The bomb-making Bible Study

Sometimes reading an article in the news leaves me stunned and incredulous.

It happens to me fairly often, truth be told. Well, it happened again just a few minutes ago. An article from the Washington Post tells the story of a violent insurrectionist who participated in the January 6th riot, putting together a plan to form a new militia-like organization to commit more violence in the wake of that tragic and shocking event.

Here’s the most shocking part of this nearly-unbelievable tale: the “cover story” for his efforts to organize more violent, insurrectionist acts was to be the forming of a Bible study group.

Plans for violence and killing wrapped in a cloak of dark, fake religiosity.

Things like that are certainly not new. When the writer of Proverbs penned this text, he recorded for posterity a situation to which these more recent events bear an uncanny resemblance:

14 Do not enter the path of the wicked,
   and do not walk in the way of evildoers. 
16 For they cannot sleep unless they have done wrong;
   they are robbed of sleep unless they have made someone stumble. 
17 For they eat the bread of wickedness
   and drink the wine of violence. 

from Proverbs, Chapter 4

There’s no doubt in my mind that Fi Duong has been imbibing the wine of violence for a long time. It’s a very good thing that law enforcement uncovered this particular plan for evil in time.

Ben Lawrence Basile

© 2021 The Fellowship of St Francis, Inc. All Rights Reserved

You Are Not Forgotten

20 Praise be to God,
    who has not rejected my prayer
    or withheld his love from me!

The Psalmist wrote those words nearly three millennia ago in the 66th Psalm and it’s a declaration that still rings true in our souls today.

Your fervent prayers have not been rejected. The Master of the Universe — of all that we know, or can ever know — loves you deeply.

You are not forgotten.

Praise be to God!

Ben Lawrence Basile

© 2021 The Fellowship of St Francis, Inc.

More Dead Sea Scrolls Unearthed

The Israel Antiquities Authority announced yesterday that a recent excavation of a cave which lies in the desert about 40 miles south of Jerusalem has yielded 80 scraps of parchment containing texts from the Books of Nahum and Zechariah. They believe the texts are from a scroll stashed in the cave for safe-keeping during the Bar Kochba Revolt against the Roman Empire which took place from 132-136 AD.

Discovering new texts, however fragmentary, that are related to the famed Dead Sea Scrolls is a very important find. To learn more about this very noteworthy announcement, follow this link.

The new find has come to light as we are right on the cusp of Spring. Easter is a mere three weeks away. May this time of year lead to renewal, to new discoveries for you in the story of your own Journey of Faith.

Ben Basile

© 2021 The Fellowship of St Francis, Inc.

Faith Leaders in the Aftermath

In the aftermath of the seditious attack on our Capitol on January 6th, faith leaders of many churches, denominations and religious bodies reacted.

I read this article detailing some of those reactions about six days ago. I’m featuring it here, though it’s not “new” news as I’m certain many folks didn’t see it.

As you might imagine, the statements released in the wake of this horrible episode were far from uniform. Some statements — in my view — were pushed in this direction or that by particular beliefs, particular theological points of view. But there were reactions and statements aplenty.

It’s easy to feel exhausted and frightened as we think about what happened on January 6th. It’s made much worse as we come to the realization that this painful and unprecedented incident was almost certainly not a one-off.

Hang on to your faith, your hope. The challenges ahead are great; God’s assurances that he is, indeed, a very present help in time of trouble is our consolation.

Ben Basile

© 2021 The Fellowship of St Francis, Inc.

A Christmas Morning Wish for Everyone

 I wish all of you a wonderful Christmas. This piece of mine was originally posted on Christmas Day, 2007 on another site. 

This has been a challenging year for me in a lot of ways, yet I find myself feeling even more than the usual holiday spirit right now as I sit at the keyboard, waiting for Santa to come down my chimney. Wait! I don’t have a chimney! Oh well, I still believe! Well, the part about Santa, who can say? The rest of it, I’m still pretty big on all the good stuff that we think about when the holidays roll around each year. No doubt a lot of you feel the same.

The Christmas story does hold a lot of meaning for me. I’m not quite sure if I still believe all of it, all the nuances and consequences and so on; not quite like one “believes it” when the assembled faithful say the Apostles Creed together at Midnight Mass. Some will be doing exactly that in just a few hours, perhaps some of you.

