I Can’t Breathe!

I Can’t Breathe!

            I can only imagine how a drowning person may feel.  My Uncle, Bill McCulley, taught me to swim on his farm in Illinois, in a pond on the Wilt Place.  He was a Navy veteran, and an excellent swimmer, and I trusted him to save me if anything happened to me.  The fish and snakes brushing up against my legs did not seem to matter.  One of Bill’s attributes, besides being very strong, was his ability to go under water, without breathing, of course, for a long, long time.  I know he loved me enough to save me if I went under water.  Jesus died because he could not breathe under water.  I can only imagine the suffering he felt.  I know Jesus loves me, and will save me, just like my Uncle, Bill would have.  We will get back to Jesus, and breathing under water later.

I am writing this reflection about Breathing under Water: Spirituality and the Twelve Steps, by Richard Rohr, a well know Franciscan teacher and priest.  We are discussing addiction and will also draw upon Addiction and Grace, by Dr. Gerald May as appropriate.  I am specifically selecting one concept, extant in both books, concerning our addiction to war.  Refusal to submit to Satan’s political ploy, to fall down and worship Satan, cost Jesus His life, as we will see as we go along.  Because of our addictions to “oil, war, and empire; the church’s addiction to its own absolute exceptionalism;” (Breathing Underwater, p. xxii), among other addictions, Jesus had to die.  Because He died trying to breathe under water, Jesus is able to save us from our own addictions, all of them.

When we cannot breathe, and are under water for a long time, we must eventually surrender, or give up our life.  As Ignatian students we are aware we should give up everything to live only in God’s love and grace. Step three of the twelve steps in Breathing Underwater is about our decision to give up to turn our will and lives over to the care of God as we understand God (p.17).  We have not been taught this surrender by our nationalistic political systems, nor have our institutional religious systems as a whole taught us this surrender, but Jesus teaches us (Matt. 5: 39) (p. 19).  Bye, bye ego.  Addiction to the ego and to power must go (p. 21).  The devil wants to make us a great “deal”.  The art of Satan’s deal is to give us instantly the power without pain and without self-surrender (p. 21).  This was Satan’s third temptation which most institutional religions have accepted even to this day.  It is a myth, a myth of redemptive violence that we can personally save ourselves by violent means.  For thousands of years this myth has never worked.  Rohr calls it the “myth of heroic sacrifice” (p. 21).  It is the American “way”, and the way of most every nation.  We have learned well and are addicted to this myth of self and violence and our society, our nation, (p. 22) and in too many ways our churches are co-dependents to help us believe in this myth and be self-glorified as martyrs of the church (p.23).  True believers, we are giving up our body to supposed chastity, poverty, and obedience to look good, to fool many people, and to puff up the self (p.24).

To give up this puffed up, narcissistic self, as individuals, politicians, nations, and institutions including business and religious institutions is to realize we are sinners, yet loved sinners surrendered to the lover (God the Higher Power) who loves us (p. 24, 27).  As the Holy Spirit helps us, we are infected by the Spirit of Jesus (p.25).  Rohr says the Holy Spirit “sneaks in through the ducts and the air vents (p. 25).  In some ways we would rather just have someone tell us what to do, to manage our sins for us in the confessional booth or church sermons than surrender our will and accept God’s radical grace freely.  This grace is given to us by a higher power we understand to be God, as much as we understand Him, who loves us without expecting to be paid back.  He loves us because He is love (p. 27).  Only grace given in love can cure addictions.

Both Rohr and May speak of nonviolence and trust in a higher power for our salvation.  Jesus spoke Truth to Power when He refused Satan’s third temptation to fall down and worship Satan and did not accept the “deal” to be given earthly kingdoms before it was time.  As a result, Jesus had to suffer and die to save us, who are addicted, and complicit with this warmongering society.

Referencing May’s book, Dr. May echoes rule 98 of Ignatius’ Spiritual Exercises when he states “detachment does just the opposite.  It seems liberation of desire, an enhancement of passion, the freedom to love with all one’s being, and the willingness to bear the pain such love can bring.” (Addiction and Grace, p.15).  This can be freedom from political slavery too, and freedom to love even our enemy, one of Jesus’ primary commandments (Matt. 5: 43, 44).  The Spiritual Exercises, rule 98, promotes the willingness to bear all wrongs.  It is this suffering love that brings detachment and personal freedom as it is greased by the wheels of grace.

