Friday, January 1, 2021
In the first day of 2021, we pray for the grace to help us live without the fears and afflictions caused by the coronavirus or COVID-19 pandemic and the return of people and business to their work. Realistically, the government in Canada has purchased enough quantities of Pfizer vaccine which is already being distributed in Ontario to health care workers in hospitals, long-term care homes and retirement homes, which will be followed by vaccination of everyone in need. To glorify God in hymns, listen to Christmas hymns here. Byzantine chants can be found in the Divine Liturgy at the Cathedral of the Transfiguration in Toronto (Homsy choir) here. A most beautiful sermon of St. John Chrysostom on the Resurrection of Christ is sung or read by the choir in the Byzantine Churches every Easter (Listen here). Today, January 1, 2021, Pope Francis celebrated the Holy Mass on the Solemnity of Mary Mother of God. In his homily, he identified 3 words that characterized Mary's reception of the Word of God and her cooperation with Him: "To bless"; "To be born"; "To find" - The full homily can be read here. It was on December 30, 2011 that the soul of Bishop Paul Antaki of beloved memory departed to God. On that day I wrote a post here. Other friends who knew him commented too. Those who knew him may wish to read it again and reflect on the sacrifices that Paul Antaki made for the priests and parishioners that he served in so many parishes. The little baby that comes out of the womb of his mother cries for the comfort that he left when he was being nourished inside to the discomfort of having to find the nourishment gradually withdrawn as he stops sucking the milk from his mother's breast. In a similar fashion the Israelites complained to Moses that in order to follow him into the desert, they had to leave the comfort of their homes in Egypt where they ate and now are hardly able survive. The Passover is a reminder that Christ will also use to describe how his body and blood will be given up in order to save us and to lead humanity into the joy of heaven. This is the body that is normally consumed by the faithful in the Eucharist on Sunday - the "Real Presence of Christ" among us. But this raises the question of doubts about God that many in our materialistic world, particularly the younger generations educated in only the physical sciences, have come to experience. Every metaphysical question is being examined today as if the world has not gone through thousands of years of worship. On the scary problem of eternal damnation in hell, we recall that Pope Saint John Paul II declared "Damnation" in hell should not be attributed to God's initiative since in his merciful love, God does not desire other than the salvation of his created beings. Bishop Robert Barron (who published the massively popular "Catholicism" series) commented here on the possibility of damnation in hell but wisely observed that while the Church declared many souls in heaven, she has never made a declaration of any human in hell. Furthermore, the greatest Catholic theologian in the 20th century, Hans Urs von Balthasar wrote his book "Dare We Hope That All Men Be Saved?" In his book, von Balthasar explores the nature of damnation with sobering clarity. At the same time, he contends that a deep understanding of God's merciful love and human freedom, and a careful reading of the Catholic tradition, point to the possibility―not the certainty―that, in the end, all men will accept the salvation Christ won for all. For this all-embracing salvation, von Balthasar says, we may dare hope, we must pray, and with God’s help we must work.. In his book "Introduction to Christianity" Joseph Ratzinger (later Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI) shows that God's love in Christ's Resurrection is stronger than death. His magnificent chapter may be read here. The Beautiful Psalm ! On the first day of 2021, I suggest we read the beautiful Psalm 103 which my spiritual director Fr. Daniel Callam; CSB recommended that I read it whenever I feel depressed due to my health situation. "Bless the LORD, my soul; all my being, bless his holy name! 2 Bless the LORD, my soul; and do not forget all his gifts, 3 Who pardons all your sins, and heals all your ills, 4 Who redeems your life from the pit,a and crowns you with mercy and compassion, 5 Who fills your days with good things, so your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.* II 6 The LORD does righteous deeds, brings justice to all the oppressed.b 7 He made known his ways to Moses, to the Israelites his deeds. 8 Merciful and gracious is the LORD, slow to anger, abounding in mercy.c 9 He will not always accuse, and nurses no lasting anger; 10 He has not dealt with us as our sins merit, nor requited us as our wrongs deserve. III 11 For as the heavens tower over the earth, so his mercy towers over those who fear him.d 12 As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our sins from us. 13 As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him. 14 For he knows how we are formed, remembers that we are dust.e 15 As for man, his days are like the grass; he blossoms like a flower in the field.f 16 A wind sweeps over it and it is gone; its place knows it no more. 17 But the LORD’s mercy is from age to age, toward those who fear him. His salvation is for the children’s children 18 of those who keep his covenant, and remember to carry out his precepts. IV 19 The LORD has set his throne in heaven; his dominion extends over all. 20 Bless the LORD, all you his angels,g mighty in strength, acting at his behest, obedient to his command. 