Lesson 1- New Beginnings
I have spent my first three programs on giving you some insight into me and my personal background and now I am ready to start my first topic. However, before beginning, I would like to say a few words to my listeners, especially those who have been listening to me for the past two years at a different time on a different day.
When Dom first asked me to do these talks two years ago, it was my intention to pattern them after a course that I have taught for many years in the Philadelphia public high schools, entitled Logic and Psychology. I developed the course, which incorporated religion, philosophy, logic, psychology, sociology, anthropology and my own personal insights, to help my students to have a better understanding of themselves, others, and the world in which they lived. It was so successful with my students that, when I retired a few years ago, my principal asked me to come back and teach it as an elective because so many of my students said that it was the one course that best prepared them for life and for college. At the present time, I am teaching this course at two different high schools in the Philadelphia area.
The course has the power to change lives and it is what most parents today would want their local high school to teach their children. It changes the way that students looked at themselves, others, and life and there are times when I wish that I could teach it to every student and person in the United States because it addresses so many of the questions that the modern world raises for all of us.
I hope that you won't consider me arrogant or presumptuous if I tell you that the course is inspired because I really believe that God gave it to me and I, in turn, have an obligation to give it to others. I am so convinced of this that for the past two years I have been paying $300 a month out of my own pocket to pay for the airtime to broadcast it. It is an obligation that I am willing to continue indefinitely and as long as my personal finances can afford it. However, like everyone else, I have other financial obligations and could always use the money towards them.
Thus, when I first began these series of talks two years ago, Dom and I decided to try to reduce the financial burden by creating a "10-4 Club" which offered to send the tape of my four talks each month to our listeners for a tax-deductible minimum donation of $10. In other words, the tape for each program would cost the listener $2.50. We thought that this was a very generous offer because, after we deducted the cost for the tape, the postage and the handling, the actual donation was even less than $10. In fact, we were almost giving the tapes away for free and, for those who didn't have $10, we even offered to send them the tape for free. That is because we both viewed this as a ministry and, since neither of us get any of the money, our major focus was on exposing as many people as possible to the material by keeping the ministry going.
We would like to make the same offer to our listeners at this new time and, in truth, I believe that what these tapes have to offer is far more valuable than the minimum $10 tax deductible donation that we are asking.
Jesus once gave a parable about a person who found a "pearl of great worth" and, realizing its value, went and sold everything to purchase it. In order to understand what the parable means, we have to understand that throughout the Old Testament, Wisdom is compared to precious gold and gems. In the Book of Job, for example, it says, "Men know where to find gold and gems but only God knows where to find Wisdom and Wisdom is more precious than the purest gold and the finest gems. It is my sincere belief that what my programs have to offer my audience is Wisdom because that is exactly what my students over the year have told me that they got from my course.
Even if you are unable to join our "10-4 Club" it is important to hear from you. Everybody needs to be encouraged and affirmed and it is difficult to sit before a microphone, staring out into space, and speak to an unseen audience. You never know who is listening, or if anybody is listening, unless there is some type of response.
This is the fate of all those who find themselves communicating through the medium of radio and I am sure that my friend Dom Latteri could testify to this even more than myself. Both of us have taught in the classroom and it is the more natural medium for us. We both like to prance around, jump up and down, makes gestures with our hand and expressions with our faces. And, like all speakers, our energy level feeds off of the attention of our audience. Through the feedback of their faces, we are either encouraged or discouraged to continue with our topic. So let us hear from you either to help to support the ministry by joining our "10-4 Club" or just to let us know that you are listening and are benefiting from our efforts.
This, as I mentioned, is a new beginning because I originally began broadcasting two years ago when Dom first approached me about doing a series of talks. My original intention was to use my Logic and Psychology course as the model for the talks. My teaching has always had a religious dimension to it, but, since I was teaching in a public school, I had to avoid crossing the line between teaching and preaching. I had to remember that my job was to give information and not to prose-lytize the students to my religious views. Thus, I would always begin my remarks with "According to the Christians", "According to the Jews" According to the Catholics or Protestants... or Muslims... or atheists. In other words, these are the different views on the topic and, even though I had strong beliefs of my own, I tried to give a fair representation of all sides. I always felt that by doing so that the students themselves would be able to see where the truth was. And, as often happens, the truth is a blend of the various points of views. Very often, people are saying the same thing but using different words and because of this they don't see or understand that the differences that divide them are not a great as they think.
