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, December 31, 2015

On the Last Day of 2015: Happy New Year

On this last day of 2015, I wish my readers a happy and blessed new year 2016 full of peace and good health; physically, psychologically, and spiritually.

I thank God that we have been granted life in spite of global terrorism and today's temptations that remind us of Apocalyptic messages particularly in the Book of Revelation attributed to John the Apostle.

In this Year of Mercy, it is my prayer to God that in his unlimited mercy He may accord global humanity eternal joy for which He created us and for which He offered us salvation through Jesus Christ. This is also the prayer of Hans Urs von Balthasar, one of the greatest theologians of the 20th century, made cardinal by Saint Pope John Paul II, whose literature on the mystical beauty of God has been read by many followers (see "Love Alone is Believable"), Fr. Henri Boulad, S.J. mentioned von Balthasar's prayer in one of his talks on eschatology in 2015 and the late Richard John Neuhaus, founder of First Things, referred to him in his article "Will All be Saved?"

I learned, however, that the great scholar René Girard, retired professor of civilization and French at Stanford University, passed away to God at the age of 91 on November 4, 2015. His influence on the development of mimesis in shaping culture and religion has been immense. His significant contribution to many fields of knowledge can be seen here:
From Imitatio website, you may wish to read Mark Anspach on René Girard's legacy here. I first learned about Girard when I was reading comments and reactions to the lecture of Pope Benedict XVI  at the University of Regensburg in 2006. One of the commentators was a Muslim writer who mentioned Girard's work on the centrality of the cross in Christianity and the response to violence. At that time I also learned of the writings of Fr. Samir Khalil Samir, S.J. related to the situation of Christians with radical Islam.  In fact, Girard's work became more relevant after the violent attack of Islamic extremists on 9/11, 2001 when planes were hijacked and crashed in the Twin Towers of New York killing some 3,000 U.S. citizens. Girard wrote frequently in First Things ("Are the Gospels Mythical" here and "On War and Apocalypse" here).

I lectured about Girard's thought a few times in 2007 and 2009 (see here). Fr. Georges Farah, whose credentials include a doctorate in philosophy and another in theology from The Sorbonne in Paris, commented too on Girard's mimetic theory and the scapegoat mechanism that Girard found in his anthropology of religion.
Let's hope a new year will usher the peace of Christ through Christian action and prayer in the global social and political changes of today and tomorrow. 

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Can Britain's Ban on the Muslim Brotherhood be a Turning Point for Global Christianity?

I think there is sufficient evidence that (as Fr. Henri Boulad, S.J. said here in his homily) the world is converting to Christianity. In his apologetic book "Christianity among Other Religions", Professor Fr. Roch Kereszty, O. Cist. wrote that the only religions that preach to convert the world are Christianity and Islam. 

If Islam collapses, then there is an opportunity to fill the gap by Christian missions. 

Add the following points from recent reports:
1. According to The Economist (based on statistics provided by independent sources) Christianity remains the religion of Europe more than any other religion including Islam. Christianity is well and alive in Latin America and is increasing in Africa with vigor. Americans who are the most religious people on earth are fundamentally Christians. See the report here

In France, the National Front of Marine Le Pen has scored political points after the Paris Attack. According to Time Magazine here she may well form the next French government in 2017 (whether Majority or in a coalition with other parties). Her party is opposed to Islam in France. If she gets to power her strong voice will be heard in the rest of Europe's capitals as she promised a strong France and a conservative Christian French comeback, but it could also divide Europe. 

2. The Economist published an article on December 27 by one of the veteran writers "Charlemagne" on Pope Francis. Charlemagne's article states that Francis was selected to receive the 2016 Charlemagne Prize for his active role in breathing "a new life in the construction of Europe" citing Francis words that "Europe must be based on ideals, not economic calculations: above all the ideal of the sanctity of human life." This is a symbolic recognition of the Church's role in renewing Europe that could awaken Europeans to restore their recognition of Europe's Christian roots and promises reception of the Christian soul. 

3. Pope Francis has proven his geopolitical skills in a number of occasions - notably his intercession to reconcile Cuba and the U.S. where he took pain to sit down with the ailing Fidel Castro and his brother during his visit to Cuba in Summer in order to bring the Cuban people back to Church. On his way to the Philippines Pope Francis sent a message to the Chinese authorities greeting them for allowing his plane to go through their air zone. As a gesture he had delayed meeting with the Dalai Lama since the latter is an outspoken enemy against China for persecuting his Buddhist monks in Tibet.
However, there seems to be an improvement in the relationship between the Vatican and China. See this report published in September 2015.

4. The Far East has also been busy protecting the lands from Islamic extremists. India had its share in silencing them by force. China, as reported earlier this year in "Foreign Policy", is taking care of Islamic extremists in the Western Region and Northern Region infiltrated by Islamists. America loves it as China forces its troops into Afghanistan to clear it from Taliban as the American troops leave by 2016. And Russia loves it too as Chinese troops clear the Northern borders  of China that they share from any Islamic extremists while Putin finishes off Islamic extremists in Syria and turns his gaze to silence Erdogan and his Islamists as he did re the bridge that Erdogan wanted to build in order to revive a caliphate. When those are finished ISIS will be no longer a threat.
There are reports that talks between the Vatican an the Russian Orthodox Patriarchate are underway for a meeting between Pope Francis and Patriarch Kiril of Moscow. See this report.




5.  I am not sure that Germany's Angela Merkel's admirable generosity towards Muslim refugees is based solely on a feeling to make up for the persecution of religion in East Germany's Communist era or the Nazi's persecution of Jews. In my opinion, there are probably hidden intentions in welcoming Muslim refugees without prior screening:
a) Merkel has and continues to press Greece's government to impose austerity measures on the Greeks for the loans and guarantees she provided as the leader of the Euro-zone. Her finance Minister criticized the Greeks this month for not facilitating the Islamic refugees crossing to Europe and forgot of course the bad treatment of Christian minority and the Ecumenical Patriarch at the hands of Turkey's Erdogan. 
b) On the contrary, Merkel who oversees Germany's ascension to power in Europe must have a plan for bringing a million Muslims into Germany in one year. These refugees will not find jobs unless they accept to work as cheap labour in the industrial factories and facilities for very small wages that Germans could not accept. This way she will be able to meet three challenges:
First: Germany would be able to continue exporting its products not only to Europe but to Africa and Asia too, now that they are cheap.
Second: Germany would be able to stop the ascending economic power of China by cutting off the Silk Road promised by Xi Jinping from taking place even though it cost China billions of dollars. 
Third: As a Capitalist, Merkel would be able, through the above policy, to remove labor unions from being there and obstructing her re-election.
The above means that her affection is temporary.
Recall that Pope Benedict who hails from Bavaria, Germany was the most vocal Catholic that critiqued Islam in his lecture at the University of Regensburg.  The Islamic reaction was visible and violent in many Muslim countries. Dismayed, Al-Azhar cut off dialogue with the Vatican.  And, of course, the liberal media attacked the Pope for his courageous stance.


I believe Pope Francis will use his popularity, communication and geopolitical skills to attract more Christians on the fringe back to Church, and convert as many from other religions in the globe. I think we are witnessing a turning point in world politics which have to be sustained by constant prayer and action for real peace; the peace of Christ. 

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

The Human Family's Gifts to the Baby of Bethlehem

As Christmas is here, our thoughts are directed to the Holy Family in Bethlehem. In the manger, humanity experiences God whose love for her brought Him from heaven. In the manger too, Mary feeds her son Jesus while Joseph watches on them to secure his little family. When King Herod looks to kill the new-born "king" Jesus, Joseph gets his family to escape to Egypt and live there until Herod is no longer a threat and the family is able to go back to the Holy Land. This is the Holy Family - Holy because they are for each other. 