Yet it doesn’t seem at all “funny” to me that God comes to us whenever it suits his/her purpose. Not entirely sure if “he” did in that particular, historical way. Being raised in a Christian family and having gone part-way through seminary a few years ago, I do lean in that direction. But I’ve come to see some things in a different light now that I’ve spent a little better than a half-century on this planet. This planet where almost a billion people believe that God became incarnate, was born of a young woman who had never “known” her betrothed. And that his coming among us in that way was the beginning of a Divine plan to make it possible for all of his creatures to enjoy unending fellowship with him and with one another! In this life and in the next! Now that’s a story! One we humans have been telling one another for a very long time, and I’m quite sure we’ll be telling it for a long time to come.

I’ve been struggling for so many years now about exactly how much of the story still “works” for me and all of that. But what I’ve never doubted is that God, or the Divine, does come to us and among us all the time. And I’m finally in that phase of life where I’ve learned to look for it, to expect it and to embrace it. And I know that the other really big thing about Christmastime is to get a bit closer to my brothers and sisters who also bear the image of the Divine One in their souls and on their beaming faces. Some of them were raised on the same stories I was; this one about God being born of a virgin, and many others.

Some, of course, have heard and embraced and celebrated different stories. I’m not very inclined to quibble about the particulars at this point in my life. I’m quite sure that God would love to see us move a little closer together at this time of year, and to go on telling those stories; especially that one about God robed in human flesh, living and dying as one of us. And I’m quite sure that the heart of the Divine is pleased when we carry forward “his” mission to strip away that illusion that our sins, imperfections, and much less, our differences, should separate us from one another or from his Divine Heart.

Well, Christmas Eve has progressed, as it will, into Christmas morning as I’m wrapping up this little holiday message. And I’m sitting here, luminous and expectant, like a six year old waiting for Santa to appear. Like Simeon in the temple, waiting to bless the infant Jesus, knowing then that he has seen and embraced, quite literally, the Divine plan to end our sinful and deadly illusions of separateness. I’m expectant, waiting in earnest to see and to embrace the next manifestation of the Divine. In you, in her, in us. Perhaps–and wouldn’t this be a great story–perhaps in and across many countries and cultures, in four billion human hearts at once!

A wish, a dream, a fervent hope… Perhaps that’s all it is. But a hope to hold close to one’s heart on Christmas morning. God bless each of you today and throughout the year to come. May you be blessed to see the image of the Divine, of the Christ-child in yourself–and in one another.

Ben Lawrence Basile
Christmas morning, 2020

© 2007 Benjamin Lawrence Basile

It’s a Happy-Sad Thing

13 A happy heart makes the face cheerful,
    but heartache crushes the spirit.

Proverbs 15:13

I came upon this familiar verse from Proverbs this morning and it got me to thinking.

Its message clashed with my dour mood of the moment — there is certainly no shortage of things happening here and all over the world right now that can really undercut our serenity and leave us emotionally and spiritually drained — and so I found the verse comforting.

Like so many of us, I have my share of life’s ups-and-downs and get into a funk fairly often. This passage reminded me that whether or not I stay in those occasional foul moods for very long depends, in no small measure, on my response.

As a younger man, I tended to stay trapped in that depressive space for what seemed like very long periods of time.

It’s a good thing indeed that I’ve progressed as I’ve moved along life’s path and I’ve developed the skill of turning, or re-orienting myself when “trapped” in these dark spaces, turning in a more positive direction.

If you’re anything like me, you may well find yourself navigating those decidedly unpleasant places often. It may seem that you’re more acquainted with the heartache part of that brief verse than that happy heart way the verse begins.

If so, you’ve got plenty of company. Don’t forget that we all experience those sometimes heart-wrenching highs-and-lows and that we can steer ourselves towards the happy heart end of the polarity by thoughtfully, consciously turning towards the light.

It’s a good thing indeed, to turn in that better direction — even when we feel as though the last tiny shred of happiness has been torn from our grasp — and ready ourselves for the return of those moments of blossoming joy.

Brother Ben

© 2020 The Fellowship of St Francis, Inc.

The president and the Bible Photo Op

Because this regrettable and surreal scene played itself out on Monday, I’m thinking that many of you are well-aware of what happened by now. And here — for what it’s worth — is my take on this disturbing event.

It’s clear now that America’s Divider-in-Chief thinks he can use faith for his own purposes. Just like he has been using so many other things, people and events.

He uses people and things to try to improve his terrible image; he uses things and events to sow confusion and deflect blame; he uses people and things — way too often — to punish and wreck revenge on his political enemies or merely on people he doesn’t like.

All of this is — it hardly need be said — to the Nation’s detriment. So now we can add Faith to the things this selfish and spiritually-dead man believes he can use to further his own ends.

