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

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Pope Benedict XVI: 2012 Christmas Message

Dear brothers and sisters in Rome and throughout the world, a happy Christmas to you and your families!
In this Year of Faith, I express my Christmas greetings and good wishes in these words taken from one of the Psalms: "Truth has sprung out of the earth". Actually, in the text of the Psalm, these words are in the future: "Kindness and truth shall meet; / justice and peace shall kiss. / Truth shall spring out of the earth, /and justice shall look down from heaven. / The Lord himself will give his benefits; / our land shall yield its increase. / Justice shall walk before him, / and salvation, along the way of his steps" (Ps 85:11-14).
Today these prophetic words have been fulfilled! In Jesus, born in Bethlehem of the Virgin Mary, kindness and truth do indeed meet; justice and peace have kissed; truth has sprung out of the earth and justice has looked down from heaven. Saint Augustine explains with admirable brevity: "What is truth? The Son of God. What is the earth? The flesh. Ask whence Christ has been born, and you will see that truth has sprung out of the earth . truth has been born of the Virgin Mary" (En. in Ps. 84:13). And in a Christmas sermon he says that "in this yearly feast we celebrate that day when the prophecy was fulfilled: 'truth shall spring out of the earth, and justice shall look down from heaven'. The Truth, which is in the bosom of the Father has sprung out of the earth, to be in the womb of a mother too. The Truth which rules the whole world has sprung out of the earth, to be held in the arms of a woman ... The Truth which heaven cannot contain has sprung out of the earth, to be laid in a manger. For whose benefit did so lofty a God become so lowly? Certainly not for his own, but for our great benefit, if we believe" (Sermones, 185, 1).
"If we believe". Here we see the power of faith! God has done everything; he has done the impossible: he was made flesh. His all-powerful love has accomplished something which surpasses all human understanding: the Infinite has become a child, has entered the human family. And yet, this same God cannot enter my heart unless I open the door to him. Porta fidei! The door of faith! We could be frightened by this, our inverse omnipotence. This human ability to be closed to God can make us fearful. But see the reality which chases away this gloomy thought, the hope that conquers fear: truth has sprung up! God is born! "The earth has yielded its fruits" (Ps 67:7). Yes, there is a good earth, a healthy earth, an earth freed of all selfishness and all lack of openness. In this world there is a good soil which God has prepared, that he might come to dwell among us. A dwelling place for his presence in the world. This good earth exists, and today too, in 2012, from this earth truth has sprung up! Consequently, there is hope in the world, a hope in which we can trust, even at the most difficult times and in the most difficult situations. Truth has sprung up, bringing kindness, justice and peace.
Yes, may peace spring up for the people of Syria, deeply wounded and divided by a conflict which does not spare even the defenceless and reaps innocent victims. Once again I appeal for an end to the bloodshed, easier access for the relief of refugees and the displaced, and dialogue in the pursuit of a political solution to the conflict.
May peace spring up in the Land where the Redeemer was born, and may he grant Israelis and Palestinians courage to end to long years of conflict and division, and to embark resolutely on the path of negotiation.
In the countries of North Africa, which are experiencing a major transition in pursuit of a new future - and especially the beloved land of Egypt, blessed by the childhood of Jesus - may citizens work together to build societies founded on justice and respect for the freedom and dignity of every person.
May peace spring up on the vast continent of Asia. May the Child Jesus look graciously on the many peoples who dwell in those lands and, in a special way, upon all those who believe in him. May the King of Peace turn his gaze to the new leaders of the People's Republic of China for the high task which awaits them. I express my hope that, in fulfilling this task, they will esteem the contribution of the religions, in respect for each, in such a way that they can help to build a fraternal society for the benefit of that noble People and of the whole world.
May the Birth of Christ favour the return of peace in Mali and that of concord in Nigeria, where savage acts of terrorism continue to reap victims, particularly among Christians. May the Redeemer bring help and comfort to the refugees from the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo, and grant peace to Kenya, where brutal attacks have struck the civilian population and places of worship.
May the Child Jesus bless the great numbers of the faithful who celebrate him in Latin America. May he increase their human and Christian virtues, sustain all those forced to leave behind their families and their land, and confirm government leaders in their commitment to development and fighting crime.
Dear brothers and sisters! Kindness and truth, justice and peace have met; they have become incarnate in the child born of Mary in Bethlehem. That child is the Son of God; he is God appearing in history. His birth is a flowering of new life for all humanity. May every land become a good earth which receives and brings forth kindness and truth, justice and peace. Happy Christmas to all of you!
Copyright Vatican Publishing House

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Why Have You Killed Me?

We are unable to believe the shocking news of the murder of 20 kids, aged 6 and 7, and 6 of their teachers in a school in Connecticut last week. The question of every person murdered by a fellow person is "Why? Why have you murdered me?" But it cries out to God when the murdered are innocent kids. However, the question is much larger in the context of postmodernism. What a group considers a crime, another group considers defense of self. Example: Syria has been in a civil or sectarian war for almost 2 years, depending on your definition of the war in Syria. America and the West generally support Islamists to take over Syria, while Russia supports the president of Syria, Bashar El-Assad. In the meantime many innocent people are being killed from both sides and others are killing more. Hatred begets hatred.
Economically, large businesses swallow small businesses everywhere. Is this not a kind of murder? Military is  also involved in crimes committed by the political establishment such as invasions. But is the military force responsible for orders from their masters?
As legalized abortion continues to kill children in the womb, the so-called human rights code is not protected in North America, nor in Europe.
Who can guide us except the Virgin Mary as she leads people towards her son...This is Christmas. Think of the Virgin Mary who suffered and accepted God's gift, delivered the saviour of the world, and has been a mother of many generations and nations.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Our Lady of Guadalupe

In 1531, Mary, the mother of Jesus, appeared to a Mexican devout Christian named Juan Diego and asked him to get Bishop Zummaraga’s approval to build her a shrine at Tepeyak, a mountainous area where Mexicans lived. When the bishop refused Diego’s request, Mary showed him a place where Spanish-grown roses miraculously grew and flowered and asked him to bring them to the bishop as a sign that she can reproduce the Spanish flowers in Mexico by faith in God.  When the bishop received Diego, Diego simply opened his telma to show him the roses, but then not only did the roses fall before the bishop's eyes but also the image of "Our Lady of Guadalupe" was imprinted miraculously on Diego's tilma. Since then a multitude of miracles took place through the intercession of “Our Lady of Guadalupe.”

