Today's Wisdom

When we meet a person truly in need, do we see the face of God?
Pope Francis

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

The Need for Unity

It is urgent that Christians pray for their unity and their leaders communicate to overcome the little differences, that though could touch on dogmatic declarations are not an obstacle to the full communion.

Fr. Pio Farah, a Franciscan priest who is a personal friend since the early 1970s and now serving in Egypt, sent his monthly newsletter for December 2016 in Arabic where he makes the case for the importance of prayers to God, because prayer directs our works to God who blesses them.

Jesus Christ himself prayed to his Father before his disciples were scattered upon his arrest. In his prayer Christ asks the Father to keep his disciples together "so that they may be one as we are one" (John 17: 22). This has been the prayer of the Church across generations together with preaching the good news of the Gospel. It is a prayer connected to faith and grace. In history two Councils promulgated union between the Roman Catholic Church and the Byzantine Orthodox Churches: The Second Council of Lyon in the 13th century (see http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/09476c.htm) and The Council of Florence (see http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/06111a.htm) in the 15th century. However, the union of both did not last.

In the 20th century, Saint John XXIII (known as the good pastor) continued the efforts started by leaders of other Christian communions for Christian unity. He convoked the Second Vatican Council in 1962 with the goal of renewing the Church in her relations including "separated brothers." His successors continued his hope and prayer for unity. The "Week of Prayer for Christian Unity" has since been established (January 18 - January 25).

In May 2013, Coptic Orthodox Pope Tawadros II visited Pope Francis in the Vatican in commemorating the 50th anniversary of his predecessor's visit to Pope Paul VI. He was greeted by Pope Francis with hugs at the door of his residence. Upon Francis request, the Coptic Orthodox Bishops sang together the ancient Coptic hymn of the Doxology.

In 2014, Pope Francis visited the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I in the Church of St. George, where Francis humbly asked Bartholomew I to bless him "and the Church of Rome"and reassured Orthodox faithful that "to reach the desired goal of full unity the Catholic Church does not intend to impose any conditions except that of the shared profession of faith". 

Against fundamentalism and extremism, I invite my readers to read this article published in CERC where the author investigates the development of faith and perseverance of committed Christians in the Catholic Church: http://www.catholiceducation.org/en/religion-and-philosophy/apologetics/i-m-a-muslim-but-here-s-why-i-admire-the-catholic-church.html

In a polarized world, the Christian communities mostly threatened are those in the Middle East. For the preservation of Christianity in the Middle East and in the rest of the world, Christians need to pray for their unity as we expect the coming of Christ at Christmas.  

Monday, November 28, 2016

The Joy of Being

Following the discussions on "The Moderate Mind" we should ask the question: How the mind can elevate itself to the world beyond physics (metaphysics) ?
As I read "Being and Nothingness" by the existentialist philosopher Jean Paul Sartre,  I am confronted by an assumption that consciousness is constitutive of the being of its object which, according to him, destroys itself (Page Ix). This is a description of the lonely person who hates the other because he failed to discover him. And he ends up by destroying himself!

But life is abundantly good because every creature was created by the loving God. Everything that survives, needs cooperation and a measure of reasonable trust.  The joy of being can be illustrated in my experience yesterday...

Yesterday Sunday November 27, 2016, was remarkably a joyful day for the coming together of the Greek Melkite Catholics and their friends in Toronto to participate in the first Divine Liturgy or Mass at the huge Slovak Cathedral of "The Transfiguration" (The Transfiguration by Georges Farah here: http://todayquestions.blogspot.ca/2008/08/georges-farah-on-transfiguration.html). By only looking at its 63-meter high gold onion dome, it reflects the Byzantine architecture no less than that of Hagia Sophia in Constantinople or with the high organ in it that accompanies the hymns sung by great singers in Europe, especially Renaissance Europe. It is no coincidence that Thomas Aquinas lived during the early Renaissance. His influence on philosophy has been lasting for the Christian civilization in "baptizing" the good thought he found in the Greek philosopher Aristotle. According to Professor John Haldane, St. Thomas' humanist  approach contributed to the rediscovery of nature as the good creation of God rather than the dualistic philosophy of Plato (that had emphasized the idea of a corrupt nature) bringing thereby a revolution in thinking within Christian philosophy (see BBC Radio on Thomas Aquinas here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oV9ug4Wrn30).

