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

Monday, September 11, 2017

Selected Books by Scholars

I have read a few books by a number of scholars:
1. Christianity -  The First Three Thousand Years (over a 1000 pages), by Diarmaid MacCulloch, Professor of the History of the Church at Oxford University;  2010...
2. The Essential Pope Benedict XVI, by John Thornton and Susan Varenne; 2007...
3.  Man and the Mystery of Time, (Original in French, translated to Arabic) by Henri Boulad, S.J.; 1995...

Today, I wish to only reflect upon Fr. Henri Boulad's book...This is decidedly the work of a giant and an encyclopedia since he is able to cram so much information with meditation in a small book. He offers a reply to question after question on the meaning of time...He quotes the philosopher Henri Simon "Man is an animal that has memory so he can plan...think, and feel sorry... He is then able to bring the past to the present in his consciousness..." And comments on it: "Memory in Man is a sign of the distance between him and his self...  When I speak of things in the past, I put a distance between them and the present in which I live. La Fontaine tells us 'The ant stores its food in Summer for Winter by instinct.' Man is the only animal that fears, worries and  hopes...Modern Man knows his history more accurately than in any earlier age.". I agree with Fr. Boulad - Today we have technology such as the Internet that allows us to search the world using Google.
Henri Boulad writes "Rather than feeling sorry for my sins of the past, it is better that I rebuild my self in the same way that the car company rebuilds cars from broken material". This can be done with the help of the grace of God that we seek! God loves everyone. In my own opinion, the entire creation is an act of love that reflects the eternal love of the Father to the Son and the Son to the Father in the binding power of the Holy Spirit.
Fr. Boulad mentions the time when St. John wrote his Gospel three generations after the Resurrection of Christ - This is when the theological thought started to grow in the Christian community. "The mystery of Christ appeared in a new light...and has been understood in a deeper sense...If we search the history of Israel, we find that God refused to reveal his name - This means that God refuses to be bound in a word...God is the living One...He reveals himself in history".
In my thought taken from the Church, Christ is the center of history. He revealed the Father. He is love that died on the cross to restore life to humanity, and rose from the dead to justify Christian witness...
One more comment, Fr. Boulad mentions Maurice Zundel as a thinker. Maurice Zundel wrote that God knelt before Man - when Christ washed the feet of the Apostles on the night before he was crucified.
May the Lord grant us all his peace.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

I Love You Jesus

I love Jesus my God. Humanly speaking he is so beautiful. He is also my saviour who died on the cross as if I was the only sinner. 
I love the Father my God who in the Parable of the Lost Son, ran towards his younger son in spite of his old age and kissed him and celebrated his return. 
I love the Holy Spirit my God who consoles me. I am not worthy of heaven but God loves me and I love Jesus. 
I also love the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God, and Mother of the Church.

Friday, August 25, 2017

God loves all - God loves you - God loves you my soul

God loves all - God loves you - God loves you my soul. If we follow the dictates of conscience well developed, we will see God's love through all the saints and most especially through the Blessed Virgin Mary the Mother of God. We will see God's heart in treating the others with compassion. Jesus  Christ our God and Saviour did not die on the cross and rise from the dead for a few people but for all humanity to grasp his grace and march by the power of the Holy Spirit who works in the souls to the Kingdom of God.
Believe in Christ, seek Christ, put your trust in Christ and stop worrying about your fate.
God loves all - God loves you - God loves you my soul.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Where are you my God ?:

Where are you my God ?: How can I connect with you? I am distressed in the hospital where I have been for 8 days...I am not sure when they will let me go back home? You know that I hardly pray only at bedtime at home. I am still questioning everything in existence... Did I become an atheist? Carry me by the hand as I am in fear of everything and also in fear of you that you may throw me in Hell...Come to my heart O Almighty One by the grace of the Holy Spirit who reassures  me in the name of the Risen Christ.
Glory be to God the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit - One God for ever and ever. Amen

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

To The Mother of Mothers

Hail Mary, Full of Grace, The Lord is with Thee, Blessed Art Thou among women and Blessed is the Fruit of Thy Womb Jesus. Holy Mary Mother of God, Pray for us Sinners Now and at the Hour of our Death.
To you Mother of Mothers

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Youhanna Hanna on Prayer

Today, July 13, is the 15th anniversary of the departure/death of my beloved mother Josephine. For this reason I asked Fr. Youhanna Hanna to remember her in his Mass this morning. When I asked him about the fees for his service in the Mass, he reminded me by Jesus' commandment to the Apostles and their followers "Without cost you have received; without cost you are to give" (Matthew 10: 8). I understood from him that Fr. Ibrahim El-Haddad and Fr. Michel Chalhoub too follow the commandment and do not require fees in the Mass prayer. These are good news from priests whose work is the salvation of souls...
In fact, in the Roman Catholic parishes calendar for Masses (New American Bible Revised Edition  - USCCB), today's readings, which I opened this morning, include the story of Joseph son of Jacob who was sold by his brothers to the Egyptians years earlier - This Joseph grew in Egypt and learned from the Egyptians their wisdom and language that Pharaoh brought him up in his palace to be Egypt's second man. When there was a severe famine in Israel, the brothers  hurried to Egypt and were told that they must see Joseph for any supply to foreigners. In spite of the fact that his brothers had sold him and lied to their father while Jacob could not tolerate sending the youngest son, Benjamin, from his beloved Rachel, the oldest brother offered his neck in substitute for the lie. But Joseph could not hold himself and cried in front of his brothers. (Genesis 43, 44, 45)...
Can God cry? Yes. We know that Jesus our God cried to his Father "My Father, if it is not possible that this cup pass without my drinking it, your will be done!" (Matthew 26: 36-46). He was so distressed that he was experiencing bleeding. While Jesus accepted the cup in obedience to his beloved Father, I think he did not finish crying, for there are so many sinners over the history of the Church, particularly since secularism and most recently post modernism changed the way things are done. Today large businesses compete to sell their products and services at the cheapest price which benefits the elites and "correct political" leaders become richer. Christ is still crying because many Christians have lost their way to the Truth especially in advanced societies where atheism flourishes. Christ is still crying because we have no time for him. Christ is still crying because "politically correct European leaders are welcoming culturally-foreigner Muslims including terrorists and extremists only to win larger supporters to their sellout policies. Once established in their new areas  Islamic terrorists are able to shoot their culturally-different hosts to eventually make Sharia the law of the land that had been founded on  Christian values.
We can still hope that priests and Christian scholars will help us as Fr. Youhanna Hanna, Fr. Michel Chalhoub, and Fr. Ibrahim El-Haddad do...