But it is not only this family that is holy. In Christianity, "God is love" (1 John 4:8). Yes God is one but how could He be love if He is alone?! From eternity God poured out Himself in love and thus begot His Son, an image of Him. God became a father when He poured out Himself and at this point He looked at his Son and experienced love. In His act of unlimited love, He emptied Himself and gave His divinity totally to His Son. The Son received His Father’s love and discovered that He has everything from His Father and He could not live without love, because life is love and nothing else but love. So the Son emptied Himself and gave all He has - all the divinity - back to the Father. Neither the Father wants the gift of divinity nor the Son wants it. Why? Because full love is giving and giving away oneself! In order to realize His fatherhood, the Father has to empty Himself - the Son, after listening to the love whispering in Him, gives back His filial love to His Father. This dynamic force of love that pushes the Father to love and the Son to return His Father’s love with love is the Holy Spirit. In true faith, this dynamic movement of love continues from eternity to eternity. The Trinity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is the eternal Holy Family in one God...

How far is the typical family today from the Holy Family? While the ancients regarded childlessness a curse, today abortion of unwanted children in the womb is easily obtained. Today, individualism, not individuality, stresses selfishness and facilitates divorce between married couples.  Some TV shows of entertainment often encourage the sensual instincts which can in turn enslave men to their sexual desires of possessiveness rather than faithfulness to their spouses. Prostitution, the oldest industry in history, has become popular and attractive for the money it brings thanks to the superficial media accessible by every person. Education of children and teenagers is no longer based on the moral requirement of virtue.  In Ontario, Canada, the Liberal Government has added this year a curriculum of sex education for teenager students that angered many faithful parents since it contains such practices as emphasizing "the importance of consent and discussions (between students) about delaying or abstaining from any genital contact including vaginal, oral or anal intercourse." ! But who am I to judge anyone? Pope Francis gave us the example of finding the good in the human family and investing our energy in making our society and the world a better place to live in. He follows the Gospel of Jesus Christ who says "Love your enemies". It is for the revival of the Christian family including her estranged members that Pope Francis had the Synod on the family held earlier this year in Rome.  We are also aware that in our society today, excessive materialist consumerism has spread everywhere and, because of the greed in profits by  large business in global outsourcing, it most recently caused difficulties to middle-class families thus almost eclipsing society into two layers: a very small minority of very rich people and a large majority of poor people. The hardship of the family is no longer limited to raising well-educated and morally upright children, but rather the social failure of these children in finding jobs for which they studied and graduated after spending much money, often with their parents help. As a response to such difficulties facing families, the building of a just and equitable social order is best achieved in the distribution of wealth that would avoid a "revolution of the hungry". Christian families need to grow, and grow in love. The family whose members have a bit of time for each other can make a difference in understanding the needs and responding to them in a responsible way. Parents need to communicate constantly with each other and with their children, but above all they can be good examples for the new generations. In weekends family members have the opportunity to eat together, talk together, play together and pray together. Indeed in every parish, families can support each other and the community in every field because love is creative.This is the beauty of the family. It is the role, not of celibate bishops and priests, but of every Christian family. 

In the world, the Christian family of Churches faces more persecution. In the West, materialism and atheism pervade society and challenge Christian morality. In a recent symposium, Cardinal Thomas Collins made it clear how the courts in Canada challenge Christian morality.  The above influences Christian individuals and families to lose their faith. In the Near East, Islamic extremism has caused untold suffering to Christian families that the Christian family presence in the Middle East is threatened like never before. The Knights of Columbus (especially at Jesus the King Church), among others, are helping vulnerable families in Syria, Iraq, and the Holy Land through sponsoring and transferring donations from North America. As terrorism reached Africa, Europe and North America it became urgent that Christian families become reunited and rise over the above threats which would inspire Bishops of all Churches in East and West to work together for the renewal and fullness of Christian unity in the Triune God. 

Today everyone must be concerned about the larger family; the human family. As the Year of Mercy proclaimed by Pope Francis starts, let us think of the vulnerable, the needy, and poor and share with them generously of what we have.  Let us ask the God of love to forgive us our sins, and help every one, near and far including extremists, realize the true joy that is Christ. Christ is the light of nations and the blessing of the poor. He will enrich the hungry and bring peace to the fighting nations if we only believe and act on faith!

This Christmas, what gifts can we give to the baby of Bethlehem? In his inauguration, Saint Pope John Paul II said "Open your doors to Christ". Indeed, every person, every family, and every parish needs to open their/our doors to Him who took the risk to become one of us in order to save us.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Global Terrorism Or Jesus the King

Christmas is a time to come closer to Christ and to each other, to pray for the many in the Church and outside her, and share with the needy of what we have been given. It is also a time to receive God's forgiveness through the sacrament of confession and share in the reception of  Christ's body and blood in the sacrament of the Eucharist for "unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you" (John 6:53). On Friday December 18, we had a prayer evening at Jesus the King Church for the  unity of the family and the human family with supplications to the Holy Family (especially to protect families from terrorism and atrocities) as Pope Francis requested (for details see here).

Let's sing: "Love divine, all loves excelling, joy of heaven, to earth come down" https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VFckP0F93JM

To share with the needy, Jesus the King Melkite Catholic Church in Toronto, under the leadership of Fr. Ibrahim El-Haddad and his assistant pastors, has already sponsored close to 40 persecuted families of Syrian refugees making it one of the most active of Churches in the Greater Toronto Area. For details, contact the pastor's office.

Islamic terrorism has caused much suffering and put the world on high alert (see the latest here and here). Rather than getting easily angry after watching the news of Islamic terrorism, we could listen to Bishop Robert Barron on responding to terrorism here, to his "Catholicism" series in which he shows the mystical union of Christ and the Church (beautifully presented here), or read Fr. Henri Boulad, S.J. in his lecture on Christian compassion here, In fact, in one of his most recent homilies (in French here), Fr. Boulad opens up hope due to the messianic character of Christianity and condenses salvation history, still being written, in one homily. Henri Boulad said that with Jesus Christ there is a new humanity which we call the Church that is larger than being defined by a restrictive definition. Based on Dominus Iesus, I too think that being Catholic means a universality that finds its unity in the Catholic Church, to which everyone of goodwill is linked in a mysterious way regardless of religion, yet we, the Church, must continue to attract non-Christians to know and love Christ consciously (read me here).  "Since Christ laid the foundation in the soil of humanity, the Church has been growing as a tree from the ground up. Since Christ entrusted the world to us, the world is in our hands..." The tendency of religions is to look to the past - The foundation is in the past,,,scriptures are in the past and prophets are in the past, But this raises a temptation of fundamentals in which fundamentalists of narrow-minds often fall, Boulad said. Resistant to any change, they do not understand that the Gospel is a journey, a cross-over and a forward movement to the future. God is ahead-Christ is ahead. It is why we speak of Christianity as a religion of eschatology (in Greek, eschaton means the crowning in the end), he said. After the Ascension of Christ, the disciples were asked to go preach the good news and do as their master did to help humanity and build the world in the goodness and love of Christ. Thus to prepare the world for the Second Coming of Christ, Christians need to pray, engage and work for purifying humanity from sins, egoism, and violence. "The Second Coming depends on us"! Not to wait for Christ to come but to engage in building society and the Church. The more important engagement is to be transformed myself by grace and to do like Little Thérèse of Lisieux who while in the Carmel was able in her short life to engage her inner heart, transform the world and so was declared patron of missions (see her story here). There are two types of society: One lives in cyclic time and the other lives in linear time. The one in linear time is the Christian society of hope and development. The goal is Christ "The Omega Point" according to Teilhard de Chardin, S.J. Christ attracts creation into his love.The cyclic time belongs to ancient myths. In his huge work in anthropology, Mircea Eliade wrote  about "The Myths of The Eternal Return". Christ is the goal of creation...He calls me and invites me to be with him. "Take courage. I have conquered the world" said Christ (John 16:33). At this point the Jesuit scholar Henri Boulad ended his homily.

