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Lesson 112- Conflict, Resolution and God's Kingdom

Well, we are almost at the end of our evaluation of the theory of evolution from the Catholic point of view. And, if Fr. Tielhard de Chardin is correct, we are almost at the point where the leap into the fourth, and final level- The Spiritual Level-, is about to take place. All the “signs of the times” indicate that we are at a critical juncture point where the human race as a whole is going to have to choose “life”, which is “integration” or choose “death”, which is “disintegration”. In other words, we are in “end times” and how we respond will determine the fate of the planet, the human race, and each one of us. This is the time when the Bible, using one of its many parables to describe the conclusion of the relationship between God and the human race, talks of the wise and unwise virgins who were awaiting the return of the Bridegroom. The wise ones had their lamps filled with oil in readiness for His return while the unwise ones dallied and slept. When he returned unexpectedly in the middle of the night, the unwise virgins, being unprepared, had no oil for their lamps and while they were trying to get some, the wedding party and the ten wise virgins entered the Wedding Feast and locked the door behind them.

            The Bible always compares our relationship with God to that of a Bridegroom and a Bride that ends with a marriage involving a feast. God is always that Bridegroom and the Church, composed of those who willingly accept His proposal for an intimate relationship, is the Bride. How this translates on the literal, day-to-day, reality level, is yet to be determined and is subject to many interpretations. All we know from the scriptures is that Jesus, the Wisdom of God or the Divine Logos, will return and establish His Kingdom on earth as it is in Heaven.” At that point, according to the Bible, “the lion will lay day with the lamb; justice and peace will kiss and men will beat their weapons for war into tools for farming.”

 For my fundamentalist brother, this means that Jesus will set up a seat of government in Jerusalem where we will be able to contact Him by telephone or even fly there for a private audience whenever we have a question or problem. Others say that some of us will be “raptured” into the sky where we will meet the Lord and others of us will be “left behind.” The Church, in its Wisdom, withholds judgment as to what will happen and simply advises us to “be prepared like the ten wise virgins” because no one knows on what day or what hour, or in what manner He will appear. There is a joke told to me by a friend which I think give a humorous but somewhat accurate spin on this. It goes like this:

“A large helicopter, accompanied by angels is seen flying towards the Vatican. It circles a few times

and then lands in St. Peter Square. The door opens and out steps Jesus in all His heavenly glory. A Vatican official goes running at top speed to find the Pope. When he spots him sitting at his desk, he runs up and says, “Your Holiness! Your Holiness! Jesus has just landed by helicopter in St. Peter’s Square. What shall we do? What shall we do? The Pope, a look of surprised concern on his face, looked up and said, “Tell everybody to look busy!”

 

The joke, for me, contains two important insights. First, if at Jesus’ arrival we have to “pretend to be busy”, then we, like the foolish virgins, are unprepared. Second, that a Christian’s life should be one of total preoccupation with the task of being busily involved in the preparation for the coming of Jesus and the Kingdom of God on earth. And what this means is that every person, in whatever tasks they are involved, should bring God’s love and wisdom to it, so, as the scriptures say, “Men will see the good you do, and give your Father praise.” This is simply another way of saying, “They will know we are Christians by our love.”

 

In future programs, I will share with you some of my insights and concrete suggestions, which, I believe are totally consistent with those of the Church, as to how we should implement these principles,. However, as is often the case, the poet and songwriter is often better than the logician in describing the essence of things and events. So, here are the lyrics to two hymn, “God and Man at Table Are Sat Down” and “The Wedding Banquet” that encapsulates the essence of what the final level of evolution has in store for us. I wished I had the music for them but I think the lyrics are powerful enough to convey the message. The lyrics say:

 

                       

 

     Oh, welcome all ye noble saints of old as now before your very eyes unfold.

     The wonders all so long ago foretold,

     God and man at table are sat down;         God and man at table are sat down

 

     Elders, martyrs, all are falling down; Prophets, patriarchs are gathering round

     What angels longed to see now man has found

     God and man at table are sat down;         God and man at table are sat down

 

     Who is this who spreads the victory feast;? Who is this who makes our warring cease?

     Jesus, Risen Savior, Prince of Peace.

     God and man at table are sat down;         God and man at table are sat down

 

       Beggars, lame and harlots also here; repentant publicans are drawing near.

       Wayward sons come home without a fear.

