Alabama Dreamin

Alabama Dreamin

Somewhere in the news a week or so ago I glimpsed at a report that some DACA Dreamers[1] had come to the U.S. Congress and attempted to wash the feet of congressmen outside the congressional offices.

A week or so went by and a quiet urging came to my mind that this is a wonderful idea for the whole State of Alabama, a State that is viewed by some as solid red, and less than progressive in social causes.  What can be done?  I brought the idea to my church, the Roman Catholic Church in Tuscaloosa, and copied several people who work with the Hispanic communities and other immigrants on the idea of having a footwashing event for and by the Dreamers in our midst.  I emailed to a contact in the Mobile Archdiocese and a contact in the Birmingham Archdiocese who work with the Dreamers and copied the Fellowship of Reconciliation[2] which I am a member of and which has been involved in non-violent social causes such as the Civil Rights Movement for decades.

I am merely offering my voice and the idea that came to me for a non-violent footwashing event or events organized and conducted by what we in the United States call Dreamers.  As a little background, we who are Christians will soon be celebrating Easter and just before Easter, before the Passover, some unusual to some events are recorded to have taken place, like Footwashing.[3] Footwashing has an ancient tradition and is viewed by some as a Sacrament.  A type of this tradition is observed by Roman Catholics on Holy Thursday.[4]

Mary Magdalene is said to have said to have done it with tears of love and remorse.  Mary the sister of Martha and Lazarus is said to have done it too.[5]  Both women did it to Jesus and wiped His feet with their hair.  Jesus washed His disciples’ feet too.[6]  Jesus tells his disciples, if we consider ourselves to be disciples, to do it to, to one another.  Is this real?  Is it figurative? Is it both?  Footwashing does not have to be done in church, it can be done anywhere.  It can be done in our imagination too, which may be about as far as this idea goes at this time.

My vision, my dream for Alabama and I wish I could dream the whole world, is that we would want to wash each other’s feet all around the world, in North and South Korea, in Syria, In Yemen, Iran, and Qatar, Ethiopia, and everywhere.  I know this is all and grad idea that we should love one another and love our enemies, just like that, but forgive me, please, I am just Dreaming.

Let’s start little – just where we are…  All it takes is two pans, two towels, two gallons of water, a little Spirit, a little Love, to get the job done.  If a person cannot afford that, and some can’t in the world, take some tears with you and your hair, or your shirt off your back to dry another’s feet and just do it.  Do it to people you love and people you don’t love.  You ain’t gonna wash no feet if you got no Love. [Sic]

As for Alabama, I dream that this idea, this dream, would be seed for greater action beyond out State, and beyond politics and helpful to all immigrants.  I dream the Dreamers would take up this cause and offer to wash the feet of those in power, speaking to the powers,[7] and symbolically telling those powers, be they congress people, police, religious powers, educational powers, all powers, that we are here to serve you, that we love the United States, and all nations for that matter.  Let us serve you, pay our taxes, contribute to our society, support our families off the welfare system.  We want to work.  We want to love one another.  We believe America will be great again when America can love again.

Maybe, I am just Dreamin…

 

John Cooper

Tuscaloosa, AL

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DREAM_Act

[2] https://forusa.org/

[3] https://www.zionlutherannj.net/footwashing-in-the-old-and-new-testament-the-graeco-roman-world-the-early-church-and-the-liturgy-2/

[4] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maundy_Thursday

[5] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anointing_of_Jesus

[6] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Foot_washing

[7] http://www.quaker.org/sttp.html

What’s Love Got to do With It?

What’s Love Got to do With It?

Reflections on Care of Mind/Care of Spirit, by Gerald G. May, M.D.

Dr. May originally wrote Care of Mind/Care of Spirit as a teaching text to enable Spiritual Directors to appreciate the psychological-spiritual aspects of persons (p. xiv).  I found and underlying theme behind the psychology of the mind and the spirituality of the spirit to be the concept of divine love.  May states that human spirituality is the active process of love in one’s life (p. xvi) and that the integration of psychology and spiritual insight automatically occurs for spiritual guides when the spiritual guide remains open to the Source of Love, (p. xviii).

