In one of my first talks, I said that it was my intention to get God out of church where we have limited our children to a very narrow picture of who He and Jesus are. They know the Holy Card Jesus and all the sentimental images that our pious ancestors have passed on to us. And I have no problem with them knowing this because we need to be aware of this dimension of Our Lord. I suspect, however, that this image is more appealing to our girls than to our boys and maybe that is why so many of the ministries in the Church seem to be dominated by females. In Europe, the problem is even worse because there church attendance seems to be almost exclusively female since the men are inclined to think that religion is a female thing to do. Macho men, they think, should be involved in more aggressive activities involving other men such as soccer and football and to these activities they give their total soul and attention.
It does seem incongruous and strange that a man who is willing to paint his face green and silver, put on an eagle’s beak, strut down Broad Street in some outlandish costume in a Mummers parade singing and playing music with all his heart, is the same silent individual who stands in church with a bored look on his face, only half murmuring the responses, if at all, and seemingly to be without any musical interest or talent when the hymns are sung. If the Truth will set us free, then the Truth here is that his heart is in the first group of activities and sadly missing in the second. What we call worship is a weak imitation of real worship and hardly belongs in the same category. If you want to see real worship, go to Vet Stadium on a Sunday when the Eagles are playing as all the muted church goers sing "Fly, Eagles, Fly!" with all the gusto they can muster, or attend a rock concert where our young people are caught up in the music and antics that are taking place on the stage. They don’t call them idols for nothing. One of the most impressive examples of true worship that I ever saw was a televised concert by Garth Brooks in Ireland where over one hundred thousand fans stood with arms raised swaying and singing as Garth Brooks performed one of his popular ballads. Why the "Holy! Holy! Holy!" at Mass isn’t even worthy of comparison, and if I can see the contrast and hypocrisy of it all, do we think that God doesn’t.
Something is missing in our understanding of God because as St. Augustine said, "Our hearts were made for Thee, O God, and will not rest until they rest in Thee." If this is true, then any true knowledge of God should evoke the same response that we see at football games or at rock concerts. These events become false gods because in some way they mimic or contain elements that are found in the real God. Otherwise, why would our hearts respond so spontaneously to them?
The only time that I have seen the same type of enthusiasm at a Mass was back in the 70’s when I used to attend charismatic conferences held in the convention hall in Atlantic City. Imagine a hundred priests dressed in white robes marching into the auditorium being led by one with the Holy Bible raised above his head, as sixty thousand people cheered, sang, and prayed. Yet, I bet, that many of the football crowd who were not there would have considered them to be crazies for acting so foolish and outlandish: a bunch of religious fanatics who had lost their sanity. Why they were acting like God was passing by.
God must grow weary of us as we go chasing after false gods and false shepherds while we completely ignore, or even worse, give lip service to the true God and Good Shepherd. Truly, St. John hit it on the head when he asked, "Why does God condemn man?" and his answer was, “Because the light came into the world and men loved darkness.”
But maybe the fault is not entirely ours. Maybe the reason that we don’t give God the true type of spontaneous worship that He deserves is because we don’t really know who He is or what He has done and continues to do for us. Maybe, Einstein, who, as far as I know, didn’t belong to a formal church or synagogue, had a better understanding of Him than most of the so-called believers. Listen to his view of religion and compare it to what I have just described.
"The most beautiful and most profound emotion 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 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."
What Einstein knew that many so-call believers don’t seem to know is that the entire universe is a reflection of the Mind that created it and to know the universe is to know God and each time another piece of our understanding of it falls into places so does our understanding of God increase. But the universe will reveal itself only to the seekers and searchers of truth. Maybe that’s what Jesus meant when He said, "Seek and you will find; knock and it will be opened unto you." The Psalms say "Happy the man who wanders with the Lord; who ponders His laws day and night." Maybe our problem is that we don’t ponder enough. Maybe we don’t ask enough questions or we don’t ask the right questions and that is why we never emerge completely from the Kingdom of Darkness. Maybe that why we can’t get out of hell. Maybe we spend too much time wondering about what our false idols on the stock market and the entertainment world are doing and not enough time wondering about what our God is doing. Wouldn’t it be shocking to discover that the only reason we failed to find our way out of the Kingdom of Darkness was because we never asked? Remember what St. John said, “Why does God condemn man?” and his answer was "Because the Light came into the world and men loved Darkness."
