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, November 17, 2017

Artificial Intelligence


The advances in robotics are related to the advances in quantum computers that work fast and both are related to advances in Artificial Intelligence.
Google uses "Artificial Intelligence" in its search engine. It has also made the driverless car driven by a robot, and (with NASA) created the first quantum computer commercialized this year by D-Wave and ready for purchase by organizations. On November 10, IBM announced an upgrade of its quantum process system, its "20 qubit IBM Q Commercial Quantum Computer." Microsoft is working on its "quantum computer" to be released shortly. Other companies that make driverless cars include Ford, BMW, Audi, General Motors, Volvo, and Toyota.
Artificial Intelligence is also used for marketing of Amazon.com products online...If you buy a book from Amazon.com, the next time you open the Amazon.com page, you will notice that it displays a set of books/items that you would be interested in buying.
Movies that show futuristic-machines usually give the impression that humanity may one day be enslaved to artificially-intelligent computers. The use of such automated systems by military forces is already found in missiles owned/used by current armies in battles. However, the human mind is still in control. International treaties are signed to protect humanity from the calamities of going to war with the threat of using advanced technology as weapons!


Sunday, October 29, 2017

The Quantum Universe!


So many developments have taken place since I last wrote my article "The Quantum Synthesis" in October 2013 about quantum physics...Please read  mine here:
http://todayquestions.blogspot.ca/2013/10/the-quantum-sign-of-life.html And Stephen Barr's here:
https://www.firstthings.com/article/2007/03/faith-and-quantum-theory

Here are some newly found facts about the reality of quantum physics since the Big Bang (from the most recent to the older):

At the writing of this article, physicists all over the world are looking for a theory that unifies all fields of inquiry (A Unified Grand Theory). Two theories are competing: String Theory (Point-like particles are replaced with one-dimensional objects called strings that propagate through space and interact with each other) and Loop Quantum Gravity (LQG).  LQG begins with Einstein's Theory of General Relativity (which predicts Gravitational Waves - See Nobel Prizes below) and attempts to add quantum features.


In October 2017, the Nobel Prize in physics was awarded to Rainer Weiss (MIT), Barry Barish (Caltech), and Kip Thorne (Caltech) for their contributions in the LIGO detector that confirmed Einstein's Theory of General Relativity re space-time curvature and the existence of quantum gravitational waves that go back to the Big Bang (see here).


In 2016, NASA and Google confirmed that they have been working on a quantum computer model (see here and here too). In 2016 too Canada's Prime Minister Trudeau gave a little lecture to students to encourage them to work on this advanced technology (see here).


In 2015,  Leo Kouwenhoven at TU Delft in Amsterdam, the Netherlands gave a talk in which he showed how nature itself works through quantum processes...As an example, a plant leaf takes the light of the Sun and, through quantum superposition, electrons find a way to efficiently bind to the oxygen molecule thus they together produce oxygen that is necessary for human life...Professor Kouwenhoven was speaking about building quantum computers already made in the lab (see here)...


I personally think that it is possible that the Father has been active in the entire cosmos through His Word and by the power of His Spirit. The Triune God of Christians created the entire existing cosmos or multiverses to reflect the eternal joy of self-giving from the Father to the Son and the Son to the Father bound by the love of the Holy Spirit. Thus the quantum effect in the cosmos continues to be explored in galaxies far away as much as in the sub-atomic particles. 


Some background:


Quantum Physics and Theology:


Quantum Entanglement (Article in 2017 here): In 1982, Alain Aspect and his team were able to experimentally prove that two photons emitted from the same atom will still be in contact tens of miles away... The reader may wish to listen to his lecture here.

John Polkinghorne, retired professor of mathematical physics at Cambridge University, wrote, in one of his latest books: Quantum Physics and Theology in 2008, about relationship as science is attempting to discover it at the subnuclear level: “Quantum theory brought to light a remarkable form of entanglement between subatomic particles that have once interacted with each other (the so-called EPR effect), which implies that they remain effectively a single system however far they may subsequently separate spatially- a counterintuitive togetherness-in-separation that has been abundantly confirmed experimentally as a property of nature. The physical world looks more and more like a universe that would be the fitting creation of the trinitarian God, the One whose deepest reality is relational.” (Cf. John Polkinghorne, 2008, "Quantum Physics and Theology: An Unexpected Kinship" Published by Yale University Press). Dr. Stephen Barr has written extensively on the relationship of quantum physics and theology (See, for example, his article in First Things here).
The above findings support the 2 most important observations in quantum physics:
1. The probabilistic nature of particles which yields the Uncertainty Principle
2. The communication between particles at long distances (quantum entanglement)
From 2 above, everything must be in a relationship to live. In Christianity God is a relatedness or a relationship of selfless love. It is our belief that God the Father being love (1 John 4: 8) abandons the fullness of divinity and gives all he has to his image the Son (John 10:30; Col 1: 15-19; Phil 2: 6-11 ) who in turn returns this  love in the Holy Spirit who is the binding love of Father and Son (John 15). The concept that God is relatedness or relational is found not only in Holy Scriptures but also in doctors of the Church including St. Thomas Aquinas and, in our days,  Joseph Ratzinger (Bishop of Rome Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI). 
If this is true, then we can say that the cosmos is signed by the stamp of the Triune God of Christians. 
From 1, we all live in a cosmos still  in development. Certainty is achieved beyond this life when we are in the togetherness of the family of the kingdom of God.  

