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 4, 2013

Georges Farah on the Man Born Blind

Before speaking about the man born blind, which is recounted in the Gospel reading this Sunday (John Chapter 9) at the Melkite Catholic Church, last night the charismatic pastor at Jesus the King parish introduced the idea of the celebration of joy from Easter to Pentecost, a seven-weeks period in which the Church never stops singing "Christ is risen!" Georges Farah contrasts this period with the period of Lent in which the Church lives the sufferings, passion, crucifixion and death of Christ. Although people spend much of their lives in suffering, they, nevertheless, are moved by joy and happiness - even if for one day - much more than by their stories of suffering. Everyone wants to live in joy! The example can be found in the emergence of the little baby from his mother's womb. The hour of joy that follows the delivery of the baby has an intense participatory effect on the rest of the family and the community. In spite of her 9-months of pains and groaning, the mother's first look at her baby is full of joy and this joy is contagious. The reading speaks of a man blind from his birth who encountered Jesus and was healed by him. So much is there to learn from this encounter and what follows. Please open your Bible and slowly read chapter 9 from the Gospel according to St. John before you continue reading this little post.
Let's dive in the deep with Fr. Georges Farah...First, the man was born blind. Blindness means literally the inability to see but it also means the inability to recognize or perceive what is around me. Animals in general are born with little sense of recognition. The very young sheep follow their mothers in the herd wherever they go so that they do not get lost. On the contrary, human babies do not recognize their mothers - The little baby gets attached to the woman who feeds him. Surrogate mothers may be able to provide the function of feeding babies, yet the care of the mother for her baby is more than providing food. Parents must nourish their children not to be fearful, not to stay in the "cave of Plato" but to  listen to their parents and the Church. You need to listen and slowly work out the discernment of what is good and what is evil through guidance by those wise men of experience in the Church community. Blindness is found in ancient Greek writings such as Sophocles' legend of Oedipus who, after learning that he had killed his father and married his own mother, decided to blind himself. While I am still in the darkness, I must first listen and slowly feel my way out of the cave, for if the light is too bright I may be scared and go back to my comfort zone. Guided togetherness is important in stepping out from my darkness to the light.
Second, How did Jesus heal the man born blind? If you read Genesis, you notice that God formed man from the clay of the ground and breathed life in him (Gen 2: 7). In a similar way, Jesus spat in the ground and made clay of the spittle and anointed the man's eyes with the clay. In a way, this was a spiritual birth for the man - the second birth. This is why in the Sacrament of Baptism, considered the second birth by the Church, the priest who baptizes the baby makes a little spittle mixed with water and signs the child with it on his forehead, his chest and his feet. The power of the Holy Spirit infuses life of the Spirit in the child.
Third [And his disciples asked him, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?"  Jesus answered, "It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be made manifest in him."] Jesus corrects deep feelings and misunderstandings about God. The Jews thought, as we also do when we have a catastrophe, that suffering or sickness is the lot of those who anger God! We pay for our sins.  But that is not the God that Jesus preaches. This is not the father who looks out for his lost son (Luke 15).
Fourth, it was a sabbath day when Jesus made the clay and opened his eyes. The Pharisees again asked him how he had received his sight. And he said to them, "He put clay on my eyes, and I washed, and I see."
Some of the Pharisees said, "This man is not from God, for he does not keep the sabbath." But others said, "How can a man who is a sinner do such signs?" There was a division among them. They asked him again. The man answered, "Why, this is a marvel! You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes. We know that God does not listen to sinners, but if any one is a worshiper of God and does his will, God listens to him. Never since the world began has it been heard that any one opened the eyes of a man born blind. If this man were not from God, he could do nothing." The man whose eyes were opened understood by common sense that this was the work of God. He did not need to be a theologian but only follow what he sees and senses. This man made an adventure by opposing the authorities of his time in spite of being condemned by them because he was then sent as a missionary for Christ.
This is the important lesson today: We are sent by Christ as he sent his disciples. For the truth, he stood and they too followed him. Will we stand for the truth?  

Sunday, April 28, 2013

The Vision and Mission of Pope Francis

In less than a month since his election as Pope of the Catholic Church, Pope Francis has impressed the media with his humble way of doing things. His open kindness to the ordinary people around him gives us some clues about this leader. Based on studying a bit his background, here is in my opinion his vision:

First: Mission for the Needy of the world: Africa, Asia, Latin America…
Since he grew in the slums of Argentina, he experienced the suffering of the poor at the hands of dictators. Today, we expect he will help his fellow Christians reach out to those who are suffering and especially those governed by dictators. Suffering Christians in the Middle East are on his radar. The Vatican has diplomatic relations with almost all nations. We can reasonably expect him to intervene with powers of the world for their protection especially after the abduction of two bishops from North Syria which he said he was concerned about.

Second: Vatican II: Pope Francis wants to continue to implement the directives of Vatican II…
Collegiality – Bishops to participate in governing the Church – is a key teaching of Vatican II. The centralized Roman Curia will likely be reorganized especially after the leaks of mismanagement… Collegiality will help dialogue with the Eastern Orthodox Churches since it is a principle of government in the Eastern Christian synodal system.

Third: Ecumenism: Coptic Orthodox Pope Tawadros II will visit Pope Francis in May to commemorate the visit of the late Pope Shenouda III to Pope Paul VI forty years ago and their Common Declaration on Christology…Here is an opportunity for help to Christians in Egypt through an alliance between the rich Catholic Church of the West and the poorer Eastern Churches of the Middle East. It is also an opportunity for Pope Tawadros II to reopen the dialogue of the Orthodox Church of Egypt with the Church of Rome. Other signs of hope for Christian unity include the fact that the Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch attended the installation of Francis…Russian Orthodox Patriarch is also playing a key role…Is Christian unity possible? Let us pray for this intention.

I see Pope Francis a providential God-send initiative for 21st century Christianity. An astute Jesuit experienced in the long struggle for pro-life movements, he will very likely support the U.S. Catholic Bishops against the excesses of the Liberal government of Barack Obama that had asked Catholic hospitals in the U.S. to perform abortion and offer artificial birth control treatment which both constitute an offence to freedom of religion and Catholic moral values. Pope Francis, head of the largest Christian Church in the globe, will also be able to morally and financially defend the defenceless nations in Africa, Asia and Latin America with Catholic missionaries particularly when fundamentalists are spreading violence, and the Western powers are continuing unabashedly to support them with military expertise. And lastly, Francis will rebalance the powers of excessive capitalism moving eastward through technology and globalization of business at the expense of the poor, the young adults without or with scarce jobs, and the lonely elderly in a selfish generation.

How can you as a Christian participate in the Pope’s mission?
Participate in charity for the needy (e.g. Knights of Columbus, St. Vincent de Paul, Pro-life to save babies, Catholic organizations for the homeless). Parents can educate their children with Christian moral values. Husbands and wives: Stay faithful to each other especially when the media promotes unethical cohabitation.   

May the Lord protect our Pope.  

Today's Quote

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


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