Fyodor Dostoyevsky – Author

When I was still a teenager and began to move away from reading science fiction, fantasy, and my comic books, when I got past the authors I had been introduced to in school, the so-called American Classics such as Lewis, Fitzgerald and Steinbeck, it was then that I discovered Dostoyevsky.

A whole new dimension of literature opened up to me, literature became philosophy.

Through the great Russian novelist I came to understand the power of narrative, and its effectiveness at conveying certain truths that are universal to the human condition.

For whatever reason there are no authors more adept at this function than the Russian’s, with Dostoyevsky being the foremost at the craft.

His influence on me was profound.

From Crime and Punishment and Notes from the Underground, to The Idiot and the Brothers Karamozov, which are perhaps his most famous works in English, I spent years all through my twenties and into my thirties tracking down his cannon, until I was left with translations of his notebooks to read, which I did.

I purchased the notebook for A Raw Youth, at a used bookstore in Minneapolis (Majors and Quinn). It was the first one that I discovered, In its pages I could see the way he constructed the arc of his stories, and developed his characters from ego to id, and I found an Imperial Ruble, tucked into its pages, a bookmark left behind by whoever was last to read to it.

The note was wrinkled and faded but still a treasure to me.

I considered Dostoyevsky to be the father of existentialism, and through him I learned to love Dickens, who Dostoyevsky considered to be the greatest author of all time.

It has been one hundred and thirty-nine years since he died, and his influence has not waned.
Given First – 2020.02.09

Dostoyevsky

A Homily – The Fifth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Year A)

First Reading – Isaiah 58:7-10 ©
Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 111(112):4-9 ©
Second Reading – 1 Corinthians 2:1-5 ©
Gospel Acclamation – John 8:12
The Gospel According to Matthew 5:13 – 16 ©

(NJB)

The Fifth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Year A)

Listen.

Meditate on the scriptures and consider their meaning when they refer to the light of God, in this moment we should reflect on the teaching of Isaiah, as Jesus often did.

Be mindful of these precepts:

We are light when we are shine like the justice of God, we are light when we are merciful, we are light when we speak words of love and perform acts of service to those who are in need, this is when we are light.

We are light when we feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, care for the poor, and clothe the naked. When we are light we are healed of our own sickness, the sickness in our hearts and in our minds, the disease which clamors for us to horde our wealth, and feed our greed.

When we are giving we are good, and God’s light shines through us like a beacon, it shines in all directions and says to those who see it that we have made a dwelling for God in our heart.

We are light when we release the poor, when we uncurl the clenched fist, when we speak with kindness, and raise up the oppressed, this is when we are light.

When we are light we shine in the darkness, and our shadow departs from us as if we were standing beneath the sun at noon.

Be mindful!

This is what the scriptures are speaking to when they preach to us about God’s light.

Consider the words of the psalmist.

God, the creator of the universe, God is just, righteous and filled with compassion.

The destiny of each and every one of God’s children, is God’s own self; when the seed of the Word that God has planted in each of us, sprouts and comes to fruition, the fullness of the blossom is God’s own self.

Listen!

Righteousness and compassion are their own reward, nothing extra comes to you from God for in exchange for doing good. The Godly life is not a matter of commerce.

Be mindful, what is good true does not require a letter of introduction. A person’s past deeds are not necessarily a prelude to their future actions, the good may to ill, and the wicked may do good.

Take each day as it comes.

We are not called to be guarded or suspicious of each other’s motives, neither are we called on to blindly accept a person’s credentials.

Listen!

We are all in the way, and the way does not exclude anyone. We are all moving inexorably toward God, both the cooperative and the recalcitrant we are all moving toward the divine, the source of all being.

Consider the Gospel for today and know that there are no guarantees in life.

Listen to Jesus as he teaches his disciples, he understood the natural failings of human beings. Jesus knew that a person can be salient and good in one moment, bitter and coercive in the next.

Not even the disciples, as close as they were to Jesus, were free from these propensities. Why would it be any different for the Christian man or woman who follows them.

If you set out to teach, and be a light in the world, then do that. It requires you to live intentionally.