Then stands Mary Immaculate in her joy - "Mary conceived God in her thoughts before she conceived him in her womb" said St. Augustine. In one of his lectures at Jesus the King Church, which he delivered every week, Fr. Georges Farah defended the veneration of the Virgin Mary above all creatures and said a virgin is translated from Batula or Batul in the ancient Hebrew which is related to Beit Il or the house of God. How could Mary be the house or the temple of God? She could not unless she was without the stain of sin: original sin and personal sin. When someone sins, he misses his goal. Your goal is to be like God. You miss the goal when you become a slave to your selfishness and desires. But this little girl Mary was dedicated to God in the temple since her early childhood. She said Yes to his angel and never sought her glory. She was always in the shadows. To be born of an immaculate virgin, Christ saved her by protecting her in her conception from original sin and his grace accompanied her throughout her suffering and joys. And today, when there is much suffering and violence in the Middle East, we call on the Virgin Mary to protect her children there. She leads all to her son and point them to him as she pointed the workers in the wedding in Cana to Christ. To this picture, Bishop Ibrahim Ibrahim adds the beauty of the soul. In his talk to Sawt el-Rabb last December (here in Arabic), he said "We cannot see the birth of Christ except through the eyes of the Virgin Mary who was chosen by God to be the mother of his Son in the flesh. She carried him in her womb, delivered him, cared for him, and was with him to the end and yet remained ever-virgin,..She is our mother... "

From feeling the beauty of Christ, which St. Peter expressed "Lord, it is good for us to be here" when he saw Christ shines in the Transfiguration, we have to come back to our troubles. Fr. Jim Reposkey, Pastor of St. Alphonsus Roman Catholic Church in Toronto, recently gave a fiery homily reflecting today's corruption in the competition to accumulate money and possess more power. "We all do it" he said referring to the "Pagan society" which Thomas Cardinal Collins described a few weeks ago. Fr. Jim Reposkey continued "Then who can be saved?" Who can be saved if Man continues to uproot nature and refabricate its components to his own selfish desires? Pope Francis eloquently wrote about it in his encyclical "Laudato Si" (here).  Who can be saved if all what I care for is me? Who can be saved if, for political gain, we support the abomination of immorality? (Henri Boulad S.J. touched on this here). Fr. Reposkey concluded "With men it is impossible, but not with God; for all things are possible with God." 

And yet, global terrorism is still manifesting itself in the possible evil use of new technology. On December 8, MIT Technology Review published a news article here in which the giant American technology company Google claims it has proved that a D-Wave computer installed by Google at NASA is a quantum computer that can run at 100 million fold against a conventional computer (see here a little explanation of quantum computers). There are serious fears that NASA may usher with this technology the so-called space wars. The issue is about dominion of America over the rest of the world not only economically but also in waging military wars using high technology via satellites and unmanned space ships.Control and power could ultimately destroy the inhabited earth especially if the new American administration next year is hawkish.

In September 2015, the American "Foreign Policy" published an article that raised moral questions as researchers in neurotechnologies have been able to control the human brain and read people's thoughts. The U.S. Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has been working on extensive projects with universities that would allow the coding of artificial intelligence in advanced computers which in turn could be hooked to brains, potentially directing bionic soldiers or pilot aircrafts and implanting new memories in allies and enemies alike as desired by the controlling state or group. The race of the above efforts has been going for years in Russia, the European Union, and Japan "This is your brain as a weapon" said the author.

If the above materializes, the world could shortly see a new form of what we could call global terrorism...This is not the desire of any ordinary Christian before Christmas. As Fr. Boulad said "The desire of humanity for heaven brought heaven to earth". This is what we believe Christmas is all about. Joy to the world...How long will it be is another question for wounded humanity. Johann Sebastian Bach expressed humanity's longing for Christ in his musical masterpiece "Joy of Man's Desiring" here. As we go forward I hope to start to love him with ordinary people who choose him. We will still sing:  "O come all ye faithful, joyful and triumphant - O come ye, O come ye to Bethlehem - Come and behold him born the King of angels. O come, let us adore him, O come, let us adore him, O come, let us adore him Christ the Lord..."
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l1wHyMR_SCA.


Saturday, December 19, 2015

A Prayer Evening for Christmas

On Friday December 18, 2015, we had a prayer evening at Jesus the King Church for the  unity of the family with supplications to the Holy Family as Pope Francis urged Christians to pray. We prayed for unity of one's own family; unity of the parish family; the family of the Melkite Catholic Church in communion with our pastor Bishop Ibrahim; unity of the family of Christian Churches; and unity of the human family for peace in the world (especially to protect families and individuals from atrocities and terrorism.) Organized by Fr. Youhanna Hanna with scripture readings to strengthen the family, and in participation of readings by Fr. Ibrahim El-Haddad and Fr. Michel Chalhoub together with responses by the attendees and recorded hymns of Christmas, the prayers were followed by individual confessions heard by the 3 priests. I had written about the importance of confession here, but felt the inadequacy of my spiritual state as Fr. Michel encouraged me in the sacrament of penance to pray for God's help to avoid temptations. Confession opens for us the possibility to see our responsibilities as participants in faith, receive the mercy of our Lord and embrace him in humility. The Byzantine  hymn here expresses the joy in the Nativity of Christ as Mary his mother comes to the manger that the earth offers to God while angels and shepherds sing to him:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Snn_k2EOrcM

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Today's Temptations

First, I wish to thank God for today is the Solemnity or feast of Christ the King in the Roman Catholic Church which is also the name of our parish of Jesus the King in Toronto. It is also an opportunity to congratulate Fr.Ibrahim El-Haddad and his Assistant Pastors for the spiritual care they provide to parishioners. I include here a commentary by Fr. George Farah on Jesus the King in 2008.

Second: ​I thank God for the life he has given me and the hope that many have in the Church in spite of the terrible temptations that accompany us today as Satan did with Christ our Lord. ​
The terrorism events that took place over Sinai in Egypt,Lebanon, in Paris and more recently in Mali have left an indelible mark on ordinary people ​and governments that they have entered a decisive moment of fight against global terrorism linked to the tragic massacres of innocents by Radical Islam whether in the Middle East or outside its geographic boundaries. 
I had to revise an article I was encouraged by the Jesuit scholar Fr. Henri Boulad to write in October last year as it can help other/new readers to be aware of the same truth...