The Knights of Columbus and indeed all Catholics of the Americas must thank God for having Our Lady of Guadalupe as their patroness. History of this first Apparition of the Blessed ever-virgin Mary “Mother of the true God” in modern times is significant because it shows how heaven is always on the lookout for the lost sons (Luke 15) - The messenger appeared as a Mexican lady on the hill of Tepeyak, and spoke to Juan Diego in his language. In Our Lady of Guadalupe, the Church found a sign of inculturation which reflects that the Catholic Church is truly catholic i.e. universal (Vatican II; Lumen Gentium, 17).

The title Mary used “ever-virgin Mother of the true God” reminds Christians of the early Ecumenical Council of Ephesus in 431 AD when the bishops of the world proclaimed her Mother of God above all angels and archangels. And, of course, early devotion to Mary developed in both the Christian East and Christian West. She became fortress of faith and was called since then “Door of Heaven,” and “Morning Star”! So much grew devotion to her in the East that the Eastern Roman Emperor frequently called on her to protect Constantinople against the invaders whether Persians or Turks, and the Byzantine Church until today commemorate her in two long prayers: The Akathyst Prayers and the Paraklesis Prayer every year. In the West, more devotion grew to her heart particularly in the ancient hymn “Hail Mary” and the month-long prayers of the Rosary which make up only a fraction of a wide movement in Catholic pilgrims and shrines dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Yet, in all of the above movements, the Marian theology is always a call to us to imitate her and “do whatever [Christ] tells you.”(John 2: 5). It appears that Mary’s role in the intercession for the salvation of the world is increasing, not only in ecumenical dialogue between Christian Churches but also in her role for dialogue with non-Christians.

Our Lady of Guadalupe appeared with stars on her coat. Her name is translated to “Crusher of the serpent’s head”. She is there to bring her seed who will crush the Serpent as written in Genesis 3. The serpent in the Aztecs culture was a symbol of the false god whose mythical power caused millions of native Indians to be sacrificed and killed alive for the sake of the serpent god. This in itself recalls to mind the great sign of heaven in Apocalypse [God’s temple in heaven was opened, and the ark of his covenant could be seen in the temple. A great sign appeared in the sky, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. She was with child and wailed aloud in pain as she labored to give birth. Then another sign appeared in the sky; it was a huge red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, and on its heads were seven diadems. Its tail swept away a third of the stars in the sky and hurled them down to the earth. Then the dragon stood before the woman about to give birth, to devour her child when she gave birth. She gave birth to a son, a male child, destined to rule all the nations with an iron rod. Her child was caught up to God and his throne. The woman herself fled into the desert where she had a place prepared by God....Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say: “Now have salvation and power come, and the Kingdom of our God and the authority of his Anointed One.”] (Revelation 11: 19a; 12: 1-6a; 10 ab) This reading from Apocalypse is a reference to the sign of the woman whose son was destined to rule the nations. This is Mary, the mother of Jesus Christ, crowned with twelve stars referring to the twelve tribes of Israel and the twelve apostles of her Son and God. She is clothed with the sun and the moon is under her feet. That is how the Second Eve brought us salvation after the First Eve brought us the curse. The dragon, that is Satan, lured the First Eve into disobedience, and wanted to lead the Second Eve into disobedience too. But Mary, reminds us Luke, said “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.”

When Christians recall Our Lady of Guadalupe, we may wish to remember her fascinating miracles especially the enduring ones such as her image full of references to stars, the Sun and the Moon as well as the fact that the image itself did not deteriorate for over 450 years until today. Not only with the flowers that Bishop Zummaraga had requested and which when delivered miraculously appeared on Diego’s tilma in the presence of the Bishop, nor in the healings that took place with Joan Diego’s sick uncle following the Apparitions, but most significantly in the voluntary baptism of millions of Indian Mexicans who had refused a generation earlier to accept the missionary call to Christianity since they resented invaders attempts to enslave them.

The role of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the history of salvation is far more important than merely giving physical birth to Christ. She participates in the Church’s continuing mission of bringing Christ to the world. In the 4th century St. Basil the Great called on Christians to bear Christ and present him to others as the Virgin Mary delivered Christ to the world. In the 20th and 21st centuries Mary’s role became increasingly important. The Second Vatican Council declared her Mother of the Church. Blessed John Paul II consecrated the world to her heart.  The peaceful fall of Communism has been attributed to her intercession.

As violence and threats to Christians continue unabated in Arab countries following the “Arab Spring” Mary’s role is very much needed in the Middle East today.  The apparition of the Virgin Mary in 1917 to 3 children in Fatima, Portugal is significant. In his book "The First World Love” Bishop Fulton Sheen shows how the Apparition in Fatima is crucial for developing relationships between Christians and Muslims of the world. Fatima is the name of a Muslim woman venerated in Islam as the daughter of their Prophet Mohammed. In the Qura'n, Mary is considered the most pure creature of humans and next to her is Fatima according to a variant of Hadith. Muslims occupied Portugal for centuries before they were driven out by Catholics. A story about Fatima appears in Fulton Sheen's book: While Muslims were driven out from Portugal, a Catholic young man had fallen in love with a Muslim called Fatima in a little town. She became Catholic to get married to him and out of appreciation, the name of the town was changed to Fatima. While Muslims consider Christians to be infidels, Mary is the one common person who is exalted by both Catholics and Muslims as the most pure creature. Bishop Sheen believed she will play a significant role in the dialogue of Catholics and Muslims and in the end they will come to worship her Son Jesus.

