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

 

 

 

Submission

SUBMISSION

As I reflect upon the world situation today, having had an extended conversation with one of my Catholic friends just yesterday, about the world situation, its wars, the danger presented to ancient Iraqi Christians presented by Islamic infighting in ancient lands around the city of Mosel, (near the foundational city of Nineveh) and Pope Francis and his efforts to make a difference in the world, I am reminded of the scripture below:

 

James 4:1-10
4:1 What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? 2 You want something but don’t get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask God. 3 When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.

4 You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. 5 Or do you think Scripture says without reason that the spirit he caused to live in us envies intensely? 6 But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says:

“God opposes the proud
but gives grace to the humble.”

7 Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 9 Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.
NIV

It is not my intention to give an in depth exegesis of the text above, but what I am thinking about is the topic of submission.

 
The text above specifically addresses the cause of fighting and wars among a specific group of people, Christians, and I do not put the word Christian in quotes this time. these are real foundational Christians that were at war with one another. The text mentions also an inner battle, a battle that is within us, within Christians, that is, and I personally believe a battle that is within all human beings. The text mentions the proper way to resist the forces of Evil which seem to plague the world and estrange Christians, and I believe all mankind from the closeness and nearness to God which God desires for us. Although the text is specifically written to Christians at war with one another, I can only imagine that submission to God, and a recognition of the fallen nature within us, and the nascent seed or spark of God within us that enables mankind to interface with God, is a solution to this world’s war and overcoming Evil, whether or not we are Christians at this time.

 
Before going any farther, I need to state that I am a committed Christian, and attempt to express my views from within this Christian culture, not to the exclusion of other cultures and belief systems which may also have important and valuable contributions to the Kingdom of God, such as the Islamic sect of Sufism, whose leader was Rumi, or Mahatma Gandhi, Mohammad, or others. If I am wrong in any way, please feel free to offer your comments from whatever belief system you frequent.

 
Submit yourselves…. (plural) indicates we live in community with each other. Specifically we are speaking in context of Christian community, but I believe the principle may be applied to all mankind as a method of overcoming Evil. Also, firstly, I believe we should submit our self, singular in this quest of overcoming Evil.

 
Most of us in any belief system want to overcome Evil. In overcoming Evil, from my viewpoint, Nonviolence “works” but it does not always “win” or work if we use it to overcome others externally. Our focus in nonviolence should be to overcome firstly the selfish self within us and to submit to the image of God or seed of God within us.

 
The softening and nurturing of the inner seed within us and the realization that we are delivered from evil within ourselves firstly is crucial before we can nonviolently resist external evils in society or internal evils in others. We cannot deliver ourselves. It takes, a village, as in the Lord’s prayer, “Deliver us from evil” a trust and submission to God to deliver “us” from our internal selfishness.

 
Some call this a conversion experience. Some call this inner blooming of the seed of the Kingdom of God within us being “Born Again. Others call it being infected by the spirit of Jesus.

 
As we submit ourselves to one another, in love for one another, this blossoming of our spirits can result in radical transformation, not just of ourselves, or, our self, but the internal softening of other selves, and self, as the nonviolent, peaceful inner submission and infection interfaces and joins other like minds or selves created in God’s image.

 

I quote from http://www.holylandmoments.org/devotionals/we-are-all-connected

 
“Albert Einstein once observed, “A human being is a part of the whole called by us universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feeling as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness.”

 
All people, even from a scientific perspective, are really one entity. And so, yes, it makes perfect sense that the actions of one affect us all. Just as a problem with our foot affects our entire body, toxic fumes in China can disrupt the atmosphere around the globe. Judaism says this principle holds true spiritually as well. The sins of one person impact us all.”

 
Albert Einstein, a fellow member of the Fellowship of Reconciliation, by the way, seems to have thought, that if we, as human beings are thinking that our self is not connected and accountable to others and perhaps should be in submission to others, we are suffering from delusionary thoughts that are outside of the universe of reality. Let us then, submit ourselves to one another.