Friday, June 16, 2017

Love

Everyone of us on Earth is connected to the others, as Pope Francis recently said based on scientific findings. It is most important because psychologically none of us is totally free, but always in need of "the other". Except for great saints and mystics such as the Blessed Virgin Mary Immaculate Mother of God, Saint Rita of Cascia, Saint Thérèse of Lisieux, and Saint Teresa of Avila, it is hard to find  any human creature that knows what love is.  Saint Teresa of Avila was a mystic who could talk to God; Saint Thérèse of Lisieux  is the greatest saint in modern times; Saint Rita of Cascia has her body intact among the incorruptible in Church history. How about the Blessed Virgin Mary? The pastor of Jesus the King, Fr. Ibrahim El-Haddad, BSO, beautifully prayed Hail Mary last night at the end of the meeting of the Knights of Columbus Council while Fr. Prof. Georges Farah described the Virgin Mary in linguistic terms "Batoul" from the Hebrew "Beit Il" or "Beit Elohim" i.e. the house of God. In her complete dedication to God, the Virgin Mary became the house of God! In fact, Beit Il was the name of the town in Canaan where Abraham first established his tent. It is also the symbol that Jacob used on escaping from Esau his rival twin brother to identify the stone that he slept on after his fight at night with the angel of God (Genesis 25). Rivalry has been studied in details by the famed René Girard thus concluded in his theory of mimetic rivalry and the scapegoat, that world religions in their sacred texts, whether ancient or more recent, were, in a way, myths in their stand against the victim scapegoat except that the Gospels narrate the opposite stand of God's love where the scripture writers witness to the innocence of the scapegoat Jesus of Nazareth in his crucifixion and death, powerfully shown in his resurrection. The readings told the truth that Girard finally came to believe in spite of widespread criticism of the Christian faith in the 20th, and 21st centuries. The reader may wish to read him here:
http://www.firstthings.com/article/1996/04/are-the-gospels-mythical
But the basic idea can be simply stated: If hatred does not benefit anyone, then mimetic rivalry increases the tendency for selfish desire! And selfish desire can lead the person to the angry god of hell!
When Girard passed away in November 2015, the highly-popular Bishop Robert Barron wrote about the philosopher Girard, possibly a "Church Father", here: http://www.wordonfire.org/resources/article/ren-girard-church-father/4982

Today's civilization in the West developed from Christian roots and made its way in baptizing the barbarian tribes that conquered the Roman empire thus reinvigorating a new empire which flourished notably with the Renaissance since Charlemagne in the 9th century. The Church developed and expanded since it received gifts from emperors and kings which were used in building centers for learning  and churches. Pope Innocent III had a vision upon which he accepted the order of the Franciscans. Saint Francis of Assisi was particularly a humanist Christian who talked to the animals and birds and went all the way preaching to Muslims in Egypt. The Dominicans and Benedictines had already built their reputation around reform of the papacy to be less aristocratic and invested their resources in learning. In the 16th century, the Jesuits increased the demand for new members to be well educated when graduating with a focus on science. Missionaries continue in Africa, East Asia, and the Middle East. We note here that the Catholic Church accommodated its missionary work to the tune of the times.

Suddenly we discover from the above that we are, one way or the other, connected in history. According to Positive Psychology pioneered by Prof. Martin Seligman at the University of Pennsylvania, each one of us today can be happy if he treats the other with love, because each one needs to be loved. Love needs love.  Even in our social life, a child needs the love from his parents in order to grow up in a healthy way; a woman needs her husband's love and faithfulness to the end in order for her to trust him and the same with a wife to be considered trustworthy. Procreation is an act of love in which the parents participate with God to beget life. Well-behaved children are an investment in society whose consciences mature if they follow the demands of the New Testament. These demands have been met by over 5,000 saints including the Angelic Doctor who was the first professor to explore nature i.e. St. Thomas Aquinas  (taught at St. Thomas University by Basilian Fr. Prof. Daniel Callam, CSB  among others) and many before and after him including St. Basil the Great, St. Francis of Assisi, St. Charbel Makhlouf, and Saint Gianna Beretta Molla in the 20th century. 

Today Thursday June 15, 2017 the Melkite Catholic Church celebrates the solemnity of the Divine Body of Christ also known as Corpus Christi. Last Sunday June 11, 2017, the Melkite Catholic Church celebrated the solemnity of All Saints. But on the same day I attended the Mass with many including Msgr. Prof. Robert Nusca, pastor of Holy Rosary who is a Biblical scholar like Msgr. Prof. Paul Feghali in Lebanon.  On Sunday the Roman Catholic Church celebrated universally the solemnity of the Trinity. In his homily on Sunday at Holy Rosary, Fr. Prof. Daniel Callam gave an impressive homily on the development of the Nicene Creed that recognized the equality of the Son and the Father "Consubstantial". It will take a separate article to discuss what Fr. Callam explained about the Ecumenical Council in the year 325 AD at the city of Nicaea. At almost the same time, the Jesuit scholar Fr. Henri Boulad, S.J. as usual penetrated the minds of his listeners with a parable that he made (watch the homily here in French: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yMDCTBuJ3BE). Fr. Boulad (whose priority in his mission is to help the needy) spoke about a very rich person who could not find anyone else to communicate with - a solitary person that enriches himself without attention to anyone else. This would be the story of God if he were alone from eternity ! Fr. Boulad had a little discussion with a Muslim teacher. For Islam, God is one and solitary (A good reference on the interfaith dialogue with Islamic scholars is our friend Fr. Prof. Samir Khalil Samir, S.J.) But how do we read in Genesis that when God saw Adam alone, he created a woman for him to have love in the image and likeness of the Trinity?  If  heaven is love and communion then living a solitary life upon oneself is hell. How is it that the cosmos contains such diversity of creatures created by the same God?  It is an indicator of the generosity of God. This was a powerful homily as it opened the possibilities and connections which Pope Francis spoke about. God is not vicious.  God is love (1 John 4:  7-12). 
The above reminds me by the words "Love is strong as death" (Song of Songs) written by the brilliant mind of Prof. Joseph Ratzinger  who became Pope Benedict XVI. He had written this magnificent essay in his book "Introduction to Christianity" (You may wish to read "Joseph Ratzinger: The Truth of the Resurrection" here: http://todayquestions.blogspot.ca/2012/04/joseph-ratzinger-truth-of-resurrection.html).

If one follows the two great commandments: (Love God with all your heart); and (Love your neighbor as yourself), he will discover the two dimensions of love - the "vertical" to heaven and the "horizontal" to the other in humanity. But this is only to tell us that God loves everyone since he created everyone out of love; and that if one wants to enjoy life, he needs to love the persons next to him especially those who need him most (see Positive Psychology which is not a religion). Love needs love!

