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

Friday, December 24, 2010

Peace of Christ

When Christ was born, Luke reports that a multitude of angels sang "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men of good will." Yet, Christ himself says "Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division" (Luke 12: 51).
Most of us hope for peace, and tonight we salute each other with the peace of Christ. While we do that we think that threat to world security and ours are those political and military powers who run the show. North Korea is one example. Iran and Israel are probably preparing for a showdown one day not too far. Christians are killed in Iraq and their celebration of Christmas has been cancelled this year after so many threats the Churches received. Wikileaks are top news as the founder has been condemned to throwing out in the light of the Internet the secret files of highly classified documents in the ever continuing espionage between the powers of the world!
But Christ warns us that his peace is different from the calm that precedes the storm. He, in fact, provokes everyone to examine his conscience before he takes sides and sits in judgment of others. His peace is a dividing peace for in his time Simon prophesied that Christ will be a sign of contradiction. Many will rise and many will fall because of Him. We simply cannot ignore Christ as the provoker whose sharp words against the hypocrites still resound today.
The entire world wants security but only false security can it attain since it continues to ignore Christ. Christ's peace comes with a cost: the cost of inner reconciliation with myself, my fellow humans and with Him my God. It demands sacrifice and wisdom. But it all is based on love in truth. If Christ were a pacifist how could he be condemned to death? On the contrary "he came to his own and his own received him not" (John 1: 11). His own Jewish people who proclaimed him king also crucified him for he did not do as they wished but only the truth of His Father. What more do we need to understand the peace of Christ? What would you do if Christ is born today? Only a question.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

The Hitchens-Blair Debate: Is Religion a Good Force in the World?

Christopher Hitchens does not wish to be called "Atheist" but "Anti-theist" as he probably thinks he is sure of the non-existence of God than the average "New Atheists." His recent debate with Tony Blair (about whether religion can be a force for good in the world) showed a bit of ignorance on the part of this self-proclaimed anti-theist.
My simple questions to him are those: Where was Christopher Hitchens when God created the universe (the same question that humbled Job in the Old Testament)? How dare he propose a humanist world without God when statistics show the influence of religion is on the rise across the globe? What does Hitchens think of the myriad human values introduced to the world by the fishermen of Christ? (See my post on the blog).
And if Hitchens glories in science, what does he know about what scientists have found in the new quantum physics, cosmology, neuroscience, genetics and the complexity of the evolution of life? (See my post "Has Science found God?" on the blog). What does Hitchens think of the essence of community with his pro-radical feminist approach? How would he propose to propagate the human species when he insists on a radical feminist agenda that continues to disturb this baren Western society? How can Hitchens attribute the Rwanda massacres to the Church when learned people know that it was a tribal war?
It was obvious that he would win the debate since the audience pre-judged his opponent the British ex-Prime Minister for his strong support of the Iraqi war. But Tony Blair showed a positive attitude towards Hitchens - Blair at least proposed that the essence of faith is love. He gave evidence of the positive influence of contemporary religion citing his own encounter with Catholic nuns who spend their life caring for sick people with Aids in Africa, and the work in which religious leaders were able to accomplish reduction of African debt. Blair's point, well taken by the audience, is that religion inspired and continues to inspire people to do good even when some people use it for their own interest.
As a Christian I have for long believed and preached that Love is the cornerstone of life here and eternally. God himself is a relationship of love between Father and Son in the Holy Spirit. And because of this loving God, Hitchens himself may be saved in spite of his aggression against God.

Monday, November 22, 2010

The Youth and The Church

“Mother and Teacher of all nations—such is the Catholic Church in the mind of her Founder, Jesus Christ; to hold the world in an embrace of love, that men, in every age, should find in her their own completeness in a higher order of living, and their ultimate salvation. She is ‘the pillar and ground of the truth.’ (1 Tim. 3:15) To her was entrusted by her holy Founder the twofold task of giving life to her children and of teaching them and guiding them—both as individuals and as nations—with maternal care. Great is their dignity, a dignity which she has always guarded most zealously and held in the highest esteem.” wrote Blessed Pope John XXIII in his encyclical letter “Mater et Magistra.”
This word of wisdom is needed today by all the shepherds in charge of the sheep of Christ. As a mother the Church looks with maternal love to her young ones. She teaches them the truth as she received it from Christ and carried it in her memory throughout the ages. However, many obstacles seem to stand against the youth coming (or coming back) to Church:
1. Many of them are confused about religion in an environment that promotes materialist atheism. Some join sects or spiritualist groups to make up for their perceived loss of faith.
2. Many of them go to church from time to time only to participate in weddings of friends, baptisms of children, or funerals of family members. The Church for those is an old institution that does not fit with the culture of the day.
3. Attractions abound around the youth both young adults and younger. The Internet has made it possible for global digital communications but also for global pornography, fantasy games, and gambling. Security on the Internet social networks has become a major concern for businesses, individuals and families. Technology is like anything else. You can use it to commit criminal acts or to do good things. Individualism has crept into the minds and actions of our youth. The youth “text” their peers rather than phoning them. Behind this trend there is a philosophy of spending and getting results the fast way. They have no time for much thinking. If this trend shows
anything, it is that youth are becoming lonely even though they may claim otherwise.
4. Since the introduction of artificial contraceptives in the 1960s, young adults have increasingly used them ignoring the teaching of their mother Church as expounded by Pope Paul VI in “Humanae Vitae”. This has reached phenomenal proportions with up to 70% of teenagers today having sex by the age of 17 without marriage. With the legalization of abortion, more youth are drifting to committing the sin of killing their children in the womb. Or to avoid abortion while having “safe sex” they are encouraged by the secular authorities to use condoms.
5. Legalizing divorce supported by radical feminists has made it easier for married couples to seek their own selfishness outside of marriage. Children of single-parent families are less able to succeed in their lives compared to children of heterosexual committed married parents. See the article “Is There Hope for The American Marriage?” published in July 2009 in TIME magazine here:,8599,1908243,00.html
6. The economic hardship faced by advanced economies in the globe is also having an impact on the youth. Educated youth are not finding good jobs and less educated youth are finding it hard to survive without parental support. For many years, the experimentation with drugs has been widespread in schools including Catholic schools. Peer pressure cannot be discounted when dealing with young adults and younger. The psychological effect of peer pressure is seen in universities, colleges, and schools.
A close look at the above issues should help us in identifying the mother’s role to guide her children.
The role of the Church to bring back her young adults and younger ones is about communicating with them in their own language while teaching them her ever-abiding truth in the way they understand it for each generation speaks and understands according to its culture. One of the major initiatives is “World Youth Day” initiated on a global Catholic level by John Paul II. Certainly this initiative can be replicated at a modest level in each diocese and parish. A plan for each diocese can be elaborated along the following lines:
- The Church is a community of the faithful. A major element of the faithful is the youth. The youth should experience the need for their presence in the Church as their mother would treat them with dignity. The youth should have an essential role in all aspects of services in the Church. Examples include service of the Mass every Sunday whether as choir members, candle carriers, ushers, or offering-collectors; charitable works such as food-bank collections and distribution (see St. Vincent de Paul); visiting sick and senior people in senior homes and sharing with them in their lonely lives; sponsorship of Christian refugees from Iraq and the rest of the Middle East.
- The Church is not only a mother but also a teacher. In that sense, weekly teaching of the youth and younger generations is necessary. The most important teachings recommended are living moral values. These include how to live today as a moral person. Teaching must be based on the Catechism of the Catholic Church (See and the Second Vatican Council ( The teaching should link Christian life to the great mysteries of faith: The Trinity; Christ; The Creed; The Sacraments; Saints as moral examples. Today’s issues need to be discussed in the light of the Church’s teachings (See The youth should participate in preparing/presenting some of the topics। Use of technology as tools of teaching where possible is encouraged (projector/screen, Internet access).
- A life of prayer and fasting is important for a personal Christian development and for the community. Young generations should be encouraged to participate in Lent and Paraclisis prayers/Holy Rosary prayers. The effectiveness of a mission is dependent on the prayer life of its members and their spiritual growth. Many examples can be given from the fathers of the Church.
- The Church should emphasize the communal aspect in social activities that bring together the young with the old. The person develops in the community not only spiritually but also socially, in good entertainment, and above all in love.The Church should not shy away from inviting its well-educated young adults to volunteer some of their time in order to help parishioners in their jobs and lives. Examples include physicians, lawyers, engineers, information systems professionals, nurses, insurance agents, teachers and others. A monthly meeting in the parish could be a starting focal point.
- The authority in the Church is invited to be a Christian example to the young as is the mother to her children. Moreover, the Church must raise its voice in all controversial political matters that affect the young and the old alike.
There will definitely be more and better opinions about how to help our youth build their new selves, their families, their Church, their society and the world Let them start and continue this journey by the power of the one who said “I am the Resurrection, the Truth, and the Life”.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Eastern Catholic Churches of the Middle East