Our Lady of Guadalupe is Patroness not only of the Americas but of all people on earth. She leads us to Christ. Through her example, she deserved the acclamation uttered by Gabriel “Hail Mary full of Grace” and her own prophetic word “Behold from now on shall all ages call me blessed” (Luke 1, 48).

Monday, December 10, 2012

Why the Christian Presence in the Middle East is Essential for Civilization

While the declared objectives of the “Arab Spring” include establishing democracy and freedom and improving living conditions in Arabic-speaking countries, the reality after close to two years of violence and instability shows an upheaval that threatens the survival of the original Christian people and moderate Muslim brothers in Arab lands. Pope Benedict XVI visited Lebanon in September this year and called for reconciliation between all. From there, he published an Apostolic Exhortation to all in the Middle East and made it available to all consciences in which he shows that true peace must be built upon justice (Ecclesia in Medio Oriente, 1).

The Church does not force the Eastern Christian faithful to stay in the Middle East. Decisions to immigrate belong to the individuals and families. Moses and his people escaped from Egypt when they feared a threat to their survival. This is why justice is required, but who can be judge except God himself? Who knows the future except God whose mercy and grace overflow every wicked deed and transform it into abiding peace?

The presence of Christians among Muslims as citizens of equal rights and dignity is the only guarantee that, in this vital region, a stable civilization can be preserved and nourished economically and spiritually. Today, the educated elite in the Middle East are mainly moderate Muslims and Christians who have attained high levels of business expertise in dealing with European and North American knowledge centers. Educated young Christians who graduated from Christian schools succeeded in top universities and professions and have been a solid backbone for much investment and economic activity in their countries of the Middle East. Indeed the modernization of political, social and legal systems in Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, Palestine, and the rest of Arab countries, in the “Near East” as it was called, started only when in the 16th to the 19th centuries, Christian missionaries were allowed to come into these lands. These include the Franciscans, the White Fathers, and the Jesuits. They established schools which raised generations of educated Christians and Muslims who were then sent to Europe and North America for more learning and made business networks with the advanced world. But long before the 16th century, the Christian Middle East had already contributed to the growth of scholarship. To be brief, the great Christian civilization started in Jerusalem and Antioch before it reached Rome. Origen, in Egypt’s 2nd century, built Biblical scholarship upon the school of Alexandria which enriched the well-known Library of Alexandria. Many subsequent learned Christians came from the East. They did not shy away from using current philosophical systems to defend the Christian Patristic tradition, and for accuracy the fathers dared to use non-Biblical expressions in the Creed which is still recited today in the Mass.

The Renaissance in Europe, which sought to retrieve the good in Pagan Greek classics, was due to the education in Christian morals carried out by learned monks in Catholic orders. In spite of schisms within the Christian East, the Catholic Church never lost hope for the reunion of all Christians (See for example the Council of Florence in the 15th century and Vatican II Council in the 20th century). In fact the Western Churches learned from the Eastern Churches even when they were separated. The writings of St. John of Damascus, a Christian theologian under Arab Islamic rule, greatly influenced Western thought in medieval times. Divine Providence worked through the Islamic civilization in the high medieval centuries to transport knowledge from one end of the world to the other. Indeed Muslim scholars contributed to the learning from the once-famous library of Bagdad to the Moores in “Andalusia” or Spain today. To preserve Eastern Christian tradition after the Islamic Conquests, Syrian and Assyrian Christian monks, under Islamic rule, translated the writings of the Bible and philosophers from Aramaic and Greek to Arabic. The Bible and writings of the Fathers were known in Latin Europe at least since Jerome, but the writings of Aristotle were unknown except that Ibn Rushd (Averroes in Latin) translated Aristotle’s works into Latin and these in turn fell in the hands of St. Thomas Aquinas, the greatest theologian in history to-date. St. Thomas, who taught at the universities in Paris and Rome, built a huge philosophical system based on Aristotle’s natural philosophy. By “baptizing” the work of Aristotle, the Church opened the way to modern scientific research in the cosmos. The key factor in the growth of civilizations is collaboration that leads to proper communication for the benefits of all.

Psychologically speaking, the only way of advancing humanity in life and after-life is through love as taught and lived by Jesus Christ our Lord. For any advancement in the Middle East, Muslims and Jews need the expansion of Christian presence.

Friday, November 30, 2012

A Social Network for the Church

With most businesses using social networks such as Linked-In and Facebook, I thought of proposing an exclusive social network for the Church.

connect 30,000 to 40,000 Church members in Canada.
reach out to all the faithful who are not  visible in Church Masses, services and lectures.
establish online catechism for the young and Church teachings for adults.
publish Eastern Christian  Tradition to new generations.
bring Al-Macarrat and other scholarly work on-line.
build faith in the Bible and Church Tradition and link to existing scholarly Catholic and other Christian resources.
provide a link for young adults looking for jobs or advancement in their careers within the community.
provide an opportunity for business exchange between members and to businesses that wish to advertise their services to members.
Tonight I will talk about this project to attendees of my lecture. This is only one of the ways of using social networks to expand the Church

Thursday, November 29, 2012

On the beginnings

In my current lectures at Jesus the King parish and in my writings too, I emphasize the need for the Church - the People of God, as Vatican II proclaims – to be a witness to Christ in all nations. You and I -the Church - need to invest what we have received in our lives to serve the Lord. This year is the 50th anniversary of the beginning of the Second Vatican Council. The Council ushered the reform that welcomes greater contribution of Christian lay persons to the building up of the Church.

