PETER VINCENT COREA 1924-2001
- MM 1956, Wollaston
- Grand Chaplain, 1997-2000
FEAST OF ST. JOHN, DECEMBER 1996
From Proceedings, Page 1996-317:
I've spoken on a number of occasions, and been part of a number of programs, and in doing so I find that one of the things that I'm almost always able to do is to find the person who is the most important person in the event that we were enjoying and to be able to say that that person deserves your unanimous applause, and that person is Arthur Johnson.
Now you have to applaud when he walks in, the Grand Master, but I'm asking you, if you feel like it, to applaud him as a very outstanding and excellent person and leader, and I'd ask you to do that now, if you feel like it.
Now, having said those nice things about him, he asked me to speak to you people, he didn't give me any instructions at all, didn't tell me how long, didn't tell me what this St. John's, St. John thing, was all about, and I had to fend for myself which I did and so here I am at five minutes of seven.
I hate clocks like that up in front of me, and I'm not sure how much time we have, but that's okay because I'm in the habit, and I have for the last 30 years or so at Emerson, I've been teaching for about 50 years, I have averaged a thousand students a year, that's 500 hundred a semester, so I'm used to a large group to talk to. Usually I talk for an hour and a half. After an hour and a half, I'll ask you how you feel.
I have to share some rather significant thoughts, however, with you. I thought, when I get through tonight I 'm going to be relieved, because I've been driving myself crazy trying to research and think about what should be said to a group of outstanding people. To scold them, to praise them, to help them, to teach them.
What am I supposed to do with a crowd of people like you who are supposed to be doing, and are doing, the most magnificent job in the world that can be done for human beings. Now you've been taking a lot of threatening stuff from a lot of people telling you how bad you are or how irrelevant you are, and I've said to myself, when I get through I will be so relieved because by far and away this will be just about the hardest audience I've ever talked to.
Now let me tell you, by the way, why 1 have a stool here, and the reason I have a stool is my legs are much older than I am, and four years ago, exactly, within about ten days of this, I was diagnosed as having congestive heart failure, and a doctor who I love deeply told me I had two weeks to live, and when I say they love me deeply I think they are looking at my pocketbook more than me.
I hope there are no doctors here who take offense at that, but at any rate I out-lasted that two weeks and this is my fourth year. However, my legs wobble a little bit, so I have to have a nice little seat that I carry around with me. It works out okay here, but at the cemetery it's hell.
Now I want to say, also, I have a problem, because the theologians and I are not in agreement. I've spent my luncheon with a couple and they all gave me advice on what I should say and do in some respect. We had a very interesting conversation about a number of things. I've been told that the last fellow to talk on this occasion spoke for seven minutes. There's no way. Another fellow said to speak for 12 minutes or 15 minutes.
As far as I was concerned, I said to myself, well, I'll see what I can do. I'll take my time, and I went to a conference like this years ago out in California and there was a professor, an excellent, outstanding professor, so at the end of the evening he was asked to speak and everyone was tired, were all full of food — by the way, you spent an hour and 40 minutes eating.
How much time have you got for spiritual food tells me what part of you will grow faster. But at any rate, they got to the end of and he got up to speak and it was late and if I recall, speaking for him, he's a real outstanding guy, I love him deeply, said "my address, if I recall, my address is 3 Manomet Avenue, Quincy, Massachusetts," and he sat down. He went all the way to California to say that.
I'm here to talk to you about this feast of Saints John or Saint John. Now 1 had panic attack all day because I noticed that the program announced, said, it was Saint John and I prepared, and by the way I have prepared and re-prepared and re-prepared for many, many times since I was told about this occasion, and I've prepared to talk to you about two Saint Johns, John the Baptist and what you call John the Evangelist.
And the reason I did that is because I saw it on the board and it said saints and I figured that you meant the two Saint Johns, John the Baptist and John who was the writer of the fourth gospel and 23rd, 24th, and 25th books of the New Testament which are also presumably his letters.
Then when Arthur Johnson told me he was a Baptist, and I'm a Congregationalism he always has the right approach to everything. I could end up a Baptist, not that I have anything against Baptists who like Masonry.
But I didn't want to have it leak out that I was a Baptist; some people would think otherwise of me. So I'm not vindicated because I can talk to you about John the Baptist. And I want to say that John the Baptist deserves a, whole lot of consideration, because he has two things that he said which were very important.