Original written by Andrea Kirk Assaf/Zenit; edited by George Farahat Armenian Catholic Church The country of Armenia was evangelized by Apostles Bartholomew and Thaddeus, and was the first to make Christianity its official religion in 301 under the governorship of St. Gregory the Illuminator. The Armenian Church broke away after the Council of Chalcedon in 554. After several attempts at reunification with Rome by members of the Armenian Orthodox Church over the centuries, Pope Benedict XIV ultimately announced the establishment of the Armenian Catholic Church in 1742. Its patriarchate (currently led by Patriarch Nerses Bedros XIX Tarmouni) is located in Bzoummar, Lebanon, and its communities are found in Egypt, Syria, Turkey, Israel, Iran, Iraq, and Palestine, as well as in the global diaspora, particularly in the United States. There are an estimated 540,000 Catholic Armenians around the world. Chaldean Catholic Church The Chaldean Catholic Church originated in Edessa (in modern day Turkey) with the Apostle Thomas. Today its patriarchate is located in Baghdad, Iraq, headed by Patriarch Cardinal Emannuel III Delly, and its members number approximately 419,000. In 2007, Patriarch Delly became the first Chaldean Catholic elevated to the rank of a cardinal. The line of patriarchs in communion with Rome dates back to 1553, though this line was broken on several occasions and rival patriarchs created their own lines of succession. In 1830, only one patriarch remained and Pope Pius VIII granted him the title of Patriarch of Babylon of the Chaldeans. The history of the Chaldean Church has been marked by waves of persecution through the centuries in Iraq, nearly decimating their number and scattering their population, yet the Church to this day maintains a firm presence and vibrant community. Coptic Catholic Church The roots of this Church are found in the conversion of an Orthodox Coptic bishop, Amba Athanasius, to Catholicism in 1741, along with 2,000 others. Athanasius was appointed apostolic vicar to this new flock but later returned to the Orthodox Church. He left behind a line of Catholic vicars, however, and in 1824 the Holy See created a Patriarchate for the Copts, re-established in 1895 by Pope Leo XIII, who appointed the first patriarch. The current Coptic Catholic Patriarch of Alexandria, who heads a Church of 163,000 in Egypt, is Patriarch Cardinal Antonios Naguib. Greek Melkite Catholic Church The Melkites, also known as Byzantine Catholics, number 1.3 million around the world. The See of Antioch never broke its ties with the Church of Rome after the schism of 1054. However, due to its proximity to Constantinople, it came under the influence of the Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch. The Melkites entered into full communion with Rome in the declaration of bishop Cyril Tanas in 1724 who was then accepted with his supporters into the Catholic fold in 1729. Melkite Patriarch Gregory signed the declaration on the doctrine of papal infallibility at Vatican Council I, but with the appended clause "preserving the rights and privileges of Eastern patriarchs." Gregory's concerns about the latinization of the Eastern Churches was somewhat relieved by Leo XIII's encyclical "Orientalium Dignitas." At Vatican Council II, the Melkite Patriarch Maximus IV contributed vigorously to the declaration of collegiality (the belief that all bishops together. headed by the pope, constitute the supreme authority in the Catholic Church.) The Melkites took further measures to remove Latin-rite traditions from their liturgy. The current Greek Melkite Catholic Patriarch of Antioch and All the East, Alexandria, and Jerusalem is Gregory III Laham, who resides in Damascus, Syria. In the Middle East his flock can be found in Israel, Syria, Jordan, and Lebanon, and also in Africa, South America, North America and Australia. Maronite (Catholic) Church The Maronites derive their name from the Syrian monk St. Maron, who was an important figure in the Christian community of Antioch at the same time as St. John Chrysostom, but who left the city to follow the example of St. Anthony of the Desert and took up a hermitic life. The Maronites voted in favor of the Council of Chalcedon in 451, subsequently finding themselves the sole Chalcedonian Christians in the region. Some 350 Maronite monks were then killed by Miaphysites/Monophysites, causing the Maronites to flee and settle in Lebanon, particularly in the mountainous regions. The first specifically Maronite patriarch, John Maron, was elected in 687, in the midst of an Islamic invasion and conflict with the Orthodox Church and the Byzantine Emperor, Justinian II. The Muslim conquest of Eastern Christendom cut off Maronite communication with Rome for 400 years, until the time of the First Crusade, when the Maronites re-affirmed their union with Rome in 1182, the only non-Uniate Eastern Christian Church in the Middle East to this day. In 1584, the Maronites established their presence in Rome with the Maronite College, followed by the building of several monasteries and convents of Maronite orders. Syriac Catholic Church The Syriac Church, also referred to as the Western Syriac Rite, uses a Syriac language liturgy that is called the "Anaphora of St. James" and dates back to the bishopric of St. Peter in Antioch. The Syriac Catholic Church made a final split from the Orthodox Church and came into union with Rome in 1781. Dramatically, in 1782, Syriac Orthodox Patriarch Michael Jarweh of Aleppo declared himself Catholic and in union with Rome shortly after his election, and then took flight to Lebanon where he established an unbroken line of Catholic Syriac patriarchs. During the 18th century the Church went underground due to persecution from the Orthodox, encouraged by the Ottomans. In the subsequent years the patriarchate was moved from Lebanon to Aleppo, Syria, then to Mardin, Turkey, and finally back to Beirut during the Assyrian genocide of World War I, which brought about the deaths of over 37,500 Syriac Catholics at the hands of Turkish nationalists. Today there are approximately 159,000 Syriac Catholics globally, concentrated in the Middle East in Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Egypt, Syria, Turkey, and also in the diaspora in Australia, Sweden, France, Venezuela, Brazil, Sudan, the United States and Canada. The current Patriarch of Antioch and All the East of the Syrians is Patriarch Ignace Joseph III Younan, who resides in Beirut, Lebanon.

Interfaith Encounter with Islamic and Hindu People

On Saturday October 30, I was one of 3 speakers in an interfaith meeting for young adults and youth at Jaffari Islamic Centre. The two other speakers were Dr. Hashimi, a Muslim expert and Pandit Roopnauth Sharma, a Hindu guru. The topic was about angels and demons in Catholic Christianity, Islam, and Hinduism. But I took this opportunity to speak, uninterrupted, about Christian faith and common themes with other religions: 1) Moral values and human dignity (Respect for human dignity may not be found in some traditions of the East) 2) Common things: Belief in God, prayer, fasting, and community life 3) Human needs: material, psychological, spiritual and security 4) We need love since love protects us 5) God loves us - In Christian tradition God is Love. Love is not only one of his names but his unique character. He loved us into life and cares about each one 6) Angels are servants of God. God loves his angels including the angels who fell into pride. The Devil and his angels separated themselves from God. 7) The lesson for us is not to separate ourselves from God - We need God - We need eternal happiness and salvation from sin through Christ 8) We have guardian angels who protect us. Angels came to Abraham, Jacob, Mary, and Christ. The angels of God sustained Christ in his fasting and in suffering before his crucifixion. 9) The most important point: In response to Dr. Hashimi who thinks that Christians are confused by considering Christ the Son of God, I said that we as Christians believe in Christ not only as the Son of God but also that Christ is God from God fully divine and fully human. When one of the Muslim youth questioned why Christians beliieve that Christ is God, I replied that the topic can be the subject of another debate. But I insist on finding common grounds rather than finding topics of differences with people of other religions. We cannot act like the self-righteous people. Moreover, When Christians speak to someone who is not Christian we need to be patient for him to learn. He will not learn as long as Christians do not show love by example. We need to respect everyone and love him as he is. Christ respected everyone and loved everyone. We must hope to be a bit as generous as our master and God.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Greek Melkite Catholics?

Why are Melkite Catholics called Greek Melkite Catholics? 1) The word "Melkite" is derived from "followers of Malek" i.e followers of the emperor or king. It was used as a derogatory term by Christians who did not accept the decisions of the Council of Chalcedon (451 AD) against those Christians who accepted it. The Council declared that in Christ there are two natures human and divine distinct but united in his one person. 2) The word "Greek" refers to the Eastern Roman empire which extended its governance over all the Middle East and whose centre was Constantinople (today Istanbul) i.e. Byzantium. Its cultural language is Greek. Since the Church of Antioch was situated in this Greek/Byzantine culture, Christians who lived in Antioch were called Greek (Room) by the Arab conquerors of the 7th century. 3) Although the Church of Antioch distanced itself from the effects of the 1054 schism between the Churches of Rome and Constantinople, its geographical and cultural proximity to Constantinople slowly reflected a pressure or tendency to be Orthodox Christian. However, in 1724 bishop Cyril Tannas and other bishops in the Church of Antioch declared their communion with the Church of Rome. This decision resulted in the pope recognizing Cyril as a patriarch of Antioch in 1729 and, at the same time, some other bishops in Antioch preferring to stay in communion with Orthodox Constantinople. Since the reunion with the Roman Church, the followers of Patriarch Cyril Tannas have been part of the Catholic Church. Note that the Church of Rome recognizes the traditions of all Eastern Churches in union with her.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

The Family - Part 3 - Sexuality

Sexuality is a gift from God. According to the teachings of most religions, marriage is the framework that this gift is used and made fruitful. In Christian moral teaching, marriage reflects love of Christ to His spouse the Church. The Church as spouse loves Him who loved her first and made her holy by the shedding of His own blood. If the power of hell cannot overcome the Church, it is because Christ is with her till the end. If we think of the power of Christ against the power of hell, then we can be invited to plunge ourselves into the deeper water of eternal love. In the marital intimate act of intercourse, the husband gives himself to his wife, and she receives his love and gives herself in love to him. This power of sacrificial love binds them by the fruit of the intimate act, the child they procreate in participation with God. But why does the Church restrict the intimate act of intercourse to marriage? Why does the Church consider pre-marital sexual activity and extra-marital sexual activity to be acts of mortal sin? This is the question that liberal young adults ask themselves especially in such free cultures as Europe and North America. On one hand, we need to understand that young and older adults alike are exposed to a materialist culture of instant pleasure, a web of media attractions that makes the temptation of falling into sexual promiscuity readily available, an economic hardship in a fast-paced and often stressful job market, and an individualist mentality promoting the individual human rights as opposed to the rights of society/community. In such stressful situation, it is expected that many may fall for the temptation of premarital/extra-marital sexual acts. On the other hand, if the parents (us?) were such a good model, the young ones would imitate them. Parents need to communicate with their children since they are born. In fact, communication with the fetus in the womb is beneficial according to medical research. If parents, parish and school teach their young ones how to live faithfully to their moral values, the young ones would be influenced by them. For we have to look at the root before we judge the fruit. The model for us is Christ himself.

