On March 19, 2017, Rev. Tony Ponticello gave a talk to those assembled at the Community Miracles Center Sunday Service in San Francisco, California. Below is a lightly edited transcription of that talk.
Hello everybody! Thank you for being here, and thank you everybody else, not only those on ACIM Gather, but everyone who is watching the video later on YouTube. Always great that you decide to tune in. Subscribe to our YouTube channel and then you can get notifications every time a video gets posted.
Okay! This has been an interesting week, an interesting weekend for me, for many reasons. We want you to know that we have now mailed out our first issue of our 31st Volume of Miracles Monthly. That was Volume 31, Issue 1. We are beginning our 31st year. We are right on time! I really want to acknowledge Rev. Kelly for helping so much getting Miracles Monthly back on schedule. So right here in the middle of the month, the 361st issue of Miracles Monthly! (applause)
It has a couple of great articles. One of them is by Brooke Vernon Grant who will be here in a couple of weeks to be ordained as Rev. Brooke. He'll be our second Rev. Brooke. We have another Rev. Brooke, a woman, and now we'll have a Rev. Brooke who is a gentleman.
The thing I want to focus on today is actually what happened Friday, which was St. Patrick's Day. St. Patrick's Day is a wonderful day. It's a wonderful celebration that people like to get rowdy on. People like to drink green beer. That's just regular beer with a little food coloring in it. They like to eat corned beef and cabbage. I suppose you could eat something else, or you could also have a Guinness. Guinness is Irish, right? So if you want to be a little more classy and not drink green beer, then Guinness is good.
We don't know a lot about St. Patrick and most people don't know much about him even though that's what the holiday is about, so I want to focus on St. Patrick. The reason why we celebrate March 17th, is because that is apparently the day he passed. He made his transition then. It's not his birthday. It's the day that he passed. I think everybody pretty much knows St. Patrick is the patron saint of Ireland. What people probably don't know is that he was not Irish. (laughter) He was not Irish. He was actually British.
The story about St. Patrick is amazing. A little that we knowabout him is a myth, but we do know some things about him because he wrote afterwards. He wrote books that survived. St. Patrick was the child of an aristocratic British, English family. He wrote that he wasn't particularly religious when he was a young lad, but his parents were Christian and he had a little bit of Christian teaching because of his parents.
At the age of 16, he was kidnapped by Irish pirates and brought to Ireland as a slave, to be a shepherd in a large farm. I don't think they called them plantations, but he was to be a shepherd in a large farm in Ireland. He was a slave in Ireland for six years – from the age of 16 to the age of 22. While a slave in Ireland he remembered things about his parents' Christian faith. He started praying almost constantly to God, to Jesus, during those six years. He felt that this is what got him through those six years – his growing Christian faith, growing Christian connection to Jesus, to God, and to what he had learned.
Then when he was 22, he had a vision during one of his prayer experiences. The vision was "It is time for you to leave Ireland and to reunite with your family. A boat awaits you." That inspired St. Patrick to escape. So, at the age of 22, he escaped. It is said he trekked over land for many, many miles. The accounts have different statistics. In one place I read, it said he walked 200 miles to get to a boat. It wasn't quite as easy as he hoped. He did manage to get on a boat and get back to England, then eventually to his family.
Now because he had this new Christian experience in his mind, this new Christian revelation, he went into the religious life. He was trained in the Christian church. He became a Christian priest and eventually a Christian bishop. Then he got a second vision and the vision was, "You need to go back to Ireland. Go back to Ireland and spread the gospel. Spread the good news of Christianity to those people who need it so badly, those people who had actually enslaved you."
So, he went to back to Ireland in 421 C.E. He would have been 38, almost 40 years old, and he became a Christian missionary for the remainder of his life. For another forty years he brought the Christian faith, the good news of the gospel, to the Irish people who were mostly Druids at that time. He converted them. He built churches. He was beloved. There are a lot of stories about him. There are a lot of legends about him.