First, let each one recall the good things he received from God, then see whether we can thank God for his great love. Not everyone is ready to thank God. Some of us are hurt by events that they encountered such as the death of a loved one, or the terminal disease of another. When we see innocent people die in a storm like Sandy, or worse, in a war like the one in Syria, we can’t ignore them and their families. Usually we blame God for the miseries that beset us, yet we are taught that he loves us. If you do not believe that God really loves you as you are then you need to assess your faith by asking a trusted pastor or spiritual director in Church. Second, we need to pray with the Church, discern the will of God for each one for he loves us in good times and bad, and work with the families to bring them healing and relief according to his will. The program of discerning God’s will in our lives initiated by St. Ignatius Loyola is a great program which will be introduced at Jesus the King Church shortly.

Third, The Knights of Columbus should be aware that they constitute an important organ in the Church’s mission which Bishop Ibrahim spoke about recently. In a recent interview with him conducted by Charity TV, he mentioned the need for reaching out to kids, teenagers, and young adults. Awareness should help us desire to give out of what we have whether in education we received, in talents, or in money; for everything we received was given to us as a gift by God through parents who loved us, families, schools and society that cared for us. Our thanksgiving should imitate Christ who “though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross.”(Phil 2: 6-8).

Fourth, The Knights of Columbus at Jesus the King Council have already started a program to help the Church in need through donating for children’s education at the Patriarchal School of the Melkite Catholic Patriarchate in Jerusalem. Your donations can be given at - More on-line projects can be carried out with the same spirit. This is particularly important to help suffering Christians in the Middle East where our Lord was born and the Church was formed by Him. Communication is most important to speak to and listen to others in Church. Since many of us use social networks on computers, we can build a computer-based social network that is exclusive for the faithful in the Melkite Catholic Church in Canada as well as for the members of the Knights of Columbus in Canada and beyond. I have proposed such projects to the local leadership of both. The return on these projects is immense in terms of the many new people who will join us through these networks and the revenues for the Church and its servants the Knights of Columbus. We have enough talents and experience to carry out such projects from Jesus the King Church to the glory of Jesus the King. In this Christmas, may the “infant of Bethlehem” be glorified in us and the rest of the world and may the joy in the Lord fill us all.

Monday, November 19, 2012

New Insights

One of the things that I share with my pastor is the idea that people must know about everything in the world as much as they can. In order to discern what is right and what is not right, we need to examine what we are bombarded with everyday in light of the Moral Law. There are many good events but there are also evil ones. A good website that discusses educational and moral issues is the Canadian-based Catholic Education Resource Center at - Other ones are: Zenit at and  Imitatio at which delves into anthropology of Mimetic Theory, and a fourth one is America Magazine run by the Jesuit Fathers in the U.S. at A fifth one that is indispensable to researchers in Catholic tradition is which features an online Bible, The Catholic Encyclopedia (dated 1910 but rich in content), and readings from the Fathers of the Church in addition to articles by contemporary authors. I must add the renowned First Things at Not all articles are free but you can read the free ones to learn how contemporary Catholic thinkers think. On my blog Today's Questions at you will find many more websites in contemporary theology and science. None of these are infallible but we always grow in learning by opening up to everything that can conceive the good in our minds and hearts.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

How to Get Others to Follow You

Last Friday I spoke at Jesus the King Church about only some of the ways to get others to follow you.  Many of these ways may result in immoral decisions but can certainly be used morally. This is why we should know about them.


We are all interdependent to varying degrees. The fact that new technology allows me to communicate with friends anywhere in the globe is evidence of the influence that anyone can exercise on others in the globe.


The most recent research this year shows that businesses are increasingly using “Big Data” from huge Internet social networks, email systems, transactions and structured databases in different forms to analyze consumer interests and sentiments and influence the decisions of consumers and other businesses in order to buy their products. Advertisements on TV, radio, and the Web are marketing new products and ideas to you and me every second.


In “Banished from Eden: Original Sin and Evolutionary Theory in the Drama of SalvationRaymond Schwager, S.J. traces the origin and development of humans along the evolutionary paradigm using new findings in genetics, biology, Girard’s Mimetic Theory, the listening Audio-Psycho-Phenology Theory by Dr. Alfred Tomatis, and the work and thought of Teilhard de Chardin, S.J. and Karl Rahner S.J. Against these findings, he explores the Biblical narrative of the Fall.

Here are examples of ways to get others to follow you:


Mimesis (Imitation)


Mimetic Theory has been tested in university researches and appears to give an answer to the above question. How?


When I admire someone I create a model of him/her for myself in my mind. This model person, if really in contact with me, may be infatuated or attracted by the same object that attracts me. The result is that we both become attracted to the same person or thing and become rivals (Example: Rivalry between men in love of a certain woman). When my model sees that I am attracted to the same person that he is attracted to, his feelings of wanting this object get reinforced.  Imitation is a very powerful thing we use every day. I imitate persons who are peers to me yet more successful, or more handsome! Because he is my rival now, I try to destroy him through defamation (jealousy), and by showing off that I fit better. Eventually each one of us seeks to possess the object or even rape her only to feel that she is mine.   The fight can escalate into powerful races of battles and into violence. This is partly why tribes or nations attack each other.


But imitation can also go in the other direction if we are careful! Many saints did imitate their models and through this imitation built bigger monasteries, schools, and spent their lives learning and teaching. For example, St. Pachomius imitated St. Anthony of Egypt and built the first community of monks. St. Athanasius wrote the biography of his model St. Anthony and got it translated when he went to Rome so that in the end St. Benedict benefited from it in founding his order. The second Christian book, after the Bible, read by generations of Christians is “The Imitation of Christ” written in the 15th century.


The result is that I can influence many others when I imitate what they wish to be. We always learn from each other through mimesis or imitation. If, by my example, I imitate Christ or follow one of the saints, others who come into relationship with me are influenced by this imitation and are likely to follow me. (For more info on Mimetic Theory see my post: )



Dr. Tomatis’s theory that "the voice does not produce what the ear does not hear", is the hallmark of his research and his method.

