Distraction

Distraction

On this very political day, we should all not allow ourselves to be distracted.  God was never really concerned with who ruled, but how they ruled.  God also tells us that our concern should not be for ourselves, but for God and our fellow man.  We should be concerned that our fellow man is dealt with in the following manner:

  1. Charity: Is our God and our neighbor being treated with respect and due honor?
  2. Joy: Is God joyful when He looks upon His creation?  Is our neighbor joyful about their life?
  3. Peace: Our God is obviously at peace, but is our neighbor? 
  4. Kindness: Is our God and our neighbor treated with kindness?
  5. Patience: Is our God and our neighbor treated with patience?
  6. Goodness: Is our God and our neighbor shown goodness by those who are in power?
  7. Generosity: Is our God shown generosity for His Church?  Is our neighbor shown generosity especially when they are in need?
  8. Mildness: Is our God and our neighbor dealt with mildly or with severity?
  9. Self control: Is our neighbor showing self control, and are they shown self control by those in authority?
  10. Faithfulness: Is our neighbor faithful to the one true God?
  11. Chastity: Is our neighbor chase, are they encouraged and enabled to be so by their government?
  12. Modesty Is our neighbor modest and are they encouraged and enabled to be so by their government?

We should treat all with the gifts of the Spirit.  But many of these gifts may be troublesome to our neighbor; as who defines chastity?  Faithfulness? Modesty?  What is peace, kindness and patience?  What is good?  Our neighbor has difficulty because we all know that these gifts are in question as to their very definition.  

The devil has indeed distracted us.  A majority of mankind cannot define most of the gifts of the Spirit.  This shows us we should be more concerned with our evangelism and education than who is president.  

It has been said many times before that all politics are local.  There is always a call to the minority party to take grassroots action.  I would suggest the roots we should look too are the ones God gave us.  If all the earths population were good Catholics, would we have the issues we deal with today?

If you are unhappy and distracted today, let the Church catch your attention.  Pray to God about what you can do to help.  God has at times taken action; the flood comes to mind.  But more often, God uses men and women to do His work.  You are called…whoever you are!  Age, race, background; none of this matters, you are called.  The problems are clear and before us, let us get focused and let us do God’s bidding.

The problem of Consumerism

The other day I was listening to a book,(audiobook) and I heard an author speak about consumerism.  He said that todays socialist and communist don’t need the gulags and prisons employed in the past, they can control people simply by regulating their consumerism.  This struck me as an odd idea, so I listened further.  Society is addicted to consumerism, he went on to say.  So much so that we will change our lives to put ourselves in the best place to consume.  Governments need only to reward “right” thinking with ability to consume, and “wrong” thinking with the inability to consume.  Evidently China is now employing this tactic with significant success.

Of course that is China and this is the United States, however it did get me thinking about how much an American might give up to have “the good life”; which by all popular accounts centers around having good stuff.

As I thought, I remembered back to my first years out of college.  I was a product of the late ’70’s and early ’80’s, and monetary success was pretty much all we could think about in those days.  Get an education, and then work as much as possible; collect your paycheck and buy the things that would let everyone know that you were successful.  Where you lived, what you drove, what you wore, these were the outward signs of success.  

Stephanie and I plunged ourselves headfirst into this lifestyle.  We had a two year old son, and by 1990 we were both gainfully employed.  Stephanie worked for a nationwide office furnishings company as an interior designer, and I was an architect.  Russell, our oldest, went to daycare.  We bought a house and added a second story to it, for a time it was one of the nicest in our neighborhood.  We had two nice cars and we were truly on our way, until one very special day picking up Russell from daycare.  

Stephanie and I worked long hours, Russell would go to daycare when they opened at 7am, and would usually be picked up around closing at 6:30pm.  This process went on for a couple of years.  We would spend one or two hours as a family in the evening, (if one of us did not have work or a meeting) and then we would go to bed and wake up to do the same thing over again.  

One day I picked up Russell and after a very short time I the car, I clearly heard a Louisiana accent in his speech.  After a brief disbelief, I quickly figured out that he had gotten this accent from his nursery worker, who had a pretty thick accent, being from Louisiana herself.   It did not take long for me to deduce that Russell had this accent because he spent more time at day care than with us…much more time.  His nursery worker was a very nice lady, but I truly thought that God gave us this baby boy to raise in the faith by Stephanie and I, not some random nursery worker.  Though she seemed very nice, who knows what she is really like; and she had so much time with our son that he was taking on her characteristics instead of ours!

Stephanie and I quickly decided that she would quit her job, and take another job where she could still be with our son on a daily basis.  I will be honest, at the time Stephanie and I just wanted to assure Russell would be raised by us, we did not stop to look at the larger problem.  Consumerism.

