Lesson 33- Overcoming the Fear of Becoming
As I ended my last program, I was describing a linear universe which was moving from an Alpha to an Omega and which was being guided by Jesus, the Logos, the Logic, the Wisdom, the Left Lobe of God who, as the Fathers Suffering Servant, has been involved in an upward struggle towards the fullness of life from the beginning of time. In short, what scientists call the laws of Natural Selection and Survival of the Fittest, is, from a Christian point of view, simply Jesus in His cosmic role as Gods Wisdom making the judgments which are necessary to move the Fathers Plan closer to its final completion. Whatever He selects as being compatible with the Plan is written in the Book of Life and whatever He rejects becomes extinct and is written out of the Book of Life. To those Christians who say that we dont believe in Natural Selection and Survival of the Fittest, I say, What do you think the Last Judgment is? Jesus, we are told, will sit on His throne and He will select those who are saved and those who are damned and those who are saved will go on to eternal life, while those who are damned will enter eternal darkness where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
When one see Jesus in His cosmic role as the Craftsman of the Father who has been assigned, from the beginning of time, with the task of building the universe , the imagery of His Passion and Death takes on new significance. It is now seen more as an example of a struggle upward in which death is merely the gateway which one has to go through to move to a higher level of existence than as a symbol of punitive suffering in which the Father, who for some unknown reason, has a need to vindictively punish someone for our offenses.
Our offenses, or sins, are merely those stupid actions which we do that offend the plan of Divine Wisdom to take us from the world of the living dead, which is the circular existence of those who have given up the quest for life, to the world of the fullness of life, which is the linear world of those finite beings who have not given up in their pursuit of the Infinite. It is a plan of redemption not condemnation which we, ourselves, thwart by our sins. Jesus, Gods Wisdom, is trying to save us not condemn us.
Think about it! Who really suffers when society at large starts to lie, steal, murder, cheat, betray and act irresponsibly? Do we really think that we have to avoid these things for Gods benefit or for our own?
In Proverbs 1, Wisdom, who the Church teaches is really Jesus in His divine role, talks of how it has been constantly appealing to Mankind to give up its foolish ways but, because we would not listen, it says that our own sins will make us sick. In other words, Divine Logic is saying that we are simply reaping what we sowed.
So what was Jesus really trying to say to us in His Passion and Death which, He reminded the protesting Peter, He had to go through in order to fulfill the job which He was sent in the world to do? He said He had come to show us the way to eternal life and the last and most graphic thing that He ever did was His Passion and Death which has become the focal point for all Christian meditation. Well, what did He show us?
Well, first He showed us that one cannot have eternal life unless he can overcome his fears. Fear, Jesus said, is useless. Thus in the Garden of Gethsamene, He overcame His fear of things to come as He realistically foresaw the pain and suffering that He was about to experience. It is interesting to note, that the Bible says that He cried, and trembled, and even sweated blood and begged His Father to let Him escape it if it was at all possible. In other words, His hedonistic, human nature, which, like animals, instinctively seeks pleasure and avoids pain, wanted out and displayed its feelings non-verbally through crying and trembling, both of which are right lobe forms of communication. Then, with a supernatural effort flowing from His logical left lobe, which is the Divine Spark in all of us, He saw that this was the only way to accomplish the goal for which He was sent. Subjugating His hedonistic animal nature to His rational, divine nature, He chose to follow the path of duty and responsibility rather than the path of pleasure and comfort. Thus, in the Garden of Gethsamene, He showed us how to overcome our fear of things to come which is the first stumbling block for most of us in our quest for the fullness of life. How often have we explained our failure to develop with words like, I would have done it, but I was afraid that this or that might happen.
Next, according to the scriptures, what He feared was coming, came: the Scourging at the Pillar. His back was bared, He was tied to a post, and He was beaten till He was almost dead. His worst fears were now coming true as He was undergoing excruciating pain. Yet, we are told, He did not cry out; He did not complain; and He made no effort to avoid it by appeasing those who had the power to end it. At the Scourging at the Pillar, He overcame His, and ours, natural fear of pain which makes cowards of us all and interferes with our ability to take the necessary risks which are associated with the fullness of life. For, as the weight lifters are fond of saying, No pain; no gain.
