Sunday, December 4, 2016

Who Did I Help?

The Bible Study guys didn’t seem to make much progress.  They spent the entire hour discussing only one sentence:
And all who believed were together and had all things in common;
and they sold their possessions and goods and distributed them to
all, as any had need.  
– Acts 2:45
The discussion quickly got past any notions of communism, and focused on the concept of “community”.  We discussed at length our cultures’ --- and our personal --- collapsing community.  We see it in families which can’t even find time to dine together, and full churches of people who don’t really know one another.  We discussed how “friends,” as spoken of today, are really more often “acquaintances.”  We actually have few friends.  And then we discussed things that friends do, as witnessed by the words in Acts describing the early Church.
At the bottom line, friends freely love one another, without counting the cost.  They freely give of their time and resources.  Each of the Bible Study guys had an example of someone in need they had helped, but all sadly admitted those were rare examples.  It doesn’t come easy to think of others first, especially strangers.
We discussed how sometimes our efforts to help our spouses or children too are unappreciated, and seem to yield no results, and we get discouraged.  Then we thought of St. Theresa and her efforts at helping the sick and dying on the streets of Calcutta.  Did they who may never have heard a kind word or felt a kind gesture in their entire lives respond to her with words of: “Oh thank you, Mother, bless you, or I’ll pray for you?”  That’s unlikely.  More likely she heard:  “Stop it.  Ouch!  Leave me alone!”  She’s thought of as being a saint not because of all those she helped --- the streets of Calcutta are still full of the sick and the dying --- but she’s thought of as a saint because of her loving efforts to help, even if she saw no great results, and because she trusted that God DID see results.
My contribution to the conversation was what happened over the recent holiday, on the day I arrived in Arizona.  One of the first things I did was go to the store to pick up those things I was discouraged from carrying on the plane:  aerosol cans for shaving cream and hair spray.  At the checkout line in front of me was a young couple, both of whom (by their actions, words and facial expressions) seemed to have some sort of mental disability.    And when they went to pay, the clerk told them their card didn’t have sufficient funds to pay the total.  This seemed to confuse them, and then they began to discuss what they “would have to put back.”  So I stepped up and offered to pay what they still owed.  They quickly said thank you, and went back to their discussion, as I paid their balance due.  I didn’t give a thought to their curt gratitude.  As I told the Bible Study guys, I’m not sure they knew or would later remember what had happened.  What WAS memorable, however, was the young checkout clerk’s reaction.  He seemed stunned that I willingly paid some few dollars to help my neighbor in need.  And as I checked out my few groceries, the clerk went on and on about what I had done.  It wasn’t until later, I told the Bible Study guys, that I realized that who I intended to help and who God intended to help through my efforts may have been different people, me to help the shoppers and Him the clerk.  Or, perhaps it was I who was meant to be helped, when God showed me that His intents were so much better than mine.
And so the Bible Study discussion continued on the path of how God uses our good intentions to love, often for better or bigger purposes than we can perceive.  And a lack of gratitude for our efforts, or a lack of results (as we see them) shouldn’t deter our efforts to love.  We just need to act in love, and trust God.
And then we remembered the man from long ago who chose to love in a great way, and no one seemed to understand HIS efforts at love, as He chose to die on the cross.
It was only one sentence in the Bible we studied, but from it we learned a lot, in time well-spent, one Friday morning last week.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Remembering Thanks

That title is NOT an error; it was not supposed to read: “Remembering to give thanks.”  No, this is just a short post to recall ---- well, what I recalled.
I had thoughts about Thanksgiving yesterday, and again this morning.  I could have written of so many things, but I was forcing thoughts.  And so instead I went to my blog and, scrolling down the sidebar, I saw the list of “Labels” I had used on prior postings.  And then I scrolled down to the label titled:  Thanksgiving.
There were 17 prior postings with the Thanksgiving label.  I clicked on the label name and the 17 postings appeared in order on my screen.  I took about an hour to read them all, one after another. 
And now I sincerely gave thanks, for the memories of my thanks of prior years.  This is the best posting I could have made this day (and time I could have spent), and a good thing for you to do also if you’d take the time.  And the last posting was, I believe, the best.  (Isn’t it always that way?)
I hope you had a blessed and peaceful Thanksgiving Day --- and if you didn’t really pause to give sincere thanks, well, take some time now to read and reflect on how really blessed you are.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

What Do Words Mean?

There is lots of talk.  They say talk radio is more popular than music radio nowadays, but what is being said there --- and what is being heard?  Many people talk about “My Truth” and wish not ever to be judged false because if they say something is true to them, then: “Who are you to judge?”  I always wondered if that pious line would work on a cop: “Now officer, you may say that light was red, but I, in truth, see that color as green, so you’ll have to forgive me and let me go.”  I wonder if the word “communication” has any meaning anymore.  It takes two to communicate, to reach a common understanding, not just exchanging your idea of truth vs mine, and never communicating anything of meaning to each other.
I went to a Tridentine Mass on Wednesday morning, at St. Anne’s Church in Gilbert, Arizona.  The mass was said in Latin, as it always used to be prior to Vatican II.  As the priest said many of the words aloud, I recalled them, their meanings, and the appropriate Latin responses.  Despite words said in a now unfamiliar language for me, I understood their meaning; there was communication.
At a certain point in the mass the priest prayed in quiet, and then so did I.  And as I spoke to God, I told Him:  Father, I believe in You; I trust in You, and I love You.  And suddenly it dawned on me that I had spontaneously said (in other words) the words of Faith, Hope, and Charity.  I didn’t need to say those three important words, but from my heart was conveyed their meaning to me, and to God. 
And God and I communicated.
Mary, in many of her apparitions around the world is often said to say: “You need to pray with your heart.”  I think she is saying we need to communicate with God better, whatever the language, and He’ll know what our words mean.
And He waits.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Do Something Different