 
The Book of Romans is about submission. Submission to authority is just one point. The major point before submission to external forces (have you ever met authority as a person? I have not.) is to submit to God and offer ourselves in submission to God first, as in the text from James 4 above, and above all, and if needed, and nonviolently submit to authority and in some cases resist that authority because we have submitted to God firstly. If the authority is motivated by Evil intents, perhaps it will actually be afraid, and flee from us. But, we must keep in mind, perhaps Evil will not immediately flee, and our desire is to continue submission to God, regardless of the consequences.

 
Before we can be effective in this submission, it is necessary we are in relationship with “others” even the “others” we may believe we “resist” such as policemen with dogs, military people with tanks, political people not telling the complete truth, people who make nuclear weapons, people who seem to be in opposition to us, or otherwise we might term as “enemies.”

 
An often overlooked tool of nonviolence and submission, and never used as an exhaustion of the “all means” tenant of the “just” war theory is that we “love our enemies.” Sometimes the enemy can be us, and inside our own selves if we are not in submission to the seed of inner love in ourselves, planted by a Divine source, waiting upon fruition. By developing some kind of dialog, some kind of relationship, and some kind of love for the “enemy” we embark upon a journey of overcoming evil with good.

 
I like the idea Pope Francis had just this week as I begin to write this, to invite opposing parties such as Israel and Palestinian leaders to pray together with him and the leader of the Orthodox Church. This has been termed “ineffective” by some, but to me, it has had an internal effect upon those involved and an internal effect upon all who hear of the matter. Concerning the Pope, as I edit this article, today, June 22, 2014, just yesterday the Pope issued excommunication orders for the Italian Mafia whom he termed glorifies violence and Evil. Let us all pray for Pope Francis and his protection, as he wrestles with Evil forces who would like to see him dead.

 
It is not just our own selves, but our own Nations, and the entire world that is seems, according to Christian tradition God desires to be in submission:

 

Rev 7:9-10

9 After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. 10 And they cried out in a loud voice:

“Salvation belongs to our God,
who sits on the throne,
and to the Lamb.”
Rev 7:11-12

11 All the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures. They fell down on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, 12 saying:

“Amen!
Praise and glory
and wisdom and thanks and honor
and power and strength
be to our God for ever and ever.
Amen!”
NIV

The above Scripture, seems to me, to be the nexus of the Kingdom of God and the original intent of the creation of the good earth. The Kingdom of God is not just intended for American culture, but for all of mankind. I think it is a narrow view if we include only our own nation, our own denomination, or the Roman Catholic Church only, or the Eastern Orthodox Church only, of even the Christian religion only, and attempt to exclude Jewish folk, Islamic folk, Atheist folk, or any folk, for that matter, who can imagine this kinder and gentler vision of the internal seed of God planted within us, and submit to it.

In the end we must conclude that our inner submission is about finding and joining the Kingdom of God that is within us, which is a Kingdom proclaimed by a Gospel of Peace, Good News that is told about in Hebrew scriptures as a Kingdom of Grace and Peace beginning with God walking with us in our gardens, internal gardens, that is, and envisioned as the beating of our swords into plowshares, and envisioned as the child playing at the hole of the asp, with a lion and a lamb and no more hurt or pain. Also this peaceable Kingdom of God was promoted by Jesus whose inner being reveals to us the image of God who asks us to begin loving our enemies, NOW, TODAY, including defeating any enemies we have within us, such as hatred, jealousy, and selfishness and overcoming the Evil within us with the divine Love He has placed in us via the image of God, the foretaste of the fulfilled Kingdom of God within every man regardless of race, religion, or nationality.

We are all asked by God to be members of this Kingdom and all be our brother’s keepers, and by Jesus to love one another, as he loved us. However, there are requirements of membership like believing in the Kingdom within us, and submitting to it. We have eternity to submit, and I believe we can submit to it out of the depths of hell, whatever, hell may be to us, but I also believe for us, and for you, that today is the day to do it. It is better to do it now. The invitation from Christian sources for your inner submission to a Kingdom that is within you, and is coming soon, an invitation that is continual, from God who comes to us internally, to whom we ought to submit internally, is recited below:

Rev 22:17-21

17 The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let him who hears say, “Come!” Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life.

18 I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book. 19 And if anyone takes words away from this book of prophecy, God will take away from him his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.

20 He who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming soon.”

Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.

