On Sunday April 11, 2021 Rev. Tony Ponticello gave a talk for the Community Miracles Center's Sunday Gathering. A lightly edited transcription of the talk is presented here.
Thank you for being here. The title of my talk today is, "Keeping Your Heart Open in a World Reflecting Fear." I was thinking of the lessening of fear that is going on with the pandemic easing. I thought about the year we've gone through, and the line from A Tale of Two Cities keeps coming through my mind. It's how the book, A Tale of Two Cities, opens. It says, "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times." When I think about this past year and all the things that have happened, it was the worst of times. But in many ways, it was also the best of times as well.
This past week, I did a little organizing in the office and got some things together – lists of all of our meetings. We started a new meeting this past week. Rev. Paula started a new A Course in Miracles drop-in meeting on Thursdays. I counted up, and we now have 14 Zoom meetings a week. There were 14 meetings. There are drop-in meetings that are free, or by donation, that anybody can go to. There's the Sunday Gathering, of course. Then there's classes for enrolled and registered students. I'm thinking of the 14 meetings, and the Sunday gathering, and all the things we've done on Zoom. We've really been able to expand and get the word out to so many different people. That's a really great thing. That's one of the best things that has happened in this past year. I'm really, really grateful for that. It's the best of times.
Then I'm also aware of the news media and the continual stream of "news" and information that we get. It's this continual flow about how we're vulnerable, that we need all these things to protect us. Every time I watch television – I don't watch a lot of television – but when I do watch television, I'm just amazed at how many of the advertisements are from pharmaceutical companies advertising medicines for all the weaknesses, sicknesses, and vulnerabilities that they say we have. I'm just amazed, and the continual message that we get from just about everybody is that we're vulnerable. We need to wear masks still (even if we're vaccinated). We need to practice social distancing, and (of course) we need those vaccines. This continual steady stream of information about how vulnerable we are, from what I know, that's a world reflecting fear. However I need to keep my heart open, and my guidance is to continually remind myself that the body is designed to work. The body's designed to work well. I guess I'm not going to ever see some ad on television that's going to talk about how great our body is and how well it's working, because there's nothing to sell for that.
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The body is designed to work because we are designed to work and we are manifesting our bodies. I need to keep my heart open to counteract all of those things that talk about how dangerous the world is. A Course in Miracles says, "The body, valueless and hardly worth the least defense, need merely be perceived as quite apart from you, and it becomes a healthy, serviceable instrument through which the mind can operate until its usefulness is over."(OrEd.WkBk.135.9) ACIM is continually telling us how, with the proper perspective, the body functions perfectly. It doesn't need any of these defenses that the world, in so many different ways, keeps telling us that it needs. I need to stay open to that perfect functioning, and we all need to stay open to that perfect functioning. We need to continually give that positive message to the world, and be a voice for that healing message, because there's plenty of voices for the other message.
I think the Holy Spirit's message and God's message of the health and perfection of the body is something that truly needs to be continually put out there. We are safe – not because we have medicines, not because we have vaccines, and not because we have masks. We are safe because we have the truth. That was in the reading that was read earlier, "Your safety lies in truth and not in lies. Love is your safety. Fear does not exist. Identify with love, and you are safe."(OrEd.WkBk.SpTp261.5) All those other ideas which tell us of those things that we need to keep safe, they're actually lies. Our safety is not in those things at all. They will never really work, but truth will work. Love will work; acceptance will work. Happiness will work. Our safety is in those things.
We've had a lot of the other messages this past year. In that sense, this past year has been the worst of times. However I know for me, it has driven me to center myself more firmly in the discipline that I love and have embraced for 40 plus years. I have strengthened my practice of A Course in Miracles over this past year, and that is a wonderful thing. That has made it the best of times for me. There's been many other little ways that it's been the best of times. Last April when the pandemic was extending and its effect was hitting and crashing the stock market (and I have a fair amount of money that's in one way or another tied up in the stock market), I asked for guidance. I asked Holy Spirit for guidance about my investments. I ask Holy Spirit for guidance for everything. I ask Holy Spirit for help getting parking places.
I ask Holy Spirit for investment advice too. The guidance I got from the Holy Spirit when the stock market was crashing was two simple words, "investment opportunity" – "investment opportunity." So, I wrote a big check and sent it to my brokerage firm, and I started investing money. I was told by several that I was "nuts" and that I should be pulling my money out of the market, not putting more money into the market. But I got "investment opportunity," and I followed the Holy Spirit's guidance. I am so glad I did, because it has been the best of times financially and in the market. My net worth has increased more this past year than it has in any year of my life. So ... it's the best of times midst the worst of times.
