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, February 6, 2015

My secret thoughts

As I learned with horror about the fate of the Jordanian pilot Moaz al-Kasasbeh burned alive by the Islamic State (IS) extremists, I could not help but imagine what would be my reaction if they did this to me. There was not a drop of mercy in the hearts of the torturers towards him and his family who had pleaded with the Jordanian government for his release and safe return. BBC published an analysis of IS fear tactics here. I could now imagine the torment of the rich man in the Parable of "The Rich Man and Lazarus" (Luke 16: 19-61). If being burned for a few hours sends such cries to heaven, what kind of suffering would be endured for eternity in Hades/hell?  I can understand why not many people wish to attend any serious spiritual discussions. They have enough stressful days at work and home to even think of coming to a Bible meeting on a Friday night. Everyone wants to relax or have some entertainment only to escape from the torment of the past week that may repeat in the next one. Is it not enough that hell is a possibility for anyone, but we must also endure hell on earth?

However, the following may shed some hope for us on earth.

Last night at Jesus the King Church, we had a video run from the popular "Catholicism" Series by Professor Fr. Robert Barron. The topic of the video "How to be a disciple of Jesus" was introduced by Fr. Youhanna Hanna. Again, as in last Friday 's lecture on the deep Christian meaning of Exodus, this  session (including Questions and Answers period with Fr. Youhanna near the end), was attended by a great number of faithful which we had not seen in previous videos and movies. I can only attribute the increase in number of attendees to the desire by the faithful to learn more from the Church, helped in a few cases by the fact that their kids had just finished a session in learning First Communion catechism. The discipline with which everything was run is a new phenomenon in a mainly Arabic-speaking community. However small the acceptance of God in my life is, I believe God is working in the souls of the faithful and is attracting us to his love in Christ.

Professor Fr. Barron is a precise speaker who focused here on the Beatitudes in Jesus' teachings (Matthew 5) and the Parable of the Prodigal Son given by Jesus to show the abundant mercy and love of the Father towards every human person (Luke 15: 11-32). Referring to St. Thomas Aquinas on detachment from the world as taught by Christ and the Apostles who witnessed him, Fr. Barron explains 4 attachments that the true disciple of Jesus needs to free himself from with the help of God's grace: Possessing things; Addiction to pleasures of the body; Selfish Power; and Honor. Freeing ourselves from these attachments is shown in the lives of modern saints such as Saint Pope John Paul II and Blessed Teresa of Calcutta who both used provocative non-violence in response to violence and insult. Both Gandhi of India and Bishop Tutu of South Africa are also taken as examples. The fact that Gandhi, a Hindu great person, is mentioned as a model for Catholics cannot be hidden under the excuse that he learned the Gospel when he was in England. Peter Kreeft, a Catholic scholar/apologetic and convert from Protestantism did not shy from stating that non-Christians too can be saints and mystics. For this, we need to learn how the Second Vatican  Council recognizes the development in understanding revelation by the Church (known as the development of doctrine) (See Dei verbum here).  The great theologian Avery Cardinal Dulles explained the development of the doctrine of salvation here.

Finally Professor Fr. Barron mentioned  the Parable of "The Prodigal Son" (Luke 15: 11-32) which shows God's love for his children; those who love him and those who despise him (see lecture here).

To know God is not an exercise of the body or the mind but in grace to strive to find him in the depth of love (see my lecture here).  See Pope Francis who is leading a reform of the Church, and preaching reconciliation everywhere he goes. In each local church, there must be a renewal of Christian life, and in every society Christians need to recall the promises of Christ and stand for the truth, help the needy and the elders, and pray for reconciliation in the family, with friends, and with all others. I need to reflect on God, his eternal selfless love, his words in the Bible and his saints everyday even if for a few moments, because this is my only salvation!

We need to focus on Christ in our prayers and meditations based  on discernment of the good by our conscience in today's moral relativism.  It is only a start that needs to be followed up. Thanks to Fr. Barron for his message of hope in Christ.

Related Topic: See my reflection on Christ the Alpha and Omega here

Today's Quote

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


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