I noticed the concept of Divine Love as crucial to the foundational premises of this book.  For those called to be Spiritual Directors, we should each be given the gifts to practice the art of spiritual guidance, and freely given the love for others to help care for others’ minds and spirits.  This sharing of love, sharing of eternal mystery, is the root of the art.

Ignatius asks us to give up everything to live only in the love and grace of God.  This is self-giving surrender (p. 17).  It is surrending love.  Our minds and spirits become whole as we surrender to the incarnated desires God has placed in our spirits, – desires of spiritual longing and union to attain, realize, and express divine unconditional love (p. 24).  We are drawn by a force deep within to release our attachments, our very selves, in response to God’s beaconing love which asks for our very hearts (p. 24).  For some, the fulfillments of this surrender to inborn love comes when young, for many it comes at a point of crises, for all I believe it comes as we grow old or are about to die, but we cannot just make it happen.  It is a gift.

This underlying love of God and inborn desire to love God is not just for us.  Although we are individually mind and spirit cared for by God’s love, we are not alone in this universe.  We are not loved alone, we are loved and to love in communion with others, and with animals and other physical and spiritual beings like angels and those who have died and whose spirits reside in God, who is love (see p.54).

Interestingly, I write this on Ash Wednesday, 2018.  Before our services I was praying for spiritual poverty to receive the grace of humility.  Fr. Tom Ackerman’s homily happened to be on what we should give up for Lent.  In short, he asked us to give up ourselves for Lent.  What a wonderful idea!  I quote from Dr. May:

Unconsciously that self-image is engaged in a life-or-death battle, and although all conscious intents may be in the direction of spiritual surrender and dying-to-self, a host of unconscious defenses will be brought to bear in order to preserve, bolster, and reassert that image of self, etc… (p. 59).

It is our crucial role as spiritual directors to attend to God’s power, love, and grace in facilitating this surrender of giving up ourselves too, to live only in God’s love and grace.  Therefore, transcending the self-love we all have is giving up ourselves for Lent, as Fr. Ackerman recommended.

This is a loving surrender, somewhat like Jesus’ self-surrender on the cross to show us how much He loves us.  So too, should we surrender ourselves on the crosses we bear in this life for Jesus.  We offer ourselves to the unknowable mystery of God, giving up everything, surrendering our all (p 65).

As we give up ourselves in love to the divine Mystery, the divine Majesty, our attachments often seem to fall away like scales off our eyes.  We lovingly die to the self and surrender to love, sharing God’s love in our lives and the passions we once held dear, like making money, being well thought of, golf, or football, politics, lose importance as we long to rest in a loving God.  It is like dying (p.77).

In some ways we can be sad, losing ourselves, just like that.  It is a grief similar to dying, really (p.98).  We can mourn for our loss.  Love hurts in many ways as we transition our lives for God’s purposes for us, as we give up all.  The not knowing what to do, exactly, the dark nights groping for Divine love, the unknowing of it all, the loves lost, the loves gained, all meld together for the care of our mind and the care of our spirit.  That is what love has to do with it, everything…

John Cooper

Tuscaloosa, AL

Enslaved to War: A Grace Solution

Enslaved to War:  A Grace Solution

Looking back upon the one thing that stands out most to me regarding the four books we are reading and studying so far this Spring semester, I am most impressed by Dr. Gerald G. May’s insight in his book, “Additions and Grace” that we are all addicted.   May states that “we all suffer from both repression and addiction (p 2).  He says “To be alive is to be addicted, and to be alive and addicted is to stand in need of grace.” (p. 11).  These addictions attack our desires and in effect keep us from our true desire for freedom and our infused desire for unity with God and our desire for God.  At first I partially dismissed the premise that we are all addicted but in view that as Ignation thinkers we are to be willing to give up everything to live only in the love and grace of God, I realized that is something to accept, in view of spiritual and or actual poverty, to realize I am still holding to some inordinate attachments myself.  I am a mixed bag of goods with my own attachments still clinging in some ways, and in some ways partially dispensed of.

