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

Saturday, May 26, 2012

The Fulfillment of Life

I am reminded by a word that the late holy archbishop Paul Antaki wrote to me some 20 years ago. He wrote: No one is ever fully satisfied in this life wherever he goes.

Fully satisfied?
As my wife and I attended the eve Mass of Pentecost at Holy Rosary Church, a young man who is now a seminarian was given permission to talk briefly about his own ambitions as he grew here in Toronto. He spoke about being attracted to sports when in high school; how he made nice networks among his peers at York University when he studied life sciences; how he was involved in a relationship with a beautiful young woman that they intended to fulfill in marriage; and how all this success, fascination and satisfaction with life came short of full satisfaction that he prayed God to take him and direct his future. He ended up in finding his fulfillment in a vocation to become a priest.  Nevertheless, this eloquent young man continued, life is not easier for priests than it is for married couples or for unmarried singles. Everyone is called by God to live his fulfilled vocation whether in celibate or in married life. What matters is to find the real joy God is calling us to; for God wants us to be fully happy (Luke 12: 32).

Satanic Influences
Why is this important? Because Satan also calls us to another life – a life of misery and division. Satan is working hard to make sure we lose hope and commit suicide. Without significant help by friends to find a job, a married man at Jesus the King Church was so depressed this past week that he was losing hope. He wanted to be left alone. From time to time, especially since my stroke, I also feel depressed as I see myself unable to resolve certain difficulties or how ungrateful some friends are towards me. For over 35 years I have been serving the Church for free whether in Egypt or in Canada, so why continue?

There are no short answers to our difficulties in life.  Married couples surely go through difficulties with their relationships and their children. Friends tell me about their intimate relationships that can break in a moment of anger.  Monks have their own temptations and faults...Yet I know that God loves me and loves everyone else. The joy of knowing this fact should drive me to love God. I need God in my life. The worst decision that any person can make is to despair of God’s love and commit suicide. The Holy Spirit, tells us the Church, always urges you and me to repent and reconcile with God and everyone else in order to find eternal peace and life.  Full and continuous despair with no hope leads to the unforgivable sin of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit (Matthew 12: 32) simply because God respects my freedom and choice until the last moment of life on earth.

Two Related Questions: Purgatory and Praying for the Dead

First Question: Why does the Catholic Church believe in Purgatory?

Implicitly in Christ’s own words “Therefore I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. And whoever says a word against the Son of man will be forgiven; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.” (Matthew 12: 31, 32). According to traditional interpretation this means that some sins are forgiven in the age to come. Those who were not in the state of mortal or grave sins (such as cheating, betrayal, adultery, or murder) at the moment of death yet had not purified their thoughts or acts from small “venial sins” (such as joking in some inappropriate manners) can be considered in a state of grace but not fully pure to enter heaven yet.

A clearer statement is found in the first Letter of St. Paul to the Corinthians “According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder, I laid a foundation, and another man is building upon it. Let each man take care how he builds upon it. For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any one builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw -- each man's work will become manifest; for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work which any man has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If any man's work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.” ( 1 Cor 3: 10-15). 

Jerry L. Walls wrote a book published by Oxford Press in 2011 in print titled "Purgatory, The Logic of Total Transformation." You can buy it from Amazon if you wish to study this dogma of the Catholic Church which many Protestant theologians including the author (a Protestant theologian himself) are defending it today.

According to the teaching of the Catholic Church every soul is judged in a private judgment immediately after death. See for example the parable of Lazarus and the Rich.
However the important element in Catholic dogma is this:

According to St. Paul “When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall understand fully, even as I have been fully understood. So faith, hope, love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love” (1 Cor 13: 11-13).  It follows that ordinary people including  saints who died in grace but are not perfectly in love with God will endure purification which is a process of longing and increasing love. Since no one can see God if he is not in perfect relationship with God, there must be a state after death for those who died in grace but not in a perfect relationship of love towards God to be purified before entering heaven where no impure person can be found. God justifies the soul by transforming it and sanctifying it in his grace from within. If more Protestant theologians are seeing now the validity of this dogma, I would expect a more recognition of this dogma by Orthodox theologians.

The dogma of Purgatory is a view of hope missing in Christian Calvinism and the idea of fate in Islam which probably influenced the Eastern Orthodox theology.

