Religious is not a Dirty Word

Religious Is Not a Dirty Word

Here I am at the Adoration Chapel of St. Eugene’s Catholic Church. That’s what it’s called, the “Adoration” Chapel, not the “Meditation” Hall or some name more politically acceptable in our secular world.

A lot of folks are “getting into” meditation these days. No religious implication intended. Perish the thought. The official mantra is “Oh no, I’m not religious but I like to think of myself as spiritual.”

I don’t mean to mock people who identify themselves in this way. Our God is a forgiving God who also has a sense of humor. God “gets” that many of us are afraid of that religious label. There’s a good reason for it too.

The world is full of religious nuts, many of them claiming to speak with Divine authority about matters of conscience. Religious bigots are a destructive and divisive element in our midst.

Who in their right mind wants be identify with people who, in one part of the world, want to stone a woman to death for adultery or in another part of our planet, show up at the funeral of a soldier and condemn the deceased and his family as murderers.

But we throw out the baby with the bathwater when we identify religion with religious bigots. Religion at its root meaning is the bond, the connection between a loving God and His creation. This connection existed from all eternity in the heart of creation, eons before man wrote the Bible or any of the sacred scriptures.

Real religion is simply the acknowledgment that there is a power in the universe that transcends our comprehension, someone or something that is in us and yet above us. It is that sacred component of life that is the source of awe and wonder.

It is the religious instinct that puts awe in our souls at the birth of a newborn baby and tears in our eyes at the death of a friend. It is behind the wonder we feel as we stand before the ocean, or the lump in our throat when our kid says “I love you.” Religion puts us in touch with that deepest part of us, with all that is sacred in life.

Religion transcends what we call “organized religion.” Churches and temples and dogmas are only humankind’s faltering attempt to give structure to what is already instilled in our souls.

So I am grateful that I have a quiet place to go to get in touch with the God who created me and continues to nurture me. I call it an Adoration Chapel but, what the hey, if you feel more comfortable and want to call it a Meditation Chapel, that’s okay. God is good.

Is ANYTHING All Right?

Is Anything All Right?

Scott Neeson tells the story in The Christian Science Monitor. The former head of 20th.Century Fox International in Hollywood, was in the middle of Phnom Penh’s most notorious slum witnessing the unnerving sight of poor children hunting through the garbage for salvage they could sell.

At the time still working for Hollywood, Neeson happened to be on his cell phone listening to the complaints of one of his high priced clients. The man was angry that the private jet provided him lacked the high quality in-flight entertainment to which he was accustomed.

“ There I was,” said Neeson, “standing there in that humid, stinking garbage dump, with children sick with typhoid and this guy was refusing to get on a Gulfstream IV because it lacked the type of entertainment he wanted

That was a life changing moment for the one time multi-millionaire, who now devotes his life to improving the lives of some of Cambodia’s most impoverished kids. Neeson sold his mansion in L.A., his Porsche, his yacht and “all the useless stuff I owned” and is using his money to educate and provide food and shelter for hundreds of poor kids.

Most of us are not in a position to sell our worldly goods and take off to the slums of third world countries (I suspect that the value of what we as individuals sold is not going to change the lives of many poor children anyway) but I hope that we can all have the grace to be grateful for all the gifts we do have in our country.

I guess it is human nature, but isn’t it a kick in the pants to hear Americans constantly complaining about the stuff we DON’T have. Worse still is when we catch ourselves doing the same thing. Alas! I can’t afford to buy a new smart phone or pay for that cruise to Hawaii. Poor baby. Pass the steak and potatoes, please.

My scripture professor used to quote the Jewish prophets referring to the chosen people as a “stiff necked people,” because no matter what God did for them they found fault. Well, the Jews have plenty of company. Instead of living in a spirit of gratitude for all the blessings we have received, we manage to find a reason to gripe.

A friend of mine had the right attitude. Old Fred used to greet me every day with
“ Hey Hank, Is ANYTHING all right?” That beats the hell out of our usual “Is everything all right” greeting doesn’t it? It sort of turns our focus from searching for what we don’t have to the things we have. Know what I mean?