Today's Wisdom

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

An Elegant Hymn

Written by the Late Coptic Orthodox Pope Shenouda III (in English My Throbbing Heart; in Arabic قلبي الخفاق )

Friday, July 29, 2016

Today's Myths

Weighing the good and bad in the violence attributed to religion, the famed René Girard concluded in his theory of mimetic rivalry and the scapegoat, that world religions in their sacred texts, whether ancient or more recent, were, in a way, myths in their stand against the victim scapegoat except that the Gospels narrate the opposite stand of God's love where the scripture writers witness to the innocence of the scapegoat Jesus of Nazareth in his crucifixion and death, powerfully shown in his resurrection. This witness told the truth that Girard finally came to believe in spite of widespread criticism of the Christian faith in the 20th, and 21st centuries. The reader may wish to read him here:
http://www.firstthings.com/article/1996/04/are-the-gospels-mythical
When he passed away in November 2015, the highly-popular Bishop Robert Barron wrote about the philosopher Girard, possibly a "Church Father", here: http://www.wordonfire.org/resources/article/ren-girard-church-father/4982/
Today, there is more to mimetic rivalry than meets the eyes.  The recent killing of Fr. Hamel that turned the world's attention again to France did not happen in a vacuum. The extremists slit his throat as he was saying Mass while they performed a  Muslim prayer around the altar mocking the Christian witnesses. As BBC reported, the extremists were found to be affiliated with the terrorist organization of the Islamic State that promised the infidels of the West, as much as others who do not follow their interpretation of Islam in the Middle East, to shortly meet the fate of innocents and martyrs who were killed in earlier massacres sometimes carried out by "lone wolves" in Syria, Iraq, Libya, Lebanon, France, Belgium, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Radical Islam is seen also in Turkey's Erdogan who sends weapons to the IS and fights the Kurds...Fear fills him...
Of particular interest in the political rivalry, the recent game played by Turkey's president Erdogan around the military coup to ousted him can be reconstructed to reveal his will to dictate upon world leaders his desire to become the new Ottoman Caliph, as if he has the right to do so. First he is on vacation and is "surprised" by the army's coup in Turkey that he rushes back to gather his Party's supporters who in turn outnumber the resistance and finally give him full control over Turkey. Erdogan seems to have engineered the whole stage, first making peace with Russia and Israel to guarantee that they will not oppose him. Then, upon his return, he turned against America and the European Union first pretending that America's Administration did not cooperate with him to extradite his Turkish enemy living in Pennsylvania for years back to Turkey to be tried for treason.  When this failed, he threatened to remove the American military bases from Turkey. Having already arrested over 8,000 from his opposition and the military who dared to revolt against him, he now got the Turkish Parliament to quickly restore capital punishment for anyone who opposes him. This measure was only part of a show off to the West that Turkish law will have no consideration for human rights as in Europe. It is dictatorship that resembles theocratic governments in Arab/Islamic countries of the Saudi King and other rulers in Qatar and Iran  who continue to export their radical views to the West.
Erdogan reserved his second punch to the European Union, already wounded by the British exit. In an interview on July 26, he accused the EU (read Merkel ?) of not keeping their financial commitments promised to Turkey in the March Agreement (Readers will find it here: http://www.dw.com/en/interview-turkeys-erdogan-accuses-eu-of-breaking-its-word/a-19426905) while the Pro-Erdogan Turks in Cologne Germany are staging a big demonstration on July 31 in support of Erdogan on German soil! (here: http://www.dw.com/en/controversy-ahead-of-pro-erdogan-rally-in-cologne/a-19430132). Some moderate leaders echoing German's feelings, such as Andreas Scheuer of the CSU, expressed their dismay saying that people who want to get involved in Turkish domestic politics are welcome to leave Germany and return to Turkey! Since Erdogan always wanted the EU to accept Turkey as a member, his attitude shows his long-standing desire to assimilate part of it into the "Turkish Empire" at his own terms. It is the promise of grandeur that once possessed Gamal Abdel-Nasser of Pan-Arabism and Saddam Hussein of the Grand Baath! It is the same that Iran's Ayatollah Ali Khameini keeps making in view of a nuclear agreement with the Obama Administration that removed sanctions against Iran and allows him to expand Iran's nuclear power. But Erdogan's dream is shared by another dictator: Russia's Putin. Putin wants half of Europe or so to be under his control. For him, these countries who left the Communist umbrella belong to Russia and can't be controlled by Western powers. He too wants to have NATO members remove their sanctions against Russia since the latter invaded Crimea. Germany's Merkel used to be the lead negotiator with Russia. Now she has her own problems - enough to keep her up at night trying to lead a fractured EU (here: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/07/05/opinion/after-brexit-can-germany-lead-europe-alone.html?_r=0)
Can we apply Girard's Mimetic Theory to the rivalry between Russia and Turkey to take part of Europe or rather divide Europe? Both Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin recognized their admiration for each other. Trump went on record that if elected President of the U.S., he will withdraw from NATO and at that point NATO will effectively cease to exist. This will work well with Putin's strategy.
To focus, Putin is against a united Europe. He wants a share for Russia's control. Erdogan is against a united Europe. He has already gone on record that he rejects the way the EU has handled the refugee crisis with Turkey and opposed to European laws for human rights, he is on the verge of restoring capital punishment for his opponents if found guilty by the Turkish judiciary.
The object is Europe alive or dead. The model is Putin, a long-experienced "fox". Dictator Erdogan mimics dictator Putin for full access to Europe (economic benefits from superior industries and better life of freedom in Europe). Each is self-serving. The tension that arises from mimetic desire is dealt with through the scapegoating mechanism. The scapegoat here, let us conclude, is the weak EU. But this does not go well with Obama who wants America to control Europe and nothing for Russia especially since Putin became his enemy and supports the Republican nominee Donald Trump. On July 27, wikileaks released hacked voicemails of the National Democratic Convention (DNC) in which Bernie Sanders was weakened to let Hillary Clinton, Obama's baby, get the nomination for President (here: https://www.rt.com/usa/353631-wikileaks-hacked-dnc-voicemails/). Immediately Obama accused Putin of engineering the leak!!!
Regardless of who gains what, the picture is clear. The winner for now is a liar. That was the name that Christ attributed to the devil (John 8: 44).  But as Girard often said the humanization process of the human race will continue guided by God. Let us hope for a better tomorrow. In fact tomorrow signifies eternal life... 
"(The ones in heaven) shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more;
the sun shall not strike them, nor any scorching heat.
For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd,
and he will guide them to springs of living water;
and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes." (Revelation, 7:16-17)