See:

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Eternal Lord of All Things

Eternal Lord of all things, in the presence of Thy infinite goodness, and of Thy glorious mother, and of all the saints of Thy heavenly court, this is the offering of myself which I make with Thy favor and help. I protest that it is my earnest desire and my deliberate choice, provided only it is for Thy greater service and praise, to imitate Thee in bearing all wrongs and all abuse and all poverty, both actual and spiritual, should Thy most holy majesty deign to choose and admit me to such a state and way of life (http://spex.ignatianspirituality.com/SpiritualExercises/Puhl#marker-p101)

True freedom is the freedom to love one another, including our enemy.  If we maintain our addictions to war and killing this is what May describes as a security addiction (p.31).  May states, “we can and should trust in God for our ultimate security” and he speaks of relaxing our grip about lessor sources of security.

It is Jesus, who is our ultimate source of security.  Rohr states “only people who have suffered in some way can save another” (p. 123).  Jesus died and suffered on the Cross.  He did not die of blood loss.  In excruciating pain, His feet nailed to the cross, and His hands too, Jesus couldn’t breathe unless He pushed up on His pierced feet, and said, “I thirst.”  He was given the fourth cup via the hyssop branch which should have been given at the Passover meal, and He surrendered just for you, and just for me, to save us from our addictions to sin.  His lungs had filed up with water and blood.  He could not breathe.  He had to die; He could not breathe, but now He saves us, we who think we can breathe, but are underwater with all our addictions.

John Cooper

 

 

Jesus Dies Everyday

Jesus Dies Everyday

This morning I greeted one of my church friends at St. Francis who has cancer.  He recently began chemotherapy. Today we said good morning, but I did not recognize him immediately until he passed by because either is hair had fallen out or he had his head shaved.  I exclaimed his name, when I recognized him.  He had just walked a long way from the parking lot into the church in order to faithfully worship with us, as is his habit.

Part way through Mass, he got up with two people, one on each arm to go out.  I was serving as an usher this day and I recognized the problem and started up to help, but seeing two people already helping, I sat back down. He collapsed to the floor, the people helping him not able to hold him up.  I rushed across the room, but he was already surrounded with others in his seating area helping him.  Silently I prayed, with tears, and assisted a woman who had called 911 in flagging down the fire trucks who arrived before the ambulance to help.  The ambulance arrived and he was put on a stretcher while conscious and rolled out of the sanctuary with applause by the congregation.

Later, after church, several of us held hands and prayed for him, and recited the “Our Father” at the end.  As I write, I don’t know how he is doing, but as I am doing my Examen this night a thought occurred to me:   Jesus dies every day!

What do you mean, John, that Jesus dies every day?  He died only once, on the cross, for all of mankind and Jesus said, “It is finished.”  Jesus also lives in each of us and the image of God lives in every man.  We can find God’s presence in everything that exists, in every sparrow which falls to the ground which God knows.  Why?  Because He lives, and in Him we live and move and have our being.  God is in all things.

By now you may have figured I am not going to thump on the Bible for scripture references concerning what I am writing, and what I am imagining.  Let’s just think about it, and if I imagine something wrong, I stand corrected.

Thus, I imagine that God who lives in us also dies with us when we die.  When we are in pain, so Jesus is in pain. He knows.  We are supposed to die daily to ourselves, putting away the old man of sin.  Why would a little of God not die when we die to, to be later resurrected?

Jesus promised to draw all men unto himself.  Even if Jesus does not do that in our life time in this physical body, what prevents Him from drawing us to Himself at our (our and Jesus’) death?  He could just show us in brilliant light, in a love filled way, what with God is really like and let us choose life.  If you want to live forever as He draws us to the loving light and unto Himself, now is the time to believe. Don’t count on the unknown future.  I will overlook the objections that Jesus cannot save us immediately because we have to pay for our sins, or be purified in purgatory.  I wonder if Jesus does not in a way die again with us, experiencing our pain, our suffering, His hands held out in compassion and love for those who live in Him and Him in us, and if we fall, to raise us up again?

What about my friend who collapsed in church today?  He has lived a good life already. Every day is a gift to him from God who gave him life and who lives in him.  Maybe God will answer his and our prayers and miraculously heal him, or maybe not.