Why did we have Russell in daycare?  So that both Stephanie and I could both work.  Why?  Because we wanted a nice house in a nice neighborhood.  We wanted new cars and other things that come by money.  I don’t think I am alone in this confession.  If where we live made no difference, if having a nice car did not matter, Stephanie and I would not have both been working.

Governments have taken note of this.  If the populous of any country would risk their own children to have the house they wanted, what else would they give up?  Rights?  Free speech?  Would they allow open microphones in their houses so they could more easily order things online?  The answer, as was discovered, is an overwhelming yes.

I am a cleric, and try my best to keep out of politics, except where they intersect with the Church.  So all earthly aspects aside, if people are willing to give up earthly rights for consumer goods, would they give up their soul?  Please don’t think the devil has not taken note of this.  We all have blurred the line of what we want and what we need.  Why is this an important line to know?  Our needs are required.  Food, shelter, transportation.  Our wants are anything that goes beyond the basics of these three things.  Beyond these three things is where consumerism comes into play.  Consumerism takes money that could be used for charity.  Consumerism requires money, which causes us to work and take time away from our God given responsibilities; such as our family.  Consumerism is also addictive.  Buying things makes us feel good, and we will work like trained animals just to get more money so we can buy more goods.

Where am I going with all this?  I am going to start to cut back on my consumerism.  I want to know that I am making decisions for God, and not for my own wants and desires.  I am going to be looking very closely at what I eat, and what I buy.  I am going to work towards everything I own being a needed item, not a wanted item.  After an allotted time, I will start again to buy wanted items, but I think after a good fast from my wants and desires, I will probably be able to better govern my wants.  Wanting something is not inherently bad, but I see signs that we as a society have gone well beyond the occasional reward for hard work, and are well into gluttony on many fronts.

Here is my plan:

  • Take an inventory of what I own, how much is needed, how much was a product of want.
  • When I am stressed, do I turn to a want of desire? I.e. food, drink, purchasing…
  • Where am I finding my happiness?

Compare to 

  • Scripture tells us to live simply.
  • Scripture tells us to turn to God with our concerns and troubles.
  • Scripture tells us true happiness is found in God and His works.

We have been trained to be consumers, and this exercise in purging that desire will not be easy, nor will it be quick.  I really doubt if even the most serious of us could quit cold turkey.  But I am going to start.

Should I get a Flip Phone?

Should I get a flip phone?

From last week…“ I am going to spend this season through Lent looking at what I am called to sacrifice to follow Christ.  What is taking me from the love of God?  What is causing me to lose sight of the miracle we witnessed at that manger in Bethlehem?  What identifies me more with the Pharisees and less with Christ and His saints?  Can I support all the companies and institutions that are guiding society towards perdition?”

I’ll be honest, I hate this part.  Everyone sees pastors come into parishes and change things.  They probably figure that pastors just love to change; they do not.  Or at least this one does not.  I get comfortable and I just want to stay where I am.  If I am uprooted for whatever reason,  my focus is how I can get back to what is “normal” for me.

Society has changed.  The Anglican Church I grew up in certainly changed.  My heart told me that I would have been happiest if everything stayed the same!  I know now, after all this change, years of it, that I am happier than ever in the Catholic Church.  Interesting how our heart can lie to us.

But there is a constant, only one in the universe, God.  God does not change.  If I were resting in God, truly being a good Christian, all the change around me would not matter, other than my concerns for other souls caught in the chaos.  I would be calm, I would be focused, and I would be saving souls who were caught in the current of the fore mentioned change.  Instead, I am angry that all my apple carts got turned over.  I am mad that the world and creation, that scripture tells us is ever changing and fading towards its demise, changed.  How ridiculous of me!

I am tired of change, and I need to find that place where I can be unchanged.  Should I move to the mountains and live off grid?  Should I buy a sailboat and live my years finding desolate islands untouched by corrupt mankind?  No, I should find God.

We, as good Catholics, see God weekly…even daily, in the blessed sacrament.  We stay in a state of grace through confession.  I am with God a lot in my life, why do I need to find Him?  Maybe I should re-phrase then, I need to find my rest in God.  What prevents me from that rest? 

The world.  

Teleology, or the study of the purpose of the universe, tells us that God made all we see, and He keeps a close eye on His creation, interacting with it on a regular basis.  One such interaction is the Christ event, when Jesus came to save all creation.  If God made all creation, would it not stand to reason that all of creation something we should enjoy?  Because of original sin, no.  There are parts of creation that have been distorted by mankind and are very dangerous to us.  One such example is taking sex as a thing only to be enjoyed, removed from its original purpose of procreation.  There are many forms of lust (sex, broken by original sin), such as pornography, that can be devastating to man, and we should stay as far away from it as possible.  

