Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Isaiah 5:20

"Woe to those who call evil good and good evil,
who put darkness for light and light for darkness,
who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter."  Isaiah 5:20

 We live in interesting times.  Of course, that is a Chinese curse.  We live in a time of dysfunction, confusion, anger, greed, and terror unlike the world has ever seen.  Each age had its plagues, wars, and divisions, but never before have we had it in such bulk and with such an overabundance of images and words.  Deep in the collective human soul there is a trouble and an accompanying fury.  Objective truth has been cast aside for the tyranny of personal opinion.  People troll for their perceived enemies to write or say anything for which they stand in accusation.  A great darkness has enveloped society.  Our institutions groan and heave under the weight of their own malice and injustice.  Morality has collapsed under the strain of relativism.  What was right is now wrong in the  society in which we live...good has become evil.  Any divergent opinions are met with the tenacity of a rabid wolverine.  Discussion and debate have grown into a cacophony of divergent opinions and bitter monologues screaming over top each other to win the day.  Darkness encroaches.

Sounds grim, no?  Why bother then?  Why not just do a AC/DC singalong humming Highway to Hell?  Why not?  We shouldn't just yet pack up for the zombie apocalypse just yet.  In fact, now is far from the time for fear and doubt.  We have been here before.  We know the crash comes.  All empires collapse.  All persecutors fall to the dustbin of history.  There is nothing we are experiencing that has not happened before.  It is time to turn the ship into the wave.  We who believe know who wins the war even when the battles seemingly turn ugly.  How then do we turn the ship into the wave?

1. Faith first!  In Matthew 7:24-27, at the end of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus warns his listeners that there choice to listen to Him or not is akin to building your home on rock or sand.  When disaster strikes, the house built on rock endures while the house built on sand fails.  What is the center of our life?  Money?  Career? Pleasure?  Honor? Power?  All of this can and will be taken from each of us as life progresses.  What happens if the economy collapses?  What then of money and career?  What if the government collapses? What if we descend into another war?   What if we were to fall into a debilitating disease? What if an accident were to happen?  The person who faith first puts its practice first.  That means more than attending a church service.  It means being a person who just, merciful, kind, peaceful, content with what they have, compassionate, and other centered.  Faith is the one thing we possess that cannot be taken from us, it must be surrendered.  A person of faith responds differently than one who doesn't.  Saying I am a person of faith is useless if one's disposition and choices do not back that up.

2. Embrace simplicity.  Dave Ramsey likes to say that we have a habit of spending money we don't have on things we don't need to impress people we don't like.  Too often we find status and reputation in belongings.  So many are in over their heads in debt.  We store stuff in storage spaces because we do not have enough space in our homes..stuff we will probably not use again.  We waste immense amounts of items and food.  We consume far too much.  We see over consumption as a status enhancer.  Faith, though, tells us to live simply and within our means.  Simple doesn't mean living in squalor.  It means that possession of items and the ability to make the money necessary to accrue them cannot come at the cost of primary duties to family and God.  We must stop connecting happiness to possessions.  We must know the difference between luxury and necessity.

3. Love people, not things.  We need to be looking out for each others good.  We need to be searching out the unfulfilled needs of others; be it friendship, food, clothing, knowledge, compassion...these should concern us more than material goods of worldly status.  For we who call ourselves Christians (and what a shame when we don't actually live like Christians), the teachings of Christ demand as much.

4. Seek to heal wounds, not create new ones.  We cannot forge ahead united if we keep attacking each other or keep picking at the scabs of old wounds.  It saddens me every time I see some 'Catholic" ideologue attack his or her fellow Catholics in the public forum acting as if they were the true arbiter of orthodoxy, orthopraxy, or justice sent to save the day.  Do you know what happens when an army attacks itself?  It loses!  It weakens itself to where it is ineffective.  Do you know what happens when an enemy sees the opposing army attacking itself?!  It emboldens them to attack with greater fervor!  While we are slicing and dicing each other on church building styles, music, and such...the enemy strikes harder at picking off the morally weaker.  This goes for our personal life as well! To what positive end do we carry our grudges?  To what positive end do we anxiously await the word or phrase that will offend me and give just cause to attack?  To what positive and Godly end is our aligning to ideological sides?  The enemy gather his forces as we squabble and squander our energy fighting with each other.  A house divided will fall.  that is true for our marriages, our families, our parishes, and our society.  Notice how those in power keep digging at division with the determination of a gold miner!  We can't give into this.  I would suggest limiting our time to the media that keeps stoking these fires for the sake of ratings.

5. Remember the only commandment that Christ gave us: Love one another!  He didn't say love another only if a person agrees with you 100%.  He didn't say love another person only if they are your ideological consort.  In fact he tells us to love all...even our enemies.  Nothing so disarms violence like compassion.  Nothing so changes hearts as being shown love when it is undeserved.  This is not pie in the sky hopeless is the command of Christ.

If we hope to weather the encroaching storm, it will be binding as one with our God and with one another.  We are not necessarily on any highway to hell...but how we respond to this world will tell us if we be on said highway or on that narrow path to heaven.  We cannot call good evil...we cannot justify sin.  Those who do will perish.  None of us should wish that fate on anyone.

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