Either way, God knows how to die, every day.  He knows how to raise from the dead and how to take care of those whom He loves. In the interim, if there is an interim, let us trust in Him, as does my friend.

Grace & Peace,

John Cooper

 

Jesus, You Here?

 

Jesus, You Here?

          It was a beautiful day yesterday, a fall day at the end of October in 2017.  Leaves are changing and I am at St. Ignatius House in Atlanta, GA, for a class in Spiritual Direction.  I arose very early this morning intending, I thought, to do my daily reflections with Scripture and do some review of material for the class, but I didn’t.

It came to me to go first into the Adoration Chapel to just sit with the Host and Jesus (Catholics believe in the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist).  I did some centering prayer, trying not to think of anything, just breathing in, “Yah” and out “weh” or “Yahweh.”  I did that a while and since I was very close to the Monstrance,[i] I got up just to be sure the Host was actually in there.

Now I believe that God is in all things and all things are in God.  The Apostle Paul noted a Greek poet, “In Him you live and move and have being.”[ii]  I believe that, but some theologians don’t believe Paul really believed what he quoted.  I recently talked to one of them who does not believe that.  But I do.

I was reminded while I sat in meditation of the last complete sentence my Uncle, Bill McCulley, said to me as I, my wife, Wink, my sister Janelle Deblois, and I heard as we put him to bed toward the end of his life and Bill looked up in a fleeting glimpse of his old self and asked, “John, you here?”  Bill soon died of Alzheimer’s, an insidious disease.  Bill didn’t know anything much, even most of the time what his name was.  Of course I “know” a lot more how to talk, how to add and subtract, how to read and write, etc.  Bill did not know anything.  It was like he was in a vast cloud of unknowing[iii]  But as I looked down on him and heard the words, “John, you here,” it was so precious to me.  I hope to remember those words all my life.  Maybe he is looking down on me now as a part of the vast cloud of witnesses or the Communion of Saints.[iv]  Maybe he will welcome me again when we meet again and I arrive wherever he is, in God, in heaven, wherever, and Bill greets me in a loving voice, with the words, “John, you here.”

Now I was not supposed to be thinking of anything in my centering prayer, attempting to enter the vast cloud of unknowing, the Divine union with the Mystery, the One God, but my prayer turned into meditation and I went up to the Monstrance and looked closely, knowing not to touch it, and looked to be sure the Host was present there, it was, and I asked, “Jesus, You here?”

I sat back down and wept silently since other people here are in a silent retreat, although I was all alone in the Adoration Chapel, excepting with Jesus, of course.  Jesus was there too.  If you don’t believe that, believe Jesus was is in me and He is in you, at least the image of the Divine and Mysterious One is in us all.  I thought that as little as I know, and all the religions and religious institutions of the world know, including Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, and Islamic, if all poured together in a bucket, would know nothing, being just be a drop in the ocean compared to what God knows.  God knows how to talk in all languages including Angelic ones, He knows how to read and write in all languages too, and how to order and create the whole universe, how to create life and how to take life, just at the right time, like he took my uncle Bill’s life and received him unto Himself.

I know God heard me when I asked, “Jesus, You here?”  I know He was looking down when I asked Him that, thinking I am precious in His sight, that I am a beloved sinner and He knows all of my sins since He lives in me, and I live in Him.   I love you Father, Son, Holy Spirit, Divine One, and you too, Bill McCulley, and you too, the reader whom God loves, and is in, at least by His image inside of you.

Please ask yourself, if you do not believe, or if you do believe, “Jesus, You here?”

 

John Cooper

 

[i] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monstrance

[ii] Acts 17:28

[iii] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Cloud_of_Unknowing

[iv] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Communion_of_saints

Cooper White – Cooper Black

Cooper White – Cooper Black

 

For me it has been a day of Desolations and Consolations…

The consolations came at the end of the day and this is what I want to tell you about…

 

Wink called, asking me to pick up some food for supper on the way home. I was in West End, where our business is located, and she mentioned Long John Silver’s/Taco Bell restaurant. I mentioned I did not know if it was Long John Silver’s anymore. I went by and the sign said Taco Bell, not a combination of restaurants as I do believe was once there.