Brother Ben

Postscript: for a more detailed look at some of the fallout from Monday’s events — the reactions of Faith leaders, in particular — follow this link.


© 2020 The Fellowship of St Francis, Inc.

Love Covers All

When we read this passage from the 10th Chapter of Proverbs, it may at first seem unremarkable.

Whoever walks in integrity walks securely,
    but whoever takes crooked paths will be found out.

11 The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life,
    but the mouth of the wicked conceals violence.

12 Hatred stirs up conflict,
    but love covers over all wrongs.

from Proverbs, Chapter 10

Those wise, clear exhortations to treat our fellows with courtesy and respect are timeless. The exhortations to let love be our guiding principle in all things.

These words of wisdom are common to all cultures and all religions. All spiritual paths.

As verse 12 wraps up, the clear emphasis is on love and how love can cover over all wrongs.

Just in case a reader may think that Solomon had been imbibing too much of the fruit of the vine and had gone all hippy on us, there are, of course, hundreds–if not thousands–of passages from the Bible that put over that very same idea.

And from the literature and sacred books of a thousand religions and cultures.

The common folk saying found below is an almost word-for-word paraphrase of the familiar Wisdom we read in Matthew chapter 7, verse 12:

Do unto others as you would have done unto you.

Common folk saying

It is hard, at times, to understand why so many of us are in such great need of being reminded of these things.

The reminders, the exhortations, come from a thousand voices, heard at every turn as we walk along life’s path.

And often we aren’t listening.

I’m not. You’re not. He’s not. She’s not. They’re not.

Listen to those voices.

Heed them.

Let love be your touchstone, your all-in-all.

Brother Ben

© The Fellowship of St Francis, Inc.

Not Here, Not Now

More than two millennia ago, the writer of Proverbs had this to say:

Listen, for I have trustworthy things to say;
    I open my lips to speak what is right.
My mouth speaks what is true,
    for my lips detest wickedness.
All the words of my mouth are just;
    none of them is crooked or perverse.

Proverbs 8: 6-8, italics mine

Let’s take a closer look at verse 8. In the text, Wisdom is speaking, and says this about the words she utters: “none of them is crooked or perverse.”

What a wonderful thing it would be if we — in these troubling times — could say the same thing when we hear or read of things our leaders have said!

We hear a lot of spin, evasions and outright falsehoods virtually anytime we listen to, read or view the news these days.

The lies we’re hearing are pervasive. They’re deliberate. And they’re causing untold harm.

We might wonder how long this tragic state of affairs will go on.

I don’t know.

But I do know that it’s imperative that we recommit ourselves to speaking the truth. To recoil from deception and lies.

And to refuse to accept lying and deceit from those who hold positions of power and authority in this pivotal time in which we live.

Brother Ben

© 2020 The Fellowship of St Francis, Inc.

A Week of Destiny

Today is Palm Sunday and Churches in every corner of the globe will be full of worshipers thinking about Jesus riding into Jerusalem on the back of that colt and being heralded and praised by a multitude of followers.

Churches here in the Eastern Time Zone are starting to fill with folks of all ages, with families dressed in their “Sunday best”, ready to commemorate and relive that ride and that day.

When this celebration comes each year, we see ourselves as a follower of the Master, as one who may have been there for the actual event.

This is as it should be.

But what was it like for Jesus?

What thoughts were going through his mind as that day unfolded?

None of us knows the particulars, of course, but there’s little doubt in my mind that destiny — or his thoughts around it — cast a long shadow over the events of that day, over what has been known for centuries as the Triumphal Entry.

As we go through all the events of Holy Week, it’s a good thing to keep in mind that the thanks and accolades that others may bestow on us from time to time can be wonderful.

But for most of us — as was true for Jesus — those accolades don’t always last and our lives will most likely not be a joyous and unending festival of gratitude and praise.

For some, a darker destiny may await.

Jesus said that no servant is greater than his master and when one makes a conscious choice to follow in Jesus’s footsteps — to live a life of service for others — there will most certainly be a cross to bear.

It’s certainly true that most people go through life acting mostly on instinct. Mostly doing what furthers their own interests and — at the end of the day — maximizes the chance that they’ll live, thrive and survive, as that saying goes.

Jesus, of course, is our ultimate example of a person who saw himself in a very different way. And he knew that his destiny was a life lived for others.

May we follow his example. May we always remember that, first and foremost, we choose a life lived — not for selfish reasons alone — but for others.

And may that be our focus throughout the events of Holy Week. And always.

Brother Ben

© 2019 The Fellowship of St Francis, Inc.

This homily was originally published on April 14, 2019