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Why are we escaping from God ?

Jesus spoke: “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and decay destroy, and thieves break in and steal. But store up treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor decay destroys, nor thieves break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be.” (Matthew 6: 19-21).

In a materialist society, I am tempted to become absorbed in achieving my own desires and comfort regardless of how my actions affect the others around me.

In the economic atmosphere today, I have to run faster than others to get a good job and keep it. Technology is abused to help the rich get richer but the poor get poorer too. In my need for survival at a good standard of living, the more I accumulate of power the more I distance myself from my neighbor.

The above does not help me achieve my ultimate goal of real satisfaction, but on the contrary it suffocates me and alienates me from the innate desire for my highest good which we must discover. According to St.Thomas Aquinas we observe ourselves and the world and find that we are impelled forward to our highest good “God”. This humanist approach of St.Thomas Aquinas gives us the opportunity to find God in all things and particularly in the people that we know, because everyone of us has a vocation. This humanist approach is carried forward in the writings and acts of St. Thomas More in his judgment as Chancellor of England on the primacy of conscience; in St. Ignatius Loyola founder of the Society of Jesus in his Spiritual Exercises on weighing the presence of God in the choices man makes; and St. Jean-Baptiste Marie Vianney in his heroic acts of helping some 20,000 annual pilgrims from France and other countries to repent where he instructed his visitors against evil and patiently spent close to 18 hours daily in the confessional in the town of Ars, France.

The Church does not ask us to leave the world and become monks. On the contrary, by participating in God's passion that loves his creatures, we serve ourselves by serving others. This is the beginning of spiritual growth in individuals, families and societies that have alienated themselves from the God of love.

A key point in the above sacred text is found in Jesus' words “For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be.” Since the incarnation of Christ, our heaven, where we store up treasures, is here and not above us there. We are here to work with God's grace in order to sanctify creation and help creation find its highest good. Prayer, meditation and Bible study are required to give God a room in our daily thoughts as his Spirit urges us in our hearts to repent and open up to God's calling. As we respond to God, we benefit from the sacraments in the community, which in turn allow us to grow together in the love of God through the guidance of our pastors - In every generation, the Church is constantly renewed by the heroic acts of saints.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

A Sign of Disintegration...

On Thursday June 23, the British voted in a referendum to exit the European Union. Prime Minister David Cameron who had supported the "Stay" faction tendered his resignation to Queen Elizabeth II. The consequences of the vote have been felt in the financial markets as the British Pound lost a fraction of its value and the stock market hit a new low.

As in any civil country, independence is a declaration of its people to choose how to live and deal with the resources of their land in every industry and trade...