21 The grace of the Lord Jesus be with God’s people. Amen.
NIV

Grace and Peace forever,
John Cooper

Fool For Christ

Fools For Christ

 

I have not always made the wised decisions in life, obviously, or maybe I would not be continually getting myself in the precarious situations in which I often find myself…

I admit, if my concerns were only about wealth, I have been so gullible to believe in and trust the inherit goodness I believe lives in every human being created in the Image of God.  I am just a fool, according to some.  I hope it is not all my fault, concerning my business problems, that is, although I believe much of it is obviously my fault, but I believe the economic conditions of our United States economy decimated by our warlike inclinations affirmed by the President Bush administration, and confirmed by the current King of Drones, President Obama, causing a collapse in our economy, which, just today, has been pronounced as “healed,” according to the jobs report that indicates we have recovered every job we lost…. (what about the millions who have entered the job market since 2007?)

“Oh, here we go again!”  According to some I know and love, it is just John the radical preaching and ranting again…  Really?

Am I just a fool?

I would rather be a fool, if I am to be one, for Christ!

Take a look at this link:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Foolishness_for_Christ

A lot of people have been fools for Christ, Western, and Eastern, and even some in the Sufi sect of Islam, (which I would like to be in, if I were Muslim) have been just “crazy” for God.  Pope Francis has chosen his name from St. Francis of Assisi, whose followers gave up their possession and preached Jesus in the streets.  Just Fools, in their day….

 

Reminds me of the lady I and others call “Preacher Lady” here in Tuscaloosa…. I have written about her before….   I just spoke to her again this past week.  She was standing in the middle of the street beside our business property, open Bible in hand, preaching away.  I went over and talked to her again for quite a while.  I asked her if she was a Prophetess, and offered her a glass of water.  We spoke of the Bible.  Apparently she feels called to preach to the City of Tuscaloosa…  Reminds me of Peace Pilgrim, who walked thousands and thousands of miles in the 1950s, 1960s, and up into the 1970s preaching about Peace….  Reminds me of the Prophet Jonah, whom Ben Talmadge is preaching about this month, who knew in advance he would be a Fool for Christ because of the message he was to preach to Nineveh.  Jonah knew God was Gracious and Merciful and would change his mind, and Jonah did not want to look like a fool… Reminds me of the Jewish Fool for God, Isaiah who walked around naked for a while…

 

Reminds me of the Apostle Paul, giving up his “religious”  position, to be quoted:

“We are fools for Christ’s sake, but ye are wise in Christ; we are weak, but ye are strong; ye are honourable, but we are despised.” (KJV).

And also:

“For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight. As it is written: “He catches the wise in their craftiness.” (1 Corinthians 3:19)

“For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” (1 Corinthians 1:18)

“For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe.” (1 Corinthians 1:21)

 

Reminds me a little of myself too, with my concerns for the Kingdom of God and the Gospel of Peace, which few seem to deem important in our United States warrior society…  Give us a gun, not give us peace….

Oh Well….

Just one more reminder, and I will shut up my foolish mouth….  I am reminded of Dorothy Day, the founder of the Catholic Worker Movement, and a fellow Pacifist and  “Fool for Christ.”  Below is a link to a one woman play about Dorothy Day, entitled “Fool for Christ:”

 

http://www.cctv.org/watch-tv/programs/fool-christ-dorothy-day-story

 

It is a long play, so I will shut up and give you time to watch it. I would advise you to watch and consider our belief systems…

But, I am just a fool…

While you are watching, I will put on my dunce cap, and go sit in the corner on a stool…

Let me know what you think!

 

Fool for Christ,

 

John Cooper

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Another Face of Joy

Another Face of Joy

I recently read Pope Francis’ “Evangelii Gaudium,” his first Apostolic Letter. The letter may be viewed at http://www.vatican.va/phome_en.htm.

As a former Roman Catholic and Nondenominational Evangelical Christian I am overjoyed at Pope Francis’ ethics and in particular, this recent letter.  My hope is that Pope Francis will reknew (I know, deliberately wrong spelling) the Catholic Church. I even feel called to come back to the Catholic Church, at least part time, to see how all of this is unfolding among individual Catholic communities. It is all because of Pope Francis that I feel called to do this.