However, when I began this radio series two years ago, the Holy Spirit led me in a different direction and, although those talks were based on much of what I taught in my Logic and Psychology class, they were more concerned with our Catholic faith and religion than they were with Logic and Psychology. When Dom informed me that he wanted me to put the show in a different time slot, he suggested that I consider beginning a new series of talks rather than repeating the 74 talks that I had already done. I must admit that it was a difficult decision because I felt that many of those talks contained some of the best insights that I have ever had. In addition, the "lazy" part of me said, "if you just repeat the 74 talks that you have already taped, then you won't have to worry about preparing a talk for the next year and a half." It was a big temptation, because you have no idea the work that is involved in writing and recording a half hour tape. It can eat up most of my weekend. However, the more responsible part of myself said "this is a new beginning and you should take a different tact and try to follow your original intention of patterning the talks after your course."
Well, I've decided to follow the more responsible part of myself and to strike out in a new direction. To be truthful, I am not sure that it is the correct decision because I still feel that those original tapes contained some invaluable insights that developed as I was writing them. However, since, they drew in part on my Logic/Psychology course, I will probably integrate some of them into future programs.
This may sound shocking and sacrilegious, but my major goal in these talks will be to get Jesus out of religion which has become a compartment where we have locked him up away from the rest of the creation that He created. As a result, that has allow many of us to limit His involvement in our lives to one day out of seven when, in reality, He is intimately involved in our total lives. If He is truly the Incarnate Wisdom of God, as the Church teaches, then the entire creation is simply a reflection of His thought processes. Unfortunately, even in Catholic schools, we have taken His creation and compartmentalized it into different areas of knowledge such as chemistry, physics, mathematics, history, music etc. when in reality, Truth, like Jesus' robe, is a seamless garment. Were you ever taught the Jesus of chemistry, or physics, or history, or music or, like me, were you taught only the Jesus of religion? Well, if you continue to listen to my programs, you are going to hear how Jesus is a part of all areas of knowledge.
Thus, as I previously said, my course seeks to integrate religion with philosophy, logic, psychology, sociology, anthropology, chemistry, physics and all other areas of knowledge into a unified picture of reality. It has always been my belief that the "Truth that will set us free" is One. In other words, the truths of science and religion and any other area of knowledge have one source: the Wisdom of God who, as Christians we believe, is Jesus Christ. When Jesus said, "Seek and you will find; knock and it will be opened unto you" or "I must go so that the Holy Spirit will come and he will teach you all truth", I do not limit that to the truths of religion. All seekers of truth and knowledge and Wisdom are in reality seekers of Jesus, whether they know it or not. The early Christian knew this and thus one of them by the name of Justin, in the year 105 only five years as John, the last apostle died, said that all rational men are Christians whether they know it or not. . Listen to Albert Einstein, as h e speaks about his own search for the Ultimate Reality. He said,"The most beautiful and most profound emotions we can experience is the sensation of the mystical. It is the sower of all true science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead. To know that what is impenetrable to us really exists, manifesting Itself as a higher Wisdom and the most radiant beauty which our dull f faculties (mind and senses) can understand only in their most primitive forms- this knowledge, this feeling is at the center of true religiousness. My religion consists of the humble admiration of the illimitable superior Spirit who reveals Himself in the slight details we are able to perceive with our frail and feeble minds. That deeply emotional conviction of the presence of a superior reasoning power, which is revealed in the incomprehensible universe, forms my idea of God."... "All I ever wanted to do was to understand the mind of God."
Now, as far as I know, Einstein never belonged to a formal religion, yet his life was the pursuit of the Higher Wisdom who created the laws of the universe. It's too bad that no one ever explained to him who Jesus is because then he could have added another dimension to his search by joining the host of others who stand before the sacred host each day and say:
Holy, Holy, Holy... Lord God of power and might
Heaven and earth are full of your glory
Hosanna in the highest....
Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord
Hosanna in the highest.
Maybe Einstein would have joined the Church if we had clearly explained that Jesus was the Higher Wisdom, mentioned in the Old Testament that created those laws of the universe that filled him with such awe.
Maybe he would have joined if we had clearly explained that this Wisdom or Word became flesh that dwelt amongst us in order to lead us out of the Kingdom of Mental Darkness into the Kingdom of Mental Light.
Maybe he would have joined if we had clearly explained that he told us that only the Truth could set us free from the Kingdom of Mental Darkness and that all seekers of Truth would be saved.
Maybe he would have joined if we had clearly explained that the promise of salvation was that we would experience the "fullness of life" which implies that God wants to share all of His secrets and laws with us.
Maybe he would have joined if we had clearly explained that the God we worshiped was Love which St. Paul describes as "being patient and kind, not envious, nor proud, but gentle and meek who never sought His own way. He rejoiced when the Truth prevails; He believes and endures all things; He hopes and bears every wrong; and He will never fail you."
Maybe he would have joined if we had clearly explained that Jesus came to save us, not to condemn us because as long as we were in the Kingdom of Mental Darkness, we were already condemned.