Then, we are told, He was stripped naked by the Roman soldiers, draped in a robe, and crowned with thorns as they mocked and made fun of Him. Anyone who has ever been bullied by those who feel they have absolute power to demean you, can imagine the kind of things these rough Roman guards might have said and done to degrade Him. In the animal world, which is based on the laws of dominance, the worst things that can happen is to lose all rank by being completely dominated or embarrassed by those around you and that is why we anguish so much when we are humiliated by the actions of others. The Asians call it losing face and they have been known to kill themselves rather than live with the pain that it brings.
Yet, again, Jesus, whose name is so high above everyone elses that, according to the Scriptures, every knee must bow and every tongue must confess that He is Lord, accepted the humiliation of being degraded by the very creatures which He had created. The physical pain of the scourging was bad enough, but the mental pain of being humiliated before others was even worse. According to His own words, all He had to do was to ask His Father and legions of angels would have come to defend Him, yet, He remained silent and resisted the temptation of striking out at His tormentors. At the Crowning of Thorns, He showed us how to overcome the fear of humiliation which blocks so many of us from the fullness of life because it gives to other people the power to censor what we will do through their ability to ridicule and criticize us.
And then, He showed us, through the Carrying of His Cross, how to face those things that never seem to end. After being beaten to within an inch of his life, crowned with thorns, spat upon, and humiliated, He had the burden of the Cross placed upon His shoulders and was instructed to carrying this burden through a long, torturous route through the city of Jerusalem and up a steep hill on the outskirts of the city. He was already so weak that He could hardly stand and a journey that might have been long even under normal circumstances considering the burden that He had to carry, now must have seemed impossible under His present circumstances. Yet, He struggled to carry this burden and, we are told through tradition, that in His weakened condition, He fell three times. Yet, each time He got up and continued His struggle up the hill of Golgatha which He knew was the site of His death. Despite this knowledge, He continued His every-upward struggle. Tradition tells us, that the third time he fell, He was so weak, that Simon of Cyrene was enlisted to help him. Thus, in carrying His Cross, Jesus showed us how we are to deal with our fear of those difficulties that never seem to end. They seem to go on and on forever and, like Jesus, we constantly fall under the weight of them. His message to us is, Get up! And keep on struggling up that hill! and, if necessary, Accept help when the burden becomes impossible to carry.
And, finally, He showed us how to face the greatest fear of all: the fear of death. As He hung on the Cross, the crowd taunted Him by saying He saved others, but He cant save Himself. In other words, he was an utter failure. All His work, all His preaching, all His miracles ended in His death and He accomplished nothing. He was going to die and that was the end of it all. But Jesus had once said that unless the seed died, it could never be transformed into the plant. It was His Fathers law of life. It was the law of growth and development. No one can move on to the next stage unless he or she dies to the present stage.
Life was the process of dying to our life in the womb, so that we could experience the world outside of it. Then we had to die to our infancy so that we could move on to our childhood and then to our childhood so that we could move on to our adulthood. And all along the way, we had to learn to die to what was comfortable to move on to what was challenging. If we didnt learn to do this, then our lives would become circular and we would join the ranks of the living dead who had ceased to develop and had decided to accept what is for what could be. Having been born finite beings with an inner need to pursue the Infinite, they decided that they would settle for less and, in doing so, they became locked in a circular hell from which they would never emerge. They had forgotten how to be children who were always yearning for the next birthday because they knew that with each step towards maturity that new talents, new abilities, and new freedoms would unfold. They had forgotten what St. Augustine said, Our hearts were made Thee, Oh God, and will not rest until they rest in Thee. In other words, we were made to pursue the Infinite God and anything short of Him, was hell.