Even with this self-realization, I am also conflicted with those sins and addictions of my society at large.  Due to this personal and societal complicacy I am not free to desire only God’s love and grace.  Even to explain it this way makes me realize I have not accepted my own responsibility for evil and if I am concerned so much, why don’t I just STOP IT, or at least stop my part of it?  For instance, take our society’s love of war, for our main example in this reflection.  What am I to do about it?  Originally I thought of entitling this reflection “War Junkie”, or “Addicted to War”, or War and Grace”.  However, these names have already been used by others who recognize the same problem that I have chosen to discuss.

I am complicit with our nation’s war mentality which some believe insures our freedom and creates peace.  The prior statement, ensuring peace by war, to maintain a nation, is exactly opposite of Jesus’ instructions to love our enemies and do good to those who despitefully use us in seeking the inner Peace and Kingdom He was really discussing.  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.” (p.15).  The Spex, 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:

(098)

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.  So, why has religion, including Christianity as a whole, including the institutional Roman Catholic Church, which I attend, supported war in the past, even calling it “just” war?  Why do some Jesuit institutions of higher learning support ROTC programs on campus and teach little about non-violence?  Also, why do I pay my taxes, 60% or so which go to support of war, not including hidden taxes we are not considering? Complicacy, is that why?

Satan does not want us to realize we are in slavery.  We deny we are in slavery.  You may deny it and may be mad at me now as you read this.  I deny my own slavery in many ways too.  We are at war with Satan, not flesh and blood, and generally do not know it or admit it.  War, the myth of redemptive violence to establish “freedom” is really enslavement to Satan’s original desires and intentions for us. It separates us from God’s love and grace, whatever addiction we are battling. We defend our addictions and enslavement to war, killing, and redemptive violence with repression, rationalization, and denial.

Tomorrow we will quit, just after we win the battle.  Our minds have been tricked and we have been addicted.  Our only solution is to quit it, and quit it now.  But how?    We are in collusion with the system, we are complicit.  There is no easy way out perhaps until we hit “rock bottom” as may happen one day.  How do we confess our own sins and the sins of a nation?  How do we stop the mind tricks?  How do we STOP IT NOW!?  I am not so sure I know.  May states “our motivations are always mixed and our hearts are never completely pure (p. 108).  It is not just war, but all our addictions to which we are enslaved.  Maybe one day we have hit rock bottom, then we can STOP IT.  Maybe, when the Kingdom comes.

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

Social Desolation

Social Desolation: The Occupation of the American Mind

            I have been in a funk lately, actually from the day I knew Donald Trump would be the President of the United States; I have been in a funk.  My funk at times seems to be only worsening.  I don’t think I am the only one who is in a funk.  Our nation is in a funk too.  I believe the constant stream of lies, the minimization of the poor, the lack of care for refugees, and our constant state of war is subconsciously taking its toll on the American psyche, creating anxiety in the soul of America.

The occupation of the American mind by the disordinate affections of consumerism, material riches, pride, militarism, and the cult of the self has created the anxiety of mind that refuses to recognize God’s presence in everything, every human being, and God’s presence even in our enemies whom we, if we are Christians, subconsciously know we are supposed to love.

Recently, in my morning meditations, I read:

“The seed sown on rocky ground
is the one who hears the word and receives it at once with joy.
But he has no root and lasts only for a time.
When some tribulation or persecution comes because of the word,
he immediately falls away.
The seed sown among thorns is the one who hears the word,
but then worldly anxiety and the lure of riches choke the word
and it bears no fruit.” (Matt. 13:20-22)

            Anxiety… This is me.  This is us.  This is the United States.