In his homily, Fr. Ibrahim El-Haddad thanked God that made it easier for the Melkite Catholics in Toronto to celebrate their Masses at the Byzantine Cathedral and inspired Helen Roman the owner of the Church and vast land to support the little sheep with much enthusiasm (since she was approached a few years ago by Fr. Georges Farah and Fr. Georges Balliki and finally with the direct involvement by Most Reverend Bishop Ibrahim Ibrahim and Fr. Ibrahim El-Haddad with his assistant pastors). Fr. Ibrahim also thanked God that he spared everyone in the destruction of Jesus the King church and thanked individuals who are contributing to the assessment of insurance and the building of a new Byzantine church for Toronto's Melkite Catholics. The choir performed some of the most enjoyable hymns in Byzantine hymnology (Joseph Homsy, Costandi Khouri, P. Couturier).

In my view, all of the above is great, but it is the joy of seeing many friends from here and there in one place worshiping together, that made my day. My wife and I met literally hundreds of friends after the Mass ended. Advances in sociology shows that humans are relational (see Brené Brown here: https://www.ted.com/talks/brene_brown_on_vulnerability). If this is of any value, it is above all love that gets deeper and does not vanish - the eternal joy that is God; for he is a communion of three hypostasis (Aqnum in Syriac) and lives in the relationship. Joseph Ratzinger (later Pope Benedict XVI) called it "absolute "relatedness", or relatio subsistens.
  
If the eternal God is a communion, then it makes sense what Peter said too upon seeing the Transfiguration of Christ "Lord, it is good to be here" (Matthew 17:4).

"Believe me, woman, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem" said the Lord to the Samaritan (John 4: 21).

Thank God for the great joy of being...

Monday, November 14, 2016

The Moderate Mind

As unexpected as Trump's victory in the latest American presidential elections, it is also unexpected that once he is in the White House his rhetorical comments against his Democrat rival and her supporters will materialize. The reason is simply that responsibility of the superpower requires balancing priorities to ensure cooperation with other nations: those who need America; and those who America needs. America will not be isolated because America cannot be isolated. His movement, however,  inspires those who dare to challenge the ruling elites, their corporate supporters, and the false media. It is a restoration of an outlook to the absolute values in Christian civilization which have been challenged for over a century by relativism since Nietzsche's cry "God is dead."

Humanity since the early homo sapiens has gone through much difficulties with the environment, tribal rivalry, worship of mythical gods, and vengeance (see http://todayquestions.blogspot.ca/2016/07/todays-myths.html) - yet was able to overcome their differences in order to survive together. It is this prolife vision that makes humans stick together. In Christianity, prolife is more than this life as much as it is beautiful because there is a faith in the power of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ which promises eternal joy to those who choose to follow him.

In psychology, the latest school in America is known by the title "Positive Psychology" which emphasizes the positive attributes in the person such as hope for the future, happiness or contentment in the present, the capacity for love, perseverence, and spirituality...

Finally see my post on complex minds here:
http://todayquestions.blogspot.ca/2009/09/complex-projects-versus-complex-mind.html

Everyone needs to follow St. Augustine's rule: Be moderate in everything except in love".

Monday, November 7, 2016

The Influence of God

It is not a secret that we influence each other. By only watching TV, you can guess from the ads who moves opinions to make decisions. The political drama today is based on relativism, a post-modern phenomenon that claims there is no absolute truth. You make your own truth and I make mine. The more you have money and can invest it in influencing others, the more followers you have.
The influence of God manifested certain commandments or rules in ancient nations notably in Judaism. The influence of God has been growing since the death on the cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ who spoke to his Apostles, and they, in turn, preached the good news of eternal joy from Jerusalem to Antioch, Rome, and Alexandria. They and their followers continue to confess the divinity of the risen man Jesus and his power with which he loved and loves everyone. He will come again a the end of the world to restore fallen humanity to his beloved Father (Revelation 21, 22).

The above should remind everyone that tomorrow Tuesday November 8 the presidential elections in the United States will take place. Although many deny that they do not influence anyone else nor care about what happens in the United Stated, everyone knows that the policy of the United States influences the world more than any other country as it is the hub of technology, military power, and economic influence. A prayer for the right person to be chosen will make a difference I believe. Between the extremely liberal Hillary Clinton with years of mismanagement of foreign policy after President Obama, and the conservative Donald Trump who promised to appoint 3 pro-life judges to the Supreme Court with a Conservative Congress that backs him up but who is also an extremely divisive person who wants to build walls to isolate/"protect" Americans from their neighboring countries among other things, it is hard to choose. None of us has an insight into the real intentions of the candidate. In meeting with George Weigel, I asked whether it was possible to replace Trump with his more balanced vice president Mike Pence, but he said this is not possible at this point. I hope the right person will be chosen to lead America.

