Help Me

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From Roberta Bondi’s To Love as God Loves: Conversations with the Early Church: “…sometimes we are so mired in the world we live in, with its temptations, habits, and ways of seeing and feeling, that we do not even know what is wrong with us; we only know that something thing is wrong, and we feel helpless. In this case, says one of the fathers, our human effort may be tiny, but it is still of crucial importance. It consists in calling out to God for help, simply saying “God help me.” This much we can always do. The early monastics were more aware than we of the way obsessive emotional and social situations often act to take away almost all human freedom, but they insisted we can always call for help.”

Roger

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Good Karma

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From Paul Knitter’s Without Buddha I Could Not Be A Christian: “My conversation with Buddhism has helped me see more clearly what the theologians mentioned above were groping for: if we really believe our symbols that call God Father or tell us that the Divine is Love, then there can be no permanent stains. No permanent or eternal hell. As Rahner perhaps suspected, Buddhists are nudging Christians to expand the meaning of their symbol of purgatory: we can be “purified” not only of our blemishes but also of our stains. And that will usually take more than one lifetime. The process goes on. And it goes on because, in Buddhist terms, “bad karma” never has the last word; there is always the possibility of it providing an opportunity for “good karma.” In Christian language, human decisions, no matter how mean-spirited and death-dealing to others they may be, never have the last word over Divine Love. What the poet calls “the Hound of Heaven” never gives up. If Christians are right in calling God Love, if Buddhists are right in affirming compassion as a quality of the ongoing process of InterBeing, then there is always hope. Buddhists have reminded me, as I believe they can remind my fellow Christians, that what we Christians say we believe is really the case. Love is stronger than hatred. Good is stronger than evil. The good that we do, or can do, will outlive, or offset, the evil that we have done. But it may take more than what we define as one, single lifetime!”

Roger

Denial

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From Douglas John Hall’s The Cross in Our Context: Jesus and the Suffering World: “Our society, perhaps more than any other in history, is engaged in a massive denial of death. (And remember that for the biblical faith death does not just refer to the termination of life, a biological death, but stands symbolically for a whole Pandora’s box of fears and negations that become particularly virulent when they are repressed or denied.) This was the point of one of the most insightful books written in our era, Ernest Becker’s The Denial of Death. The more fixated the human spirit is upon its mortality, it vulnerability, its nothingness or apparent insignificance, the less capable it is of participating freely and joyfully in the life that it has been given….Individuals whose sense of well-being depends upon a rigorous silencing of every thought of their own mortality are very difficult and sometimes dangerous people to be around. But what of a whole society whose well-being – whose way of life – depends upon the constant reassurance that the happiness it seeks is in no way threatened by the limitations that creaturely life places on us? …When an entire culture is held in the grip of a worldview in which death is allowed no voice, death’s power over life is immensely increased. Such a society is greatly in need of liberation…”

Roger

Walls

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From Paul Knitter’s Without Buddha I Could Not Be A Christian: “My problems with Christian language deepen precisely when we try actually to answer that question: “What do we believe if we don’t believe literally?” So many of the interpretations of Christian doctrines have become barriers to exploring their deeper content, or to exploring other content. The primary reason for this seems to be the way the meanings given to Christian beliefs so often set up walls –walls that exclude. Either they wall off other, or different, interpretations by insisting that this is the only valid way of understanding a particular doctrine (e.g. “transubstantiation” is the only way of understanding the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist). Or they exclude, or denigrate, all truths on the other side of the Christian wall, in other religions. It seems that so often the way that we Christians affirm that “we hold these truths” leads us to deny or put down the truths that others hold.”

Roger

Vocation

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From Patrick Reyes’ Nobody Cries When We Die: God, Community, and Surviving to Adulthood: “People who have found their vocation place their values in deep harmony with their behavior. Think of how often we enter into our own vocational discernment process by asking, “What do I want to do?” rather than asking ourselves first, “How am I using this living, breathing body?” or “How does the way that I am living reflect a certain call to live and breathe?” When I work with young people, they typically think they’re supposed to ask themselves, “What do I want to do?” rather than, “What am I doing with my life? Do my actions reflect my values, and are those values about life? How do I structure my day to reflect my own thriving? My own call to life?”

Roger