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

The Seed is Sown

The Seed is Sown

(Matthew 9:32-38)

2016 Translation

 

            Jesus went out to conduct an assessment of the state of religion in his domain.  He went to all the churches, knocked on their doors, the Jewish Synagogues, the Baptist ones, the Catholic ones, the non-denominational ones, and the Islamic Mosques too.  He went to all of them in every town he could and met great big crowds of people who were looking for someone to lead them and to be President, but they were uncomfortable with all the choices available.  Jesus talked to them about an entirely different type of governmental system, one where there is no support for military systems, all the swords have been put up excepting some relics in museums, and the money that used to be spent on war is used to take care of sick people, to heal them, and to feed the hungry, build up hospitals and day care centers.  In this Kingdom, they use bricks and stones from walls torn down that used to separate people one from another.  Another great thing about this new political system that Jesus taught about, which he called “The Kingdom of God,” is that money was spent caring for the refugees of the old types of governmental systems who had no home or food because their jobs in the country where they lived and worked in factories making weapons of war and destruction had been done demolished.

Jesus really cared about these crowds and the refugees that were going to church in the churches he visited.  Jesus’ idea was that these people had been troubled and abandoned by the entire religious systems where they went to church every Saturday.  Jesus taught they needed to be harvested, along with those who do not go to church, like one harvests wheat.  Jesus prayed that more Mexicans would come and help in the harvest.  The Mexicans could see with Hispanic eyes which are very good and picking out grain from the field and separating the wheat from the chaff.  Jesus liked the Mexicans and anyone else who wanted to be a part of his harvest.  Jesus often thought about his illegal alien cousin, Ruth, the Moabitist, who was very good help in the harvest too.  This was way back before Jesus was born, but he heard all about it from his family history which his mother, Mary told him.

I think part of what Jesus is telling us here is that these religious systems of all kinds, Jewish, Christian, Muslim, and others, are not all that bad.  After all, Jesus is telling us to go to the “harvest” for the Kingdom, not to plant the seed.  The seed has already been planted in these churches, It just needs to grow and be fed, and then be harvested.  He asks us to do the harvesting, not the calling, not the sowing.

Because of this great need for the harvest, Jesus brought workers for the Kingdom from Africa too, because people in Africa do not have so many TVs and have time to study the Sacred Scriptures.  In some countries people watch more TV than they do praying for the harvest and praying for peace, as Jesus asked.  One has a tendency to pray more when it is a life and death situation.  So, Jesus brought in a bunch of black Catholic priests from Africa to help with the harvest, and He even sent them across the sea into the united States.  They are good Priests, and they did not mind going to little towns either.  I saw one in Greenville, IL this past weekend.  I also saw one in a big city, Birmingham, AL, not too long ago.  I think these black priests must be everywhere.  Also those Mexican workers are everywhere.  They are the nearly the only ones who want to work in the harvest.  The Amish want to work too and are very good people, believing in Jesus and all of that.  The Amish love peace and the Kingdom of God too and hate warfare and killing.  But Amish cannot do much in the world because they go about in horses and buggies and like keeping things simple.  But, isn’t that what Jesus is asking us to do?  To just keep it simple, that is, to love one another, and to get out into the fields and bring in the harvest?  After all, He has already sown the seed, his very image, in every man and woman, and he is the one who makes this seed grow, not us.

 

Let’s just do it.. It is just that simple…

 

Grace & 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

Kingdom Come

KINGDOM COME

In the process of forming my thoughts, in mid-July, 2014, regarding the Gaza – Israel conflict, I believe we should be concerned, very concerned, about the state of ethics in today’s world. Is it possible for mankind to look beyond its own little kingdoms to a greater kingdom than one that serves our own particular selfish ambitious and conceitful needs as individuals, as families, as tribes, and nations?

Some believe the mantra for peace in the world is to overcome evil with good, falsehood with truth, and hatred with love. The much more predominate view has historically been to overcome evil with force, or more evil, not with good. This view is known in some circles as the “Myth of Redemptive violence”. It is known by thinking people as a “myth” because it has never worked and has never been proven in thousands of years.

