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

Thursday, July 4, 2013

A Moment of Joy

When Fr. Henri Boulad walked with us here, we were amazed how an 82-years old man could be so energetic. In his lectures, he was as charismatic as always since his youth. In his inspiring lectures, he called for justice to all in the world and particularly in the Middle East where he, as a Jesuit priest, has served both Muslims and Christians tirelessly over the past 50 years.
I felt the same when I watched yesterday the huge crowds of people in Egypt rallying to start a new beginning and the Egyptian army fully supporting them with the brief words of General Al-Sissi followed by words of encouragement by the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar and the Coptic Christian Patriarch. An inspiration of millions of people, that took place in Egypt in the past 4 days, is based on hope for a better life which translates to better education, an opportunity for a better job and income for the ordinary young person, and building families in a social network worth of human fellowship. 
Egyptians, and indeed all who suffer including many of us in the advanced democracies, must realize that joy can only be achieved after a long journey of patient, collaborative and productive work. This is true in any family, organization as well as government. The temptation for possessing authority, denying the goodness inherent in "the other", and stealing a temporary glory rapes the human person, and society too, of  innocence and takes us back to the sin of pride committed by our first parents and still present in today's economy of greed.  
Hatred as much as love gets stored in memory. It accumulates until the person explodes in violent revenge. Anyone who avenges himself or his beloved does not think that he is doing something wrong. He simply thinks that he is executing justice or retribution. When the Jews killed Christ, they did not think they were criminals but upholding the Law. Although objectively they committed a crime, they nevertheless subjectively thought they were  innocent.
To subdue hatred the person needs to rewire his memory by remembering the good things that his "enemy" or "adversary" did to him because it is impossible in a relationship that my perceived enemy today did not do me some good. God turns evil into good for those who love him.
Another important process must also be established: Learning and imitation. This process continues from the time of birth.  According to Dr. A. Tomatis it starts as early as the fetus is constituted in the womb of his mother. 
This is why we must teach our young ones from the early age to be morally responsible and loving of their surroundings. We too need to be taught by the Church continuously so that we can repent with the assistance of God's grace who works in us and demands that we listen to him in our conscience and in worshiping him individually and in communion with the rest of the community. Imitation is important since we always imitate our model. If my model is someone who wastes his time to get fame, I will also imitate him and if we both find an object that we both wish to possess then we become rivals. 
But if my model is Christ, then I will follow him in loving everyone around me as he loved everyone. How long will this take? A lifetime? My joy can be complete when we have achieved a measure of love.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Man and the Mystery of Being by Henri Boulad, S.J.

In his book "Man and the Mystery of Being" first published in 2001, Henri Boulad, S.J., explores the question of being which has been asked by every intellectual and to which partial responses have been given by myths and religions since the early development of very ancient cultures. In his book "Birth in Death" recently published in 2012, he continues his daring explorations of the equally-important question on life after death. And again he fascinates the reader with the depth of thought and the Christian response to the above questions in yet a simple language.

Reflections on the thoughts of Henri Boulad, S.J.

I have been reading a few of the books authored by the Jesuit theologian Rev. Henri Boulad who, at the age of 82, continues to give retreats and lectures as well as actively leads charitable projects in Egypt and participates in Caritas. 

According to the late Melkite Catholic Fr. Ignatius Sarkis Najjar, the reform-minded Henri Boulad is ahead of his time. Fr. Sarkis who was my pastor at St. Cyril Church said it to me in 1972 when Henri Boulad had hardly started his long teaching and missionary work that took him to the Sudan and placed him at the center of Caritas of the Middle East. Since then he has been invited to many conferences in Europe and North America as well as in the Middle East.  His latest visit to Canada has just ended today. 

Fr. Henri Boulad mentions four key persons that influenced his spirituality: The French philosopher and mathematician Blaise Pascal; the French holy man of the 19th century St. Jean-Baptiste Marie Vianney known as the Curé d'Ars for his profound pastoral direction to the faithful and his deep love of Christ; Pierre Teilhard de Chardin,S.J. one of the early brilliant scientists and thinkers in the 20th century and an influential voice for the pronouncements made by the reforms of Vatican II the most important Ecumenical Council in modern times; and Simone Weil, a Christian mystic, philosopher, and activist whose thought continues to be the subject of intensive scholarship. 

In an interview by Michael Coren last Monday, Henri Boulad rejected the perception of Coren and other Christians that Jesuits like Boulad are leftist. Boulad insists that he stands for human rights including the rights of self-expression and freedom to people of all religions and other humans not committed to any religion. Listen here to the short interview on Arab Spring in Egypt and Syria

The core of Fr. Boulad's thought seems to be the mission of the Church today. Regardless of how this is achieved (which may be addressed later), I note four principles:

1. God is present in the deepest core of every human being and not only Christians. It is based on the Biblical insight of the General Judgement in which everyone is judged according to his deeds to the least and excluded among us in the community. To the blessed "in heaven" God is present as their joy. God is also present to the damned in hell since he continues to love each one of them yet each one who rejects God totally, as the "rich man" did with Lazarus who was everyday at his door, experiences the contradiction that in his being he wants to be with God the lover but is unable to accept this love. Boulad says that hell is a possibility since the Church has only canonized the blessed but never pronounced anyone in hell with sure knowledge. 

2. God continues to create the cosmos "from within." Man is the last creature of a huge number of species. According to the standard Big Bang Theory, the cosmos has been growing for 13.7 billion years. Life  started about only 4 billion years ago. Evolution is the way in which God causes things to exist. In his "Cosmogenesis" Teilhard de Chardin proposes the development of the atmosphere/geosphere from which emerges the biosphere (life) from which the noosphere (human mind) emerges. The Biblical seventh day of creation has not arrived yet, as it is a figurative language for the Day when creation will finally rest in God as Christ brings it to His Father. It is in this sense that Christ calls himself in Revelation "The Alpha and the Omega." Christ is the "Omega Point" in whom all creation is saved. He is God who by his incarnation and crucifixion has restored creation to the Father through his self-giving love that shone in the Resurrection and Ascension.

3. God the Father loved his Son from eternity that he gives the Son all his divinity. The Son found this love could not keep it to himself. In a continuous act of gratitude, the Son gives back all the divinity he receives to his Father. He leaves nothing to himself but loves his Father eternally. The Holy Spirit is the binding force that   binds the Father and the Son in his Love. In this sense God is Love as Scripture teaches.

4. The act of creation is itself an act of love. God creates everything to its perfection. Man is created in the image of God. Man is differentiated from other animals by his freedom to choose according to the moral natural law inscribed in his conscience. In another sense, the act of creation is an extension of the love that constitutes the eternal relatedness that is God. God is a relationship, a communion of love. The unseen microcosmic particles in atoms reflect the stamp of the Triune God. Quantum physics shows evidence of communication between two particles at a very great distance of millions of miles apart.

The above leaves us with a huge perception of the responsibility to share with God in his creative love, his redeeming love, and his abiding love. This is what saints understood and developed in all their communications with God and with their fellow humans.

Today's Quote

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


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