I have most of my adult life tried to be apolitical, leaving the political systems up to God, who is supposed to order the powers over these systems, but I have never been as anxious about the state of affairs in the world as I am now.  I know I should not be anxious, but the lies, filth and profanity spewing out of the mouths of some in leadership just have gotten me down.  Since first writing about these matters, it seems every day matters only seem to get worse.  North Korean missiles fly through the air, and tough retaliatory words concerning the fire and fury of nuclear warfare fly back through the airwaves.  There are a few leaders in the world who seem to be level headed, like Angel Merkel of Germany, Justin Trudeau of Canada, and Pope Francis, but at least two other world leaders who have their fingers on nuclear codes, just do not look like Jesus to me.  Nor, would it seem they understand or practice the ethics of Jesus as recorded in Matthew 5 from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount.

I expressed my frustrations and my sin of anxiety with my Spiritual Director recently, and his suggestion was that in place of being less involved, (apolitical) perhaps I should be more involved.  I believe it is time for America, and the world, for that matter, to return to God, and recognize God in others, not continuing the endless quest to solve the world’s problems with the Myth of Redemptive Violence, which can also be violence of the heart, violence of the mouth, or violence of the eyes, in addition to the violence of perpetual warfare and killing, as my own nation, and many other nations seem to support.

In my Ignatian studies, I came across the following text I will quote from “finding God in all things” by William A. Barry, S.J. which, of course, would ask us to find God within our political systems, within our enemies, and I suppose I will have to admit, Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un too.  I quote:

“This social desolations shows itself in a feeling of futility before what seem to be intractable problems of our complex world.  Those who find themselves in such a state, a gnawing sense of futility, about the world in general and about the particular institutions, to which they belong, need to be freed by the Lord just as much as the addict or habitual sinner needs to be freed by the Lord.  The gnawing feeling saps life and vitality from them and keeps them from the freedom of the sons and daughters of God.

When they do let the Lord of life free them, what s the result?  They feel astonished at the enormity of God’s love for them in this sinful world.  They know that in spite of all the horror, the Lord has not abandoned his people.  In spite of the stupidity and evil, in spite of institutional injustice, the human spirit is not crushed and defeated.  The powers of darkness have not prevailed.  As a result they feel themselves empowered to try to do their part in the social injustices in which they have participated.”  (pp. 63 & 64)

Therefore, I too am trying to take action, to do my part, to do something that may help to bring myself back to how God views Donald Trump, Kim Jon-un and others, how God views our enemies, and how God views me, as beloved sinners.  I believe we need to seek the common ground of recognizing the Image of God in all mankind.  Having a conscious is the indication we are humans, and that God’s Image is in us.  Seeing God in all mankind is a step to relieving our anxieties and reaching out for our human potential.

Social Desolation is a worthy term to describe what is happening to us, but I am going to try to recognize God’s presence in our political systems, in our nation, and in the people in positions of power, but I also want to speak to them, and tell them that they just do not look very godly to me, and that I think they are wrong, very wrong, and so am I wrong who is complicit with them in by paying my taxes, at least half of which go to support the evils of our society, such as warfare.

On a better note, in the quest for finding God in all things, it is encouraging to see the protest movements against racism and to see all those who care about their fellow human being in attempting to rescue and serve those affected by hurricane Harvey.  Therefore, as William Barry, whom I quoted said, “The powers of darkness have not prevailed,” although, these powers seem to be doing everything possible to occupy, meaning inhabit, the American Mind.  Let us actively resist this attempted Social and personal Desolation with all our being as we cry out to God for His help.