Likewise, the myth of the “Just War” theory, developed over thousands of years of Roman Catholic thinking processes has never been proved, has never worked, and even more amazingly, even though proclaimed and sacrificed for, and died for, has never been followed. Just one of the tenants of the “Just War” theory is the ethic of proportionality, meaning if your enemy pulls out your fingernail on one thumb for instance, you do not have a right to cut off your enemies’ hand. Another tenant of the “Just War” theory is that non-combatant civilians are to be protected and not attacked and killed for militaristic purposes.

As we think back through history, including and especially including the history of the Americas, and Medieval Christianity, including the carpet bombing of Europe, and the vaporization of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the decimation of the American Indians, etc. We can readily see that proportionality and protection of non-combatants do not apply at all to so called “Christian” militiamen who may subscribe to the “just war” theory. I do not subscribe to this theory at all, nor did the early martyrs of the real Christian Church.

There are other rules mankind has adopted of a similar nature s in the “Rules of War”. The “Rules of War” are also not followed. I do not subscribe to the “Rules of War” either. But both the “Just War” theory and the “Rules of War” theories offer some less than totally barbaric principles that are better than having no principles at all. However, these principles are not followed either. Israel is definitely not following them in the current crisis and should be Internationally sanctioned, in my view for the disproportional, unjust devastation of innocent lives of men, women, and children.

Concerning the Gaza-Israel conflict today, is it okay for Israel to bomb civilian targets if they give prior warning for Palestinians to leave? Where are the Palestinians going to go, anyway, since they are fenced in? Is it okay for Hamas to launch rockets into Israel not knowing where they will land and who they will kill? Hamas is guilty too, and so is the United States for supplying Israel with weapons of mass destruction, and so is Iran for supplying Hamas with lesser weapons of mass destruction. It is also unconscionable for Israel to possess nuclear weapons, as well as the United States, Russia, and all others who possess them.

I am thinking of all these kingdoms and how all these kingdoms fight and war against one another, all of them whose citizens consist of precious human flesh and blood, including the precious flesh and blood of the Americans, British, German, Russian, Japanese, etc. Flesh and blood beautiful people have died with their women and children. Likewise, American Indians, Black slaves, Chinese, Syrians, Iraqis, and Somali’s, Sudanese, Nigerians, Colombians, etc. have died, due to brutal and inhumane force.

Kingdoms of the world fight against each other, which is just the way it is, the way it has always been. However, is that the way it will always be? I can think of one human being, at least one, who said NO! That is not the way it will always be. There is a Kingdom to come that will not be like the other kingdoms. This Kingdom was mentioned in Hebrew scripture (and rejected by Jews). This Kingdom was mentioned in Christian scripture (and rejected by Christians). This Kingdom was mentioned in Islamic scriptures (and rejected by Muslims).

It is a Kingdom NOT of this world. It is a Kingdom that comes after the laws and the prophets, including what some view as the final prophet. Yet, it is a Kingdom here now, which we can join. It is a Kingdom of God, which we, all human beings, need to become citizens of, a Kingdom of grace and peace. A Kingdom of religion without compulsion, without forcing laws because we willingly love and care for one another, and care for our beautiful earth. Anybody can join this Kingdom now, from any religion, or final religion. It is a Kingdom to be ruled by self- governance, which is ruling over ourselves internally, firstly. and loving others externally, including our enemies.

Here is a link of the Christian Theologian, N.T. Wright being interviewed by Gary Deddo, an official of Grace Communion International, the old Worldwide Church of God, which I was a member of: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MblLTC75KOc. I believe this video will give all of us a broader perspective of the Kingdom of God. In the interview, please notice how references to nonviolence are spoken of as being signatory of the Kingdom of God. I hope you will watch and listen…..

The Christian Church, Militant and Triumphant, the Jewish religion, Militant and Triumphant, and Islamic religion, Militant and Triumphant, are not exemplary of the Kingdom of God as God, NOT of this world, God intends his Kingdom to be. To me, the Kingdom of God consists of

One Human Family

One God

One Kingdom

We are members of each, all of us, and all of us members of each other, brothers and sisters, in One human family, created by One God, and members of One Kingdom of God. To be in submission to this threefold principle of being one with each other, one with God, and each, regardless of our religion at this time, participants in one Divine Kingdom, to me, is a key of Peace.

Our enemy is our neighbor. Believe it – love him. This is the Kingdom in you and in Him, and in me.

Grace & Peace,

John Cooper