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Lesson 29- Summary And Conclusions [part 1]

            Eight months ago I stop the rebroadcast of my original series to begin a new series on our current economic collapse. In fact, it was really an extension of my original series of  125 half hour programs because I always felt that there was a postscript that was needed but I didn’t know what it was until the economy collapsed. The collapse was no surprise to me because I had been expecting it since the early 1970’s, when, while teaching economics to my high school seniors, I became frightened by what I was teaching. At that time, I realized that if you followed the premises upon which our economy was then based, the logical conclusions to which they led was a total collapse of the economy that would be as bad, if not worst, than the Great Depression of 1929. How long, I asked myself, could an economy that was floating on rising debt last? All the hype about the fantastic economic growth and the rising stock market was built on trillion of dollars of consumer and government debt and wild speculation in the stock and housing markets that sooner or later would collapse when the bubble burst.

 

I became so depressed when I first realized this, that I considered quitting my job as a teacher because it seemed useless to trying to convey my insights to high school students who, even if they were interested, were relatively powerless to make the necessary changes. However, I concluded that I should “bloom where I was planted” and try to influence those I met to see the foolishness of our ways. Eventually, I concluded that the most effective way to reverse what was happening was the formation of true Christian communities. And that has been the focus of my thinking ever since.               

 

It is still my conviction that this is the answer and that is why, when I was asked upon retirement to do some radio programs based on my teachings, I set out to lay the logical foundations that led to this conclusion. Those of you who listened to my first series of 125 programs know of my constant reference to the Kingdom of God, the Judeo/Christian/Linear/Utopian/Concept of History, and the role that the logical, left hemisphere of our brains played in the fulfillment of God’s Plan for the Human Race. I wish that I could say that the response to my programs was overwhelming, but in truth, it was underwhelming. In the ten years that I have been broadcasting, I could count on two hands the number of responses that I have received. Yet, I persisted

 

Often a message has to wait for its time. People are not interested in changing their lives when things are because I was doing it as an act of faithfulness to what God had given me and I decided to leave the results up to Him. going well and thus are not willing to listen to anyone who is suggesting radical changes no matter how logical and reasonable they may be. History has shown that the greatest changes in human society take place when the old system is falling apart and people are searching for new solutions to old problems. And that is where we are now. If we are not able to change now, then our society will collapse and the historical task of building God’s Kingdom will be passed on to a more vigorous and imaginative group.

 

I think that now is the time for me to summarize the major points that I have made in my previous programs and to suggest the changes that are required.

 

First, our current economic system of Capitalism was a response to what was lacking in the economic system of Mercantlism. And Communism is a response to what is lacking in Capitalism.

 

Next, if as Hegel said, the Truth is the midpoint between two extremes, then the true economic system is a combination of what is best in Capitalism, which emphasizes the individual and freedom, and Communism, which emphasizes the group and order.

 

Next, the Catholic Church, which stands above and outside of all human institutions, is neither Capitalistic nor Communistic. Since its major focus is the establishment of the Kingdom of God on earth as it is in heaven, it supports the parts of all systems that contribute to this goal and reject those parts that do not. Therefore, it support the concept of private property and individual freedom that is emphasized by Capitalism and the concept of social sharing and group cooperation emphasized by Communism. On the other hand, it opposes the materialism of Capitalism and the atheism of Communism.

 

Next, through the Principle of Subsidiarity, the Church emphasizes and recommends that in any good society the smallest unit in society that is capable of handling a problem should take responsibility for it. This is in line with the Old Testaments warning about handing power over to kings who, having the power to do good, will, because of the corrupting influence that power has on human beings, eventually use the power to do evil. By limiting and distributing power, four things are accomplished. First, it reduces and limits the harm that power can do. Second, since problems are just another name for crosses, they are instruments used by God to reveal and increase our hidden potentials and innate abilities. Those who accept responsibility for a problem grow in competency and those who don’t stagnate and deteriorate. Third, the solution is always more effective and efficient the closer it is to the source of the problem. And fourth, democracy works best when people are voting for people and issues with which they are familiar and competent.

 

Next, the balance between Capitalism and Communism that the Church seeks is “Capitalism on the macro or societal level” and “Communism on the micro or personal level.” The freedom and competition that Capitalism brings is a dynamic, energetic source for creativity and progress and is essential for any system directed towards an ultimate goal or Omega Point. Thus, it is good that people, groups, and systems should compete because, as the Bible says, “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” In other word, just as knives are sharpened by striking the blades of two knives against each other to remove the burrs from their edges, so people, groups, and systems have their defects removed through the clash of competition with other people, groups, and systems. As Christians we should remember that the Laws of Natural Selection and Survival of the Fittest which results from the competition for survival in the natural world are God’s laws and flow from His Logos or Logic, who is Jesus. And, ironically, it is this competition for survival that motivates us to seek cooperation with others. So we might say we need the competition found in Capitalism to improve and cooperation found in Communism to survive.

