Offerings 5

Who’s Your Teacher?

Two spiritual aspirants, Samuel and El-Ra, met at a New Age Expo, and they began to compare notes.

El-Ra asked Samuel what sort of teacher he had. Samuel thought a few moments and then said, “Well, my teacher is very spiritual but also very grounded. He is totally dedicated to transforming people into their original stature as sons and daughters of God.”

El-Ra asked, “What do you mean by grounded?” Samuel said, “I mean that he’s very practical. He was once a contractor and a restaurant owner, for example.”

El-Ra looked a little critical. “Oh, you mean he’s a human teacher?”

Samuel was a bit taken aback. “Well, what other sort of teachers are there?”

“Do you mean to tell me that your so-called spiritual teacher eats, sleeps, and goes to the bathroom? Come on, man, give me a break!”

”Well, I don’t get what’s so bad about that,” said Samuel, a little bit annoyed but also a little curious. “And in any case, what sort of teacher do you have if he’s not human?”

“I have an angelic teacher—literally, an angel,” said El-Ra. “He is a purely spiritual being, whereas your teacher is merely a human being.”

Samuel wondered aloud, “So what does your teacher teach about human beings?”

“Humans are inferior beings, because they are mired in the flesh and its illusions. He teaches that humans are sinful, prideful, lustful, fearful, envious, gluttonous, and the like.”

“Hmm,” mused Samuel, “that doesn’t sound very loving. I wonder what sort of angel your teacher is—perhaps one of the fallen angels? My teacher knows all my failings, but he loves me unconditionally. And because he is human, I feel that he’s been through all the stuff that I’m going through. This gives me hope and faith.”

“My angelic teacher,” said El-Ra, “teaches me to ascend beyond the human realm, into pure spirit.”

“That’s all well and good,” said Samuel, “but my teacher compassionately understands my problems. But more than that, he can really kick butt!”

Am I Superior Or Inferior?

“Alphonso, did you want to speak with me?” asked Father Pedro.

“Yes, indeed, Father. I seem to be grappling with a core issue on my path.”

“And what might that be?” asked Father Pedro.

“Well, before I joined the Path, I used to feel superior to everyone. I felt that I was smarter, or more interested in higher things, than most people I met. But then when I started the inner Path, I began to see how many illusions I had, and how much darkness filled my soul. I began to see how false and inauthentic I’ve been, how unloving I was, and I felt almost choked and weighed down by the thorns of cares and negativity. So then I began to feel inferior to just about everyone.”

Father Pedro listened intently. “And where are you now along the Path,” he asked.

“Now I am in a quandary,” Alphonso said. “Now I don’t know whether to feel inferior or superior. I know that if I feel inferior, I won’t be able to really help others. And if I feel superior, I won’t be able to be humble enough to serve others. Tell me, Father, what is the proper perspective?”

Father Pedro replied, ”The proper perspective is to feel neither superior nor inferior. The proper perspective is to walk the Path so completely that you forget about yourself. Then there is space for Jesus and Mary to work on you and in you. Stop worrying about yourself, have faith, do your spiritual exercises, and you will grow.” He gave Alphonso a blessing and sent him on his way.

“Expect A Miracle”

Father Pedro ended his sermon with a rousing, “Expect a miracle!”

The next week, Father Pedro met with his disciples and asked, “So how has your spiritual path been going since last Sunday’s sermon?”

Ruth said, “My path has really been opening up. I do my prayers and exercises as usual, but now I feel much more open to God’s guidance and teachings. I get so much more out of my classes, prayers, and meditations, and even out of my daily interactions with people and at work.”

Father Pedro asked, “And why is this?”

Ruth replied, “That’s because I expect a miracle!”

Another disciple commented, “Yes, for ‘As you sow, so shall you reap.’ It’s miraculous!” Other disciples shared similar insights, feelings, and experiences. Finally, all eyes were on Alphonso, who had been strangely silent all the while. “And what about you, Alphonso?” asked Father Pedro.

“Well,” Alphonso said somewhat sheepishly, “I haven’t been doing my prayers, meditations, or exercises, or writing in my spiritual journal.” “Then how do you expect to advance along the spiritual Path?” asked Father Pedro.

“I, I guess I expect a miracle,” was Alphonso’s reply.

Beauty

Brigitte was an exceedingly, extraordinarily beautiful young woman—even among beautiful women, she exuded a purity, an innocence that seemed truly heavenly. And yet she had made her career as a model and learned to wend her way through the maze of the mass mind in its prurient adoration of the female form. Despite this, or perhaps because of this, Brigitte maintained, within herself, a strong spiritual connection and spiritual values. When her career peaked in success, she faced the reality of devoting her life to beauty’s cause, and the tension between this and her spiritual yearnings grew to the breaking point. She told her agent she was taking a leave of absence, but inwardly she was deciding to leave that path altogether. She soon joined a Christian mystical order, since from an early age she felt a strong inner connection to Jesus. She felt he was the perfect father that she never had, as well as the perfect model of masculine physical and moral beauty.

