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

Friday, January 3, 2014

Cherchez la femme

In early January 2014 a young man told me that women from as far as France and China contacted him for the sole purpose of getting them pregnant. Each of the women wanted to have the baby and bring him up on her own. None of them wanted any role of a father or a husband. They were ready to sign any legal documents that would free the man from any liability towards the woman and the baby.  

There is a real need for reproduction/procreation; for a woman typically wishes to be a mother even if at the cost of paying someone or some agency the price of getting the man's sperms in her womb.  In the ancient patriarchal societies, a woman who was not fertile thought it was a curse by God (or the gods) for at least the reason that her man would leave her and marry another woman in order to beget him a child who would carry his legacy. This same story is found too in Henry VIII, King of England in the 16th century. But there is more to it. The utter independence of the self sought by some young women reflects their mistrust of others in their lives probably because of the way they were treated by their fathers or husbands, or because of the culture that surrounded them which regards woman as a mere property to be used or shelved. Such cultures still exist in many parts of the world.  

But this real story shows that she wants full control over her life. The phenomenon of controlling everything one can get has been shown recently in professor Brené Brown's incredible talk of  her life-changing experiment on the power of vulnerability that attracted 12 million persons to listen to her:
The will to control everything in life is reflected in the Biblical temptation of the Devil to Adam and Eve in order to control their lives and become their own gods! (Genesis 3). It is why we want a guarantee of happy life that never ends.  

Regardless of what religion or atheistic philosophy I believe in, my fear of death will lead me to cling to some power that can bring me and my beloved to an eternal happy life after death.  Philosopher Stephen Cave gave a talk in  July 2013 in  which he referred to an experiment

As fear is ultimately associated with death, lack of fear or openness to trust is associated with the power to deliver life. This is the power the God chooses women for. A woman is not only a daughter or a wife, but a mother too. If she is not physically a mother, she is spiritually a mother. Many examples can be given. Above all, Mary delivered the Son of God in his humanity from her womb. She also delivers many daughters and sons of God metaphorically by her intercession and prayers.  The most cherished prayer in history is the one that says "Holy Mary Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death" which is precisely what every human person really wants to have - eternal joy. Twenty centuries later Mother Teresa delivered so many daughters and sons of of God metaphorically by her prayers. And more so it is that the mother is the centre of the family. 

In an impressive brief talk, Matt Ridley spoke of ideas having sex with each other, only to illustrate the evolutionary perspective of building the human civilizations in the role of the mother:

Yet, Christianity built the most impressive civilization when a woman dared to have God born from her.

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The New Year 2014

The new year 2014 is almost here. All kinds of predictions have already been made. But who can guarantee anything?

1. The negatives: No one predicted an ice-storm that has affected many businesses and homes in Canada at Christmas and beyond.  Yet I chose not to write about it because we always have hope in a better day. I found out how little is my care about others when I am in a difficult situation. We scrambled to get out of the house when electricity was no longer available and digital communication was cut-off as a result. In spite of the blessings we have and the relatively more comfortable lives we lead, my own survival here matters more to me than anything else. Of course I thought of the millions stranded in tents under snow in Syria and Lebanon because of the wars and conflicts. Of course, I remembered the thousands massacred in many parts of the Middle East and elsewhere and can write pages about solidarity with suffering victims but does anyone here care? On the contrary, most likely the ones suffering will greatly want to escape their suffering. And recently there were more explosions in Russia following those in Lebanon, and more gun fire in Syria and Egypt. At our every-day level, I know people who had tragedies of separation, harsh sickness or death in the family this past year in a number of countries. Healing needs more than a strong will because we have memories. Who is able to end suffering or enmity? Funny how we exchange greetings of good wishes at Christmas and the New Year, yet we are hardly able to take the place of the ones who need them most. I deeply feel that I do not deserve to be called Christian or to be a follower of Christ because in spite of my knowledge about him and the miracles I receive every day from him, I hardly know him or acknowledge his continuing love. Having read a few chapters written by the great 13th century mystic St. Gertrude, I wrote to Fr. Henri Boulad, S.J. that in my weakness I understand why atheism is so attractive.

2. The Positives: I received consolation when I watched a recent lively homily by Fr. Henri Boulad on Holy Family Sunday December 29, 2013. It is on YouTube in French here. Fr. Boulad shows real examples "At the end of the scholar year, young students looked for their parents to pick them up...Samir finds his mother among hundreds of mothers and his smile suddenly is large! His mom finds him and for her there is only one Samir in the world - 'He is my son'. Only one mother matters to Samir. Parents and children matter to each other. Everyone in the family is unique. Everyone has a role for the others." In a study in the U.S., babies were put in beds and nursed by professional nurses, yet in 6 months half of them had died, said Fr. Boulad. "The problem was that none of these babies felt the unique love of the parent. This is how God treats us...He calls each of us by his name. In Holy Communion, you receive God as a unique child of God. In the Melkite Church, the priest says your name when he gives you the blessed sacrament. God is not only there. He is present like your mom is present. God too is a family of Father, Son and Holy Spirit eternally in love. This is the origin of the family. When God created man and woman he gave each a role for the cultivation of the family and the continuation of humanity. Woman is the heart of the family and man is its head. Man and woman are equal in dignity but have different roles in the family based on love and respect. Before you love each other, respect each other. Respect the space of each other.  It is not easy to have a family because a family must be patiently constructed. If you want to destroy a nation, destroy the family. This is the Devilish plan of certain ideologies in the West. The family that reflects the Trinity is the fundamental structure in the universe because God too is a family."
Based on readings from the revelations of Christ to St. Gertrude, it became clear that I need humility, patience, and much prayer. We all need, to attain a fraction of her inner peace and holy life, to dedicate time for deeper contemplation in the Christian mysteries and messages found in Scriptures and the Fathers of the Church.
I found much solace in a spiritual lecture given by the late Coptic Orthodox Patriarch Shenouda III on the spiritual exercises in 1991. Pronounced in Arabic with subtitles in English, it can be found on YouTube here. I had written two blogspots on the contribution of this charismatic patriarch when he passed away here and here.
Last night, I had a correspondence with Most Reverend Archbishop J. Jules Zerey in Jerusalem on the NeoCatechumenal Way, which numbers some 1 million lay members and families all dedicated to evangelization of Christians in services to parishes but they are also sent to Africa and Asia for founding missions.
Today, Jesus the King Council of the Knights of Columbus published our 2013 Christmas and New Year Bulletin. You will find many charitable activities mentioned including the Jerusalem Students initiative providing sponsor assistance to Students at the Patriarchal College near Jerusalem, which earned the International Youth Award in August 2013, the Food for Syria initiative which sponsors food, medicine and shelter for needy people in Syria due to the sectarian war, "Biblia Competition for Teenagers" a bi-weekly Jeopardy-like game which allows teens to participate in parish-based Biblical Q&A with prizes for winners, and a supplement about Pope Francis. 

3. Research: For friends interested in scientific and Biblical research, see The Quantum Synthesis, The Development of the Idea of God in the Bible, Game Theory, and the following selected TED Talks: Mat Ridley: When ideas have sex, Robert Wright: Progress is not a zero-sum game According to Fr. Henri Boulad, S.J. these two talks contain much of the ideas developed by Teilhard de Chardin, S.J.
Other online resources that I researched recently:
Pontifical Academy of Science; Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America;  Uncommon Knowledge (Hoover Institute, Stanford University); Coursera; AAAS

The new year 2014 is almost here. We hope it will be a year of peace for everyone.

Today's Quote

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


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