My view of the Gospel is that the Gospel is the good news of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ which results in Peace and Salvation for all who believe. Pope Francis in some cases refers to the Gospel in relationship to the Crucified and Risen Christ. I agree to this definition also. I quote a section of his letter below:

“The joy of the Gospel is for all people: no one can be excluded. That is what the angel proclaimed to the shepherds in Bethlehem: “Be not afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all the people (Lk 2:10). The Book of Revelation speaks of “an eternal Gospel to pro¬claim to those who dwell on earth, to every nation and tongue and tribe and people (Rev 14:6).”i

I too, hear the Universal call of the Gospel as Pope Francis states, as a Gospel of joy for all, and none is excluded, but all are included in the message of the Gospel. I am excited that the leader of the world’s largest Christian system, of over a billion individuals would speak in these inclusive terms and physically and mentally demonstrate his compassion for all mankind, even those who are not of his particular fold, and also those of other religious systems and non religious people.

I will write a type of review of Pope Francis’ Exhortation following, along with my own free form comments.

Humans everywhere, of all beliefs are always looking for Joy. For Christians, Joy is a fruit of the Holy Spirit which is believed to be an internal gift, not something we merit of your own goodness. To put another face of joy into humanity is always good. The face Pope Francis is highlighting is the face of joy we can experience, as a result of following God’s will for us, that of going into the world, and sharing the Gospel, or Good News.
Pope Francis seems to put early emphasis on works of mercy that result from our joyfully sharing the Gospel. To me, these works are very good when they arise from the inner motivation of the gift of Grace freely given to us by the Holy Spirit and proceeding from the Father and the Son, who live in us all and we in him, One God.
I read Pope Francis as deploring violence in the cities of God, and later in his letter actually speaking of the Gospel of Peace.

“The Church proclaims “the Gospel of peace” (Eph 6:15) and she wishes to cooperate with all national and international authorities in safeguarding this immense universal good. By preaching Jesus Christ, who is himself peace (cf. Eph 2:14), the new evangelization calls on every baptized person to be a peacemaker and a credible witness to a reconciled life.”ii

It is very Good News to me to hear a leader of Christianity speaking out for the Gospel of Peace. I have long felt a calling to proclaim this Gospel of Peace, and regularly do so, but I have been rebuffed by Evangelical Christianity at nearly every point. I keep sharing, however, and also write about the Gospel of Peace on my blog site, http://www.jcooperforpeace.org. As a Body of Believers who deplores violence to the unborn, the Catholic Church, it is music to my ears to hear of the Gospel of Peace from the Christian leader of that system.
To me, it is a perfect time, today, for Pope Francis to set a vision of the Gospel of Peace, the Gospel of Salvation, and the Gospel of the Kingdom, one Gospel, as a Gospel that is to bring Peace to the world, as much as possible now, and certainly when Jesus returns, and always when Jesus comes to us now in this life. I cite in this regard:

Luke 2:8-15

8 That night some shepherds were in the fields outside the village, guarding their flocks of sheep. 9 Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terribly frightened, 10 but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news of great joy for everyone! 11 The Savior — yes, the Messiah, the Lord — has been born tonight in Bethlehem, the city of David! 12 And this is how you will recognize him: You will find a baby lying in a manger, wrapped snugly in strips of cloth!”

13 Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others — the armies of heaven — praising God:

14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and peace on earth to all whom God favors.”
NLT

Above we see the Good News of Joy for all mankind concerning the Peace God wishes for all whom he favors, which to me would be inclusive of all mankind, since Jesus came to suffer and die for all mankind’s sins. Whether all mankind will hear and understand this Good News and believe is another matter for discussion, but personally, I hope so, once they see the crucified and risen Christ, and it is a Joy to me to assist in sharing this Gospel.

In the setting of this vision of Peace and proclaiming the inclusiveness of the Gospel, I hope Pope Francis will provide even more confessions of Guilt of the Roman Catholic Church regarding the terrible sins of the Church, (It is not just the Catholic Church,) regarding the post Constantinian destruction of Sanctified human adult life in the Inquisition, the killings of Moslems, and Christians, and the lack of nonviolent actions concerning the killings of Jews and others in World War II, in Nazi Germany. The Church’s support of the Just War Theory, (although it is not a Doctrine of the Church,) needs to be disregarded in relationship to the Gospel, and other confessions as may be needed. Hopefully, Pope Francis will lead the Roman Catholic Church back to Early Roots Christianity. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_early_Christianity It is a Joy that the Gospel proclaims the forgiveness of all sins, both our own individual sins, and those of corporate religious and national and political bodies. Some believe even the fallen Powers may be redeemed if they accept the Gospel. The author, Walter Wink, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Walter_Wink has written books concerning the possible redemption of the Powers which lie behind human systems.

