Thursday, January 20, 2011
If you stopped praying to God you may wish to reconsider praying based on new scientific evidence.
From the publicly-known news: So many drastic events are taking place in many parts of the world. Count only the obvious: a revolution in Tunisia; a way out for the people of Southern Sudan from the dictatorship of their Northern government is being paved; Lebanon is without a government after Hizbullah withdrew its support for fear it will have to confront the International Court for the crime of assasinating Rafic Al Hariri; Growing discontent in Egypt; The leaders of America and China are meeting in Washington to increase their trade in the superpower economic competition for control of the global economy; and in Toronto, Canada a policeman Sgt. Ryan Russell was fatally struck by a stolen snowplow when he was trying to recover it from the robber. But at least there is one good news: Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords who narrowly escaped assasination in Arizona is recovering well from her near-fatal wounds in the brain. For her family this is good news. It is good news that many rejoice at the recovery of a fellow human person. It is good news that we can still differentiate between what is good and what is evil. And there is more good news: The misery we see befalling other humans causes us to group together and reaffirm our togetherness. Would that be enough to celebrate? Hardly - Birds do the same thing - they group together to escape predators. Animals live in groups. Fish also swim in groups. But humans usually do better: Humans pray to God together. In ancient times humans prayed to save themselves. Religions grew because of the constant need to survive. Humans want to be eternal and for this the ancients built pyramids and temples. We are no different today except that we have a better understanding of human dignity based on the Biblical message that Man is created in the image of God.
The Biblical message fulfilled by Christ is simple: God reveals himself as the lover. Revelation is His self-communication of selfless love. In accordance with His love, He enters history in the incarnation of Christ to redeem humanity and bring it to its ultimate purpose: God. The Apocalypse is not the story of the end of the world as much as it is the story of its beginning in the glory of God. "Maran Atha" (an Aramic expression close to Arabic) was the prayer of early Christians and should be our prayer today. We must pray for the coming back of Christ - He is the same whom the Jews expect and Muslims too believe He will judge everyone. Christ is the light of the entire world which the Magi went after. How can we see Christ again? By constant prayer to Him who is our fellow human and God: The Eucharist is the mystery of our union with Him always present on earth. Frequent prayer from the heart to Him who saved us, frequent confession and communion of the Eucharist, forgiveness of others, and reconciliation seem necessary. We must pray together - married people need to pray together - families need to pray together - communities need to pray together - Christians need to pray together as the week of prayer for Christian unity is here. The message is to submit to God's will in prayer. He will never forsake us.
If atheists themselves believe that God cannot be removed from human memory, how can we remove him? Let us pray as Christ taught us: "Our Father Who Art in Heaven Hallowed be Thy Name. Thy Kingdom Come. Thy Will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil."
Tuesday, January 18, 2011
In my lecture on January 14, participants shared their reaction to the question "What would be your reaction if your brother or sister was killed in the massacre of Alexandria?" People acknowledged they would react with shock and probably with violence - a kind of revenge against the person who did it. This is the reality of Christians today. We cannot ignore the cross but it takes time to psychologically respond to a shocking event. According to Elizabeth Kubler Ross, the 5 stages that a person who lost a loved one goes through in grief are: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance (1). It becomes then important in our spiritual struggle to accept, forgive and eventually reconcile with the aggressors. Love is inherently natural as found in recent neuroscientific research. Certain brain hormones such as Oxytocin and vasopressin help humans bond, socialize and love (2), (3). But to love my enemy, it is beyond natural love. This kind and level of love is, in other words, supernatural. In philosophy it is called Agape (4), (5) where you love the other not because you need him/her but only because he/she is there. This is the love of Christ. It reconciles you with the other not because he lives with you but because he is important as a human person in himself. In fact, regardless of religion and culture, the only solution to vengeance is the Christ love (i.e. to imitate Christ thus you become the alter-Christus). To my fellow Christians I can only say that Muslims are our brothers for all humans have one father (God) and one enemy (the Devil)! Much prayers, by both Christians and - dare I say - Muslims of good will, are needed. The name of God the Compassionate and Merciful is invoked by Muslims five times everyday. Go deeper. The parable of Christ, The Good Samaritan, is a great example for us today. It speaks to the apparent enmity between Christians and Muslims. In the parable, a Jew was on a journey from Jerusalem down to Jericho. He is robbed by thieves who "stripped and beat him and went off leaving him half-dead." A priest and a Levite see him and pass by. As commented by contemporay Biblical scholars, those religious representatives of Judaism who would have been expected to be models of "neighbor" to the victim pass him by (6). Jesus explicitly reverses the meaning of loving your neighbour from a Jew who cares about another Jew to a Samaritan, an enemy to the Jews, who cares for the Jew. The Samaritan, who in the Old Testament experience was the enemy of the People of God, suddenly and shockingly turns out to be the loving caregiver who cares for the wounded and half-dead son of the People of God. Strikingly, according to St. Augustine (and Origen too), the wounded man represents Adam and his offspring. He was in Jerusalem (Paradise) and because of the thieves, who represent the Devil, Man was fatally wounded and ended up losing Paradise. On his journey to Jericho, that is to hell, no authority could ever save his life. The Good Samaritan is the Saviour, Christ himself, who alone is the life-giver to fallen humanity. Christ remains today the only solution to the sins, suffering, anxiety, and dispair of fallen humanity. Christ heals the wounds by pouring oil and wine that clean the wounds, lifts the man and gets him on his own animal, takes the wounded to the "inn" i.e. the Church where the wounded is given rest to completely heal. "The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper with the instruction, 'Take care of him. If you spend more than what I have given you, I shall repay you on my way back.'" In this Parable the story of man emerges - It did not finish because the Saviour will come back. The reward is nothing less than himself! The LOVER! Notes: (1) Kübler-Ross, E. (1973) On Death and Dying, Routledge. (2) Lee HJ, Macbeth AH, Pagani JH, Young WS (June 2009). "Oxytocin: the great facilitator of life". Progress in Neurobiology 88 (2): 127–51 (3) O'Callaghan, Tiffany (7, June 2010). "Thanks, Mom!". Time Magazine. Time, Inc. http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1992405,00.html (4) Kreeft, P. (2005). Love, Fundamentals of the Faith, Ignatius Press. (5) Pope Benedict XVI (2005). God is Love, Libreria Editrice Vaticana. http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/encyclicals/documents/hf_ben-xvi_enc_20051225_deus-caritas-est_en.html (6) United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (2002). Luke 10, The New American Bible http://www.usccb.org/nab/bible/luke/luke10.htm