How much time have most of us spent wondering what the Bible means when it talks of the Kingdom of Light and the Kingdom of Darkness? It might be the most important question that we could ask because the Kingdom of Light is what salvation is all about and the Kingdom of Darkness is what damnation is about and, according the Bible, the answer has eternal significance.
In a previous program, I spoke about "religious algebra" by which I meant that in religion, as in algebra, we often know the right formula to get the right answer but we don’t understand why it is the right answer. For example, in algebra we might know that "a minus b equals c" but until we know what "a" is what "b" is we can't understand what "c" is. Once we know that "a" is the "money that we earned" and "b" is the "money that we owed", then it becomes clear that "c" is the "money that we have left over" Now we not only have the right answer but we understand what it is the answer to and why it is the right answer.
In religion we say things like "Jesus will save us from our sins" and most of us believers will say that this is true. However, as in algebra, we don’t know why or how it is true because we have not pondered enough who Jesus is or what sin is. As in algebra, we know the formulae, we know that it is true, but we have little or no understanding of why it is true. Once, however, we understand who Jesus is and what sin is, the truth of the statement become obvious.
Jesus, says the Church, is the Incarnate Wisdom of God, which means, He is the Wisdom, spoken of in the Old Testament, that the Creator, or Father, used to create the universe. Listen to what Proverbs 8 has to say about Wisdom. "The Lord begot me the firstborn of His ways, the first of His works of long ago. I was in the very beginning, at the first, before the world began. I was born before the oceans, when there were no springs of water. I was born before the mountains, before the hills were set in place, before God made the earth and its fields or even the first handful of soil. I was there when He set the sky in place, when He stretched the horizon across the ocean, when He placed the clouds in the sky, when He opened the spring of the oceans and ordered the waters of the sea to rise no further than He said. I was there when He laid the earth’s foundations. I was beside Him like a craftsman or architect, and, like a child playing before Him. I was His delight always rejoicing before Him. And I found delight in the sons of men. "
Now compare this to John I in the New Testament where St. John writes:
" In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God; all things were made through him, and without him was nothing was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness could not understand it... And the Word became flesh and dwelt amongst us."
We could restate this, based on our knowledge of Proverbs 8 by saying,
"In the beginning was Wisdom and Wisdom was with God and Wisdom was God. He was in the beginning with God and all things were made through Wisdom and without Him nothing was made. In Wisdom was life and the life was the light of men. And the light of Wisdom shone in the darkness and the darkness could not understand it... and Wisdom became flesh and dwelt amongst us."
Thus the Church teaches that Jesus is the "Incarnate Wisdom of God" that is, at His birth, which is known as the Incarnation, Wisdom became flesh and dwelt amongst us.
