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

 

 

 

Little Boy

Luke 7: 11-17

2016 Version

A PRAYER OF IMAGINATION

Little Boy

After a little while, Jesus went to a town called Nain with His apprentices and a great big crowd following Him.  Nain is a town just off the beach in Greece and a little dead boy had just washed up on the beach.  There was a war going on in Syria and his mother and the little boy were fleeing the war because the father had been killed by a bombing raid on a hospital.  The little boy drowned but the mother just barely made it to the shore alive.  They were having a funeral for the little boy who was the woman’s only son.  The little boy was all she had left on earth.  She had spent every penny she had on having the little wood casket made.  She had no money for flowers.

Jesus saw the funeral procession and the woman crying and Jesus cried too.  It just is not right, Jesus muttered in between tears as He went up to the coffin and felt the smooth wood.  The coffin was 5/4” thick cypress.  Jesus was a carpenter and He had made some similar to this one before.  It had hand cut dovetail joints.  This was like the coffin Pope John Paul II was buried in, but a much smaller one and this one was square, not trapezoid.

Even though tears were coming out of Jesus eyes, He told the woman, “Don’t cry”, and as He opened up the lid of the coffin, He said, “Little Boy, get up, I tell you”.  The little boy got up and started talking and Jesus helped him get out of the coffin, holding his little body in His arms he and gave the little boy back to his mother.

Everybody was filled with awe and they praised God, even though not all of them were Christians.   Some of these refugees were Muslims and some were Christians too, but they all praised God, “A great prophet has appeared among us” they said.  “God has come to save His people”.

They put the whole story up on the internet, and someone recorded it with their cell phone and put it on You Tube for all to see just how much Jesus loved the little boy and all the refugees for that matter.  Because of this mystical and mighty event, the whole world sustained from war for 49 days.

 

John Cooper

 

WHY?

WHY?

 

This past season of Lent, I felt led to observe Lent for the first time in 49 years.  I have not observed Lent since I was last a Catholic and I believe the last time I observed Lent was in 1967, 49 years ago.  In about 1968, I left the Catholic Church in response to a conversion experience that included observation of the Sabbath on Saturday, the 7th day of the week, and my developing beliefs in the Christ-centered ethics of peace and nonviolence, which were not at that time generally supported in Roman Catholicism, although there were a few cells of peace and nonviolence in Catholicism in the presence of Thomas Merton, Dorothy Day and the Catholic Worker movement and the Jesuit Pacifist, Daniel Berrigan who just died this past week at the age of 94, a few days shy of 95 years old.  Also in France was at that time Pax Christi, which was not established in the United States until the 1970’s.

I don’t know why, exactly, that I felt I should observe Lent this year, and I surprised even myself in that I received an inner urge to return to the Catholic Church of my youth.  Why?  I don’t know why, but here are some ways and thoughts I would like to share.  I would view these as possible influences that led to the calling I received and I also leave all possibilities in the future open.  I list some possible reasons below; but I do not feel reason is the defining factor here, so I will change the term and answer to Why, concerning responses and possibilities, not reasons.

Possibly it was Pope Francis who has spoken to my heart and my way of belief and thinking since he first became Pope.  I love the man and his leadership.

Possibly it had something to do with long term relationships I have with Catholic friends like Fran Viselli, Nancy Green, and others.

Possibly it had something to do with the late life crisis of bankruptcy I have gone through and my research into St. Ignatius decision making.

Possibly it had something to do with Sr. Madeleine Gregg and her agreeing to become my Spiritual Director in leading me and a small group in taking the St. Ignatius Spiritual Exercises, 19th Annotation.

Possibly it had to do with a call from Christ the King, (The call of Christ the King is a section of the Exercises.), to write a book, “My Ignatius Journey”, about the exercises.

Possibly, even though it has been over a year since I took the Spiritual Exercises, it was a yearning for a deeper, different, and more mystical Spirituality which some find in the Catholic Church.

Possibly it was my concern for the refugee crisis and that the Interfaith Prayer service, “Just One”, which I wrote, was not accepted in Tuscaloosa and that my heart aches for something to be done regarding this matter on a grander scale.

Possibly it was all the transitions happening in my life and in the lives of others I know.

Possibly it had to do with a sermon Ben Tallmadge gave at Grace Church regarding the philosophy of Grace Church. I know this matter is not about doctrine, or about my not loving everyone, because I still do, but my philosophy of this Church stuff is more amenable to the Social Gospel ideals the Catholic Church “Just” seems to me much better at.