Brigitte felt that in such an order, her beauty would not become an issue or her calling card, that she would be loved for her soul and as a soul. She tried to be as ordinary as she could at Bible classes, blessing groups, and prayer groups, but she found herself still somewhat self-conscious and uncomfortable with the others. Everyone loved her at the Order, but she found herself a bit distrustful of their love.

She sought refuge at the Mary shrine, even though before that time she hadn’t felt much of a connection with Mary at all. While Brigitte was kneeling at the shrine, Mary appeared to her in a vision. Her awesome beauty and purity were overwhelming for Brigitte, and she began to feel ugly and impure in contrast. She could hardly endure the suffering of the shame and the self-hatred welling up within her. Now she had to really face how much stock she herself had placed in her own physical beauty, her looks, her image, and what a price she had paid with her soul.

Brigitte felt like an unclean, unwholesome, unworthy creature, something vile before the face of God. She became choked up with emotions that she could barely fathom. All she could utter were the words, “Please, please, please,” over and over in a low whisper as a sort of desperate plea, a prayer, a flicker of faint hope for redemption.

She wept with all the feeling in her soul. And as she wept, the flame of hope grew stronger and brighter, as it let in the Light of grace. She released herself into Mary’s arms with utmost gratitude. She felt herself washed clean from within, as she repeated, “Thank you, thank you, thank you.”

The Mystic

Eduardo came from an ancestry rich in the mystical tradition of anchorites, hermits, and recluses. He felt a strong calling to the Christian mystical Path. He met Father Pedro and felt a deep connection with his great faith. So he became a student and quickly progressed along the Path. So astonishing was his growth that he seemed surely destined to be a priest in the Order. He inspired everyone with his strong desire for God, his deep love of Jesus and Mary, and his quiet demeanor.

In record time came the day of Eduardo’s ordination to the priesthood. Priests, deacons, novices and students from many centers attended this extraordinary opportunity. Father Pedro ordained him in a most uplifting ceremony that intensified the Light in the community and drew everyone closer to God.

After the ceremony and the massive hugging, Eduardo addressed those assembled. “Most dear brothers and sisters, this is truly the fulfillment of a lifetime, the dream of my heart come true. Now I shall retire to a holy mountaintop and bask in the Light of God for the rest of my life. Thank you all so much.”

Jealousy

Hildegard, the new novice living at the Center, received a great amount of attention from the students and ministers. Abigail, who had felt herself the darling of the Center, felt displaced, and this deeply grieved her.

Abigail went to pray at the Mary shrine. “Mother Mary,” she burst out, “why should Hildegard get so much attention? What can you possibly see in her?”

Mary answered, “Dear Abigail, Hildegard is one of my own.”

To which Abigail replied, “But she is lazy, slow of speech, ugly, and she has bad breath!”

“She has suffered much in her lifetime,” Mary said.

“So, that is no reason to love her!” protested Abigail.

“This is true, and this is not the reason that I love her. Hildegard will learn tremendous compassion from all her suffering, once she allows herself to feel the pain of it and releases it into the arms of my Love.”

“But,” interjected Abigail, “that might or might not happen someday in the future. Meanwhile, she is insufferable!”

“Yes, she tries your patience, I see,” said Mother Mary. “Understand that Hildegard has a great love and desire for God in her heart, and this is what I look for before all else. I love Hildegard as if she were my one and only.”

“But, but…” pleaded Abigail, feeling tremendously left out in the cold, “where does that leave me, Mother Mary?”

“And I love you no less, my dear,” was the response.

The Mystic And The Skeptics

Father Pedro was giving a talk on Christian mysticism in a town known for its skeptics. Among the audience, there were many believers and many who were open to new teachings. And sure enough, the skeptics came out in full force—apparently, they did not think well of Father Pedro’s intrusion into their hold on the town.

In the question and answer session that followed the talk, one man stood up and said, “I am a historian, and careful analysis of heretofore classified Vatican documents prove beyond the shadow of a doubt that Jesus and Mary Magdalen were married and sired a lineage of descendents.” A woman stood up and said, “I am a priestess of Isis, and I have conclusive proof that Mary Magdalen was a high priestess of Isis and initiated Jesus through secret tantric techniques of the ancient Egyptian mystery schools.” Another member of the audience stood up and said, “I am mythologist, and after careful research, I have found conclusive evidence that Jesus was a wandering magician who later became elevated into a mythic solar archetype.” Then, emboldened by the others, a man stood up and said, “I am an archaeologist and historian, and having researched the topic extensively, I have conclusive proof that Jesus never in fact existed, that he was simply a fabrication of priests lusting for power.”