But more than that let's consider the following points:

1. According to recent neuroscientific research in 2006, humans are naturally endowed with a brain hormone called "Oxytocin" to help them bond and open their hearts for love. Not only it contributes to bonding between male and female, but also to bonding between mother and infant. Oxytocin contributes to increase in social collaboration and trust. Another hormone found in human brains is Vasopressin which can contribute to pair bonding thus encouraging monogomous lasting bonding between male and female. Love starts really at the natural level. We do not need to invent it. This tells us that humans are inherently created good and open to love without having to resort to Biblical sources or early tradition.

2. If humans are created good and open to love, then they will ideally propagate love to their offsprings and in their social environment, but without discounting the effects of genetic differentiation, rivalry and selfishness. Research in anthropology has shown that rivalry is mimetic or imitative. According to Rene Girard, if I admire another man and know that he loves the woman I love, his desire for this woman will be stronger because of me and he will become my rival. This probably explains why men fight each other and become violent over time. But the same imitative power is also found in imitating the good parents, leaders and saints who sacrifice themselves out of love for the sake of the other.

3. Just as much as sexual energy is powerful, self-control proves to be more powerful. This is the dictum of True Love Waits, a movement in America that seeks to encourage teenagers and young adults to commit sexual love to the bond of marriage alone (see http://www.lifeway/tlw) Self-control propagates through the formation of like-minded community of single young adults and helping them overcome the difficulties they face. In the Christian tradition, the formation of community is the responsibility of pastors, teachers, and the entire people of God. Giving them responsibilities within the parish is one way to make them feel they are part of the community.

4. If we want to extend ourselves through offsprings, there is one natural way: mating. But mating with multiple persons of the other gender not only breaks the exclusive natural bonding found by neuroscience, but also introduces the highly probable infections with transmitted sexual diseases which in turn affect the health of generations to come.

5. The idea of living by myself is scarecely possible. Humans have brains that help them organize themselves into families of man and woman in a natural way. This idea is psychologically applied to all cultures at all times regardless of religion and creed. That I can live by myself contradicts my drive for security, for I am insecure as long as I remain alone. In an urban society of individuals, who will take care of me when my parents have died and I am left alone, unless my spouse is there for me? This is why commitment to each other all life is required of both spouses in the marriage Mass or ceremony. This is why a good spouse is in pain when he/she loses the other. This is also why divorce is wrong.

6. In Christianity alone, and here is where I wish to draw more attention, the power of God is not His mighty deeds, His wisdom, or his eternal glory but His love. His love is what constitutes the Holy Trinity in One God. His love is what prompted Him to create the world and redeem it when sin entered the world. If love is recognized by theists and atheists alike to be the supreme moral value, then Christianity in the teaching and life of her founder is the answer to darkness. It is this love that precedes any sexual act. The definition of love is not pleasure but sacrifice for the other (my spouse) who is not an object of pleasure in the way passionate Hollywood pictures it. Love contains passion and emotion yet it transcends it. It contains commitment yet it transcends it - for love is the other. Nothing less.

Based on the above points combined, it is objectively evident why the Church considers premarital and extra-marital sexual activity to be wrong. The Church does not judge the sinner, yet she judges sin and encourages her children to avoid falling in it especially through prayers and fasting. In all things we need God's help for He said "Without me you can do nothing." Indeed He works through us.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

The Family - Part 2 - Marriage

In the animal kingdom, the family is the result of mating between males and females of the same species. Humans are "developed animals." In the very beginning of human history, the male mated with the female (Adam and Eve) and the result was a number of children. To survive, the male hunted for the prey to eat with his woman and children while the woman took care of raising their kids. Where there was fertile land for agriculture, human tribes settled. This is the example of the ancient Egyptian civilization around the Nile. In other areas where there was rain, tribes settled too. Mesopotamian civilization, for example, was built around the idea of conquering tribes in the fertile lands of Syria and Palestine. The role of man in the family developed so that he became a farmer rather than a hunter. Women were considered objects that belonged to their men in the same way as cattles belonged to men. Boys were considered a blessing because the more boys a man had the more helpers to him they would be. Boys would become men that defend the tribe and extend the family in the next generations thus making man eternal. Women of conquered tribes were often raped and taken slaves by the conquerors. So much was the dignity of women thrown away that a man could take many wives just to bear him children and care for them. This is a very sketchy picture but the idea still remains true in underdeveloped cultures today. In traditional Islamic Sharia for instance, a man can take up to four wives at the same time. This is the case in many Islamic cultures to-date. Moreover, a man in Islamic cultures can divorce his wife and marry another one. Jewish tradition too tells us in the Bible that many Jewish men married more than one woman from Abraham himself on to his offspring. Solomon is known to have had many wives under the influence of pagan cultures surrounding Israel. Divorce was allowed in the Mosaic Law down to the time of Christ 1200 years later. This is natural since a man can impregnate hundreds of women in one year but a woman can be impregnated by only one man in the same period. However, only Christ reinstated marriage to its original form: One woman for one man exclusively. A man may not divorce his wife neither can a wife divorce her husband. Their marriage is permanent till death separates them. For 20 centuries the Catholic Church has enshrined this moral doctrine in its Canon Laws. In 16th century England, Sir Thomas More, now a saint, paid the ultimate price for he refused to acknowledge King Henry VIII's remarriage and was therefore taken to martyrdom - A man for all seasons. But let's take a deeper look: What is the purpose of marriage? The Ecumenical Second Vatican Council declared that marriage between a man and a woman is for more than mere reproduction. It is a participation in the procreative act of God who wills that humans be conceived and born into life. The act of sexual intercourse that brings about human life is sacred - It must be open to life (as Pope Paul VI states in Humanae Vitae). It is also an act constituted in love which is the supreme gift of God. No human power can make divorce valid for the supreme gift of God cannot be revoked. This is why, now we understand, "a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife." Why is divorce considered evil? Because in marriage both husband and wife commit themselves to each other in good times and bad, in health and illness and in joy and sorrow. Infidelity is a great evil but is forgiven by the spouse against whom it was committed. While divorce is not an option for Catholics who commit to remain in the Church, secular societies have legalized it since the 1970s. But recent studies show the negative effect of divorce on families particularly on their children. They point to children of divorce that fail in their future marriages significantly more than the children of committed marriage. Divorced people tend to have weaker second marriage if they are remarried. In the eyes of the Gospel and the Church remarriage is invalid if the spouse of the valid marriage is still alive. The Church understands the weakness of the human nature. If spouses are unable to continue living together, they are allowed to be separated but they are not allowed to remarry in the Church. To strengthen the life of married couples Marriage Encounter is a week-end program dedicated to bringing together married couples in order to renew their love and communication. Marriage is not a simple contract. Pre-nuptial agreements that are popular in North America today assume that marriage is a legal contract that will not last. For this reason, the spouses agree before marriage as to the individual rights of each of them for his/her own assets if/when their marriage is over. What is missing in these arrangements is trust of each in the fidelity of the other. The Sacramant of Matrimony is blessed by Christ as a sign of love. In the wedding ceremony/Mass, the bridegroom and bride are each asked by the priest to declare his/her own willingness to spend the rest of life with the other in good times and bad, in good health and illness, and in joyful times and sorrowful times. They are partners for life. In rare cases the Church may consider a marriage to be invalid and therefore annulled only if there is enough evidence of certain conditions before marriage including psychological/physical/health inaptitude in one of the two partners or if one of them was married in distress. To investigate such a case the Church tribunal for marriages carries out lengthy investigations. The open character of the Catholic Church is evident in her treatment of on-Catholic marriages. In the eyes of the Catholic Church every first marriage in any religious/cultural context is considered valid although it lacks the sacramental grace of Christ. Thus the marriage of a Catholic who marries a divorced Muslim is invalid. Moreover marriage is about raising new generations in the grace of God. This is why in "mixed marriages" the Catholic partner promises to raise the children in the Catholic moral education. The same partner also promises to try to persuade the non-Catholic partner to become Catholic. It is important that the family be of the same religion and faith, pray together, and resolve any serious problems immediately by councelling the spiritual guide or parish priest. Marriage reflects the Holy Trinity. How? Marriage cannot be broken because it is in the image of the holy Trinity. Marriage unites two in one love body and soul and its fruit is love. This reflects, to our limited understanding the love of the Father to his only begotten Son. The Son returns the Father's love with love. The power that unites the Father and the Son is also Love - It is the Holy Spirit. And the Holy Spirit gives life here on earth and in eternity.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The Family - Part 1