The result of the British vote, however, signals a deeper cultural shift. In one analysis, it is the beginning of the disintegration of the European Union as a sign of shared principles and borders, but also underlies the beginning as Europe reclaims its own original soul. The demographic changes that took place over the past 40-50 years included a massive resettlement of migrants from Africa and Asia. A particular phenomenon has been the increasing demand of oil in Europe and Asia which turned the European political establishment towards the vast resources of oil and gas in Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries. Arabs, who became rich, found a new paradise to settle in - that is Western Europe - and sent their large families to the capitals of this civilization.  Since Arab Muslims tend to have multiple marriages, their families are usually larger than a typical European family which over time would become the majority citizens in a given European democracy. In fact, Muslims have many mosques in Europe from which extremists call on their fellow Muslims to wage terrorist attacks as has been seen in 2016 in Brussels and earlier in Paris. To the dismay of many Europeans since 2014, the recent massive refugee and migrant influx of Muslims from warring Arab countries such as Syria threatened their lives in a real way including raping of women as it happened in Cologne in the 2016 new-year's eve and other towns later. Since the refugees program was imposed by Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor who to a high degree controls the European Union, the response was to opt out of the European Union. Once independent, the British will be able to determine who can come in and settle in Britain. Meanwhile, some lawmakers and politicians in Britain gathered a petition to vote again signed by over 2 million citizens. It depends on who we listen to. The 2.5 million are likely liberals who support David Cameron. Conservatives think that the British wanted to exit the EU because they are fed up with liberal and bureaucratic personnel for secure jobs especially that the EU became a stage for everyone to justify entry of foreigners and building their cultural centers in Britain. Americans have expressed their views too. President Obama and Hillary Clinton continue to support the liberals in Britain  and indeed in the rest of Europe for fear of Russia's growing influence that will disseminate NATO (see: http://www.cnn.com/2016/06/24/politics/donald-trump-brexit-scotland-press-conference/). Mike Huckabee, who was a candidate for the U.S. Republican presidential nominations, shared his different views (see http://www.foxnews.com/world/2016/06/25/brexit-remorse-uk-lawmaker-calls-for-parliament-to-ignore-eu-referendum-as-millions-call-for-second-vote.html). Donald Trump, in Scotland, supported British exit from the EU (see:http://www.dailymail.co.uk/wires/reuters/article-3658014/Donald-Trump-says-Britons-took-control-country.html).

This is the beginning as Europe reclaims its own original soul because the centuries before the recent Islamic invasion should show us and Pope Francis too that Christianity is at the roots of Europe's civilization. In fact, history shows that there was hardly any signs of development in civilizations that sprang in the East whether the Near East or the Far East. It was only since the French and British colonial powers occupied lands in the Middle East and India from the 18th century to the 20th century that the laws of these lands were reformed to some extent thus giving a basis for human freedom. Modern Islamism, on the contrary, insists on remaining in the 7-9th century Islamic civilization and so do Chinese and Hindu ones according to their own traditions thousands of years ago. Globalization has been a Western economic phenomenon that in the past 30 years has increased the power of the global Superpower: Capitalism, based in America and her allies.  It does not, however, justify the misuse of global power to enslave others in any shape or form. Of course, 9-11 terrorism was a reaction to the "Satanic" America. And back to the topic,  the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar and other Islamist/Muslim scholars who portray Christianity as the reason of the "Dark Ages" in Europe, will not be pleased with the result of British exit from the EU.  But who knows? Probably one day, all who believe or doubt in God's act of love in the risen-Christ, will come to worship him who said "I am the Alpha and the Omega" (Revelation 22: 13)...

In the month of the Sacred Heart, let us ask the Blessed Virgin Mary and St. Joseph to pray the Lord Jesus Christ for Pope Francis and the rest of humanity. May the Lord be blessed!
Jesus My Lord, My God, My All:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vL6zvsRxpMo

Saturday, June 18, 2016

A Big Dream

Everyone dreams. We dream of things we can achieve and of things we desire but cannot achieve. Americans are in the middle of choosing who they will vote for in the presidential elections in November 2016.  Some dream of a president who could make America "Great Again." Others dream of having lasting jobs in a free-market economy. On Friday June 17, 2016 the Russian President Vladimir Putin seemed to endorse Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee for president, since "Mr. Trump has declared that he is ready for the full restoration of Russian-American relations". This is the political scene of the "sole Superpower" as Putin put it. It is another dream that may or may not resolve global tensions.

On the other hand, Pope Francis continues to dream of assisting the poor and refugees probably because he has lived in Argentina for so long and witnessed poverty. In his latest reflection on June 15, 2016, he asked "How many times do we, when we find ourselves before so many refugees and migrants, feel bothered?" saying this is a temptation everyone has "even me, all of us" (see: http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/are-you-bothered-by-the-cry-of-the-poor-if-so-its-a-problem-pope-says-90047/).

Fr. Henri Boulad, S.J.,  expressed his dream in a number of talks and recently upon being honoured by the Coptic Orthodox Patriarch for his contribution to the Coptic-Catholic ecumenical dialogue, he expressed his dream. In his response Fr. Boulad said that the goal is not solely Christian unity but, in his view, the goal is the unity of the entire human race. In a subsequent interview, the Jesuit scholar said his life-long desire is to "change the world..." by the grace of God.

On a deeper spiritual level my readers are invited to share this dream expressed by one of arguably the most eloquent preachers in the 20th century. In one of his latest talks prior to his retirement and death in 1979, Archbishop Fulton Sheen spoke about the Blessed Virgin Mary. He spoke of her in three forms as God's dream for humanity's return to the garden of the blessed; as God's Mother; and as God's bride. His fascinating talk can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TG5-RSevDBI

Our loving God dreams too and his dreams may be realized in the response of every Christian...

Such is the hymn in this month of the Sacred Heart : Jesus, My Lord, My God, My All:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vL6zvsRxpMo


Sunday, May 29, 2016

Saint John Paul II - A Pope for All Seasons

http://www.happinessquest.com/pope-johnpaul.html

IN PROGRESS

Today's Quote

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







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