This is only the beginning of calamities if people of good will do not recognize the signs of times and act decisively to turn things around.
If you look at our world today this is what you will see:
1. A global economic recession, never seen in its scope before. Millions have lost their jobs or are going to lose them - This is particularly critical for young adults who have just graduated from university or college but cannot find a permanent job in their careers AND requires Churches/Christian organizations to help ours where possible.
2. Israel and radical Muslims are making every effort to benefit from the situation in the Middle East in talking about  and planning a violent war - The Israeli government continues to impose harsh measures and barriers that restrict movement by Arabs in and out of the occupied West Bank which contribute to high unemployment among them  and could cause more revolts. The Arab Spring (over 4 years now) supported by the Obama government has failed to improve the lives of people it promised and was hijacked by Muslim extremists which in turn started wars of divisions between Sunni and Shiite Muslims in Syria and Iraq, killed many innocent Muslims and minority Christians (the scapegoat in Girardian language) and have created now an Islamic Caliphate in territories robbed by the largely-organized Islamic extremists - The IS imposes taxes on Muslim residents that it protects and benefits from oil resources it acquired in its expansion from Iraq to Syria while applying a strict version of Sharia;
3. A global political crisis, where countries of the European Union, particularly  Merkel's Germany, are accepting hundreds of thousands of refugees from Syria without screening for terrorists while Russia has ventured to save Syria by increasingly bombing Syrian territories taken by Sunni Islamists that are supported by America, Turkey and Saudi Arabia. Meanwhile Iran is attempting its surge into a regional power especially that America's Obama's government has eased its sanctions in the recent agreement with the blessings of Khamini;
4. A global food crisis continues to rage in Africa, South America and the underdeveloped countries caused in part by insufficient resources that are already controlled by local dictators and an increasing imbalance between the wealth of the North and that of the South caused in part by an imperialistic American free-market monopoly;
5. The most influential moral voice in the world, Pope Francis, has warned of a World War III in progress in a phone interview last Saturday.

Can we read the beginning of the end in today's events? We know that, according to modern Biblical scholarship, the book of Revelation was written in the late 90s, as Apocalyptic literature to warn Christians and give them hope in the persecutions of the 1st century. Having said that, let's look afresh at Revelation and see whether there can be any interpretation for our world today as well. Sometimes the same text can reflect a myth and a literal event too. Can this be the case here? The New American Bible Revised Edition (approved by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops) in the introduction to the Book of Revelation says "The Book of Revelation had its origin in a time of crisis, but it remains valid and meaningful for Christians of all time. In the face of apparently insuperable evil, either from within or from without, all Christians are called to trust in Jesus' promise, 'Behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age' (Matthew 28:20)"

Revelation is a complex book, so I intend only to show similarities from the Book to what we are seeing today. According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, there are 5 important symbolic figures: The Lamb, the woman, and her seed; and opposed to them, the dragon, the beast from the sea, and the beast from the land.

Scholars dig deep into the Old Testament: The main idea is taken from Genesis 3:15. "I will put enmities between you (the serpent) and the woman, and your seed and her seed". The woman is arrayed in heavenly splendour; a crown of twelve stars on her head and the sun and the moon under her feet (cf. Genesis 37:9-10). She is in travail. Her first-born is destined to rule all the nation (Psalms 2:8, 9). She herself, and her other seed, are persecuted for three and a half years by the great dragon who tries to kill them. The great dragon is Satan (Genesis 3:1). He is cast out of heaven. With his tail he drags after him one-third of the stars. Taken from Daniel 8:10. The fallen stars are the fallen angels. The beast from the sea is in great part taken from Daniel's description of the four beasts (Daniel 7). It arises from the sea; has seven heads marked all over with blasphemies (probably a reference to Rome - City of the Seven Hills, called also Babylon or the Harlot in the New Testament since at the time it was the center of evil and idolatry for Christians). It had also ten horns, like the fourth beast of Daniel; it resembled a leopard, the third beast of Daniel, it had feet like a bear, the second beast of Daniel; and teeth like a lion, the first beast of Daniel. The great dragon gives full power to the beast, where all the world will worship it. The followers of the beast have its mark on their head and hand. The beast from the land has two horns like a ram. Its power lies in its art of deceiving by means of tokens and miracles. Throughout the remainder of the book it is called the false prophet. Its office is to assist the beast from the sea, and to induce people to adore its image.

The first act of the drama concludes with a promise of victory over the beast by the Lamb of God. We can safely see in the woman Mary immaculate whose seed is Jesus the Lamb of God. Other interpretations think of it as a symbol of the Church in her suffering and ultimate glory. The drama completes when the "New Jerusalem" is founded. She will need no light because the Father and the Lamb will be her light - the light of the Holy Spirit. A great number of people; thousands over thousands will be in the triumphant city. Meanwhile let's attempt to follow the visionary.

We can see in the Dragon the Devil. But who are the Beast and the False Prophet? The New Jerome Biblical Commentary in 1990 gives a contemporary interpretation pointing out that the beast from the sea and the beast from the earth have both mythic and historical references. Sea in the Old Testament is an opponent of God (Cf. Ps. 74:13). In Revelation, the beast from the sea is a mythical symbol of chaos and rebellion. The beast from the earth (13:11-18) is also a counter image to the Lamb. The beast from the earth is described as a false prophet, probably an agent of the Roman empire who promoted the cult of the emperor and the goddess Roma.

The following is my own interpretation based on my readings, but mostly based on what we are seeing today. I think, and I stand to be corrected, that the False Prophet is Radical Islam and the Beast is the materialist postmodern world of the West. We can consult the "Clash of Civilizations" that Samuel Huntington wrote in the 1990s, although this is not necessary.

The False Prophet: From a historic perspective, I do note that the human race was warned in 1917 by Our Lady at Fatima and that the "Third Secret of Fatima" was officially interpreted as the assassination attempt on the life of Saint Pope John Paul the Great. But may be that attempt was only the first of calamities that humanity will have to suffer as the sons and daughters of Abraham, Jews and Muslims, fight to death. Recall also that for 60 years now, Israel is back as one Jewish nation, and since 1967 it has reoccupied Jerusalem thus fulfilling the prophecy of the end of time attributed to Christ "and Jerusalem will be trodden down by the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled." (Luke 21: 24). Furthermore, we can go back to the early 1930s and find the established "Muslim Brotherhood" which claims support from Muslims worldwide. But two centuries earlier Mohammed Ibn Abdel-Wahhab had preached a puritan form of Islam that forbids devotional customs such as shrines for saints and visitation of tombs. He and his followers made a pact with Mohammed bin Saud whose successors prevailed in Arabia and were given the land by the British after World War I.  Today Saudi Arabia, a rich Arab Sunni Muslim country, exports the Wahabbi/Salafist thought (with oil from its oil reserves) to other countries in the world and has its own agenda as a regional power. In addition since 1979, the Islamic Republic of Iran has been tirelessly exporting its strict Shiite doctrine to the entire Islamic world. In 1972, President Sadat released Muslim extremists from jail and was subsequently assassinated by one of their groups in 1981. By 1982, the motto "Islam is the Solution" had appeared in Egypt. It is no accident that the revival of fundamentalist Islam has spread in all the Arab world and the Muslim nations in spite of persecution by governments loyal to the West. From Egypt, Sudan, Algeria, Libya, Tunisia,  Palestine, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and India there is a huge following of fundamentalist Muslims. There have been incidents of fundamentalist rebellion in the Philippines (Abu Sayyaf). China too is in a defensive war against radical Islamists in the Western and Northern regions.

This is only a general picture. Now, I would like to give some details: Although many people are driven to think that this is a Western propaganda and political conflict, I believe that the Vatican would not have protested repeatedly in recent years against persecution and killing of Christians in Iraq, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Nigeria, India, Algeria, and Egypt unless there was ground for such violation of human freedom and dignity. Fr. Henri Boulad, S.J. who lives in Egypt explained in 2002 that Christians there were being forced to convert to Islam and up to 20,000 conversions have been taking place according to the late Pope Shenouda of the Coptic Orthodox Church. Fundamentalist Islam today, spreading in Europe at a huge rate of 230%, is one of the major forces that Western powers had to deal with since 9/11 and is still unable to contain. The late Libyan leader Qaddafi was quoted to have said in 2007 that by 2050 Europe will be completely Muslim. Huge money is spent on building mosques and Islamic schools and supporting Muslim organizations in the entire world. Financing is coming from Saudi Arabia, Iran, Qatar and Libya. In Ontario, Canada, the Muslim community attempted, in 2007, to have its own Sharia legalized for Muslims living in Ontario, but their attempt was declined. Add to this the violent character of such organizations as Hamas, governing Gaza in Palestine and until now refusing to recognize the right of Israel to exist, and Hizbullah which has a majority support in Lebanon since its victory over Israel in 2006. Iran, another regional power hopeful and opposed to Turkey and Saudi Arabia, is attempting to build its nuclear power and its leaders have vowed to extinguish Israel. Is this enough for describing a false prophet?