The human family is at the centre of all cultures since the beginning of the homosapien species. This is a natural development of creation. In the animal kingdom the family starts with mating between the male and female. Humans are “developed animals” with a mind and a will. In that sense they are created in the image of God. In ancient texts, the Bible recounts the first family in Genesis with the relationship of Adam and Eve (male and female). “Adam knew Eve” (according to Genesis) did not mean that he knew her name or something about her. The language indicates experience of the other person in a deep relationship. Adam experienced Eve as no one else did emotionally, physically, spiritually and existentially. From their love relationship sprang their children. The children of humans have physical and genetic resemblance to other animals (they share 98% of the DNA with chimpanzees) but they are different in other significant ways. Babies of humans are totally dependent on their parents for survival for many years. Although the human baby comes out from his mother’s womb with a large brain, he cannot walk for at least 6 months. However while other animal babies can walk earlier and climb trees fast, only human babies learn to behave differently with time. This is the result of a different larynx that allows humans to speak and develop their language thus they communicate easier and faster. Moreover humans have the most complex brain in the universe containing 100 billion cells in each child’s brain. You can see that humans are highly complex with minds that not only can think but also can will to do things as they choose. Because humans as young as a few months old can choose, they can say yes or no to their parents. They can also choose to accept or reject to love their siblings (brothers, sisters). This is probably what Augustine called Original Sin. It is that I want myself: my growth: my life even if it is at the cost of killing others. My parents are as important to me as much as I need them. I love them because they loved me first. My siblings are only important if I can get them to do things for me. However I love them too as they resemble in traits much of what my parents had. Cultures developed around the concept of me, my family, and my tribe. The more the tribe grew together the more it became stronger. This is called collaboration. The individual belonged to the family and the family to the tribe (society) and the tribe was headed by the chief or elder of the tribe. Thus civilizations came as a development of tribal interactions, trade, and collaboration. But the fact that collaboration and organization make sense allows humans to learn together and from each other. Schools and universities are only one phenomenon of human learning. This learning starts in the family at a very young age. When children are ready to develop their writing, their parents send them to school. And schools used to be built by churches in the Western world and part of the Middle East until the contemporary secular state took over much of what the Church built. It is a fact that the Church built the first schools and the first universities in Europe and learned from other philosophies particularly Greek. Today then we need to learn from the Church. This is the foundation of the moral law that we as parents transmit to our children. Then we need to send our children to good Catholic/Christian schools where they learn more about their faith. Then we need to encourage our children to come to Church from their early young age using the reward system. This way they will grow up in Church.

A life that appears to have been a failure!

His entire life was in giving. His healings meant to cure people of afflictions. Although he was accused by teachers of the Law that he healed by the power of Satan, his healing drove out demons and brought peace to the healed ones. His teaching was summed up in loving the enemy and praying for the offenders. Yet his life ended on a cross where he died between two thieves. His own disciples left him except for his mother and a few followers. All the crowds who shouted for him as their king cursed him a few days later on the way to the cross. And despite this he forgave them all. If he did not claim to be the Son of God he probably would not have been condemned. How could he be silent when he was to witness to the truth? Suffering to death on a cross was the most horrible way to die invented by the Romans. A life that appears to have been a failure in all human measures. Nevertheless his crown was a glorious Resurrection and Ascension that over centuries brought kings and multitudes to him. Now we know that the Crucified One who failed in the eyes of Man is the One who made his coward disciples conquer the world in his name. Glory be to Jesus the King!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Today's Question: Peace between Palestinians and Israelis

For both Israelis and Palestinians to find a just solution, they must start with good will towards each other. That was Sadat's achievement. He went all the way to the Knesset in Israel in spite of huge opposition in the Arab world. Egypt was expelled from The Arab League. Yet he persevered. Menahem Begin, while considered criminal by many non-Jews, took the opportunity to negotiate an agreement with Egypt. It takes two to tango... Today, thirty one years after the Egyptian-Israeli Agreement, the hawks of Israel and Palestine must first stop violence against each other. This takes courage as there are other players in the Middle East who would benefit from extending the conflict's atmosphere. Fundamentalists on both sides must learn to forgive the past and attempt a reconciliation. This is not easy at all especially for people who were driven out of their land and still suffer in camps. Peace has a cost. Life has a cost. But hope is the only way to go. It may take years to achieve a permanent solution. Perseverance in the hope that those estranged cousins will be able to recognize each other's right to life is the beginning of peace.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Jospeh Jules Zerey on Faith

It is my prayer that we as a Christian community whether in Toronto or in Jerusalem be converted and live our faith according to the Lord's commandment of love. He loved his disciples who betrayed him. He forgave his enemies who crucified him. "Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you that you may be children of your heavenly Father" (Matthew 5: 44-45). It is only through love that we can be his disciples. The place where I live is not far from the mountain on which Christ shone in transfiguration and gave us a foretaste of his glory. This transfiguration awoke the three apostles and after his Resurrection they became a powerful testimony to his awakening from the dead. Must we not today awaken again from our slumber? We need to to have a room for God in our everyday life - contemplate his beauty in his creatures, and reflect on his love that was fulfilled in the incarnation, death and resurrection of his only begotten Son. In Jerusalem, our patriarchate offers a home to the visitors who come to pray and seek the Lord. We have a few schools to teach children according to the faith, but half of my students do not have the money to pay their tuition fees. We do not press them. They receive education so that they be good Christians. We have a couple of houses run by the Sisters of Charity and the Little Sisters of Jesus. Their vocation is to serve the poor of the poor, the dying and foresaken children, and the old and broken hearts. None of these services discriminates between Muslims, Christians and Jews, for all humans are children of God. In the Catholic Church of the Holy Land, a conference of bishops maintains monthly dialogue between the episcopate of each of the Eastern Catholic Churches and the Roman Catholic Patrairchate. We coordinate the efforts together to build a Catholic presence that serves the rest of people. We also maintain a convergent dialogue with our brothers in Christ: Orthodox, Anglican and Protestant. We pray together for the day when we all become one in Christ. In the interfaith dialogue with our Muslim and Jewish brothers, we are in good contact with their authorities. We respect our elder brothers the Jews from whom Christ, his mother and the Apostles came. With our Muslim brothers, we share much such as belief in one God, prayer, and fasting. For example, a day before my travel, I received an invitation for a Ramadan Breakfast with the Palestinian Authority to which I had to delegate a representative from the Melkite Catholic Church. In spite of all the sufferings we work with all parties in the conflict of Palestine to establish peace in hearts and to break the violent reactions between parties who seek to overthrow each other. Everything starts in the heart. This is why peace is possible only when people accept to live together and forgive each other. What can you in Toronto do to help us in Palestine? I am not asking for money but only for your own hearts to be in solidarity with us and the millions who seek peace. Our tradition is full of reminders to grow in wisdom and spiritual life. This raises questions to you: Answer in your hearts 1) When was the last time you fasted? 2) When was the last time you prayed from your heart? 3) When was the last time you received the sacrament of confession (reconciliation)? Remember that your children will imitate you as you imitated your parents. Even if it is hard economically for many, we should not run after the mighty dollar for it is written "You worship either God or money but not both." I will continue to be a voice for peace and love - the love that Christ alone brings to you. This is the faith of the Church that I meant to tell you about. Archbishop Joseph Jules Zerey is Patriarchal Vicar of Jerusalem for the Greek Melkite Catholic Church. The above was paraphrased from a lecture he gave at Jesus the King Church on Friday August 27, 2010

Thursday, August 19, 2010

A Mosque Near Ground Zero!

Many questions are raised these days about the plans of building an Islamic cultural centre including a mosque near "Ground Zero." Ground Zero is the name of the New York place where the radical Islamist terrorist attacks exploded the Trade Centres towers on September 11, 2001. Almost 80% of Americans polled are opposed to the building of the Islamic cultural centre on grounds that it is a reminder of a dark day in America's history when thousands were killed by a foreign violent mob. On the other hand, Imam Faisal Abdul Raouf, who is behind the Cordoba Initiative, argues together with liberal supporters that the mosque will be a symbol for tolerance of all religions by America. But let's look at the question from a deeper perspective. Most Muslims do not endorse violence. They follow the dictates of Islam, pray, fast at least during the month of Ramadan and seek the All-merciful God. The vast majority of Muslims oppose abortion. Pope John Paul II collaborated with Muslim countries to defeat the abortion agenda proposed at the U.N. Conference on Population and Development in Cairo, 1994. Bringing the above memory to the present, we could see in the current agenda of global Western thought a scapegoat represented by religion. Any religion is to be excluded from Western social norms and legal systems. Look at America, Canada and Europe. You will see Rene Girard's prophetic words of the scapegoat - Excluding religious prayer and teaching from public schools, religious symbols from public hospitals, religious opinion from the media. Moreover, religious institutions (particularly the still powerful Catholic Church) are shunned and attacked everywhere there is an opportunity. The recent fiasco about a few sex-offending priests is a sign. These are only signs of the scapegoat. Only the powerful remains and we are again in Darwinian lands. As I wrote in The Economist today I wish people understand that in this age of science we cannot separate religion from life. We will never be able to remove from the human mind the need to worship. The idea of God will be with us because it responds to our quest for eternal life. Since we are the only creatures with memory, we think and relate to past events. Violence is a big problem today. The problem with building this mosque is about security. No one, it appears to me, wants to be a target of a violent destruction initiated by fellow humans "in the name of God." In spite of the formidable progress made by science, economic and political cooperation, there is an indespensable element lacking in relationships: trust. Trust requires good will which remains a hidden mystery to-date. Even if all Muslim and non-Muslim nations declare their opposition to violence, there could still be elements or people who would take advantage of religion to proclaim their victory over the others using a distorted picture of God. From a practical view, it is better not to build the mosque in the near future as it could today explode sensitivities still fresh from 9/11 when thousands of Americans, including Muslims, were killed. The Islamic cultural centre at Ground Zero may give the impression to fundamentalist Muslims that they have won the war against America. The name itself "Cordoba" is a reminder of Islamic conquering of Spain in the Middle Ages. Christian people may interpret it as a return to Islamic invasion by other means. Then there is the fearful question: Who will fund this project. It could be the government or an organization in Iran, Lybia, Saudi Arabia or Pakistan. Some of these sources fund terrorist groups. Some commentators argued that Muslims already worship near the Pentagon. However the chapel they use is also used by other people from different religions at different times.My opinion: DO NOT BUILD the Islamic Cultural Centre nor the mosque near Ground Zero. First there must be a more profound encounter of mind and spirit between peoples. Slowly a civilization of love may emerge or may not. We must pray for it to emerge. In the end, we have hope that Christ will transform many hearts and minds for he came to save people, not to condemn them.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