One thing about him that a lot of people don't understand is the whole idea of the shamrock. He used the shamrock in his teaching with the Irish people. He would tell people that the shamrock was this little hint from nature about the Christian reality. It's the three lobes of the Christian Trinity. It is God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost. That was the Trinity. He would tell people "Look, the message of Christianity, the message of the Trinity, is all over. It's on the fields. It's on the hills. It's the clover leaf. Every time you pick up a clover, think of the Trinity. Think of God the Father. Think of God the Son. Think of God the Holy Spirit."
Now some people relate a four-leaf clover with St. Patrick's Day. That actually is wrong. (laughter) St. Patrick only talked about the three-leaf clover because he was talking about the Trinity. People don't realize that the clover leaf of St. Patrick was him teaching the Trinity.
What I want to remember – what I got from my personal St. Patrick's Day experience and getting in touch with his story – is his life is a wonderful metaphor. It's the same metaphor that comes through so many teachings. The thing about the St.Patrick's Day story – and again it's prevalent in other stories – is that we were all in slavery. We were enslaved by our thought systems, our beliefs. We blamed everybody, everyone, our parents, our upbringing. We blamed society for whatever things were going on. At a certain point we have a revelation, we realize, "I can free myself. I can first free myself in my thinking. As I truly free myself in my thinking, I am no longer a slave any more."
Then, when we are no longer a slave, the same thoughts that freed us from that slavery now inspires us to go back and be a savior right in the place we were enslaved. It's the Jonathan Livingston Seagull message, right? Jonathan Livingston Seagull was expelled from the flock because he was practicing his dives and seagulls weren't supposed to do that. But when he perfected his dives and learned how to fly in this whole new way, the message he got was he had to go back to his flock. He needed to "Go back to that very same flock that expelled you and bring the good news of salvation." It's exactly the same message as the St. Patrick story. It happens all the time.
Jesus' message is what? Depending on what you believe about Jesus, there is some pretty good evidence that he left Jerusalem. He left the holy land where he was born, getting training, getting education, getting enlightenment. Then once he was enlightened, what was the message? "You go back! You go back to that place that you have problems with."
Wherever it is. Even if it is just metaphorically in your mind, that is where you have to go back. That is where you are to bring the good news. That slave to savior role is so prevalent in so many of the inspirational myths that we have. It is time I think that we really begin to take it in. I really began to take it in more this year when I really got into St. Patrick and what the whole teaching was about him.
A Course in Miracles says, "I have a special place to fill – a role for me alone. Salvation waits until I take this part as what I choose to do. Until I make this choice, I am the slave of time and human destiny." (OrEd.WkBk.317.1) We can get comfort and solace from the truth, and St. Patrick did that for six years while he was a slave. But our true freedom doesn't actually come until we accept the saviors role and go back and fulfill that mission, until we really realize that we are on a mission from God and that we have to give the good news of our salvation in the very area where we were enslaved. So, when you are in slavery, your spiritual awakening will give you solace. But once you are out of slavery, your continued spiritual awakening gives you a mission.
That mission is you being a savior. Until you truly accept that mission, you are still a slave. You are a slave of time and human destiny. You can get solace, but if you really want to extract yourself from the illusion and all its implications, you have to accept your role as a savior. We have the ability to do that. We may think we don't, but we do. The world that we are here to save may seem huge and impossible to save. We may feel that we don't have the ability to do that but we can develop that ability.
"Abilities must be developed, or you cannot use them… In an impossible situation, you can develop your abilities to the point where they can get you out of it." (OrEd.Tx.6.53) So we develop that ability by our continued spiritual work, our continued forgiveness work, that continued relationship work. We keep developing that ability until we truly accept our role, until we truly accept our mission.
We have a guide within us, the Holy Spirit, that helps us develop those abilities. We have Jesus as our constant companion, possibly that imagery helps us to develop those abilities. Since we have the guide and we have the wisdom now. A Course in Miracles tells us, "You therefore retain the central place in your perceived enslavement, a fact which itself demonstrates that you are not enslaved." (OrEd.Tx.6.53) We are in the central place in this slavery drama we find ourselves, in and this should indicate to us that we actually really aren't enslaved.