And after all, what is life without love?  I thank God and those who prayed or suffered with me in my long health problems as I had lectured on them a year after my stroke ("A Living Miracle" here: http://todayquestions.blogspot.ca/2008/07/living-miracle.html)
I also thank God for accepting my mother's vow through the intercession of St. George thereby I was given the name of the saint (see  "The Hero Saint George" here http://todayquestions.blogspot.ca/2017/04/the-hero-saint-george.html)

This is the month of the sacred heart of Jesus. Love stems from his heart. Let us sing to him:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wr1rAv_XOWk

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Priceless

Why are we worried? Yes. terrorism has increased and killed many innocents; threats of nuclear weapons that radicals in North Korea and the U.S. Administration have not diminished; the globe seems to be on an edge for us ordinary people. However, we need to voice our concerns to the Church and not be alarmed by divisions...
If God is the limitless being, then everyone and everything else is limited. In the Christian faith, the power of the limitless God is his eternal love. "Beloved, let us love one another because love is of God; everyone who loves is begotten by God and knows God. Whoever is without love does not know God for God is love." writes St. John the Apostle (1 John 4: 7-8). This love is that of Father to Son and Son to Father in the binding powerful love of the Holy Spirit. This is at least what was confirmed by the Jesuit scholar Fr. Henri Boulad at his lecture in the Holy Family Coptic Catholic parish in Toronto, 2002 (see http://todayquestions.blogspot.ca/2008/06/trinity-divine-communion-of-love.html.)
It is Pentecost Sunday tomorrow June 4, 2017 or the Feast of the Holy Spirit. When Archbishop Joseph-Jules Zerey visited Jesus the King Melkite Catholic parish in 2016, he encouraged Christians to pray to the Holy Spirit. In our ordinary life, it is the Holy Spirit who works in our hearts to bind ourselves to others and reconcile with everyone regardless of whether they are Christian or not. He is the promise of Christ to the Apostles and their followers, as written in John 14: "If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you always, the Spirit of truth, which the world cannot accept, because it neither sees nor knows it. But you know it, because it remains with you and will be in you." (John 14: 15-17).
You are priceless in God's eyes, because he loves everyone...God desires that he gives heaven to the little sheep that follows him. St. Luke writes Jesus' words "Do not be afraid any longer little flock for your Father is pleased to give you the kingdom." (Luke 12: 32). Talking about the great shepherd, Christ said "I am the gate. Whoever enters through me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture. A thief comes only to steal and slaughter and destroy; I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly. I am the good shepherd. A good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep." (John 10: 9-11).
But here is the revolution set by Christ. It is not only what he said but also what he did. In Israel where the Jews had quarrels with the Samaritans, Jesus walked all the way to Sychar in order to heal the lost Samaritan and bring the Samaritans back to the truth (John 4: 4-42) and walked to the region of Tyre and Sidon in order to heal the begging Canaanite's daughter and get them in the fold (Matthew 15: 21-28). His healing of others had the character of self-giving; and on the cross he forgave those who crucified him (Luke 23: 34).
If God is that man who, by the power of his Spirit, was born of the Immaculate Virgin Mary because he wants to be with us, we have hope. Our hope is that in God's eyes everyone is priceless.

Monday, May 22, 2017

What Made Rita of Cascia a Saint?


Today May 22, we remember Saint Rita; a great saint born in 1381, faithful wife, tender mother, and the one we ask her assistance and prayers for impossible cases. May the Lord bestow his healing on so many sick people both physically and spiritually through her intercession, and may He bless all especially those that carry her name.
The question what made Rita a saint is quite asked today since many young adults are without jobs in their careers or even in their interest, which could lead them to disappointment, failure and possibly suicide. Sick people are hardly able to find good care whether in medical clinics or in hospitals. The media talk mostly about bad news and bad relations even though the Internet should have brought more people together. On the social level, the family is under attack especially in the advanced West with sexual promiscuity, legalized abortion, and legal recognition of same-sex marriage created by radical feminism , Economically the poor are getting poorer while the very few rich are getting much richer. This is the reverse of how Rita as a person lived.
Since early age Rita dreamed of becoming a religious nun, but her parents got her married to a man who subsequently became notoriously violent and unfaithful. She accepted her parent's decision, endured her husband's insults and infidelity, and prayed for her husband to change his way of life bringing him at the end to repentance. With the above, she was able to raise her two twin kids in a Christian atmosphere. Her husband was dealing with a sort of mafia when he was murdered in a vendetta. Rita publicly forgave his murderers but her sons wanted to avenge the brutal murder of their father. As she prayed for them, they both died of dysentery a natural death a year later before they could accomplish their vengeful act.
After the death of her husband and children, Rita desired to join the monastery of St.Mary Magdalene in Cascia but fearful of being associated with Rita due to the scandal of her husband's violent death, the nuns refused unless she could obtain a reconciliation between the hostile parties in Cascia. With prayers Rita was able to resolve the conflicts between the families and at the age of thirty-six was allowed to enter the convent where she excelled at living the Augustinian Rule of care. She was seen levitating while in prayer as she asked Christ to give her a share in his passions. So close to Christ was this woman that her request was answered as thorn on her forehead. She died from tuberculosis on May 22, 1457. Miracles attributed to her intercession caused her beatification by Pope Urban VIII in 1626. She was canonized by Pope Leo III on 24, 1900. On the 100th anniversary of her canonization in 2000, St. John Paul II noted her remarkable qualities as a Christian woman. "Rita interpreted well the 'feminine genius' by living it intensely in both physical and spiritual motherhood" said the holy Pope. St. Rita has acquired the universal reputation, together with St. Jude,  as a saint of impossible cases. Her body remains incorrupted and is preserved intact in a shrine in Cascia. How much we really need her today. She carried the cross and followed Christ. Can we imitate her?

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Lessons from Pope Francis

Since Pope Francis last week made major pronouncements, an article about lessons that one can learn from him would be too large to fit in this space. We will therefore discuss only a few lessons this time and leave others to another time shortly.

Pope Francis is the first Jesuit Pope. His many years of experience do not necessarily prevent critiques from voicing their objections to some of his policies. But we can be sure that he follows the dictum of the first Jesuit, St. Ignatius Loyola, "Finding God in everything!"

Lesson One:

In his TED Talk, titled "The Future You"and released April 25 only three days before his visit to Egypt, the Holy Father uncovers a number of facts that he wishes his listeners would realize. I had sent it with a transcript to my readers, but you may still wish to listen to the address here:
https://www.ted.com/talks/pope_francis_why_the_only_future_worth_building_includes_everyone OR read the transcript here:
https://www.ted.com/talks/pope_francis_why_the_only_future_worth_building_includes_everyone/transcript?language=en#t-1060153