A Man for All Seasons

A Man for All Seasons is the name of a movie that inspired many about the heroic acts of St. Thomas More. Sir Thomas More, chancellor of 16th-century England, was a humanist and intellectual married man whose commitment to the faith never affected his devotion to his family, king, and country. On the contrary his well-formed conscience allowed him to face up to the powers of his time.
In his conversation with Cardinal Woolsey, More showed the primacy of his conscience over and against the "pressures" that Woolsey, a cleric of the Church, wanted to exert on the pope in order to obtain a divorce for King Henry VIII. The king wanted a heir to the throne since his wife Queen Catherine was barren. Thomas More's response was prayer for the king. Again his defiance of civil authorities when they trample upon the dignity of human people is supremely evident in his trial instigated by Secretary Cromwell and the betrayal of More by his friend Richard Rich who lied under oath. Thomas More was executed for "treason" along with thousands who refused to bend to the king's new unlawful laws as Supreme Head of the Church in England and his unlawful second marriage.
Today, the Church (i.e., the People of God) need another Thomas More to stand for human dignity in face of the new tyrants: Capitalist corporations whose main purpose is to gain excessive profits at the expense of poor classes and poor countries, competing for the resources of the earth. Under globalization, the entire economic world is shifting to the powerful desire for swallowing the weaker economies. On the other hand, poor countries are governed by dictators who would swallow their own people.
More to the point, we see selfishness arising from insecurity in the hearts in every land (particularly after the global recession), shyless pornography over the Internet, media catering to the powerful, division among Christians, stubborn fundamentalism in many areas of the world especially in Islamic countries, and a huge carelessness for pro-life issues. The U.N. with a liberal Western mentality is pressing women all over the world to use contraceptives and otherwise perform abortion.
In spite of the above bleak information, we believe that Christ who works in the hearts has conquered the world. In time, the world will realize the truth that Thomas More defended.
What can we do?
1. Pray more in church, at home, at work, and on the way to work. Give room to God in your heart.
2. Read and learn the teachings of Christ. You will find them in the Bible and the Church Tradition as interpreted by the Church. Recall that the Church grows in its understanding of the words and realities of the deposit of faith (Vatican II, Dei Verbum, 8). Form your conscience based on your search for the truth. A good conscience takes time to be formed. When you learn the truth from the Church, pass it on to your family and invite your friends to share it too.
3. Imitate the good shepherds and servants who work for Christ. Help the Church by offering services through her to the poor, the sick, and the alienated.
4. The hardest thing is to love the true love. Love is more than feelings. Love is an act of the will. It is shown in the experience of God's love who loved us first. We cannot love if we are not loved. God loves you. Return that love in love to everyone you encounter: Your family, your friends, your people, your co-workers, your managers, and the world. Love does not mean that you must agree with what people do but that you will their eternal salvation. Start with the little love that you offer when you sacrifice some time for another person. Offer your love in little things you do in an extraordinary way (the little way of St. Therese of Lisieux). The love of Christ did not stop there for he did not only love everyone, but also forgave them on the cross. He, the innocent lamb, did not will to retaliate nor revenge. Christ loved his enemies: the Samaritans he taught and healed, the Canaanite whose son he healed, and the Jewish authorities who condemned him to death.
Love is eternal - God is Love.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Robert Hanna on Martyrs

This past Friday Robert Hanna, who is finishing his theological studies in Lebanon to become a priest, gave a beautiful lecture on martyrs. He chose 4 examples from the New Testament. First is St. John the Baptist, known as the forerunner in Tradition. John was the cousin of Christ. He was begotten in a miraculous way and was sanctified by the Holy Spirit when still in the womb of his mother Elizabeth (Luke 1). John's father, Zekariah the priest, prophesied that John "will be called Prophet of the Most High." John grew and lived an ascetic life in the wilderness. Before preparing the people for God, John was prepared. The most impressive fact about John is his witness to the truth regardless of the cost. He was, the Bible says, "a voice crying out in the desert" for people to repent. He baptized those who came to him for repentance. Of Christ he said "I am not worthy to loosen the thongs of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire" (Luke 3: 16). John paid the ultimate price at a young age for admonishing King Herod of his sinful life with Herodia, his brother's wife. The second example is St. Stephen, one of the disciples in the early Church who preached about Christ and performed wonders. Stephen was stoned to death by the Jewish elders who opposed his teaching on Christ, Son of God. What made Stephen a great example for all ages is not only his martyrdom but also his prayer to the Lord while dying "Lord, do not hold this sin against them." (Acts 7) The third and fourth examples are Sts. Peter and Paul whose feast we celebrated on June 29. Peter was given the keys by Christ to rule over the Church, yet he did not consider himself worthy to die like Christ. He was crucified by the Roman Emperor Nero upside-down. Peter spoke the truth to all. The head of the apostles who denied Christ before the crucifixion became a transformed man after the Resurrection of Christ and spoke without fear to the people at Pentecost. He performed miracles in the name of Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit. Paul too laboured for the Church more than anyone else, yet he considered himself the least of the apostles. In the 16th century, one of the great martyrs is St. Thomas More. Sir Thomas More sacrificed his property, land and the good life with his beloved family, for he loved his Lord more and could not swear obedience against his conscience although King Henry VIII favoured him as Lord Chancellor of England. Thomas More was beheaded on account of "treason" but he himself said before his death "I die the subject of the king but the subject of God first." Today, we think of those martyrs and many more that paid the ultimate price for the truth. We imitate them as they show us Christ who said "I am the Truth." The entire Christian witness is to follow in the footsteps of Christ. It takes more than talk as it requires daily sacrifice and a life of prayer. We do not have to be martyrs but we need our hearts to get less full of ourselves, our material concerns, and our comfort so that God can have more room in our hearts.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Athanasius the Great

When he was severely persecuted by the emperor and exiled 5 times from his See of Alexandria, Athanasius the Great was once told: O Athanasius, the entire world is against you. To which, he replied: And I am against the world!
One thing that moves me about Athanasius is his perseverence for the truth even if it meant persecution and martyrdom. The hero of Christian faith in the first Ecumenical Council at Nicea (325 AD), he succeeded his Patriarch on the Apostolic See of Alexandria. He immediately worked hard to regain people lost to the Arian heresy. From 319 AD Arius, a priest in Alexandria, had preached a distorted view of the relationship of Christ to God the Father. Arius claimed that the Son (Christ) was not God but only a creature, the first of all creatures. At the Council, the young Athanasius argued that the Son was God from God. Inspired by his defence, the Council produced the Nicene Creed which was further developed at the second Ecumenical Council at Constantinople (381 AD). The amazing thing is the insistence of Athanasius to use a Greek expression for the divinity of the Son emanating from the divinity of the Father although this expression "homoosious" was not Biblical. This movement under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit is a sign of the development of doctrine in Catholic teaching, which was recently promulgated in the Second Vatican Council (Dei Verbum 8).
Athanasius is invoked not only as a saint, but also as a doctor of the Church (teacher for all generations).

Thursday, May 27, 2010

True Freedom

The only freedom we can ever have is the freedom of love. Whatever we do, we are enslaved on earth to the the self...If you think that you are free because you live in a free democracy, you are mistaken. Look around and you will see people carrying crosses and walking in the shadow of death. The most advanced technology cannot save you from spiritual death, unless you make a turn towards Love - God. If you are a worrier throw your worries on the One who said "Come to me all you tired ones and put your loads on me" This is the way of saints. They became saints because they learned to unload their fears, worries and thoughts on Christ. The communion of saints is the community in which everyone loves and supports the others. They entrust themselves to Christ. If you really wish to be free, unload your fears on Christ and tell him to give you the power of love. Work with the promptings of the Holy Spirit to receive his love and transmit it around you. For only in love there is freedom. The powers of the world look only to expand their empires at whatever cost - militarily, economically and socially - in order to prosper even if it means the insecurity, and destruction of other people(s). No one has the right to force their own version of "freedom" on other nations. We watched with horror the second Gulf war in which hundreds of thousands were scattered and became refugees. It is terrible that a Christian president gave himself such rights of invasion causing divisions not only with his Western allies but also within Muslim sects in Iraq. Moreover, this act of unjustified aggression caused and still causes persecution of Christians living in Iraq and the Middle East in general. This story is only one of thousands that took place on this earth causing death to millions of people. Some of the wars were justified on religious basis. The story of the Tower of Babel reminds us that humans who want to reach to heaven on their own will fail and be divided. The name of the Devil reminds us of division. But the power of the Spirit of God unites us all humans. For God loves us. Work with the promptings of the Holy Spirit to receive his love and transmit it around you. For only in love there is freedom!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Death in Light of the Holy Spirit

