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 Aetate. The 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...