       God and man at table are sat down;         God and man at table are sat down

 

       Worship in the presence of the Lord, with joyful songs and hearts in one accord.

       And let our Host at table be adored.

       God and man at table are sat down;         God and man at table are sat down

 

       When at last his earth shall pass away; when Jesus and His Bride are one to stay

       The feast of love is just begun that day..          God and man at table are sat down....

 

          This, of course, is a poetic insight into what is in store for the wise virgins who symbolize those of us who are prepared to accept the “gift of eternal life” that God has offered us. But what about the unwise virgins? There is another hymn based on a parable of Jesus entitled “The Wedding Banquet” that warns of their folly. Its lyrics are:

 

Wedding Banquet

          I cannot come. I cannot come to the banquet; don't trouble me now

          I have married a wife; I have bought me a cow.

          I have fields and commitments that cost a pretty sum

          Pray hold me excused, I cannot come

 

                   A certain man held a feast on his fine estate in town.

                   He laid a festive table and wore a wedding gown.

                   He sent invitations to his neighbors far and wide.

                   But when the meal was ready, each of them replied.  (Chorus)

 

          The Master rose up in anger, called his servants by name.

          Said go into the town, fetch the blind and the lame.

          Fetch the peasant and the pauper, for this I have willed,

          My banquet must be crowded, and my table must be filled. (Chorus)

 

          When all the poor had assembled, there was still room to spare,

          So the Master commanded, "Go search everywhere."

          "To the highways and the byways and force them to come in...

          My table must be filled before the banquet can begin....." (Chorus)

 

          Now God has written a lesson for the rest of Mankind;

          If we're slow in responding, He may leave us behind.

          He's preparing a banquet for that great and glorious day.

          When the Lord and Master calls us, be certain not to say...(Chorus)

 

       Now if neither of these hymns invoked in us a spirit of longing and expectation for the coming of the Lord or a sense of foreboding and dread based on our lack of preparation, then maybe a repetition of a true story involving me and my five-year-old son will increase our sense of urgency. In a previous program I wrote:

“Back in the ‘70’s, while involved in the Catholic Charismatic Movement, strange things started to happen to me and members of my family. My son, Joey, who was about five or six at the time, told me that he had seen God. Now Joey was a good kid but he was “all boy” and he certainly wasn’t the type of kid given to religious visions. When I asked him what he meant, he said, “ I had a dream and in the dream God had created a new earth.” “What do you mean?”, I asked. He said, “It came down out of the clouds, Dad, and it was beautiful” I was flabbergasted because I knew that he had never read the Book of Revelations which says that God would create a New Earth which would descend out of the clouds.

What happened to the old earth?” I asked. “It was still there, Dad, and the people on it were out in the streets fighting and screaming and killing each other.” “Well, where were you?”. “I was up in heaven with some of my friend and we were with God.” “What did God look like?” I asked. “He was beautiful and had a real sweet voice,” Then, with some hesitancy, I asked, “Where was your mother and I?” half fearing to hear the answer. “You were on the New Earth?” he said. “Well, what were we doing on the New Earth?” I asked. “You had to live on the New Earth as long as you had lived on the Old Earth in order to get rid of the faults that you had,” he said. I thought to myself, “Where is this kid getting all of this. As fast as I ask the questions, he comes back with the answers.”

Then I decided to change my line of questioning. A year before I had had a confrontation with some teenagers who were teasing one of the elderly ladies in the neighborhood who was complaining that every Friday night they stood on her corner screaming, fighting, drinking, and drugging. In addition, they threw their beer cans in her yard. The leader of the group, a guy named Chris, threatened to “get me” when I confronted him and his friends.

“What happened to the kids who hung out on the corner across from where we lived? I asked. Without any hesitation, Joey said, “They went to hell. God went to them one last time and asked them if they wanted to go to the New Earth, but they refused because they wanted to get even with the people who had attacked them.” “They all went to hell?” I asked. “Well, yes, that is, except for Chris. He decided to go to the New Earth but when he got there he started to “punch out” anyone who made him angry but they just “turned the other cheek” and wouldn’t hit him back. Eventually, he got tired of hitting them, and decided to stay.”

Three months later, there was knock one night on my door. It was Chris, the kid who had threatened to get me. He said, “I’ve come to apologize, Mr. Reilly. I just got out of Army bootcamp and I now realize that you were right.”