The Holy Spirit is "The Lord Giver of Life" as the Creed states. When we think of death, the Holy Spirit gives us light of life eternal. The Father sent his Son to save the world and the Son sent the Holy Spirit to sanctify the world. All graces are free gifts from God that come to us through the Holy Spirit. It is in Him that saints die to the self and the world. The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of God who urges us to repent and commit ourselves to God. This is why St. Augustine interpreted "blasphemy against the Holy Spirit" in the sense of stubbornly refusing to repent until the last moment of life. Death in light of the Holy Spirit is seen as only a transition to the fullness of life which is to see God "face to face." Who could see God face to face in this earthly life but Christ alone? Even Moses the great messenger of the Old Covenant was told by God "No one sees me and lives." Why Christ alone could see God? Because Christ is God, one with the Father who lives the fullness of love from eternity.
If God is Love, then he could not love himself in loneliness. From eternity, He must love another - His image, His Son. The Father loves the Son so much that he empties himself and gives his divinity unconditionally to the Son. The Son receives this love and in turn returns the divinity in self-emptying love to the Father. The dynamism that binds the Father and the Son in their eternal love is the Holy Spirit who is Love. In Karl Rahner and Joseph Ratzinger, God is not a person but a relatedness of persons (i.e. a relationship). It is impossible to comprehend God. But we can know God in our experience of love. The more we love others the more we love God and know Him. The Holy Spirit gives us the power to love unconditionally. Did not He say "Even if a mother forgets her infant, I will not forget you"? Augustine in the same vein says "Love and do what you will," because he deeply knew that true self-emptying love is the essence of God. He knew God. Knowledge never meant a mere literalist objective understanding, but also a subjective experience of the other.
Since today, May 22, is the feast of St. Rita of Cascia, it is good to recall that she was a mother and a wife who loved God, loved her unfaithful husband and her two sons in a beautiful way. When her husband was killed in a vendetta, she prayed that her sons never avenge the death of their father. In an extraordinary answer to prayer, God allowed her sons to die before committing an act of vengeance. Rita, a widow after 18 years of suffering, spent the rest of her life in a convent helping the sick. The Oxford Dictionary of Saints recounts "By constant prayer and mortification, accompanied by meditation on the Passion of Christ were so intense that a wound appeared in her forehead as though pierced by a crown of of thorns, she became a mystic" (The Oxford Dictionary of Saints, p. 371). An example of real martyrdom, Rita is credited with the intercession of many miracles after her death. Her incorrupt body remains in an elaborate tomb until this day. She is called "Saint of the Impossible Cases." This is an example of the gifts of the Holy Spirit greatly actualized in the lives of people when they cooperate with His will for the salvation of the world.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Death in Light of the Resurrection

While everyone wants to live, everyone ends up in death. The experience of a close person dying was brought to me personally when my aunt Victoria died a few weeks ago. When someone you love dies, you think of yourself at least subconsciously. This is why older people go to church thinking of their approaching death so they could repent before they die. Many people I know would want to die, but they do not want to suffer before they die. This is what Victoria hoped for but this saintly woman was not spared suffering - She had to suffer for years. Even when there is no suffering, no one will escape death... From a natural view, death is a threat of annihilation. Since humans are probably the only creatures who can think of death, they have always attempted to overcome it. At least two ways have been attempted since early civilizations: 1) Man begets offspring so as to carry him from generation to generation. This is why in ancient cultures, infertility was considered a curse of God or the gods. 2) Man builds temples, pyramids, and towers to eternalize himself when he is gone in the memory of his offspring. Today medical procedures to reproduce the self have been attempted for the same reason, immortality, but without much success - an example is cloning. In all the above cases, eternalization failed. Offspring do not really carry the person in their lives. They also die. Temples and towers carry only a memory of the past and they too perish. Cloning, if successful, does not eternalize the self. It simply reproduces another copy of the self which also dies. From a socio-economical view, death is a separation of humans. It breaks the family and the community. Survival becomes harder when the breadwinners are gone. From a psychological view, death separates the lovers and the beloved. He dies and she mourns him or vice versa...And the community too mourns the dead. It is a fact that only humans bury their dead. Whether this is because they want to protect them, venerate them, or to simply go on with life and attempt to forget them, is subject to debate. However the fact that love remains after separation of death is a strong evidence that love is stronger than death and accordingly the unselfish lover may hope to find his beloved after his or her own death. This hope is found in many old religions and mythologies. Today scientific research in psychology recognizes the enormous benefits of the hope provided by religion. Near Death Experiences of a survival after death have also been documented in numerous cases. Love seems not only to survive death but has also been found to be naturally strengthened through the brain hormone oxytocin. Sexual intercourse -the act of love between man and woman - is naturally procreative and has the potential of begetting new life.
From a Christian perspective, there is a higher dimension to consider. Christianity alone of all ideologies and religions speaks of both eternal life and eternal damnation after death. The reason for this is that the truth of love carries responsibility and eternal consequences. Early Christians postponed their baptism till their deathbed to ensure they are cleansed of their sins by the water of baptism in which according to St. Paul "We are buried with Christ so that we rise with him." This is the sacrament that brings the baptized into the communion of the Church. It carries the significance of the Resurrection of Christ. The development of the monastic life is a direct result of the admonishment to "die to this world" and hope for the next one. The parable of the rich man provides a strong case when God said to him: "Fool! This night your soul is required of you; and the things you have prepared, whose will they be" (Luke 12, 20). Even though monasticism seems to be too harsh for modern lay people to imitate, modern life offers the same harsh conditions at least psychologically due to increased materialism in social conditions. As an example, the effect of materialism is so widespread that divorce and abortion are leaving scars in societies which legalized them in the Western world. In the Middle East, increased Islamic fundamentalist violence has broken loose and threatens human life itself. Death can be defined not only as the elimination of physical life, but also as the decline, isolation and eventual death of spiritual personal and communal life. So great is the loss of Christian faith in Europe and North America that other forms of Eastern New Age spirituality have taken hold of many Christians. In the midst of a civilization of death, Blessed Pope John XXIII hoped that it still produces saints as much as earlier Christian civilizations. Paul says "Where sin increased, grace multiplied" This is a positive outlook that God's love is available to the most wretched. From a Christian perspective, the more life becomes difficult, the more living as a Christian makes those who cling to Christ true saints. Myrna Al-Akhras of Damascus is a living example of such testimony. Taken in this supernatural dimension the meaning of death is more than a physical death but denotes the increasing self-sacrifice for the other and for the sake of the Triune God who inspires love. It is the opening of the self to the gift of God - The word "Islam" itself means submission to God. How is the Resurrection of Christ related to death: The Resurrection of Christ is the basis of Christian faith. But we cannot separate his resurrection from his death. "Where is your thorn, O Death!" St. Paul said after he saw the risen Christ. Most of the Biblical accounts of the Resurrection of Christ tie his death to his Resurrection. Reaching the resurrection is not easy at all. Mother Teresa herself confessed in her letters that she did not feel God's love for her for over 40 years. Yet she persisted in loving him in her services to the dying and in her constant prayers everyday. Although she was surrounded by many sisters she was alone in her inner "death" - She felt no consolation from God. Teresa was "abandoned" by God to the point that she experienced doubts about the existence of God. This mystic shook hands with me in Egypt before coming to Canada and I did not know then the blessing she brings even in her "dark night" of which St. John of the Cross speaks. In the entire history of the people of God, even great saints did not want to die. The Gospel of John gives a vivid picture of the dialogue of Jesus with Peter after Jesus' Resurrection. Peter, the chief Apostle who saw Christ in the Transfiguration surrounded by Moses and Elijah also saw Christ after his Resurrection, yet after Christ made him the chief shepherd of his flock, he said to Peter these words "Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young you girded yourself and walked where you would; but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will gird you and carry you where you do not wish to go" (John 21:19). These words ring in our ears today and remind us that none of us wants to really die. But if that is the case, how did the martyrs accept death for the sake of Christ? What made the Apostles, who were so fearful after the Crucifixion, so courageous in the face of death after the Resurrection? I believe the difference lies in the power of the Holy Spirit who urges us to repent and open ourselves to the mystery of Christ risen and glorified. For the Spirit transforms people's hearts when they accept his grace. This, I believe, is what made Paul exclaim "Where is your thorn O Death!" and what made Peter accept martyrdom for the truth of Christ. It is the same Spirit who gave courage to Mother Teresa in order to persevere in spite of her apparent inner loneliness. He is the Spirit of Love. Where love prevails, love bears fruit, because God is Love. Love begets love. Love survives. Love is stronger than death because it springs from God. People ask: What happens after death? According to Catholic teaching, God does not send anyone to hell. God desires all to be in the kingdom of heaven. The person who, with full consent, completely refuses God's grace and love and remains closed upon himself (e.g. completely hating or selfish) until the last moment of his life endangers his eternal salvation. The Catholic Church does not know of any population in hell, yet the possibility of being in hell is real. On the other hand, the Catholic Church has declared over 6,000 saints and hopes there will be many more in heaven. The Catholic Church recognizes the advances in psychological studies and for this reason allows prayer over the departed ones who commit suicide and whose will may have been diminished at the moment of death due to drugs, stress, or other psychological factors. For many reasons including the above ones, we can only pray to God, who knows the hearts of people, for our salvation and that of everyone. However, as Christians we are accountable to bring the Gospel (the good news) to everyone around us and to the world. The Eucharist is a communion of Christ. Prayer is also an important element in the communion of Christ. Reaching out to the needy is one more act of charity (love) which reflects a Christian attitude.
To recap, death is real and unavoidable. A number of phenomena indicate the survival of death.
Christian faith tells us that God is Love. Since we all look to be loved, it is reassuring that the Almighty One loves all of us unconditionally. In view of the Resurrection of Christ, we entrust the departed to God's love and hope to be with the beloved in heaven. He is faithful and will not foresake us.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The Way of the Resurrection: Imitation of Christ on the Cross and Saints