Father Pedro had to chuckle to himself. Never mind that these people each presented conclusive proofs for mutually contradictory scenarios. He didn’t care at all to engage in the details. Instead, he addressed the entire group in this way: “Gentle people, I respect your right to your opinions and beliefs. But as far as I am concerned, none of this matters at all. What matters is my direct experience of Jesus and his transforming power to purify and awaken the soul to God--not in distant Biblical times, but here and now. Anyone who is interested is invited to enter the Path and experience this for themselves.”

Wealth, Power, And Beauty--And Love

Genevieve was a wealthy, powerful, and beautiful woman. She had many wealthy, powerful, and handsome suitors, but she felt strangely attracted to Jesus. She felt, in fact, that he was trying to woo her. Something in her could not resist--after all, the most influential man in all of history was not to be ignored.

So, Genevieve opened to Jesus, and in return she felt his great love. This deeply moved her, but then she thought, “How do I know that Jesus is not just attracted to me for my wealth, my power, my beauty--like all those other suitors?” So she prayed that she would be shown a clear sign.

The next morning, Genevieve discovered the news that her all her stocks had crashed, and that she now had a net worth of, well, a swineherd. Shocked, she turned to Jesus, and she discovered that his love seemed even greater than ever. But then she thought, “OK, but how do I know that he’s not just after my vast power and beauty?” So she went and prayed for guidance.

The next day, Genevieve discovered that her chief rival, Glorianna, had staged a major corporate takeover, and her vast power and influence were undermined. Now power was even closer to Genevieve’s heart than wealth. Feeling undermined herself, she went to Jesus. She found that his love for her seemed even greater than the day before. She felt deeply consoled and supported. However, the doubt entered her mind that perhaps Jesus really loved her for her great beauty, which she prized above all else.

The next morning, Genevieve awoke to discover, to her utter horror and dismay, that she looked like an old hag. Feeling utterly distraught, she turned to Jesus, hoping for the best but fearing the worst. To her great relief, she could feel Jesus loving her more intensely now than ever before. Now she knew for sure that Jesus loved her for herself and not for any transient attribute.

She completely opened to Jesus, and she realized that such love was more important than anything else in the world—more important by far than wealth, power, or beauty. Most important, Genevieve awakened to the truth of her own inner wealth, inner power, and inner beauty, which nothing in the world could steal or corrupt.

Strangely enough, the next morning brought news that her stocks had not really crashed, but that the misinformation was due to a computer malfunction. And she discovered that the corporate takeover went sour, and that she emerged as the clear victor. And her beauty was fully restored—and then some. But by now, she realized that these were sideline gifts from God. And she vowed to use all of them for the sole purpose of divine Love, as her gift to Jesus.

A Creative Genius And Tragic Figure

As a child, Milton was not always so well received in his family, and he learned to focus his suffering into artistic endeavors. Something deep inside him knew that the creative force was divine, and that the artist participates in the divine creativity by which the world was made and is continually made. This was his opening into the Light, the only thing that really made his life feel worthwhile and livable. Whatever love he didn’t find in his family, he found through his art. As his suffering was immense, so were his achievements prodigious—short stories, drawings, plays, songs, essays, and so on, depending upon what moved him in the moment.

As Milton matured, he became a well-accomplished writer who was widely heralded as an artistic genius. From all sides, he would be congratulated and admired. People would tell him how wonderful it must feel to be the creator of so many compelling stories, poems, plays, songs, and the like. But inside, Milton felt completely isolated and alone, misunderstood. None of this praise reached far enough to reach his inner child, that deeply hidden part of him that forever felt unloved and unworthy to be loved. His agent manipulated him as did his mother years ago. Milton’s relationships were generally miserable, for his core relationship with himself was miserable.

Milton was not your stereotypical suffering and struggling artist, but he did seem to always find a way to sabotage his success. He never felt very comfortable being successful. He would create according to the inspiration of the moment, and so he was hardly dependable for completing his creations. This didn’t bode well for contracts--including marriage contracts. Milton derived some pleasure out of sharing his misery with a partner, but these arrangements never lasted very long.