Maybe he would have joined if we had told him that "Sin" means to "miss the rational target" that God created for our behavior and that when we did, we created the chaos of war, crime, violence, social unrest... etc.
St. Paul puts the issue eloquently in Galatians 5:18-25 where he writes:
"The fruits of the flesh" are lewd conduct, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, hostilities, bickering, jealousy, outbursts of rage, selfish rivalries, dissentions, factions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and the like...In Contrast, the fruits of the spirit are love, joy, peace, patient endurance, kindness, generosity, faith, mildness, and chastity... "
You don't have to be an Einstein to see that the choice between these two spirits is a "no brainer." And yet, the human race has consistently chosen the "flesh" over the "spirit". If you doubt this, watch Judge Judy for a week and see the conflicts that human beings are able to get themselves involved in.
Maybe Einstein would have joined if he knew that the role of the Church was to create Gentle Revolutionaries who met as a community to dedicated themselves to the peaceful overthrow of the "world system" which would be replaced by a Kingdom of God in which the "lion would lay down with the lamb; justice and peace would kiss and men would take their weapons of war and beat them into tools for farming."
Come to think of it, maybe the only reason he never joined our Church was because we never clearly told him and many other potential members what the Church was and maybe the reason we failed to do so was because we never clearly understood what it was.
The Church is a community of believers whose marching orders were contained in the only prayer that Jesus ever composed. You know what they are. We repeat them at every Mass and numerous times in other settings. The words are: "Thy kingdom come; Thy Will be done on earth as it is in heaven." Now, how we expect this to take place without a shared vision is a great mystery.
The reason that we are called the Church Militant is because, like any army, we are suppose to be developing strategies and carrying out orders to reach the military objectives of our leader, Jesus Christ. And what are those objectives? All we have to do is to read the Beatitudes to get a description of these objectives. Blessed are the peacemakers... blessed are the merciful ... blessed are those who hunger and thirst for justice ... etc.
Many of us have come to believe in a complacent Jesus who does not make any radical demands upon us. Yet, Jesus said, in Luke 12:49-53
"I came to cast fire upon the earth; and would that it were already kindled! I have a baptism to be baptized with; and how I am constrained until it is accomplished! Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division; for henceforth in one house there will be five divided, three against two and two against three; they will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against her mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law."
These are strong words that are uncomfortable for us to hear. What He is saying is that His sole purpose in coming to our world was to start in motion a process which would lead the world out of the Kingdom of Darkness in which it was enveloped and move it towards the Kingdom of Light. What this means is that since His Incarnation the world has been challenged and is still being challenged to go through radical changes designed to move it from "the world as it is" to the "world as it ought to be." In fact, the story of Western history is the story of radical changes in which God used various people as His agents to bring about reforms that brought peace and justice upon the earth. But the peace always followed the struggle between those who were pushing the change and those who were resisting it. We have benefited from many of these reforms and have often forgotten the time when they didn't exist. Thus we take them for granted and often forget the sacrifices that many of these reformers made so that the rest of us could live in a better world. .
These were the great reformers who, like the Old Testament prophets were demanding that we should not accept the "world as it is" but rather we should be working to make the "world, as it ought to be." And when they acted, they always brought about division because people don't like to change. They were persecuted, rejected, imprisoned, and often killed. Nearly all of the great saints were also great reformers but God doesn't limit his workers just to saints who work for religious reforms but also includes secular agents who work for social justice. Take, for example, our own Founding Fathers who wrote the Bill of Rights, the labor leaders of the 19th and 20th centuries who demanded that workers should be paid a living wage and that children should be in school and not working in mines and factories. In our present day, we have had the privilege of see some of them up close. For example, Mother Theresa of Calcutta, Dr. Martin Luther King, Pope John XXIII, and our present Pope, John Paul II.
People do not like to change and, believe it or not, we often prefer the hell that we know to the heaven that we don't know. Even Thomas Jefferson noted this tendency in human nature when he wrote in the Declaration of Independence that people were reluctant to change even a bad situation and that it is only when it becomes intolerable that they will decide to do something about it. This call to change and reform is found throughout the Bible and it indicates that there is something that is faulty and incomplete about our world
And yet, logic says, there is no way that we can move from the Kingdom of Darkness to the Kingdom of Light without committing ourselves to a life of growth, development and change. The only time that we could stop changing is when all the problems of the world have been solved and I doubt that anyone could honestly declare this.
Thus, all Christians are, as Thomas Merton once wrote, Gentle Revolutionaries because they are called to reform the societies in which they live. A complacent Christian is an oxymoron. It's a contradiction in terms. If we are happy with the "world as it is" then either we are unaware of what's going on, or we have become conformed to it and thus are part of the problem rather than part of the solution.