Here's the complete A Course in Miracles passage, "In an impossible situation, you can develop your abilities to the point where they can get you out of it. You have a Guide to how to develop them, but you have no commander except yourself. This leaves you in charge of the Kingdom with both a Guide to find it and a means to keep it. You have a model to follow ...." Jesus. "You therefore retain the central place in your perceived enslavement, a fact which itself demonstrates that you are not enslaved." (OrEd.Tx.6.53) We have a guide, and we have the wisdom. We have the ability to extract ourselves from even the enslavement of time and human destiny. Then we obviously are not enslaved, even by our physical reality of a "body."
I want to talk a little bit about the Trinity since it was St. Patrick's big deal. Remember the clover. It's the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. In that day it was probably more the Holy Ghost or whatever the English or Irish expression was for the Holy Ghost.
The Trinity has been a big thing lately. It was a big thing this past week on my Facebook discussion group, but it was also a huge thing in a movie that I saw Friday. It's that religious movie, that spiritual movie, that a lot of people are talking about called The Shack. It was based on a popular religious book named The Shack. I saw the movie. I really loved the movie because of it's subject matter. It's maybe not the best made movie that I've ever seen, but I think all of us spiritual people will love it just because of what it shows.
The thing about the depiction of God in this movie is that it is all about the Trinity. There is God the Father, which for the most part, is played by a mature African-American woman. There is God the Son, Jesus, who is played by a young, very attractive Middle-Eastern man. There is God the Holy Spirit who is portrayed by an extremely beautiful, extremely slender, Asian woman.
So when the protagonist of the movie goes to the shack and encounters God, what he encounters is the Trinity. Then there is his whole interaction with the Trinity. Later God the Father morphs from a mature, African-American woman to a mature, American-Indian man. Since the actor is actually Canadian, it is probably better to describe him as a First Nations People / Man.
One thing I learned from this movie is that God is definitely not white. (laughter). There was no basic white portrayal of God. That was great. That's a large part of the message of this movie. Remember this movie is not designed for us New Agers, really. It's designed for the church-going, religious people of the world. There are scenes of the family in church singing. They are supposed to be good, church-going, religious people. However a man, the protagonist, because of an intense personal tragedy, has lost his faith. Now he is having a direct experience with God – the Father, the Son, the Holy Ghost – the Trinity, in hopes to restore his faith.
You know there were so many wonderful messages in that film. One is that God is not wrathful. There is no wrath in God. There is no vengeance in God. That is continually communicated to the protagonist. Also, the way to truly practice faith – there is only one way – is forgiveness. He has to confront all of these things that he has had hatred for, all of these people who he's had hatred for, through emotional experiences and truly forgive them. The emphasis on forgiveness is huge in this movie. It is the only way that our protagonist is going to have a healing.
The idea the God does not bring tragedy into your life is another strong message in the movie. There is a lot of that. We know that. We spiritual, New-Age people know that, but this movie is really marketed for traditional, church-going people. So I thought it was pretty amazing that traditional, church-going people are getting the message that a wrathful God is ridiculous, it's insane, and the way to truly heal is through forgiveness.
So, they are picking up our stuff! (laughter) They are getting our best thoughts! So keep up the good work! We are bringing salvation and freedom to the quote "slaves" of the world, actually to the whole world. I don't mean to imply that traditional religious people are slaves. The spiritual work that we are doing is having a tremendous effect. Even traditional religion is making huge strides in this direction.
Let's talk about the Holy Trinity a little more. When I was a young, Catholic boy I was definitely taught the Trinity. What I remember now, and what I have a growing realization of – I think I've talked about this a little bit previously – is when we were taught God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit, we were taught that God the Son wasn't just Jesus. We were also taught that we could all be the Son of God in some way. We were certainly the Son of God, or the Child of God, if we would accept Jesus as our personal model and savior. If we turned our lives over to Jesus, then we became part of Jesus, part of the body of the Christ. We became the Son. The scarament of Holy Communion made us one with the body of Jesus, what they called the "body of Christ."
