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On October 1, 2017, Rev. Tony Ponticello gave a talk to those assembled at the Community Miracles Center Sunday Gathering in San Francisco, California. Below is a lightly edited transcription of that talk. 

Empty ClassroomWelcome back everybody! Thank you so much for joining us again. Welcome everybody who is listening on ACIM Gather and also now welcome everybody who is watching this video on YouTube. Thank you so much for watching our YouTube videos. Please subscribe to our YouTube channel and watch all of our videos lovingly prepared by our wonderful and talented Assistant Minister Reverend Kelly. 

The title of my talk today is “Is the Time of Learning Over?” We should be asking ourselves that question, but before I talk about that, I want to talk about garbage.

I want to talk about garbage because I have something I need to learn about garbage. I have something about garbage that I just haven’t learned, because it keeps manifesting in my life. I mean literal garbage and garbage cans. For some reason, I have this thing about garbage cans. I could tell the very long story about it. When we were at 2269 Market Street, it was an on-going challenge. I had to bring the garbage down our 20 step stairway every week.  Sometimes the cans were really heavy, and then I got to bring the big garbage cans back up the 20 steps the next morning. Also, because the garbage cans were there on Market Street,  (Market Street in the busy main street of San Francisco) people just threw all kinds of crap in them. So I would have to clean them out because otherwise they would smell. 

I got all kinds of stuff about garbage. I have it at my home right now. I have it in our new location for the Community Miracles Center (CMC) office on Union Street. I was thinking maybe the garbage situation was going to get better on Union Street. No! It’s been worse, because the office is in a building that shares space with a restaurant and a juice shop. They generate a tremendous amount of garbage, and they don’t have very good garbage etiquette. Things end up in the wrong cans. Gooey, ugly, food stuff gets spilled in cans without anyone ever cleaning it. It’s not in a container or a bag. Our door is right near the garbage shed, which means we smell it. 

The other tenants in the building tend not to bring the garbage cans back down. We walk right past them to get down to our place. Also if this wasn’t going to get worse, and it is going to get worse, where the new office is, it is right next to the rowdiest, trashiest bar that you can possibly imagine. Late on Saturday night there are drunks everywhere. We are right around the corner and our door is in the first little alcove of the street. The drunks love to just come around the corner and vomit there. Sometimes they aim for the trash can and miss, so it’s on the outside of the trash can too. It’s really awful; it’s really disgusting. It’s always, somehow, up to me to clean it. I don’t quite understand this. Of course, nobody wants to do it.

I walk by the vomit to get to my office door. I remember something that I learned at an old EST seminar 30 plus years ago. I remember the teacher of the seminar talking about some place that he was living. He said it was near a creek bed and one day he saw that somebody had thrown some garbage there on the creek bed very near to his house. Every day he walked by it and he kept saying to himself, “Who’s gonna clean that up?” Then he would walk by it again the next day, “Who’s gonna clean that up?” And then again … then about by the seventh day he got his answer. He was going to clean it up. The answer was “Oh, I am going to clean it up.” Then the only question there is, is “When? When am I gonna clean it up?”

Right now, even at my home, I don’t know if Reverend Peter has seen it (Rev. Peter and Rev. Tony live in the same shared apartment), but on the side of our house somebody defecated there. It is smeared around. They must have been squatting and leaning up against the house. It’s smeared all down the house and on the sidewalk. I’ve been walking by that for about a week now just hoping somebody else would clean it up. I know they’re not going to. So it’s going to be me. 

I don’t understand this, but this is my question. “What is it with me and garbage?” I don’t quite get it, but I’ve got something karmic with garbage. What I realize now, though, is that it’s my job, It is part of my special function. I’m here to clean up the garbage, and the shit, and the vomit of the world because that’s just what I do. I want things to look nice. I want my living situation to look nice. I want my office to look nice. I want my home to look nice. I don’t want my home and office to smell bad. 

