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Darkened Minds and Futile Thinking

“ . . . for though they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their senseless minds were darkened.

Claiming to be wise, they became fools.” Romans 1:21-22

These verses grabbed my attention when I first encountered them as a high school senior in a New Testament class I took for extra credit. Back in the upbeat 1950’s when unlimited possibilities apparently lay before every American, the idea that sin could alter one’s ability to reason appeared implausible at best. I had never met, read about, or heard of anyone in that condition. As we now say, I just couldn’t wrap my head around the concept, despite the time I spent thinking about it.

But as my life has seemingly fast forwarded into the 21st century, the statements do now approach the realm of possibility. I still don’t understand the passage on an individual level, but culturally, we in the US apparently now qualify by claiming to be wise while being fools. For example, consider these recent headlines:

1. Florida University to Award Posthumous Degree to Trayvon Martin  (He never   even applied to go there, or any other college.)

2. Reed College Radicals Complain That Course in Greco-Roman Thinkers Needs More Non-White Authors (Have they not noticed that it’s supposed to be about only Greek and Roman authors?)

3. Rep. Waters to Hand Out MTV’s “Fight the System” Award, Has served 27 Years in Congress  (I consider 27 years in Congress as proof that you are, in fact, part of the system.)

4. UK Students: Ban Clapping and Whooping Because it Excludes the Deaf  (Should those who hear also quit talking to each other to avoid excluding anyone?)

5. Gender Bias Study by Women Researchers Suffers from Gender Bias
(Hard to avoid under the circumstances.)

6. BuzzFeed Employee Wishes for Trump Assassination, Company Declares No Bias
(Don’t you know that no news outlet suffers from any bias?)

One has to laugh at the absurdities involved, if only to keep from crying.

Creation Speaks; What Can Man Add?

Matthew 27:45-46, 50-52

45 From noon on, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. 46 And about three o’clock Jesus cried with a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” . . . . .50 Then Jesus cried again with a loud voice and breathed his last. 51 At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. The earth shook, and the rocks were split. 52 The tombs also were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised.

Mark 15:33, 37-38

33 When it was noon, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. 34 At three o’clock Jesus cried out with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” . . . . . 37 Then Jesus gave a loud cry and breathed his last. 38 And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom.

Luke 23:44-45

44 It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, 45 while the sun’s light failed; and the curtain of the temple was torn in two.

Holy Thursday

“The crown of the thorns
is forced upon your head
I turn to face the guilty
I see my sins instead”
    Anthony Carnesi

Like many Christians, I have a compulsive interest in Judas, especially his eagerly leaving the last Passover dinner in his haste to ensure the capture and arraignment of the rabbi he had been following.

He is so easy to hate. How could he betray Him? Jesus had shown him obvious affection and even honor. Yet Judas “sells” Jesus, and his own soul in the process,  for a mere 30 pieces of silver. Such pettiness is repulsive in itself, not to mention the fact that he turned on the one person who had shown him more love in the previous three years than Judas had experienced during his entire life.

When he re-thinks his actions, he tries to give the money back as an expiation for his sin. But, it’s too little, too late. The Jewish authorities refuse to even pick up the money off the floor and they display no empathy for Judas’ regret.

At this point, Fr. Paul Scalia at Courageous Priest explains that regret has no relation to true repentance and that regret is never enough. We must repent, i.e., to turn around and change direction in order to escape our sins and stupidity.

We have to admit out loud that we did wrong. We cannot offer any excuses for our actions. Our actions were bad no matter how we “talked” ourselves into committing them. Or how we interpreted circumstances in making excuses for our own bad choices.

If you go to Confession on Good Friday, remember that eternity and ultimate truth are your main concerns, not trying to salvage any silly little vestige of your so-called dignity. Freedom only comes through absolute honesty; anything else is too little, too late.

“ . . . and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” St. John 8:32pontifical_crucifixion

Betrayal – Tuesday of Holy Week

Even my bosom friend in whom I trusted, who ate of my bread,
has lifted the heel against me. Psalm 41:9

The physical torture that Jesus endured just before His death was so great that only a robust young man could have withstood it at all. Even so, once nailed to the cross, He died within about three hours instead of the usual twenty. And He died before they needed to break his legs to stop yet another painful struggle for one more breath by pushing himself up to gasp for air despite the nails in His feet.