One of them, he said, was "repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand". That doesn't sound like much, you can be indifferent to that, it won't bother you much. The other one is, "if you change your mind you'll change your life". That's pretty good, change your mind and you will change your life. That by the way is the definition of freedom.
Now if you know anything about Masonry, I think you may know a little bit about one of the principles you advocate is freedom, and I cherish that. One of the reasons why you Masons cherish freedom is because your ancestors were delivered from slavery and were sold in slavery.
I did my research a little bit and I'm giving you a conclusion now which you may or may not accept. I'm not going to try to bore you by citing chapter and verse, but I did enough research to know slavery of white men was by white men, and there were some pretty powerful people who thought that it was important to fight it and, you know, slavery has not been a social issue or racial issue. The Romans captured the Greeks and made them slaves. The Romans captured the Carthaginians and made them slaves. The Egyptians captured the Jews and made them slaves. It wasn't racial. It was a power play. Well, we aren't going to worry too much about that.
John the Baptist was talking about the problem of how the world is supposed to change, and I know I'm going to get in big trouble, but I'm used to it. John the Baptist was trying to change an idea. The idea was quite simply that there was supposed to come a day when the world comes to an end. God is so mad at us, this is the idea he was trying to change, God is so mad at us he's got to replace the bad people with good people. He was appointing a king, or some kind of king, to do it. I know that doesn't match up to your theology for many of you, but the worst people I ever studied with were theologians. You'll forgive me for coming back at them, but I have a wonderful opportunity to rake them over the coals.
They are the ones who distorted the good work of religion. They have made it something which not ought to be the idea that human beings are so bad they have to be replaced, and God has to bring his own tribe in to replace us.
All of you bad people go to hell because all of you have sinned or fallen short of the glory of God, is a pretty nauseating idea. I don't know. Change and you change the world; you change and you become a part of that message. It's a very powerful thing in masonry, and God bless us that we had him say that in the first place.
So we, and by the way, the reason for our honoring John the Baptist was because you'll have to go to an historian better than I am because I'll waste time; there were four Mason groups in England and on the Saint John, John the Baptist day, they united and became a Grand Lodge, something like that, and that was the reason for it being called Saint John's Day.
But that wasn't quite enough; what they needed to do was to get ahold of somebody else, and the person they got ahold of, of course, was John the Evangelist, the writer of the first, second, and third letters of John. Now it's necessary for me to say some important things to you about him.
In the first place, I've got to surprise you in a way because I left something out, forgive me, it's against the rules for me. I've got it written down here, some writing that it's against the rules for me to talk about religion in a Masonic group. I'm supposed to mind my own business because it's your business whatever you want to believe. I say that's good, believe whatever you want to believe, but listen to me carefully. If you don't agree with what I have to say, the people sitting next to you will tell you that you're wrong. Now, what I wanted to say about Evangelist John, he was a pretty sharp guy, and he's the one who put theology before the Christian and non-Christian world, the human world. I have to say, and I don't know, again, 1 know that I have a very powerful audience, a very strong audience, a very committed audience, and I'm going to rattle some of your ideas of things, but I have very little respect for the apostles because they were a bunch of cowards.
They didn't understand Jesus, you know, when you talk about the New Testament, which most of you have done. I'll tell you about it later, but anyhow, they were a bunch of people who said they didn't understand him. They didn't know what he was talking about. They didn't know whether he made any sense or not. Read the Bible, read John — well, John didn't talk about it— Matthew, Mark, and Luke talk about it over and over again.
Jesus would tell a simple little parable and they would say, what did he mean?. These people were not very bright. Now the gospel was not spread by them. Peter denied him three times, he wouldn't have anything to do with him. Peter didn't do for Jesus what they did for him. After Jesus died, Peter did not go and tell Pontius Pilate or anybody else this guy is innocent.
Now, I think that theology tries to justify what happened there, but Peter was a hypocrite. Paul says he was a hypocrite. In the argument in Galatians, Paul said Peter was a faker, a hypocrite, the reason was he didn't get up there and say, this man is innocent, you're crucifying the wrong man, you have people who are thieves and consider them better than this man, and this man was a pretty powerful person.