As a Church that values human life, and life of every kind, I feel this is a perfect opportunity for the Roman Catholic Church, under the leadership of Pope Francis, to divest itself of all conjoining relationships with political Powers and return to its Early Roots. Likewise, all Christian churches should divest themselves of political alliances and concentrate on preaching the Gospel. Te Politics of the Kingdom of God is what the Church, (and all religious systems,) need to focus upon. In joyfully sharing the Gospel, no Catholic should ever want to take a human life in warfare. In response to the Gospel, the time to stop killing for all who believe and share the Gospel, is now. The visible and tangible expressions of Pope Francis and every Christian Believer’s love for one another, and our enemies, Catholic and non-Catholics is the way the seeds of the Gospel are joyously shared… It is these Joyful expressions of love by which others know the Gospel has been preached.

Speaking of Joy, I concur with Pope Francis’ vision of the Image of God being in all mankind, not just in Catholics, and not just in Christians or adherents to one’s own individual religious system. The Quakers, whom I am particularly fond of, believed that there is a spark of God in every man and that the proof of this is that if there is anything a person does, that he feels sorry for, it is proof of the indwelling spark of the Spirit. I quote Pope Francis:

“If we are to share our lives with others and generously give of ourselves, we also have to realize that every person is worthy of our giving. Not for their physical appearance, their abilities, their language, their way of thinking, or for any satisfaction that we might receive, but rather because they are God’s handiwork, his creation. God created that person in his image, and he or she reflects something of God’s glory. Every human being is the object of God’s infinite tenderness, and he himself is present in their lives. Jesus offered his precious blood on the cross for that person. Appearances notwithstanding, every person is immensely holy and deserves our love. Consequently, if I can help at least one per¬son to have a better life, that already justifies the offering of my life. It is a wonderful thing to be God’s faithful people. We achieve fulfilment when we break down walls and our heart is filled with faces and names!”iii

Challenging Catholics to take joy in Evangelicalism by Love and the Gospel of Peace, in place of the sword, is a very good challenge for all, in these days where the Myth of Redemptive Violence is still being believed even after millennia of proof that this method of “making peace” has never and will never ultimately work.

I also appreciate Pope Francis’ many references to the Grace of God. One instance is cited below:
“Non-Christians, by God’s gracious initiative, when they are faithful to their own consciences, can live “justified by the grace of God”,199 and thus be “associated to the paschal mystery of Jesus Christ”.200 But due to the sacsacramental dimension of sanctifying grace, God’s working in them tends to produce signs and rites, sacred expressions which in turn bring others to a communitarian experience of journeying to¬wards God.201″iv

To me, Pope Francis comes very close to the Biblical text at the heart of Protestant Evangelicals’ beliefs,

Eph 2:6-10
6 And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, 7 in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. 8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
NIV

I understand that our works are a response to Grace, not the cause of our Salvation, and I believe Pope Francis is quite Universally minded in his understanding of Grace, although he gives adequate expressions to the necessity of accompanying works. Perhaps St. Francis is thinking of the early Church Father, Origen, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Origen. At any rate, Pope Francis seems to me very progressive in his thinking processes compared to recent Popes. He states:

“We know that “evangelization would not be complete if it did not take account of the unceasing interplay of the Gospel and of man’s concrete life, both personal and social”.146 This is the principle of universality intrinsic to the Gospel, for the Father desires the salvation of every man and woman, and his saving plan consists in “gathering up all things in Christ, things in heaven and things on earth” (Eph 1:10).”v

I agree here that Salvation is for every man. I cannot say that every man will be saved, and I do not say that Pope Francis is saying that here. I would like to believe that every man will be saved, and I hope once Jesus draws all men to himself, that the beauty and love of the Crucified and Risen Christ, as Pope Francis also explains the Gospel will result in many hearts turning to God. To me, the Joy of Evangelization rests in the saving Grace of God, and efforts of Evangelization are never over until Jesus has executed his “time” to draw all men to himself…