I have been personally influenced by the late Archbishop Paul Antaki the Great (see http://todayquestions.blogspot.ca/2011/12/paul-antaki-great.html), the late Pope Shenouda III of the Coptic Orthodox Church (see http://todayquestions.blogspot.ca/2012/03/man-of-faith.html), Melkite Catholic Archbishop Joseph Jules Zerey in Jerusalem,
and Thomas Cardinal Collins Archbishop of Toronto who is a moderate prelate that may become the next Pope.

Among preachers, quite a few scholars have influenced me such as Fr. Henri Boulad, S.J., Fr. Ignatius Sarkis Najjar, Prof. Fr. Daniel Callam, CSB, Prof. Msgr. Robert Nusca, Prof. Fr. Georges Farah, and Prof. Fr. Samir Khalil Samir, S.J. There are more working hard to serve their churches and communities. . Among them I have been influenced by the young Fr. Ibrahim El-Haddad and his assistant priests at Jesus the King
Melkite Catholic parish. Service is not limited to priests. I have been influenced by quite a few women and men who humbly serve in different roles in church and community as well as in their own families. Parents can be examples for children. A number of organizations that impress us in their services include "Doctors without frontiers" whose  members are willing to take risk in order to treat the injured, or St. Vincent de Paul whose members visit the elderly and lonely and help them in many tasks. One such organization made up mainly of lay people that serve communities, needy, and persecuted people is the Knights of Columbus whose members influence millions in their services.

It is important that we work and pray for the right people to lead us in every country and everywhere. God is the Father who influences us as his Spirit helps us to do good and avoid evil. This is the Spirit of Christ in the world!

Friday, October 28, 2016

My Joy with the Beloved

On Sunday October 23, I had the joy of participating with my beloved wife in two special events organized by Fr. Ibrahim El-Haddad and his team at Jesus the King Melkite Catholic parish.
First: In the noon Mass, Fr. Ibrahim prayed for the past parish council of which I was a member. We prayed with the parishioners for our beloved families and friends everywhere and received the Sacrament of penance or reconciliation followed by the great Sacrament of the Eucharistic body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. The Homsy choir performed some of the most majestic hymns in English, Greek, and Arabic and, for me, the choir leader who knew my preferred hymns made sure the choir sang the Lord's Prayer (Our Father) in the way that his dad of blessed memory devised it. At the end of the Mass too, the Great Kyrie-Eleison was performed with such triumphant tone that you would think that the angels in heaven were also singing with us.
Following the Mass, my wife and I were invited, along with other past parish council members and their spouses to Mazza restaurant where we were greeted by the elegant owner, who is also a member of the Melkite Catholic Church and an active member on the Board of Jesus the King Knights of Columbus Council. There we were joined by a group of choir members including the choir leader and his highly-active wife who participated in the preparation of the event and served everyone. Many other parishioners joined us as we enjoyed together this get-together day. Although most attendees of the dinner party had to register and pay, they did it with joy and generosity which, I believe, is characteristic of the people who lived in, or are originally from, the Middle East. In spite of loud speakers, I enjoyed  the folkloric dance "Dabke" in which many people, young and old including Fr. Ibrahim, participated. The fellow who performed musical tones along the recorded ones left a good impact on his listeners.
It was an early well-prepared dinner, that started with a prayer to God by the mouth of the parish pastor Fr. Ibrahim and continued with a voice message from Most Reverend Bishop Ibrahim Ibrahim who is in charge of all Melkite Catholics in Canada. In his message, Bishop Ibrahim encouraged us and everyone in the community to continue the really-good work done over the past 20 years or so with Fr. Georges Farah principally who oversaw the purchase of the church and made significant contributions to our understanding of the meaning of life, and since the beginning of 2015 with Fr. Ibrahim El-Haddad, Fr. Michel Chalhoub, and Fr. Youhanna Hanna.
And I remembered the annual festival started by Fr. Georges Farah, the Catholicism Series which continue to be presented by Fr. Youhanna Hanna in addition to Fr. Youhanna's prayerful assistance to the sick which continues uninterrupted, and other talks by Fr. Michel Chalhoub, the weekly lectures in the hard questions of theology and philosophy that Fr. Georges Farah gave us, and the weekly lectures that I gave to the young adults and since 2008 to older generations too.
Following the voice message by Bishop Ibrahim, Fr. Ibrahim El-Haddad spoke of the good work and collaboration that he received from the past parish council members which continues today with his support. Fr. Ibrahim has also engaged teams of young adults to help the priests in teaching the children of the parish according to a program prepared by the Church authorities and, as far as I know, approved by Bishop Ibrahim. It is quite important that every bishop and priest provide the communication means to preserve our young adults and kids in the faith received from the Apostles.
Congratulations to the parish, the team who worked hard and the parish head for whom we thank God.
It was a day of joy with many of the beloved ones.

Today's Quote

"Behold I make all things new." (Revelation 21:5)







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