Some thought of him as the son of God, and Peter didn't have the guts to stand up before him now. I wrote down in these notes somewhere that there was a person who defended Peter when he got into trouble and Peter, he got off, they didn't kill him because he hadn't defended him. I don't know how many of you have read the life of Socrates, whether Socrates was arrested and the bail was 350 drakar and he refused to do it. If he should be condemned, he wanted to be condemned, but, if anything, he wanted innocence, he didn't want to have somebody pay 350 when he was guilty. We learn that from Plato and Socrates.
So what I'm saying to you is that the gospel of John, and I'm glad that he was so chosen and the one we should be concerned with, is the gospel of John where he tells us about the very essence of what life is all about. If he were here he'd tell us, and, I hope you understand what I mean when I say that no man has ever seen God. Now that's the fourth chapter of the first letter, and he says that kind of thing all throughout the gospel.
Now I want to tell you that I accept that principle no one has ever seen God. Is that too tough to understand? Shouldn't be, because if you haven't seen God, well, how do you know there's a God, and I'm going to demonstrate to you rather briefly the way that you know that there is a God is the same way a scientist talks about energy.
Took a course with a professor of physics one time. He talked about energy. He said energy manifests itself in many different ways. It manifests itself as heat, it manifests itself as light, it manifests itself as electricity, it manifests itself as a mechanical field of force, it manifests itself in atomic energy.
All that kind of means is everything is relative to everything else, but it's all energy. There's just one kind of stuff in the universe, energy. Einstein was a very smart guy. I asked my professor, Professor Doyle M. Fry, great guy, I said to him what is energy? He said "we don't know". Now I want to prove to you that there is a God in this universe. You can love using that same kind of argument. God's universe manifests itself as heat, as light, all the rest of those things, but it also manifests itself as intelligence, as full of beauty, full of hope, full of reason, full of understanding, full of justice, full of truth, full of love, but you don't find it in anything that scientists study.
Scientists study space and time. Space and time is stuff you see. God is not seeable, the Old Testament said. The New Testament says, John says, you want to believe in something meaningful and worthwhile. Think about it.
Now where do you find it if you don't find it in what you see? Now I know some of you start getting sour pussed, somebody saw God here and somebody saw him there. I don't know how I'm going to handle that, but I'm going to say to you that how you find God is to understand human beings.
Now I told a group of Masons not too long ago that one of the most powerful statements in the Bible is right in the first chapter. I have a whole lot of witnesses here, but a man came to my door because he wanted to convert, and here I am, a clergyman and a professor, and God knows what he's trying to tell me, he's going to, he wants to teach me the Bible, tell me what the first four words are and I'll go along with you. It says, "in the beginning God".
Now in the beginning God, the word they have there for God, I have it written down here, comes from the word that means to breathe in Latin, spire means to breathe. Well, the word God in the beginning eloheim created the heavens and the earth. The word God means creator or supreme power. I don't care what you call it. The word means create and power. Create is what I'm talking about. Now where do you find it? Who said it? Who? Human beings, God bless you, we'll ordain you into the ministry. Human beings is where you find it. So when John says that God is in you, that's what he's talking about. The evidence for God is in you. God's word will, create, power, whatever you want to call it. I don't want to get into an argument. I did enough research to know, and I've been living with it for a number of years, the word, and it's a three-letter word that we're looking at, in the beginning, a three-letter word, and the three letters God, I'm going the tell you there are two words that mean that; one is God, G-O-D, that is the Latin-Germanic word and so forth. In Latin, you know, we've named the calendar, January, February, March April, May, June, July and August. You want to think about memory loss. Whenever anyone tells you're getting older and you get memory loss, tell them what I just told you, you just tell them you're not getting old, you got a lot more to remember than other people. Anyhow, the word God, that word there is spelled G-O-D. It's also spelled Y-O-U, because that's where the evidence is.
If there were none of you around, where would the idea of God be? Trees don't have it, mountains don't have it, oceans don't have it. I had a professor years ago, Maury Schwartz, who felt that he wanted to soak in the universe. As he was going by it, I thought he was a little out of his place being psychology oriented, but he said I want to take it with me. He had been diagnosed as having cancer. I want to take it with me, all of this energy of the universe. God made man in his image. If that isn't the most powerful statement you ever heard. You are the only evidence that there is a God.
There are stars out there poking around, hundreds of millions of them. God knows how many, some of them on fire burning at hundreds of thousands of degrees. If you were that universe, tell me how you would be watching your fires burning out there. God created human beings as an evidence of all the things that human beings represent.