On the campaign trail Mr. Trump said to the inner cities: “Why not let us try something different; what’s been going on for the past 50 yrs hasn’t worked.”  Bishop Gibson from Harlem (WSJ 11/16 Op Ed) said: “It has to start with the communities – churches, families and fathers.”
Why not appoint a Big City Czar (BCC) --- with no budget.  Money has not helped the problems in the past.  Let the BCC round up experts, study what may have worked, and consider new ways of doing things, and then start a 10 year plan to better the lives of our fellow-Americans living in big cities, to make us a united country again, caring for one another, and perhaps (dare I say it) even one nation under God.
Some say the big banks need to be broken up; what if the big cities were broken into small villages which largely ran themselves.  Small cities, even poor ones, seem to have happier people than our big ones.  Perhaps some US cities which now have sister cities in Asia or Africa could instead adopt sister villages within our big cities, and take practical steps to make the lives of the people there better.  It would be neighbors helping neighbors.  What we’ve been doing hasn’t worked.  Why not do something different?
- - - - - - - - - -
Numbers-wise, if the citizens of the 5 largest US cities changed their presidential votes, it would go a long way to uniting this country.
A friend of mine is about to go back to help the Syrian refugees in Lebanon.  The problem there is huge, however he told me the people there are doing a lot to help themselves.  There are 1400 refugee camps in Lebanon, each largely made up of former Syrian neighborhoods destroyed by war.  Now in Lebanon these former neighbors are living together again, helping each other.  Perhaps breaking down our bigger cities into neighborhoods like this would help THEM to better help each, perhaps sharing some city services (like fire protection) and doing some other services themselves (like police, maintenance, trash).  The BCC could help structure and set up village governments, and sister cities could teach them to manage --- and form caring communities, as Bishop Gibson suggested.  If West Germany could absorb and change a poor East Germany, couldn’t we do something on a much smaller scale --- if we really do care for our neighbors?
There is talk about spending lots of money for new infrastructure, bridges and highways.  Aren’t lives a higher priority?  This would be no easy project --- I did say a 10 year plan would be required (at least), but we put a man on the moon with 10 years of focus, couldn’t we put some people here in a better place, one they would be proud to call home?

Monday, November 14, 2016

Review: Resurrecting the Idea of a Christian Society

“Why are you so stupid?”  That seems to be the question, these days, which half of our country is asking of the other half --- and not waiting for an answer, because:  THEY KNOW.  And so they riot in the streets, wanting to get their way.  Much of the country assumes it knows the truth of matters (and the other half doesn’t) and it never applies any logic to that assumption, like:  Is it logical that half the country, many of which are better educated than us, many of which have higher IQ’s than us, and many of which are more caring people than us, is it logical to assume that half the country, all these high-functioning people, are stupid?
Mr. Reno delves into the facts about our country --- without making assumptions about intelligence.  He points out , with facts, how most of the social changes in recent years have been brought about by an elite group of people who want to have the unfettered freedom to do what they want, with no laws or religion restricting their freedom.  And the courts have found new reasons to back their desired freedoms to do what they want.  In digging through the results of those new freedoms, however, Mr. Reno found that they have had little impact on the lives of these elites, as their close-knit communities and family ties kept their children and families in line --- so they could continue to get into Harvard and Yale, and continue to make more money, and continue to rise to the elite political leadership positions of our country.  They have their freedoms --- and they manage to live quite well with them.
But then Mr. Reno looks at the bottom third of our country, and here the data shows a different story.  They too now have these new freedoms, but they have no close-knit communities, they have no intact families or churches --- they have no support groups to help them manage these freedoms with any sort of limits.  And their lives have become a living hell. 
This is a book every American who says he wants to bring our country together again should read.  We need to stop calling others stupid, and make sure we are not.  Data-driven, it shows what is tearing us apart.  With facts, Mr. Reno shows that it is not a money problem --- a $15/hr minimum wage will make no difference; the problems faced by the bottom third of our country are not money problems; they are moral problems.  With no moderating influences of family, religion, or community, the plight of many in the country is bordering on despair, and so it may seem natural for them to turn to the government --- or to anyone --- who says they can help.  But as been pointed out in this recent election campaign, and facts bear out, 50 years of government “help” has not helped, and matters are getting worse.
Mr. Reno gives good reasons for proposing the re-starting of a Christian Society, to re-create the moral underpinnings of our communities, but he makes no bones about it:  This will not be easy, nor will it be fast.  But we do need to understand the problem, and START to do something.  Start by reading this book.  If you care about the poor, if you care about souls, if you care about America, you should read this book.  I have never seen the plight of our country so well explained.