 

I went in and asked the girl behind the counter, a light skinned black girl, if this was a Long John Silver’s too anymore. She said no, but offered to look one up for me. I noticed she had a Silver Christian cross hanging from her neck and sensed a common Spirit between us. I said that is OK, I will just order something here. I finally figured out what we needed, with her assistance, and she asked for a name to place on the order. I said Cooper… (BTW., I am writing this in Cooper Black type set…) [This is not showing in this font on WordPress] She said, I am a Cooper too, and explained that that is her name now or that she is related to Coopers in South Alabama and Jacksonville, Florida. I said, “Good, we may be related.” I told her my Great Great Grandfather was a conductor on the underground railroad, and asked her about her family history, but she did not know much about it..

 

I mentioned that I did not recall any of my ancestors having slaves, because we were from up North in Illinois, but that we could be related in some way. I offered her my hand and said, that it was good to meet her and we may be related.

 

When the order came up, she brought it out to me and we struck up another conversation about the family name. She told me about her second cousin in Jacksonville, FL and thought of his name. I asked her if he was fully white or partially white, and she said fully white. I said we may be related, and told her about a Genealogical book my Brother, Joe had written, about our ancestry going back to the Mayflower. I gave her my business card and asked her to email me and I could share it with her. We hugged each other, and I told her my shop was right down the street, just over the viaduct, and asked her to come down to see me one day.

 

I was thinking on the way home with our Taco Bell food, how the day had been cycles of desolations and consolations, and how this was a wonderful consolation to share one’s inner spirit with another created in
God’s image. I still do not understand why we cannot all get along in the world….

 

I think we are all related; all of us brothers and sisters, and we should all love one another… I know I am naïve, but I hope to die that way…. What is it we cannot understand about the unconditional love of God, which is supposed to be in us, if we wear the cross around our necks, or symbolically carry the cross, or even if we are not Christians at all, that we do not understand about this love of God?

 

Cooper White, – Cooper Black… What is the difference? I just can’t see any difference….

 

Grace & Peace,

 

John Cooper (White)

 

 

Mary Magdalene

Mary Magdalene

Today is Resurrection Sunday, Easter Sunday. Our St. Ignatius reflections today focused on John 20 and the resurrection event.
My personal focus today was on all of this in relationship to Mary Magdalene. What I write is mainly out of my imagination. I think when one dies it would be good to have at least one person who really loves you, more would be better. I imagine Mary Magdalene loved Jesus the most, perhaps even more than Jesus’ mother, Mary, or even more than the Apostle John. It was a different kind of love for each of these people.

 
Mary Magdalene is said to be a sinner, but we are all sinners and need to know how big of sinners we are, just like Mary Magdalene. Some say she was a prostitute, but there is no evidence of that being true that I know of. There are other ways to sin. Mary was rich. She gave lots of money to support Jesus. She loved Jesus. Jesus was broke. All He had worked for all his life physically was gone. He had some good years too, and had money at times in his life when some wealthy people around Capernaum would hire Him. One time Mary hired to make a chest of drawers for her clothing. She had some nice clothes. Some people said she should have worn more of them sometimes, but she wanted to look good to the men and be compelling to them. She was about 30 years old, a beautiful woman with long red hair. Oh, the chest Jesus built had dovetail drawer joints, hand cut ones too. The drawers opened smoothly on wood runners one would put a little wax on occasionally to make them slide easily. The air would whoosh out just right as one closed the drawers. Jesus always remembered making that chest for Mary. She paid him well and gave him a hug when delivered it to her home. Jesus loved Mary.

 
After Jesus died, Mary cried all night. It was the Sabbath and she knew she should be sleeping and resting, but she just couldn’t do it. All she had ever believed in Jesus and other “religious” stuff and how He said one should overcome the evil and sin she had done, and overcoming evil with good, which to her was the Goodness and presence of Jesus in her life had been taken away.

