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Wednesday, November 20, 2013


by Susan Fox

"The greatest poverty is no love!" (Mother Teresa of Calcutta) 

See and Serve the Person of Our Lord Jesus Christ in everyone you meet.

Who would believe that such an innocuous statement could be so controversial to a Christian!

The Bible states clearly, Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.” (Matt 25:40)

For Catholics, the witness of the life of Mother Teresa of Calcutta is enough to believe the axiom that Christ is among us in the distressing disguise of the poor -- waiting to be loved.  

Pope Francis hugs Vinicio Riva
Pope Francis continues her witness. On Nov. 6, 2013, he hugged and rubbed the head of a man disfigured by neurofibromatosis. “I felt like I was in paradise. My heart was bursting,” said Vinicio Riva, 53, describing what happened when the pope hugged him. He was impressed that the pope didn’t hesitate to touch him, something his own father is reluctant to do.

But such actions were very firmly challenged by a Bible-believing Christian businessman I met online, who argued vehemently that we could not see Christ in others until they accept Jesus Christ as their Savior!

Did Vincenza Riva already accept Christ as His Lord and Savior? If not, the pope must have made a grave mistake in embracing him!

The Christian businessman rightfully said we have to make judgements. Paul and Timothy had to judge, silence and rebuke Hymenaeus and Philetus because they denied the resurrection, a heresy. (2Timothy 2: 14-19) No, we didn’t disagree on that at all.

But when it came to the man dressed as a woman who came to his church, he steadfastly refused to see Christ in that man because clearly he wasn’t saved yet.  

But how will the man, who self-identifies as homosexual, ever receive Christ -- if Christians continue to look at him like there is something wrong with him? Would you convert to Christianity if everyone at Church treated you like a pariah?

I ended up pleading for the man dressed as a woman: “Please love that "gay" man,” I wrote. “By this I mean, use a kind word, look him in the eye. (I don't mean that you should imply at any point that his lifestyle is okay.)”

“When you face Jesus Christ at the pearly gates that's what He'll ask you about -- how you treated that man. That man is Jesus in the distressing disguise of the poor. Poor doesn't mean poor in material means. Poor in this case means unloved. But his dress is telling you he wants desperately to be loved. And how we treat men like that depends on whether Christ will label us sheep or goats at the judgment. The goats get kicked to hell. The sheep go to heaven. And the sheep are the ones who use kind words to the unloved in this life," I wrote online. They also hug men with neurofibromatosis.

Mother Teresa of Calcutta said the greatest poverty is no love. And the modern world -- seemingly so rich in material goods -- is very much afflicted with that kind of poverty.   

Actually, what the Christian man and I were arguing about was a very subtle distinction in Scripture. This is one of the many precautions that Jesus gave us to prevent sin: “Do not judge, or you too will be judged.  For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?  How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye?  You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” (Matt 7: 2-5)

And then there’s the way He taught us to pray:
“Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” Doesn’t that mean we in justice cannot expect forgiveness unless we forgive others, maybe even for their way of life?

Yet there are numerous examples of judging in the Bible. Timothy, Paul and Titus threw people out of the early Church for transgressions like living with your father's wife, and speaking heresy.

And we certainly don’t want to devolve into relativists --  people who think there is no right and wrong.  Why and when is it okay to judge?

“No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit.  Each tree is recognized by its own fruit. People do not pick figs from thorn bushes, or grapes from briers.  A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.” (Luke 6:43-45)

So we can judge, not the man, but his fruits. We can look at his works and his dress, and come to a conclusion about his actions. We still see the Person of Christ in his face, but when my Christian friend faced the issue of which bathroom to let him use, he objectively knew he could not use the men’s or the women’s room unless it is empty. Now a judgment has been made based on the man’s fruits. He is dressed as a woman. Lovingly escort him to any restroom – just get everyone else out.

When my Christian friend faced this dilemma, instead of disliking the "gay" man, he prayed for him. So I said, “You did see and serve the Person of Christ in that gay man. You prayed for him! Good job.” 

One time I was checking into a hotel, and I was too tired to look at the person who was checking me in, but I noticed his arm was that of an elderly man. So I finished the paperwork he had given me, and I said, "God bless you, Sirrrrrr!" That is, it was like a wind blew through me and said the word "Sir" very drawn out. It identified the man as a man. I didn't intend to do that. But after that happened, I noticed the man was wearing a dress and had a blond ponytail. For some reason, God chose me to recall the man to his actual identity.

The next couple of days when I saw him, and he saw me, he was very nervous, bounced up and down and talked non-stop. The Holy Spirit had corrected him, but I continued to see and serve the Person of Christ in that man. I didn't think "evil man." Instead I turned to God and prayed for him, just like my Christian friend did. My online friend’s response was a good Christian one. Love the sinner. Hate the sin. 

This topic is vitally important to my friend because he is a Christian businessman. “How do you think you can sell goods or wait on people if you have to make a judgment every time you meet someone as to their spiritual worthiness?” I asked.

