On Sunday August 29, 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.
Hello, everybody. Thank you for being here. So nice to have this opportunity. The title of my talk today is "The Correction of the Weary." That was inspired by a quotation from A Course in Miracles. It says, "Look about the world, and see the suffering there. Is not your heart willing to bring your weary brothers rest?"(OrEd.WkBk.191.12) Okay. That's a question. Let's for a moment decide that it's not a rhetorical question. It's a question that we should actually answer. So, "Yes, my heart is willing to bring my weary brothers rest." Here's my heart. (Rev. Tony's holds a "heart emoji stick" in front of the camera.) Usually, A Course in Miracles students like to focus on the positive, and there's certainly a lot in the Course about that. I like to do that too, but today I'm going to do something a little different.
Occasionally, A Course in Miracles tells us that we have to see the pain of the world. We have to see the troubling appearances. Many people don't like that, because they consider metaphysics to be looking at the positive. I appreciate that, but the A Course in Miracles process is a little bit different. I am reminded of the fact that Jesus, during his life – at least in the stories which come down from the Bible – he did see the pain of the world. He did acknowledge it. That's why he had compassion. That was one of the reasons why so many people connected with him. It was because he actually did show them compassion. Natalie, who works in the office with me, chooses the pictures that we use on the Sunday program, and in the announcements. (Rev. Tony holds up the Sunday Program. It contains the picture seen on the cover of this *Miracles Monthly*.) She chose this picture, which I really love. It's a great painting of the woman who had such faith – yet was so weary – but all she wanted to do was to touch Jesus's robe. She knew that if she just touched his robe, that would be enough, and that she would be healed. That's what she did.
Jesus was aware that somebody had touched his robe. He felt the energy exchange. The woman was weary. The world is weary, and I've been a little weary. The Course uses that word. Here's another place. "Yet it is time alone that winds on wearily, and the world is very tired now. It is old and worn and without hope. There was never a question of outcome, for what can change the Will of God? But time, with its illusions of change and death, wears out the world and all things in it." (OrEd.Mn.1.14) I've been aware of looking about the world and seeing the weariness lately.
Okay, "weary," what does "weary" actually mean? Let's look it up in the dictionary, one of my favorite things to do. "Weary: feeling or showing tiredness, especially as a result of excessive exertion or lack of sleep, reluctant to see or experience anymore of it. Tired of it." Okay – weary, after excessive exertion. A couple of weeks ago I was walking down the street. For those of you who live in San Francisco you know, but those of you who don't live in San Francisco – you probably still know, because it's a big news story. We have a very bad homeless problem here. Many cities have bad homeless problems, but San Francisco in particular has a bad homeless problem.
I was walking down the street, and there was a man, probably about 60 years old, who was defecating right on the street, right off the curb. It was hard to look at, and I didn't want to stare at it, for sure. It was a little sad. I felt sad for the man, and I felt sad for the city. I felt sad for all the homeless, and just sad for the situation in our society. I thought about how sad it would be to not have a bathroom, that there are people who don't have a bathroom. That felt sad to me. The weariness of it all registered in my consciousness. The weariness of the homeless situation and how it just has gotten worse, and worse, and worse for the past 20 plus years here in San Francisco. Certainly the pandemic didn't help. It made it even worse.
A Course in Miracles says, "He seems a sorry figure – weary ..." There's that word "weary" again, "... weary worn, in threadbare clothing, and with feet that bleed a little from the rocky road he walks. No one but has identified with him, for everyone who comes here has pursued the path he follows and has felt defeat and hopelessness, as he is feeling them." (OrEd.WkBk.166.6) I felt the defeat and the hopelessness in this sad man who had to go to the bathroom right on the street. I felt, as I said, sad for my city of San Francisco, and I also felt sad that the city never seems to muster up the political will to do anything about it – anything effective about it. San Francisco is just not doing anything effective about it.
I'm aware, because I am well read, that there are cities that have way more effectively dealt with their homeless problems. Houston, Texas comes to mind. Houston, Texas, has had a 54% reduction of homelessness since 2011. In the last decade, over a period of a couple of different mayors, Houston has had a 54% reduction in homelessness, and it is becoming a model city in terms of what other governments could do. I'm not going to get into everything that Houston has done, I'm not an expert on it, but I know they have done several things. I've read about this. There are programs that work. They're certainly working in Houston, and we're not doing anything like those here in San Francisco. We could, but we have to develop the political will, and it's getting weary. It's getting weary to witness. We have been putting up with it for a long time, and it just keeps getting progressively worse.