Milton had completely identified with this system of suffering because it had become so thoroughly familiar, even if much of it was unconscious. His dilemma was that the only joy in life he got was through his creativity, and this was fueled by his inner suffering. Therefore, to end his suffering would mean to end the only joy he ever knew. And this he could never allow. He could allow the Light in to inspire him to create, but he could never let the Light in to heal him--for in his logic, healing meant suffering. And besides, he did not believe that he was even worthy of the love that heals.

Now there was a spiritual side to Milton, for his art reached into quite inspiring heights. He was involved with Father Pedro off and on for many years, and he would find great sources of inspiration in Jesus and Mary. However, he never could commit for long as a student and really submit to the Path. His path in life was going to be the path of art. His teacher explained to him that God was the very Source of all artistic inspiration and creation, so his relation to the Creator could only be the very center and essence of his art. However much Milton could intellectually accept this, he could never embrace the inner work that would make it real for him.

For example, when he wrote his retrospection, he would write complex plots and scenes of himself with his mother, but it was more an expression of art than a true willingness to enter into the truth of the situation and release it. When he would meet with his teacher, his teacher would often raise uncomfortable issues for him to look at for the sake of opening them to healing love. But more often than not, these would result in Milton writing about some character in a story who would reflect some aspect of his tortured self. Other students would find these very meaningful and moving. They would even find them healing, insofar as these stories served the process of their own inner work on the healing path. But alas, for Milton, they were just more outpourings of his soul in quest of fulfillment by rising above his problems through the means of art.

Milton would write beautiful songs for the congregation to sing for Sunday services. These were inspired songs that served the community and lifted their souls into the Light. He would write inspiring stories that showed great sensitivity to human suffering, but he could never fully apply them to himself. As we have seen, his attachment to his art as his joy would never permit him to unravel his childhood pain.

Years passed, and his contacts with the Order grew less frequent. One day, Father Pedro received a letter confirming that Milton had passed from his body. Included in the letter was a copy of Milton’s last story just before he passed on. It was dedicated to Father Pedro. It showed that Milton had clearly understood the complex relationship among his love for his art, his longing for the Light, and his longing for healing. However, it also showed that he was never able to satisfy that longing, and that he died with that deep regret hanging heavily on his heart.

Supercomputer

Dateline, 2020: Supercomputers not only are the world chess champions, but they are also adept at writing love poetry and philosophy. They are even award-winning therapists and giving breakthrough spiritual discourses. How did this come to be?

Dr. Alexi Gephart, heading an international team of experts under the joint sponsorship of the Princeton Institute for Advanced Studies and the Institute of Advanced Technology at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, gave a public address over PBS to help clarify the achievement, in his thick German accent.

“My fellow planetary travelers, we now stand at the threshold of the most important breakthrough in the history of the human race. Maybe it will stand on par with the birth of Christ over two millennia ago. We are witnessing a breakthrough that will revolutionize human history. It is not a belief system that will divide humanity but a technology that will unite humanity. History has proven that humanity alone cannot bring this unity. History has also shown that even God, through organized religion, has failed in this attempt. Humanity has always looked outside itself for its salvation, but now it has achieved through technology an intelligence greater than itself.

“For example, we have fed our supercomputers all the extant love poetry from every culture and from all recorded history. And now these computers come out with the most extraordinary love poetry of all time. We have fed these supercomputers all scientific knowledge from every discipline, and now these computers are coming forth with breakthrough theories that would have taken humanity decades to formulate. We have fed these computers hundreds of thousands of hours of the best talk therapies, and now they are becoming the very best and most effective therapists in all the world. These therapists are available twenty-four-seven, and they never tire, never have a bad day, are never sick, and never have an emotional reaction to a client.

“It is important to understand that these supercomputers do not actually think or feel. But none of that is needed. For example, one of these computers can easily beat any human chess grandmaster like child’s play, but while the grandmaster is feverishly plotting and planning, the supercomputer simply calculates trillions of possible moves per nanosecond. What we have achieved once and for all in the chess computer we have expanded exponentially in the supercomputer. This computer does not feel fear or love, which makes it eminently sane and objective. It simply calculates all possible moves, based on the maximum amount of data possible, and arrives at the best possible answer for all types of problems.

“So you see, we no longer have any use for such things as love, faith, and the like, which come and go through the human experience. The secret is utterly simple. Quantum mechanics has shown that everything in the universe is vibration or frequency, and as that ancient Greek sage Pythagoras well knew, everything can be reduced to numbers. But he had to engage in obscure and esoteric philosophies because he lacked the tool necessary to implement his wisdom, namely, the supercomputer, which effortlessly reduces everything to intricate patterns of ones and zeroes.