Thus, as Jesus hung on the Cross, what seemed a failure to the world, to Him was just a necessary step towards the next level of development. He knew that following every Crucifixion was a Resurrection and that He would rise again on the third day to a higher and more splendid level. He knew that He, like the seed in His parable, had to go through deaths door in order to enter the door which led to eternal life. In fact, He knew that death and life were different sides of the same door, and thats why He could say He who seeks to save his life will lose it and he who loses his life, for My sake, will save it. There He goes again. Another one of those paradoxical statements which He was so fond of saying. Perhaps what He is really saying is, He who seeks to maintain his life as it is, will lose the life of what he could have been. Life is about growth and development, not about existence and stagnation.
Thus, to those of us, who allow the fear of death to paralyze us so that we shy away from all challenges and risk taking, Jesus is showing us that even death cannot defeat us if we are willing to take up our crosses and follow Him.
Now there are two levels that we can look at this account of His Passion and Death. We can look at it on the literal level in which it is simply a description of what happened or we can look at it on the symbolic level in which some greater meaning or truth is being portrayed symbolically. Looked at literally it is a tragic and touching scene but looked at symbolically it become a cosmic drama which is revealing some deeper existential truth about the universe. Jesus is the Truth which has come to set us free and to lead us to the fullness of life. He has come, He said, to show us the way which means that we should be watching, not only listening because the message is aimed at the nonverbal right brain which is greatly influenced by symbols. Each stage in the story of His Passion symbolizes a different type of fear which paralyzes us and prevents us from becoming all that we can be. The Cross has become the recognized symbol for the difficulties and challenges that life hold for us, and Jesus, Himself, is a symbol for Agape or Sacrificial Love. Thus, if we were to translate the symbolic message into words, it would say, If you want life and you want it fully, then pick up the challenges and difficulties of life and follow Me, the Truth, up the hill of growth and development. And every time you fall, get up, pick up the cross and start climbing again because anything that doesnt kill you will strengthen you. When the burden becomes too heavy, dont be afraid to accept help and dont be concerned about the fact that death might await you because, for those who are on the path of eternal life, even death cant defeat you because for those who are following Me, death is merely the door to new life and every crucifixion will be followed by a resurrection. So dont be afraid to sacrifice your life out of love for others because in doing so you will identify yourself as a child of your Heavenly Father, who Himself, is Sacrificial Love. So dont be afraid. Have faith in Me and in My Father and believe that if you follow Me, you will have eternal life.
There is a great scene at the end of Man of LaMancha, which I have referred to in previous talks. Don Quixote is roused from his deathbed when Aldonza the Whore reminds him of his quest for the Impossible Dream. He rise to his feet and, standing between Aldonza and his squire Ganza, he calls for his horse and shield. When Ganza reminds him of his wounds, he responds:
What matters wounds to a knight on a mission. For when he falls, he will rise again and woe to the wicked!
As I mentioned before, the Spanish author Cervantes meant for Quixote to be a Christ figure who was out to change the world from what it is to what it ought to be. He knew that the basic characteristic of any follower of Christ should be an inherent discontent with the world as it is and a constant yearning for making it as it ought to be. In other words, to be a Christian was to be what Thomas Merton called a Gentle Revolutionary. And to be a revolutionary, one had to have a linear view of reality which is goal directed, as Quixote was, to some idealistic goal which can take many forms. For example, some people saw their fellow human beings mistreating animals and decided to form a Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Others learned of the prevalence of spousal abuse and created an organization to defend abused woman. Still others, learning of the killing of over 4000 babies each day in the United States through abortion, formed Crisis Pregnancies Centers, or prayed outside of abortion clinics, or bought radio time to Wake Up America. Then there was the mother who lost a child to a drunk driver and formed MADD, Mothers Against Drunk Drivers, to help prevent other mothers from going through the same anguish. All of them are revolutionaries who refused to accept the world as is and worked to make the world as it ought to be. And each one, whether they knew it or not, inputed, in their own little way, to the coming of GodsKingdom on earth.