Now consider that the ancient Jews believed that there were two dimensions to every human being: the outer and the inner, the flesh and the spirit. The outer or flesh ate bread while the inner or spirit ate Wisdom and they considered it extremely foolish to spend one’s life feeding the outer flesh, which would die and decay, while starving the inner spirit, which was destined to live forever. Thus, an Old Testament prophet, speaking in the name of God, asks, "Why do you spend money for food that does not satisfy your hunger and for drink that does not quench your thirst? Come to Me and, for free, I will give you food and drink that will satisfy you." He is speaking about Wisdom because only it could satisfy the hunger of our inner spirit. Thus, one of the terms for Wisdom was the "Bread of Life." So when Jesus says, "I am the Bread of Life. He who comes to Me shall not hunger; He who believes in Me shall not thirst" and "Unless you eat my body and drink my blood, you shall not have life within you", we should understand Him as saying, "I am the Wisdom who was in the beginning who the Father used to create the universe and if you eat my body and drink my blood, I will feed your inner spirit and thereby give it eternal life." "I am the Way out of Darkness; I am the Truth that will set you free from your ignorance; I am the eternal Life which you seek. And, if you want that eternal life, then stop being stupid and foolish and follow Me, the Truth, by 'picking up your cross', which are the challenges and difficulties which your hedonistic nature is always avoiding or complaining about, and struggle up the hill of Calvary where you will die to your old self which is rooted in the natural world of the flesh and be born again or resurrected to a supernatural level where you, like St. Paul, will discover your hidden self, the true you, who is known only to God. Life was not made for amusement, which means "without thought" but rather for growth and development and "without struggle there is no progress." Did you hear that? Did you understand it because I have just stripped away all the religious algebraic symbols and have replaced them with their concrete meaning? Let me say it for you again slowly so that you can absorb its total meaning.
When Jesus says, "I am the Bread of Life. He who comes to Me shall not hunger; He who believes in Me shall not thirst" and "Unless you eat my body and drink my blood, you shall not have life within you", we should understand Him as saying, "I am the Wisdom who was in the beginning who the Father used to create the universe and if you eat my body and drink my blood, I will feed your inner spirit and thereby give it eternal life." "I am the Way out of Darkness; I am the Truth that will set you free from your ignorance; I am the eternal Life which you seek. And, if you want that eternal life, then stop being stupid and foolish and follow Me, the Truth, by 'picking up your crosses', which are the challenges and difficulties which your hedonistic nature is always avoiding or complaining about, and struggle and struggling up the hill of Calvary where you will die to your old self which is rooted in the natural world of the flesh and be born again or resurrected to a supernatural level where you, like St. Paul, will discover your hidden self, the true you, who is known only to God. Life was not made for amusement, which means "without thought", but rather for growth and development and "without struggle there is no progress."
Once we understand this, then the story of salvation takes on a clearer perspective and, like St. Paul, we can begin to say "When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man I put away childish things. For now we see through a glass, darkly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; but then I shall know even as I am known."
So, now with this newer and deeper insight, let us look at the statement that "Jesus saves us from our sins" and see what it means in this newer light. "Sin" as I have mentioned in a previous program comes from a Greek word that means, "to miss the target." Therefore, we could restate this as "Jesus, the Wisdom of God, saves us from 'missing the target' by enlightening our minds so that we begin to understand the true purpose of life, which is God’s Will, and all the things involved in it. Once our heart understands God’s Will and we acquire a "knowing heart", we no longer need "laws" to control us and thus, like St. Paul, we are no longer under the law because we have been set free by Christ, Jesus. Suddenly, to use Medieval terms, our Will and our Intellect have joined to become one unified being in which our Will, which was made to seek the Good or God, is lead by our Intellect, which was made to seek the Truth or Jesus, and thereby we are in the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, "Free at last! Free at last! Great God, Almighty, we are free at last!" We are no longer slaves to our passions and drives, like the animals. We are no longer slaves to our sinful nature which, because of its blindness and lack of understanding, was always "missing the target." We now know that the purpose of food is nutrition and the purpose of sex is reproduction and therefore have been set free from the sins of gluttony, fornication, adultery, and other sexual sins of the flesh. For the first time, we don’t need laws and the threat of punishment to keep us from sinning because now we understand what things are really about. We now know