John Cooper

Tuscaloosa, AL

 

 

 

 

 

Consciousness After Death, Prayers, and the Afterlife

Consciousness After Death, Prayers, and the Afterlife

Preface: I wrote the following as an Appendix to a book, “One Ignatian Journey” which I am writing concerning the St. Ignatius Spiritual Exercises.   Having been out of Roman Catholic theological circles for 49 years, I hit a roadblock in the section of the Exercises regarding prayers to the Saints. This roadblock was later challenged by a Homily by my pastor regarding the “Communion of the Saints.”  This is my present attempt to sort it all out… Let me know if you have any suggestions.

Before determining if one should pray “to” or ask saints to pray “for” us, we should attempt to understand if the saints are conscious after their spirit leaves the body and enters into a Mystical Union with God, (or, returns to the God who gave it.)  Death is a Mystery, and cannot be completely understood by humans still alive.  Consciousness after death can be argued several ways from the Scripture, but I submit my views on the matter as they are now, and some reasons for those views.

 

Luke 12:22-30

 

28 “There will be weeping there, and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, but you yourselves thrown out. 29 People will come from east and west and north and south, and will take their places at the feast in the kingdom of God. 30 Indeed there are those who are last who will be first, and first who will be last.”

NIV

 

Comment: This is NOT a Parable.  Some believe doctrine is not to be established from Parables because of the figurative nature of Parables.  This Scripture views the State of the Dead as being one of consciousness.

 

Luke 23: 39-43

 

43 Jesus answered him, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.”

NIV

 

Comment: This is NOT a Parable.  This views entering Paradise today, or immediately, (without Purgatory,) and implies there will be consciousness upon the entry into Paradise, although it does not specifically say so.

 

Luke 9:28-36

 

29 As he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became as bright as a flash of lightning. 30 Two men, Moses and Elijah, 31 appeared in glorious splendor, talking with Jesus.

NIV

 

Comment: This is NOT a Parable.  God is the God of the living, NOT the dead.

 

Luke 16:19-31

 

29 “Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.’

 

30 “‘No, father Abraham,’ he said, ‘but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’

 

31 “He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.'”

NIV

 

This IS a Parable, but if the dead are not conscious, how would Abraham know, having died 450 years before the law, anything about Moses and the Prophets who came much later than him?

 

 

50 And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit.

51 At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split 52 and the tombs broke open. The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. 53 They came out of the tombs after Jesus’ resurrection and[e] went into the holy city and appeared to many people.

 

1 Cor 15:22

22 For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.

NIV

 

Comment: This is NOT a Parable, and comes from the Apostle Paul, who according to tradition was taught by Jesus for 3-1/2 years.  Mysteriously, the dead in Christ have been raised to more human life on earth.  These individuals would most likely have shared their after death experiences with the early church, and the writings written of the catacomb walls concerning the state of the dead could have been traditions from these individuals.  How many died in Adam?  ALL.  How many are to be made alive? ALL.  Therefore, the wicked will also be made alive and experience consciousness after death, although most likely in a state without communion with God, having a vast gulf, or another dimension separating them from God.  This is at the same time the dead in Christ, are in Communion with the saints, and in Communion with the Mystical union of One God.  See the next verse:

 

1 Thessalonians 4

 

13 Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope. 14 We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. 15 According to the Lord’s own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep.

NIV

 

Comment: To me this speaks of the Mystical dimensions of time and space, being that there is NO time in eternity, that we now experience Communion of the Saints, with those who have died, and with those who are alive.  By not precede, somehow, the fulfillment of God’s promises occur mysteriously outside of the parameters of time and space, perhaps in a another dimension.

 

 

 

Finally, see:

 

Revelation 22

 

Rev 22:14-20

 

14 “Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city. 15 Outside are the dogs, those who practice magic arts, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices falsehood.

 

16 “I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this testimony for the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star.”

 

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.

NIV

 

Comment: At the end of time, after the New Jerusalem is here, those outside the gates of the city, are alive and conscious.  The Spirit and the Bride call out “Come!”  Is there still hope for the dead in Hades?  Will ALL be saved, as God has Himself indicated is what He hopes for, and none perish?  At least it appears the dead, all who die, are in a state of consciousness after death.