Remarkable statements by the pope:
1. "The future is made of encounters...Life is about interactions...We all need each other...None of us is an island, an autonomous and independent 'I' separated from the other, and we can only build the future by standing together including everyone."*
2. "Even science points to an understanding of reality as a place where every element connects and interacts with everything else."**
3. "How wonderful would it be, while we discover faraway planets, to rediscover the needs of the brothers and sisters orbiting around us! How wonderful would it be if solidarity were not simply reduced to social work and became, instead, the default attitude in political, economic and scientific choices, as well as in the relationships among individuals, peoples, and countries. Only by educating people to a true solidarity will we be able to overcome the 'culture of waste,' which does not concern only food and goods, but first and foremost, the people who are cast aside by our techno-economic systems which, without even realizing it, are now putting products at their core, instead of people."
4. "Good intentions and conventional formulas, so often used to appease our conscience, are not enough. Let us help each other, all together, to remember that the other is not a statistic or a number. The other has a face. The 'you' is always a real presence, a person to take care of."
5. Remembering the Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10: 25-37), Pope Francis follows the Master, Christ, in answering the lawyer's question: Who is my neighbor? "The story of the Good Samaritan is the story of today's humanity" Francis says. "People's paths are riddled with suffering, as everything is centered around money and things instead of people."He believes that there is "a habit by people who call themselves 'respectable' of not taking care of the others thus leaving behind thousands of people...on the side of the road" but there are those who are taking care of the other even out of their own pocket ...Saint Mother Teresa of Calcutta actually said 'One cannot love unless it is at their own expense'. "Now you might tell me 'I am not the Good Samaritan nor Mother Teresa of Calcutta'. On the contrary we are precious...Each and everyone of us is irreplaceable in the eyes of God. Through the darkness of today's conflicts, each and everyone of us can become a bright candle, a reminder that light will overcome darkness and never the other way around."***
6. He leaves his "bomb" to the end "The more powerful you are the more your actions will impact people, and the more responsible you are to act humbly - Power (for oneself) is like drinking on an empty stomach - you are too drunk, you feel dizzy, you lose your balance and you end up hurting yourself and those around you if you do not connect your power with humility and tenderness. Through humility and concrete love, on the other hand, power - the highest and strongest one - becomes a service, a force for good."

Notes:
* Relatedness and love lead to the resurrection  - This is what the sharply-brilliant Professor Joseph Ratzinger (later Pope Benedict XVI) wrote in his book "Introduction to Christianity" (see http://todayquestions.blogspot.ca/2012/04/joseph-ratzinger-truth-of-resurrection.html). But as I wrote in my essay titled "Quantum Synthesis" the cosmos and all its matter (including humans) influence, or are related to, each other. It is the result of Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle based on probable existence in quantum space. Furthermore Dr. John Polkinghorne, whose work is mentioned in the same essay, concludes that quantum theory shows that "the physical world looks more and more like a universe that would be the fitting creation of the trinitarian God whose deepest reality is relational." Cf. Polkinghorne, J. "Quantum Physics and Theology; An Unexpected Kinship", 2008, Published by Yale University (see http://todayquestions.blogspot.ca/2013/10/the-quantum-sign-of-life.html).

Why would Pope Francis care about the above? Obviously the pope hopes that technology can be used to get people together, pray together, and chat in good manners. One space where computers can be useful is education. Computers are already helping students in select schools to solve their homework problems without cheating or being overburden with requirements. A particular focus is on assisting Christians and non-Christians in religious education especially where religion is used to contaminate society with hatred for others, where Christians are persecuted in their own countries, or where they have been the original inhabitants (e.g. some Islamic countries in the Middle East).

Quantum computers under development by Google and NASA have been demonstrated in 2015 (see http://www.popularmechanics.com/technology/gadgets/a18475/google-nasa-d-wave-quantum-computer/). In November 2015, a TED Talk given by Professor Leo Kouwenhoven at the University of Delft in Holland shows quite a few good applications in which the quantum computer can be used to help the needs of today's society - It is obvious that nature uses the same natural processes in human bodies (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aUuaWVHhx-U). Motivated by profits, big companies such as IBM and Microsoft are competing with the above companies with the result of hopefully getting an earlier supercomputer. The question then becomes a matter of pricing and market demand since we live in a capitalist global economy.

** Pope Francis invites us to learn by imitating those who take care of others like the children who imitate their parents. The first eyes the infant sees are his mother's caring eyes. The infant is nourished from her breast. The infant grows in love of his mom and his dad because they loved him first. This is a psychological insight by the Holy Father that permits us to see how the human race lives. Love begets life. God also promises life "Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will never forget you" (Isaiah 49: 15). But more than the above insight, he makes it clear that proper communication for life requires "tenderness" that the parent goes down to the level of the child to understand what he needs and fulfill his needs. In the same way God came down in Jesus to our human level in order to fulfill our needs - eternal needs of joy and life. Imitation or mimesis has been rediscovered by René Girard. When he passed away, the popular Bishop Prof. Robert Barron wrote about Girard's influence on understanding Christ's death and resurrection today. See "René Girard, Church Father" here: https://www.wordonfire.org/resources/article/ren-girard-church-father/4982/ 

*** Love requires sacrifice as Christ sacrificed himself for the salvation of the world. The Pope gives a number of examples including Saint Mother Teresa of Calcutta and the Parable of the Good Samaritan. He also shows the grain of yeast that dies in the ground to become a tree - In the same way it was necessary for Christ to die in order to restore humanity to the Father through the Church. 

Lesson Two:

One of Pope Francis' last messages in Cairo was given in the Mass that he concelebrated with the Coptic Catholic Patriarch Ibrahim Isaac Sidrak in the Air-Defense Stadium in Cairo.
The full text of Pope Francis' homily, heard by Christians and Muslims in Egypt, and sent to the media across the world can be found here https://zenit.org/articles/popes-homily-at-air-defense-stadium-in-cairo-egypt-full-text/
What True Faith has the Power to do: Nothing is impossible for God!

Based on the Gospel reading (Luke 24: 13-35), two of Jesus' disciples were going to Emmaus and were conversing about Jesus. Jesus was walking besides them but their eyes were prevented from recognizing him. Seeing them in a state of despair, Jesus asked why? They answered that Jesus of Nazareth who "was a prophet mighty in deed and word" was crucified to death by their chief priests and rulers - but they "were hoping that he would be the one to redeem Israel; and besides all this it is now the third day since it took place".Some women of the group, however, astounded them that they were at the tomb early in the morning and did not find his body."  Jesus replied "Oh, how foolish you are!... Was not it necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter in his glory." So, he interpreted to them what referred to him in all the scriptures. As the day was almost over, they invited him to stay with them.When he said the blessings, broke the bread, and gave it to them their eyes were opened and they recognized him but he vanished from their sight! It was a surprise which prompted them to quickly return to Jerusalem where they found the eleven saying the Lord has truly risen and has appeared to Simon...

Remarkable statements by the pope:
1. "The two disciples are returning full of despair ...The Master is dead and thus it is pointless to hope...The cross of Christ was the cross of their own ideas about God; the death of Christ was the death of what they thought God to be. But in fact it was they who were dead buried in the tomb of their limited understanding."*
2. "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."**
3. "The Church needs to know and believe that Jesus lives within her and gives her life in the Eucharist, the scriptures, and the sacraments. The disciples on the way to Emmaus realized this and returned to Jerusalem in order to share their experience with the others. 'We have seen the Risen One...Yes, he is truly risen!' (Luke 24: 32)"***

Notes
* Fr. Prof. Georges Farah commented on the tomb or rock in which Christ was buried. He called it "the cave of Plato" in the Greek philosopher's Republic. The inmate of the cave is imprisoned and is blind because he cannot see. According to Fr. Farah, we too are imprisoned in our own darkness and fantasies but Christ rose to give life to those who believe and act on their faith.

** Here Pope Francis probably refers to ideologies that do not recognize God's suffering love. The power of God is love.

*** Here Pope Francis boldly tells his listeners that the Church continues to be nourished by the Eucharist as a sign of full unity in Christ. The celebration of the Eucharist is a joy because of the Real Presence of Christ.

