Saturday, June 4, 2011
Robert Hanna (now Brother Youhanna) and his son Emile gave a reflection on their experiences that led each of them to a reversal from a worldly life to a life consecrated to God. A married man with two children, he enjoyed the good life as he was rich. His own car dealership in the affluent city of Toronto afforded him a comfortable earning. He felt however that, in spite of his wealth, he was missing happiness in his heart. He said his relationship with his wife and children was getting worse when he suddenly felt the power of darkness surrounding him and showing him the abyss. Realizing the seriousness of his state, Robert begged God to hold him. He was reassured that in spite of evil God loves him. It was not an overnight experience but rather a journey. "I spent many weeks in prayer" Robert said. After you fall you get up in hope and continue, he says. The journey to be in the presence of God takes determination but the joy that God is here and loves you makes up for the suffering. Robert wanted to consecrate the remainder of his life to be for Christ alone. Robert has been assisting in the Mass as well as in services for the youth throughout the past many years since his conversion. In preparation for the consecrated diaconate and priesthood, he followed many studies at theological seminaries in Toronto and Lebanon. Ten years or so after his initial conversion, Robert or Brother Youhanna will be consecrated this year a priest of the Melkite Catholic Church! His son Emile is also following in the footsteps of his dad. Having lived an estranged youthful life from God for 3 years, Emile returned to the Church last year and has been serving in the Mass at Jesus the King church as well as in assisting in the catechism of kids there. Emile says that he cried in his prayer as he felt the loss of his soul and the misery he came to know. He asked God to show him the way and persisted in his prayers. It takes humility to believe that you are not the centre of the world. Realizing that Christ is the centre of my life, I want to consecrate my life to be for him in prayer everyday, Emile said. As Brother Youhanna said, discerning the call for the life you are meant to live is important. Prayer is an important step as it brings us into dialogue with God. The Church guides us through Scriptures, the Mass and other sacraments, prayers, her teachings, and spiritual direction. The objective of our lives is to be holy and have eternal joy in the presence of our loving God. Christ calls us to serve in the way that He finds is best for us. Some are called to live as lay persons with families. Some are called to live a monastic life. What is important is to follow the direction that Christ wishes you to follow. This is the way of holiness!
A quick look at Biblical theology gives us a very scant picture of the doctrine that is central to Christianity: The Trinity. In the Old Testament we can hardly find any mention to the Trinity. The Trinity is mentioned in Christ's farewell address to his disciples (See Matthew 28: 19). However, Christ did not speak of the Trinity in a very explicit mode. In the Gospel according to John there are many references for the relationship between Christ and the Father. If we follow the timing of writing the New Testament books according to contemporary Biblical scholarship, we note that the divinity of Christ was perceived by the Apostles after his Resurrection - notably in the words of Thomas to the risen Christ "My Lord and My God" (John 20: 28). In the early Christian Church the Apostles continued to preach about Christ in the Temple. However, their understanding of the Divinity of Christ was clear from the confession of Peter that Jesus is the Messiah in Mark to the vision of Stephen about Christ sitting at the right hand of God (See Acts) to the confession of Paul to the Philippians that "Though [Christ] was in the form of God, he did not regard equality with God something to be grasped" (Ph 2: 6-7). This is an early Christological hymn that Christians sang to Christ since Apostolic times according to modern scholarship. In the Letter to the Colossians, Paul again refers to Christ being "the image of the invisible God" (Col. 1: 15-20). There is no way to deny that Christ was worshipped as God since the Apostolic times. By the end of the first century documents by Christian authors attest to the divinity of Christ (Cf. St. Ignatius of Antioch). This continues in the second century with philosophical debates with non-Christians (Cf. Justin Martyr, Origen, St. Ireneaus). It is important to know that the fathers did not write for the sake of writing, but to correct errors of early Christians and non-Christians. Against the Arians in the early 4th century Athanasius championed the philosophical expression "Homoosious" in the First Council of Nicea (325 AD), an expression not used in the New Testament, to emphasize the faith that Christ is consubstantial with the Father and so he is equal to the Father in his divinity. Augustine further explained the Trinity from the New Testament "God is Love." If God is love, who or what does he love? If he is unlimited he could not love the world from eternity because that would make him dependent on creation which, the Bible says, was created by God! If God loved himself from eternity then he would be in love with the self i.e. narcissism. This is the opposite of love! The only logical solution is if he loved another person yet that person is his image (proceeds from him.) But how about the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit, Augustine reasoned, is the binding love between the Father and the Son (Christ). The Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son. Love is the only thing that matters. God is that open fount of love in dynamic inner relationship that Ratzinger dares to call the Trinity a Relatedness of Father, Son and Holy Spirit! How did Ratzinger arrive at this new expression today? By following the Fathers and Doctors of the Church. This is also the thought of the Jesuit Karl Rahner. They take the thread of Tradition, reflect on it and develop it in the Church. More to come!
Sunday, May 29, 2011
In Greek mythology, Sisyphus challenged the gods and was able to chain "the god of death" for he loved life and thought he was more clever than the gods. Of course, his challenge did not go well and soon the gods agreed to punish him. In the underworld, his punishment consisted of perpetually rolling a great stone from the base of a steep hill to its top then before he arrives, the stone would roll down and he was to go pick it up and again roll it to the top. Sisyphus had to comply. But how did he feel about this task? Everytime Sisyphus rolled the stone, he felt the pointless hard work on ascending to the hill's top, but on descending Sisyphus felt for a moment that he was free and indeed was happy to see the stone rolling down. If we apply this to our own situation, we will see sisyphus everytime we despair but also everytime we have hope that we will overcome our suffering. However, there is more to this story than Sisyphus alone, for he alone is still a miserable man! The Greeks imagined many gods, each with a particular power. The gods served themselves and could not care much about those suffering Greek slaves. Our God is the God of love who created all humans out of love. We learn from Christ that his love for each one was infinitely higher than any other love. He loved his enemies who crucified him and still forgave them till the last breath! Which god is then truer? If you think it is the Greek god(s) you are free, but if you think it is Christ then your freedom requires you to do what he did or else he is not really your God. When a Jewish lawyer asked Christ "Who is my neighbour?" Christ answered him with a story of a good Samaritan who took care of his wounded Jewish enemy. At the end, Christ referring to the Samaritan said to the lawyer "Go and do likewise" (Luke 10)!