“So, my dear fellow humans, what we have done in effect is to create God. It is not so much that we can do without religion or God, as that by feeding all the world’s religions into the supercomputer, we can reduce all of this to numbers. It is now perfectly controllable and perfectly applicable. But these supercomputers give us more than just some universal wisdom; they give us specific direction. You see, my friends, we do not need a God that just gives us warm fuzzy feelings but no longer speaks to us; what we need, and now finally have, is a god that can spell out guidance in black and white. And ladies and gentlemen, that god is the supercomputer.

“Now let us prove the efficacy of these technological marvels. May we have the first question from someone in the audience. The envelope, please. The question is, “Should I marry the man I love?” Very well, I will scan your bar code and her bar code into the computer, which will allow the computer to access all possible information on the two of you. This information will be shared among the world’s seven supercomputers on the seven continents, and in a matter of minutes, we will have the answer.

Three minutes later: “All right, the supercomputer has now amassed the equivalent of five volumes of an answer.” “So what does all that mean?” asked the member of the audience. Dr. Gephart said, “Why, it would take another supercomputer to translate that for us, but basically it’s saying, well, ‘It depends.’” “Hmm, I don’t feel that gives me the guidance I’m seeking,” the member said. “Think of it this way,” Dr. Gephart said, “We are no longer in the dark with vague opinions and confusions. By contrast, we now have the most highly accurate and detailed way of saying ‘It depends’!” “OK, thanks, Daddy!” she said.

In Love With A Virgin

It was Advent season, and Rudolpho was making a connection with the Virgin Mary. “Dear Holy Mother,” he said, “fill this space with your Holy Presence now. Enter my soul and my body with your Holy fragrance of Love.” And Rudolpho began to feel a most precious and sublime quality within and around him.

“Thank you, Mother,” he said, “I love your Presence, but I must say that I also feel a bit uncomfortable with you.” “How is that?” Mary inquired. “I feel so unworthy, so impure in your Presence. How can you allow yourself to be in my presence?” Mary looked at him with great compassion and said, “You know my Son Jesus? Do you know why he spent time with the tax collectors and prostitutes rather than with the righteous and holy ones?” “Yes, I do understand that, Mother,” Rudolpho said, “and I appreciate your taking the time to be with one such as I.” Mary said, “I am dedicated as Co-Redeemer to helping souls who yearn for the Light. That dedication, that intention, is sweet to me, and I do not mind the rest.”

“Thank you, Mother,” Rudolpho said, and he relaxed and basked in her Presence awhile longer. “Mother, I am feeling uncomfortable again.” “How is that, Rudolpho?” asked Mary. “Well, I feel a bit guilty because I’m having all these romantic and sexual feelings for you.” “Stay with your experience, and tell me more,” Mary said without a hint of judgment or censure. “I want to venerate you, Mother, I want to love you, but these parts of me also want to join in,” he said. “This is your longing for wholeness,” Mary said. “I embrace you with my Presence so that you will give birth to the Christ child within you, so that you might know your own God Self and feel whole within your own Being.”

“I appreciate that, Mother,” Rudolpho said, “but there’s something more. This experience is bringing up a whole area of my life that I don’t feel comfortable about. I have long felt attracted to virgins and young girls, and there’s so much guilt around that.” Mary said, “What is the attraction?” “I think it’s their natural innocence, their natural beauty, their natural purity,” he said. “Yes, all these things that you can’t find within yourself, you seek outside of you. Now you are experiencing these qualities in me, and you are attracted to them in me, and you want to be one with them in me. That is fine. But now, as you relax into my Presence, you will feel these qualities pervade you, and you will know these within yourself.”

“I feel this, Mother and I thank you,” Rudolpho said, “and now there is one more thing. I realize that my longing for the virgins was also a way of avoiding relationship, since I was choosing to focus my affections on those with whom there was no chance of a relationship.” Mary replied, “And now, you are contacting your own virginal nature and purity. You have been avoiding relationship with yourself. Find that, and the rest will fall into place.”

This Is A Test

Galatia was a very attractive young woman who was a priest in training. Her ordination was set for only a month away. As the Light had increased within her body and soul, her beauty also increased on all levels.

One day, after priest-in-training class, Father Pedro was alone with Galatia. He addressed her thus: “Galatia, of all the candidates for the priesthood I have ever worked with, you are really special. Jesus and Mary confirm that. I want to give you a very special training and initiation, Galatia, which very few candidates are even ready for. As we would need a few days alone to complete this process, I have here two tickets to Acapulco, scheduled for next week. Everything is set.” He withdrew two plane tickets from his pocket. They certainly looked like the real deal.

“Father Pedro!” she said, breathlessly. “I mean, are you kidding?”

He looked her straight in the eye and said, “Do I look like I’m kidding?”

