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Posts Tagged ‘dualistic thinking’


Job 22: Beyond Human Limits – Part I

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Alfred Delp, SJ

When you make a decision, it shall succeed for you, and upon your ways the light shall shine. 

The Book of Job speaks to those who suffer innocently; and thus it prepares us to better understand the great sacrifice that Christ made on our behalf.  Today we read the words of Eliphaz who urges Job to admit guilt so that he may prosper, and we understand that Job’s true freedom comes not from avoiding his calamity, but through going beyond human limits, by turning to God in the midst of this personal cataclysm.

Many times we witness God’s hand in turning harm into goodness. We see those who walk in pride fall by their own hands.  We listen attentively to the stories people tell of having been saved, converted or transformed.  Through these stories, it is easy to fall into the thinking that those who suffer must have somehow brought the negative consequences they endure upon themselves. We have heard – or we have thought – if the poor would only work they would not be poor, if that woman had not worn that dress she would not have been raped, if the people in that country would choose good leaders they would not experience famine, if people would just behave there would be no genocide.  This is simplistic, black/white, off/on, binary thinking.  Situations are either good or bad; decisions are either yes or no.  With this kind of absolutism, there is no room for the in-between-ness that is the reality of human existence.  Nor is there much of a reason to invite Christ into our lives because this kind of living follows a rulebook of regulations and checklists that lead us to see life as best lived by following rules; and this stiffness leads us to think of ourselves first.  Christ calls us to liberate ourselves from this bondage and it is this kind of “setting free” that is addressed in yesterday’s MAGNIFICAT Meditation from the writings of Father Delp.  He died in 1945, condemned to death in a wave of frenzy in Germany during World War II.  He writes about the freedom Jesus offers to Levi, the tax collector, in Matthew 5:27-32Humans need freedom.  As slaves, fettered and confined, they are bound to deteriorate.  We have spent a great deal of thought and time on external freedom; we have made serious efforts to secure our personal liberty and yet we have lost it again and again.  The worst thing is that eventually humans come to accept this kind of bondage – it becomes habitual and they hardly notice it.  The most abject slaves can be made to believe that the condition in which they are held is actually freedom. 

Tomorrow, Job’s goodness amidst evil, and more from Father Delp.

Adapted from a reflection written on February 21, 2010.

Cameron, Peter John. “Meditation of the Day.” MAGNIFICAT. 21.2 (2010). Print.  

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Luke 11:14-23: Devil Mud

Thursday, March 3, 2016pharisees (1)

If we have heard or read this story a number of times, it is likely that we know only one or two translations. Today we look at THE MESSAGE version as we reflect on our relationship with God . . . and our understanding of how Satan comes stealthily into our lives.

Jesus knew what they were thinking and said, “Any country in civil war for very long is wasted. A constantly squabbling family falls to pieces. If Satan cancels Satan, is there any Satan left? You accuse me of ganging up with the Devil, the prince of demons, to cast out demons, but if you’re slinging devil mud at me, calling me a devil who kicks out devils, doesn’t the same mud stick to your own exorcists?

Those who are jealous of Jesus’ power are eager to claim that his authority comes from darkness. In our Lenten pilgrimage we might consider our own reaction to others’ good news.

But if it’s God’s finger I’m pointing that sends the demons on their way, then God’s kingdom is here for sure.

Those who cannot understand the depth and beauty of Jesus’ transformative love want to credit themselves with for their success and blame others for their failures. The concept of God’s kingdom of love where love and forgiveness are powerful runs counter to their thinking of justified revenge and just wars.

When a strong man, armed to the teeth, stands guard in his front yard, his property is safe and sound. But what if a stronger man comes along with superior weapons? Then he’s beaten at his own game, the arsenal that gave him such confidence hauled off, and his precious possessions plundered.

Those who believe that our world justifies an escalation of power find comfort in their belief that God blesses the good and condemns the bad.

This is war, and there is no neutral ground. If you’re not on my side, you’re the enemy; if you’re not helping, you’re making things worse.

Jesus’ words bring us the news that our dualistic thinking of good/bad, strong/weak, right/wrong is not the way of the kingdom but an illusion of the world. Jesus tells us clearly that the evil we throw at others comes back to live with us. And Jesus reminds us that when we chose to disbelieve his assertion that God’s world is nothing but love . . . we will want to reconsider our thinking . . . and the devil mud that we are tempted to throw.

When we compare other translations of Jesus’ words, their meaning takes on new light. And as we reflect on our concept of Satan, let us remember our Lenten practice this week. Rather than thinking: “The dream of peace is an unreal and distant illusion,” let us think instead, “The dream of peace we hold is present in God’s kingdom. And God’s kingdom is now”.

Tomorrow, the greatest commandment.