That teaching has always been there. It's not just unique to A Course in Miracles that the Son of God is us. It's actually in the traditional Christianity too: God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit. We were all part of the Son in a mysterious way. Jesus was the most perfect Son possibly. I remember being told that we were all kind of the "adopted Sons." I thought that was a strange teaching, but we were the Son, especially if we would aspire to like Jesus and let Jesus into our lives as a role model, and of course especialy if we received Holy Communiion.
When St. Patrick brought the Trinity to the Druids in Ireland, he was bringing to them a little bit of that idea. A little bit of that idea that we are part of the Godhead. We are part of God. We are not separate from God, and that is a pretty enticing, wonderful, liberating, freedom from slavery idea. It must have been very popular to the Druids.
Now the Druids were pretty cool. The Druids had a lot of cool stuff. The Druids were very open-minded, accepted diversity, believed in an afterlife, and all those things. Being a Druid was a very broad identity. But this idea of actually being part of God, Him / Her / Itself, was enticing. It must have rung true.
I think the same is true for us. It's enticing for us. It rings true for us. I think all of us know we are God. We are part of God. We are not separate from God, and I think that is why we have embraced A Course in Miracles. This is such a strong teaching in A Course in Miracles. You have to read between the lines in traditional Christianity to find it. In A Course in Miracles, it is written there clearly.
"The Holy Trinity is holy because it is one. If you exclude yourself from this union, you are perceiving the Holy Trinity as separated. You must be included in It because It is everything." (OrEd.Tx.8.35) We have to include ourselves in the Trinity. A Course in Miracles actually just advances a very traditional Christian idea and makes it more prominent. It makes it more powerful.
Jonathan Livingston Seagull had to go back to his flock. I think a lot of us grapple with this idea of our own flock and who we are here to save. I think for a lot of us, those that I talk to who have been A Course in Miracles students for a long time, connect with this mission of bringing this idea back to our families, and back to our friends. How can we bring a little of being part of God back to them? How can they pick up on some of the freedom we feel?
Maybe we can suggest that they go see this movie, The Shack. Especially if they are more traditional, religious people, there are a lot of things in it that would resonate with them. But the idea of the Trinity and the idea of connecting with it, being Divine, and the important teaching of practicing forgiveness is really there. We can't just accept our freedom and think it's over. We have to accept our freedom, become the savior, and bring it to those people that we are guided to go to.
One last quote. "I told you that you are now restored to your former role in the plan of Atonement, but you must still choose freely to devote yourselves to the greater restoration. As long as a single slave remains to walk the earth, your release is not complete. Complete restoration of the Sonship is the only true goal of the miracle-minded." (OrEd.Tx.1.106)
We have to be the savior. It is the only way to complete the experience. It is being shown to us over and over and over again. St. Patrick, Jonathan Livingston Seagull, Jesus – just to name three – but there are countless examples of this. This is the path. This is the true transcendent restoration. This is the warrior's journey. We get our solace. We move out of slavery. We realize the good news. We realize the truth. Then we bring that good news back to the very world that we used to think enslaved us.
Embrace the Trinity. Embrace that you are part of the Sonship – the Son, the Father / the Creator, the Created. We are the Created and we have the Holy Spirit to help us. That is the message of St. Patrick. That is the message of the world if we truly see it through Holy Spirit's perception.
That is my message to you today. Thank you very much. (applause) ♥
Rev. Tony Ponticello is CMC's 20th minister. He currently serves as the CMC's Executive Minister (04.17.2021). He is also the President of the CMC Board of Directors. He was ordained by the CMC on Oct. 17, 1997.
c/o Community Miracles Center
San Francisco, CA 94147
This article appeared in the March 2018 (Vol. 32 No. 1) issue of Miracles Monthly. Miracles Monthly is published by Community Miracles Center in San Francisco, CA. CMC is supported solely by people just like you who: become CMC Supporting Members, Give Donations and Purchase Books and Products through us.