Be mindful of what Jesus said; a lamp, once lit, should be put on the lamp-stand, but even still it requires constant attention. The lamp oil must be refilled, the wick must be trimmed, replaced, and the soot must be cleaned from it.

If you intend to live your life as an exemplar of the way, you must be diligent, watchful, mindful of yourself and humble.

In your pursuit of the light, reflect on the teaching of Isaiah:

“Share your bread with the hungry, and shelter the homeless poor, clothe the man you see to be naked and do not turn from your own kin.”
First Reading – Isaiah 58:7-10 ©

Then will your light shine like the dawn

Thus says the Lord:

Share your bread with the hungry, and shelter the homeless poor, clothe the man you see to be naked and do not turn from your own kin.

Then will your light shine like the dawn and your wound be quickly healed over.

Your integrity will go before you and the glory of the Lord behind you.

Cry, and the Lord will answer; call, and he will say, ‘I am here.’

If you do away with the yoke, the clenched fist, the wicked word, if you give your bread to the hungry, and relief to the oppressed, your light will rise in the darkness, and your shadows become like noon.
Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 111(112):4-9 ©

The good man is a light in the darkness for the upright.

He is a light in the darkness for the upright:
he is generous, merciful and just.
The good man takes pity and lends,
he conducts his affairs with honour.

The good man is a light in the darkness for the upright.

The just man will never waver:
he will be remembered for ever.
He has no fear of evil news;
with a firm heart he trusts in the Lord.

The good man is a light in the darkness for the upright.

With a steadfast heart he will not fear;
open-handed, he gives to the poor;
his justice stands firm for ever.
His head will be raised in glory.

The good man is a light in the darkness for the upright.

Alleluia!
Second Reading – 1 Corinthians 2:1-5 ©

The Only Knowledge I Claimed Was of the Crucified Christ

When I came to you, brothers, it was not with any show of oratory or philosophy, but simply to tell you what God had guaranteed. During my stay with you, the only knowledge I claimed to have was about Jesus, and only about him as the crucified Christ. Far from relying on any power of my own, I came among you in great ‘fear and trembling’ and in my speeches and the sermons that I gave, there were none of the arguments that belong to philosophy; only a demonstration of the power of the Spirit. And I did this so that your faith should not depend on human philosophy but on the power of God.
Gospel Acclamation – John 8:12

Alleluia, alleluia!

I am the light of the world, says the Lord;
anyone who follows me will have the light of life.

Alleluia!
The Gospel According to Matthew 5:13 – 16 ©

Your Light Must Shine in the Sight of Men

Jesus said to his disciples, ‘You are the salt of the earth. But if salt becomes tasteless, what can make it salty again? It is good for nothing, and can only be thrown out to be trampled underfoot by men.

‘You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill-top cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp to put it under a tub; they put it on the lamp-stand where it shines for everyone in the house. In the same way your light must shine in the sight of men, so that, seeing your good works, they may give the praise to your Father in heaven.’
The Fifth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Year A)

Why I am Supporting Bernie Sanders – Editorial, The Week in Review

Analysis, Commentary, Opinion
02.08.2020

Why I am Supporting Bernie Sanders

With all of our eyes on the presidential campaign, and the nominating process in the Democratic Party, with all of the interested parties taking up positions and staking out ground in loosely organized “caucuses,” such as the so-called “progressive-caucus,” we have to be mindful of the fact that there is a lot more at stake in 2020 than the presidency.

We need a Democratic president to sign Democratic bills into law, but if we seriously hope to get any of our bills to the signing desk, we need to keep control of the House of Representatives, we need to increase the majority of the democratic caucus in the House and we need to take control of the Senate, we need to send Mitch McConnel packing.

This is why it matters who we pick for our standard bearer.

Even if we lost the presidency, taking control of the Senate would put more power behind progressive causes and give us more effective oversight over the executive branch. We need a candidate who can generate that enthusiasm and get people to the polls, and we need to stick together.

It is not just the presidency that is on the line in this election, it is Congress, and it is not just the 2020 Congress that is on the line, it is the make up of Congress for the next five elections.

The most important thing the legislature will do in the next congress is redistricting, following the apportionment of Congressional seats after the census. If we are serious about pursuing our progressive agenda for the long term, we must control this process. If we want the government to respond to the will of the majority on any number of things: from taxation to gun control, from executive oversight to a woman’s right to choose, from criminal justice reform to the War Powers Act, from…you name the issue, if we want to be governed by the will of the majority we must control this process.