 

Now, given that they are conscious, should we pray “to” the saints, or ask them to pray “for” us?

 

Having examined whether the dead “in” and “outside” of Christ (I actually don’t believe anyone can exist “outside” of Christ.) are conscious or unconscious, or “asleep” or unconscious after the Spirit given by God returns to God who gave it, and promoting the belief that, according to what we think from our very limited knowledge of the state of the dead, that is, that the “dead” (actually they are alive) in and out of Christ are conscious, I believe the next step is to meditate on the following Scripture:

 

Heb 12:1-3

12:1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. 2 Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

NIV

 

If we are surrounded by this great crowd of witnesses, which may imply has reference to the Communion of the Saints, mentioned in the ancient Nicene Creed, how could these dead be witnesses if they are unconscious, or “asleep?”  Could these witnesses be the ones who, In Rev. 4 & 5, have their prayers presented with incense before the throne of God?  Do the prayers submitted to God by the 24 elders include our own prayers, who are “alive?”  After all, we just read in Hebrews 12 that we ARE surrounded by this great crowd of witnesses, the ancient believers, ancient even at the time Hebrews was written 2,00 years ago, who died before Christ, but aren’t these witnesses  “dead?”  NO, apparently not, according to the logic of the Apostle, Paul, or whomever wrote the book of Hebrews.

 

As we examine the Mystical Union with the One, (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henosis) spoken of by the Greeks and others attempting to understand our relationship with God, and spoken of by many others in relationship to a Christian understanding of our union in Christ, (see http://www.christianperfection.info/tta102.php) the One, the only, and One True God, we can see from scientific evidence that all material matter, and every human being, in flesh, is doomed to a state of non-existence physically speaking, and our only hope is to enter into communion with this One God, the One, who is Eternal.  It is by Faith, not works, that we enter into this mystical Union.  It is a gift.  It is the Faith of the Ancient ones mentioned in Hebrews that is commended and it may be imagined that it is our Faith, given to us as a gift from the same source as the Ancient ones, that will also be commended.  Therefore it is important to approach our understanding of the Communion of the Saints from a perspective of Faith, realizing that some things will always remain a Mystery.

 

I grew up in the Catholic Church, until about 19 years old, accepting all such matters of heaven and hell, and the state of the dead, purgatory, and nearly everything as a matter of Faith.  I was not a converted person, although I had outward signs of being “religious” when I was 19, and came to a still ongoing conversion experience at about 19 and was drawn into a type of cult which believed in the doctrine of “soul sleep,” where the understanding was that a person is unconscious after death, until one is resurrected on the day everyone else who has ever lived and died is resurrected.  Jesus himself uses the term, as does Paul, in 1 Thessalonians 4:14:

 

1 Thess 4:13-18

 

13 Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope. 14 We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. 15 According to the Lord’s own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. 18 Therefore encourage each other with these words.

NIV

 

When I was 19, I believed the statement of Jesus, since there was no punctuation in the Greek text, should read concerning the thief on the cross, “Truly I tell you today, you will be with me in Paradise.”  Putting the comma in that place allows one to think that sure, the thief will be in Paradise, but after an indeterminate time, and the thief will be asleep until he is resurrected in a general resurrection.  Looking at it now, it makes no sense to put the comma there.  Everyone knew that it was today already.  Jesus had no need to tell anyone that it is today. It is today, I am writing this, but I do not need to tell everybody it is today, they already know it is today.   I have believed for many years that the correct translation should be, “Verily I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

 

The Book of Revelation speaks of life and time in another dimension different from ours where exact chronology appears to be in flux.  See Rev 5:

 

Rev 5:7-10

8 And when he had taken it, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. 9 And they sang a new song:

 

“You are worthy to take the scroll

and to open its seals,

because you were slain,

and with your blood you purchased men for God

from every tribe and language and people and nation.