Now I got eight pages, but I'm not going to give them to you. Let me illustrate what I'm talking about, then we'll call it a day. What is the most important thing about God, what is the most important thing about human beings? The most important thing about God and the most important thing about human beings has to be the issue of love.
Now my friend didn't believe in God, didn't believe in anything at all, but having seen the television, he started to think about what he was doing. Now I sort of sympathize with him, because I got a two-week sentence on my life and he got a six-month sentence on his. I'll tell you what it does to you; it makes you reexamine your priorities. You really think about who your friends are. You really think about what it means to live. You really think about what intelligence is and what love is. I'll illustrate it this way. On May 8, 1934,1 was in the sixth grade, I was ten years old and my sister came into the classroom. I was in the sixth grade, Minot School, when she came in, I was sitting there, drawing, you know, with chalk and a paint brush, all that stuff, and my sister told me that my father had been run over by a truck, and so we all had to go to where he was, and he was up at the Choate Hospital. My mother watched him die. She had watched the truck run over him. Now 1 watched him die, and I was ten years old, and I listened to the whole thing, and to make a long story short, the day before I was ten years old my father owned all kinds of construction equipment. He showed me how to use one of the pieces. I made a mess of it. I got the cable all wrapped up on the drum and so forth. He said to me when you get in there, you run these the way.
Now the problem here, and 1 think I better terminate what I'm saying here to you in a few seconds, but the problem here is that most of us are so indifferent, we are indifferent to the truth, we're indifferent to things that will change the world. I have that Maury Schwartz when he found out that he was dying, I have statements that he made here that I'd like to share, but I'm not going to. Now, I was going to ask how many of you have children, and all the rest of that, to explain the fact that Masonry has a problem in terms of a number of things. Jesus said, "where two or three of you are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them". The gospel of John says so very nicely. Jeremiah says there isn't a place in the world that these things aren't important. The theologians have totally screwed up the nature of religion. It's a terrible thing for me to say that, and turn this over and you ought to wake up to the fact the theologians have created our creeds, and our creeds have something to say about what's important in religion.
You people believe I am not supposed to talk about religion, Masons aren't allowed. You can think so. Please think what you want to, but on the other hand let me suggest to you the fact that love is the most important thing. It changes life.
A doctor who loves his patient will change that patient. A doctor who is a psychiatrist who loves a person who has had a death in his family will love that person and enough to find out they had a death in their family, and won't rush to give them Prozac, you know, that's a shortcut that should never be done.
I have worked for 11 years with a woman who was depressed one day and the doctor only saw her for five minutes, and I spent the first day, I spent two and a half hours with her. I found out that day her depression started, it was not depression you can treat with Prozac or Prolixin or something of that nature, it was something you deal with by understanding the problem of death and of dying. Her husband died, and within two days she is in depression, three days she's got Prozac in her body. I tell people if you really want to take something, take something we know about the side effects, take a good shot of Puerto Rican rum.
Now, I want to solve one of your problems here in the minute and a half 1 designated for myself five minutes ago. I want you people to leave this room tonight believing in immortality. I know you talk about it. I know you make believe you believe in it, and you got 500,000 different reasons for believing that it isn't much of a thing to talk about or argue. I agreed not to talk about because it's so very real.
When they asked Jesus about the question of immortality, quoted, if you will, I got to get that thing to you because it is so important, he quoted Moses, he says Moses said, quote, God, Moses was allowed to speak for God, he had the inside track which is very good.
I like these people who get the inside track with God and tell us. He said Moses, "I am the God of Abraham, the God of Jacob", and Jesus looked at that and he said, "God is not the God of the dead, he's the God of the living, you are quite wrong". What a simple little statement.
None of you dies. You got on this thing here that a person was born and he died, that's okay, but it's wrong. A friend of mine who was president of the South Shore National Bank for many years, a nice guy. What he wanted to say on his grave stone, he was born and he has the date, I don't remember the date, and then underneath he says, promoted and the date. That's right, he didn't die.
None of you dies. God is not the God of dead people; he is also not the God of sleeping people. Do you understand that? You put a guy in a casket, you put his hands over his body, and say "doesn't he look wonderful sleeping". You give the impression dead people are sleeping.