21 Bless the LORD, all you his hosts, his ministers who carry out his will. 22 Bless the LORD, all his creatures, everywhere in his domain. Bless the LORD, my soul!" Jesus Christ said "A thief comes only to steal and slaughter and destroy; I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly." (John 10:10). If the above is interpreted literally, I would say that it applies to my life here and today. Following a heart attack in May 1986, I was given an ultimatum by Dr. Michael Sole, at the time research director of cardiology at Toronto General Hospital, to expect to live only 2 years if I did not have a cardiac surgery that would involve the replacement of my aortic valve in the ascending aorta. Out of fear, I went through the surgery on January 25, 1987 - It lasted six hours rather than the expected 3 hours. The surgery was carried out by Dr. Hugh Sculley and involved the replacement of the aortic valve with a mechanical valve and a double bypass surgery. The surgery lasted so long because Dr. Sculley had to sew the enlarged aorta. Time passed-by as I had an echo-cardiogram every year but troubles started again when my family physician, Dr. Shields found I had an enlarged prostate in 2001, followed by aortic aneurysm found in 2002, kidney cancer (renal cell carcinoma) treated with a partial nephrectomy surgery in 2005, and stroke in 2007 following my prostate surgery in Montreal. For the depression associated with stroke, I was given an anti-depressant. But throughout the period from 1986 to 2007, I had to take and change heart medication which I still take daily. In July 2008, I wrote an account of my suffering and new life in the post "A Living Miracle" on my blog here: http://todayquestions.blogspot.ca/2008/07/living-miracle.html The reader who wishes to know about the development of my health situation, can read it in the post. I continue to thank God for giving me life and giving it abundantly. I have to add that since early 2017, my life was again saved and extended through my current physician Dr. Michael Vecchio who is a Christian missionary too. He found a low level of Oxygen in my blood and sent me to Toronto General Hospital (TGH) where again I was cared for by specialists. In February and again in August 2017, specialists at TGH found out the real problem of poisonous Carbon Dioxide in my lungs. X Rays showed that the left lung was not functional as the Aortic Aneurysm has grown and covered it, leaving only the right lung for breathing. This caused me difficulty in breathing when going upstairs that requires some walking exercise to maintain the muscles of the body. Thank God again, I was seen by Dr. Ryan, a specialist in Respirology, while I was at TGH in August 2017. In an appointment on January 10, 2018, she ordered a BiPap machine that helps me daily at night to breath better and to reduce Carbon Dioxide in my system. I cannot stop thanking our God and Lord who offers me, my family and friends, and indeed the world, abundant life not only here but in eternal life through the Sacred Heart of the God-Man Jesus Christ. I pray the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God full of grace, that through her prayers humanity is helped in every way spiritually, physically, and psychologically; "for nothing will be impossible for God" (Luke 1: 37). The beauty of God has been seen in Jesus Christ "who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." (Phil 2:6). "Jesus is a revelation. Jesus is a revolution" says the Jesuit scholar Fr. Henri Boulad. But what kind of revolution? "Jesus empties heaven and moves the [Divine presence] to be among us: Emmanuel." and continues "Is it possible that God makes such a radical move? I have a response here to our Muslim brothers who think it is impossible. For them God cannot descend from heaven without losing his honor and dignity." This was a homily by Fr. Boulad on Christmas in 2014. Now listen carefully because here Henri Boulad summarizes the Christian Mystery in as simple language as possible "If Jesus Christ is an illusion...If Christianity is a sheer mystification...If God did not come to us and did not descend from his heaven...If he did not take the radical and seemingly impossible leap of the incarnation, then he ceases being credible - he ceases being love - he ceases being God." Let us reflect. Here is the message: "The scandal of the Incarnation, which means that we cannot believe that God could debase himself , becomes the key and the supreme proof that this is the truth" "But a God in heaven well served who looks to me and says 'You suffer. Have courage. Perhaps one day you will be with me in my heaven' is not God. A God who says 'Patience. I am fine here but you over there can suffer' is not God. This is the false God that we, often, figure that he sends us prophets from time to time to console us' . NO, NO. NO. This God who looks to me with a telescope is not my God. I do not want him." "If there is a phenomenon of atheism today in the West as well as in Egypt, it is precisely because men say we are in fact better than God. The walk that I walk to help when I see a hungry person or a thirsty one or a person without faith, can't God do it? Has he no choice regarding his honor?" "No. He did it. This is the supreme proof of the Christian Mystery. Do not look somewhere