The Beast: This is the great desolation of Western civilization. If I have to explain it in detail it will take me a full week. Just briefly: It started with the Reformation in the 16th century. Martin Luther thought that every individual Christian is free to interpret Scriptures according to what he feels the Holy Spirit is telling him. This idea created "individualism." Individualism is rampant today, thanks to other modern philosophers such as the existentialist Sartre. Only me counts. "The other is my hell." It is interesting to note how this has been applied successfully in contemporary thought and technology too. Nothing is done in a vacuum. One thing you must understand is that we are all related in this cosmos. Following Luther in interpreting St.Paul, Calvin thought that God predestined people as he willed to heaven or hell so if they were destined to heaven they will also be blessed here on earth. John Courtney Murray, S.J. who was the main contributor to Vatican II's "Declaration on Freedom of Religion" wrote how Calvinism re-emerged in North-America. Calvinism was brought by the early Europeans to America.  Soon enough the idea of individualism combined with the idea of blessedness on earth and produced the idea of Capitalism long before Adam Smith thought of it in economic terms. In simple terms, if I am blessed here as a Christian, I would rather use all the resources available to me to realize this blessing on earth as much and as wide as possible. This is greed in the form of Capitalism. Sure I will help the needy but I will also help myself much more from what they have. The earth is mine and I will explore its richness to the end! Today, Capitalism rules the earth. Free market enslaves people. Recall the political and economic pressure by the IMF on the underdeveloped countries to free their economy in the 1980s and 1990s. What is the global crisis but the result of that greed globally? Why is the globe in economic recession today but because of the powerful wanting more power and meanwhile robbing the nations of Africa and Asia from their resources? It is part of the nationalist movements' claims in the underdeveloped world. The entire U.N. charter is only ink on paper...Along with Capitalism a twin ideology was born: materialism.

Since the Enlightenment in the 19th century West, philosophers and scientists have been asking whether there is indeed any reality beyond matter. Some great materialist/atheist philosophers include Hume, Voltaire, Marx, Carnap, Wittgenstein, Derrida, Michel Foucault and many others. The "New Atheists" of today such as Richard Dawkins and Lawrence Krauss are scientists who devote much time attacking religion because they constrain their research to what is observable in the cosmos. In schools today, our children learn mostly what constitutes physics but very little, if any, about metaphysics (i.e. beyond physics).

Today we see how our consumerist society has invested in this ideology. Businesses flourish based on selling products to consumers. The more we consume the more business flourishes. This is the child of materialism married to capitalism. With globalization in the 1980s-1990s and beyond, large businesses and huge investors were able to reach the entire globe. Europe and the Far East imitated America and did the same. Who paid the price? Small business, and ordinary people like you and me. Materialism also bore the ideology of Communism which was carried out in Russia and persecuted religion from 1917 to 1989 in the USSR and Eastern Europe. Today Communism still lives in political pockets in Europe and is widely known under a more moderate name as socialism. Communism robbed people of their rights to private property. People became enslaved to the government of their land. It engulfed a whole generation of thinkers, even within the Church particularly in Latin America where people remain quite poor. Capitalist America supported dictatorial regimes in Latin America in order to suppress these movements.

Another twist of the moral order took place in the two World Wars. Because many men were sent to the battlefield women were forced to work in order to support their families. The radical feminist ideology was born  in the early 1920s and grew quickly in the 1940s and 1950s. Women started building their own career like men. Equality with men, not in dignity as known in traditional Christianity, but in all aspects of roles in business as well as at home was furiously demanded. This started the collapse of the family as we know it. Today we know many men and women who are, contrary to the moral Law, legally divorced. The feminist movement also produced legalization of abortion as the right of woman according to the land's law has a priority over the existence of the fetus in her womb. The Western civilization lost millions of unborn babies in this genocide. By the 1960s the sexual revolution was in the making, this time freeing people from the sex complex as defined by Freud. Soon afterwards, it became common that young people practice their intimate sexual "love" in the public with no shame. Today we know of couples who live together a life of sexual promiscuity and adultery without marriage or within marriage by prior agreement.

The last evil came under the influence of the philosopher Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche (died 1900). The ideology is known as Moral Relativism: Nietzsche sees the slave-morality as a social illness that has overtaken Europe — a derivative and resentful value which can only work by condemning others as evil. In Nietzsche's eyes, Christianity exists in a hypocritical state wherein people preach love and kindness but find their joy in condemning and punishing others for pursuing those ends which the slave-morality does not allow them to act upon publicly. Nietzsche calls for the strong in the world to break their self-imposed chains and assert their own power, health, and vitality upon the world. In Relativism (called also Postmodernism), everyone is right. There is no absolute right and absolute wrong. This helps political correctness in the pluralistic world of today.

In my humble opinion, we need to pay attention to the present, learn lessons from the past, and pray for the future. We seem to have lost our way between the False Prophet (Radical Islam) and the Beast (Western Civilization).

There is a tremendous thirst in the young generations for spiritual nourishment that gives meaning to their lives. Let us focus on those ones for their deprivation of spiritual nourishment leads them to emptiness and depression which in turn cause suicide or worse they could join the extremist Jihadists (as we already see in Europe and North America) and we end up having a crazy army of terrorists killing themselves and us in the name of God as prophesied "children will rise against parents and have them put to death"(Matthew 10:21). Churches are "not museums" according to Saint Pope John XXIII. They must be the light for nourishment of Christians, notably the young and (almost) lost generations, in everything that they need to learn to live spiritually and survive materially i.e. to develop in their knowledge and love of God and of others.Virtual websites for Church activities and online social networking need to be developed for those who are far.

The world needs a lot of prayer and intelligent collaboration in good faith to avoid a clash of civilizations and a third World War, something that Pope Francis warned about. Christians need to respect and love their fellow Muslims who worship the same God - The crimes of extremists cannot be counted against the vast majority of Muslims. We hope that the warnings of Fatima will be avoided. Mary is the mother of both Christians and Muslims, and as Bishop Fulton sheen said, Mary will bring them all to her Son.

But more prayers are needed to save the civilization of the West from destroying itself internally. This is the harder one.​ In that regard prayers are needed for Christian unity between the West and the East.​ We believe in what the Saviour said 'Behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age' (Matthew 28:20).

Sunday, November 15, 2015

The Hope of Humanity

For years, I have been receiving prayers every month from my friend the Franciscan priest Fr. Pio Farah. I hope it is not too late to reinvigorate the power of prayer as a most effective communication mean to heal us and our world through Divine love. All saints prayed and their prayers proved to be healing to those who needed them. A most recent healing has been attributed to Pope Francis (see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uJ6IU2V4Nh4). In the Gospel, Jesus Christ, who is God from God, prayed to his Father for the unity of the Apostles (John 17) and in other times in thanksgiving to his Father (for example only see Matt. 11, 25; Matt. 15, 36; Luke 22, 17-20).
In view of the alarming rate of violence and suffering in the world, I have asked the pastors at Jesus the King Church in Toronto to consider having a prayer evening for unity of the human family and particularly for a concrete form of unity of the Christian family of Churches. Today I attended a beautiful Byzantine "Divine Liturgy" or Mass at the Roman Catholic Church of St. Alphonsus. Since 2005, Fr. James Reposkey, C.P.P.S. has inspired the concelebration of a Byzantine Mass once a year at the Church of which he is pastor. This is a movement in the direction of attaining full unity of Christians which has become a duty for all Churches to share in. The entire Mass was sung in English by the attendees under the leadership of Ukrainian Catholic nuns. I hope Arab Christians in Toronto understand why it is paramount that Masses and church activities become fully available in the language of the land. The youth and younger generations need to understand before they can participate.