I have said on a number of occasions that approximately 50 billion people have lived on this planet; number one, are you going to tell me that the God of love, the God of creative power, of intelligence, of rationality can do two things, one of the things, he kills the people. If he didn't kill them to watch them rot in hell forever.
What kind of theology is that? Get it out of the creeds, get it out of religion. God didn't want people to burn in hell forever. You're making him a masochist and sadist.
Make him into the God of love that he is; and so I'm simply telling you, all of you, you're not going to die. That's a very powerful thing. It helps you to do everything, to solve the problem of evil, why good people suffer, you know, that's an important thing for you to give consideration. Then why do good people suffer? Well, they don't suffer forever, you see.
And remember that when Jesus was hanging from the cross, put yourselves in that position and tell me what you would say. He says, father, forgive them, for they know not what they do. The problem of this world is stupidity; we kill people who do not deserve it.
I'll tell you one more thing; please, if you really start to believe in, I mean think about it right now, you all live more, every one of you will say I'm not going to deal with the problem. I want to make you think about it. Don't be afraid of what Maury Schwartz says. If you really think about living with dignity and self-respect, you will die with dignity and receive respect. In fact, you don't even die, you will live forever.
I have a little six-year-old year kid who is diagnosed dyslexic, and I put my arm around the little kid and whispered in his ear; I said, don't let anyone ever rob from you your dignity and self-respect, a little six-year-old. He understood me.
I had a woman; I went to a wake a few days ago, and I put my arm around her, and she was crying for the death of her father and I whispered in her ear, by the way we need to do what Lisa Discalia told us to do, hug each other. I hugged her and said you're a wonderful woman, you've been a good daughter; don't let anybody ever rob you of your dignity or self-respect. I say that to every one of you, I'd like to whisper that into all your ears that the nature of love, you know, everyone who depicts it has depicted it as hugging, a beautiful touching relationship, and Murray Schwartz says that we haven't got the guts to do it. Do it right now. All of you who are Masons, you believe, you believe in these things I've just mentioned that I've taken right out of the scripture, if you don't get mad, keep holding on to those things. It's going to win. You know Jesus looked at the temple and he says, you know, these things are going to disappear.
I got to tell you what my son says to me. My son is a geologist. He studies holes in the ground; he digs deep holes and he finds out whether there's oil or whatever is in them; okay, he works for Chevron Oil company, nice outfit. You want to know something, one of these years there ain't going to be any oil, we're going to use it all up. Practically speaking, well, the whole word isn't going to have any. Now tell me what you're going to do. You better think, I mean morally, and prepare that the ground we're on gets properly put together and properly lived with and lived on. You don't decide because you live immorally to hasten the process. You don't go through grad school by skipping undergraduate school.
This is where God exists, right here in this place with all of us. We're having to learn how to live, and you don't live in space and time where you can't, you can't be seen. I want to tell you about it. If you're a sinner and a whole bunch of other things, but I'm telling you what you don't see in you is more than that what you did see. What is the worst thing, the only person who sees who you really are is yourself.
Do you understand that nobody sees you, nobody sees me, you see my body that's going to get buried. I said from the church that I was going to prove to everyone the reality of what I'm saying and I'll shock you, too, because it shocked me. I'm going to get put into my casket naked; doesn't it touch you? The reason being, I came in naked and I'm going out naked and there's nothing of this world I can take with me physically.
Well, it turned everyone off, it turns you people off. I won't be a joy to see me naked, but on the other hand it tells a message. The message is that you are the only person who knows what you are; you see yourself, you know who you love and who loves you and the contents of your own being. You know what freedom means, control yourself, all the good of that. Well, I say to you, and I'm saying it very soothingly and very forcefully, that it is significant for you to self-actualize yourself. If you change yourself, you'll change the world. You can advertise it, you can do everything you can. You got big competition out there. I'm teaching students, and I had a student, Henry Winkler, and I told him one thing he believes, I said don't compete with anybody except yourself. I say that to you people; don't go competing with anybody else; compete with yourself with what you were yesterday; become better today; what you are today, become better tomorrow, because if you compete with somebody, you mimic them, you become like them. You only need one of these. God may reach each one of you differently. Don't become anybody but yourself. Be yourself is all it is.
Thank you, God bless you. I want to say to you that the commitment to us is in all religions. Love God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, all your strength, and your neighbor as yourself, and let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good work, and give glory to your father who is in heaven, and you'll be there, too.