In that quotation from Workbook lesson #191 that I started the talk with, it said, "Look about the world, and see the suffering there. Is not your heart willing to bring your weary brothers rest?"(OrEd.WkBk.191.12) The next line states this. "They must await your own release. They stay in chains till you are free." Till you are free. "They suffer pain until you have denied its hold on you. They die till you accept your own eternal life."(OrEd.WkBk.191.13) Freedom is all tied up with this, and there is nothing more wearying than not having freedom – nothing is more wearying than not having freedom. This caused me this past week to truly look at some things, to look at how am I not free, and how am I participating in that lack of freedom? Maybe just how am I accepting that lack of freedom? This is challenging me to do something about it.
Remember, I talked last week about "Do something." "Do something!" So, I'm doing something about it. This past week I've had to make some choices. This past week, I was really aware that my freedoms were being taken away. I can no longer eat inside restaurants in San Francisco. I can no longer go to a gym in San Francisco. I can no longer go to a movie theater in San Francisco. I don't have the proper papers to show them. Now, I don't really mind eating outdoors, mostly. The weather's fairly temperate in San Francisco. The restaurants don't particularly embarrass you. They usually ask you things like, "Would you like to seat indoors or outdoors?" Then you say, "Well, I'll seat outdoors." Then they seat you outdoors. It's not particularly embarrassing.
Then during this past week, after I had done that a couple of times, and I looked around, I was quite aware that this was segregation. We are segregating a certain segment of the population because of the same reason we segregated African-Americans for decades. It was because there was a belief that being around them too close, in the wrong situations, would be unhealthy. We believed African-Americans had diseases and they needed to be separate. They needed their own sections of the restaurant. They needed their own sections on the bus. They needed there own bathrooms. Today, people forget that. People forget why we segregated. Health and safety was the justification and the reason for all of that. That was because African-Americans were believed to be health risks. I'm here to remind people of that today.
There's the same thing going on right now. We are segregating healthy people. I'm a healthy person. We are segregating healthy people because of a belief that those healthy people somehow pose a risk to the rest of the people's health. It's just like what went on with the racism problem. Now, I know that for many Liberals it would be an anathema for them to think that they were doing something that was racist. They hate racism. I like that word "anathema." If you don't know what it means, it means, "something or someone that one vehemently dislikes," something or someone that you vehemently dislike. Most of my Liberal friends – and I considered myself to be a Liberal most of my life – most of my Liberal friends vehemently dislike racism, vehemently dislike segregation. Yet I see more and more of them aligning themselves up with the same policies that segregated black people – for the exact same reasons!
I think, "Did we learn nothing from history?" As I sit outside, I've thought, "I'm sitting in the ‘colored section,' and the white people are inside, but I can't sit there." That's lack of freedom, and nothing is more wearying than lack of freedom. I need to do something about it. That's what I'm talking about. I've also been pressured. I've been pressured a lot by friends, colleagues, other A Course in Miracles students, to get vaccinated. The projection I get is that I'm uninformed, or that I'm naive, or that perhaps I'm just listening to dangerous, Conservative, political propaganda. I just really don't know what I am doing. This is more of demonizing the other side. The Liberals demonize the Conservatives; the Conservatives demonize the Liberals. Everybody demonizes the other side. Somehow, not getting vaccinated has now become a Conservative thing. It's Conservative politically.
I think my Liberal friends are forgetting that the reason we have vaccines, and we got them so fast, was because of President Trump. I mean, he was the one who fast tracked the whole vaccination program and made it happen so much faster than it would have ever happened otherwise. It was called "Operation Warp Speed." President Trump was the one promoting vaccines for months, and months, and months. He looked at them as our great savior. Now, all of a sudden, the Liberals have embraced vaccines. I think they forgot it was President Trump that was the champion for vaccines. The truth is, I really don't appreciate the pressure to get vaccinated. I don't appreciate the implication that I'm not intelligent enough, or too naive, or not informed enough, or just seduced by Conservative ideologies.
I'm asking all of you, whomever might have that tendency, please don't do that. Please don't pressure other people, me or anybody else, to do things and imply that we are somehow uninformed, or unintelligent, or just seduced by Conservative ideologies, or whatever ideologies. As Bob Newhart said in that famous TV episode, "Stop that!" Just stop that. Would you please respect people's choices? Would you please respect my choices? I want to take a moment and just remind people – maybe you don't know, but if you do know I want to remind you – I have a Bachelor of Science from Cornell University, which is a prestigious Eastern, Ivy League university. I have a real high IQ. Every time I get tested, it's pretty high. I was trained as a scientist, and I know how to read scientific papers. I have read many scientific studies on vaccination.
Nobody has to agree with me. I'm not pressuring anybody to agree with me. I respect everybody's right to get vaccinated if they want to get vaccinated. But I have gotten the guidance and made my choice after being very well-informed to not get vaccinated. Would you please respect that? Would you respect my freedom, respect other people's freedoms? I respect people's freedoms. I respect people's freedom to get vaccinated if they want to. I respect that it's available, and people should do what they feel guided to do. I feel guided not to. Please respect that, and respect the other people who feel guided not to. Don't shame them, or coerce them, or pressure them.