It was the best of times too, because I also got the guidance – as I've talked about many times – to up my game. That's why I put on the cleric collar. That has been amazing for me in so many ways. I've talked about this before. I have embraced A Course in Miracles, my minister role, and my special function in the world at a new higher level. We have to keep our heart open in the midst of fear. We have to keep communicating with the Holy Spirit, and we have to keep asking for guidance on everything. I think there's a wonderful little question you can ask yourself if you want to see how open your heart is. Ask yourself how you feel about the presidential candidate that you did not vote for. How do you really feel and think about the presidential candidate that you did not vote for? If you feel love, and acceptance, and warmth, and happiness, about that person, you're probably doing pretty good. But if you don't, there's probably some work for you to do and now is the time to do that work. The window is open as I talked about in Miracles Weekly this past week. There's a window of opportunity right now, and I believe the window is open wide. The truth is, the time to work on your healing is not when you're ill. The time to work on your healing is when you're healthy. That's the time to really work on your healing. The time to work on A Course in Miracles isn't when you are in the midst of a panic. That's a good time too, of course you want to do it then, but the real time that you can make great strides is when you're doing pretty well. The world is doing a little better right now, and this is a good time for us to do some healing spiritual work, because the window of opportunity is open.
Last Friday I got messages from Rev. Peter and Rev. Tedosio that they were in Oracle Park (the baseball stadium in San Francisco) because it was the first day that the baseball stadium was open. There was a public game going on, and they were watching the San Francisco Giants play. I believe the San Francisco Giants actually won that game if my research is correct (three to one) against the Colorado Rockies – who I didn't even know were a team until I looked that up, because I know very little about sports. But it was fun just to get the messages from Rev. Peter and Rev. Ted, and they were having such a good time. Rev. Ted took a picture of the hot dog he was eating at the park, and they were waving, and it was great.
Less fear, more openness, happy people – time to do work. This is the time to do important work, the current window of opportunity. This is the time to listen to guidance, and to strengthen your ability to listen to guidance. Then, in times of need you will have a strengthened ability. Then maybe you will be able to hear a bit of guidance like "investment opportunity" instead of reacting in fear the way everybody else was.
A Course in Miracles says, "He [Holy Spirit] will tell you exactly what to do to help anyone He sends to you for help and will speak to him through you if you do not interfere." (OrEd.Tx.9.28) The Holy Spirit is always with us and is always giving us the guidance that we need. If this is a window of opportunity to spread our spiritual ideas, remember the way that we strengthen them in ourselves is by sharing them with other people. Right now we're all sharing these ideas here at the Sunday Gathering. As I said earlier, Community Miracle Center has 13 other meetings and classes all during the week when you can share and strengthen these ideas. Then you will have them strong in your interactions and dealings with the people who you interact and deal with.
Every day of your lives you can identify the little moments, the little windows of opportunity, when a divine truth can be expressed. You can trust that the Holy Spirit is going to tell you exactly what to say in those moments, but I believe that we have to be open to those moments and expecting them to happen. Be expectant. Be expecting those moments to be happening now, because I think the world is eager and ripe to hear the true messages of healing, and peace, and safety, and love that we have to communicate to it. I think there's a lot that we can do right now. As A Course in Miracles says, "There is much to do, and we have been long delayed." (OrEd.T.15.112) In another place it says, "Yet while in time, there is still much to do. And each must do what is allotted him, for on his part does all the plan depend."(OrEd.Tx.25.48)
So I am just charging everybody here today, and everybody who will listen to this talk in the future, to be ready to do all that the Holy Spirit is going to call on you to do. Because, I think this is a time – now that the fear is easing – that there is this window of opportunity. We can reach people, and we can strengthen this spiritual healing truth that we embrace. We can strengthen it by sharing it with other people which, of course, strengthens it in ourselves. A Course in Miracles says, "The messages which they deliver are intended first for them. And it is only as they can accept them for themselves that they become able to bring them further and to give them everywhere that they were meant to be." (OrEd.W1.154.6) These messages that we may be giving to other people, we have to remember that first and foremost, they're for us.
It's only as we have that ability to really embrace them for ourselves that we can actually give them to the other people. I'm very aware of that. I always have been. So, I write a talk for here, and I deliver the talk. The appearance is I'm delivering a talk to other people, but obviously these are the things that I need to hear. These are the messages that are first and foremost for me. Then as a way of strengthening them, I have this amazing ability to manifest an opportunity to share them with other people. We all have that same ability. There are things that are there for us to learn right now in this window of opportunity, in this lessening of fear, and I believe we will manifest the opportunities to share these messages with other people so that we can really learn them ourselves.