Coptic Christians teach us lessons marked by their martyrs blood over many centuries - The Church in Egypt was founded by St. Mark and one of the strongest defenders of faith was St. Athanasius whom the Church remembers on May 2 (see an article by Archbishop Charles Chaput in "First Things" here: https://www.firstthings.com/web-exclusives/2017/05/the-land-of-athanasius-and-its-lessons).

Finally:
What courage does this pope have! What astronomical hopes take him to places everywhere! How is he able to attract such crowds! Did he really attract the outcast and marginalized to the Church or did he go them? A question that can be answered only by history.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

The Hero Saint George

Saint George is a great hero whose feast "St. George's Day" is April 23. According to the Oxford Dictionary of Saints, George suffered at Lydda in Palestine and died a martyr for Christ around 303 AD where his tomb was shown. Some historians believe that George was born to a Christian officer who was a friend of Diocletian the Roman Emperor. When Diocletian turned against Christians and started his persecution, George was one of the Christian soldiers who refused to worship the Roman god but because of his father's friendship with Diocletian, George was given a second chance to convert to the Pagan Roman religion. As George insisted on worshiping Christ, he was decapitated, suffered, and ended a martyr. St. George's cult is both ancient and widespread with feasts in the East where he was called 'megalomartyros' and in the West where he occurs in the Martyrology of Jerome and the Gregorian Sacramentary. Churches were dedicated to him in Jerusalem and Antioch in the 6th century and from early times invoked as a patron of the Byzantine armies. Britannica Encyclopedia, which is not religious, has an article about St. George where it is written "George was known in England by at least the 8th century. Returning crusades likely popularized his cult (he was said to have been helping the Franks at the Battle of Antioch in 1098)" [Cf. George, Saint. Encyclopaedia Britannica. Retrieved April 21, 2017, from Encyclopaedia Britannica 2006 Ultimate]. Other online sources abound with information about Saint George. Read it for example here. In Renaissance, artistic works flourished around building and renovating churches - One legend shows St. George, a knight on his white horse, defending the Church against Satan.The popularity of St. George continues to amaze people of every faith. Muslims venerate him under the name Al-Khidr. Churches, States and cities have been named after him in many places from the Republic of Georgia in the East to the State of Georgia in America. St. George is highly venerated in Palestine, Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan, Greece, Italy, France, England, and others. In Egypt alone, there are more Churches dedicated to St. George than any other saint except the Blessed Virgin Mary. In a few of old churches such as "Mar Guirguis" Coptic Orthodox Church in Old Cairo, people attend a retreat on St. George's Day where it is believed that St. George comes at night and heals persons afflicted with Satanic possessions.

For me, St. George's intercession sought by my mother - of venerable memory - is, at least partially, the reason why she conceived, and gave birth to, me. Our grandmother, my mother's mother, told us the story: My mother was having her first pregnancy. Scared that it was hard she implored Saint George and made a vow that her first son will be called George. On the other hand my pious dad - of venerable memory - so much loved his mother and father that he wanted to name his first son by the name of his dad 'Shaker'. God, in his abundant love to both, created two persons or a twin in the same womb. But wait! On delivery my mother was so tired that my dad had to call the doctors home. At home Dr. Zakhary performed a cesarean surgery and started to close the womb. This is when his assistant Dr. Leon told him that he sees somebody else in the corner. At this point I was delivered to my beloved mom. And from there started another big responsibility for the parents of both Shaker and George who called me joujou - the nickname in Lebanon for George!

Today some young friends joke with me so I tell them: You must first call me joujou!!!

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Ibrahim El-Haddad: Light from the Depth of Death !

Note: Words in blue color are useful links for background.

I have accumulated so much in the past week of the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ...On Holy Thursday at Holy Rosary Roman Catholic parish in Toronto, Msgr. Robert Nusca, gave a homily on Christ's serving his Apostles, washing their feet, and exhorting them to serve each other as he, the Master, bowed to serve them - because "he loved his own in the world and he loved them to the end" (John 13;1). Msgr. Nusca emphasized how important it is for us today to serve the needy and pointed to the programs that the parish runs including "Out of the Cold" and helping St. Vincent de Paul Society as well as other social programs for the lonely and elderly people.

On Good Friday at the Byzantine Cathedral of the Transfiguration in Toronto, I prayed with the Melkite Catholic parishioners of Jesus the King and others as the distinguished  Homsy Choir sang the hymns of the burial of the Crucified Jesus Christ in anticipation of his Resurrection, Echoing earlier words of the Holy Father Francis, Fr. Ibrahim El-Haddad reminded the congregation of Jesus' saying (John 12: 24) that if a grain of wheat dies in the depth of the earth, it produces much fruit. The death of Jesus was necessary to release the Church to all nations and restore heaven to all of them. The victorious Christ is the light from the darkness that enlightens all nations...

Fr. Georges Farah (with a doctorate in philosophy and another in theology from the renowned Sorbonne) shared with me an article by Robert Kennedy Jr. in which he shows that the leading nations of the U.N. and regional powers are fighting against or with ISIS for control of oil resources and pipelines in the Middle East (see it here). If every one of the above nations fights militarily for its own prosperity at the expense of other people, there will be a huge price paid by humanity. And I remembered the homily of Palm Sunday by Msgr. Samuel Bianco (here). The leaders of the U.N. may be hiding things or manipulating other nations. The independence of each nation is good as long as it does not infringe on other nations rights to survive and flourish. But the latest news that we hear involve military confrontations and/or economic sanctions from/against America, Russia, China, European countries, and North Korea...The human globe continues to live in suspense...

In spite of the above,  I remembered that the Gospel reading started with the Word "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God" (John 1: 1). Professor Msgr. Paul Feghali interpreted it as the cornerstone of Christian  faith. It is great that the Fathers of the Church chose it for the Resurrection since this elevates it to the highest veneration.

And two homilies give me hope: In the mid-night Mass of Easter at the Cathedral of the Transfiguration, Fr. Ibrahim El-Haddad showed us that true joy is not in the food and gifts that we prepare for feasting, but is in the risen Christ who brings us eternal life in heaven. What is the value of freedom if at the end we are dead? he questioned. And answered "When Christ is revealed - and he is your life - you too will be revealed in your glory with him" (Colossians 3:4) and again "For us, our homeland is in heaven, and from, heaven comes the Saviour we are awaiting for; the Lord Jesus Christ; and he will transfigure these wretched bodies of ours into copies of his glorious body" (Philippians3:20-21).

And in Alexandria, Egypt, the Jesuit scholar Fr. Henri Boulad went further in his homily on Easter Sunday (see it here in French). Each of us creatures has life but Jesus IS LIFE - Life of everything living in the cosmos since he is the origin. Then when he died and crossed death he resurrected to eternal life! What do I benefit from his Resurrection? Christ opens eternal life to us. He had to die like the little grain that dies deep in the ground to be fruitful in order to open life for those who seek it. The word "Pasche" means "passage". God saved Moses and his people when they crossed the Red Sea symbol of death to the Promised Land. Jesus saves us when he leads us to eternal life. Christ has risen from the dead and by his death he has trampled upon death and has given life to those who were in the tombs (Byzantine chant)! In Teilhard de Chardin, the risen Christ is the Cosmic Christ. The whole cosmos is restored to the Father in the risen Christ. Christ is victorious because love - his love - must be victorious!