In that reading that our reader read so well today it said, "You have heard many arguments on behalf of ‘the freedoms,' which would indeed have been freedom if man had not chosen to fight for them. That is why they perceive ‘the freedoms' as many instead of as one. Yet the argument that underlies the defense of freedom is perfectly valid. Because it is true, it should not be fought for, but it should be sided with." (OrEd.Tx.7.11) Okay. We don't fight for freedom. That's slipping over into the class="Apple-converted-space"> ego's territory, but we should side with freedom. A Course in Miracles students should be siding with freedom, and the correction for the weariness of the world is siding with freedom, because not having freedom is very, very wearying.
When I was a young man and a teenager, Jesus Christ Superstar was very popular. Actually, Jesus Christ Superstar is touring again, so it's still popular. I loved Jesus Christ Superstar. I loved it. I've seen the play many, many times, and the movie, of course, many times – wonderful theatrical productions. I'm always inspired by Jesus Christ Superstar. In Jesus Christ Superstar, Jesus, the character of Jesus, sings a lament in the Garden of Gethsemane right before he gets taken away. The name of the song is "Gethsemane." He's pleading with God not to have to go through this. He's talking about his ministry, and about when he started (these are the lyrics) "Then I was inspired, now I'm sad and tired." He's weary. "Listen, surely I've exceeded expectations. I tried for three years, seems like 30." So, he's lamenting on his three year ministry that it just hasn't had enough effect. It just hasn't produced the results he hoped, and he's weary.
By a factor of 10, his three years seem like 30. So, if I was to sing this song, I would have to say, "I tried for 35 years." If I'm multiplying it by a factor of 10, it seems like 350 years. It seems like 350, and we don't know to side with freedom yet? Come on! Later in the song, towards the end of the song, Jesus sings, "I tried for three years, seems like 90." Okay, now it's increased to a factor of 30. So, I've tried for 35 years, seems like 1,050. It seems like a millennia, and we don't know to side with freedom? We miracle students don't know to side with freedom? We are pressuring people to do things they are not guided to do. We are trying to guilt, and shame, and coerce them to do things. Where's the siding with freedom?
The Course also says this about freedom. "Those who are against freedom believe that the outcome will hurt them, which cannot be true. But those who are for freedom, even if they are misguided in how they defend it, are siding with the one thing in this world which is true." (OrEd.Tx.7.12) I'm siding with freedom today. Maybe I'm misguided in how I'm doing it, but I am siding with the one thing that definitely is true. If you somehow think that limiting people's freedoms is the solution – that can't be true. I have stood for freedom my whole ministry. I stood for relationship freedom. I stood for sexual freedom, and I will continue to side with freedom. I side with everybody's freedom to get vaccinated if they believe vaccination will help them.
I will definitely side with that. If you believe now, as they're saying, that another booster shot, after you've already had two, is going to help you, I will side with your freedom to get that third booster shot. In six months, when they tell you another booster shot is needed, I will side with your freedom to get that fourth booster shot, and then that fifth booster shot, and then that sixth booster shot. If sometime you feel like you've had enough, I'm here for you to have another conversation with you. Until then, you are free to do whatever you feel you want to do. You know, the vaccinations don't always work. One of our members, a friend and a teacher, Jon Mundy (most of you know who Jon Mundy is) he just got out of the hospital after more than two weeks, incredibly sick with Covid19. His doctor has told him, "You are lucky to be alive." He just got off oxygen. He's lost a tremendous amount of weight. He's very frail, but he's getting better. One of the reasons he's getting better is because he's been on our prayer healing list for the past month, and we've been praying for him. So, we're happy that you're getting better, Jon. Jon was fully vaccinated.
Reverend Jesse Jackson is currently in the hospital very ill, also fully vaccinated. The vaccinations don't always work. Why do you think they want you to get a booster? Because the vaccinations aren't working as well as they had hoped. What we were told – vaccination was going to bring us back to normalcy – hasn't particularly worked, but that's okay. Things in the world sometimes don't work. Get vaccinated if you want to. But stop the coercion, and the pressure, and the projecting of shame and guilt. Look at history. Please learn from history.
When in the history of the world were the people who were forcing people to do something, coercing people to do something, and pressuring people to do something, when were they ever the "good guys?" Never! It is never the good guys that pressure, cajole, shame, and guilt people into doing things. We A Course in Miracles students should really know better. I've tried for 35 years to get people to know better, and I'm going to continue to try, because that's my ministry, that's my job, that's my passion, and that's my life. We should be siding with freedom. The correction for the weariness of the world is to side with freedom, and let people be free. My Liberal friends know this; my Conservative friends know this. We all know this. Let's start doing it. That's my talk for today. Thank you for listening. ♥
Rev. Tony Ponticello is CMC's 20th minister. He currently (05.10.22) 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 September 2021 (Vol. 35 No. 7) 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.