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, March 1, 2014

The Revolution of Love

First: Fr. Henri Boulad, S.J. continues to impress us, not only by his missionary work, his breadth in the knowledge in and appreciation of new developments in human and natural sciences (e.g. Teilhard de Chardin), but also by his deep spirituality and humility in his own words. This outspoken Jesuit priest said many times that he is here to "change the world." Someone who is not familiar with Fr. Boulad's own active mission may think that this is arrogance. However he continues to defy such claims in the manner he conducts himself with his many listeners and students. Henri Boulad spoke passionately on Sunday February 23, 2014 about the "revolution of love" (Watch it here in French). What did this man say? America, Russia, China, and the Islamists dispute over the world...I should add here that we probably see in Ukraine today the same kind of conflict that exists in the Middle East. This time it is between the new government of Ukraine and supporters of closer relationships with the European Union and the West on one hand (the majority are Catholics whose interest or comfort zone is with the liberal West) and supporters of closer relationships with Russia on the other hand (the majority are Orthodox Christians whose interest or comfort zone is with the conservative Russian regime). In a dictatorial move, President Putin has sent his Russian troops to "protect Russians in east Ukraine" with a "unanimous" approval by the Russian Parliament. It is a reminder of the take-over of Georgia in 2008 that shows the powerful dominates and probably along cultural/religious lines which Samuel Huntington described in his 1994 book The Clash of Civilizations. To the massacres and hatred in Syria and many other places, Boulad says "my spontaneous reaction is to carry a weapon and kill my enemies... Eye for eye...Evil for evil....It is the reaction of Peter when he cut off the ear of a servant as Jesus his master was attacked in the garden and Jesus answered him 'He who kills by the sword, by the sword he shall perish'." And Henri Boulad said "I cannot stand the hypocrisy of nations that call themselves democratic and yet enact hatred... Our world is a jungle. It follows the law of the most powerful...
"And where is the Church in all of this?" He asks. "She has no army and no power. The dreams of a powerful church that punishes the infidels are only bad dreams. Jesus says to us 'Love with all your heart, and all your strength.' Yes, we love those friends that surround us with their affections and comfort us...But real love starts when it becomes practically impossible to love. The Gospel is a challenge to what is natural and animal. If you partake (or share) then give everything...Who lives this love? Certainly not I who struggles as St. Paul did with 'the old man' in him that wants vengeance...Nevertheless, here is Christianity - here is the Church - here is the Gospel. Either we live love to the end or we are not Christians ...What did political revolutions change? I am not against political  revolutions that aim for liberation. But then people dispute again and a new slavery sets in. The essential revolution is that of the heart. This is the revolution of Jesus Christ. He knows that no political revolution can change us; for we need a change in the human person. It is the revolution of love. This is why he came. We are all happy that the Jesuit Pope Francis is for the needy and is making changes in the Vatican. But where are the billions of Christians? There will be more disputes between the powers of this world by violence. There will be changes of chiefs but misery will not finish unless we change the world. But I believe that we can change the world...The first word is 'I can' by the grace of the one who said 'Love your enemies'."

Second: Henri Boulad also touched on his personal struggle with the demonic powers of hatred that could enslave the heart. "I have enemies and they detest me. My spontaneous tendency is to detest them. But I say to myself 'Henri, you are not Christian?' - One day Sister Emmanuelle with whom I was working in helping the hungry in Mukkatam said to me 'Fr. Boulad, find for me someone who really loves?' Reflections made me rethink whether I am working for my own glory or for God. It is impossible to love my enemies. This is the challenge of the Gospel. Only through this love let us attempt to be in the Church and change this poor world. Probably a church is dying but a new church is being formed, the church of love. It seems to me that we can change the world by small gestures of love step by step starting with changing our hearts first by the grace of God."