“Not at all, Father Pedro. Please forgive me for my impertinence. I feel so honored, I hardly know what to say. I’m checking inside, and I don’t feel pride or unworthiness coming up around this. But I must say, this does come as something of a shock to me.”

Father Pedro moved a little closer to her and whispered to her, “Galatia, you are so loved. You are so special to Jesus and Mary, and to me and to the work of this Order. In fact, you have a very special part to play in the coming initiation of the planet, and I want to be sure that you have everything possible going for you.”

“Father Pedro, again I feel so honored,” she said. “I want to comply in any way that I can within my power. I want there to be no resistance between me and God’s Will.” “Wonderful,” said Father Pedro. “I want you to know that in your soul I can see the mark that only Mary is known to have had. And you have the beauty and innocence and purity, and the utter obedience, that our Blessed Mother had. You are so very special. You are my special one.”

Galatia was trembling with joy. “I feel like Mary at the Annunciation, and I feel like saying, ‘May it be with me according to your word.’ By the way, are we talking about anything like an immaculate conception?”

“No, nothing on that order, but it will be very intimate,” Father Pedro said.

Galatia closed her eyes and spread open her arms in prayer and receptivity. She looked like the very image of the Blessed Virgin. Father Pedro placed his hands on her head and gave her a gentle kiss on her forehead. “Galatia, my dear,” he said, “you have passed the test of purity, humility, and obedience that are required for the priesthood. Congratulations.”

“So this was all a test?” she asked, but without any trace of irritation.

“Yes,” answered Father Pedro.

“I’m just curious: does every candidate for the priesthood get this test?”

“Oh, no, my dear Galatia,” he said with a wink, “only the very special ones.”

Rejoice With Me

Brother Mark gave the student sermon at the Sunday service. Usually, his contributions were about his extensive problems, how he’s feeling resistance, or disconnection, or the like.

But this Sunday, Brother Mark shared about how he had this breakthrough to the Light, how he opened up to a deep relationship with Jesus and Mary, and how blessed he felt that his deep desires for God were being fulfilled.

Now Brother Martin, who had long felt a kinship with Brother Mark, felt a bit shocked at this revelation. First, he felt a twinge of pride, with the sense of, “Well, anyway, I am further along the Path than he is, and I have had many more blessings than he’ll ever have.” Then, a few moments later, he began to feel insecure and jealous, with the sense of, “Wait a minute! How does he come off like this? He’s been so resistant all this time, and now he gets all this blessing?!”

Jesus came to Brother Martin and said, “Hmm…interesting how you’re having these reactions, don’t you think?”

“Well, yes, now that you mention it,” he said inwardly to Jesus.

“Tell me how it feels in your body to have these reactions,” Jesus said.

“Well,” Brother Martin said, “it doesn’t really feel very good. I can feel a tightening up and a shutting down of my heart.”

“Good observation, my friend. And what are you learning from this?” Jesus asked.

“I’m learning that I have fallen into typing Brother Mark and limiting him in my mind rather than loving him and praying for him. I’m learning also that I’ve leaned on this sense of him to bolster up my sense of myself,” shared Brother Martin.

“Very good, my disciple. Now we are going to do a replay. We’re going back in time to when Brother Mark first began his sermon. Here goes.”

This time, Brother Martin felt himself very still and open, with his heart very open to his brother. He inwardly rejoiced with Brother Mark’s joy, with no thought of himself. And what he discovered in the process was that he felt lifted up as well into the Light. He was filled with gratitude. “Jesus, thank you for caring,” he whispered.

Righteous Judgment

Anatoly was a Sunday School teacher. He considered himself a fervent disciple of Jesus. He tried to imitate Jesus as the righteous judge. Often, when the children would commit slight infractions of the rules, he would lecture them on their sins, on their sinful ways. His favorite saying, it seems, was, “Be ye therefore perfect as our Father in heaven is perfect.” No one could keep up to his standards. Once, when he hosted a party and no one attended, he threatened to cast them all into the outer darkness where there would be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Now Anatoly, being very passionate about Jesus, made rousing prayers in the class which inspired everyone to new heights. He fired up the children’s love for God. However, this love was also mixed with fear, and whenever anyone complained, he would say, “Fear is the beginning of wisdom.”

After awhile, no one was showing up at his classes. He went to Jesus and prayed, “Master, am I doing anything wrong? I’m trying so hard to be like you, who righteously judges the wicked.” Jesus was very gentle with Anatoly, saying, “Dear Anatoly, I very much appreciate your efforts and your love of righteousness and your hatred of sin. However, I think perhaps you’re missing something.” Anatoly thought hard. “ Do you mean that there are some sins I’m overlooking? I thought I was being so diligent in that regard,” he replied.

