Today's Wisdom

Those who do not pass from the experience of the cross to the truth of the resurrection condemn themselves to despair! For we cannot encounter God without first crucifying our narrow notions of a god who reflects only our own understanding of omnipotence and power
Pope Francis

Wednesday, February 18, 2009


Love is an act of God. It always starts from God. The first great act of God was manifested in creation and the second great act was our redemption in Christ. God has always loved his creation. According to St. Thomas Aquinas, the Angelic Doctor, God created the entire cosmos out of love. When sin entered the world God still wanted to save us in Christ's suffering and death. This is because God wants us to be with him. This love is known in the Hebrew or Old Testament. "If a mother forgets her baby I will not forget you" God tells his people. There is a development in Scripture in understanding God not only as the Almighty but as the patient lover who forgives his adulterous people (Hosea). In Isaiah, we see a further development of "the suffering Servant" which will be fulfilled in the suffering of the Christ (Isaiah, 53). In about 30 AD, Jesus Christ perfected the Hebrew Law (The New Testament). It was Christ who introduced to the world the idea of God as a loving father. Jewish tradition, according to Biblical scholarship knew of God as father but never called him: Father (Abba which is an Aramaic word for Daddy). When the "Prodigal Son" left his father's home and was in deep trouble, his Daddy, in the Gospel, was still looking for him until one day the son returned home and, at once, his father made a celebration. "For your brother was dead and now he is alive" the father told his older son (Luke 15:11-32). It was Christ who introduced to the world the great words "Love your enemies..." (Matthew 5:44). He was full of love towards every man and woman. He is known to have said this when he was dying on the cross: "Forgive them Father for they know not what they do." (Luke 23:34). But the most relevant teaching of Christ to personal ethics is his reversal of the priority of the two commandments. For him, love of neighbour was more important than love of God. Or put in other words, worship of God is to serve Man’s needs because God is in Man. Recall that Man does not mean male but is inclusive of men and women according to the ancient Hebrew language. This is evident in much of Christ’s teaching and parables (Cf. the Parable of the Good Samaritan; Luke 10:29-37). Maurice Zundel, a thinker in the 20th century commented that God knelt in front of Man (in reference to Jesus’ washing of his Apostles feet in the Last Supper.)Today’s insistence on the inviolable value of the human person is rooted in Christ’s teaching. Long before it was adopted by a secular West, this ethical value was rooted in Christianity. One of the great Doctors of the early Church, St. John Chrysostom, Patriarch of Constantinople, taught that "God looks for even a tear in your eyes to save you." God is not only a solitude divine but three persons in infinite love in the oneness of the divine. According to St. Augustine, in the 5th century: God could not remain forever alone because He is Love and if He is Love he must love another. If not, then his love is closed upon itself and is not true love. This would be, in some way, the definition of hell. So this eternal old lonely king begets his image which is the Son. He looks at the image and loves his image to the point that his love explodes. He empties himself of his divinity and gives it all to his begotten Son. The Son who is also Love receives this limitless divinity and in love and in gratitude for his Father he returns this love with equal and eternal love. This binding Love between the Father and the Son is so unlimited and so selfless that it is the Holy Spirit proceeding from the Father and the Son (or through the Son). The eternal dynamic essence of the Triune God is Love. St. Thérèse of Lisieux offered this prayer to God in her reflections: "In order to live in one single act of perfect Love, I OFFER MYSELF AS A VICTIM OF HOLOCAUST TO YOUR MERCIFUL LOVE, Asking You to consume me incessantly, allowing the waves of infinite tenderness shut up within You to overflow into my soul, and that thus I may become a martyr of Your Love, O my God!" St. Bernard of Clairvaux taught us about the degrees of love: "True love is precisely this: that it does not seek its own interests. And how much does (God) love us? He so loved the world that he gave his only Son; he laid down his life for us. The First Degree of Love: Love of Self for Self's Sake Love is a natural human affection. It comes from God. Hence the first and greatest commandment is: Thou shalt love the Lord thy God. But human nature is weak and therefore compelled to love itself and serve itself first. In the human realm people love themselves for their own sake. This is planted within us for who ever hated his own self. The Second Degree of Love: Love of God for Self's Sake God, therefore, who makes everything that is good, makes himself to be loved. He does it as follows: first, God blesses us with his protection. When we live free from trouble we are happy, but in our pride we may conclude that we are responsible for our security. Then, when we suffer some calamity, some storm in our lives, we turn to God and ask his help, calling upon him in times of trouble. This is how we who only love ourselves first begin to love God. We will begin to love God even if it is for our own sake. We love God because we have learned that we can do all things through him, and without him we can do nothing. The Third Degree of Love: Love of God for God's Sake In the first degree of love we love ourselves for our own sake. In the second degree of love we love God for our own sake, chiefly because he has provided for us and rescued us. But if trials and tribulations continue to come upon us, every time God brings us through, even if our hearts were made of stone, we will begin to be softened because of the grace of the Rescuer. Thus, we begin to love God not merely for our own sakes, but for himself. The Fourth Degree of Love: Love of Self for God's Sake Blessed are we who experience the fourth degree of love wherein we love ourselves for God's sake. Such experiences are rare and come only for a moment. In a manner of speaking, we lose ourselves as though we did not exist, utterly unconscious of ourselves and emptied of ourselves. If for even a moment we experience this kind of love, we will then know the pain of having to return to this world and its obligations as we are recalled from the state of contemplation. In turning back to ourselves we will feel as if we are suffering as we return into the mortal state in which we were called to live. Can We Attain the Fourth Degree of Love? I am not certain that the fourth degree of love in which we love ourselves only for the sake of God may be perfectly attained in this life. But, when it