So, to the frequently asked question as to why do we have to go to Church on Sunday, the answer should be "for the same reason that armies, or any group that has a common objective, has to meet and train." No one seems to question why soccer teams meet, or why football teams meet because it is obvious that they have a common objective and they must prepare themselves for attaining it. So why shouldn't the army of Christ meet to be prepared for the task of attaining our objectives of winning the world for Christ by moving one step closer to the Kingdom of God on earth.
Perhaps the only reason that our children or we ever ask that question is because we no longer see ourselves as a community that is being called to be "transformers of the world." At best, we act like an army involved in a "holding action" who, believing that the war is over, is content to maintain things as they are. At worst, we act like an army that doesn't know that its an army and doesn't even know that a war is taking place. In later programs, I will have something to say about our Cultural War. And even worse, sometimes we act like an army that is slowly deserting its own cause and joining the cause of the enemy.
The Old Testaments says that "without a vision, the people perish" and I think that it is fair to says that many Catholics today are without a vision. They don't see the "world as it is" as something that needs to be transformed but rather as something to which they need to be conformed.
If Jesus, the Church, and religion in general have become irrelevant to many in today's world, it is because they have been too narrowly defined by those of us who profess to believe. Instead of being view as being the integrating force for our total life, they have been relegated to Sunday Mass and a few religious events throughout the year. Tip O'Neill, the former Democratic Speaker of the House of Representatives from Massachusetts expressed this view truthfully and accurately when he said, 'I am a Democrat, Irish, and Catholic in that order." If Christ is not first in our lives, then whom do we think that we are kidding when we identify ourselves as Christians? Certainly not God!
If we really believed that God sent His Wisdom into our world to lead us out of Darkness, and that He established a Church which He said would be guided by the Holy Spirit, and that our eternal life depended upon listening to that Church, then how could we possibly place our political party and ethnic background ahead of our Christian identity. The answer is that many Catholics are hypocrites, a word that comes a Greek word that mean "actor." In other words, we are "acting"; it's not meant to be taken for real. If we knew this and acknowledge it, there would be hope because "the Truth would set us free" by telling us that we had to face the fact and either make a decision to either drop the act completely and admit that we are pagans or atheist or to stop the acting and begin to make it a fact. As long as we are sitting on the fence, we are subject to the words that Jesus spoke in the Bible when he said, "I wish that you were hot or cold but because you are lukewarm, I will vomit you out of my mouth." The Bible is full of eye-catching statements like this that, unfortunately, rarely become the basis for the Sunday homily.
Unlike the early Church, which knew that it existed in a totally pagan society, and was focused on radically changing the society in which they lived. We lack the same sense of urgency and, like the frog that was boiled alive while sitting in a pot where the temperature was gradually increased, we are living in a society which is gradually moving from a Christian perspective to one that is anti-Christ. Have you ever wondered who the anti-Christ is and when he will come? Well, if he decided to come now he might find an attentive audience who might be willing to listen to new ideas like "positive incest" which proposes that a child first sexual experience should be with someone who really loves him and who loves him more than his parents; or the theme of the National Organization of Boy Love Association which proposes that child molestation become legal because, as their motto states, "sex before eight or else it's too late." Or how about another proposal by one of our leading intellectuals that no child should be declared alive until three days after birth so that we would have time to test him to see if he is perfect. Or how about a new procedure called "partial birth abortion" that allows a doctor to take a six to nine month child that is alive and completely out of the birth canal except for his head, make a slit at the base of his skull and use a vacuum to suck out his brains? Certainly, if that happened in a Christian society there would be a mass protest and no politician who supported such proposals would ever be elected.
One of the hymns in Church is "Faith of our Fathers" and we could all benefit by studying the early Fathers of the Church because they built the foundation upon which we rest. They are our roots and this is a time when the Church has to return to her roots.
The early Church was much more philosophical than most of us today. They were concerned with questions like "what is the basic nature of this or that" and many of the early Church councils were called to settle philosophical and theological disputes over the nature of God, Jesus, the Trinity the Eucharist, the Incarnation etc. Today, we recite their conclusions with little under- standing of the questions and debates that led to those conclusions.
Take for example, the "Nicene Creed" which says, when speaking of Jesus, "We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father. God from God; Light from Light; true God from true God, begotten not made, one in being with the Father, through Him all things were made; for us men and for our salvation, He came down from heaven by the power of the Holy Spirit, He was born of the Virgin Mary and became man."
There's a whole philosophical and theological lesson in those words. The Church sits on top of a mountain of Wisdom and it is my intention to mine that mountain in coming programs. Well, I see that my time is up. Here's Dom.