In his research and subsequent confirmation by colleagues, Dr. Alfred Tomatis found that the earliest communication in humans takes place in the womb of the mother. The fetus at the age of 4 months listens to his mother’s feelings and is disturbed if she is having an argument with the husband. In his book “Neuf mois au Paradis” Tomatis shows that the child is secure in his 9 months in the womb of his mother and that there is memory of the child from the moment that there is a cell (i.e. from conception). Accordingly begetting or conceiving of children is much more than a mere biological process; for it is a communicative process that includes the whole human person with an intensive imaging (‘in his image’). Thus Schwager writes “Because inter-human communication is disrupted through sin and procreation belongs to this communication, sin can make its home in the deepest dimension of human nature.”


Listening rather than only hearing is, therefore, essential in effective communication.

(For more info on Alfred Tomatis see and ).


The Fall

Through the mechanism of evolution God created everything including the first humans. According to the Biblical narrative:


The LORD God gave the man this order: You are free to eat from any of the trees of the garden except the tree of knowledge of good and evil. From that tree you shall not eat; when you eat from it you shall die. (Gen 2)


So Satan comes to Eve. See how he speaks to her AND HOW SHE LISTENS.

First he IMITATES in a pervert way the words of God:


Did God really say, ‘You shall not eat from any of the trees in the garden’? (Gen 3)


Thus Satan

1.       changes the order to include all trees.

2.      When Eve corrects him “it is only about the fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden that God said, ‘You shall not eat it or even touch it, or else you will die” he designates to her the fruit so that the focus is on an object. The focus is now on the fruit.

3.      At that time, reminding her of the terror of death, he lies to her saying You certainly will not die! God knows well that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened and you will be like gods, who know good and evil.”  In other words, you will be like God!!


Eugen Drewermann points out anxiety in Eve because she finds herself attracted to the OBJECT but if she POSSESSES IT she will die!


With Satan’s provocation, Eve is lured to an object away from a relationship that constitutes her eternal life. Instead of maturing in the relationship with God, she loses her trust in God and falls in the trap.


Communication continues: Now Eve gives Adam some of the fruit because she loves him and wants to share the pleasure with him but also she wants to share with him becoming DIVINE in everything. If I think I can stand on my own or be my own God, then I am deceived. Hope can be false if not based on the truth. When Adam is asked why he committed his sin he blames God for the woman he was given. When Eve is asked, she blames the serpent that God created.


The Fall did not prevent communication and sharing but tainted them with lack of trust and an inclination to continue in the selfish path and desire of objects.  In later generations communication will continue, in spite of evil, which will be found in trade and tribal allies and subsequently in civilizations.


But who followed who? We followed Adam & Eve through Original Sin and actual sins that are generated from the inclination caused by Original Sin, but is there a way back to Paradise? Only in uniting ourselves to Christ through prayer, repentance and trust of his merciful love. These are practiced in the Sacraments especially the Sacraments of Penance and the Eucharist as well as in immersing ourselves in learning and following the Scriptures as interpreted by the Church and in practicing what we learn everyday through self-giving to others as much as each of us can. Christ is the image of God, the self-revelation of God and the fulfillment of love that lived, died and resurrected to reunite the human family with her true destiny, God.



Friday, October 19, 2012

Ibrahim Ibrahim on the Mission of the Church

In a recent interview by Natalie Elias hosting "Nabad Al-kanisa" episodes of Charity TV in Lebanon, Canada's Melkite Catholic Bishop Ibrahim Ibrahim answered questions about his mission and the mission of the Church in the world.

The silver jubilee of his own ordination to the sacramental order of priesthood was in July this year. For this reason it was timely to hear from him how he came to be called and sent out. His name "Ibrahim" is Arabic notation for Abraham the Father of Fathers whom God called from his land in Ur, in Iraq today, to go where God sends him. To Abraham, God said "Keep my Covenant" (Gen. 17, 9). Abraham's response brought the world the blessings which culminated in Christ and are spread by the Holy Spirit through Christ's Church. The same words of God have become the motto of Ibrahim Ibrahim since his ordination to the priesthood.

Ibrahim was raised in a pious family. He insists that bringing up children in a healthy atmosphere of the family, the little domestic church in his words, develops true vocations in serving God. He recalls his family and neighbouring families in the same village who shared prayers, love of God and veneration of Mary "The Theotokos" (Mother of God). He fondly recalls that in his early childhood he used to pray before a statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary thinking that it was a statue of St. Thérèse of Lisieux.  His love to serve God and the Church never left him but rather grew stronger as he entered the Basilian Salvatorian Order. The same love of family never left him as he became a member of another and larger family too. Here he recalled the great servants of God who taught him and his fellows the love of God and neighbour by example. He received his education in theology and philosophy at the University of the Holy Spirit in Lebanon. In spite of a vicious civil war in Lebanon, he continued his graduate studies at the Gregorian University and other eminent ones in Rome. Shortly after his ordination and while back to Lebanon, he was assigned to teach in the primary seminary.

But, as he said later, he loves challenges. This is probably providential since two years after his assignment at the seminary, he was sent by the ecclesial authorities to serve in a Melkite parish in Cleveland, USA although he did not at the time know much English nor the lifestyle of Americans. As a priest, he worked in Cleveland for 12 years. Fr. Ibrahim's energetic work within the parish and with other churches, both Eastern and Western, was noticed by ecclesial authorities and his mission became a larger challenge when in 2003 he was elected Bishop/Eparch of all Greek Melkite Catholics in Canada. His openness brought him into friendships with many people from Lebanon, Syria, Egypt, Iraq, and Jordan.