 
Mary did not know what to do. Mary was a “true believer”. It was cool that Sunday morning and Mary got up very early, having tossed and turned all night, and slid out one of the drawers in the chest Jesus built for her as she gently wept in the subdued light of the blood moon that year. There aren’t many years the moon looks like that, but the Jewish sages had talked about blood moons before and Mary wondered if maybe God had caused something to make the moon look that way, just because Jesus had died. She put on more clothes than normal, heavier ones, but not her best because she would be out in a garden area close to where the tomb was. Most everybody knows the story about Mary and how she went to the tomb and the angels were there and the tomb was empty. Jesus was not there. I read it again and I cried as Mary realized it was Jesus, really, alive again and she loved him so much and hugged him again, a long time, just like when Jesus built the chest of drawers. Jesus had to tell her to let loose, it was getting too emotional for both of them. But all of us who know Jesus want to cling to him too…

 
Most everybody knows about these things; her story has been told and retold for thousands of years. I am just filling in some details of how it could have been, how I imagine it and how Mary ran with long hair flowing, and danced as she skipped along the Judean hills to go to tell Peter. Mary was the very first Evangelist, telling this good and wonderful news. A woman was not supposed to be a witness back then, but she did it anyway because Jesus, whom she loved, told her to do it. “Go and tell” Jesus said.

 
Let us go and tell it too…

 

John Cooper

One Cup

One Cup

In asking for the grace to understand and appreciate the Eucharist’s as Jesus’ self-gift, my meditations today were on Matt. 26: 26-29.  This is where Jesus instituted the symbols that are elements of this observance.

“Take, eat, this is my body”. ..….

“Drink of it, all of you.”…..

Jesus stated “this is the blood of the covenant”.

I thought of ways people are remembered after they die, tombstones, pictures, stories, buildings, etc., but none of these things last like the living symbols and an ordinance or Sacrament Jesus gave us by which to remember Him.  I thought back to Psalm 22, which has been on my mind this week.  The Psalm which starts “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?”, this Psalm was on Jesus’ mind too as he died on the cross.  Some think, and I have heard Fr. Joseph Tetlow say, that Jesus recited the whole Psalm on the cross.

 

The final verses of this Psalm are (v. 30-31).

“Posterity shall serve Him;
men shall tell of the Lord to the coming generation,

and proclaim His deliverance to a people yet unborn,

that He has wrought it.”

I do not think these symbols, the Eucharist; this Sacrament should be closed to anyone.  It should be shared with all who want and need Spirituality, and want to hear of this living story.  The Eucharist is exactly how Christians have told Jesus’ story as a living memorial for thousands of years to the coming generations.  Also I think there should be one cup, and we all drink out of it.  I am about tired of those little plastic Protestant types of cups 🙂 🙂      Oh, and for me, make that “real wine” 🙂 🙂

 

In addition to the above, which was a part of my St. Ignatius, 19th Annotation, Exercises today, I think these thoughts fit into the theme of Peace…  I understand that Islam is a religion of Peace, that it is really bad if a Muslim does not show hospitality to a stranger or a friend.  One of my Muslim friends, a Sunni, (one of those Pharisee types,) in fact, came with me to eat at a Hooligan’s , a Mediterranean restaurant here in Tuscaloosa, and brought his own tea, and cups, in a little kit with a thermos to keep it hot, and we drank together, and ate together.  He even attempted to evangelize me to the Muslim way.  I appreciated that he cared for me…    If it were up to me, which mostly it isn’t, but it used to be, and I were serving the Eucharist, I would offer the bread and the wine to him, but warn him first, if you take out of this One Cup, unworthily, you might die…  I think he would respect my beliefs, as I respected his, and we would continue to be friends, not enemies…

 

Love & Peace,

 

John Cooper

Brother’s Blood

Brother’s Blood

In this terrible world of the past month and a half, let us not let Evil creep up on us and invite us to partake of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil…

Accepting what is evilly inspired…

Let us hear the cry of our brother’s blood rising up from the earth,

Let us be aware that a major culprit of the violence and killing of the past few weeks is religion…

Let us walk in the Garden with God, as did Adam, and Eve, before religion…

Let us believe in God, as did Abraham, before religion…

Religion is a temporary phenomenon in this world’s history…

Religion is created by man in his own image as a bridge to reach the One God whose Kingdom already lives in us, and we in Him…

Relationships with God, and each other, and the supernatural ability to hear our brother’s blood cry from the ground are primal gifts we should strive to possess….

Not to strive against each other,

I think we are our brother’s keeper, all of our brothers…

Listen to your brother’s blood, and the survivors of our brothers’ blood who have bled under the altar of Evil, and have gone before us…..

Grace & Peace,

John Cooper