 

The cooperation and order that Communism brings is a security and power base that is necessary for personal survival in a risky world. Thus, life is like a football game in which two teams, composed of members who are cooperating and sacrificing themselves for the good of the team, are competing with another group who is doing the same. Therefore, on the macro or large level, countries, cultures and belief systems seek to expand their influence by competing with each other for the hearts and minds of men through their different responses to the problems of life, while, ,at the same time, each of them provides on the micro or personal level an identity and security for its members. Thus, through this balanced approach, we reap the combined benefit of “freedom” and “order.”

 

Next, the communism on the micro level is not that of Marx, Lenin, and Mao in which a super state takes over the control and responsibility for everyone’s life. Rather, it is the communism of the early Christian communities in which the believers joined together for the mutual benefit and survival of its members. It operates according to the Principle of Subsidiarity by encouraging each person to develop and become self sufficient while providing a safety net for those who face problems or crosses that exceed their ability to handle them.

 

When I entered college, my original intention was to become a social worker and, upon receiving my Bachelor Degree, I entered the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Social Work where I was taught the Functional Approach to Social Work. This approach to helping people was based on the theory that everyone has an innate need to grow and control their own lives and that when their lives become dysfunctional it is because they have run into a roadblock that, because of the size of the problem, it has overwhelmed them and paralyzed their ability to respond. According to the theory, it was not the job of the social worker or the agency to take over the responsibility for the clients’ lives. Rather, it was to temporarily give assistance in the area that was overwhelming them, while, at the same time, demanding that they should continue to take responsibility for those areas that were within their competency. As their self confidence was restored through the successes they experienced, the responsibility for their total lives was gradually returned to them. The underlying premise was, “Whatever doesn’t kill you, strengthens you and the only time you should expect or receive help is when the problem is greater than you can handle.” Or, as Jesus would say, “If you want life and want it fully, pick up your cross and follow me up the Hill of Calvary and, if after falling for the third time, you need help, accept it, but remember, only those who go through the Crucifixion will experience the Resurrection to a higher plane of life. It’s the law of life and I came to show you the way by modeling it for you. However, always remember that no matter how difficult the problems of life may seem, my grace is sufficient for you.”

 

The point that I am making here is so important and essential to what the Christian walk is suppose to be that I hope you will forgive me if I overdo it by repeating a previous example and adding on another. In a previous program I wrote:

 

“A number of years ago, two of my married friends who were inclined towards mystical experiences told me of a vision that was had by the wife. She and her husband were sitting at the dinner table and were praying, as they were accustomed to do, after dinner. As the wife was praying, she said that she saw a vision in her mind in which the Lord appeared to her. He was standing at the top of a road and He invited her to follow Him down it. As they traveled down the road, they came to two forks: one went to the left and the other went to the right. The Lord turned to her and said, “May, let’s take the road to the left.” As they traveled down it, she said, the sun was shining, the birds were singing, and the path was smooth and even. It was glorious and within a short time, they came to the end of the road where there was a door. The Lord said, “Open the door, May” and when she did, a soul chilling darkness came rushing out which almost frightened her to death. The Lord closed the door and led her back to where the road had divided. “Let’s now go down the road to the right,” He said. They began down the road, she said, and it was as difficult as the other road was easy. There were storm clouds, thorny bushes, jagged rocks, and the road descended into steep valleys and rose up steep inclines. It seemed many times longer than the other road and when they finally reached the end, there was another door. “Open, the door, May”, He said. When she did, a brilliant, loving, soul warming light came rushing though and embraced her in its loving arms. After closing the door, she and the Lord returned to where the road had divided. He turned to her and said, “May, I offer these two roads to every human being and they are free to choose either one. They may, at any time, change their mind and choose the other road. However, once they reach the end of the road, they must go through the door.”

 

Do you get it? The first road was the road of pleasure to which our hedonistic “flesh” is drawn. It’s the Walt Disney world which we wish God had made where everything is nice and sweet and easy. It’s the road of static existence and stagnation. It’s the world of the easy “ highs” where amusement and pleasure are used to fill the emptiness of life and the inner emptiness of our souls. It’s the road taken by persons who habitually spend endless days and hours in Atlantic City pulling the lever of a slot machine while the important challenges of life which God has set before them for their growth and development go unnoticed or ignored. It’s the road taken by persons who have buried the talents that the Lord has given them and/or refuse to use them for the benefit of God’s Kingdom. And, of course, we know what happened to them. They were stripped of their talents which were then given to those who had used and expanded their own. Truly God attitude is “Use it or lose it!”