And above all, the Christian East and the Christian West celebrated the Resurrection of Christ together in 2017. We hope this is a new step in the ecumenical dialogue for Christians to be one in one universal Church!

Thursday, April 13, 2017

How Large is the Mercy of God ?

On Palm Sunday April 9, at the 9:30 am Mass in Holy Rosary I listened to Msgr. Samuel Bianco's homily on the betrayal of Christ by Judas Iscariot - (Msgr. Bianco was the Rector of St. Michael's Cathedral Basilica downtown Toronto for many years).  In the Roman Catholic calendar, the Last Supper and Judas' betrayal to the crucifixion of Christ are read in the Palm Sunday Mass. See Matthew 26:14-75 (http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/bible/matthew/26:14).

Who betrayed the Lord ? In Msgr. Bianco's homily, humanity betrayed the Lord throughout history from Adam and Eve to the latest born child. Yet, God in his outpouring love, a Father, could not leave humans excluded from him in the darkness of evil. Was it not enough that the Lord God took on human body, shared the misery of humanity and was after all crucified by his people as a criminal in order to save us ? The betrayal of the Lord took place in the same day of Palm Sunday when two Coptic Orthodox parishes in Egypt were set on fire by evil acts  which resulted in over a 100 injured persons and some 40 persons killed. They were Christians celebrating Palm Sunday Mass in the parishes.

Today, Msgr. Bianco said, leaders of members in the United Nations know what evil betrays the men of their countries. Yet they are silent or encouraging radical extremism. Confusion reigns over citizens of the globe. Lethal weapons are being developed with no mercy for the poor who are struggling to earn their daily bread...How did society become a desert of selfish strangers? In spite of all the horrors where we betray God, he continues to love his children - all of them.

Msgr. Bianco continues: When Pope Benedict was asked how we know sinners are in hell, the pope answered that the Church in her long history has recognized thousands of saints in heaven but has not officially declared anyone in hell. God only knows our fragile weakness.

In commenting on the Parable of the Lost Son, Fr. Georges Farah had said that the father was looking for his son since he left home to a far country. When he saw his son, he ran in his old age and forgot his dignity to kiss him "for he was lost and has been found"(Luke 15:32). Jesus teaches us about the merciful Father in heaven.

So how large is the mercy of God? Msgr. Bianco says "Look at the horizon of the sea. Can you can see the end ? The mercy of God is greater than we can imagine."

Friday, April 7, 2017

Not Death but Life

In spite of the terror over Syria by the powerful military exercises of the American forces and the Russian forces, we have hope in God that with his inspiration wisdom will prevail.

In the past few days and weeks I witnessed God's work in a few persons that I know. One dear friend, a doctor in Cairo, watched her Mami or mom in pain and nearing death. Her mother was a friend of mine since both were young in Egypt. She is Catholic so I advised her to call a Catholic priest in order to give her mom the Sacrament for the sick. Regardless of the advances in medicine, people still die. Every Catholic Christian (and for that matter, any Orthodox Christian by his priest) is advised to receive the Sacrament for the sick if he/she is in danger or is about to undergo a serious surgery. The practice is based on the Epistle of James Chapter 5, verses 14 and 15 (here). After receiving the Sacrament, her mom departed to God in peace and her daughter informed us. We continue to be close friends "I will never forsake you nor abandon you" (Hebrews 13: 5f).

This past week, I witnessed a homily on happiness or joy summarized in Christ's Beatitudes and found at the beginning of Chapter 5 of the Gospel according to St. Matthew. The homily was given in Arabic by the Biblical scholar Msgr. Paul Feghali, Friday March 31 (See my reflection on it here and here in English). I also witnessed acts of love that lead to heaven on Saturday April 1 and Sunday April 2 and would like to share a 4th personal event that made me happy. It was as if what Msgr. Feghali taught on Friday at the Byzantine Cathedral of the Transfiguration materialized in the next few days!!!

On Saturday April 1, the mother of a close friend at Jesus the King Melkite Catholic parish was prayed over after she had departed to God. Her daughter and grand-daughters visibly exhausted by the pain of separation still found a space to smile which is rare today. The funeral service was conducted by Fr. Ibrahim El-Haddad and his Assistant Pastors Fr. Michel Chalhoub and Fr. Youhanna Hanna. Hymns were sung by the Homsy choir, thus reflecting the polyphony they excel at. But the main surprise was the place where the funeral took place. The mother had lived most of her life in Egypt and served as a teacher to many Egyptian students. Her daughter too educated in Egypt has a Coptic Orthodox dad who had departed to God years earlier. Upon inquiry by friends, Coptic Orthodox Fr. Pishoy Salama opened St. Maurice and St. Verena parish for the Melkite Catholic priests and faithful to pray the funeral services. At the end I thanked Fr. Pishoy for his fraternal and ecumenical initiative emphasizing the Church built on the Apostles. He answered "We are one (in Christ)". His answer is typical of what the Catholic Church recognized too since Pope St. John XXIII initiated the Second Vatican Council which produced Nostra AetateThe suffering endured in recent years by the mother and her only daughter as well as her family has become a crown in selfless love. And selfless love is the way to real glory in heaven. How has the daughter with the help of her husband been able to raise three kids and care for her ailing mother? Managing the family became possible after she earned the title of a Professional Pharmacist; a field in which she has many years of experience and knowledge. With the money raised from their work, the family bought a pharmacy. Hard work helps us survive, but it is God's Spirit who works in the heart that moves us to repent and help his Church from the heart.

On Sunday April 2, we attended the 9:30 AM Mass at Holy Rosary Roman Catholic parish. In the Mass Professor Msgr. Robert Nusca gave the First Communion or the Eucharist to children prepared through catechism. And Msgr. Nusca praised a lady who ran the catechism classes for the kids. She  is on the Parish Council but works much more for the Church although as a Professional Lawyer and a Partner in a large law firm, she is quite busy all week. He also clapped with the rest of the attendees when near the end, the children sang as hymn in honor of Jesus whom they received. When I congratulated her for the achievement, she denied her role and thanked the parents who brought their kids to the catechism classes. Yes, they deserve to be congratulated but this lawyer went out of her way to teach others as well as coordinating conferences in the parish. Congratulations to Christians for this lady and the parents.

I left the last event to the end - On Monday April 3, I was seen by my family doctor who happens to be a Catholic missionary. I did not think he will approve of what I suggested, but he did approve of every medication that was withdrawn when I was hospitalized to be continued. This was for me a great day. Thanks be to God...

More on The Word

In addition to what was written here, Professor Msgr. Paul Feghali spoke too about Christ's warnings in the Sermon on doing good in order to be seen and gives three examples (found in Matthew Chapter 6 ): Almsgiving, Prayer, and Fasting...