"Nabad Al-Kanisa is an Arabic word which means heart of the Church" said Bishop Ibrahim. "Your program acts like the heart that pushes and transfers blood in the whole body. In the same way, we need to think of the Church as the pounding heart that carries life to the entire world."   Christ is the life that the Church carries out to the world.  "Your program  then does transfer the message of the Church to people who have not heard of it" he continued. "We used to read the stories of the fathers, including those who departed recently, at dinner table thus we benefited from their experience." Bishop Ibrahim reaffirms the development of understanding the Church's Tradition as in the development of sciences throughout history based on the experience we receive from our forefathers and their teachings studied continually in educational institutions. Today the Church uses the media available to us to reach out to the world and deliver the good news we received since Apostolic times.

The young Eparch spoke on the important role the laity must play in the mission of the Church today. He said that the laity challenge us with their zeal and energy to build and develop the Church. It is with this energy that Bishop Ibrahim built the first Cathedral of the Melkite Catholics in Canada 5 years ago. He looks forward to the contribution of many young adults in building up the Church of God in Canada and elsewhere. Almost 10 years have gone since his elevation to the episcopal ministry in which Bishop Ibrahim has accomplished many activities throughout Canada, not the least his ordination of two new priests to assist Fr. Georges Farah in Toronto: Fr. Michel Chalhoub a few years ago and Fr. Youhanna Hanna in the presence of the Knights of Columbus honour guards in January this year. For many years now, he has been publishing the "Bal", an annual magazine, and last year he published a special edition of the "Bal des Bâtisseurs" where he appreciated volunteer work of servants in the vineyard of the Lord throughout Melkite Catholic parishes in Canada. When asked about the youth, Bishop Ibrahim mentioned programs inaugurated in Montreal and Ottawa as well as other cities where our young learn the Christian faith and participate in other cultural activities of arts and sports. This was a sign that learning and schools are important in the mind of the young prelate which in fact have materialized this year in the acquisition of a new school in Montreal. Moreover, the young Bishop maintained, "We try as much as we can to fulfill the needs of generations and different languages in Masses."

Bishop Ibrahim looked very appreciative of the recent visit to Canada by the Maronite Patriarch Mar Bishara Al-Raii, and those by Melkite Patriarch Gregory III Laham. He said "These visits warm the hearts of the faithful in the Diaspora towards their mother Churches in the Middle East. When asked whether the faithful in Canada would go back to the Middle East, his answer was a pastoral one where the faithful are encouraged to contribute to the well being of their mother Churches, yet their individual choices are respected. Bishop Ibrahim believes that the whole earth belongs to man. The idea of citizenship is global citizenship today. While the presence of Christians in the Middle East is important, he believes that we cannot force anyone to live his entire life there; for the mission of the Church is global and multi-cultural. The Church transcends the cultural boundaries. Bishop Ibrahim is the current coordinator of the bi-annual conferences of the Melkite Bishops in the Diaspora. For so many years, these conferences have helped coordination between Melkite Bishops in their pastoral work in the Diaspora, and as a consultative body they produced recommendations and guidelines, yet each Bishop uses what is best for his diocese/eparchy in cooperation with the priests in his diocese.

A man of deeds, this young prelate and pastor has shown he is up to the challenges "by the grace of God" as he always says! "To Many Years O Sayedna" We respond!

The interview in Arabic has been recorded on You Tube:

Saturday, October 13, 2012

The sower went out to sow

"Jesus said 'A sower went out to sow his seed; and as he sowed, some fell along the path, and was trodden under foot, and the birds of the air devoured it. And some fell on the rock; and as it grew up, it withered away, because it had no moisture. And some fell among thorns; and the thorns grew with it and choked it. And some fell into good soil and grew, and yielded a hundredfold.' As he said this, he called out, 'He who has ears to hear, let him hear.' And when his disciples asked him what this parable meant, he said, 'To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of God; but for others they are in parables, so that seeing they may not see, and hearing they may not understand.Now the parable is this:  The seed is the word of God.  The ones along the path are those who have heard; then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, that they may not believe and be saved. And the ones on the rock are those who, when they hear the word, receive it with joy; but these have no root, they believe for a while and in time of temptation fall away. And as for what fell among the thorns, they are those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by the cares and riches and pleasures of life, and their fruit does not mature. And as for that in the good soil, they are those who, hearing the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bring forth fruit with patience.'" (Luke 8: 5-15) 

Dr. Mona Ebeid wrote in Al-Macarrat, Issue No. 906, 2010:

Luke presents the above Parable differently from Matthew and Mark. His style presents a more brief and unified account. We find "three" symbolic elements in his writing that insist on action.

He uses the verb "Go out" 
1. The sower; 2. went out; 3. to sow his seed,

This style is a teaching yet communicative style that aims to attract the attention of the listener and invites him to understand the depth of the divine word and to apply it in a practical way.

In interpreting this parable two more "threes" resemble those of Mark with some difference. The first difference with Mark is that Mark emphasizes the danger on the word while as we find the emphasis of danger in Luke is on the human person.

The seed that fell among thorns represents the situation of those who do not yield fruit because a chain of dangers in life threatens them:
1. Anxieties
2. Riches 
3. Pleasures

The brief words in Luke carry three wider symbols:
1. Not only the anxieties of the world, but the anxiety of life in this world in the absolute sense with all of its matters, preoccupation, and confusion.
2. Not only the desire to be rich, but material richness in itself and in all its forms.
3. Not only pleasures of this world, but all desires that long for living in pleasure only.

As for the seed that fell in the good soil, it represents those who: 
1. listen to the word (with a good heart);
2. and keep it;
3. and become fruitful (in perseverance).

So Luke did not present the symbolic meaning of the infinite quantity of fruits as Mark did, but presented rather the quality of fruits as "perseverance" has a three-pronged approach
1. Confirmation in the word of God,
2. Continuous efforts to live in every divine grace,
3. Patience before the challenges that cannot be escaped.

M. Cocagnac, Les Symboles Bibliques, Paris, 1999, L'agriculture divine, 102-105.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Planes, Trains and Automobiles - A Comment for Reading in Thanksgiving

Last night we watched the movie Planes, Trains and Automobiles at Jesus the King Church.