 

                   The people on this left road are the persons who chooses to ignore the Church call for them to share their  “time, treasure, and talent” because it would require some type of sacrifice and involvement in something larger and more demanding than their own selfish pleasures. In other words, they are the people who choose to exist and fill their time with amusement instead of choosing to develop by accepting the challenges or crosses which are placed before them. The Bible says “without a vision the people perish” and the people on this road of hedonism are perishing because, lacking a vision of anything greater than their own comfort and pleasure, they are locked in the world of “Self.”      

 

They don’t get it when Jesus says, “It is in giving that you receive” or when St. Francis says “It is in dying to ourselves that we are born to eternal life.” They miss the entire meaning of the Crucifixion where Jesus replaced the Old Testament misconception that God wanted animal sacrifices, with the New Testaments truer understanding that what God really wanted was “self sacrifice” out of love for others. And the sacrifice doesn’t have to be as drastic as dying on a cross.  Sacrificing our “time, treasure, and talent” for the benefit of God’s Kingdom would be a good start.

 

The second road, which went to the right in May’s vision,  is the road of struggle, difficulty, and sacrifice. It’s the road that our flesh will never willingly choose and yet it is the path to the “fullness of life” because only on this road is our spirit tested and strengthen by the crosses that God has put there for our growth and development. It’s the road that Jesus’ “flesh” in the Garden of Gethsemane begged to avoid but then, with a supreme act of will, he freely chose to go down it because He knew that it was His Father’s will and the only way to the “fullness of life. He was showing us what St. Francis has told us, “It is in dying to ourselves that we are born to eternal life.”  In other words, Jesus, through His passion and death, didn’t tell us the way, which is how you communicate with the verbal left hemisphere of our brain; instead, He showed us the way, which is how you communicate with the nonverbal right hemisphere of our brain. By communicating with our animal nature, he was showing it the way to the “fullness of life” and salvation.

 

To those Christians who, like the ancient Hebrews, believe that to follow God is a guarantee that they always will have good luck and all their difficulties and frustrations will go away or, like the Manicheans, believe  that all the problems of the world were invented by the devil, the message is “If you want life and you want it fully, then pickup your cross and follow Jesus, the Truth who will set us free.” If a Christian life was a trouble free life who wouldn’t want to be a Christian. However, some of the greatest Christians saints lived lives of hardship and suffering. That doesn’t mean that God’s way isn’t the better way because, obviously, living a life based on Divine Wisdom has to have better consequences that one based on Invincible Ignorance. However, there will still be trials and difficulties. What changes is not so much what happens to us but rather how we react to what happens. According to the scriptures, God is capable of bringing good even out of the evils that seems to befall us and, thus, to a Christian, every event, every situation, is an opportunity for learning and growth. In fact, without these difficulties, deeper learning and growth might not be possible.

 

If we think that this is a new way that had replaced an easier way, then listen to the Book of Sirach 2:1-11 has to say:

 

“Son, when you come to serve the Lord, stand in justice and fear, prepare yourself for trials. Be sincere of heart and steadfast, incline your ear and receive the word of understanding, undisturbed in times of adversity. Wait on God, with patience, cling to him, forsake him not; thus will you be wise in all your ways. Accept whatever befalls you, when sorrowful, be steadfast, and in crushing misfortune be patient; For in fire gold and silver are tested, and worthy people in the crucible of humiliation. Trust God and God will help you; trust in him and he will direct your way; keep his fear and grow old therein.”

 

Consider the line which says “For in fire gold and silver are tested and worthy people in the crucible of humiliation. The Original Sin was pride and it appears that whenever things are going great for us our arrogance level rises and we begin to feel invincible. Our pride becomes the major obstacle to our relationship with God and maybe this is why Jesus said that it was easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. If this is really the case, then the worst thing that can happen to us, from God’s perspective, is to have the life of ease, comfort, of the idle rich. Consider our own country in which there seems to be an inverse relationship between wealth and our devotion to God and the things of God. The wealthier we become, the more decadent our culture becomes. As soon as tragedy befalls us, the churches are overflowing but as soon as things quiet down, the numbers decrease. There is a line in the song “Hosea” which says, “The wilderness will lead you to your heart where I will speak” which pretty much describes the sorry condition of the human race’s relationship with God. It takes a “wilderness experience” for most of us to pay Him any mind and, it appears, that reality is set up to bring about those conditions for when we ignore Him by sinning, which is just another word for stupid behavior, we create the very chaotic conditions which forces us to go searching for Him. We may try many ways but, in the last analysis, there is only one way: His way which is based on Love and Wisdom.