The apportionment of electoral college votes follows the apportionment of congressional districts. We cannot eliminate the electoral college unless we are able to pass constitutional amendments, I will address these numerical challenges shortly.

If we want to see more equitable representation of the majority in the electoral college right now then we must control congressional apportionment and redistricting. If we have simple majorities in congress, and a democratic president who is willing to act, we can make the apportionment process fairer. Even if we don’t have a president willing to change the apportionment laws in US Code Title 2, simple majorities in congress will help us to create congressional districts that represent the people on a more equitable basis.

Keep this in mind, until we get the number of votes in congress, in the House and the Senate, and in State Houses across the country, unless we get a sufficient number of Governors and a President willing to pass a constitutional amendment there won’t be any constitutional amendments and the struggle for justice and equality will have to take place through the legislative process.

There are two ways to amend the constitution: the process either requires that two thirds of the members of both houses of congress vote to approve it, and then it must be ratified by two thirds of the states, or that two thirds of the states call for a constitutional assembly to amend the constitution in which proposed amendments must be ratified by three fourths of the states.

People talk about passing constitutional amendments all the time, but this is a very difficult process and if want to see it happen, to do this we would need:

1. 290 votes in the House of Representatives, the house is currently divided 233D to 197R, there is one independent (who typically votes with the republicans, and there are four seats currently vacant.
2. 67 votes in the Senate, the Senate is currently divided between the democratic and republican caucuses 53R to 47D (this includes independents who caucus with the party most closely aligned to their values) with a tying vote going to the republican voce president.
3. 34 States to ratify, State governments are currently divided between democrats and republicans 26R to 24D, while their legislatures are divided 67R to 37D

These numbers represent the numerical hurdles the people would have to cross in order to affect enduring changes to the structure of our democracy. We cannot pin our hopes on this, it is pie in the sky thinking.

If we intend to do this then we are back to where we began this essay, the absolute need to control the redistricting process after the census, we must have a willingness to change congressional apportionment if we win both chambers of congress and the presidency in November.

We must elect a president who is willing to sign into law enforceable provisions to restrain presidential power, to enforce the authority of congress to engage in oversight, and to reshape the federal judiciary including the addition of justices to the Supreme Court.

We are in a precarious time, and we must hold together, we cannot attack each other with broad labels intended to vilify one another, we cannot afford to pit so-called democratic socialists against so-called corporate democrats, so-called liberal progressives against so-called pragmatic progressives. There is too much at stake to allow ourselves to be divided this way.

We have to resist it.

I know a lot of people who like to pretend that both parties are the same, and they may have a point, but here is the truth: it is not the parties that are the same, the Democratic party and the Republican Party have radically different platforms.

It is the politicians who are the same, because it is the nature of these politicians, regardless of what side of the political spectrum they are on, it is in their nature to be feckless, cowardly, deceptive, ego-maniacs those are the unifying characteristics of all politicians.

This is not to say that they completely unreliable, that they do not love their families, or that they are all wicked people, but it is to recognize that the power of high office attracts the highly corruptible.

There are two tasks in front of us right now, as voters who care about our liberal and progressive causes, as people who ant to see the Voting Rights Act reinstated and expanded, who want to see structural changes to our representative democracy that takes big money out of politics and returns power to the people, who want to see a woman’s right to equal pay, equal treatment under the law and the right of self-determination to be protected, who want to enforce the separation between Church and State, if we want to curb the rise of white nationalists and domestic terrorists; the first thing we have to do is hold together through the next nine months, and we have to bring more people into the voting process, we have to these things thoughtfully, carefully and deliberately, even if the party does not nominate the candidate we prefer.

With that being said, when I look at the field of candidates running for the Democratic Party’s nomination for president, when I look at the size and strength of their respective coalition’s, when I weigh them against each other, I have to conclude that our best bet is to support the candidacy of Bernie Sanders, not because I support all of his ideas, though I am in favor of most of them, it is because he is steady, his support is steady, his message is good, his vision is good for America, and if we all get behind him we will win.