I think of this quote. “Child of God, you were created to create the good, the beautiful, and the holy. Do not lose sight of this.” (OrEd.Tx.1.105) So I just surrender into that special function. There is nothing really more that I believe I have to learn about it except to just ask myself the question “When am I gonna clean this?” And the sooner the better. Otherwise it’s just going to bother me. Countless people are going to walk by and they won’t even see it, but I see it. It’s my special function. There’s nothing more for me to learn about gargage. The time of my learning anything more about the garbage is actually over. The only thing to learn about it is what I was told at the EST seminar 30 plus years ago, “When? When? Well, how about now? Maybe now would be a good time?” 

Is the time of learning over? I’ve been studying A Course of Love along with A Course in Miracles for a year now. This is one of the themes in A Course of Love – that the time of learning is over. We are to now just assume our “Christed” nature, be the Christ, and let go of the old way of learning. If you look at your program, Rev. Kelly found an amazing illustration for the front. There’s nothing on the blackboard anymore. There’s nothing. The teacher isn’t writing anything on the blackboard. The time for learning now is over. 

A Course of Love actually says the time of the Holy Spirit is also over. The Holy Spirit in A Course of Love is the intermediary that we use to learn. If we’re truly going to assume our “Christed” nature, we need to shift our focus. We don’t need an intermediary anymore. We should be able to directly access wisdom ourselves from the Divine. We can be the Christ. We can bless every act that we do. There’s nothing on the blackboard. We don’t need the intermediary, as I said. It is the time of Christ.

One of the things that I like to talk about a lot – and I still am going to talk about because I still see a lot of people making this confusion in their mind – is when A Course in Miracles talks about “Christ” it doesn’t mean Jesus. It doesn’t exclude Jesus, but when the Course says “the time of Christ” it doesn’t mean “the time of Jesus.” When it talks about “Christ’s second coming,” it doesn’t mean “Jesus’ second coming.” Especially when it says “seeing the face of Christ,” it doesn’t mean, “seeing the face of Jesus.”

I thought that for many years of my life. I’d heard “See the face of Christ” in traditional Christian environments for years. I actually thought it meant that somehow I was going to see Jesus looking back at me when I looked at other people. I always got a little confused about this. What I realized after a while from A Course in Miracles is that is not what it means. It means I’m going to see the perfected holy Child of God when I look upon people. I’m going to see their “Christed” nature. I’m going to see the Christ, and it isn’t Jesus. It’s the Christ, and Jesus of course is the Christ as well. I really need to just be vigilant about that and not just use those words interchangeably. They’re not used interchangeably in A Course in Miracles. Jesus is Jesus, and the Christ is Christ. They’re used in different ways. I think we Course students could get that but I still see people with tremendous resistance about getting this pretty basic teaching from A Course in Miracles.

A Course in Miracles came to us from Jesus. Hopefully if we believe that, Jesus speaking to Helen Schucman in her mind. Jesus is, of course, a man who became the Christ, but we are all the Christ at our core. A Course in Miracles is training us all to be the Christ. I actually think one of the reasons we don’t want to get this is because we want Jesus to be the Christ. We don’t want it to be us really. We don’t really want the time of Christ to be now, the way the Course is telling us, “... it is in your power to make the time of Christ be now.”  (OrEd.Tx.15.94) We would rather it be Jesus’s job. We would still rather work with intermediaries. 

Here’s a quote about seeing the face of Christ, “And how long will this holy face be seen, when it is but the symbol that the time for learning now is over and the goal of the Atonement has been reached at last? So therefore let us seek to find Christ’s face and look on nothing else. As we behold His glory will we know we have no need of learning or perception or of time, or anything except the holy Self, the Christ Whom God created as His Son.” (OrEd.WkBk.SpTp.271.5) 

So even in A Course in Miracles, it is telling us to get ready, at least, to be in the energy for the time of learning to be over. The Course says this. I was having a little difficulty reconciling the A Course of Love teaching with the A Course in Miracles teaching. Then I ran across that quote. It is in the “What is” special topic that we’re reading right now for our current series of lessons. “… when it is but the symbol that the time for learning now is over” (OrEd.WkBk.SpTp.271.5) When we can claim to see Christ’s face in all our brothers and sisters then the time for learning is over. Then we will only be seeing our own reflected Christ nature.