One of the concerns Pope Francis expresses in his Apostolic Letter is the relationship of the economy to Joyfully Evangelizing the world. To me, the Gospel of the Kingdom of God which is beyond political systems, should change political systems so that our economies look more and more like Jesus would have them look. To this end Pope Francis states:

“We can no longer trust in the unseen forces and the invisible hand of the market. Growth in justice requires more than economic growth, while presupposing such growth: it requires decisions, programmes, mechanisms and processes specifically geared to a better distribution of income, the creation of sources of employment and an integral promotion of the poor which goes beyond a simple welfare mentality. I am far from proposing an irresponsible populism, but the economy can no longer turn to remedies that are a new poison, such as attempting to increase profits by reducing the work force and thereby adding to the ranks of the excluded.
205.
I ask God to give us more politicians capable of sincere and effective dialogue aimed at healing the deepest roots – and not simply the appearances – of the evils in our world!”vi

I am reminded of the Mennonite teacher, John Howard Yoder, and his book, “The Politics of Jesus.” In a nutshell, according to my recollection from reading the book, the ethics of Jesus and the Kingdom of God in Early Roots Christianity radically changed the political systems of the world, including the Roman Empire. The radical changes so endangered the Empire, with all these Christians loving one another, which in itself is sharing the Gospel, and refusing to join the Powers’ ethics of Redemptive Violence, that the Powers offered the Church the sword, and the Church accepted, and began to use the sword to supposedly advance the Gospel, in many cases disregarding unconditional, self sacrificial love for all men. Apparently the Church of that time, the Roman Catholic Church, neglected to consider that Jesus had already refused the same ploy from Satan, when Satan offered Jesus rulership over the earth. Jesus refused. The Church accepted. Then, the Church began to use the sword to advance the Gospel, since it had been given the sword, and began to make up its own rules of “just” war, etc…

Therefore, when Pope Francis speaks of no longer trusting the unseen and invisible hand of the market, I can imagine that the Powers are really disturbed… Talk like that is Jesus talk like when Jesus began to proclaim the Gospel, the Kingdom of God, the release of prisoners, and the year of Jubilee… The Powers kill humans for speaking like that… They killed God, Jesus too, but Jesus rose again and has overcome these Powers. Pope Francis has already rattled the heads of both invisible Powers and human economic powers. They have squealed like stuck pigs… I pray for the protection of Pope Francis and that the Highest of all Powers, Allah, God, will protect him until his mission is done, which may be the radical changing of the Roman Catholic Church, including the economic wrongs involved with the Vatican economy.

Although my comments regarding Evangelii Gaudium have thus far been overwhelmingly positive, even though I was raised Catholic, I view Pope Francis’ ending of his letter and the inclusion of the Mother Mary as a “tack on” thought to Catholicize his letter…He states:
“With the Holy Spirit, Mary is always present in the midst of the people. She joined the disciples in praying for the coming of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:14) and thus made possible the missionary outburst which took place at Pentecost. She is the Mother of the Church which evangelizes, and without her we could never truly understand the spirit of the new evangelization.”vii
I cannot personally agree with this statement. To believe it would certainly stretch my envelope and my understanding of Theology all out of shape. That’s OK though, I am imagine my beliefs in Peace and Nonviolence also stretch Pope Francis’ envelope too, and certainly stretch the envelope of the historic Roman Catholic Church as a whole, with exceptions such as Thomas Merton, Dorothy Day, and other Catholic Pacifists excluded.

On the other hand, Pope Francis is stretching a lot of peoples’ envelopes all out of shape… Young people seem to love him, Moslems seem to love him, Atheists even seem to love him… I love him too and felt an immediate conjoining of Spirits as soon as I realized who he was and is. I pray for the continued advancement of the Gospel, and the reformation of the Roman Catholic Church under the leadership of Pope Francis.

Grace & Peace,

John Cooper
http://www.jcooperforpeace.org/

i “Evangelii Gaudium,” Pope Francis, 2013 – Sect. 23
ii Ibid., 239
iii Ibid., 274
iv Ibid., 254
v Ibid., 181
vi Ibid., 204

vii Ibid., 284