 

Sometimes we might want to complain that God, unlike Walt Disney, gave us a world with pain, suffering, struggle, and difficulty. In other words,  a world full of crosses. And our complaint might be justified if our concept of God is that He is just “rolling around heaven all day” while we are down here dealing with the difficulties of life. And maybe that is why He had to send His Son into the world to show us the way to eternal life. In the Garden of Gethsemene, Jesus’ flesh, based on his human nature, pleads with his Father to allow him to escape what was coming. However, he triumphs over his flesh, when he says, “Not my will but Yours be done!” But, we might ask why does his Father require this of him. The classic answer is that somehow there is a debt that is owed to his Father by the human race that must be repaid. But that might not be the full story. He had said that he was sent to show us the way to the fullness of life that would last for eternity. And then he advises us to copy him by “picking up our own crosses and following him.  When we view Jesus’ passion from the point of view that he is modeling for us the basic law of life, it takes on a new and additional meaning. Life is full of example of people responding positively to situations that most of us would consider unbearable.

 

For example, years ago, while teaching in a local high school, I met a young female student who taught me what it meant to “live life to its fullest.” It was my practice to begin each class with an oral recitation on the previous days instruction. The students were terrified by the prospect that their number might come up on the cards that I used to select a candidate. Before class, a young lady came up and handed me a note that said, “Mr. Reilly, I am ready for oral recitation but please don’t call on me today. I will explain later.” Cynically, I thought to myself, “Here we go again another lame excuse from one of my students.” As it happened, her number didn’t come up. When class ended she approached me and handed me a note. It read, “Mr. Reilly, I have an disease that causes the nerve endings in my throat to dysfunction and when I have an attack my throat begins to close down and I can’t talk. But I did study and if you want, I will write down the answers to your questions.” Then she handed me a pamphlet that described her disease. According to it, her disease was terminal and during one of these attacks she would suffocate to death. I hugged her and said that it wouldn’t be necessary. Then, with tears in my eyes, I entered the department office where my department head was sitting. Fighting back the tears, I said, “I just met the Holy Spirit of God. It’s a spirit that can’t be defeated by any problem because it will struggle to the end.” Later that day, I heard that my student had been rushed to the hospital in an ambulance. She didn’t die then but she knew, and so did I, that it was only a matter of time. But she was determined to live life to its fullest until that time. I am convinced that it will be that attitude that will grant her “eternal life” when that time comes. It’s a linear attitude that has eternal extension because, like the finite in pursuit of the Infinite, it is always in seeking and struggling towards that which is always just beyond its grasp.

 

Jesus, the Alpha and Omega of God, promised to send his Holy Spirit, which sustained him during his Passion, to assist us through the crosses in our own lives. At Confirmation, the bishop gives us a little tap on our check to remind us that life will have its pains and difficulties but the Holy Spirit that we are receiving will always be there to see us through them. Maybe he ought to smack us harder so that we really get the message. There is an old hymn called “Just A Closer Walk With Thee” that speaks Jesus presence during our life’s struggle. One of the verses states:

 

Through this world of toils and snares.

If I falter, Lord, who cares.

Who with me my burdens shares,

None but Thee, dear Lord, none but Thee.

 

Someone wrote the following meditation based on this theme. It is called “Footsteps.”

 

One night a man had a dream. He dreamed that he was walking along the beach with the Lord. Across the sky flashed scenes from his life. For each scene, he noticed two sets of footprints in the sand: one belonging to him, and the other to the Lord. When the last scene of his life flashed before him, he looked back at the footprints in the sand. He noticed that many times along the path of his life there was only one set of footprints. Hew also noticed that it happened at the very lowest and saddest times in his life.

 

This reality bothered him and he questioned the Lord about it. “Lord, you said that once I decided to follow you, you’d walk with me all the way. But I have noticed that during the most troublesome times in my life, there is only one set of footprints. I don’t understand why, when I needed you most you would leave me.”

 

The Lord replied, “My precious child, I love you and I would never leave you. During your times of trial and suffering, when you see only one set of footprints, it was then that I carried you.”

 

This theme of God assisting us in overcoming the obstacles in the world, because of our Jewish and Christian roots,  runs throughout our culture. It appears not only in the religious sphere but also in the secular area too. Songs like “The Wind Beneath My Wings” and, more recently, Josh Grobin’s “You Raise Me Up” are just two examples. It is interesting to note that both Bette Midler and Josh Grobin are Jewish, yet the sentiments found in both songs are so Christian. Here is Josh Grobin singing “You Raise Me Up.”

 

When I am down and Oh my soul so weary

And trouble comes and my heart burden be

Then I am still and wait here in the silence

Until You come and sit awhile with me

You raise me up so I can stand on mountains

You raise me up to walk on stormy seas

I am strong when I am on Your shoulders

You raise me up to more than I can be

 

Well, I see that my time is up.