I don’t know where Joey got this story and I can’t guarantee that it was divinely inspired but it certainly didn’t sound like something that a five or six-years-old child could make up. I have meditated on its meaning many times and it certainly is consistent with portions of the Gospel. What impresses me most is that the other boys on the corner were not willing to try to give up the premises of the natural world. “Vengeance is ours!” they said and heaven can wait until we get even. Chris, on the other hand, was willing to give it a try and, even though he continued his old ways for a while, it was the behavior and example of those on the New Earth that eventually changed his premises from the natural to the supernatural. In other words, they retrained his heart. Once that happened, he was able to stay on the New Earth and say in the words of that great Gospel hymn, 

I got a home in glory land that outshines the sun

I got a home in glory land that outshines the sun,

Home is where the heart is! And the heart is the source of all the premises which guide our daily behavior.”

 

So if we think we have time to put off the Lord’s work, we may not because, as I said, according to Fr. Chardin’s theory, as soon as the world reaches the international level of complexification on the Mental/Cultural Level of evolution, then the “pot is boiling” for a leap over into the next level, which is the Spiritual. As in all such leaps, there are those who move on in the eternal push towards the “fullness of life” and those who become fossilized on the previous level or lose all sense of direction in their pursuit of the future. Those who move on maintain the linear approach that children have that is always opened to growth and development. Those who don’t become trapped in circles of their own making because they are afraid to “let go” of the misperceptions or errors of the past in order to move on to a deeper understanding in the future. They are “old wine skins” that are unable to contain “new wine” because they rightly fear that they will burst. Or, there are others, who become so drunk with “new wine” that they don’t know when they have had enough. They are so drunk with the “new” that they don’t think they need any wine skins at all and thus they destroy all limits and boundaries. The first group are the ultra-conservatives who “will never move.” And the second, are the ultra-liberals who “will never stop.” Both are ignoring the laws of organic growth that require that we hold on to what is good in the past as we move on to what is better in the future. Thus, it will be the moderates who will leap over onto the next level of evolution as they preserve what we have learned from the past while integrating and synthesizing what we are learning from the future.

However, it will not be an easy task because it will be one of those “birth processes” of which Eric Fromm spoke. You might remember that he said that the whole process of human life is one of giving birth to the potential hidden within us and that we should be fully born when we die but most of us die before we are born. We might add that the same is true of human race itself. Our history is the story of our attempt to fulfill God’s plan for us by becoming “all that we can be” by actualizing the potential that has always been there from the beginning. The failures to attain our full humanity in the past were the miscarriages that resulted when the process got “off track” and collapsed because of the defects it contained. Yet, each time, the process began again as failed civilization were gathered up by new ones that managed to preserve what they had attained while adding to it their own contribution.

And what is it all about? St. Paul put it best when he said, “the whole creation groans like a woman in childbirth waiting for the revelation of the children of God.” And what will this revelation be? According to St. Ireaneas, “The glory of God is man fully alive!” Is this any less than what any parent wants for his child and why should God, the Father of us all, be any different.  

Yet birth, as Fromm pointed out, is both a negative and positive act because it requires that we leave what is known and secure for what is unknown and insecure. To do this requires a great leap of faith that St. Thomas spoke of when he wrote: “The road that stretches before the feet of a man is a challenge to his heart long before it tests the strength of his legs. Our destiny is to run to the edge of the world and beyond, off into the darkness: sure for all our blindness, secure for all our helplessness, strong for all our weakness, gaily in love for all the pressures on our heart.”

    In other words, we are to live by a faith that a loving God created the universe and wants to share all of its secrets with us. 

It’s a scenario full of hope and despair. Hope for those who are fed up with the direction that the world is taking. Despair for those who hearts have been “conformed to the world” and would be lost if it was to disappear. However, Fr. Chardin, like Pope John Paul II, says that we should not despair or become afraid because a birth is about to take place and, according to Fr. Chardin, God did not lead us this far to have us fail. It is, as our late Pope said, “the springtime of the Church” when the dead branches- in both the laity and the clergy-  are being pruned so those who remain will bloom into a new and more vital creation. The only ones who should be concerned are those who are being pruned.