Still, most of us identify with the emotional pain he endured that last day  because of our own suffering. Practically everyone who was graced to be in His presence while He lived on earth ended up stabbing Him in the back although He had loved each of them like they had never been loved before.

The Sadducees and Pharisees, the religious scholars who had researched prophecies about the coming Messiah their entire lives, were actually the ones who finally brought legal charges against Him. The crowds who breathlessly listened to His parables and followed from town to field to experience His miracles  yelled “Barabbas!” when Pilate offered freedom to Jesus. Peter, the one Jesus had chosen to lead after His departure, was in hiding along with other followers after becoming panic stricken that powerless young slave girls recognized him as a disciple.

But, of course, the worst was Judas, who was especially close to Jesus, according to John 13. Like today, the places on either side of the host at dinner were the places of honor. John, the beloved, reclined to the right of Jesus while apparently Judas was the one to His left, the place of highest honor.

If Jesus reclined on His left arm, as was the custom, it would have been natural to pass a morsel of bread to honor the person on His left. Passing to the one of the right would be back-handed and awkward at best.

As Judas ate the food given to honor him, Satan possessed him and he awkwardly left the celebration to earn his thirty pieces of silver.

None of us have experienced such treachery, yet each betrayal we undergo, insignificant or life changing, leaves a scar that heals slowly and painfully. Our own healing depends on our willingness to forgive and let God handle the consequences for us and for the traitor.

God manages to effect change far better than we can even imagine. Just compare the limited vision the disciples had of Jesus’ ruling an earthly kingdom and the kingdom of God as portrayed in Revelation.  They wanted the Jews to be triumphant over the hated Romans. God wanted “the earth to be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, as the waters that cover the sea.” (Habakkuk 2:14)

John 13:21-27a

After saying this Jesus was troubled in spirit, and declared, “Very truly, I tell you, one of you will betray me.” 22 The disciples looked at one another, uncertain of whom he was speaking. 23 One of his disciples—the one whom Jesus loved—was reclining next to him; 24 Simon Peter therefore motioned to him to ask Jesus of whom he was speaking. 25 So while reclining next to Jesus, he asked him, “Lord, who is it?” 26 Jesus answered, “It is the one to whom I give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish.” So when he had dipped the piece of bread, he gave it to Judas son of Simon Iscariot. 27 After he received the piece of bread, Satan entered into him.

“My God, my God, why have You abandoned me?”*


Few can read or hear these words without profound sadness. Each of us has probably said the same refrain to ourselves and to anyone willing to listen. Today as the Palm Sunday congregation sang these words, no doubt, most of us remembered times in our own lives when we had felt abandoned by God. For example:

When a young child cries after losing a parent to a deadly accident
When a faithful, loving spouse discovers irrefutable evidence of infidelity
When a family member lies about his own guilt and projects it onto the victim rather than face himself
When a sibling moves to divide the elderly parent from the remaining siblings in order to increase his own inheritance
When a superior undermines an employee’s achievements to claim them as his own
When a supplicant is faced with damning lies during court cases, but not allowed to refute them because the “rules” are misapplied
When a grown child abandons the faith – and his own family in the process

Yes, devastating betrayal is part and parcel of our lives on this earth. No one I know has been exempt. However, today we all see that Jesus really did experience treachery from both friend and foe. Yet He submitted to it quietly and ended up defeating Satan and his evil “games” in the process.

The best take away is that we believers can offer up our own dishonesty and the dirty tricks that we have experienced to the God who loves us enough to undergo the same physical, emotional, and spiritual pains that we have. Only He can cleanse us and set us free from their dominion in our lives so we can live in the Kingdom of Heaven while still treading the soil of this earth.

*This verse was part of the Psalm at today’s Mass. Below is Psalm 22 from the King James Version:

My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? why art thou so far from helping me, and from the words of my roaring?
2 O my God, I cry in the day time, but thou hearest not; and in the night season, and am not silent.
3 But thou art holy, O thou that inhabitest the praises of Israel.
4 Our fathers trusted in thee: they trusted, and thou didst deliver them.
5 They cried unto thee, and were delivered: they trusted in thee, and were not confounded.
6 But I am a worm, and no man; a reproach of men, and despised of the people.
7 All they that see me laugh me to scorn: they shoot out the lip, they shake the head, saying,
8 He trusted on the Lord that he would deliver him: let him deliver him, seeing he delighted in him.
9 But thou art he that took me out of the womb: thou didst make me hope when I was upon my mother’s breasts.
10 I was cast upon thee from the womb: thou art my God from my mother’s belly.
11 Be not far from me; for trouble is near; for there is none to help.
12 Many bulls have compassed me: strong bulls of Bashan have beset me round.
13 They gaped upon me with their mouths, as a ravening and a roaring lion.
14 I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint: my heart is like wax; it is melted in the midst of my bowels.
15 My strength is dried up like a potsherd; and my tongue cleaveth to my jaws; and thou hast brought me into the dust of death.
16 For dogs have compassed me: the assembly of the wicked have inclosed me: they pierced my hands and my feet.
17 I may tell all my bones: they look and stare upon me.
18 They part my garments among them, and cast lots upon my vesture.
19 But be not thou far from me, O Lord: O my strength, haste thee to help me.
20 Deliver my soul from the sword; my darling from the power of the dog.
21 Save me from the lion’s mouth: for thou hast heard me from the horns of the unicorns.
22 I will declare thy name unto my brethren: in the midst of the congregation will I praise thee.
23 Ye that fear the Lord, praise him; all ye the seed of Jacob, glorify him; and fear him, all ye the seed of Israel.
24 For he hath not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted; neither hath he hid his face from him; but when he cried unto him, he heard.
25 My praise shall be of thee in the great congregation: I will pay my vows before them that fear him.
26 The meek shall eat and be satisfied: they shall praise the Lord that seek him: your heart shall live for ever.
27 All the ends of the world shall remember and turn unto the Lord: and all the kindreds of the nations shall worship before thee.
28 For the kingdom is the Lord’s: and he is the governor among the nations.
29 All they that be fat upon earth shall eat and worship: all they that go down to the dust shall bow before him: and none can keep alive his own soul.
30 A seed shall serve him; it shall be accounted to the Lord for a generation.
31 They shall come, and shall declare his righteousness unto a people that shall be born, that he hath done this.

“If [this virtue] were a drug, it would be the world’s best-selling product with a health maintenance indication for every major organ system.” Dr. P Murali Doraiswamy

realistic-syringe-with-needle-isolated-on-white-background-Download-Royalty-free-Vector-File-EPS-52867

 Imagine the impact on your life if you just injected a drug every morning to enhance your health, both physically and mentally.  And then, imagine what life would be like if you injected the same drug into all of your family, friends, and even co-workers. No doubt life would be immeasurably better for all.

Doriaswamy, a professor at Duke University, is an internationally recognized expert in brain/mind health and successful aging. And the virtue to which he refers is thankfulness or gratitude. 1

The more frequently you practice it, the better off you are.2 For example, you will experience less anxiety, cope with stress more easily, and sleep better.3 The improvements in your body are measurable in several areas. For example:

  1. Mood neurotransmitters (serotonin and norepinephrine)

  2. Inflammatory and immune systems (cytokines)

  3. Reproductive hormones (testosterone)

  4. Stress hormones (cortisol)

  5. Social bonding hormones (oxytocin)

  6. Blood pressure and cardiac and EEG rhythms5

  7. Cognitive and pleasure related neurotransmitters (dopamine)

  8. Blood sugar

Another scientific expert on gratitude is Dr. Robert Emmons, a professor of psychology at UC Davis.6 He teaches that gratitude is good for at least four reasons:

  1. Gratitude allows people to actively celebrate the present moment

  2. Gratitude blocks negative emotions like envy or resentment and helps people function better

  3. Gratitude makes people more resistant to stress

  4. Gratitude strengthens social ties and self-worth

I applaud the researchers who are proving the wisdom of God in the Bible. And proving that the instructions found there are for our good and not to restrict us.

 th-4

For some reason, Satan has tricked most of us into believing that obedience to God is painful and futile even though Jesus promised in John 10:10 (Amp): The thief comes only in order to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance [to the full, till it overflows].

In other words, to have the abundant life one must have an attitude of gratitude.

Sources: 1.ABC News November 23, 2011 – 2.Huffington Post November 22, 2014 – 3. Psychology Today November 9, 2011 – 4.American Journal of Cardiology 1995 Nov. 15:76(14):1089-93 – 5.Greatergood.Berkley.edu