However, says Msgr. Feghali, the overarching principle found also in the Sermon is that God is our Father. Judaism influenced by other religions looked to God in a slave-morality. In the Roman empire as much as in others, slaves were bought and sold. The Jews experienced slavery in Egypt until their liberation by Moses who introduced the Law made perfect by Christ. Moses himself could not see God in the bush. Yet in Christ we see God. Christ said to his disciples "I no longer call you slaves because a slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends because I have told you everything that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you" (John 15: 15). The only prayer that Christ taught his disciples starts with "Our Father" (See Matthew Chapter 6 ). If God is a Father then as children of God, we can ask him anything. In her prayer as a child to the Father, St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus asked for everything. And before her death she promised that she will send a shower of flowers/favors from heaven our way.

On fasting, Msgr. Feghali spoke about Jesus' description of the heart and eye. "The heart is the center of life - The Greek's philosophy used the mind but in the East we use the heart" he said "because from the heart come the good and bad utterances about others".  When Jesus spoke about light he identified the eye: "The lamp of the body is the eye. If your eye is sound, your whole body will be filled with light, but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be in darkness. And if the light in you is darkness, how great will the darkness be." (Matthew 6: 22-23) Here Msgr.  Feghali connects the light to Christ's Sermon and exhorts the Christian faithful to become what Christ says "You are the light of the world. A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden...Just so your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father" (Matthew 5: 14-16). Note here again the emphasis on God as Father!

In the Sermon too Christ goes beyond the neighbor and calls on all to "love your enemies". He contrasts the Law with his new Law: "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" (Matthew 5: 43-44). As a Jew he himself went to his traditional enemy when he entered Sikhar of Samaria and talked with the Samaritan woman. He also healed the daughter of the Canaanite woman when she asked him although the Canaanites worship Baal (pagan idol) and, on the cross, forgave the people who crucified him to death, and justified his followers by his Resurrection from the dead. You may wish to re-read the entire Sermon. In the end of Chapter 5, he sums it up "So be perfect just as your heavenly Father is perfect" (Matthew 5: 48).

Amazingly, Matthew inspired by the holy Spirit writes at the end of the Sermon in Chapter 7 "When Jesus finished these words, the crowds were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as their scribes."


Wednesday, April 5, 2017

The Word

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God" (John 1: 1). This is the cornerstone of the Church's faith. It is found too in Matthew 28: 19 "Go therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the holy Spirit." On Friday March 31, 2017 on the invitation of Fr. Ibrahim El-Haddad, ;pastor of Jesus the King Melkite Catholic Church, Msgr. Paul Feghali gave a word on the Word to all attendees of the Akathistos hymns at the Byzantine Cathedral of the Transfiguration. Msgr. Feghali is Professor of theology and philosophy at a number of universities and seminaries in Lebanon. He is a well-known Biblical scholar, with a doctorate in philosophy and another in theology from the renowned Sorbonne University in France, who wrote over 300 books. In his homily, Msgr. Feghali based his word on joy described in Jesus' teaching found in Matthew 5, 6, 7 and particularly in the Beatitudes taught by Jesus in Matthew 5.
The Gospel is integrated with the Old Testament. Remember that the audience of the Sermon on the Mount are Jews - Some likely knew the Psalms by heart.
Msgr. Feghali has often spoken about the 5 homilies found in the Gospel according to St. Matthew: Five is a symbol of holiness - It is the 4 directions East, West, North, and South and in the center is God's holiness from whom every good comes. In Matthew 567 the center of the Law of Christ is found. The Sermon on the Mount: Christ teaches from the Mount, not because the others are lowly but because he brings them closer to the Father. The Gospel is integrated with the Old Testament. Remember that the hearers of the Sermon on the Mount are Jews of the first century - Some likely knew the Psalms by heart.
The Beatitudes:
"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven" - Msgr. Feghali said that in the Old Testament, the poor are those who are without material possessions and whose confidence is in God (See Isaiah 61: 1) but today the word is translated "humble". The kingdom of heaven is theirs because they trust in God their Father. This is how Christians need to be. Unfortunately Christians have become more concerned with their material consumption and forgot about God who never forgets his children "Can a woman forget her nursing child and have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, I will not forget you" (Isaiah 49: 15).
"Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the land" - Msgr. Feghali indicated that Jesus refers to Psalm 37: 11 here but the meaning is not the land of Palestine as in the Psalm but rather the kingdom.
"Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied" - Msgr. Feghali said that righteousness means change of heart and conduct in conformity with God's will.
"Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy" - Msgr. Feghali said mercy comes from God. By our acts towards the needy, we receive from God multiple folds; for God sows seeds of goodness in our hearts - But it is everyone's response to God's gifts that helps him more than the needy (See The Parable of the Sower here).
"Blessed are the clean of heart, for they will see God" - Msgr. Feghali said that only one whose heart is clean can take part in the temple worship. To be with God in the temple is described in Psalm 42:3 (here).  But those who choose to follow Christ will see God face to face in the kingdom.
"Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God" - Msgr. Feghali prayed for those who work for peace rather than violence and destruction.
More was said than I could remember. The above is only a selection from The Word, a TV program in Noursat that Msgr. Feghali often contributes to in Arabic. For one session about whether God is a Father or a Judging God, see:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pvIBucH6fsQ
May the Lord be blessed...

Monday, March 27, 2017

On the Annunciation

On Saturday March 25, the Church celebrated the Annunciation in memory of the incarnation of the Lord God from the Virgin Mary whose acceptance of the archangel Gabriel's salutation ushered salvation of the world (Luke 1:26-38)  as Fr. Ibrahim El-Haddad said in his homily at the Cathedral of the Transfiguration. Although Mary logically questioned Gabriel at the beginning "How can this be since I have no relation with a man?" Gabriel's answer "Nothing is impossible for God" was sufficient for the virgin woman who loved God since her early childhood. The idea for all is love for God who loved us before we ever conceived of  words. Creation of each person is an act of love by God to breathe life into every person even when we are fearful of tomorrow...

Every mother who loves her child(ren) and, with her husband, works hard to raise them morally-good persons is indeed a model that replicates the Mother of God in the beauty of her deep love...

The uniqueness of every woman is the way she expresses her joy or sadness through tears. The Virgin Mary rejoiced in God's plan to save humanity. Not only was she filled by the Holy Spirit (whose gift is joy) since her conception, but also in looking at Christ while raising him her tears filled her with joy and cried when her son was crucified with criminal thieves.

Referring to  Genesis 2: 18-25 Fr Henri Boulad, S.J.  had written that "Eve was the perfection of Adam." In the same way a woman properly raised in the beauty of the Virgin Mary will be the perfection of her man or husband. She will help him, work like him, but above all make their family another garden like Eden...