does happen, we will experience the joy of the Lord and be forgetful of ourselves in a wonderful way. We are, for those moments, one mind and one spirit with God. I am of the opinion that this is what the prophet meant when he said: 'I will enter into the power of the Lord: 0 Lord I will be mindful of Thy justice alone.' He felt, certainly, that when he entered into the spiritual powers of the Lord he would have laid aside self and his whole being would, in the spirit, be mindful of the justice of the Lord alone." In contemporary Catholic thought we see some great reflections on love. Joseph Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI) wrote in his book "Foundations of Christianity" that "God, too, is absolute permanence, as opposed to everything transitory, for the reason that he is the relation of three Persons to one another, their incorporation in the 'for one another' of love, act-substance of the love that is absolute and therefore completely 'relative', living only 'in relation to'.... What is revolutionary about the Christian view of the world and of God, we found, as opposed to those of antiquity, is that it learns to understand the 'absolute' as absolute 'relatedness', as relatio subsistens." We find the love of God in non-Christian sources too. Rabia al-Adawiyya, the first Muslim sufi, wrote in the 8th century: "O God! If I worship You for fear of Hell, burn me in Hell, and if I worship You in hope of Paradise, exclude me from Paradise. But if I worship You for Your Own sake, grudge me not Your everlasting Beauty.” This, according to Karl Rahner, one of the great Catholic theologians in the 20th century, is probably an "Anonymous Christian." She lived God's love but did not know the Gospel of Christ. René Girard, Stanford professor of civilization, now a member of the Academie francaise, takes an anthropological view. For him, love, encapsulated in the cross of Christ is the antidote of violence that we knew since the beginning. In his view, every act of violence and aggression is nothing but mimetic rivalry. His theory, now discussed in neuro-scientific and psychological research, claims that rivalry potentially exists between young children when they look out for the toys of each other. Even when two children have identical toys, each of them becomes interested in the toy that the other one has. This rivalry grows and intensifies. Historically that is how rivalry created wars between tribes and cultures and, eventually, nations. Furthermore, in his book, Things Hidden since the Foundation of the World, Girard stresses the importance of imitation or mimesis for all human culture. "There is nothing, or next to nothing, that is not learned and all learning is based on imitation. If human beings suddenly ceased imitating, all forms of culture would vanish." Mimetic rivalry is very clear in early civilizations. In the Bible, Girard says, the story of Solomon’s judgment in the third chapter of 1 Kings is a good example. Two prostitutes bring a baby. They are doubles engaging in a rivalry over what is apparently a surviving child. When Solomon offers to split the child, the one woman says “yes,” because she wishes to triumph over her rival. The other woman then says, “No, she may have the child,” because she seeks only its life. On the basis of this love, the king declares that “she is the mother.” Note that it does not matter who is the biological mother. The one who was willing to sacrifice herself for the child’s life is in fact the mother. The first woman is willing to sacrifice a child to the needs of rivalry. Sacrifice is the solution to mimetic rivalry and the foundation of it. The second woman is willing to sacrifice everything she wants for the sake of the child’s life. This is sacrifice in the sense of the gospel. It is in this sense that Christ is a sacrifice since he gave himself “for the life of the world.” We know now why America invaded Iraq. George W. Bush himself acknowledged in a recent interview that the argument advanced by his administration of massive destructive weapons acquired by Saddam Hussein was not sufficiently conducive to start the second Gulf war in 2003. Many analysts think that the Bush administration was motivated by other reasons to liberate Iraq. One possible reason was to secure Iraq's oil to American oil companies. Another was to contain China's and Europe's ascendance in the Middle East. France objected to the invasion probably because of its own interests in Iraq' s resources. In the end, it is clear that rivalry is not as positive a value as we may think. All cultures since the beginning of human history have been engaged one way or another in rivalry, Every nation wants its own expansion at the cost of other nations. Relationship rests on communication. I will not be able to relate to you if I cannot communicate with you or if I do not have the intention of communicating with you. We know that the first communication in infants takes place when they suck on their mothers breasts. As they grow older they start imitating their parents and people around them and they learn how to communicate in language. But communication goes deeper than using mere language. What matters in the end is the result: Relationship and love even if suffering is cost! Is this enough? No. Science today is looking for the "God Particle" in the LHC experiment at CERN. In my opinion, even created matter speaks of the Christian God of relatedness and love. In the physical cosmos, there seems that there is some kind of “relatedness” or communication in the microcosmic world. John Polkinghorne, professor of nuclear physics at Cambridge University, wrote, in one of his latest books: Quantum Physics and Theology, about relationship as science is attempting to discover it at the subnuclear level: "Quantum theory brought to light a remarkable form of entanglement between subatomic particles that have once interacted with each other (the so-called EPR effect), which implies that they remain effectively a single system however far they may subsequently separate spatially- a counterintuitive togetherness-in-separation that has been abundantly confirmed experimentally as a property of nature. The physical world looks more and more like a universe that would be the fitting creation of the Trinitarian God, the One whose deepest reality is relational" (Quantum Physics and Theology, p.104). Not only at the human level. Not even at the living cells level. But also at the microcosmic level there seems to be an inherent structure that calls for relationship. St. Francis of Assisi echoed these ideas long ago: "Lord, make me an instrument of your peace; where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; and where there is sadness, joy. O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood, as to understand; to be loved, as to love; for it is in giving that we receive, it is in pardoning that we are pardoned, and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life." George Farahat

