

This is a little story about paying your taxes. In the end you may think that it is only a fish story but I believe that it is true.

Jesus Christ had been traveling with His disciples and they came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, which was located in the area of what we now call the Golan Heights, the area captured from Syria and occupied by Israel during the Six-Day War in 1967. Jesus asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” They said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”  He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.”

A few days later, Jesus took with him Peter, James and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light. Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus. Peter exclaimed, "Lord, it's wonderful for us to be here! If you want, I'll make three shelters as memorials; one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah." But even as he spoke, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, "This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy. Listen to him."

Not long after that Jesus and his disciples arrived at a house in Capernaum, located on the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee. Jesus had already gone into the house when the collectors of the two-drachma temple tax came to Peter and asked, "Doesn't your teacher pay the temple tax?" "Yes, he does," he replied. When Peter came into the house, Jesus was the first to speak and being who He is, He already knew what had transpired. "What do you think, Simon?" he asked. "From whom do the kings of the earth collect duty and taxes, from their own children or from others?" Peter answered, "From others." “Then the children are exempt," Jesus said to him.

Now you can imagine Peter standing there, puzzled about what Jesus was getting at. He didn't have a clue even though he had confessed that Jesus is the Son of God and he had witnessed the Transfiguration and heard the voice from Heaven, and on top of that, Jesus had given him the clue about the king and his children. Why should Jesus worry about paying the tax if the temple was His Father's house?

In order to show kindness and humility Jesus did not scold Peter so He said, “In order to make sure so that we may not cause offense, go to the lake and throw out your line. Take the first fish you catch; open its mouth and you will find a four-drachma coin. Take it and give it to them for my tax and yours." Peter caught the fish, found the coin and paid the tax. Peter paid it because he felt liable for it and paid it out of a sense of duty. Our Lord paid it not out of duty but out of humility. This is a lesson for all leaders, both spiritual and political. The mouth of the fish, by the way, produced the exact amount. There was no small change involved nor red tape. It was a miracle!


15 October 2016

Concupiscence vs. Christianity

Today on CNN with Erin Burnett I saw an interview with the president of a major Christian university declare that the alleged sexual conduct of a candidate for the presidency is not an issue and is separate from their ability to lead the nation. The reason that he gave was from Matthew 22:21.  Jesus said "Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's; and to God the things that are God's." Yes, but for one thing, Cesar was a dictator and we have a democracy. For another thing the United States was formed with Judeo-Christian values or why else would we have “In God We Trust” printed on our money and why was the Creator mentioned by the founding fathers in the Declaration of Independence?

The fact is, that there is no doubt the degree of concupiscence (raw animal lust) by a presidential candidate that we have recently been exposed to is clearly at the level of sexual predation and as such is against the laws of both God and Man. The word assault does not mean that there needs to be physical contact either. It means “causing fear of bodily harm,” and there is little doubt that the victims who have emerged have been assaulted. I would counter the esteemed university president with these words from the Apostle John in 1 John 3:4-8, “Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness.” He also says, “Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning.” To elect such a person to the presidency would be like electing the devil to be the President of the United States.


12 October 2016

Aleppo and Christianity

There is no doubt that many people would be surprised to see how closely the City of Aleppo in Syria is related to Christianity. In fact, until the present conflict, Aleppo had the largest Christian population in Syria. Why? Because Aleppo, Syria is only 68 miles from the City of Antioch (Antakya), Turkey where the first Christian church for Gentiles (non-Jews) was created in 41 AD (Acts 11:21). A few years later, in 47 AD, St. Paul and St. Barnabas went there to build up the church in that region and it was from there that St. Paul began his missionary journeys. If you look on a map you will find Antakya (Turkish for Antioch) about 269 miles north of Damascus, Syria, in a little appendage of Turkey that extends down into Syria. You will find Aleppo 68 miles east of Antakya. One interesting note is that Antakya is just outside the border of what was originally the land that God promised to the Israelites and which covered two thirds of present day Syria. To me it is ironic that with all of the people around the world and especially those of the United States who proclaim to be Christians (including yours truly), there doesn't seem to be much action to help our brethren in one of the very first places where Christianity first took root.

11 October 2016

Christianity, Politics, Ethics, and Moral Behavior.

For a Christian, it is the political that serves the divine and not the divine that serves the political. There is a big difference between an "ethical" reformer and a "moral" reformer and it is doubtful whether the political even reaches the level of ethical much of the time. In the political sense freedom is understood as the elimination of tyranny. True freedom, however, is spiritual freedom from the base nature of the human condition and the triumph of intellect and reason over animal instinct and habit. Freedom is the ability to choose good over evil though prudence, justice, fortitude, and temperance which are the natural virtues that promote the good. Locker room banter based upon concupiscence (animal lust) is neither moral nor ethical. It is abnormal.