We have reached that point in evolutionary history where the blind mechanisms that were essential for survival in the animal world no longer work in the world that is about to be born. In the previous world the “strong dominated the weak” and “might made right.” But now power and force are too dangerous in reconciling disputes. Our great intelligence has placed at our disposal “weapons of mass destruction” that assures that any victory based on their use will by a pyrrhic one in which the winner will be almost as bad off as the loser. We have reached that point where the Sermon on the Mount has finally shown its relevance to the ultimate survival of Mankind. For surely, modern events are demonstrating in the most convincing way that “only the meek will inherit the earth.” The “ten don’ts” of the Ten Commandments, which emphasized the negative, are slowly being upgraded by the “eight do’s” of the Beatitudes and law is being replaced by spirit. The Sermon on the Mount has become the blueprint for those who will take us to the Spiritual Level of Evolution. In it Jesus said:

Blessed are the “poor in spirit”, for theirs is the kingdom of God

Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted

Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Blessed are the merciful for they will be shown mercy

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God

Blessed are the peacemakers, for the will be called the children of God

Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for their’s is the

   kingdom of heaven

       The time has come when either the human race will begin to apply these principles or risk another miscarriage on its way to the “fullness of life.”

Recently, I was listening to a talk radio show in which the host asked a question of the listening audience. He was talking about the conflict in Iraq where American forces were fighting and dying trying to restabilize the country following its conquest. The question was “Who is the enemy?” The Terrorists?; The Iraquis? The Sheites? The Sunni’s? The Iranians? The profit seeking “military/industrial complex”?; The CIA? ;Our own government? Who???

As I mulled over his question, I decided that the enemy was not any one of them. In fact, it wasn’t any person or group. The enemy in every war and conflict is the same throughout all of human history. It is a spirit, or attitude, or methodology that turns every issue into a cause for annihilating or abusing our fellow humans.  It’s the way we choose to go about trying to solve the conflicts and differences that exist, and will always exist, among us. It’s our failure to use reasonable means to attain rational ends. It’s our tendency to follow the crowd even when we know that it is going in the wrong direction; it’s our failure to make a final break with our animal-like instinctual nature by following the Divine Logos within us; it’s the intellectual pride that puts our interests above everybody’s else’s. In short, the real enemy is “the world, the flesh, and the devil.” The scriptures are clear that we are, and have always been, involved in spiritual combat between two camps of spiritual energies: Love and Hate; Wisdom and Ignorance; Humility and Pride; Hope and Despair, Trust and Mistrust etc… that exert their influences on our day-to-day activities. The good or the evil that we see are merely the external manifestation of the ruling spirits in our hearts. 

          Today it is the spirit of Terrorism that is the real enemy because what the terrorist are saying and proving by their actions is that when we have a dispute with another group or person, the most effective way to win your way is to terrorize them by planting exploding devices where they will harm or kill innocent bystanders. Or kidnap some innocent person and threaten to kill him or her if they don’t meet your demands. What the terrorists themselves don’t seem to understand is that the very successfulness of their activities establishes a precedent for others to use whenever they have a dispute with another person or group, including the terrorists themselves. What happens when they are the majority and some other minority disagrees with their programs or policies and begins to use the same tactics against them. So, the real enemy is a methodology that human beings have adopted for solving disputes.

 

          Today we live in a world of conflicting opinions and issues. However, this has been true throughout all of human history. There have always been conflicts over territory, resources, ideologies, beliefs, personal interests, and, sometimes, “just for the hell of it.” It appears that the dialectical nature of the universe requires that there will always be a conflict between a Thesis and an Antithesis that will require a creative Synthesis. Hegel had said that the law of life was struggle; Jesus said if “You want life and want it fully, pick up your Cross and follow Me”; and the laws of evolution are based on the two principles of “Natural Selection” and “Survival of the Fittest.” No matter how you look at it, “struggle and life” go hand-in-hand and any idea of eliminating it seems doomed to failure. An idealist, like Karl Marx, thought that he could rid us of all our problems by eliminating its source: private property. But his vision was too narrow. “Private property ”is just one of many sources of inequality, opposition, and oppression. The truth is that we are capable of creating an antithesis to someone else’s thesis based on any topic or issue under the sun and, having done so, to organize ourselves with others to push our point-of-view. Anyone who thinks that we can bring peace on earth by having everyone come to total agreement on all issues, is ignoring what reality is reflecting back to us. As long as there is “free will” and the “human heart”, there will be disagreement.