Possibly my work was just done at Grace Church, where I have attended for 10 years.  I think I am just too radical to do much good there.  I am not guaranteed 10 more years… The Magis, I began to understand and inwardly feel in the St. Igntian Spiritual Exercises urge me to do “more.”

Possibly my voice for peace and nonviolence will be heard in the Catholic community.  After all, at least Catholics pray for peace nearly every week in the Mass.

However, I think the real answer to the question “Why” is this………

I do not know why!

Possibly, faith walking in the dark where it sees the best will bump upon the reason, then we will all know ……..

‘WHY’

 

John Cooper

Yes, I am a Catholic!

Yes, I am a Catholic!

 

I had intended to do some other things today, these thoughts have come upon me…..

 

Per my regular routine, I rose early, today just after 5 AM, to enter into my morning meditations.  I have been using the Catholic Liturgical Calendar as a basis for my morning meditations.  There is an App for that, there are Apps for nearly everything.  The one I use is on my tablet and phone, but here is a link to another: http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/022116.cfm, except this one is computer based.  You can look up the name, CatholicApp.org on your tablet, I believe.

 

Today’s Liturgy and my meditations were about God’s promise to Abraham and his descendants, and also about our imitation of Christ, in so many words, when the heritage of those who have imitated him before us is passed down to us, until the end of time.  Moses and Elijah, even appeared to the Apostles, and God advised them that Jesus is God’s Son, listen to him.  The Apostle Paul wanted his followers to imitate him as he, Paul, followed and imitated Jesus.  In view of my morning meditations, and my admiration of Pope Francis’ comments about Mr. Trump, if he believed in building walls to keep the immigrants out of the United States, not being a Christian, (http://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/19/world/americas/pope-francis-donald-trump-christian.html?_r=0) I decided to go to the local Catholic Church.  I happen to be out of town, in Wetumpka, AL and the local Pastor, Fr. Albert Kelly, does not know me.

 

It was a wonderful worship time, and the music was wonderful.  They have a praise and worship band signing the traditional Catholic hymns with a live choir too!  The Homily was great too, and very meaningful, an exposition on the Liturgy for the day, which I just mentioned having meditated and prayed with this morning.  The Homily was about how parents pass on their genes and teaching to their children, just as Abraham’s heritage and genes have been passed down according to God’s promise for generation after generation, until the end of time.  Also mentioned was even if one does not have children, how one’s character and belief is passed down to others who are affected by it.  During the mass, I regularly thought of how I grew up Catholic, and I am in many ways still Catholic, due to my upbringing.  I regularly attended the Catholic Church, receiving all the rites of passage, until I was 18 and began attending another church because of my beliefs at that time in observing the Sabbath on the 7th Day of the week and my beliefs in peace and non-violence, which I did not know were accepted at that time in the late 1960’s to my knowledge. (There were some beliefs in non-violence in Dorothy Day’s Catholic Worker Movement, and Thomas Merton was a kindred Spirit to me, but I did not know of these things until much later.)

Being there today, at this mass, even though I do not regularly attend the Catholic Church, I went right up to receive communion.  I was in a little state of contemplation, and apparently I was not holding my hands just quite right, although I know how to, when one receives communion.  Fr. Albert Kelly asked me, “Are you Catholic?”  I realized I was not doing it quite right, too late though, and I said “Yes, I am a Catholic.”  So, he gave me the host, and I drank the wine.  You may say, “Liar, liar, pants on fire,” but I say, in the context of the situation, and the liturgy of the day, “Once a Catholic, always a Catholic.”  It is in the genes.  It is in the heritage of my soul and being.  In many ways, although I also believe in and have a heritage in other sides of the Christian family too, Yes, I am a Catholic.  This happens to be the week I already wrote about our common heritage as human beings created in the image of God, an article, “Cooper White – Cooper Black” which some loved, and some did not appreciate so much…..  https://jcooperforpeace.org/.  I don’t mind a bit if my physical makeup is a little mixed, or my religious heritage somewhat mixed, or if some of my family members were crazy, just like me…  I am who I am!