My mother supported us as I was growing up because my father was dead when I was four. She worked in real estate and later sold appliances. She actually made a point of seeing the Person of Christ in those she met. This was evident in her voice, her manner and her concern for their needs. As a result, her sales rate was higher than anyone else's in the office.  

Now I learned this lesson in 30 years of doing door-to-door evangelization. One time, I forgot I had to see the Person of Christ in the person opening the door, and a man wearing a satan T-Shirt with no shoes opened the door. I looked down at his feet, and then up at his T-shirt. Big mistake! I could see him literally close the door of his heart. He would have nothing to do with Jesus Christ because His representative  -- little me -- forgot to look in his face and see Christ.

A priest friend of mine visited a man on death row in prison. This man spit in his face. He wanted nothing to do with the priest. Father had a short temper, but he said, "God bless you,"  left and went home. Discussing the matter with God later, God convinced him to return and reveal to the serial killer the one good thing he had done in his life. And this thing was something no one could know but God.

So Father returned and reminded the man that when he was 9 years old, he had shared his sweet with another child. Now this was India. People were very poor. And children rarely got their hands on a dessert item; so sharing such a thing was really marvelous. The serial killer began crying. He repented of his sins.  God sees differently than we do. He didn’t want the priest to remind the man of all the people he killed, he wanted the priest to remind the man of his goodness. 

One always sees Jesus Christ as offering His Sacred Heart to us in love. So I and many other Christians, including St. Catherine of Sienna,  have asked God to exchange our hearts for Jesus’ Heart so we can love like He does.

The story of the serial killer taught me to see with the eyes of God the Father. In the Book of Genesis, every thing He created, He seemed to pause and look at it after it was made: “And God saw that it was good.” This phrase is repeated through all the steps of creation. So if we stop and look with the Father’s eyes at each person, we will see what good God has done in his soul. This look of love – coming from a Christian -- is an invitation to know Christ.

I reminded my Christian businessman that St. Martin of Tours was a soldier, and not a Christian, when he encountered a naked beggar by the side of the road. He had not yet accepted Jesus as His Lord and Savior as defined by Protestants. But could we fail to see Christ in Martin before his conversion? He took his sword and cut his cloak in two, giving half to the shivering man. That night Christ appeared to him as a beggar wearing the other half of Martin's cloak, and Martin believed in Christ and was baptized.

Then Pope Francis meets and hugs Vinicio Riva in St. Peter’s Square. “I’m not contagious, but (the pope) didn’t know that. But he did it, period: he caressed my whole face and while he was doing it, I only felt love. First, I kissed his hand, while he caressed my head and wounds with his other hand,” Vinicio said.

“Then he pulled me toward him, hugging me tight and kissing my face. My head was against his chest and his arms were wrapped around me. He held me so tightly, cuddling me, and he didn’t let go. I tried to speak, to say something, but I wasn’t able to: I was too choked up. It lasted just a little more than a minute, but, for me, it seemed like forever. The pope’s hands are so soft. Soft and beautiful. And his smile (is) bright and wide.”

Meeting the pope was a transforming experience for Vinicio Riva. That's what I love about Pope Francis. He does see and serve the Person of Jesus Christ in the little people.  

Jesus said, "Go preach the gospel to all nations." Sometimes, for the gospel to be preached, all that is required is a look of love. 

Friday, November 8, 2013

THE MYSTERIOUS WORM OF MATTHEW PIKE: Discovering the Image of God Within

(editor’s note: This piece is dedicated to the owners and patrons of Kuma’s Corner, Purveyors of fine BOVINE GENOCIDE, Chicago, Illinois, in honor of their November “Sleep” burger with turkey and cranberry jelly. Yum)

“As for man, his days are like grass; he flourishes like a flower of the field; for the wind passes over it, and it is gone ...But the mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting upon those who fear him. (Psalm 103)

by Susan Fox

American rock musician Matthew Pike has found a mysterious part of himself – something that was missing during the years he was blacked out from alcohol and dope.
Doom Metal Guitarist Matt Pike
“I’m starting to find out who I really am, what I’m worth and the value of my being,” said the 41-year-old Denver native in a 2012 interview with Vincent Duke for Pelecanus.net. “That’s an important thing for a person to realize.”

And surprisingly, it appears that the guitarist for the doom metal band, Sleep, is finding out that being human and being alive is actually something wonderful.

“I’ve been writing in this journal… some of it is very Hunter S. Thompson. It’s realism. It has comedy, and it’s kind of depressing, too, because of the way my life has been,” said Pike, who admits he is still struggling with alcohol addiction. “It kinda makes me sad that I blacked myself out for half of it.”