that sex is sacred and children are the little miracles that it produces and that only a fool would think its real meaning is the pleasure involved. Thus, to the question, "Are you saved?" we no longer give it the simple answer of "Yes" or "No." Rather, we understand that salvation is a process that we have entered in which we are being saved from the "doing of our sins" rather than from the childish notion of the "punishment for our sins." We now understand that sinning, being foolish and stupid, produces its own chaotic consequences and that, what we consider punishment, is simply the fact that we are "reaping what we have sown." As long as we remain in the process of salvation by following Wisdom, we are being saved from the "doing of our sins" and, as a result, from the consequences that would logically follow. Any time we depart from the path of Wisdom, our salvation is halted, delayed, and, if we refuse to repent and reform, lost. Thus, we are on the path to salvation and not everyone is at the same place. Nevertheless, so long as we remain on the path, God will continue to purify us, like gold tried in fire, until all our sins have been wiped away. Because it is an ongoing process, the Church, realizing that very few of us die completely purified, teaches that God will continue the process even after death in Purgatory where, whatever imperfection we are still working on, will be purged out of us by the purifying fire of God’s love. It is not a punishment but another agent of God’s love and desire to save us from our sins. So to the question "Are you saved?" the Catholic answer should be "I am being saved from the doing of my sins through the graces that God bestows upon me through the Church and its sacraments and so long as I cooperate with these graces the power of sin will eventually lose it hold over me and my life will begin to reflect the positive consequences of living a life based on Wisdom rather than foolishness. If I don’t cooperate, my sinning will continue and so will the hellish consequences that flow from them.
Since, as it should now be clear, that God’s Wisdom saves us from our sins, then the question that we should always asks when deciding to do or not to do anything is "Is it wise?"
Let’s test ourselves on a few issues:
Is it wise for us to create a lifestyle that requires two incomes where things replace time with people including the time that parents spend with their children?
Is it wise for parents to surrender the control and guidance of their children to a media and entertainment industry that has no concern for their souls but only for their money? In other words, is it wise to let MTV, the movies, television, and rock stars become the major moral influence in our children’s lives?
Is it wise for parents to lose their moral compass and backbone so that they, who should have more experience and wisdom, allow their children, who have less experience and wisdom, to become the dictator of what they will see, hear, wear, and do?
Is it wise to allow sports stars, wrestlers, rocks stars, and entertainers to become the idols which our children worship and copy while the source of all Truth and Goodness is ignored or minimize in their lives. Does anyone really think that the World Wrestling Association, MTV, or rock stars that destroy their instruments on stage, shout and act out vulgarities, live lives of drug and sex, and sing songs with lyrics that undermine the moral values of the society are role models that we want our children to know and admire?
Is it wise to allow our children to become mesmerize by video games that are becoming increasingly more filled with gross violence and sex? If the Bible is correct that we will "reap what we sow", what do we think will grow from these seeds?
Is it wise, in an environment in which non-Christian forces have stated that their aim is to overthrow Christianity and replace it with older pagan forms, such as the Wiccae and Druid religions based on magic and witchcraft, to support and encourage the Harry Potter phenomena even in our Catholic schools so that our children are more knowledgeable and drawn to the pagan catechism than to their own? In my first series of programs, I did three talks on this in which I described that what you and I think of as fairly tales and fantasy is treated as being quite real on many colleges campuses as the Wiccae religion based on witchcraft grows in popularity, especially among the girls who are being told by the women’s movement that Christianity is a male based religion. In one of the high school where I teach part time, I have already been told by one student that she and her entire family, that used to be Catholics, are now witches and warlocks who belong to the Wiccae religion. Other students in the same high school have told me that she is not the only one and that many others either belong or are joining. Don’t we understand the pull that the mysterious and unusual have on the young?
Is it wise to allow Secular Humanist thinkers and educators to seize control of our educational institutions and to indoctrinate our children with their vision of the world that include recreational sex and abortion on demand?
Is it wise for the Western Christian World to depopulate itself through birth control and abortion so that nations, such as Italy, and other European countries will eventually lose their native population and be replaced by other ethnic groups? In other words, is it wise for any group to commit genetic suicide?