They are the people who are the ones that the Lord finds working in His fields when He returns. They are the virgins whose lamps are lighted when the Bridegroom arrives. They are the good and faithful servants who multiplied the talents they were given by their Master. They are all of us who add to this drama called life by exerting themselves to make the world a better place either through the healthy motivated children that they raise or through their involvement in the issues which challenge their society. They are the sons and daughters of God who, according to St. Paul, the whole creation is groaning like a woman in childbirth waiting for their revelation. And what is their revelation? Its the world, as it ought to be; its the Kingdom of God, it is the Sane Society which the psychologist Eric Fromm wrote about which, according to him, contained the lifestyle which was most compatible with our rational human nature.
Of course, in contrast to them are the workers that the Lord finds sleeping upon his return. They are the virgins whose lamps lack oil when the Bridegroom arrived and missed His return because they had to rush out to buy some. They are the servants who, instead of increasing the talents that they were given by the Lord, buried them in the field and gave back only what they had initially received. They are the ones who Jesus was referring to when He said, I wish that you were hot or cold. But because you are lukewarm, I will vomit you out of my mouth. In other words, they were the zips, the zeros, the people who chose to exist and accept the world as it is whose lives, at best, added nothing to the advancement of the dream and, at worst, actually caused the dream to diminish. And, because of this, their names will be eliminated from the Book of Life because their lives counted for nothing. They were circles, when they were created to be lines and the circles they formed were the hells in which they will be trapped for eternity. Let me ask a serious question? Would we really want the Lord to find us at a One Arm Bandit in Atlantic City upon His return?
Now I am not condemning an occasional trip to Atlantic City for relaxation and I am not against an occasional gambling fling but I do wonder what people, especially retired people are thinking, when they line up day after day to take a gambling excursion to Atlantic City. Here they are nearly at the end of the road of life and all they can think to do is to fill their time with frivolous distractions as they await their coffins. I, myself, have been retired for three years and I have never been busier in my life. There is so much to do and so little time to do it. Like General Custurd, I intend to die with my boots on working in whatever fields the Lord puts before me. My motto is use it or lose it! because I have seen too many others, after retiring to a life of idleness, slowly lose their ability to function. And they try to deal with their loneliness and boredom with one distraction after another instead of becoming more meaningfully involved in life.
But the issue goes far beyond the maintenance of our mental and physical health. It may have to do with our eternal salvation because what happens after death may depend upon the attitude that we have when we die. Are we lines or circles? Are we developing or existing? Are we still struggling up the hill of life by being actively involved in all of its issues or have we long ago decided that the purpose of life is just to get through it? The answer to these questions may be the most important ones that we will ever address.
In a previous program, I talked about a friend who had a vision in which the Lord showed her two roads each of which led to a door. The road to the left was full of ease and pleasure and behind its door was a soul chilling darkness; the road to the right was full of problems and difficulties and behind its door was a loving light. The Lords final words were: I give every human being the choice of these two roads and they may change their minds anytime during their lives. However, once they reach the end of the road they must go through the door. If this is true, then those of us who approaching the door better be aware of what road we are on.
If there ever was a time when we should be thinking of the eternal consequences of our lives, it should be during our waning years. Yet it is hard to break the habits of a lifetime. If we have spent our lives filling our time with trinkets and toys rather than with meaningful activities, then, as death approaches, we may not understand how or why we should learn to give of ourselves for the benefit of others. Yet, it is never too late to learn. As the Scriptures say, The harvest is great but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest to send in more workers? There is always full employment for those who want to work for the Lord.
I have just returned from one of the monthly Mens Meeting which I attend the second Saturday of every month. One of the men, who was over seventy, got up to witness about the fact that following an illness that caused him to retire from his lifes work, he discovered that he had artistic talents of which he was not aware. Now he paints and sculptures so well that he earns income from them. His message to the other men was Dont give up on life. Everyone of you has hidden talents that are waiting to be revealed. Sounds like he discovered what St. Paul did when he said, Why do I believe in Christ Jesus? So that my hidden self may be revealed. Too many of us live our entire lives without every discovering who we really are simply because we allow our fears to paralyze us. As a result, as one philosopher once said, most people live lives of quiet desperation. In other words, they are just trying to get through this life rather than trying to live it to its fullest.