 

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philistia mapSunday, October 12, 2014

Jeremiah 47

Recognizing Philistines

We humans have a desire to look at our world through a lens that separates right from wrong, black from white, right from left, up from down. This is likely due to our organic need to survive. Or perhaps we want easy shortcuts in our thinking that quickly label everyone with whom we come into contact. In this dual world where up is right and down is wrong, syllogisms pass as cogent argument; and all decision-making rests on our perception that we live in an “us and them” world in which we must separate and even isolate ourselves – at all cost – from “the other”. What we fail to recognize with this simplistic approach to life is that not only is we also they, but that with each of us these two apparently opposite worlds exist. The world is not as black and white as we believe. Our reality is, after all, rather more gray than black and white.

Today we read an oracle against the Philistines, an ancient people living along the shore of the Mediterranean Sea in the region of Philistia, whose territory the Hebrew tribes occupied in the Old Testament. In our modern world, the word philistine is defined as “a person who is guided by materialism and is usually disdainful of intellectual or artistic values, or one uninformed in a special area of knowledge”. (Merriman-Webster Online) Today we contemplate not the philistines from whom we separate ourselves, nor do we reflect on the philistine who lives next door. Today we consider the philistine who lives within each of us. We consider how well or how poorly we recognize the “other within”. And we consider our response to this force that disdains all that is foreign or unlikeable in philistine eyes.

Behold: waters are rising from the north, a torrent in flood; it shall flood the land and all that is in it, the cities and their people.

Good and generous God, help us to see our imperfections as places where we meet your healing hand rather than embarrassments to hide. Protect us from the flood of criticism from self and others.

Philistine Carvings

Philistine Temple Carvings

All the people of the land set up a wailing cry.

Good and merciful God, remind us to see disasters as places where we act in your name rather than calamities to be avoided at all cost. Lead us away from fear and anxiety and toward you in love.

Fathers turn not to save their children; their hands fall helpless.

Good and wise God, guide us as we see the philistine in self and others with hope rather than with despair. Love us ever more as we place our helpless hands in yours.

Behold: waters rise, the people wail, our hands are helpless . . .

Good and redeeming God, save us from disdain, keep us from fear, and heal us in your love as we recognize the philistine in each of us.

Amen.

For a reflection on Recognizing the Messiah, visit: https://thenoontimes.com/2014/04/03/recognizing-the-messiah/ 

For more on the ancient Philistines, click on the carving image above ro go to: http://www.biblebasics.co.uk/natcit/philist.htm 

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Friday, March 7, 2014

imagesCAIS5TV1baby feet in handsAmos 3

First Word

In 3:6, Amos states an important belief of ancient theologians, that God causes all events, even disasters. (Mays 650)  In the light of the New Testament, we see God as a forgiving parent, a source of infinite compassion, a God who delivers justice, who pulls good out of harm, who loves us so dearly that he allows us to make decisions . . . even though they may have disastrous results.

God says: When humans first began to believe in my existence, they saw the world as a dual entity in which people, places, ideas and dreams were either good or bad.  There was very little room for fringe thinking because life was so fragile and survival so difficult.  Methods, practices and customs that helped the species to survive were regarded as sacrosanct.  Your ancestors often shunned or even executed innovators and those who understood the wide and long view.  You have evolved and now some of you understand what Jesus means when he speaks of the common good.  You comprehend the importance of forgiving enemies.  And some of you live the life he models for you.  I know that some among you still live with the words from ancient days. You scramble to make your world safe by performing practices with no heart. You believe that a checklist of good deeds saves you when it is really my loving care that restores what you have lost. Rather than lose patience with yourself or with any of these lost children, come to me.  Call the fearful ones to me through your actions and words.  Resist the temptation to believe that I bring about disaster for those who do not follow The Way. Believe that my heart is big enough to love the cruelest among you, persistent enough to convert the most heinous among you, and durable enough to outwait the most cruel and stubborn among you.  The ivory apartments will be ruined through the actions of those who build them.  The horns of the altar will break through the corruption the church leaders allow.  And the many rooms of the wicked will be no more through the actions or inactions of their own lives.  The wicked may escape with the corner of a couch or a piece of cot . . . but they will flee into my relentless, loving arms.  This is my First Word that comes to you through my prophet Amos.

When we become inpatient with God’s plan as it unfolds before our eyes and into our lives, we must remember this First Word that Amos brings to us today.

Tomorrow, Second Word.

Mays, James L., ed.  HARPERCOLLINS BIBLE COMMENTARY. New York, New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1988. 650. Print.

For an interesting post about being still to hear God’s word at www.hisinfinitegrace.com, click on the image above, or go to: http://hisinfinitegrace.com/2012/10/30/be-still-and-know-that-i-am-god-2/

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Monday, February 3, 2014

ayinPsalm 119:121-128

Ayin

My eyes long to see you salvation and the justice of your promise.

In the sixteenth strophe of Psalm 119 we hear a cry to see God’s kingdom now, a plea to see God’s Law of Love as promised.

