“Our once great western Christian civilization is dying. If this matters to followers of Jesus Christ, then we must set aside our denominational differences and work together to strengthen the things that remain and reclaim what has been lost. Evangelicals and Catholics must stand together to re-establish that former Christian culture and moral consensus. We have the numbers and the organization but the question is this: Do we have the will to win this present spiritual battle for Jesus Christ against secularism? Will we prayerfully and cooperatively work toward a new Christian spiritual revival ― or will we choose to hunker down in our churches and denominationalisms and watch everything sink into the spiritual and moral abyss of a New Dark Age?” - Mark Davis Pickup

Friday, December 22, 2017

GOD'S LOVE KINDLES SIMPLICITY AND SIMPLENESS

The Incarnation of Christ was of such cosmic significance it altered and shook the heavens. A star appeared. The2nd Chapter of the Gospel of Luke tells us that a heavenly host appeared to shepherds at the time of Christ's birth: "And suddenly there was a multitude of the heavenly host with the angels, praising God and saying: 'Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to those on whom his favour rests.'" The angelic host spoke of an earthly peace for people within themselves and toward others. The New Jerome Biblical Commentary comments on this passage of Scripture: 

"The angels' revelation of the meaning of Jesus is accepted by lowly shepherds and pondered by Mary, who models for believers the necessity of reflecting upon and embodying peace." 
The Holy Family
by Juan Simón Gutiérrez, 1680

I think Godly peace is most at home in human simplicity and simpleness. Perhaps that's why the angelic host appeared to shepherds, and Jesus was born into a humble family.  

Recently I watched a documentary about the cloistered Carmelite nuns at Wolverhampton, in the west midlands of England. One nun said simplicity can bring truth to people. It is true if you are searching for truth.[1] Jesus said, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me."[2]

Our interior life must remain as simple and quiet as possible if we are to be sensitive to the presence of the Holy Spirit and the Word of truth. Christ is the Word that is God.[3] The psalmist wrote under inspiration of the Holy Spirit, "Be still and know, that I am God."[4] Our interior life must not be cluttered by the cares and worries that incessantly clamour for our attention.[5] We must learn to be still even in the storms of life and trust God unreservedly. 

There is wisdom and truth to be found in simplicity. It can be discovered in solitudes of cloistered environments. My solitudes 
have often come from being shut-in my little house during brittle, snowbound Canadian winters. I have advanced multiple sclerosis so I dare not venture out in my wheelchair. Days are short and nights are long. I wait in stillness for Christ. He comes to me with gentle peace.  

Our technological world can distract us with the allure and promise of pleasures. Pope Francis wrote that a "technological society has succeeded in multiplying
occasions of pleasure yet found it very difficult to engender joy."[6]  It is in joy that we encounter God. He is the source and meaning to our lives and humanity. 


Joy can be traced back to the simpleness of our earliest life. We did not know how to express our first encounters with this sense of ecstasy. They simply came for a fleeting moment – from far beyond us – then vanished without warning. Life became ordinary again. We were left with a vague yearning for somewhere or something we did not know. We knew we were known and loved before our beginnings when Something or Someone was with us and loved us.[7] This primordial knowledge was inexplicable (it still is) yet joy bore witness to it. C.S. Lewis wrote about being surprised by this divine joy in his wonderful little book, Surprised by Joy and again in his essay entitled "The Weight of Glory." 

I think it has something to do with what the Scriptures reveal about God: "He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end."[8]

In matters of simplicity and joy, babies and small children have much to teach their elders. There is a difference between simplicity 
and simpleness. Simplicity is a way of being while simpleness is a state of being. It embarrasses me to mention this primordial joy or ecstasy but I think that if your reach back to your earliest memory you will discover what it was there. C.S. Lewis said this about the spiritual experiences of small children:

“From our own childhoods we remember that before our elders thought us capable of “understanding” anything, we already had spiritual experiences as pure and momentous as any we have undergone since, ... From Christianity itself we learn there is a level ― in the long run the only level of importance ― on which the learned and the adult have no advantage at all over the simple and the child.”[9]

Jesus said, "Truly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven."[10] Notice that Christ said childlike not childish. Just as small children completely trust their parents, we are called completely trust Christ and be obedient to him and His word. 