I am keeping my heart open. Even though there appears to be fear out there in the world, I know that that fear isn't actually out there in the world. That fear is actually just a manifestation of my own fear. So I am willing to take part in the salvation and the healing of the world, because I want to take part in my own salvation. I'm not going to be lulled into a false complacency just because things seem to be, on the surface, a little better now. There are baseball games going on. "WooHoo!" I'm happy for that. That is something that makes me smile. I know that there is still a lot of work to do, and this time is just what A Course in Miracles calls a "truce." "Mistake not truce for peace, nor compromise for the escape from conflict." (OrEd.Tx.23.46)
The world is having a little more peace right now and a little less fear. It's a little bit of a truce, but it doesn't mean that the conflict has ended. There are new viruses that can spring up anytime. There are complications from vaccines. There are all kinds of things that will continue to happen, because none of those fixes are truly the solution. Our open heart is the solution; our love is the solution. Our forgiveness and our ability to be forgiving is the solution. I see what's going on, and I understand what my role is in it. Right now a strong societal narrative is being run by the big pharmaceutical companies. The big pharmaceutical companies have a huge investment in the narrative that we are weak, frail, and dependent upon them for our very well-being and health.
It's madness that thinks that. This whole vulnerable paradigm that is being played out, and the narrative that is being run, is madness. A Course in Miracles exposes this. Our whole life cycle, the supposed "life"cycle of human beings the way it's generally accepted is madness. The Course says, "Is it not madness to think of life as being born, aging, losing vitality, and dying in the end?"(OrEd.Mn.27.1) It's insanity to think those things. We study A Course in Miracles. We're here to give a different message. I see a lot of Miracles students still really challenged by this. As clear as passages like this are, many Miracles students are still resiting this teaching. Our vulnerability is just the dominant paradigm. I grew up in a time when we all wanted to subvert the dominant paradigm. We knew that in order to truly free our minds.
The first step in subverting it is challenging it. You just challenge it. Logically, reasonably, it doesn't make any sense. It doesn't make any sense that we were born in order to age, lose vitality, and die. We have to challenge that. I'm challenging that. Bodies do not have to be vulnerable. We do not have to be limited by our age. We do not have to progress in a debilitating way, and we do not have to die – especially not the way that it usually is played out in the world that we see. And, this is not some bizarre idea that Rev. Tony has about A Course in Miracles. This is what the book actually says. "It is the one fixed unchangeable belief in of the world that all things in it are born only to die. This is regarded as ‘the way of nature,' not to be raised to question but to be accepted as the ‘natural' law of life .... And no one asks if a benign Creator could will this."(OrEd.M.27.1)
"Benign" means gentle and kindly. So I'm going to ask, "Could a gentle and kindly creator of life have created life to go through debilitation aging, sickness, dying?" And the answer is "No." A benign creator could not have created that. It is my own madness that I'm projecting out there that is manifesting that. I am not going to support that if I can help it. I am going to work to subvert that dominant paradigm, and if that means taking on big pharma, well okay. Now, I don't want to see big pharma as evil. I don't want to see the government as evil, or bad, or guilty, or the presidential candidate that I did not vote for as bad, or guilty, or evil.
That's just more of the separation, and the separation is what we're here to subvert. That's the dominant paradigm. It's not true. It doesn't make any sense. It's not reasonable. We have to challenge it. We have to subvert it. One of the challenges that we have in doing that is that we like to see bad and evil out there, because that means that it is not us that is bad of evil and so separation is served. We're different, we're the innocent ones. The bad and evil are out there: big pharma, corrupt government, bad candidates, but that just reinforces the separation. That's not true either. A Course in Miracles tells us, "... the face of innocence ... searches for companions and it looks at times with pity and suffering and sometimes offers solace. It believes that it is good within an evil world."(OrEd.Tx.31.44) That attitude is not going to work. A lot of spiritual people still have that attitude.
They believe they're the good spiritual ones in an evil physical world. But I believe we, A Course in Miracles students, have accepted a bigger mission. We have accepted a mission that is going to challenge all of that. I believe that we have a window of opportunity right now when people are listening. We can tell them something new. We've just been through something big. We're getting out of something that has been very challenging, and very hard. It's been the worst of times in many, many ways. Now is that time to rise to a new plateau of peace, and love, and healing, and forgiveness – so that the next time of challenge, we can approach it from a higher perspective. Then maybe we can all get a message like "investment opportunity" in the midst of the next big crisis. We have to raise these things to question. We have to raise everything to question. We have to raise nature to question.
We have to keep our heart open in the midst of this world, that is reflecting fear. The way that we truly keep it open is to do what A Course in Miracle says, "question every value" (OrEd.Tx.24.2) that we have. Don't make any of them sacred. We are wholly infinite, eternal, immortal beings, and the world here can become a close reflection to that. That's what we're here to manifest. We're not here to accept, or acquiesce, to a world that tells us that we're frail, and weak, and need all these external things in order just to survive a few more years before we inevitably die anyway. That's madness. That's insanity. It's time to let that go. It's time to subvert that dominant paradigm and that goal of death. That mission will be what keeps our heart truly open.
That's my talk for today. Thank you very much. ♥
Rev. Tony Ponticello is CMC's 20th minister. He currently (02.28.22) serves as the CMC's Executive Minister and is President of CMC's 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 May 2021 (Vol. 35 No. 3) 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.