else. 'Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down...' He descended. No more seventh heaven..." "The only God I can believe, love and worship is the God Jesus Christ because he descended to me." "'Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down...' " And the great preacher and Jesuit scholar Henri Boulad finished here his homily. In his beautiful "Introduction to Christianity" Joseph Ratzinger (currently Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI) mentions the cosmos and the cosmic vision of the Jesuit Teilhard de Chardin...In his eschatological vision, the French Jesuit priest and scientist Teilhard de Chardin wrote his Mass of the Cosmos (see it here). Teilhard was a friend of the giant Jesuit Henri de Lubac whose "ressourcement" or "nouvelle théologie" gave rise to renewal in the Second Vatican Council and beyond it. In his "Introduction to Christianity" Joseph Ratzinger praised Teilhard. In July 2009, Pope Benedict XVI cited Teilhard's vision of the cosmos as a "living host" (reported by NCR here). Listen too to Bishop Robert Baron speaking about the Trinity here...He spoke about everything in the cosmos that mirrors the relational character of the Trinity in one God: The Father eternally loves the Son and the Son receives that love and returns to the Father, and the Holy Spirit of God binds the Father and the Son in their freedom and love - He goes on to surprise his listeners that, across the universe, subatomic particles communicate at long distances (The Quantum Entanglement) and great galaxies too gravitate to each other... I wish to finally share two contributions: First: In July 2019, Maggie Ciskanik, senior consultant associated with Jesuit Fr. Robert Spitzer President of Gonzaga University from 1998 to 2009, and quite active on EWTN, contacted me in order to publish some material that I had posted on my blog about the cosmos. In early September 2019, I received this message from her - I am sending it with humble heart as, in my opinion after reading Sir John Polkinghorne, it shows that the cosmos is stamped by the Trinity - The God of Christians: Great resources for learning more about quantum theory (and its relationship to a Trinitarian God) There is an enormous corpus of talks, articles, commentaries, and youtube presentations focusing on one of the strangest discoveries of the 20th century: quantum mechanics and its startling attendant features, the principles of uncertainty and superposition. When you consult the resources identified in this post by Mr. George Farahat, be prepared to increase your understanding of how quantum mechanics has changed our understanding of reality, and how it relates to theology. Two phenomenal lectures by two outstanding professors in two countries have enlightened research about the vast cosmos we live in and its quantum fields that penetrate every creature on earth. The first is a lecture given by Professor Leo Kowenhoven at Delft University in the Netherlands, 2015 (here). In his talk, Professor Kowenhoven shows how nature itself works through quantum processes. He uses the example of a plant leaf which takes the light of the Sun. Through quantum superposition, electrons find a way to efficiently bind to the oxygen molecule, a process essential for human life since we need oxygen to live. He goes on to explain how “qbits” are necessary in building quantum computers and reveals that he and his team have already made these “quantum bits” in the lab. Some of the most interesting ideas come near the end of the talk (starting around the 11th minute) when he lists the big challenges that super quantum computers can help solve, such as: more efficient energy use and storage, better airplane design, optimization for robotics, machine learning, and the use of nanotechnology in healthcare. The second lecture, “The Real Building Blocks of the Universe” was given by Professor David Tong at Cambridge University in 2017. In a brilliant summary of quantum theory, he reveals that there are 16 “fields” that interact in a “harmonious dance.” Along the way, Tong also discusses Einstein's Theory of General Relativity (space-time flow), J. J. Thomson's discovery of the electron, Ernest Rutherford's model of the atom (a nucleus made of protons and neutrons with the lighter electrons moving around it), Faraday's discovery of electromagnetism, James Clerk Maxwell's work, Schrodinger's Wave-Particle Equation, Heisenberg's Principle of Uncertainty, and the thought-experiments of Albert Einstein, Boris Podolsky, and Nathan Rosen. Black holes and quantum theory A great explanation of black holes, by a panel of experts found in this 2015 World Science Festival presentation, was delivered in the presence of the late British physicist and black hole expert, Professor Stephen Hawking. The presentation also explains the relationship between black holes and quantum theory. Astonishment at quantum behaviour 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 thousands miles away. The reader may wish to listen to his lecture here, animated by his love for and “astonishment at” quantum behaviour. Quantum theory and its relationship to a Trinitarian God In the printed word, much of the material written by Sir John Polkinghorne, retired professor of mathematical physics at Cambridge University, is very informative and insightful. In one of his latest books, “Quantum Physics and Theology” (2008), he comments on how “relationship” is being discovered even 