Why is the above prayer important? Because of many threats that no political leader can face. The world is polarized. Only destructive weapons are being sold in excess which in turn can be funneled to terrorists.  The recent killings of many individuals over Sinai in Egypt, in Beirut, and in Paris have been claimed by the "Islamic State" (ISIS) or its terrorist collaborators. The above is in addition to daily killings of ordinary people in Syria and Iraq only because they happen to be identified by the extremist "ulama" as "infidels".

It was a great scene today as Notre Dame de Paris was full of faithful attending Mass in remembrance of the victims of Friday night (see: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GdGCYb3mylA). Lest anyone thinks that fear drives us to worship God, let us show that the universal Church is able to gather all her faithful from the for corners of the earth through Jesus Christ.

As Monseigneur J. Jules Zerey, the Archbishop of Jerusalem, said to us in September: Raise your eyes to God; for heaven is listening - Raise your hearts to him who made you participants in the Divine glory. Read his words in the Bible as taught by the Church - Meditate on his suffering, death and resurrection and always hope in him.

One last thing I ask, today and everyday kiss your family; If you are married kiss your spouse; kiss your children. If not, at least think of God's gifts; for life itself is God's gift to us. He shall endure for ever...And if faithful, we too shall endure with him.


Saturday, October 31, 2015

Hallowed be Thy Name...

Why do Canadians celebrate Halloween? "Halloween" comes from the Scottish "Hallowed Evening" i.e. The eve of celebrating saints and remembering the dead in prayers. The Lord's Prayer to the Father starts with "Our Father Who Art in heaven - Hallowed be Thy Name..." The Father is the Father of all of us who gives life to every person and loves all humans...On this day, we ask the saints to intercede for every person on earth, and ask God to forgive all, and have his abundant mercy on all the departed souls.

Halloween is linked to a Christian tradition. In my opinion, it is good to celebrate a day of  fun with masks and take young children to go trick or treat in the neighborhood as it generates innocent joy in their hearts and ours. But to connect it to the historical meaning beyond Dracula and Halloween, click this link - It is about defending Europe against the Muslim Turks who had just invaded Constantinople in 1453 (a theme that preoccupies Christians today with radical Islam) :
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PRbubeF8w7M

However, Europe today is no longer as Christian as it was then in 1453. At least since the Protestant Reformation of the 16th century, the idea of individualism crept into the West. The Enlightenment followed the doubts of philosophers into criticism of everything including the existence of God.  And today, in the minds of many people here God does not exist, nor does Christianity make sense...Society descended into relativism. Everyone may worship or do what he thinks. The Ministry of Education in Ontario Canada has imposed a curriculum of sexual education that challenges Christian moral tradition in all public schools. Most recently, Catholic bishops gathered in the Synod on the family in Rome failed to show a clear direction for the Church on divorced and remarried Catholics and homosexuals as conservatives and liberals slammed each others ideas. In this atmosphere, does it make sense to call God "Our Father who Art in Heaven"?

I wrote about today's two anti-Christian forces: Radical Islam, and Atheist Materialism in the post  "Who Will Triumph" here.

This alone calls for Pope Francis to seek a form of Christian unity with the Eastern Orthodox Churches. Probably such a union would moderate the tensions of individualism rampant in the West and help liberate Christians in the Middle East from persecution.

"Be moderate in everything except in love" Saint Augustine!

Sunday, October 11, 2015

The Corruption of Man!

[And as he was setting out on his journey, a man ran up and knelt before him, and asked him, "Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?" And Jesus said to him, "Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. You know the commandments: `Do not kill, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.'"And he said to him, "Teacher, all these I have observed from my youth." And Jesus looking upon him loved him, and said to him, "You lack one thing; go, sell what you have, and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me." At that saying his countenance fell, and he went away sorrowful; for he had great possessions. And Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, "How hard it will be for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God!" And the disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said to them again, "Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God." And they were exceedingly astonished, and said to him, "Then who can be saved?" Jesus looked at them and said, "With men it is impossible, but not with God; for all things are possible with God."] (Mark 10: 17-27).
This was the Gospel reading of today's Sunday Mass...Fr. Jim Reposkey, Pastor of St. Alphonsus Roman Catholic Church in Toronto, gave a fiery homily reflecting today's corruption in the competition to accumulate money and possess more power. "We all do it" he said referring to the "Pagan society" which Thomas Cardinal Collins described a few weeks ago. Fr. Jim Reposkey continued "Then who can be saved?" Who can be saved if Man continues to uproot nature and refabricate its components to his own selfish desires? Pope Francis eloquently wrote about it in hs encyclical "Laudato Si" (here).  Who can be saved if all what I care for is me? Who can be saved if, for political gain, we support the abomination of immorality? (Henri Boulad S.J. touched on this here). Fr. Reposkey concluded "With men it is impossible, but not with God; for all things are possible with God.". Give God a chance in your life. But this is only a summary. If I only count the number of moral failures we accumulated in this society, "aliens from  Mars" will be surprised that we are still alive. Last Sunday was "pro-life" Sunday, but how many of us care about the unborn children to stop legal abortion in Canada? (here).  And we have sex-education for kids 10 years old and older by a Liberal Government in Ontario. We know how teenagers exercise peer-pressure to force virgin girls into promiscuity and how love has become synonymous for sexual pleasure. The curriculum introduces homosexual life-style as an accepted social norm and encourages kids to masturbate in their early teen years as a healthy development! And worse of all the Liberal Leader contending for Federal elections has shown himself to be not only a radical feminist, but also a dictator in his own caucus who refuses the other opinion. He became very cordial with refugees by increasing the taxpayer's load without concern for our security that terrorists could infiltrate this land and open the gates of hell they have made of the Middle East and now in Europe. In the Niqab "fatwa" advanced by the NDP leader who supports a radical Muslim woman taking oath for citizenship without showing her face and thus raises the claims of Islamists to have their own Sharia Law in Canada, only the Conservatives seem to care about Christian moral values.  In this regard, the Office of the Refugees in the Archdiocese of Toronto (ORAT) (under direct instructions from  Thomas Cardinal Collins) cooperates with the Federal Government of Canada to speed up the process of  accepting qualified refugees applying from outside Syria. The Cardinal Archbishop of Toronto has already informed the Roman Catholic parishes in Toronto to participate in sponsoring 100 families from war-torn Syria (Project Hope). The number for the Greater Toronto Area in the Archdiocese may well be in the thousands. The Government has pledged to accept up to 10,000 qualified refugees for assessment over the next few months. Who then cares about moral values in Canada? 

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

A Pope of Hope Defies Atheistic Materialism

While dark clouds descended upon Europe with the flight of refugees from the Arab world, Pope Francis made his first visit to Cuba with the hope Cubans have desperately sought: freedom of worship and the right to human dignity. On the problem of the refugees in Europe, The Economist published an eye-opening report that counted 40 countries to have already built fences against 64 of their neighbours since the fall of the Berlin Wall. "The majority have cited security concerns and the prevention of illegal migration as justifications" said the report author. Questions have been raised as to whether the recent refugees from Syria and other Arab countries cover up for another step in the islamization and consequent fall of Europe to the extremist version of Islam's Sharia. But in the American continents, a glowing story has emerged in the Church's work to reconcile enemies as both the American and Cuban presidents repeatedly declared. For the missionary pope, it is an opportunity to restore Christ's presence to the public sphere and help reconstruct a fallen world that has increasingly embraced atheistic materialism. For the pontiff who already has had his "Dark Night" (an expression used by the mystic St. John of the Cross), he understands the plight of man (for the pope's "Dark Night", see here).