29 September 2016

Presidential Debate Hype

After watching and listening to the first 2016 presidential debate I took some advice that St. Augustine, the early Christian philosopher, whispered to me in my "inner ear" from the sidelines of recollection:

There are two basic areas where disagreement can arise among the observers and witnesses to a quarrel. The first concerns the veracity of the matters in question and the second concerns the intention of the protagonists to either seek or obscure the truth. It is one thing to inquire into the origin of the truth about a matter and another thing as to the understanding of the words of the speakers and the understanding of the listeners as to whether or not a statement is true. In regard to the actual truth it is always possible for the listeners to believe the speaker and think that he or she is telling the truth even though they are not. There is also the possibility that the listeners have decided beforehand that everything that a person that they have already chosen to believe is true no matter what. Therefore, in judging the veracity of those who are engaged in a quarrel over words it is best to be charitable in extending the benefit of the doubt equally to both parties but then rigorously test all things and hold fast only to that which is good.

In a democracy it is important that a presidential debate coexist with a consensus on a set of basic elements as a precondition to reasonable diversity of opinion. Before we disagree on anything we should first be clear about what we as a people actually agree upon. If not, then the U.S. is nothing more than a set of regional fiefdoms each headed by a corporate warlord and supported by a local oligarchy. The encouragement of internecine resentments by corporate sponsored news media and the exploiting of temperamental differences that perennially divide conservatives, moderates, and radicals from one another in order to obtain greater profit, is unbridled capitalism at its worst and the work of demonic forces.

In America, this "One Nation Under God," we all have freedom to worship God and set our moral compass by His grace through the  Holy Spirit in order end the hostilities that divide us as neighbors and citizens. The demographics of America is like an equilateral triangle divided into three parts. The upper third contains the wealthy, the privileged, the highly intelligent, the good looking, and the otherwise fortunate. The bottom third are suffering from poverty, ignorance, poor health, a lack of opportunity, bad luck, and little hope. The middle third contains a hardworking but confused and disheartened people who see their dreams of a better future evaporating right before their eyes. Within each of these divisions there are sub-divisions based upon race, creed, national origin, sexual identity, chronic disease, mental disorders, broken families, and many other things too numerous to mention here. It is my fervent hope and prayer that during the next two presidential debates instead of a battle of negative wit, the candidates turn to a positive discussion and show the world that through a process of a democratic spirit and an honest search for truth, the wisdom of the God "in whom we trust" will enlighten us in deciding on a leader who will guide us and bring this diverse flock together like a good shepherd should with "with malice toward none, with charity for all." Amen.


26 September 2016

To Thee & Eternity

The essence of the world is in the flowers.
They symbolize birth, death, and rebirth
And they reveal the eternal beauty of God.
The scent of a flower is that heavenly elixir
That comforts both the body and the soul.
No wonder that humans began in a garden!
The flowers were there when we arrived,
And flowers are usually there when we leave.
Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow,
They neither toil nor spin, nor worry about it,
And the rose by any other name is still a rose,
Speaking all languages fluently without words.
I am always at home in a garden of flowers,
And closer, my God, to Thee, and eternity.


22 September 2016

Wake Up the Helmsman!

It wouldn't take much convincing these days to get people to agree that our current political system seems like a mess. If you ask ten different people to explain the difference between a Democrat and a Republican you may not be surprised that you receive as many different answers. When I was in grammar school we were taught that Democrats favored a strong central government and Republicans favored strong states rights in opposition to an overly powerful central government. As it was explained to us innocents (at the time) the result of this was a dynamic tension between the two parties. This, along with the checks and balances of three separate branches of government, helped the ship of state to maintain a steady course. It was like there were some invisible hands on the tiller. That all seemed quite reasonable back then but since that time the ship of state has been zigzagging quite a bit like the helmsman is asleep at the wheel.

Liberty should be connected with order and any political movements that undermine either liberty or order should be challenged at all costs. What set of rules or basic assumptions did the founding fathers use when they wrote the Declaration of Independence, The Constitution, and the Bill of Rights? Are we still following those basic assumptions? The basis for these rules is called “ethics” and ethics is based on four natural virtues that philosophers going back to ancient times agree are common to the continuous welfare of human beings. The four cardinal or "natural" virtues that perfect the soul can be found in Plato. They are also found in the biblical book, Wisdom of Solomon, chapter 8, verse 7: “And if a man love righteousness her labors are virtues: for she teaches temperance and prudence, justice and fortitude: which are such things, as men can have nothing more profitable in their life.” The Roman philosopher Cicero popularized the four virtues as such: "Virtue may be defined as a habit of mind (animi) in harmony with reason and the order of nature. It has four parts: Prudence, Justice, Fortitude, and Temperance.”  Let's take a look at these four virtues one by one.