I have spent much of my adult life trying to recapture the joy I knew as a small child. In a strange and unexpected way, chronic and serious neurological disease has blessed me in that regard. By losing my health, my career at an early age, and my sense of self-sufficiency, extraneous things in my life have been stripped away,
Thomas a Kempis
(1380-1471)
leaving only that which is essential. Thomas a Kempis wrote:


"Sometimes it is to our advantage to endure misfortunes and adversities, for they make us enter our inner selves and acknowledge that we are in a place of exile and that we ought not to rely on anything in this world."[11]

Those words resonate with me. I am an old man now. More thirty years of serious neurological disease have turned me inward to seek the reality of the unseen.

The Apostle Paul said:

Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being is being renewed day by day.
For our light affliction, which is but a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things that are seen, but the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal."[12]

All I have left that means anything to me is Divine love, which kindles both simplicity and spiritual simpleness. Together they provide fertile ground for joy to take root and blossom as my constant possession in eternity. 

MDP



[1] Jeremiah 29.13. Also see Deuteronomy 4.29, Proverbs 8.17,
[2] John 16.4.
[3] John 1.1, cf. Colossians 1.15
[4] Psalm 49.11.
[5] Mark 4.19.
[6] APOSTOLIC EXHORTATION EVANGELII GAUDIUM OF THE HOLY FATHER FRANCIS TO BISHOPS, CLERGY, CONSECRATED PERSONS AND THE LAY FAITHFUL ON THE PROCLAMATION OF THE GOSPEL IN TODAY’S WORLD.
[7] Psalm 139.13-16.
[8] Ecclesiates 3.11-12.
[9] C.S. Lewis, THE PROBLEM OF PAIN, (NEW YORK: HarperCollins, 1966) p.74.
[10] Matthew 18.3.
[11] Thomas à Kempis, The Imitation of Christ (NEW YORK: RandomHouse, 1998) p.15.
[12] 2 Corinthians 4.16-18. Cf. Ephesians 3.17-19, Hebrews 11.1.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

CHRISTMAS AND CHRISTIANS IN THE MIDDLE EAST

Persecution and discrimination of Christians in the Middle East -- the cradle of Christianity -- has grown more intense over the last 15 years with the rise of Islamic extremism. This persecution has been so intense and severe that the Christian population has been reduced from 20% a century ago to 3-4% today. As a small gesture of solidarity with my fellow Christians in that area of the world, may I present an Arabic Christmas carol.


Tuesday, December 12, 2017

DECRY MEDICAL KILLING AS THE EVIL IT IS





The U.S. based Pro-life Healthcare Alliance (PHA) made the poster above of moi. It's only one of a number of pro-Life posters available from the PHA. See https://resources.humanlife.org/?issues=Assisted-Suicide,Euthanasia Yes, I am alive and I want it to stay that way, despite more than 33 years with aggressive multiple sclerosis (MS). I am loved and cared about by my family, community and God. Everyone longs for belonging.

Euthanasia has been legalized in my nation of Canada. It was sold to Canadians as medical assisted suicide of the sick and disabled -- they euphemistically call it 'medical assistance in dying' -- what we got was euthanasia. I wrote about this in a previous blog post (http://www.humanlifematters.org/2017/10/canadas-euthanasia-saves-millions.html). 

Champions of medically assisted suicide might respond to the poster, "If you don't want assistance in your suicide then don't have it." The problem with such a statement is that they don't account for stealth euthanasia practised behind closed curtains in hospitals across North America under the guise of futile care. Doctors simply decide to stop life support or starve and dehydrate patients they deem beyond the pale of curative medicine. Having decided this, they hasten the patient's death, regardless of what the patient's family wants or directions the patient may have stated in an advanced directive.

I'm at am risk of this sort of fate, should I become comatose from stroke, accident, or neurological degeneration of disease.  I will soon be over 65 years old, I've been a drain on the health care system for 3 decades with an incurable, degenerative disease.  

Once a taboo of killing has been crossed -- Canada and five U.S. states have crossed it -- any barbarity is possible. Medical killing creeps and poisons human hearts, and the conscience of a nation. 

The right to die becomes a duty to die for the perceived good of the volk: The sick, severely disabled, those who are a burdens to the state or family, or have sizeable estates waiting, the demented, and the medical fragile who are unwanted or unloved. 


I call on all people of faith, and good will, to resist medical killing of any kind. Decry it as the evil it is and hold up the sanctity of every human life! Work for the protection and care of all.