Monday, February 16, 2009

How technology is affecting our businesses and society

The most common business applications today are web-based applications. As in traditional system architectures, it is business requirements that drive data requirements first. Based on the conceptual data architecture, business applications are built which use the most suitable technology platform. A bit of systems development background: Mainframe applications were the only ones in the market since the 1950s. In the 1970's IBM introduced the midframe computing but most corporate applications remained in accounting, manufacturing and HR. In the 1980s the PC came into existence with Microsoft. At this time Commercial Off The Shelf (COTS) started to appear rather than building applications in house. By the early 1990s the Client Server (C/S) model was developed which allowed a two tier system to exist in a network. Many mainframe and midframe applications were downsized using this new paradigm where the mainframe application was the server and the PC application the client. The advantage was to fetch huge information from the mainframe database and use the PC intelligence and presentation to produce management reports. The LAN technology helped connecting these PCs or nodes to distribute the retrieved info. Additionally, in C/S architecture only a fraction of the huge database was transferred based on the query generated by the PC database application. Windows, having now the lion share in the PC software market advanced to run on new microprocessors built by such giants as Intel. As a result of the invading PC technology, hardware came to be cheaper by the year. In the early 2000's the internet was widespread, and many firms sought to take advantage of this global technology in order to streamline their processes using reverse process engineering. And e-commerce applications soon hit the roof before they were crashed by the investors market. Yet, the PC proved to be a solid successor to the mainframe. In the 1990s and 2000s relational databases, and object-oriented programming languages continued to evolve that when the internet took over, web applications use now components-technology to combine from different sources and to make our systems even more effective. As reported in Nancy Mingus' lecture "Data mining and other sophisticated processing applications allow us to analyze data in ways not even imagined in the 1980s." How this affected businesses Today's web-based applications are no longer limited to the office processing. Communication protocols have allowed the web to go over to every business, every home and every country. Just count the email systems, the IMs, the wikis, the chat rooms...etc. I think that I could write a whole book about how technology transformed businesses. Nevertheless, we cannot leave that topic without mentioning the drastic effect of the internet on the social fabric. At home at least, people are spending more time at the PC since it allows them to chat and communicate more than they are spending with each other. The social fabric is deteriorating from a family-based society to an individual-based society. How are we reacting to this technological development? In view of this social and economic development, where do our families stand? Moreover, we have now a huge database of information on the internet. How would I, or my children know which piece of information is true? How would we tell the truth from the lie? How would we prevent our young ones from watching pornographic sites? But above all: Are we able to maintain relationships with our young ones? Are we communicating with them at home and church? Are we at least still praying together? Or is it too late? Just questions to you and me. George Farahat

Today's Quote

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


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