 

So, after mass, in place of eating doughnuts and coffee, as I have done before when I have been to this church, I spoke to a few people, and left to go about what I had planned to do, which was not to write this article, but I ran directly into Fr. Kelly, having changed his cloths and coming back into the Sanctuary.  I shook his hand and told him I wanted to explain something to him I did not have time to in the communion line.  I told him I grew up Catholic, and this year, for the first time in 49 years, I was observing Lent and that I sometimes do attend a Catholic Church. (This year for Lent I am giving up one drink per day, limiting my lunches to about $5, giving up meat, except for fish on Fridays, and sending the savings to help the refugees, which is the important thing to me, what I can give, not give up.  Also, I am trying to give up more of my conceit and vanity and pride, and other sins…, although I did not tell him all of that.)  He was very kind.  He asked who the priest was in my town when I told him I was not from Wetumpka.  I told him it was Father Deasy, whom he knew and had gone to school with, along with Fr. Deasy’s brother.

 

Anyway, it is good to be a part of one big worldwide family, the human race, or still have in my being the heritage of the Catholic Church, or the Worldwide Church of God, or Grace Church, where I now mostly attend.  It is good to be an American, to be a Christian, but it is not so good, in my view, to build up our walls and exclude the needy from fellowship with us, just because they are different.  Yes, I know the Vatican has a wall around it, but I don’t think Pope Francis built it, it has been there many years before.  Maybe we can tear it down, if it matters so much, which it doesn’t.  Yes, I am Catholic.  It came to me today, just how Catholic I still am..

 

Peace,

 

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

My Sin

My Sin

Before I get going on my reflections for this morning, day 166 of my St. Ignatius exercises, let me tell you about what happened to me last night when I woke up one time. I realized I had sinned. Let me tell you about it and confess it…..

 
It was on Monday, after I had gone to my Chiropractor, Dr. David Hitt, on a special visit because my back had been killing me and I had numbness in my right leg, and still do for that matter. I went into the post office to get my mail and on the way back to my truck noticed an older looking slightly blue, faded out car. I walked by it and suddenly the door popped open and a woman, perhaps a widow, or at least she had no husband with her, popped her head out in the cold air. I think I noticed a little child in a car seat in the back. Oh no, I immediately thought, I am about to be scammed, as she smiled a toothy smile that indicated she could use some dental work.

 
“Could I get a jump?” she asked with eyes looking up pleadingly. In my haste, thinking I was to be taking it easy according to my Chiropractor, I felt a sense of relief that it was not money she was asking for, but out of my mouth came the words, “I can’t do that”, as I continued to walk on. “Oh well, thanks anyway”, she politely said. I felt a little bad about it, hoping someone else would help her but I did not. I lied. I could have and probably would have if she had perhaps not surprised me, or had been a little more presentable, or perhaps had a lower cut in her dress or some other way. I sinned and will have more to say about it later.

 
Today in my Ignatian reflections I chose to meditate on Luke 21 verses 1 through 4, the text you will recognize about Jesus watching the poor widow give two copper coins into the Temple Treasury. That was all she had, Jesus said, and that had given more than all those rich folks who gave out of their plentitude.

 
Well, I got to thinking I had done something similar a couple of times in the past, but not really, because it was not really everything I had, but it was a sacrifice to me. Then “DING”, I realized the connection between my waking in the middle of the night in guilt, worried about my sin against the poor person in the car who only wanted a jump, not everything I had. Had she asked me for money too, as I suspected she would, I should have given her some. This woman was the Temple. Jesus was living in her and Jesus was watching me.

 
I was given a gift of repentance this morning as I confessed my sin and I confess it to you. Let me quote below:

 
“If you’re going to care about the fall of the sparrow, you can’t pick and choose who’s going to be the sparrow. It’s everybody.”

Madeleine L’Engle

 
Father, forgive me, for I have sinned. Also, I will be watching for this same person again. Maybe I can apologize, and listen to her story… Let me, let her, tell me, her story…

 
Epilogue:
Most of my writings on this blog site are promoting Peace and Nonviolence. Actually, this one does too. Confession and self-purification is a principle of Peace with ourselves and others, of not doing violence to ourselves and others in that we should confess our sins to one another. We should do it as Nations, as people groups, religious systems, and as individuals to set ourselves free of the interior black holes in our lives that close in on themselves if we do not.

 

Grace & Peace,

 

John Cooper

A Christian Response to Beheading

“A Christian Response to Beheading”

What have I done to you?

I love you…

I believe there is good in you…

Eli, Eli, Allah, Abba, Father, what have I done to this person..

Please forgive their sin…

We will meet again…

I am just a seed that will grow,

My blood, out of the ground, again…

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