Monday, October 9, 2017

The Gifted Jesuit Henri Boulad

For so many years, Fr. Henri Boulad, S.J. , who turns 87 this year, has been speaking and writing about Christ and Christianity with a focus on the goodness of things created by the God of love. In his book "All is Grace" as well as many other books in French and Arabic, the Jesuit scholar has followed The Exercises of the founder of his order: Saint Ignatius of Loyola in which any action is measured according to the goodness it carries forward in a world of rivalry. Boulad's conferences and retreats focus on the hard questions of life such as the mystery of existence; human hope; a response to false predestination claimed by certain ideologies; and goodness of life. The humanist approach of Fr. Boulad can be linked to humanist saints such as St. Francis of Assisi; St. Thomas More; and St. Thérèse of Lisieux. 
Fr.  Boulad is gifted too with the ability to paint pictures showing a high level of imagination. This is clear in his book "Jesus yesterday and tomorrow" written in the 1990s.  Fr. Boulad will be visiting Toronto on Saturday October 28th. He will celebrate the 5:30 pm Mass at Transfiguration of Our Lord parish in Etobicoke followed by an authentic Middle Eastern dinner in the parish hall where he  will be joined by Cardinal Thomas Collins and many other bishops, priests, as well as hundreds of lay persons. For people in the Greater Toronto Area who wish to take part in the event, visit boulad.eventbrite.ca.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Information Systems

Information systems are found in the entire cosmos from the sub-atomic particles to the huge galaxies. Thanks to automated systems, Big Data of whole galaxies including the speed with which stars and their planets are moving away from others, can be retrieved through modern telescopes. In living organisms, genetic engineering has shown a certain pattern of data in molecules called the DNA. (see Dr. Francis Collins, Director of the human genome project,  explain the link between science and creation here). Computer systems speed up human work on using and manipulating natural resources.Quantum Computers work in parallel processes which speed up any functions multiple times (see Prof. Leo Kouwenhoven here. One implementation of quantum computing is the so-called nanotechnology (see this link). No matter how you slice it, there is no escape that every person needs information rather than raw data. Telescopes without analysis of what they find in the galaxies are not meaningful. As the Big Bang Theory has been accepted as the standard model of evolutionary development, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, S.J. (1881-1955) is credited with
interpreting it, and so is Rev. Georges LeMaitre Professor of physics at the Catholic University of Leuven (1894-1966) for initiating the thought about it attributed to Edwin Hubble.
Information systems exist too at the sub-nuclear level. It is still a mystery how two photons, that were together in the same atom, continue to be in contact miles away from each other. This is the effect of quantum physics proven experimentally by Alain Aspect and his team in 1981.
There is a critical difference between raw data and intelligible information in any reporting system.
Regardless of the size, information could not have come from nothing. There must be a source, and the source must be intelligent enough to create such huge and complex database systems. If it is a finite source, then the question could be asked whether there is more knowledge that this source could not have. In the philosophical inquiry, the unlimited source would be the creator of all things. The question would then be for this unlimited and eternal creator that we call God. Could he be enjoying looking at his knowledge for all eternity without sharing it? Would not this god be full of himself (the ego complex in analytical psychology)? It follows that God must be able to share his being with another yet remains one. Since sharing is a step towards full love, it becomes clear that God of all creatures is the God of Christians (1 John 4: 16). In His eternal existence, the Father loves the Son so much that He gives all He has (His Divinity) to the Son; and the Son receives the Divinity of the Father and in gratitude to His Father returns the fullness of Divinity to His Father. The binding love that unites the Father and the Son is the Holy Spirit "The giver of life"...In 2002, the Jesuit scholar Fr. Henri Boulad explained this Christian dogma.
* Since I am the  author of the above article, I wish to clarify that I have over 30 years experience in the development, implementation and teaching of database information systems and a Master's degree in Information Systems from the University of Phoenix in the United States.

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...

Today's Quote

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







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