“I just feel like I’m starting to get grounded where I was lost for a really long time.” His face beaming with happiness, Pike added, “I asked my girl to marry me in Rome. She said, ‘Yes.’  So it will be the first time I’ve ever been married. ”

His partner on this pilgrimage to the heart of his humanity is a mysterious worm, the subject of his latest song creation, De Vermis Mysteriis. “That’s what that record is – it’s the Book of the Worm or the mysteries of the worm. It’s about digging under the earth or underneath the groundation of your soul and finding something. It’s not about how rock star I am. Being human is finding what you really are.”

I wonder if he would be surprised to know that a number of other people have courageously ridden the worm into their own soul and found something beautiful there.

Harking back to Psalm 103 where man is compared to the flower of the field, which lasts only so long as the wind passes over it, St. Theresa -- known as The Little Flower -- said, “If a little flower could speak, it would say, simply, what the good God has done for her.” Indeed the French saint lived only 24 years in an obscure Carmelite convent in Lisieux in the late 1800s. Yet she is known and loved worldwide.

Her life inspired a Vietnamese Redemptorist brother, Marcel Van, to follow the same vocation of hidden love. He died at the age of 31 in a North Vietnamese re-education camp after he voluntarily returned to the dangerous Communist Zone in 1954.  If anyone asked why he wanted to return to North Viet Nam, he answered, “I am going so that there is someone who loves God in the middle of the Communists.”
Brother Marcel Van

He described his life using the same imagery Theresa did, saying that if the flower could speak, “she would frankly admit that she is a fragile creature, quick to fade but she would also be proud of her beauty, of the crispness of her colors, of her delicate scent and of all the other qualities that nature has adorned her with.”

Isn’t Pike’s mysterious worm showing him this same reality? Under the soil of his heart, is he not finding something truly beautiful?

Van continued, “I tell myself that my soul is also like one of God’s flowers. It is God himself who has preordained all that I possess and all the events of my life. I can also therefore recount all the graces with which the good God has embellished my soul, so that together … we can sing a canticle of praise to the infinite mercy of God.”

Pike added, “I can’t summon angels or demons. I can’t do a lot of these things that you think you can when you are in that state.  I found a (different) part of myself. I want to be able to express myself through my instrument. And I’m going to strap that guitar on every day and I’m going to work hard to make a life for my children and my wife.”

“I’m going to make a lot of people, who are sad, feel something. I’m going to make a lot of people, who are angry, feel something. I’m going to make a lot of people, who are happy, feel something,” he concluded.

Is that a strange ambition for a guitarist for a group called “Sleep?”  Sleep after all is part of the doom metal scene where the smog of pot fills the room.  Its lyrics speak repeatedly about escape. “Drop out of life with bong in hand. Follow the smoke to-uh the riff-filled land.” (Refrain for Sleep’s Dopesmoker lyrics)

No, even sleep is full of emotion.  Doom metal enthusiasts are seeking to experience the same emotions every human being longs for. That’s why they go to concerts.

“Life is always a good.  This is an instinctive perception and a fact of experience, and man is called to grasp the profound reason why this is so,” said Pope John Paul II in the Gospel of Life published in 1995. He also lived through great tribulation, the Nazi and Communist occupation of Poland, the death of his parents, and the Nazi Holocaust which robbed him of personal friends.

“The life which God gives man is quite different from the life of all other living creatures, inasmuch as man, although formed from the dust of the earth, is a manifestation of God in the world, a sign of his presence, a trace of his glory,” the pope said, adding the famous quote from St. Irenaeus of Lyons, “Man, living man, is the glory of God… in man there shines forth a reflection of God himself.”

Addressing God, the author of Psalm 8 says, “When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars which you have established; (I think) What is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him? Yet you have made him little less than the angels, and you have crowned him with glory and honor.”
The Good Shepherd

How does God regard the human flower? Jesus Himself answered this question in the parable of the lost sheep. If a man has 100 sheep, and one goes astray, does he care? Jesus said, “Yes, he leaves the 99 and goes to look for the one that was lost.” And if he finds it, he rejoices over it more than the 99 who never went astray.

But that is God’s thinking, not ours. If a man is a modern commercial sheepherder, he will be indifferent to one sheep out of 100. He would probably use a mathematical formula to figure out that his profit only went down marginally. Then he’d forget about the sheep and go to bed. That’s how modern man thinks.  But not the Good Shepherd. He would go out and search.

"You don't have the right to despise yourself. You don't have the right," said Fr. Felicien Mbala at Mass today in Denver. He referred to the fact that God Himself has paid the price for us in His own Blood. "For God so loved the world He gave His only Son. And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us."

This happened 56 years ago, but I remember it like it happened yesterday: I was four years old sitting in the back seat of the car, moments before the accident that took my father's life. I looked up from reading a comic book. My father was giving my mother one long look of love, and she returned that look with her whole heart. In that instant, my parents taught me this important lesson: Life is good. Life is beautiful. Make every moment count. Share it with the ones that you love because eventually life is over.

 “Long live traveler
Winds now die
Dark place creature
Destined night.”

(Matt Pike in De Vermis Mysteriis)

Another source for similar thoughts:
God Searches for the Lost With a Special Love, Pope Francis says