“L.A.’s in California, Lord /I been there many times/It is an education to be sure…”
They had been walking for what seemed to be miles, even though it was just far enough to hide the cabin. Michael had just witnessed Patrick passing his immortal mission on to Harkiss and David. He had witnessed the fall of Satan and the revelation that Satan and Lucifer were, indeed, two separate demonic presences. Now, his head was swimming as he walked with Patrick to who-knows-where.
“Ye know that ye cannae go back now,” Patrick began, “not to California. Ye have to stay here and take the preacher’s mantle. The one I am leaving behind.”
“What do you mean?” Michael had suddenly been pulled out of his thoughts. “I have to get back to my flock in California.”
“No,” Patrick shook his head, “you don’t. You are needed here. Besides, there is a letter of transfer coming to your sister’s home. For some strange reason it was diverted here. The new priest for the church you were over is already on his way and may already arrived there.” Patrick stopped and turned to Michael. “You need to realize that this is not a negotiable contract. You were sent back here to finish what was started. I cannae do it. I am old. Too old. I need to be allowed to leave this life. Believe me. I have lived way too long as it is. Between you and your brothers, you can guard the gate and make sure no one else opens it for as long as you can.”
“But what of all the prayer?” Michael objected.
“Don’t you get it, yet, Michael?” Patrick frowned. “Prayer has become meaningless. All it is now is nothing more than the wishlists of selfish children who have missed the whole point of prayer. Even the most well-meaning prayer has become nothing but selfish desires and attempts to control what the Father does here on earth.
“We have lost sight of the truth. And with our loss of sight, we have strayed from the path. Lucifer has made sure of that from the very moment he convinced a lazy, apathetic scribe to condense down the books that became Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers so that the histories held in those books were reduced to nothing more than allegory legends.
“Don’t get me wrong, there is still truth there, just not a complete truth. It was distilled and distorted. Completely convoluted. For all intents and purposes, it is incomplete at best. Even I know this, and I was a priest a long time before most of the modern distortions got thrown in for flavor. Now, we have to return to the path as part of the creation.
“We have to return to the underlying message of all that Christ brought to us. Believe it or not, it was the same message given to Mohammed, but soon seen as a weapon of conquest. Just as Christianity had. All Lucifer’s doing, of course. But man has never needed much of a nudge to do most of what he has done.”
Michael bowed his head. this was a hard truth to swallow. Man was no closer to salvation than he had been when Christ was crucified. Prayer was basically meaningless, meant to make the doer feel good and expect something that was not for them to expect. It was all enough to make a man walk away from all belief.
“Don’t let it strip you of your faith, Michael,” the Irishman continued, “but rather search your soul for the undeniable truth. The underlying path of the three major systems of beliefs, the ones that have become religions and ceased being faiths or ways of life, If unconditional love for one’s neighbors and enemies because, in the eyes of God, we are all brothers no matter what we believe. Unconditional love cannot abide hate, greed, or any of the traits popular Christianity, Judaism, and Islam have accepted into their doctrines.
“Man wastes his time hating his fellow man, chasing earthly treasures, and judging and condemning others for not being exactly like him. He hides from the fact that those around him are mirrors of his own soul, showing him what needs to be fixed in his own lifestyle and thoughts, preferring to believe that his mission is to fix those around him…when it really isn’t.
“You cannot fix what is wrong around you without first fixing what is wrong inside you. Once you fix that, then what was around you seems to disappear simply because it is not a part of you. The world isn’t as evil as we perceive it, it is our perception that is evil. Our hearts darken what we see because it is what we are but projected onto others.”
“Then,” Michael began, stunned but still thinking through it all, “What is the use in remaining a part of church or a priest at all?”
“Michael,” The Irishman said, smiling sadly, “Someone has to remain a witness and an example. Besides. They need teachers who know the truth and aren’t guessing or placing their own meaning to the clues. They need men like you and I.
“Did you ever ask yourself why, of all families, yours was picked to wield the powers you have? Have you ever asked yourself why so many have begun to fall from the embrace of the mainstream and make the decision to return to the roots of all belief? I believe you call them pagans, wiccans, witches, and so on.”
“I had always thought of my family’s power as a curse,” Michael replied, “and that those you mentioned were losing their religion because they had never really had it.”
Patrick shook his head in dismay. “No, Michael. Your powers were never a curse. They were a gift meant to guide you in the way you were to go. And those people have always had faith, even when the rest of the world has lost faith and replaced it with religion. And, no, religion and faith are not the same. You can be religious, but not have faith. Just as you can have faith, but not be religious. You see, faith is not placed in a physical. It is a spiritual thing. It cannot abide physical expectations. Religion, on the other hand, tends to be based upon the seen and the self.
“Those leaving the fold of religion are returning to faith. They have realized exactly what I have just told you. The need, now, is for someone who can lead a church out of the grasp of the physical and back into the faith, the spirit. Remember. The commands of the Old Testament led only to death. That is the principle that the followers of the precepts of popular Christianity have forgotten. The laws damned us all, not just those who didn’t follow them. Christ came and lifted the condemnation, giving us the grace of the Father which forgives all.
“It isn’t salvation for some, and damnation for others. It is not Christians ruling, oppressing those who are not. The law was done away with, replaced by the grace factor. The rigid ‘must-follow’ dogma was replaced by a dogma of choice, forgiveness, understanding, and unconditional love that emits kindness, generosity without expectation, willingness to suffer for belief’s sake, and the inability to judge or condemn those around us. Does this mean we have to like what they do? No. It just means that we do not stand in their way through judgment or condemnation of their lives.”