Is it wise to allow our government and our courts to seize the power to define anyone’s humanity out of existence? Over 42 million unborn babies have been reclassified as fetuses instead of human beings at the fetal stage of development and have had their lives extinguished by some of the most inhuman methods that the human mind can conceived. And yet, except for a few zealots like Dom Letteri and other pro-life spokespersons, this country, which claims that it believes that "all men are created equal and endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, among which are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" seems to be unconcerned about the holocaust which is happening in its own backyard.
Is it wise to replace people with things and relationships with real estate as we seem driven to move farther and farther away from people with whom we have intimate connections to live with people with whom we have no connection?
I could go on but I think that these few examples are enough to make my point. We should all get into the habit of asking the question "Is it wise?" To all of these questions, I would like to add the admonition that my friend Dom Latteri has often expressed. "Wake up America! If as individual we reap what we have sown, then corporately as a national we are about to reap what we have sown." And I might add, that we have seen only the tip of the iceberg. Unless we repent and reform, we will experience the collapse that all great nations before us experienced when they stopped following the path of Wisdom that made them great and returned to the Darkness from which they emerged.
Which bring us to another question connected to the issue of religious algebra. The Bible is always talking about the battle between the forces of darkness and the forces of light. The devil is called the Prince of Darkness and the Father of All Lies while Jesus is called the Light of the World and the Truth who is leading us out of darkness into the Kingdom of Light. Just what do darkness and light really mean when they are used in the Bible?
A number of years ago, while doing some research at a library, a young lady was sitting across from me at the table. After about fifteen minutes, she got up and left. About a half hour later, I finished my research and got up to leave when I noticed that she had left her book on the table. I decided to return her book to the rack with my own. As I leaned over to pick it up, I noticed that it was a scholar’s Bible that had extensive footnotes. It was opened to a place where God and the devil were having a conversation about a place called Gehenna. "Gehenna?” I thought to myself. "What the heck was Gehenna?" Seeing that there was a footnote, I began to read. Gehenna, it said, was the Old Testament word for hell and it meant "empty thought."... "Empty thought", I said, "What about 'fire and brimstone'?" Then it hit me. "Of course, that’s what the Kingdom of Mental Darkness is. It is a place of "empty thought."
Then it dawned on me that the two lobes of our brains, which view everything from two different perspectives, would also view heaven and hell differently. The animalistic right lobe, being hedonistic, would think of heaven as being eternal pleasure and hell as being eternal pain. Muslim men, for example, believe that if they die for the sake of Allah, that they will enter a paradise full of the most delicious foods and each of them will be given forty virgins for their carnal delight. Of course, this makes one wonder what the forty Muslim virgins got for their reward. Hell, on the other hand, from the right lobes perspective would be eternal pain and what could be more painful than eternal fires?
These images, of course, speak to our carnal nature which operates on the hedonistic premise that whatever gives me pleasure is good and whatever gives me pain is bad. And so long as we remain spiritually immature children, they are enough to scare the hell out of us. However, as St. Paul said, there comes a time when we have to put away the things of our childhood and become adults. I have already mentioned that God in the Old Testament kept complaining that the Hebrews were like hirelings or slaves who would do His Will only if He paid them or threatened to whip them. How He yearned for a people who, like sons and daughters, would do their Father’s Will out of love. Do we expect anything less from our own children? Would we be satisfied if they grew into adulthood always needing to be threatened with punishment for doing the wrong thing or requiring a reward for doing the right thing? Then why would we think that God, the Father of us all, would feel any different?
Do you get it? Do you understand what God wants from us? Jesus did when, faced with torture and death, said "Not My will but Thy Will be done!" What else would we expect from the Son of God. Mary, His mother did when, faced with an out-of-wedlock pregnancy that could result in her being stoned to death, said "Let it be done unto me according to Thy Will." St. Theresa did when she said, "Even if there was no heaven I would still love Thee and even if there was no hell I would still fear the loss of Thee." What else would we expect from the daughters of God?