MDP

Monday, December 11, 2017

BOOK MARK DAVIS PICKUP TO SPEAK IN YOUR AREA

Mark Davis Pickup is available to address issues pertaining to disability and Life issues from a Christian perspective. He can be reached for bookings by email at HumanLifeMatters@shaw.ca

Mark has been chronically ill and disabled with multiple sclerosis for over 33 years. He has spoken across North America warning against accepting euthanasia and assisted suicide. He has addressed politicians in Canada and the United States, churches and denominational leaders, universities, high schools and community groups, hospital medical staffs, local, state and provincial pro-life conventions as well as keynote speaker to U.S. National Right to Life Prayer Breakfasts (2001, 2005, and 2010). He also addresses a Christian perspective on suffering. Mark is extensively published. He has appeared on innumerable radio and television programs warning against a cultural drift toward euthanasia acceptance. He has received numerous awards for his work including the Monsignor Bill Irwin Award for Ethical Excellence, and a Governor General’s Medal for community service.[1]

What have people said about Mark Davis Pickup?

"I thoroughly enjoyed working with Mark, and came to know him as a truly gifted orator. He is a powerful, eloquent speaker whose passionate and deeply insightful, testimony as a disabled man, exposes the problems of legalized euthanasia (mercy killing, assisted suicide) and the implications that it can have on the most vulnerable people." –Ann Olson, Education Director, Human Life Alliance, Minneapolis, Minnesota

“I recommend Mr. Pickup as a resource to those committed to resisting euthanasia. He is a champion of disability inclusion and is utterly committed to the value, dignity and equality of all human life.” ― Bobby Schindler, brother of Terri Schiavo and Executive Director, Terri Schiavo Life & Hope Foundation.

“Mark’s  experience as a disabled man, his rigorous intellect, and his love of all people are in evident abundance as he mounts an eloquent and powerful critique against the culture of death. Mark’s is a voice we all need to hear – and heed.” ― Wesley J. Smith, author and international Life Issues speaker.




[1] The Governor General is Queen Elizabeth II’s official representative to Canada.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

TOWARD HOLINESS

Lord,
Keep us true in the faith,
proclaiming  that Christ is you Son,
who is one with you in eternal glory,
became man and was born to a virgin mother.
Free us from all evil
and lead us to the joy of eternal life.
From the book of
CHRISTIAN PRAYER:
The Liturgy of the Hours

Christ left eternity and entered time so we could leave time to enter eternity with Him. The Incarnation is the Creator's expression of perfect love for imperfect creatures endowed with the Creator's image and likeness.[1] He desires that we cultivate and develop that divine Image within us to become more like Him. Who is the Creator? Well, if the Bible is true and God-inspired (which it is), He is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.[2] The triune God of the Bible: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.[3]  Who is the Son? The Son is Jesus Christ; He was preexistent to his birth in Bethlehem. We read in the gospel of John: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God."[4] From my time governed, 3-dimensional physical world, it's hard to understand what the Apostle was referring to in this divinely inspired passage.

I have such a pea-sized, cloudy mind but let this layman go out on theological limp. I think of God as a Being rather like a divine eternal Thought; Christ is the Word that expresses that divine Thought.[5] The Spirit animates the Divine Thought. We find the Spirit of God animating the Thought of God in the creation account.

"In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters." (Genesis 1.1-2, NIV, [emphasis added.])

Although some Bible translations use the word wind, other translations such as the New International Version above and the New King James Version use the word Spirit. The word Spirit of God is more appropriate to my analogy of trying to understand more about the Trinity.

If God can be liken to a being that is a Thought, what is the Thought? PERFECT DIVINE LOVE.[6]  Jesus Christ is the exact representation, the perfect imprint of God.[7] Even in human form He was Deity.[8] This is why Christ identified the greatest Commandment: "You shall the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. And the second is like it; You shall love your neighour as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the Law and the prophets"[9] Later he expanded this Law of love by saying: "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another."[10] Divine love is expansive! Didn't the Saviour say this "For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.”?[11] Yes, that’s exactly what Jesus said. It is the very definition of expansive love!

God's love desires that we draw near Him and be conformed to the image of His Son. God longs jealously for the spirit he planted in us.[12]  The Apostle Paul said: "For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren."[13] In another place the Apostle said of those who believe and follow Christ: 

"Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord."[14]


It is the expansive, transforming love of God that gradually conforms us to the image of Christ. Divine love permeates the
Spirit of the Lord, and believers who are being conformed to Christ's image discover the liberty of Divine love; that which was temporal and worldly gradually transforms to that which is spiritual and eternal.  That is the reason for the Christian's pilgrimage toward the Celestial City.[15]


The crux of God's yearning is that we spend eternity with Him. God does not want any to be lost.[16] He wants to be loved just as we are loved by Him. The point of human existence is to love God and others who bear His image. But God will not force humanity to love Him and spend with Him. He is the Divine lover not a divine jailer. While it is true that God will accept a person in their broken and imperfect state, it is also true that He will not leave them that way. C.S. Lewis put it this way.