Francis' visit to America met with much enthusiasm when he spoke directly with  hundreds of thousands of fans, and celebrated Masses with crowds listening to his words about protection and renewal of the procreative family. In his address before the American Congress and the General Assembly of the United Nations, he drew attention to care for nature, and help of immigrants as well as the poor to live a dignified life. About his defense for the life of every person, he was not able, however, to clearly defend the life of the human person in the womb - arguably the weakest of all - before Congress but did show his belief in the right to life of the unborn when he spoke to the bishops. It inflamed a liberal American when he found the Pope's anti-abortion stance and opposition to homosexuality (see here). Although Pope Francis teaches and abides by the dogma of the Church, his keen enthusiasm to attract as many estranged faithful as possible back to the fold was sometimes understood to be too ambiguous on expressing the moral values that Christianity stands for. This is so because he wants to move away from abstract concepts and rather be a pastor close to people. It is written that Jesus said to the rabbis "Go and learn what this means, `I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.' For I came not to call righteous, but sinners." (Matthew 9: 13). In this vein, he declared a Year of Mercy in the Catholic Church. He wants the young couples to be properly prepared for the sacrament of marriage that does not allow divorce (For this they must avoid false marriages based on material needs or passing sexual desire); he directed the priests to hear confessions of repentant mothers that had abortion; he made the annulment process of invalid marriages shorter by treating it in local church courts rather than the lengthy process that used to take years. Since his election, the Latin American pope sought to enrich the core of an ageing Church in Europe with the vibrant and younger Churches in the peripheries of the world. But Francis' vision goes further to reconcile all of humanity in Christ, including not only Christians, but also strengthening the dialogue with followers of atheism, and other religions - many do not know the true God who loves without limit, yet they innately search for the God of Christians as the Jesuit theologian Karl Rahner, S.J. had proposed in his "Anonymous Christian" writings. The Spirit of God, according to Cardinal Henri de Lubac, S.J. is present in everyone. Yet not everyone follows the Spirit to be healed and become a real Christian. With the first Jesuit pope, memory of the reform-minded Second Vatican Council is vibrant again.

If Pope Francis could have extended his visit to America by one day, he would have probably been able to address the burning issue of global terrorism with the Russian President Vladimir Putin in the United Nations headquarter or could at least mediate a resolution between policy makers of America and Russia for peace in the Middle East. How can Christians of the world contribute to peace needed everywhere? Peace is a fruit of listening to the Spirit of God and responding to the divine love. Archbishop J.Jules Zerey of Jerusalem reminded Christians in his September visit to Toronto that they should pray to the Holy Spirit, often neglected in prayers. This confidence in the presence of the Holy Spirit is also found in the mystically-inclined Pope Francis. Archbishop Zerey invited people to properly read the Bible and spend a bit of time every day to contemplate Jesus. Restoring Christian unity, which was one of the goals of the Second Vatican Council and is urgently needed today, will not be achieved without the Spirit of Christ! Action by itself is insufficient. It must be based on the presence of God in sincere prayer.

Referring to new research by UCLA neuroscience researcher Dr. Alex Korb, an article for the secular mind written by Eric Barker was published in September 2015 in a number of magazines. He mentions 4  "rituals" that will make you happy. First: "Ask 'What am I grateful for?' No answers? Does not matter; Just searching helps." Second: Label negative emotions; Once identified, the brain will not be worried. Third: Decide on what you want to do; Go for 'good enough' instead of 'best decision ever made'. Fourth: Hug people you care about more often...
Although this research does not mention the Holy Spirit, the Holy Father believes as we do that the Holy Spirit works in all people and urges them to repent of sins in order to receive joy. To be grateful for what you are and have is a step in recognizing the gift of another. The source of all gifts is God. The second "ritual" is recognizing that worries are not helpful. This is also in Jesus' Sermon on the Mount "Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life..." (Matthew 6: 25) written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. The third "ritual" is to be realistic and not greedy. This is also a good reminder for today's busy people with material success. The fourth "ritual" is particularly needed in our social life. Although we are individuals, we need to "hug" each other because it is a sign of love and relatedness (which is the essence of the Triune God in our life).

With the misuse of new Internet technology, excessive materialism, that promises false utopia and comfort, continues to be a concern for Pope Francis and other Christian leaders. Dark-Net dealers do illegal business across the Internet.They include hackers, traffickers in illegal drugs and prostitution across the Internet without being found. In a seminar in Toronto on September 12, 2015, Cardinal Thomas Collins spoke about the book of Revelation. Thomas Collins warned Canadians that the book of Revelation can be interpreted anew in light of today's suffering. He had recently met with the Patriarch of the Syriac Orthodox Church and the Patriarch of the Syriac Catholic Church whose faithful trace their tradition to the Apostles of the first century and its Aramaic language. The two Patriarchs pleaded with Christians in Canada to help the suffering people of Syria where 250,000 were killed, and millions were forced to flee their land by the so-called Islamic State and other Islamic extremists. When the first Christians preached the Gospel they were persecuted and martyred by pagans but they survived because of the example of the Apostles who, inspired by the Holy Spirit of the risen Christ, dared to testify to the truth. This is the  situation of Christians in the Middle East. They need all the help we can give in good conscience.

In history, the Cardinal recalled two heroes who defended the faith of the Church in the 16th century: Saint Thomas More; and Saint John Fisher. They were martyred for the truth. The Book of Revelation is about Christian hope and faith. But in Canada and most of the civilized world, many people live like pagans concerned only about material satisfaction and pleasure. The sanctity of marriage, which St. Thomas More defended, is being attacked by the neo-pagans including recent decisions of the Supreme Court of Canada. Christians need to learn from our martyrs and saints and sacrifice to the last breath like they did, the Cardinal Archbishop of Toronto concluded.

Biblical Reflection: Christ thus spoke:
"You have heard that it was said, `An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.' But I say to you, Do not resist one who is evil. But if any one strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also; and if any one would sue you and take your coat, let him have your cloak as well; and if any one forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to him who begs from you, and do not refuse him who would borrow from you.
"You have heard that it was said, `You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you salute only your brethren, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect." (Matthew 5:38-48).

Dig Deeper

First: Anthropological and Historical Reflections:
In "The History of Religions" published by the University of Chicago in 1959, Mircea Eliade traces the development of the sacred from primitive cultures. He advances the idea that in the 20th century, symbolism has been found in depth-psychology, especially that "the activity of the unconscious can be grasped through the interpretation of images, figures, and scenarios". He adds other factors that contribute to the study of symbolism such as the rise of of abstract art and "the poetic experiments of the surrealists" as well as the research of ethnologists in primitive societies, and finally the role of researches of certain philosophers, epistemologists, and linguists who wanted to show the symbolic character not only of language, but also of all other activities of the human spirit, from rite and myth to art and science." (Pages 86, 87). In the same book, Jean Daniélou clarifies "The history of religions today confronts us with an immense amount of material dealing with myths, symbols, and rites" (Page 68).