1.) Prudence:
Prudence is the habit of proper decision making. It is the knowledge of what to seek and what to avoid. It is the acceptance of the possibility of uncertainties or things unforeseen and making allowances for them. Prudence is more than animal instinct or habit. It is a continuous effort to see things as they really are and act accordingly. It is a responsibility to seek the truth always and make rational binary decisions rather than simply follow instinct or habit. It is knowing the difference between subjective emotion and objective fact or between inductive conjecture and deductive certainty.

2.) Justice:
Justice is giving each being or entity their due. This includes includes family, friends, community, leaders, nations, and especially our Creator. Offenses against justice include murder, injury, theft, gossip, cursing, vengeance, lies, and cheating. Justice means to be fair in relationships with others and to be grateful to benefactors. Justice requires us to be friendly and generous. If we draw undue attention to ourselves it is an offense against justice because we diminish others by enlarging our own image without justification.

3.) Fortitude:
Fortitude is a virtue that perfects the appetites of our irascible passions including fear and daring (which is an over-extension of our bravery). All acts that do not observe a definite line between being cautious and being foolhardy are contrary to fortitude. A person with the virtue of fortitude is courageous, responsible, and trustworthy and their life is marked by patience and perseverance.

4.) Temperance:
Temperance is the virtue that perfects the concupiscent desires for food, drink, and sex. It involves control over the lust for pleasures involving the five senses. Offenses against temperance are the most disgraceful because they lower us to the level of irrational beasts. These offenses involve such things as gluttony, drunkenness, seduction, rape, adultery, fornication, incest, and sodomy. Temperance includes the avoidance of even thinking about immoral or unnatural sexual relations.

A person who makes good decisions (prudence), gives everyone their due (justice), proves to be courageous(fortitude), and moderates their drive for pleasure (temperance), is a virtuous person. This is the type of person that would be ideal as a candidate for political leadership because their integrity would be beyond approach and the four natural virtues are something that we can use as a guide to see how our particular candidate measures up.

Now, for those politicians who prefer to be identified as Christians there is another set of virtues, three in number, that are the supernatural virtues. They are faith, hope, and charity. They are called "supernatural virtues" because they exceed man's natural capacities. They are also called the theological virtues. In the Catholic Church in which I grew up and in other Christian denominations we learn from the scriptures that they come by way of Jesus Christ, God the Father, and the Holy Spirit. However, these virtues are known to all religions that believe in One God, the Creator of Heaven and Earth.

Christian Faith:
“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”(Hebrews 11:1) Faith is the belief or trust in all the teachings of Christ given to the twelve Apostles. These teachings are summarized in the Apostle's Creed.

Christian Hope:
Hope is an indication of certainty.  “Hope” in Scripture means a strong and confident expectation that our faith is correct and justified. “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.” (Hebrews 10:23)

Christian Charity:
Charity is the virtue of love for God, with our whole mind, our whole heart, and our whole soul, and the love of our neighbor as ourselves. Charity is sacrificing ourselves for others in the same manner that Christ sacrificed Himself for us. Charity means to humble ourselves and to have the patience to tolerate others.  Jesus said: “And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment. The second is: Love thy neighbor as thyself. There is no other command greater than these." (Mark 12:30-31)

How many politicians these days follow what we (and they) learned as Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts? A Scout is Trustworthy, Loyal, Helpful, Friendly, Courteous, Kind, Obedient, Cheerful, Thrifty, Brave, Clean, and Reverent. Those would all be good qualities to look for in a candidate for any public office, and that brings me to the point of why I wrote this. First of all, I wanted to record my thoughts on how I could best evaluate a candidates character objectively. Then I wanted something that I could give to others who might be helped by following a guideline of suggestions on how they might evaluate a candidate based upon some observed character traits. I looked for the answers in philosophy, theology, and the ethical and moral guidelines with which good citizens in a democracy are brought up from childhood. It may not be a perfect guide but it is a good place to start. Amen.

Steady as she goes Helmsman. Aye, aye, Captain!


16 September 2016

Politics from Hell

Feisty young millennials all in a row
Ready to challenge you blow by blow.
They are sophists all and pundits too,
Who can take either side, or leave it,
Love it, or hate it, or beat it 'til it's blue.
It depends upon what the going rate is.
There is no room for right or wrong
It is whatever it is that it needs to be,
I'll give you a clue, it's all about ratings.
Claws that scratch and eyes that flash
One glance could set the other on fire
And talking points increase the ire,
Spoken in haste and driven by greed,
Woe to the truth and woe to the target,
In any case may both be damned.
Winner take all and loser cast blame
After all, you know it's just a game,
From the very depths of Hell's belly.


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About Me

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I was born and raised in Chicago, Illinois, U.S.A. I have been living in Mexico since January 6th, 1999. I am continually studying to improve my knowledge of the Spanish language and Mexican history and culture. I am also a student of Mandarin Chinese.