In spite of a couple of objections, I thought the movie was a great introduction to the Christian meaning of thanksgiving which we celebrate this weekend in Canada. Why should we thank anybody? Or why should we thank God if our lives are so miserable? And how can we really express thanksgiving to God and to the people who had any role in our lives?

I think the answer to the above questions will become clearer as you read the rest of my comment. 

The above movie is a reflection of the state that we all go through many times in our short lives. Yet we do not pay much attention to the core of our existence. We are not random numbers but created with a purpose to enjoy life and beyond this life in eternal life with all the beloved, but somehow we bring misery upon us and others and cause them and ourselves to curse God although we seem to think that God always loves us and is faithful to us according to the Christian faith.

The movie starkly questions us: Either we owe thanks to God and therefore should never curse him or God is not there so we can curse him and curse the entire creation.

The story of the movie starts with Neil Page, a business marketing manager, rushing out to take the flight to join his family in Thanksgiving Day where they hope to enjoy a day of relaxed relationship and refresh their love. He believes that he is deceived at least twice by other busy people who stole the taxis he attempted to take to the airport. He is already frustrated when he arrives at the airport only to meet one of those who “stole” his cab! Del Griffith is this other guy who “stole” the cab and claims to be sales director of shower curtains at a certain company. They are “entangled” for two days due to stormy weather. Every time Neil attempts to go his own way alone, he ends up again encountering Del and in the end his eyes are opened.

First, Neil needs Del to find him a motel when the flight to Chicago is cancelled, i.e. when his plan is disturbed by other factors. Yet the way Del “behaves” in the manners of using the shared-room and bathroom frustrates Neil to no end. Each of them gets angered by the reactions of the other. When the flight gets loud, Del says “You want to humiliate me? Go ahead…See if I care. I am not changing. I love me. My wife loves me.” Again they find no solution to arrive at their destinations but to stick together!  While Del is an easy-going person, Neil harbors skepticism that Del robbed him. This feeling is repeated in more than one occasion. When Neil could not find the rental car, he started cursing God and the flight company that had issued his papers. In a fit of anger he forgot that he needed both. Del appears again in the minute when Neil is about to be crushed by one feisty worker for his lost-temper. Although practically-speaking Del saved Neil from further delay, he still did not receive any recognition from the heart. On and off, Neil was at last going home in train. There he remembered what Del said to him “I have not been home for years” and decided to return to the station where they departed. He found him sitting in the same seat. Del then talked about his own story. The real story! He had lost his beloved wife 8 years earlier and now he was alone with no home.  Feeling his pain, Neil invited Del to Thanksgiving at Neil’s home.  This is the beginning of another story.

Centuries ago, Jesus Christ gave the Parable of the Rich and Lazarus (Luke 16: 19-31). The rich man did nothing wrong that he could remember, yet he ended in hell where he did not wish to go. What was his great sin? However we try to understand it, we always come to the same point. He did not “see” Lazarus who was at his door. However sick was Lazarus the rich man did not recognize him, for he was too busy with his own festivities, probably empty thanksgiving feasts with turkeys as we do today, fortunes, his own inheritance, and his own brothers…

Let’s look to the needy where we are.  I am sure there will be many who hide their needs out of pride but who welcome us in sharing with them. Many are lonely like Del. Many are suffering like Jesus. If and when we make a step out of our own closet then we shall see him in them.

Helping others in need is universally recognized in all cultures. In fact, it is based on the innate call for justice and reciprocity of giving i.e. the basis of collaboration, trade and mutual benefits at the scale of tribes, countries, and nations.

And the above reality moves me to share with you a few selected findings of recent research in sociology, psychology and neuroscience that provide evidence in support of the Christian message of sharing and the sense of justice for all.

In 2011, “The Fair Society and The Pursuit of Social Justice” authored by Peter Corning (past professor at Stanford University and director of the Institute for the Study of Complex Systems) was published by the University of Chicago Press. In the book, Peter Corning makes the case for the innate sense of human fairness. Bringing together the latest findings from the behavioral and evolutionary biological sciences and citing examples of contemporary American social policy, he critiques the neo-conservative political/social elitist trend, and proposes a “Biosocial Contract” built on a deep understanding of human nature and commitment to fairness. In Peter Corning’s view, a set of economic and political reforms are required to transform society based on three principles: equality, equity, and reciprocity.

Fairness, Corning proposes, is a moral imperative developed in the very brain of each human. Citing the accident that occurred to Phineas Gage in 1848 which damaged part of his brain, Corning explains the effect of the brain on the development of personality and behavior. “What is going on is always a dynamic synthesis of many influences – the neurological structures that are specified in our genetic ‘blueprints,’ the ways embryonic influences and child development processes shape the phenotype, how family and cultural experiences imprint themselves on our brains, and even the dynamics of the immediate contexts.” He quotes Antonio Damasio in “Decartes Error,” 1994 to show what the USC Professor of neuroscience had already found: “Our reasoning powers and emotional sensibilities are closely intertwined.  Indeed, the emerging new science of ‘moral psychology’ assigns a primary role to our underlying ‘moral intuition.’” 

Corning also quotes a world leader in neuroscience research: Michael Gazzaniga, Professor of Psychology and Director of the SAGE Centre for the Study of the Mind at the University of California - Santa Barbara. In Gazzaniga`s 2005 book The Ethical Brain the question posed is “Do we have innate moral sense as a species, and, if so, can we recognize and accept it on its own terms?” to which Gazzaniga answers “yes.”  Gazzaniga continues “From an evolutionary perspective, the neural structures that tie altruistic instincts to emotion may have been selected for over time because helping people immediately is beneficial. Gut instinct, or morality, is a result of processes selected for over the evolutionary process.”

