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, July 18, 2014

Challenging the Pope

It s with bewilderment that I write these words. Christians in the globe are faced with much challenges. Yet, the action of Christian leaders of Churches seem to be slower than the pace at which these challenges are taking place. In  my lecture on Pope Francis last November, I spoke about them and again here before his visit to Jerusalem in May, I urged archbishops to speak to him to use his powerful ministry for a just peace. Only this week, I also sent an email to archbishops in Israel and Egypt of my concern about the challenges facing Christians in the lands of the Middle East from which emerged the early missions of Christianity.

1. The challenge of extremism which does not seem to abate whether in persecution of Christians in the Arab world (particularly by extremist Islamists in Iraq and Syria whose goal is to remove Christians and Jews from the entire region) or in divisions of Christians in Eastern Europe, (particularly in Ukraine). In my 2011 letter to Pope Benedict XVI, I also proposed some measures of helping Christians achieve some form of unity in face of this challenge. But in spite of Pope Francis' efforts in the footsteps of his predecessors, the challenge of division between liberals and conservatives within the one Catholic Church has appeared more emphatically in recent months. Hoaxes and claims from conservative groups or atheists travel the Internet. Agnostics may also be invited to speak about their versions of Christianity in Catholic parishes.  The vast majority of people do not really want to be part of any religious conflicts or debates on religious differences. They only want to live in peace. But if they have to hear new claims to the truth, should not Christians be prepared in study of the Catechism?
Two very recent violent events are still enraging in hearts. The first is the violent War between Israeli forces and Hamas in Gaza - It is particularly heart-breaking to the many families who lost members or children only because Israel and Hamas terrorist leaders want to claim victory or seize land. Hamas does not care about how many Palestinians die - Their leaders, so desperate, will not quit until they all die and they call it martyrdom. Obviously they did not hear the wisdom spoken by Christ (Luke 14, 31-32).
The second event was the shooting down yesterday of a Malaysian airplane carrying 298 passengers over East Ukraine by terrorists believed to be Pro-Russia separatists while the Russian leader Vladimir Putin continued his rhetoric in Moscow. Not only is this a new threat to Ukraine's fragile economy but also another chapter in the increasingly dangerous political game between the powers of the world to control more resources and lands. The lives of victims obviously did not matter to the criminals.

2. The challenge of materialism that threatens the global Christian presence. Materialism, which started as a philosophical atheistic question over a 100 years ago (e.g. Nietzsche, Sartre, Carnap...etc.) has used economic capitalist globalization over the past 30 years to spread its consumer-oriented economic propaganda. Pope Francis condemned excessive capitalism in his exhortation "Evangelii Gaudium" last year. The Pope precisely sees excess in materialist acquisition as fundamentally a new slavery of the human person. He recalls the Gospel beatitudes that give the blessings of Christ to the poor in spirit while he condemns the ones who accumulate wealth for themselves (See Matthew 5, 3-12; Luke 12, 13-21; Acts 4, 32-35).
Following a global financial crisis, the G7 governments and other governments attempted to regulate the financial banking transactions for a sustained economic recovery, but as the CEO of the IMF explained in February this year, recovery is a long process that has just started. Collaboration between stakeholders and governments is needed. However, it is widely recognized that the gap between the rich and the poor has dramatically increased and the Middle Class has virtually disappeared. Today the CEO of the IMF warned that the financial markets are perhaps too upbeat on Europe. In a separate analysis by MIT economist Andrew McAfee, he repeated the challenge by Thomas Edsall, reported in New York Times in June, which is faced by university and college graduates that their prospects of finding quality jobs could be a dream. This is a global concern. Every young adult and teenager needs to be informed and assisted where possible.

The above two challenges can be addressed by the Pope. Prayer and the Sacraments definitely help, but  I suggest too that the rich Catholic Churches in North America and Europe contribute to the relief of those in need. The Pope may be able to redistribute large donations from such charitable large Catholic organizations as the Knights of Columbus to Christians in need in the Middle East and other countries in the globe. The poor are always with us as Jesus said.

It is not only the intention that matters. Action too is required by all people of good will.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

A Personal Hymn to God on the Anniversary of My Mother's Departure

How Can I Thank You?

How can I thank you? Twelve years ago today, Your mercy took  my mother to You; she who suffered immensely to deliver joy to her sons, husband, brothers and sisters. 
How can I thank you? You gave me life when in your foreknowledge you knew I did not deserve a second of it.
How can I thank you? You formed me in the womb of my mother when I was only a prayer in her heart.
How can I thank you? You proved that love is stronger than life itself when my parents sacrificed much for me and my brothers. How is it that my mother sold jewels to only satisfy my request to be with me before my heart surgery? How is it that they listened to my little voice of a 7-years old child saying "Mass" at home imitating your priests? How is it that my dad asked me to read him from the Bible while he was suffering before his death? How is it that you made them trust in the prayer of a great sinner?
How can I thank you? When my mother of blessed memory and my dear wife were nearly heart-broken in the longer-than-expected 6-hours heart surgery that I underwent, you brought us back together that my mother-in-law of blessed memory bowed and kissed the ground when she saw me back home.
How can I thank you? I did not love my mother first. She loved me from the time she saw me a little baby in her arms. Her beauty,  joy and smiling face -in spite of her many difficulties- still shone in her person to the last day she was aware. 
How can I thank you? You allowed us to immigrate to this land of freedom through the generosity of my aunt and her husband who dearly loved my devout dad. Do I ever forget their sacrifices as they, without children, considered us their children?
How can I thank you? In the past years since my illness, You sent me brothers and sisters, everyone in the extended family, friends; close and far from Toronto, Cairo, Paris, Alexandria, Montreal, Jerusalem, Belgium, and Beirut - All asking and praying for me.
How can I thank you? I, the son of earth: this is my name - can receive You the Son of the Most High in the Eucharist.
After my recovery from stroke in 2007, my wife said to me "How is it that you are still worried? If I were you I would dance of joy."
In my daily prayer I only say one "Hail Mary..." and the rest I leave it to You since, after all what You did with me O Love Eternal, You cannot reject me, nor anyone for whom the beloved Mother of God prays.

Today's Quote

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


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