If we’re seeing our own reflected Christ nature in everyone, there really is nothing more to learn. Then we are embracing our own Christ nature. We can just be the Christ. We don’t need the intermediary anymore. So I’m just realizing that there is something to this end of learning teaching. It might be time to break up, a little bit, my whole relationship to the Holy Spirit and my relationship to Jesus and to truly see myself, to the best of my ability, as the Christ. I think that’s what A Course in Miracles wants us to do.

 Now A Course in Miracles, you know, obviously talks a lot about the Holy Spirit. I can’t say that I’m truly ready to give up the Holy Spirit. I’m just going to break it up a little bit in my mind – how I think about that. Actually there are plenty of passages in A Course in Miracles where it asks us to break up our concept of the Holy Spirit a little bit. The Course talks about the Holy Spirit actually being symbolic. There’s a lot of teaching about the Holy Spirit not being that firm thing that we sometimes like to think of it. Certainly there’s teaching about not thinking about the Holy Spirit as being separate from us. I think that’s at least where I can go. Instead of thinking of the Holy Spirit as an intermediary between me and God and relating to the Holy Spirit like some outside entity, I can see the Holy Spirit as totally within me and totally who I am.  

Jesus says he became the personification of the Holy Spirit. He identified with the Holy Spirit. He didn’t see the Holy Spirit any more as an intermediary. I think that idea, at least, is something that I can go to. 

There are passages in A Course of Miracles that do talk about the Holy Spirit existing even in eternity, even in Reality. We have to grapple with that one too. On the large Facebook group where I am an administrator, we have a lot of discussions. There are a lot of people who argue that there will be no Holy Spirit when we’re in Reality, that the Holy Spirit is something that God sent to us here to help us in the illusion, but when we are One, there will be no need for that.

Trying to chisel the theology of A Course in Miracles into stone is always a problem. There are contradictory things about Course theology all over the book. Here is the Course telling us Holy Spirit is eternal. “The Voice of the Holy Spirit is the call to Atonement or the restoration of the integrity of the mind. When the Atonement is complete and the whole Sonship is healed, there will be no call to return, but what God creates is eternal. The Holy Spirit will remain with the Sons of God to bless their creations and keep them in the light of joy.” (OrEd.Tx.5.20) That is a very distinct passage that says even when we’re home again, and complete, the Holy Spirit still exists and the Holy Spirit still has a function. So I’m not ready to throw out the Trinity yet.

Some people are kind of ready to throw out the Trinity. The Trinity is, they believe, something that we deal with here: God the Creator, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. That’s the Trinity, but when we’re all in Reality these people believe there won’t be this distinction. That’s a theological debate that we’re never going to solve. I can find passages that sort of affirm each end of that argument. We could have that argument, but it’s pretty useless. I’m ready to just let go of it. I’m ready to be able to hold both things. In one way “yes,” when we’re in Oneness it will be all Oneness. There will be no distinction. There will be no separation. Yet in another way, we will always have our distinction as the Created, as the Son, as the Son/Daughter, whatever we want to say, and the Holy Spirit will be there to bless our Creations. So, it’s all there 

I don’t need to have it chiseled in stone. I can have both of those things going on at the same time. Maybe it’s my Gemini nature that allows me to hold different thought systems that actually seem contradictory. I can be fine with that and not really feel that it’s a contradiction. They’re just both things that I have to think sometimes. They’re both corrections for errors that I make. Both of those thoughts are useful.

A Course in Miracles does say the following. I think this is pretty provocative. It’s not actually about the Holy Spirit. It’s about the ego. It says, “We have spoken of the ego as if it were a separate thing acting on its own. This was necessary to persuade you that you cannot dismiss it lightly and must realize how much of your thinking is ego-directed.” (OrEd.Tx.4.84) Okay. “We have spoken of the ego as if it were a separate thing” (OrEd.Tx.4.84) means it’s not. It’s not a separate thing, but the Course says we’re speaking of it that way because it’s useful at your stage of learning right now. 