Well I have set the extremes, from the ultimate good in Jesus, to the ultimate bad in pornography (and many other of the deadly sins…not just to pick on one).  There is a lot of broken creation in-between.  Our question is where is the line that separates good from bad creation?  

Is my iPhone bad?  Certainly if it causes me to sin, yes.  Now to be clear the iPhone is inanimate, and has neither good nor bad qualities, but how I use it may create a circumstance where it becomes the tool by which I become bad. 

Matthew 18: And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and throw it away; it is better for you to enter life with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into the hell of fire. 

 Catholic Biblical Association (Great Britain). (1994). The Holy Bible: Revised Standard Version, Catholic edition (Mt 18:8–9). New York: National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA.

If I have an object in my life that causes me to not have hope, I should discard it.  All the news and social decay comes across my phone minute by minute, and it is causing me issues in keeping a hopeful outlook.  So should I discard it?  Well I need the phone for work, so I cannot discard that part of the iPhone.  Maybe a flip phone?  Of course, like others, I use my phone as a Maspco (paper map, for those younger readers), I use it as a jukebox (just google it if you don’t recognize the reference), I use it as a copy machine, (OK, I’m old…like all my references) I use it for all sorts of good effects.  If I got a flip, I would lose all these things.

So I came up with a crazy thought, how about if I control it, as opposed to it controlling me.  How about if I get rid of 3/4’s of the apps, how about if I don’t let it notify me of every little news story?  Somewhere along the line we became such avid consumers that we allowed the product to take over our life.  The answer is not to discard, but to control.  Creation is to be subdued…and that means your iPhone.

Next week lets talk about consumerism.

God Bless

Fr Scott

Christmastide…stand up or stand and watch

Christmastide

Imagine a time when religious leaders were divided.  One group believed that there is nothing beyond this life, what we get here is our reward from a distant unknowable god.  Yet another group believed that the current political situation is the issue that has distanced God from His people.  They sought violence, and wanted God to send a savior in the form of a warrior so to take care of the political situation.  Yet another group, the most powerful, believed in an afterlife, and believed that God would send a savior that would show us the way to heaven.  Knowing what we know, we might tend to follow the last group…we all know that Jesus came to reconcile us to God.  

These three groups were the Sadducees, the Essenes, and the Pharisees.  On the first Christmas morning, this was the political and religious situation in Jerusalem.  We know the story from here.  The corrupt and evil government at the time would attempt to kill our Lord and Savior by simply killing all Hebrew sons born in that year.  Nobody did anything.   It is really amazing how complacent a society will become.  If we are comfortable and have our jobs and a few perks, we are willing to watch all sorts of atrocities happen all around us; just as long as that pain does not come to my house.

As we, here in 2020 understand, this set of facts lead us to the cross.

Today we have a large group of people who do not believe in an afterlife.  We have entire political systems built on enforcing that view.  The state is all we should be concerned with, it is the state we should sacrifice for.  We also, today, have a large group of people who believe that force is the only way forward.  This last has illustrated that force as we have seen our cities explode in violence.  And finally, we also have a large group of people that believe that God has a place prepared for us in Heaven; we believe that our savior has died for our sins and we wait for our reunion with God.

I don’t know about you, but the similarities between year 0 and year 2020 are striking.  

You may ask “are you comparing believing Christians to Pharisees”?  In a way, yes I am.

The Pharisees were religious, they read scriptures, they knew God would send a savior.  Those of us that are religious, no matter what denomination, are religious, we go to church, we read the Bible, and we accept Jesus as our savior.  Where the Pharisees get their bad name is the group’s rejection of the specific savor Jesus, because He had no interest in their earthly power nor possessions.  Jesus asked them to take a stand and to sacrifice, they chose instead to sacrifice Jesus.  I know I sound like a broken record, but we have legal abortion, homosexuality, euthanasia, oppression, our political system is wrought with criminals, we are censored and managed as citizens, we are inundated with sexual themed commercials, TV shows, movies, our children are taught to mistrust their parents and pastors, and anyone who steps out of line is simply canceled from society.  How many are willing to make a stand?  How many will stand for Christ, and how many “religious” will sacrifice all that they have to follow Christ?  I see more denominations changing Biblical teaching to accommodate secularism rather than churches who are making a stand.

If we do not stand with Christ, then we will certainly stand and watch Him crucified.  I do not want to be a Pharisee.  I am going to spend this season through Lent looking at what I am called to sacrifice to follow Christ.  What is taking me from the love of God?  What is causing me to lose sight of the miracle we witnessed at that manger in Bethlehem?  What identifies me more with the Pharisees and less with Christ and His saints?  Can I support all the companies and institutions that are guiding society towards perdition? 

Our savior has come, do you really accept Him?  With your worship, with your income, with your very life?  Stand with Him!  Or stand with society as they crucify Him.

God Bless

Fr Scott