I want to first thank our Lord Jesus Christ for his outpouring love which I believe, with the Church, that it is the essence of God. “God is Love” says St. John the Apostle. There is no Resurrection without the Cross. And to imitate Christ on his cross, I must start with imitation in the anthropology of homo sapiens. Imitation is one of the traits that distinguish the human race. Very young kids imitate their parents, and we, too, adults imitate others. This is one of the ideas of René Girard’s mimetic theory. Girard, a member of l’academie francaise and retired Professor of civilization at Stanford University has challenged the academic world with his insight into generative anthropology, psychology, evolutionary sciences and Biblical studies. His multi-disciplinary approach has also impacted post-modern philosophers. This research correcting the great Jean Piaget was confirmed by Giacomo Rizolatti, and his neuroscientists team in 1996 in their discovery of the mirror neurons. According to Girard, much of our desires’ outcomes are the result of mimesis (imitation). A man desires a woman more strongly when he perceives that his model, his brother for example, also desires her. By the same token, I imitate leaders/artists/politicians/academics that were/are models to me. I also imitate the good saints if they influence me. For so long, I regarded great saints as my model. I am sure that many people admire saints such as the Virgin Mary. The Virgin Mary points us to Christ. Many Muslims, like Christians, venerate her even though they stop short of worshiping her son. Most people shy away from declaring their faith for fear of social or political pressure in secular countries, or worse, in dictatorial countries, for fear of violence/vengeance against them. This leads me to talk about one courageous woman whose love of Christ made her imitate him. She has been recognized all over the world as the saint of Calcutta. I was reading last night the “private writings of Mother Teresa” who passed away in 1997 and was beatified by Pope John Paul II in 2003. One of Mother Teresa’s private letters addressed to her spiritual director, Jesuit Fr. Joseph Nuener in 1961 says this (Focus here) “In Loreto, Father, I was very happy – I think the happiest nun. Then the call came. Our Lord asked directly – the voice was clear & full of conviction. – Again & again He asked in 1946. – I knew it was He. Fear & terrible feelings – fear lest I was deceived. – But as I have always lived in obedience – I put the whole thing before my spiritual father – hoping the whole time that he will say – it was all devil’s deception, but no–like the voice– he said–it is Jesus who is asking you–& then you know how it all worked out –My Superiors sent me to Asanol 1947– and there as if Our Lord just gave Himself to me– to the full. The sweetness & consolation & union of those 6 months–passed but too soon. And then the work started –in Dec. 1948. –By 1950 as the number of the Sisters grew–the work grew. – Now Father–since 49 or 50 this terrible sense of loss–this untold darkness–this loneliness–this Continuing longing for God–which gives me that pain deep down in my heart.–Darkness is such that I really do not see–neither with my mind nor with my reason.–The place of God in my soul is blank.–There is no God in me.–When the pain of longing is so great–I just long & long for God–and then it is that I feel–He does not want me–He is not there.”(Kolodiejchuk, 2007, Pp. 209-210). The missionary she founded “The Missionaries of Charity” expanded far beyond her expectations, not only in India but also in Europe and North America. Many people converted to the Catholic faith when they saw her example. Nevertheless, Teresa endured her night of darkness for 50 years. She did not waver in her love of Christ. She said in another letter to the same priest “No Father, I am not alone - I have His Darkness – I have His pain ­– I have the terrible longing for God–to love and not be loved.” (Kolodiejchuk, 2007, P. 225). She wanted in her mission to satiate the thirst of Jesus on the cross for souls. In her response to Archbishop Perier in 1956, Mother Teresa showed her determination to accept anything Jesus would permit in order to satiate his thirst for souls: “Please pray for me, that I may please God to lift this darkness from my soul for only a few days. For sometimes the agony of desolation is so great and at the same time the longing for the Absent One so deep, that the only prayer which I can still say is - Sacred Heart of Jesus I trust in Thee – I will satiate Thy thirst for souls” (Kolodiejchuk, 2007, P165). Jesuit Fr. Edward Oakes commented on Mother Teresa’s doubts and desolation revealed in 2007 in an article published in First Things. He said this “Mother Teresa's darkness was a direct result of the actions of Jesus on her soul. She first felt the call to leave her original order, the Sisters of Loreto, and establish a new order, the Missionaries of Charity, when she heard the voice of Jesus say, "I thirst." That is, he thirsted in the poor; and when in obedience to him, she turned to the destitute to slake that thirst, she became Christ's own chosen instrument, living out the same reparative suffering that had already brought redemption to the world—but which now has to be continued by the members of his Body, the Church. In other words, to understand the reality of her experience of darkness, one must turn, yet again, to St. Paul, who said: "I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ's afflictions, for the sake of his Body" (Col. 1:24). Thus, far from representing a temptation to infidelity, Mother Teresa's darkness was the truest indication of her fidelity to Christ and to his ongoing work of redeeming the world, mediated through the suffering members of his Church. No wonder, then, that, except for a few captious and frightened atheists, the world—and not just Catholics—has so quickly and readily recognized her as a saint. Because she is one.” (Oakes, 2007). In His death, Christ experienced hell. His thirst on the cross is in need of such souls as Mother Teresa. She, as many before her, participated in the sufferings of Christ so as to share in his Resurrection. References: Kolodiejchuk, B. (2007). Mother Teresa – Come Be My Light, The Private Writings of the “Saint of Calcutta,” Image-Double Day. Oakes, E. (2007). Does Doubt Belong to Faith?, First Things, October 2007 issue.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Christ’s Resurrection is Not without the Cross

So many priests today are the victims of the victims of sexual abuse crimes committed by a few priests some of them are no longer alive. This is the result of the cycle of hatred that refuses to forgive. The Cross of Christ is still erect in our souls and very few bear it willingly. The impact of this “embarrassment” may be the loss of many souls in the agony of confusion only because a few dared to break the moral law some 40 years ago. The Church will survive but many people of this materialist age are lost! I can remember one of the priests telling us 7 years ago when this whole fiasco erupted that he can no longer afford to kiss children on their cheeks! What a drama are we getting ourselves and our kids in! For the average ignorant this is nothing but a crime committed by priests who should have been punished. The issue is much larger than a discipline. For a starter it involves: 1) Preconceived ideas on the part of the media and radical feminists who support them with the aim of weakening the current pope and forcing his hand to ordain women or allow married priests in the Roman Catholic Church. 2) Diminished rights for parents and family and increased rights for children 3) Diminished sense of community 4) Psychology of transference of the blame (Adam and Eve again) 5) Changed norms of public and private ethics - away from traditional moral norms 6) An insistence on the value of money 7) Complacency on the part of governments to support lobby groups 8) Priests are also weak especially in a materialist society that promotes greed and sex. If the media tries to blame Muslim, Sikh, Hindu, or Jewish clerics for these crimes, you will see a storm of protests everywhere, but the Catholic Church, who really built the roots of this civilization, must be silenced???? Critics of the Church would say 1) Human rights are the same for every individual regardless of age, race and gender 2) Trauma caused by sexual abuse cannot be forgotten 3) To make up for sins by a few priests the Church must pay back in money to victims 40 years later! 4) The Catholic Church continues to live in affluence so why not redeem itself by giving back to victims Critics would ignore that 1) The Catholic Church alone, of all religious institutions, built the largest and most illuminating universities, and the most learned orders all over the world 2) The Catholic Church alone stands as the moral voice that no individual, organization nor country can ignore. 3) The Catholic Church alone has the power of unity under one man, chosen by Christ, the pope of Rome, the oldest and largest in all organized religions on earth Critics consciously or unconsciously want to see the demise of the strong Catholic Church. The enemy is pushing them as he pushed Adam and Eve to transfer the blame in order to justify themselves. There is perhaps an agenda for the evil that started with a few priests/bishops and now is taken out of proportion. This does not mean that priests who commit sins are to be treated differently from other people but for justice to be imparted every party must be accountable for their responsibilities. Measures of accountability must be implemented in every diocese. Clergy need to purify themselves if they are in sin –The Church must be vigilant in every diocese. Abstinence is not only in appearance. It should be in the heart. Preaching is by action according to St. Francis of Assisi. On the other hand, Catholics must unite behind their shepherds. Lay Catholics must provide support to the Church, everyone according to his/her talents. With the above in mind, we need to pray for the Catholic Church, our mother, for the bishops and priests, and for all people including ourselves that God may spare us the tribulations – Have you not read that in the last days, Christ said, “Sons will rise up against their fathers and kill them”? Is this not a sign?

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Why Have You Abandoned Me?