Third: Reflections on love If such a spiritual missionary man could reveal the depth of evil thoughts, how much more evil do we ordinary lay persons harbor in our hearts? I recall Paul Antaki the Great, the late bishop of Melkite Catholics in Egypt. In one retreat with the young Catholics, of whom I was one in 1974, he spoke of his sins, and said that both Peter and Judas betrayed Christ, yet Peter not only saw his sins but also the mercy of God and repented while Judas, who saw only his sins, hanged himself. This was a lesson of hope for me. Always hope in Christ's mercy even if we betray him because there is always a second chance in this life; for He died for the many and not only a few elect.

Christ passionately spoke of his Father here "What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray? And if he finds it, truly, I say to you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray. So it is not the will of my Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish." (Matthew 18: 12-14). St. John Chrysostom, Doctor of the Church and Patron of Preachers in the Church who suffered at the hands of the Byzantine political wolves in his days, spoke too about the enormous love that God bestows upon us: "God seeks you to return to him even if through one tear in your eyes". Loving God takes time, commitment and perseverance. See St. Bernard of Clairvaux on the four loves here. He is a Doctor of the Church and a mystic too. St. Francis of Assisi, named the Alter Christus, also had a lot of sufferings to partake for Christ, but he never gave up. On the contrary he named the Sun and Moon his sister and brother and found the goodness that God implanted in creation. St. Ignatius of Loyola who founded the Order of the Society of Jesus was a soldier and learned the hard way to become a disciple of Christ. He wrote his Spiritual Exercises, a masterpiece in finding God and in discerning the good in everyday life which is followed to this day by many Christians because of their imitation of Christ. St. Thérèse of Lisieux, the greatest proclaimed saint in modern times and Doctor of the Church who lived only 24 years, is yet another great witness to the love of God in little ordinary things. Last year, Nelson Mandela passed away. He spent years of spiritual battles in prison where he learned how to forgive his enemies and reconcile with them.

Fourth: More reflections on love And I recall a lecture of the late Coptic Orthodox Patriarch, Pope Shenouda III, that I attended in 1973. The great Orthodox theologian of Eastern Christian tradition, in his popular and simple style, spoke to thousands at St. Mark's Cathedral in Cairo and I was one of them. How could he elevate the spirit of joy in my little searching mind remains a mystery; for he spoke about God's love for the little and ordinary people. He said this word "Do not ever think that heaven is for saints. Heaven is for the ordinary ones!" All my fear dissipated in that night and was replaced by a joy so much that on my way back home after the lecture I hardly avoided an accident that could have rendered me incapacitated. Coming from a monk that had experienced the harsh solitary life in the cave for 6 years, I found the lecture a response to the gloom and doom that many preachers warn the faithful about.

Fifth: Love and violence - Murderers know no religion
In his homily in Mass at Jesus the King parish this past Sunday February 23, 2014, Fr. Georges Farah spoke of the last judgment and said that today nations use religion and worship by killing their victims. They do it with zeal but are they following the truth? Is not this the story of Cain who killed his brother Abel in worship of God? However Christ tells us otherwise. Before you worship God, go and reconcile with your brother; for this is the true religion of Christ. The Fathers of the Church were not perfect but they defended the truth of Christ - Fear not."

All of the above is real. But the question remains: How can Christians eliminate violence and hatred today not only on an individual basis but in whole communities? Are not we all interconnected? First Christians need to examine their conscience, then they need to eliminate hatred towards each other and towards others too? Will Christian leaders in the conflict-torn countries and Christian leaders in the Roman Catholic Church attempt a kind of reunion? For example, Christians in the Middle East want to survive and flourish in their lands which are historically the lands that first became Christian. There is hope that the meeting of the leaders of Catholic and Orthodox Churches with Pope Francis this coming May in Jerusalem may result in more than the exchange of the traditional kiss of peace. A reunion of Churches in the face of violent Islamism and other powers is now urgent. It is in this sense that we must read the visit of Coptic Orthodox Pope Tawadros II to Pope Francis in Rome last May and the encounter of the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople Bartholomew with Pope Francis in the official installation of the latter last March in Rome.

He who has ears to listen let him listen...

Today's Quote

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


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