The only legitimate circle, which is the symbol for eternity and completeness, in the universe is God because only He, like the circle, is eternal and complete. Everything else, in relationship to Him, must be linear because, just as He is eternally complete, everything else is eternally incomplete and, like a line, capable of eternally being extended one more inch. This implies that salvation is not an accomplished fact, it is an internal attitude by which the person is always open to being reformed by God to the next level of development.
So if we want to be saved; if we want to be the sons and daughters of God, what are we to do? The Christophers, a Catholic organization dedicated to being a positive influence in a negative world, had a motto which said, It is better to light one candle than to curse the darkness. In other words, the followers of Christ were to be points of light shining in the darkness showing the way to the Kingdom of God which is the world as it ought to be.
Once again, I would like to use a song to make my point. It is called Points of Light and it is performed by Randy Travis, a well-known country singer.
Point of Lights
There is a point where you cannot walk away
When you have to stand up straight and tall and mean the words you say
There is a point you must decide just to do it cause its right
Thats when you become a point of light.
There is a darkness that everyone must face
It wants to take whats good and fair and lay it all to waste
And that darkness covers everything in sight
Until it meets a single point of light
All it takes is a point of light; a ray of hope in the darkest night
If you see whats wrong and you try to make it right
You will be a point of light
There are heroes whose names we never hear
A dedicated army of quiet volunteers
Reaching out to feed the hungry; reaching out to save the land
Reaching out to help their fellow man
There are dreamers who are making dreams come true
Taking time to teach the children theres nothing they cant do
Giving shelter to the homeless; Giving hope to those without
Isnt that what this lands all about
One by one, from the mountains to the sea
Points of light calling out to you and me
All it takes is a point of light; a ray of hope in the darkest night
If you see whats wrong and you try to make it right
You will be a point of light
If you see whats wrong and you try to make it right
You will be a point of light
Well, I see that my time is up. Heres Dom.
Addendums not used
Anyone who has ever had to take a dream or plan which developed in his own creative and imaginative right lobe and then plan and carrying out the necessary logical steps to move it from a dream to a reality has some understanding of the disciplined struggle that is involved.
There was a man that I knew who had spent his whole life working hard as an iron worker. When he retired he was like a caged tiger who didnt know what to do with his pent up energies. Prior to retiring, he had explored the possibility of grooming horses for the mounted police since, when he was young, he had done this in the army and really enjoyed it. He had actually been accepted but, when faced with the choice, he decided that it paid too little money. After he retired, I suggested that he ought to reapply for this job. His response was Im not going to work for peanuts! So he sat in his house driving himself and everyone else crazy. Then I suggested that maybe he ought to find some worthwhile cause which he was interested in and volunteer his time. Again he reminded me that he had made good money as an ironworker and he wasnt going to do something for nothing. Now money was the least of this mans problems. His house and car was paid off, he had no debts, he never went on vacation, and he lived a very frugal life. Yet, he wasnt going to do anything unless it paid him enough. Finally, to maintain his own sanity, he began walking ten miles each day and that is what he did from the age of 65 to 82 when, while he was returning from his walk, he was killed by a truck while crossing a street. He was a good man, but no one had ever explained to him that he, and all of us, were made to have a servants heart and that our own happiness required that we find ways to give of ourselves in some constructive way to the service of others. If we get paid for doing it, thats fine. But even if we dont, it is our souls, not our pocketbooks, that need the work.
He, at least, found a way to maintain his sanity by walking. However, I have seen others who, when faced with the same problem, were unable to find anything and they slowly drifted into mental and physical disability. That is why my motto is Use it or lose it!
If the Father is the great I AM, then Jesus is the great I AM What Is Yet To Come and in order to accomplish His mission He needs to implant His Spirit in others who then become His eyes and ears, mouth and arms, - in other words, His Body- which is constantly working to move the world from what it is to what it ought to be.
So why should we go to Church? Because the Church is the Body of Christ and it is where the members of His Body meet to plan and to encourage one another in creating a world based on the Divine Plan of God.