God says: You need not fuss and worry that others do not try to forge the kingdom with you.  You may even lose sleep and become despondent at the evil you see daily either close to you or in more distant places on the globe.  I tell you that you need not fear.  You need not judge.  You need not burden yourself with thinking that you are responsible for all the troubles throughout all of time or throughout all places on the planet.  What I ask you to do is quite simply this: Listen for my voice to guide you in whatever way you perceive me; respond to the call that I place in your heart; and remember that I have promised you the kingdom for which you pine.  You are presently in my kingdom . . . although you may struggle to see it.  When you are able to put down your black-and-white glasses that give you a dual vision of the world where everything is either yes or no, you will begin to see the beauty of my kingdom in which everything is either/and.

From the time that we are tiny we are given rules that plainly state consequences and our parents invoke these rules to keep us safe.  There are ways to cross the street, ways to mingle with strangers, ways to handle fire and ice and all of these rules are meant to preserve us and keep us safe.  As we mature we must continue to grow so that we might begin to see the world as God sees it, so that we might begin to experience time as God lives it. As we mature we must allow God to soften our hearts, unbend our stiff necks, and open our minds that are closed to possibility.

Jesus stands on the shore of the sea and sees his apostles in a small boat tossed on the storm swept waters.  About the fourth watch of the night, he came toward them walking on the sea.  He meant to pass by them.  But when they saw him walking on the sea, they thought it was a ghost and cried out.  They had all seen him and were terrified.  But at once he spoke with them.  “Take courage, it is I, do not be afraid!”  He got into the boat with them and the wind died down.  They were [completely] astounded.  They had not understood the incident of the loaves.  On the contrary, their hearts were hardened. (Mark 6:48-52)

For a deeper awareness of how we might miss the message of the loaves, read Mark 6:34-44 and reflect on the times we also misunderstand . . . and insist that Christ enter our foundering boat.

For more on how Ayin speaks to us of God’s providence, go to: http://www.inner.org/hebleter/ayin.htm or  http://www.ancient-hebrew.org/3_ayin.html

Tomorrow, Pe.

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Saturday, September 15, 2012 – Ezekiel 25 – Against the Nations

Bridge over the Drina in Mostar, Bosnia

As we read this chapter of Ezekiel we might be lured into what Richard Rohr – and many others – calls dualistic thinking.  Decisions are made in a yes/no, black/white, off/on world.  If we are able to step outside of our small perspective and move into a greater view of the world we understand that this kind of reasoning is dangerous in that it limits our vision . . . and therefore limits us.  Rohr examines how life is a paradox in his blog posts at http://richardrohr.wordpress.com They are worth visiting as are his CD lectures, the webcasts and other resources on his Rohr Institute site at http://www.cac.org/ as we reflect on the way we think, the way we respond to conflict, and the way we seek resolutions to the difficult passages in our lives.

The portion of Ezekiel that we read today may be used as fuel for the fire of prejudice . . . if we allow the voice of revenge and conquest to go unchecked.  As the recent events in our global community unfold, we are reminded that fanaticism can never be good. As my siblings and I grew, my Dad intoned to us regularly: Anything is a bad thing when taken to extremes . . . even a good thing.  He understood that words like the ones we read today can be taken out of context, can be blown out of context and morphed in importance. Any single verse, Dad would say, when taken in isolation does not tell the whole story. Read the story.  When my father and grandfather told us to read the whole story what they meant was this: stop, think, pray, listen, think, read, think, pray, share ideas, pray, think, pray . . . and act.  We want to take this method with us as we plunge into Ezekiel’s words against the nations.  To what does he call us?

The Old Testament Yahweh can be seen here as a god of vengeance and when we read these verses with anger in our hearts we might believe that God himself justifies the revenge we feel against those who have injured us; but we are also reminded that Yahweh’s love for creation knows no bounds.

The Old Testament Yahweh can be seen here as a god who exacts precise payment for wrongs committed; but we know that Yahweh’s generosity and compassion cannot be outdone when we remember his care for the enslaved and powerless. 

The New Testament Jesus fulfills the promise of reunion and union first uttered by Yahweh.

The New Testament Jesus brings human hands and feet and voice to the mercy and compassion first shown by Yahweh.

When we find ourselves in turmoil and wishing to take revenge against the people who have injured us we must not let dualistic thinking close off possibilities of healing, reconciliation and union.

When we find ourselves in deep sorrow over a loss we have suffered we must not let simplistic rule-following to replace decision-making by a well-formed conscience. 

When we feel ourselves being pulled into the vortex of darkness that would have us chant slogans that condemn, that would lead us to take an eye for an eye, that would ask us to rail against the nations . . . we must first stop to think and to pray, and to seek so that we might find . . . the forgiving, open, healing way of Christ.  For it is Christ who embodies all that is good.  It is Christ who brings us the outrageous hope that even the most dire circumstances may be righted. It is Christ who will help us to build bridges to the nations.

The name “Mostar” means “the city of bridges”.  To read more about what happened to the bridges in Bosnia during the most recent Balkan wars, click on the image above or go to: http://balkansnet.org/mostar.html  Follow more links on that page to read and reflect on reconciliation and revenge.

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