In "Truth and Tolerance" published in 2003, Joseph Ratzinger refers to Mircea Eliade's "Patterns in Comparative Religion" first published in 1948 and translated to English in 1958. Ratzinger writes "Today's man has a concept of religion that is always very much a matter of symbols, which despite the ultimate unity of the language of human symbols (as is increasingly demonstrated today by psychology and religious anthropology), vary in many details but nonetheless mean just the same thing" (Pp.23-24). Ratzinger outlines three distinctive paths in human cultures:
1. In the form of mysticism, the myth as a merely symbolic form is stripped of its illusion, and the absolute value of an unnameable experience is set up.
2. In the monotheistic revolution of Israel, the myth is rejected as man-made.The absolute nature of the divine call issued through the prophet is maintained.
3. In the form of enlightenment, first on a large scale in Greece, the myth is outgrown as a prescientific form of knowledge and rational knowledge is set up as the absolute value.

Another finding in "generative" anthropology is attributed to René Girard, retired professor of civilizations at Stanford University and member of l'Academie francaise! 
In his theory of mimetic rivalry, René Girard shows how we are born with a tendency for selfishness. Mimetic rivalry, that is imitative rivalry, exists in human natural relationships. According to him, I desire what "the other" has, not only because it is good, but more importantly because he also desires it. Thus, in effect, by desiring what he has, I want to fulfill myself. He became my model since we both desire the same object, but now I  must surpass him to acquire the object for myself.  I am my god, and will expand my family, my tribe, my nation, my religion, and my culture only because they are mine! When people fight because of rivalry, it becomes contagious, and society descends into chaos and disorder. The only "Satanic" remedy to restore order found in the early cultures was the scapegoat. In pagan cultures, men would collaborate and exclude or kill a person they accuse of not following them. The act of killing unites them again and order is restored. This is the ritual of sacrifice in archaic religions. Following the exclusion or killing act of the “innocent” person, the band starts feeling guilty as they see the victim not moving anymore. They then attempt to reintroduce him in their memory by making him divine, and celebrating his feast with dance and festivities. This remembrance accomplishes again what Satan wants: a lie. Order is re-established based on a lie (killing an innocent person), and a person is now divine based on another lie. This powerful chain was only broken by the death of Christ. This is the Satanic power that Christ reversed by his death, not because he was innocent but because being innocent he did not retaliate. On the cross he forgave his accusers.(Cf. Frederiek Depoortere;  "Christ in Postmodern Philosophy"; T and T Clark; 2008 - Pages 34-91). In his "Things Hidden Since the Foundation of the World", Girard expounds his finding that of the ancient writings and myths, the Biblical writers not only reveal the crimes but proclaim the innocence of the victim  -This is the opposite of the pagan myths that put the guilt on the scapegoat victim who is innocent and kills him violently as is the case of the authorities in crucifying their opponent Jesus Christ. 


However, it seems from history that two forces shaped the construction of civilizations. One is a desire by the chief of the tribe or nation to expand his own to other lands; the other force is collaboration between tribes to conquer others or to extend their survival through trade. In June 2015, the historian Yuval Noah Harari explained to some 400 persons (as also reached through the Internet by nearly 900,000 persons) the rise of humans and the massive cultures that by now humans control the planet Earth (listen to his brief talk here; or read the transcript here). The reality of cooperation between the early homo sapiens has been addressed too in a massive article in the August 2015 issue of Scientific American by Curtis Marean, Professor of Human Evolution at Arizona State University. His team in collaboration with teams of researchers at the University of Johannesberg, and the University of California found the basis of the ascending home sapiens invasion of the planet. The migration from Africa to the Near East and Eurasia was successfully completed by our ancestors because of their collaboration in defending their tribes which then extended themselves to the shores and lands of Australia and the Americas some 70,000 years ago.

Although Harari speaks in terms of fictional stories invented by humans - which are not always the case for believers, especially that the historical evidence for Christ's crucifixion and resurrection has been demonstrated (here) - he makes two points:
1. What sets us apart is massive cooperation in all fields of knowledge and the transmission of this knowledge. This is the result of belief systems where I trust you will give me what I need to eat in exchange for a piece of paper (a dollar bill) even if it is the first time that you see me.
2.  The survival of human beings may be threatened soon by the machines they make (such as robots) or probably two classes will be created if material consumerism continues: the very rich (virtual gods) and the very poor (slaves). Eliminating this threat has been shown by Pope Francis in his recent Encyclical Laudato Si (here).

But this is only a scratch of the surface: The Western civilization is arguably based on the Christian anthropology of Man - That is the development of humanity based on Christ as Henri Boulad, S.J. expressed in multiple lectures (see here, and here) as well as his speech in December 2014 at the European Parliament (partially quoted here). Some historians believe the Renaissance started as early as Charlemagne (whose education program encompassed literature, arts, architecture, liturgical reform, and scriptural studies - Cf. G.W. Trompf; "The concept of the Carolingian Renaissance"; Journal of the History of Ideas; 1973:3ff). Brave steps in opening the West to other civilizations started with Charlemagne in 800 AD who collaborated with the Abbasid Muslim Caliphs in order to increase trade with the East. In return, Haroun Al-Rashid sent the pope the keys of Jerusalem. The Caliph had already learned from Christians in Persia and built a large library in Baghdad only to be burned by the Mongols from China centuries later. Here again we see the fruits of collaboration and the results of destructive invasions and wars.  In the atmosphere of learning in Europe Francis of Assisi was able to enrich the world with the idea that man could talk to nature; a step carried forward by Thomas Aquinas in adopting Aristotle in his reform of philosophy since Aristotle thought that nature is distinct from God. St. Thomas used the good elements in Aristotle's thought and refreshed Christian thought that nature could be explored on its own. The scientific exploration is still going on. The "sacred" cosmos is now accessible through Big Data gathered from galaxies millions of years away. The beginning of the cosmos has caught the interest of scientists at CERN's Large Hadron Collider  (see 'Quantum Synthesis' here and here)

History is being made today: In a significant article in January 2015, Dr. George Friedman (founder of Stratfor, an American global intelligence specializing in geopolitics) wrote about the continuous conflict between Christianity and Islam(Titled A War Between Two Worlds, it can be found here)

Second: Theological Reflections

Adaptation is a rule in the development of nations. For example, the Enuma Elish myth in 12th century BC Mesopatamian/Babylonian civilization is borrowed in the story of creation in the Bible according to many contemporary Biblical scholars. However only in the Bible the creator creates ex-nihilo (i.e. from nothing), which is what scientists call "singularity" in the standard Big Bang Theory for lack of expression in mathematical form (infinitismal nothing into zero).  

The idea of God underwent progressive understanding in the Bible (see here). God does not change but he chose to become a human person in Jesus Christ in order to restore humanity to him. Although there is much in common between Christian thought and other doctrines of the Far East, Christ is not the cosmos nor is he annihilated to be reborn anew. History has a direction. This is also found in the scientific standard Big Bang Theory. Christ is the Alpha and Omega (Revelation 1, 8). In Teilhard de Chardin, S.J., and Henri Boulad, S.J. the "Omega Point" refers to the "Cosmic" Christ who will restore saved creation to his Father at the Second Coming. Again scientific materialism is refuted by the spiritual insight.

In recent decades, false prophets of Radical Islam found the entire globe to preach their own "sacred" doctrines which have almost destroyed the entire Arab nations and threaten humanity with their ancient "wolves" but as throughout history Christ warns his sheep "Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.You will know them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorns, or figs from thistles?" (Matthew 7: 15-16)

Bonus: A homily by the late Archbishop Fulton Sheen on the Hour of Power at the Crystal Cathedral in 1972 - A hope for Christians: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JwlZs3Te7gU

Based on the above Christians need to make a choice if they wish a civilization that supports human development to continue.

Today's Quote

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







Websites

See Links to Websites Below