“Perhaps what is missing is love,” Jesus offered. Anatoly quickly responded with, “But of course, all that I do is out of love for you and your mission in the world.” “Well, you might think of it this way: Anatoly, do you think there is anyone who is more acutely conscious of people’s sins than I?” Jesus asked. “Why no, Master, unless it be Mother Mary,” he answered. “Quite right,” said Jesus. “Now, consider this: Do you think there is anyone who loves people—the good and the bad—more than I do?” “Why no, again,” answered Anatoly, “unless it be the Blessed Mother.” “Again, quite right,” said Jesus. “So what do you learn from this?” Jesus asked.

“Oh, Master, thank you for your perfect teaching!” Anatoly responded. “I learn that the more one loves, the more acutely conscious one becomes of other people’s sins.”

“Heaven help us!” said Jesus.

Earth, Water, Air, Fire

When Mother Clara was a little girl—a quite precocious one at that—she attended a public school that was very slanted towards the scientific world view. It turned out to be actually helpful for her development, as she learned the ways of the contemporary mind in contrast to that which was developing within her.

Her teacher, Miss Maples, addressed the children: “Class, in today’s lesson we will be considering the ancient Greeks, who held a prescientific view of the world. They were very bright men, but they could only reason so far without the scientific method. For example, they reasoned that everything was composed of four elements: earth, water, air, and fire.” Everyone laughed, except Clara, who was intrigued.

Miss Maples continued: “Class, why do you think they might have formed that idea?” Billy shot up his hand. “Why, that’s obvious. They saw some things dry and solid, other things wet and liquid, other things spacious and light, and other things hot and fiery.” “Very good, Billy,” said Miss Maples. “Of course, the world isn’t so simple that it could be fit neatly into four boxes. Today we know there are over 105 chemical elements, and more are being discovered as research continues. This is scientific progress.”

“Now class, let’s see how smart you are. Considering the earth element, what is the circumference of the earth?” Alice’s hand went right up. “That would be 25,032 miles,” she said. “Very good, Alice,” Miss Maples said, accuracy counts.”

Meanwhile, Clara sensed inside. “Hmm, the earth element. That would represent my body, and I can sense the Holy Presence filling my body.”

Miss Maples continued. “Now class, considering the water element, what is the chemical formula for water?” Bob’s hand went up quickly. “That would be H2O, a molecule with two parts hydrogen to one part oxygen, which on their own are gases.” “Excellent, Bob! That flowed out of you very well.”

Meanwhile, Clara felt, “Hmm, the water element. That would symbolize the flow of my breathing and energy. I can feel the Holy Presence flowing through me with every breath.” “Now class,” continued Miss Maples. “Considering the element of air—which is a mixture and not a true element--who can tell me the most abundant element in air?” Tracey’s hand went sky high. “That would be nitrogen, at about 81 per cent.” “Excellent, Tracey, you are very clear.”

Meanwhile, Clara pondered. “Hmm, the air element. That would represent my mind and consciousness. The Holy Presence fills my mind and I am open to Her inspirations.”

“And finally, class,” concluded Miss Maples, “There is the element of fire. I have three questions for you. How far away is the sun, how fast does light travel, and how long does it take for light to reach the earth from the sun?” Jimmy’s hand was the first to go up. “Miss Maples, the sun is 93,000,450 miles away, if we average the different distances at the different seasons. Light travels 186,000 miles per second in a vacuum. And light takes about seven minutes and forty seconds to reach the earth from the sun.”

“This is wonderful, Jimmy,” said Miss Maples, “you are very bright.”

Meanwhile, Clara was inspired. “The fire element, that would symbolize the fiery longing in my heart for God. I can feel the great Sun of God blazing within my heart.”

Miss Maples looked over to Clara, who seemed to her to be in a daze all on her own. “Clara,” snapped Miss Maples, “please pay attention, and you will be as smart as the rest of the class.”

“Come, Follow Me”

Jesus gave his most beautiful and powerful sermon to a group of people seated before him.

There was total silence. They dropped to their knees, their jaws dropped. Their hands came together in prayer. Some eyes were filled with tears; others were glazed over. Everyone was deeply moved. Never before had they heard words spoken with such authority and power. “Master, now we know you are the Son of God, born of the Most High. You are the One Who Was to Come, the Holy One, the King of Kings. We are amazed, awed, overwhelmed. We are totally inspired.”

Jesus replied, “Great! Now come, and follow me.”

They said, “Oh, no, Master! We are too unworthy to follow One such as You!”