10 You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God,

and they will reign on the earth.”

NIV

 

One can think of the prayers of the saints being the prayers of the saints whose spirits are currently in heaven, or Paradise, and also of our own prayers.  We are assured a resurrection of our bodies here too.  One can think of the Witnesses witnessing to God in prayer, and of our doing so too, continually.  Thus, it makes sense to me, that we do actually pray “with” the saints.  According to whether one should pray “with” the saints, the Ancient ones, with whom we are in communion, and ask the saints to pray “for” us, or if we should pray “to” the saints as part of this Communion, Let’s agree that we can and do pray “with” the saints as they present their continual conscious prayers to God, along with our prayers too.

 

Another reason for our agreeing we pray “with” the Great Cloud of Witnesses, and are in Communion with the Saints, can be found in Rev. 8:

 

Rev 8:3-5

 

3 Another angel, who had a golden censer, came and stood at the altar. He was given much incense to offer, with the prayers of all the saints, on the golden altar before the throne. 4 The smoke of the incense, together with the prayers of the saints, went up before God from the angel’s hand. 5 Then the angel took the censer, filled it with fire from the altar, and hurled it on the earth; and there came peals of thunder, rumblings, flashes of lightning and an earthquake.

NIV

 

With the prayers of all the saints, means, to me, the prayers of ALL of the saints, the Ancient ones, before Christ, all those who  are in Christ since his earthly life, and all of us today who are “in” Christ.  I think the subject of praying “with” the saints, including these Witnesses, is clear, we do it, let’s continue to do it.

 

Again, see Hebrews 12:

 

Heb 12:1-2

12:1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. 2 Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

NIV

 

It appears these witnesses are watching us, watching our life in pursuit of perfection, watching in a state of consciousness, all we do for and “to” each other.  They are witnesses to our lives, also giving testimony as witnesses to the lives they have led, the sufferings they have suffered, to us.  Therefore, if they are conscious, and we sense their communion with us in Christ, it is logical, that in addition to praying “with” them, as we see is Biblically promoted, to take another step, and ask the saints to pray “for” us.  This is a step of Faith, witnessed to by Tradition, those who have gone before us in the Early Church, beginning as early as the third century, witnessed to even earlier by writings on catacomb walls, (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Early_Christian_inscriptions) allow us to entertain the same precepts as those who wrote on the walls, that of asking the saints to pray “for” us.  Let us also keep in mind the traditions expressed here had a living memory recollection of speaking to those who personally knew Jesus, the apostles, and the 500 or so who were resurrected from the dead mentioned in Matthew 27.

 

Matt 27:50-56

 

50 And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit.

 

51 At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook and the rocks split. 52 The tombs broke open and the bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. 53 They came out of the tombs, and after Jesus’ resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many people.

 

54 When the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and all that had happened, they were terrified, and exclaimed, “Surely he was the Son of God!”

 

55 Many women were there, watching from a distance. They had followed Jesus from Galilee to care for his needs. 56 Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joses, and the mother of Zebedee’s sons.

NIV

Let us imagine that these holy people resurrected form the dead, although they were to die again, could tell of their experiences in the state of the dead, in a similar way that those who have had Near Death Experiences can also testify to the afterlife.  Let us imagine they, who are to in Communion with the saints, and are now a part of the Vast Cloud of Witnesses, told the many women present, watching from a distance, who would live even longer, women whom Jesus chose to be his living witnesses, of the Traditions of the afterlife told them by those resurrected at Jesus’ death.

 

Thus, I accept as a matter of Tradition, asking saints, who are alive, and conscious, and witnesses to and for us, to pray “for” us, according to the Tradition of the Early Church, written on the catacomb walls.

 

As to the matter of praying “to” the saints, I do not see it.  I think one should pray “to” God alone, and I refer to Jesus’ instructions about praying “to” the Father, or “to” God.

 

John Cooper

 

 

 

 

 

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