The salvific power of Christ is not that he is a nice man who gave up some of his belongings to his neighbours, but that he is confronting the evil Darwinian cosmos with his love. The Darwinian Principle is “survival for the fittest.” This is how everything develops after “Original Sin.” Christ on the other hand offers himself as the lover who suffers death in order to save the ego of man. Evolution did take place. Humans are only the last of the chain. The question is that no creature wants to die. On the contrary every creature wants to survive, even if at the expense of someone else. But in humanity there is a mind and a will that the human can direct himself to a different path. Metanoia (Penance) is exactly that: Reject the Darwinian Principle and start moving in the reverse direction – the direction of love that suffers to the end for the Other – God is in the Other. He hides there. On the cross Christ said the words “Why have you abandoned me?” Although holy Jewish people recited this psalm 22 prayer when they were dying thus entrusting themselves to God who will save them “Then I will proclaim your name to the assembly; in the community I will praise you” Christ’s prayer was much deeper. His last word was “It is finished” indicating his mission of love has come to completion by his cross. Addressing his beloved Father he said “In your hands, I commit my spirit” This is his prayer par excellence. Full trust and eternal love that challenges humanity and can transform it. He is the God and author of true life, the One who challenged the Darwinian Principle in his act of total love and trust, his act of zero retaliation, his act of filial submission to the Father - unlike the slave submission in Islam and other world religions. And today, where is Christ in our civilization? We have violence and hatred growing in the land that was once Christian – The Middle East. In the West, the Darwinian Principle of “Me” seems to be the law in spite of tremendous efforts at humanizing humanity. The big corporations eat the young ones. Technology which ideally should help alleviate suffering is used in a way that is adding more isolation – psychological distress. And not many wish to follow Christ and his cross. Life is becoming too stressful. Running around to survive has isolated almost everyone of us from the love we need in our families, our society and our world. Look into yourself and you will see a tired person! Africa needs badly help for its people to survive, and we are giving minimal help. We are content with only growing our “own” and think that extending life will offer us at last some material comfort. Our churches are one third full when half a century ago they were full. Where are we? Busy in life to survive! Even family emotional relationships are broken by making love equal to sexual gratification outside marriage, legalizing divorce and requiring my share in the assets with my partner before I get into marriage. In the Holy Week, we should have a second look at ourselves and start to repent. When we accept the cross of Christ in our lives, we will then share in his Resurrection.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Haiti - A contemporary story of Job

This past Friday, we discussed how is it that God allows such evils as the earthquake in Haiti...One person had expressed her hope in an email "In spite of all the 'darkness' that has happened I cannot help but see the Light in what is happening. So many countries (some of which are enemies) have come together to help restore and bring faith and hope back to this broken nation. I see Christ working in such marvellous ways. Sometimes we must remember that before the Resurrection came the Crucifixion." Haiti, in fact, turned out to be the place where God, as always, brought good out of evil - The Red Cross reported that 3 days after the earthquake, it had already received $8 million in $10 donations by text messaging from young adults using their iPhones. What do you make of this outpouring care? Some of the donors are literally kids who wanted to share. Many organizations and countries pitched in an act of solidarity - The face of God shone on many hearts, even when they did not explicitly recognize it. We went back to Job whose trajedy in the Old Testament reminds us of our own. Job was an upright man and was blessed with abundant family life and material richness. For his great piety, Satan said to God "Is it for nothing that Job is God-fearing? Have you not surrounded him and his family and all that he has with your protection? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his livestock are spread over the land. But now put forth your hand and touch anything that he has, and surely he will blaspheme you to your face." When God permitted the calamity to happen to Job and Job lost his family and his belongings, he, unlike us, remained loyal to God. The tempter went again and said to the Lord "Skin for skin! All that a man has will he give for his life. But now put forth your hand and touch his bone and his flesh, and surely he will blaspheme you to your face." And God permitted Satan and "Satan smote Job with severe boils from the soles of his feet to the crown of his head." What was Job's response? He refused to curse God and was suffering in silence, but you can see how great suffering touched upon his soul and made him utter the words "Why did I not perish at birth, come forth from the womb and expire?" Only then you see Satan no more. Only then Job lost his battle...A long discussion emerges between Job and his friends - in particular a long admonition by Elihu...But wait for the end of the war - It is a story that shows the human trajedy of everyone. At the end, God responds to Job's questioning "Where were you when I founded the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding. Who determined its size; do you know? Who stretched out the measuring line for it? Into what were its pedestals sunk, and who laid the cornerstone, While the morning stars sang in chorus and all the sons of God shouted for joy? And who shut within doors the sea, when it burst forth from the womb; When I made the clouds its garment and thick darkness its swaddling bands?" Job responded by addressing the Lord "I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be hindered. I have dealt with great things that I do not understand; things too wonderful for me, which I cannot know. I had heard of you by word of mouth, but now my eye has seen you. Therefore I disown what I have said, and repent in dust and ashes." The Book of Job then proclaims "the LORD restored the prosperity of Job, after he had prayed for his friends; the LORD even gave to Job twice as much as he had before. Then all his brethren and his sisters came to him, and all his former acquaintances, and they dined with him in his house. They condoled with him and comforted him for all the evil which the LORD had brought upon him; and each one gave him a piece of money and a gold ring. Thus the LORD blessed the latter days of Job more than his earlier ones." The story of Job tells us of God's outpouring and unflinshing love, in spite of every evil small or great, because He alone can cure us. He alone can give us a blessed life. The entire Biblical story is online here for your reading. It simply reiterates what St. Paul says "We know that in everything God works for good with those who love him, who are called according to his purpose." (Rom 8: 28)

Is God in your brain? The Answer

Dr. Andrew Newberg of the University of Pennsylvania did much research re the mind’s relationship to God. Dr. Newberg wrote a book called “Why God Won’t Go Away” based on his experiments. In this work, also sometimes referred to as neurotheology, Newberg describes the possible neurophysiological mechanisms associated with religious and spiritual experiences. His initial research included the use of functional brain imaging to study Franciscan nuns in prayer and Buddhist meditators. Newberg has maintained that science and brain imaging studies are only tools to evaluate the brain during such experiences but do not necessarily negate such experiences. Here is an excerpt from an interview that Robert Wright had with Andrew Newberg. It is accessible online through my blog. In Newberg, there are levels of union with God: First we start by having a sense of feeling beauty (sunset, concert...etc), Second, we find a sense of community and love when we pray to God in Church. We have a sense of awe when we praise God in Church. Third: Prayer is a mild relationship with God and others. Fourth: intensive and long experience in prayers and meditation may lead a few people to have ecstasy and union with God (as St. Bernard says in his teaching on the 4 loves.) Two powerful questions: One: Dr. Newberg explains the feeling of oneness with God in terms of the brain lobes. Does not this mean that God is created in our brains? Answer: Dr. Newberg did not suggest that God is created by the brain. Here is what he said in the interview with Robert Wright (an agnostic) about where in the brain he detected the changes of brain activities during meditation by some nuns “That's part of the brain technically called the posterior superior parietal lobe we've sort of dubbed "the orientation area" and it is the orientation area that takes all of our sensory input -- visual, auditory, body sensory input -- and creates for us a sense of our self and a sense of that self's orientation within the world. Our model suggests that when people go through these kinds of experiences, particularly through a meditative or prayer type of practice, that by blocking the sensory input into this area you ultimately prevent that particular part of the brain from being able to do a good job at orienting the self and even creating the sense of self. If you block that out completely you would have a complete loss of any sort of definition or boundary of the self and we think that they may explain why people feel this absorption into some object of prayer or meditation, absorption into God, becoming one with something in the universe or becoming one with God, you have a loss of that sense of self and other or that sense of self and world by blocking the input into that area. I should stop here and go back to the point here that we're talking along a very reductionist path right now which I think is okay and I think is important but I think our ultimate conclusions are actually going to be very far from the reductionist...” It is clear from the above that he is talking about a mechanism in the brain that reflects in the body what is happening in the soul. He emphatically also says “When we look at a mystical experience as being a very profound spiritual state they’re usually associated with very powerful emotional responses whether they are ecstatic responses or very powerful quiescent kind of response or even some kind of combination of the two, they often are associated with a strong sense of becoming one with or becoming unified with God (or the Universe or some absolute nature of the world). Those are probably the main defining characteristics of the most profound types of mystical experiences. But we also look at all types of spiritual experiences along a continuum where we start with base-line reality and the individual discreetness of things in reality -- tables, chairs, cars and things like that -- all the way through very mild experiences that someone may have looking at a sunset or listening to a beautiful Mozart concerto. And then finally, on up to the very powerful kinds of experiences people get after many many years of meditation or prayer and where they ultimately do become absorbed into their object of meditation or prayer... Well a very obvious example is when people go to a church or synagogue and participate in some type of service where they may experience a fairly strong sense maybe of awe, of God, a very strong sense of love, a sense of community with the people that they are with as well as the sense of becoming part of something greater than themselves even though it doesn't necessarily mean that they have a complete loss of that sense of self.” Two: What Dr. Newberg says about experiencing God can be applied to any religion. Does this mean that Christianity is like any other religion? Answer: Dr. Newberg did not speak about the difference between religions. His expertise lies in neuro-scientific research. He himself rejected the reductionist idea of atheism that the brain activities create God. See above. It is not true that Christianity is like any other religion. Christianity is the most profound religion in the world. Christians conquered the world, not by the sword, but by imitating Christ who loved his Father and all people including his enemies. Christ is the one who taught us that God is our father, not a divine stranger. Christianity brought the highest moral values in history and shaped the entire civilization of the West. On the other hand, Eastern religions are man’s search for God while Christianity is God’s response and self-revelation to man. Islam is a Christian heresy (distorted). Although there are rays of truth in other religions, only in Christianity do we know of the true God – a God who is Love itself in the Trinity, a God who out of his love created us and not only that, but also came into history to share our humanity and suffer the most cruel death in order to make us participants in God’s own life. Not only do we have the great Tradition and the Bible, but also the sacraments based on Apostolic testimony and priesthood since the Church was founded by Christ as a perfection of the Judaic tradition. As much as Christians are privileged in the true faith, they are responsible to share this faith with non-Christians. But this does not mean that non-Christians who never knew Christ will all perish. Those who follow the dictates of their conscience and search for God, will find him since God does not wish that anyone should perish. The supremacy of conscience, affirmed in the Second Vatican Council, means that everyone must follow the dictates of his conscience, but only after he has done his best to make it well informed. The bottom line is this: Atheism will never conquer religion neither in philosophy nor in science nor in experience (phenomenology).

Today's Quote

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


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