As Venerable Archbishop Fulton Sheen had indicated, we could not worry; for the Virgin Mary Mother of the Church is leading all to her Son, God, and Savior of the world.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Ibrahim Ibrahim: Build the Church

On Friday March 17, in his 2017 Lenten visit to the Toronto Greek Melkite Catholic parish, Most Reverend Bishop Ibrahim Ibrahim prayed the Akathistos hymns (Al Madayeh in Arabic) with the priests and the faithful at the Cathedral of the Transfiguration. And on Sunday March 19, Bishop Ibrahim presided over the noon Mass in which Fr. Ibrahim El-Haddad, Pastor of the parish, and his two assistant priests Fr. Michel Chalhoub and Fr. Youhanna Hanna con-celebrated with a huge crowd that included members of the Knights of Columbus who stood as Honor Guards, and a number of the Slovak Catholic Byzantine family whose head Helen Roman-Barber graciously gave the Cathedral to the Melkite Catholics as a place of worship.
In his homily Bishop Ibrahim reminded everyone of their responsibility to carry the cross as Christ carried it in order to conquer death and evil by his death and restore fallen humanity to the Father by his resurrection. "Do not be afraid of evil. Satan has no power over the Church because he knows that we are God's people in the tasks of building the Church". This was the last commandment by the risen Christ to the Apostles before his ascension to heaven (Matthew 28: 18-20). In the first sacrament we receive (i.e.Baptism) Bishop Ibrahim recalled the Baptismal vows in which we rebuke Satan. In baptism, we are buried with Christ in which we are also raised with him through faith in the power of God who raised him from the dead (Colossians 2: 12).  Since Jesus the King church building had burned in late 2016, it is now up to us the people to erect a Church. Building the Church is more than erecting a building. Caring for the elderly, the sick, and helping the neighbor are essential for those who work in the vineyard of the Lord. We must be generous with God, he said referring to Stephen Roman the billionaire who built the Cathedral that was dedicated by Saint John Paul II in 1984. Bishop Ibrahim said that Stephen Roman wanted to share in the building of the Church and the result was this amazing Byzantine-style, large Cathedral whose beauty could exceed that of Our Lady of Guadalupe Basilica or St. Patrick's Cathedral in North America.
In his words before the consecration of t he bread and wine, Bishop Ibrahim remembered Stephen Roman, those departed of the families, and prayed for the sick, the elderly, the wounded in wars, and the needy because God in his generosity created humanity out of love. "Beloved, let us love one another for love is from God; and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God...God is love" (1 John 4: 7-8).
Christ, the Good Shepherd who elected Bishop Ibrahim, inspired him to tell us the good news: the Bishop who built the first Melkite Catholic Cathedral in Canada said "Do not believe rumours; for I am not here to collect from you, but on the contrary, we can give you a hand as we have almost repaid the mortgage for the Montreal Cathedral - "Rejoice in the Lord" (Philippians 4:4)". He also announced the second year of the Melkite Catholic Youth Conference which successfully connected some 250 young adults in 2016 in Montreal, and will take place more vigorously in Toronto in September 2017.
In a gesture to the crowd, he now connected baptism and the cross to faith and unity:
1. Do not be afraid in your life regardless of the cross which we all carry with Christ if we accept it: When you are baptized you are no longer under Satan's threat; for God, who gives you and me this life, wishes to give us everlasting life.
2. Your task is to help us build the Church of Christ - Our experience of immigration taught us that we belong to no one land but to God above all and therefore we build the Church where we go.
3. In order to carry out any project, you need an active faith in Christ because "faith of itself if it does not have works is dead" (James 2: 17) - "Work out your salvation..." (Philippians 2: 12) in the Church.
4. The Church is always one; for she is the mystical body of Christ...Always be united in the Universal (i.e, Catholic) Church...
Bishop Ibrahim asked God to remember his servants Pope Francis and Patriarch Gregorius in his prayer before the Eucharist is given to the participants. In my own reflection, Bishop Ibrahim M. Ibrahim could not have built the Cathedral and installed new pastors everywhere in Canada if he did not have a great faith in the love of God.
May God be blessed Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Who Will Triumph in the End?

The terrorism events that took place in North America and Europe in the past few weeks and months have left an indelible mark on Christians 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 in Europe and Africa. In his address to Congress on Tuesday February 28, the American President Trump vowed to protect Christians from Islamic terrorism while allying America with Israel and most Muslim countries against Radical Islam. He is also increasing the military capacity of the American military global system in order to defeat any power that challenges the Superpower. It seems that if there is a Third World War, it will be launched in space since America's NASA has been working with Google scientists to deliver quantum computers, the fastest and most efficient in any space war. China too has released information that it is researching the capacity of going to the Moon. Russia, without doubt, has a strong capacity of nuclear weapons in space. Scientists from many countries have been working tirelessly at "The Large Hadron Collider" in Switzerland to find the little sub-particles that constitute the atoms which in turn open the  capacity to more dangerous nuclear  weapons. And North Korea too has launched a number of nuclear missiles. Iran has been trying to create the first Islamic Shiite nuclear power especially since the Obama administration agreed to help their scientists. This is 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. A global political crisis, where the European Union is disintegrating after the British Exit due to an unbalanced welcome of refugees into Europe from the Arab world and North Africa especially by Germany's Angela Merkel who leads the European Union into an economic disaster. Powers from the Far East especially China challenge the Western powers through their "Silk Road" economic entrance in North America, Europe and Africa while the leader of North Korea dares to play with nuclear missiles and challenges the Superpower of America;
3. Israel and radical Muslims are making every effort to escalate the situation in the Middle East to a violent war - The Arab Spring (over 6 years now) supported by the past 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 are now attempting to recreate an Islamic Caliphate which threatens to raise the black flag of Daech/ISIS over the entire free world -  Al-Azhar Muslim University and its Imam in Egypt alone adhere to the same doctrine of ISIS but unjustly claim that Christians and Jews are the ones who cause terrorism;
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 and Western European free-market monopoly;
5. The most influential moral voice in the world, that of Pope Francis, is attempting to be moderate in his exhortations and homilies but demands European governments to open their countries boundaries to the above-mentioned refugees thus unknowingly exposing European countries to the possibility of receiving terrorists among those refugees in the name of compassion. This requires more screening of refugees who land in Europe usually through Greece and Italy. Turkey on the other hand claimed that the European Union failed to repay Turkey for the many refugees it held in order not to cross to Europe.


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 Sudan, Algeria, Libya, Tunisia, Egypt, 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).

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 Europe 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 – Muslims today have their own quarters and villas north of Toronto the industrial capital of Canada, and a Muslim politician is today the Minister of Immigration in the Trudeau Liberal Government of Canada. The Trudeau Government plans to bring some 45,000 refugees (mostly Muslims that may include terrorists) thus exposing Canadians to terrorism. The exception is the new American Conservative administration under Donald Trump that promised to fight radical Islamic terrorism. Add to the above 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 Jean-Paul 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 of the Vienna Club, Derrida, more recently Michel Foucault and many others such as the late atheist author Christopher Hitchens and Harvard's Steven Pinker. 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 a patient in a psychiatric hospital; 1900) who is known by his proclamation of the "the death of God". 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 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. We believe in what the Saviour said 'Behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age' (Matthew 28:20).

Sir Knight George Farahat

Today's Quote

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







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