I think the same thing applies for the Holy Spirit. A Course In Miracles speaks of the Holy Spirit as if the Holy Spirit is a separate thing, this intermediary, but it’s actually not. It’s not separate from you at all. It is you in some undefinable way. With our limited minds this is very hard for us to grok, but I think we need to be comfortable with a lot of similar contradictions. 

I actually think being a spiritual person is that ability to somehow understand that words are going to fall short. We need to be comfortable, sometimes, with things that may seem contradictory. What is not contradictory is the peace and the guiltlessness that the curriculum is guiding us towards. When we think that Jesus is the Christ then we’re not quite there yet, we still have learning to achieve. Therefore we are somehow buying into an idea that we are in lack. There is something wrong with us. I may be perfect in Reality, but I’m not in Reality right now, so I’m still in some sort of lack. I’m not truly whole yet

I think A Course in Miracles is continually moving us out of that thinking, to truly accept that the time of Christ is now. The time of Christ being now, doesn’t mean it’s time of Jesus. It’s our time of Christ. Be the Christ now. If you’re the Christ now, you are not in lack. You have to at least be willing to open up to that. 

A Course in Miracles says, and it’s talking about our attempts to do things in the usual, worldly ways, “All such attempts…” (OrEd.Tx.8.66) It’s talking about meditation actually. “All such attempts will ultimately succeed because of their purpose. Yet the means are tedious and very time consuming, for all of them look to the future for release from a state of present unworthiness and inadequacy.” (OrEd.Tx.8.66) So we shouldn’t be approaching spirituality from the sense of unworthiness or inadequacy. If we see the Christ as not who we are yet, that’s what we’re doing. The challenge is to see the Christ as who we are now and not come from a present state of unworthiness or a present state of inadequacy. 

If we do that, then we have to open up to the fact that the time for learning now is over. At least not learning in the way that we did before. I mean we could engage defining “learning,” and we could dance around that. That’s fine. Like I said, I’m a Gemini. I can hold onto both of those things. That’s really fine, but I now have an openness to just get that I am the Christ right now. 

As the Christ, I’m here to create beauty which means the only question to ask myself is, “When do I clean the crap off the house?” Not, “Who else is gonna do it?” Just, “Okay. Tonight I’ll do it.” The question is, “When am I gonna wash the vomit off the sidewalk?” and not think it was somebody else’s job to do. I saw it; I spotted it. I got it. It’s my job. That’s a good job for the Christ to do. 

Maybe I can talk to some people about it. I doubt if I’m going to do anything about a bunch of rowdy drunks around the corner. They are going to come around the corner and do what they do. Actually cleaning it up isn’t that big of a deal. I can do it. The Christ in me can do that. There’s actually nothing else that has to change. There’s nothing else that I have to learn about this. I am the Christ now. I’m here to create beauty, and it’s not beautiful for me to walk by that, or other people to walk by that. That’s it, bottom line. There’s no other discussion. There’s nothing else to learn about it. There is no learning. The time of learning now is over. Just clean it. That’s what I do.

So that’s what I’ll leave you with. I’ll leave you to think about what would embracing the Christ really be like for you? What would it be like for you not to put the Christ on Jesus, or on anybody else, not on the enlightened ones, the so-called enlightened ones, but to really get that it’s you right now. Get that there is nothing more for you to learn. It’s just more for you to be. It’s just time for you to be the Christ, not to learn anything more about how to be the Christ, but to embrace the idea that maybe the time for learning is over. It is just time to do, what you’re guided to do, what the Christ in you knows is the right thing to do.

Conceptualize the Holy Spirit however you want. Don’t conceptualize the Holy Spirit as an intermediary though. Conceptualize it as part of you there within you to bless everything you do and all the people around you. The time of Christ is now and the time for learning is over. 

That’s it. Thank you very much.(applause)

Rev. Tony Ponticello is CMC's 20th minister. He currently serves as the CMC's Executive Minister (03.25.2020). He is also the President of the CMC Board of Directors. He was ordained by the CMC on Oct. 17, 1997.

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Rev. Tony Ponticello
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San Francisco, CA 94147
(415)621-2556
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www.miracles-course.org

This article appeared in the January 2018 (Vol. 31 No. 11) 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.