Tuesday, December 25, 2007

And the Light shines in the darkness..

Lately I've been meditating on John 1:5:
The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.
I find it particularly interesting that the alternate translation is "The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not overcome it."

Depending on which version of the Bible you like best, the main translation will be either "understood" (sometimes "comprehended") or "overcome" (sometimes "conquered" or even "extinguished"), with the alternate translation given in a footnote.

Long,long ago, when the Catholic Mass was in Latin --the Tridentine Mass, as it was called-- we used to read "The Last Gospel" just before Mass ended. It was the first chapter of the Gospel of John, verses 1 through 14. And, if I remember correctly (haven't had time to dig out my old St. Joseph's Missal, but we humans have a tendency to remember things that happened when we were children much better than things that happened just yesterday), verse 5 read: "The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness grasped it not."

So, although I certainly don't know any Greek, I conclude that the original Greek word must have had both a literal and figurative meaning, just as our word "grasp" does: "to grab," "to hold on to," as well as "to comprehend."

What a coincidence: I attended Mass with my family today, and those verses were read at the (main) Gospel!

Interesting, too, because verse 5 seems so true today, however that central word is translated.

Recently I read In Defense of Waterboarding." In this piece by columnist Mark Bowden, he declares that Abu Zubaydah has so much blood on his hands that torturing him by waterboarding was not wrong, nor should anyone be prosecuted for conducting this "enhanced" interrogation, whether the process yielded actionable information or not.

Like most Americans, Bowden is sincerely seeking ways to keep our country and our people safe from terrorism, not an easy task. However, stripping prisoners of their human rights is not the way, nor will torture keep us safe. I also find it curious, at a time when politicians are vociferously declaring the U.S. a Christian nation, that we're so quick to abandon the command of our Leader to love our enemies -- or at least not to torture them. "The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not understood it."

The verse from John also brings back the close of last Saturday's peace vigil, when we read from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and other visionaries of peace and justice. At a time when many armed conflicts flare all around the world, their words reminded me also that there we were, working for peace, as are innumerable persons in all countried. "The Light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not overcome it."

Holy and happy Christmas to all!

image courtesy of gospelgifs.com

Friday, December 21, 2007

Pentagon living from paycheck to paycheck

Imagine: according to Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, the Pentagon is running out of money:
He said Congressional funding for the wars was inadequate and budget constraints were undermining planning...."Funding the war in fits and starts is requiring us to make short-term plans and short-term decisions."
Seems that $500 billion just doesn't go as far as it used to in my grand-pappy's day. Maybe because the war in Iraq is a gaping money pit? Thanks to the Cost of War website, we can actually watch the dollars roll before our eyes:

Cost of the War in Iraq
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But wait ...the Secretary said something else that has been hailed as "uncommon sense" by the Los Angeles times: allocate more money to diplomatic efforts. It seems that we spend
only $36 billion a year on the State Department to win friends and defang enemies. That's "less than what the Pentagon spends on healthcare alone," Gates said. He called for a dramatic increase in spending on "the civilian instruments of national security: diplomacy, strategic communications, foreign assistance, civic action and economic reconstruction and development."
Well, Mr. Secretary, money doesn't grow on trees, as my mom used to say. Unfortunately, we just heard the speechifying this week, as the question of funding for the war was considered in the Senate. The very idea of tightening the Pentagon's budget is enough to unleash the rhetorical fury and patriotic fervor of some of the members of the Millionaires' Club. Limit the Pentagon's spending? Are you on al Qaeda's side or something?

...What could you do with 500 billion dollars?

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The King of peace and other tall tales

This story was inspired by Cindy Sheehan's, although mine isn't as good (or as sad).

Once upon a time there was a kingdom not of this world. The ruler of this kingdom forbade his subjects to take up the sword. Love of enemies was so important to him that he phrased the command 4 different ways so that people would understand:

Love your enemies
Do good to those who hate you
Bless those who curse you
Pray for those who mistreat you.

He said that to be considered great in his kingdom we must serve others, and that to become powerful we must become as dependent as children. But he knew the other kingdoms would not be friendly --at least not right away…so he cautioned his subjects to be like shrewd snakes and like innocent doves when they went about the world…

The gentle king perished at the hands of his enemies, the occupying forces, leaving his mother to weep as she held her dead son in her arms…

But unlike powerful earthly kings, his spirit lives on in his followers who work to establish the Peaceable Kingdom. He lives on in those who lead movements of Satyagraha and nonviolent resistance…and there have been many victories, some great, some small.

And he lives on in those who mourn.

Blessings, comfort, and courage to all those in whom the spirit of the King of Peace lives on!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

A father's ocean of darkness

"I saw, also, that there was an ocean of darkness and death; but an infinite ocean of light and love, which flowed over the ocean of darkness. In that also I saw the infinite love of God, and I had great openings."
Journal of George Fox, Chapter 1

Well, I guess there isn't a Quaker around who doesn't know that quote. These past few days, seems I've been even more acutely aware of that murky ocean, especially with yet another horrible shooting rampage in Colorado. However, there's a local tragedy that has me feeling really sad: the sexual assault and bludgeoning death of a 14-year-old girl, allegedly by her mother's boyfriend. He was high on crack at the time. The young girl's father works at our university, so I can't get him out of my mind. How will he get through the holidays? How do you go on after something like that? Really holding that poor, bereaved father in the Light.