 

There isn’t a group, ideology, religion, or philosophy that hasn’t subdivided itself into competing and sometimes warring groups. Jesus prayed that the Church would be “one” as He and the Father were One, yet from the very beginning the Church was plagued with disagreement, dissent, and even heresies. The apostles and the bishop who succeeded them, , who were the guardians of the deposit of faith in the early Church, held council after council to “iron out” the issues raised by the dissenters and, as a result of their work, we now have documents like the Nicene Creed that spell out, and “put to rest” issues that threatened the Church’s unity. 

But that was only a foretaste of what was to come because other issues and, even some of the older issues, would rise to once again challenge the unity of the group. When the issues were addressed rationally, it often proved to be a positive event that either led to a necessary reform or a deeper understanding of the issue being debated. When it wasn’t addressed rationally, it proved to be a negative act that led to warring and divisions. Thus, we are still trying to heal the wounds caused by the division between Western and Eastern Christianity and those left by the Protestant Reformation.

Thus, the real issue facing us as the world moves towards international unity is “conflict resolution.” In other words, how will human beings go about solving the problems and issues that divide them.

It might be naïve to think that there will ever come a time when all human beings will agree with each other on all issues. In fact there seems to be something in our nature that thrives on “conflict” and “opposition” and its resolution. In other words, we thrive on the dialectical conflict that exists between a Thesis and Antithesis and the struggle to resolve it through a Synthesis. It appears that even if there were no basis for disagreement, we would invent it just “for the hell of it.” Consider, for example, the nature of sports that attracts million of rabid fans who get so emotionally caught up in the contest that it dominates their lives. Or consider also, the practice of rabbinical students who are required to read the Bible in pairs because it is assumed that the Bible should be argued, not just read. Thus, they read a passage together and begin to argue about its meaning even, if in realty, they are in total agreement. And, if one of them should fail to come up with an opposing position, the other student will suggest an opposing argument to him. What this says is that Truth reveals itself through a dialectical process and thus the best friend of the Thesis is the Antithesis that challenges it to form a higher level of understanding through a Synthesis. Of course, both of them recognize that this is a process whose purpose is to bring them to a higher level of unity and it is not meant to create permanent divisons.

 

So maybe as we approach this final stage of evolution we need to take an honest inventory of who we are and what we really want. The answer to the problems of the world will not be found by pretending that we are angelic beings who have no share in the instincts and drives that rule the rest of the natural world. Nor will they be solved by ignoring the fact that there is a dimension of us that is super-natural, that is, above the natural world. There is, and has always been, a war going on within us between these two dimensions of our nature and it may be that the Bible’s reference to a time when “the lion will lay down with the lamb” is a symbolic references to when the internal conflict between our two natures will finally be resolved. In other words, the blind instincts and passions of our animal nature will find rational expression through what Sigmund Freud called “sublimation.” And how will this happen? Well, in the hymn, “God and Man at Table Are Sat Down”, one of the stanza says:

Who is this who spreads the victory feast;? Who is this who makes our warring cease?

          Jesus, Risen Savior, Prince of Peace.

          God and man at table are sat down;         God and man at table are sat down

 

And how does Jesus accomplish this? Jesus, we must remember, is the Divine Logos that resided in the left hemisphere of our brains that is the source of rational behavior. To the extent we seek rational solutions based on objective truth and facts, we become instruments in the hand of God by ushering in the return of Jesus through the growth of Divine Wisdom in our affairs.

I would like to end by reciting the words to another song that I think expresses fully the attitude behind this talk. It comes from the play, Pearlie Victorius, and is called, “The World Ain’t Coming to An End”

Did you ever get the feeling when you read the paper

The world is caving in?

That the animal part of the human heart is finally gonna win?

Well it just may be that what you see is the growing pains of liberty

And the world ain’t coming to an end, my friend, the world is coming to a start

I feel it in my heart…

 

Everyone say when you look about you the world has gone insane

That the heavenly goal of the human soul will perish in the flame

Well it just may be that what you see is the storm before tranquility

And the world ain’t coming to an end my friend, the world is coming to a start

 

A commentator makes a grim prediction the world ain’t gonna work

That the rational line in the human mind has really gone beserk

Well it just may be that what you see are the dying throes of apathy

And the world ain’t coming to an end my friend, the world is coming to a start

I feel it in my heart… The world is coming to a start…

 

Here’s Dom!