"We were made not primarily that we may love God (though we were made for that too) but that God may love us, that we may become objects in which the Divine love may rest ‘well pleased’. To ask that God’s love should be content with us as we are is to ask that God should cease to be God: because He is what He is, His love must, in the nature of things, be impeded and repelled by certain stains in our present character, and because He already loves us He must labour to make us lovable."[17]

A person who says "I can be a good person without being a
Christian" does not understand the point of life. God does not want us to be merely good, he wants us to be perfect. (When I use the word ‘perfect’, I mean ‘holy.’) Jesus said, "Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect."[18]

Our way to perfection is through Christ and continually being conformed to be more and more like Him. In Him we do not lose ourselves, we discover more fully who we are and why we were created. The image of God within ourselves becomes ever more evident and radiant The more we die to self, the more we become alive in Christ.

Have you ever noticed the dichotomies of Christianity? The first here on earth will be last in heaven: The last here will be first there.[19] In life we find death, in death we find life.[20] In spiritual rebellion we find spiritual bondage, in surrender to Christ we find freedom in Christ.[21] We live in a world that is upside down to the reality of heaven and spiritual truth. There is something in these dichotomies for you and me to grasp, but must we search ourselves to understand.

My example is this. I have been sick with incurable neurological disease and disability for more than 33 years – more than half my lifetime. What am I to make of it? I could have bitterly concluded that most of my life has been wasted, that there is no God or a cruel God. But I know there is a God -- I have met His Son. He is not cruel nor have I been abandoned. I took my queue to understanding my situation from the Bible: “We know that in everything God works for good with those who love him.”[22] I have come to understand that “the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the Glory which shall be revealed in us.”[23] I can let my situation be a tool to bitterness and defeat or a vehicle toward holiness and spiritual victory. Even disabled and sick, I am called to a Christian life, the perfection of love through a mystical, intimate union with Christ and the mystery of the Trinity. In myself I am nothing. Christ is my strength, justification and salvation. I must wholeheartedly devote myself to do the will of God and to love and serve my neighbour.

“The way of perfection passes by way of the cross. There is no holiness without renunciation and spiritual battle. Spiritual progress entails the ascesis and mortification that gradually lead to living in the peace and joy of the Beatitudes.”[24]

By surrendering my life in trust to Christ, prayer, immersing myself in Scriptures, the sacraments, a daily taking up of my cross to follow Christ, uniting my suffering with Christ’s Salvific suffering – these are some ways that lay a path to holiness. Everything is animated by the Holy Spirit. Any holiness a wretch like me merits, comes solely from Jesus Christ. He is the Word that expresses the perfect and holy Divine thought of God. He is the Divine Word that is God.

MDP


[1] Genesis 1.26-27 & 5.1
[2] Exodus 3.6.
[3] I have heard critics of Christianity say that the Bible doesn’t refer to the Trinity. Not true. See Matthew 28.19. Cf. 2Corinthians 13.14, 2Corinthians 3.17, 1John 5.7.
[4] John 1.2, 17.5 & 24. Revelation 22.13. Cf. Micah 5.2b, Colossians 1.14-17.

[6] 1John 4.8b
[7] Hebrews 1.3.
[8] John 10.30, Colossians 1.15, 2Corinthians 4.4.
[9] Matthew 22.37-40.
[10] John 13.34-35.
[11] John 3.16.
[12] James 4.5
[13] Romans 8.29.
[14] 2Corinthians 3.17-18.
[15] John Bunyan's book Pilgrim's Progress From This World to That Which Is to Come" was written in 1678 as Christian Allegory. The term Celestial City was a synonym for the heavenly Jerusalem. Heaven.
[16] 2Peter 3.9.
[17] C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain (New York: HarperCollins, 2001) pp. 40-41.
[18] Matthew 5.48, cf. 2 Corinthians 13.11; Leviticus 11.44; Psalm18.30. The Catechism of the Catholic Church (2012-2029) deals at length with Christian holiness.
[19] Matthew 19.30 & 20.16, Mark 10.31, Luke 13.29-30.
[20] Matthew 10.39, 16.25, Luke 9.24, 17.33, Romans 6.4.
[21] See Romans 8.1-13.
[22] Romans 8.28.
[23] Romans 8.18
[24] Catechism of the Catholic Church, No. 2015