Second Question: Why does the Catholic Church allow (in most instances) prayer over persons who committed suicide?

Psychological research has shown that some persons who committed suicide and died may have been depressed and lonely for too long that they lacked the full knowledge and full will in their drastic action at the moment of death. Who are we to judge them unworthy of prayer? In her prayer the Church continues to hope that everyone who died reconciled with God provided they were capable of making the choice following the dictates of their conscience and in full knowledge and freedom given to them at death.     

The Father in my life and yours
Christ said "Ask, and it will be given you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. Or what man of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone?  Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him! So whatever you wish that men would do to you, do so to them; for this is the law and the prophets.” (Matthew 7: 7-12)

Let’s forgive each other and recharge our relationships to receive God’s blessings (Matthew 11: 25). Since I have memory, it is not easy to remove from memory the hurts that I perceive others directed against me. People who leave the Church may be angry with God or with the priest or with other important people in the Church. It is a perception that the idea of stereotyping reinforces. It takes time to repent and reconcile, yet it is crucial for my eternal peace, the peace of Christ.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

A Reflection on The Grim Situation of the World Today

The situation today as you see is a global political game for more money and control by "shareholders," following the free market concept, of large organizations, and most countries. 

The Arab world is waiting for the results of the first free elections of an Egyptian president in generations while violence continues in other Arab countries. The U.S. Administration who supported the Egyptian Revolution of January 25 2011 seems to be losing ground to the Islamists. While forerunner Islamists for presidential elections use the technology developed in the West, they speak negatively about the U.S. (where this information technology developed) and have vowed to reverse the 1979 Agreement by the late President Sadat with Israel, thus throwing the entire Middle East into a new round of uncertainty. See the Washington Post here:  and The New York Times makes a similar observation here:

The G-8 have just finished their meeting in Washington with an attempt to salvage the Euro-Crisis and solidify growth in Europe and cooperation between the advanced pro-capital economies of Germany and the more socialist ones in France...Yet, according to the pro-capitalist The Economist, there seems to be two directions for European states to choose from - none of them is easy. See

In Africa, Sudan and Southern Sudan are fighting for control of oil rich resources which happen to be at the border in Southern Sudan. In Asia, Pakistan seems to be challenging the U.S. by prosecuting, on charges of treason, a Pakistani physician who collaborated with the American Administration to find and kill the arch-terrorist Osama bin Laden last year. 
There appears to be a growing polarization and impatience in the debate for the future of the human race. This reminds me by Samuel Huntington's "Clash of Civilizations" which  predicted the division between the civil/secular cultures of the West and those of a resurgent Islam in the Middle East and beyond. 

One of the main differences between the civilized Western world (including Catholic countries) and the rest of the world (including Islamic countries) is the commitment of Western countries to non-violence and some freedom for their citizens in their choices of how they wish to live their lives as individuals and families. This is the result of many centuries of Christian humanism in Europe. The late Jesuit Henri de Lubac wrote on Christian humanism, a real reform and renaissance as different from other forms of humanism.  Before him, St. Thomas More was a great humanist too. They go back to the humanism and openness of Christ himself who was imitated by St. Francis of Assisi, St. Bernard, and St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus.

In the current polarized situation in the global village, there has to be a global political/ religious leader, that leads according to the intrinsic values of fairness and non-violence. If Christians unite under the leadership of one holy person - presumably the Pope of the Catholic Church, then at least some form of Christian unity can be realized. A balance between individual freedom and commitment to the community (ecclesia) must be followed according to Vatican II.

May be I am complicating things. I think the initiative has to come from the top and not only from the base. As I wrote to Pope Benedict XVI last October, the Pope may have to convoke an Ecumenical Council this year to which all Catholic and Orthodox bishops as well as other Christian leaders from the world are invited. The outcome is one Universal (Catholic) Church that includes all non-Catholic Christians together with Catholics and which can defend Christian values and promote the word of Christ in the "global village." If the Eastern Orthodox bishops do not agree, they can still make an alliance with the resourceful Church of Rome based on the Christian & human moral values. The world is slipping away before our own eyes. 

Money must be spent to help those Christians in need.  And above all perhaps you and I need to pray that God may save the world. After all, He created it and redeemed it. In God, we trust.

Today's Quote

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


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