In his book “The Neuroscience of Fair Play: Why We (Usually) Follow the Golden Rule” one of the leading neurobiologists, Donald Pfaff,  explains how we are hardwired to behave in an ethical manner towards others “I believe that we are hardwired to behave in an ethical manner towards others, and they towards us. But with all the life-supporting functions that the brain handles from one millisecond to the next, only a few are likely to be capable of sparking an ethical response. These must be the circuits crucial to our survival: The circuits that are active whenever a situation may suddenly or significantly change our status: when a child runs out into the street in front of your car; when you are hurrying to get out of the rain and a stranger slips on the sidewalk; when you turn on television and see an appeal for disaster relief in a part of the world you know from a map.”

You may see now that we are relational creatures where the Golden Rule of Christ rules!
“Whatever you wish that men would do to you, do so to them; for this is the law and the prophets” (Matt 7: 12). Let me take the above research one step further towards the meaning of our existence. Although research in numerous fields of science continues to discover new findings in their own areas, they, nevertheless, are pointing to the relational character of creation.  What brings creation together is God who in Christian revelation is Love. He is the Alpha and Omega of our existence. He binds humans together by his all-powerful love in spite of evil.  

Another point I wish to make to those who objected to showing the movie in the Church. They feared that the Church would not be respected and that the Blessed Sacrament would be offended. However, I ask them why can't we see the good things and ignore the bad things in everything if Christ himself did this? He reached out to the Samaritans who were enemies of the Jews and to the Canaanites who did not worship the true God. He looked for what is good in everyone and everything. He sent his disciples to the world from Jerusalem to Antioch and to Alexandria and Rome,  and in their apostolic work they lived together as a community whereby the rich voluntarily gave to the rest (Acts 2: 44). It is the mission of the Church to reach out to the world as spelled out by Vatican II. Reaching out is the mission of every Christian in all walks of life.  If the Church really wants to understand the needs of the world she must learn the language of the world even if through showing movies that may on a first impression appear inappropriate for the holy. This is not to say that every thing goes but Christians must discern the times and use appropriately methods that secular communications media use to attract people's attention. Although she is not of this world, she remains in this world and must reach out to all. 

My heartfelt thanks go to Fr. Georges Farah for his support. Above all let’s thank God for He not only cares for us but also is a Father of creation who wills to save us in Christ in spite of our great sins.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

The Development of Knowledge - An Introduction

Everything in creation is in development. The early human civilizations contributed to development in mathematics, cosmology and philosophy. We continue to be surprised by new findings every day. This is attested by discoveries in cosmology of the Big Bang Theory, the universe still accelerating; in the development of life partly through the mechanism of evolution confirmed by fossils and genetic DNA molecules of creatures; and in the development of the mind in the appearance of humans. Each human also grows from childhood to adulthood and beyond.  

In Christianity for example, we read in the first letter of Paul to the Corinthians “When I was a child, I used to talk as a child, think as a child, reason as a child; when I became a man, I put aside childish things” (1 Cor 13, 11). The development of the Church was brought to light by Jesus Christ himself when he said that the kingdom of God "is like a grain of mustard seed which a man took and sowed in his field; it is the smallest of all seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches." (Matt 13, 31-32). The Church grows not only in size but also in understanding because she reflects on the truth she received from God and is guided by His Spirit to interpret it and proclaim it as she more fully perceives it in time. She elaborates the truth as she perceives it, not remove from it. The truth does not change for God is the Truth but the Church’s perception of the truth develops as the Church, like Mary mother of Christ, pondered in her heart the meaning of the message of God (Luke 2, 19). In the 19th century, the recently beatified John Henry Newman proposed an essay on the development of Christian doctrine in which he defended Catholic teaching from attacks by some non-Catholic Christians who saw certain elements in Catholic teaching as corruptions or innovations. He relied on an extensive study of early Church Fathers in tracing the development of doctrine which he argued was in some way implicitly present in the Divine Revelation in Scripture and Tradition. He argued that various Catholic doctrines not accepted by some Orthodox and Protestants (such as Purgatory) had a developmental history analogous to doctrines that were accepted by all Christians (such as the Trinity). Such developments were the natural results of reason working on the original revealed truth to draw out understandings that were not obvious at first.

In the same vein, new perception of the truth does not change the substance of the truth but provides more insights into it. In physics, Albert Einstein built on Newtonian classic physics with his insights about the relationship between mass and energy. In modern physics quantum theory elegantly provides evidence for the entanglement of subatomic particles at a huge distance from each other. But the new insights of Einstein, Bohr, Schrodinger, or Edward Witten do not fundamentally contradict the earlier findings of Isaac Newton. They give us more insight into the essence of matter and energy. The same could be said of technology. Everyday new tools in information systems help humans communicate better in a global village. With the difficulty of face-to-face social networking, interactions are increasingly made in virtual space via digital social networking. For some years now large computer companies have been developing robots and automated systems that are aimed at assisting in manufacturing systems and possibly replacing human resources. This development by itself is not without its dangers and threats to human society. For three decades now, globalization, enabled by the Internet, has been a predominant force in the trade between nations. As a phenomenon, large businesses benefited to the near exclusion of small business.

The above developments and others in many disciplines will be discussed. There exist, however, many obstacles due to conflicts at every level of human interaction. This is the other direction: that of moral failure into sin. Sin is not only a personal failure to love God and his creatures. It is also a failure of civilizations in the way many leaders maliciously direct their fellow humans into slavery, for slavery can be embedded in selfishness, money taken on credit, instant gratification in which the other is only an object of pleasure and many other evils. Yet, however long the human drama continues the final judgment is that of the good creator who, according to Christian tradition called himself Love. All rational thought is only an attempt of the human mind to understand the unfathomable God and, if honest, it should help the persons in the response and return (i.e. the ascension) of relational humanity to God the lover and the beloved who as one God is an eternal relatedness of the Father and Son in the Holy Spirit.

Today's Quote

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


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