Know That I Am God

Henry had a very fearful approach to life. He joined a mystical Christian order so that he might find some consolation and relief from his fears. However, the more he opened to it, the more fearful he became, for he realized that he could no longer rely upon an external God, like some Big Brother who’d take care of him. He was afraid of taking responsibility for his life, afraid of making a mistake, afraid of not knowing what to do, afraid of being left on his own, afraid of messing things up.

Jake, in contrast, was very prideful in his approach to life. He joined the same order out of a sense that he was worthy of the highest, worthy of being favored by God. So the more Jake experienced the Light within him, and the more deeply loved he felt, and the more he sensed the God Self within his very being, the more prideful he became.

Actually, there was a deeper pride in Henry, the pride of being separate and independent, which he held onto deeply. And there was a deeper fear in Jake, the fear that his monument to himself was shaky and was about to tumble, the fear that his pride was going to be unmasked and judged, the fear that he was really only very small and weak after all.

So all of this got played out as they walked the path. On the surface, Jake seemed more enthusiastic, while Henry seemed more hesitant. But deeper down, both were highly ambivalent. As they drew closer to self-realization, their issues of pride and fear came to the fore, and their ambivalence became a living hell of tension, a feeling like they were being torn apart internally. That is, it would have been hell, except for the Love, Light, and Grace they received. Their faith in the process and in their teachers allowed them to let go and release themselves enough to continue.

Now when Henry and Jake got to a real taste of the truth of “I am God,” it was totally outside of their inner patterns of pride and fear. It was more about truth, what IS, about God, not about who they thought they were. It totally humbled them and totally exalted them, but the humbling was not fearful, and the exaltation was not prideful.

A Seed On Rocky Soil

As soon as Alphonso felt the Light in communion, he was hooked. His enthusiasm knew no bounds. He had never experienced such joy and so much light in his body. For the first time in his life, he felt truly loved. “This is what I’ve been waiting for all my life,” he said to himself. There was some pride in his fantasies of becoming the dearly beloved disciple, the one who flows right along the Path and eventually becomes the first among his fellow students to become anointed with the mantle of the priesthood. He felt deserving and worthy, since he had years of meditation, esoteric philosophy, psychology, yoga, and the like behind him. All of that would be crowned with the majesty of the priesthood. Yes, there was some pride in this, he knew, but he gave it hardly a thought, for his heart was set on the goal.

But alas, Alphonso fell on some hard times. Things weren’t working out in his job and in his relationship. His home was chaotic due to house repairs that seemed endless. He had a slight injury to his knee, which was something of a shock to the system. His mother and sister became ill, and something in him crumbled. Life seemed bent on trying to humble him, but instead he began to feel persecuted and undermined. “I was going so well on the Path,” he said sadly, “and now everything is falling into ruin.”

One day, as Alphonso was reading through the gospels, he came upon the parable of the sower. He read the words of Jesus: “The seed sown on rocky ground stands for the man who, on hearing the word, accepts it at once with great joy; but as it strikes no root in him he has no staying power, and when there is trouble or persecution on account of the word he falls away at once.” This really shook him. He felt it was like a death sentence.

His first response was, “It’s not my fault that I was sown onto rocky ground!” And he began to blame his mother for not breastfeeding him, his parents for not loving him enough, his first grade teacher for scolding him when he accidentally knocked over the paint jars. When this didn’t work, Alphonso began to internalize all the deficiencies and all the hardships; he began to see all of it as a reflection of his own inner discord. And he began to judge himself mercilessly.

Soon he began to crack under all the pressure. But instead of releasing and trusting, he stubbornly held to his negative self-image. His teacher had told him that he should expect darkness and challenge and to accept them as blessings along the Path. His teacher had told him that he was doing fine, that he was moving along the Path at a good enough pace. But now Alphonso began judging his teacher; after all, looking at how miserable he was, obviously his teacher had misread him. Obviously, his teacher was naïve to place any trust in him. He was not like the others; he had special problems.

His teacher confronted him. “So, Alphonso, do you feel that you already know the Path? Do you feel that you already know enough to be in a position to correctly assess yourself and where you are on the Path?”

Alphonso could tell he was hearing truth, and it hit him. He fell silent.

She continued, “Alphonso, no one judges you, no one condemns you but yourself. Why do you feel you need to be so hard on yourself?”

One last resistance. “But you don’t understand. I am so unworthy, I fall away at once when I am tested.”

“Do you think Jesus loves you any less now? Do you think you know more than Jesus to set yourself up as judge over your soul?”

Upon hearing these words, Alphonso broke down. Something gave way within him, and the Light broke through. Alphonso began to walk the Path with faith and a humble heart.

Copyright © 2005 by Edward Hirsch

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