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.” -Sir John Polkinghorne Dr. Stephen Barr has written extensively on the relationship of quantum physics and theology as well. (See, for example, his article in First Things here). What can we conclude? The above resources reveal and help explain 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, we can say that everything must be in a relationship. In Christianity, the concept that God is relatedness or relational is found not only in Holy Scriptures (see for example 1 John 4:8; John 10:30; Col 1:15-19; Phil 2: 6-11; John 15), but also in doctors of the Church like St. Thomas Aquinas and, in our days, 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. George Farahat holds a Masters degree in Information Systems and a Bachelor of Science in Electronic Engineering. He is a retired business systems analyst who now uses his time to pursue numerous interests which include Biblical theology, anthropology, history of civilizations, and information technology. He regularly shares his insights on his blogspot Today’s Questions. The original post can be found here. Second: You may wish to read/download the attached PDF file of my book titled "The Mystery beyond Human Development - A Christian Perspective"
Thursday, December 24, 2020
Today we celebrate the birth of our Lord, God, and Saviour Jesus Christ...If anyone is afraid of the darkness caused by COVID, read the "Beautiful Psalm" #103 here. It will help you renew your energy in the Lord. My spiritual director, Fr. Daniel Callam; CSB, recommended it for me. First: In the Midnight Mass of Christmas in St. Peter's Basilica, celebrated by Pope Francis, the Holy Father gave a homily that reminded the faithful how Christ is always born again for us... The text can be read here. Some of the most beautiful words in his homily are shown below: [Tonight, the great prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled: “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given” (Is 9:6). To us a son is given. We often hear it said that the greatest joy in life is the birth of a child. It is something extraordinary and it changes everything. It brings an excitement that makes us think nothing of weariness, discomfort, and sleepless nights, for it fills us with indescribable and incomparable happiness. That is what Christmas is: the birth of Jesus is the “newness” that enables us to be reborn each year and to find, in him, the strength needed to face every trial. Why? Because his birth is for us – for me, for you, for everyone. “For” is a word that appears again and again on this holy night: “For us a child is born”, Isaiah prophesied. “For us is born this day a Saviour”, we repeated in the Psalm. Jesus “gave himself for us” (Tit 2:14), Saint Paul tells us, and in the Gospel, the angel proclaims: “For to you is born this day a Saviour” (Lk 2:11).Yet what do those words – for us – really mean? They mean that the Son of God, the one who is holy by nature, came to make us, as God’s children, holy by grace. Yes, God came into the world as a child to make us children of God. What a magnificent gift! This day, God amazes us and says to each of us: “You are amazing”. Dear sister, dear brother, never be discouraged. Are you tempted to feel you were a mistake? God tells you, “No, you are my child!” Do you have a feeling of failure or inadequacy, the fear that you will never emerge from the dark tunnel of trial? God says to you, “Have courage, I am with you”. He does this not in words, but by making himself a child with you and for you. In this way, he reminds you that the starting point of all rebirth is the recognition that we are children of God. This is the undying heart of our hope, the incandescent core that gives warmth and meaning to our life. Underlying all our strengths and weaknesses, stronger than all our past hurts and failures, or our fears and concerns about the future, there is this great truth: we are beloved sons and daughters. God’s love for us does not, and never will, depend upon us. It is completely free love, pure grace. Tonight, Saint Paul tells us, “the grace of God has appeared” (Tit 2:11).Nothing is more precious than this.] Second: I received another great text from Rev. Dr. Anita Gaide, pastor of the Lutheran parish in Toronto. titled The Power of God’s Love [‘In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was withGod, and the Word was God.’ (John 1:1). God reveals His power through his Word. Note that the first three words of the Gospel of John are the same as the Book of Genesis. GOD is revealed as Creator, as Saviour and as Redeemer. ‘And the light shines in the darkness and the darkness did not comprehend it.’ (John 1:5). We think of the power of God, but also his powerlessness in the event of the crucifixion. However, the greatest powerlessness of God in the death of Jesus turns out to be the greatest power in His victorious resurrection. As He rose to life eternal, we are given the possibility of redemption in the hope and reality of eternal life. His mercy is surely expressed in this manifestation of the power of his great love for all humanity.There is a musical documentary about the Christmas Truce of 1915 which features the singing of some twenty men dressed plainly in black somber clothing. They are the forgotten, the dead, those who gave up their lives in the First Great War. The documentary is about one night, the night of the Christmas truce where one lone German soldier rises to cross the enemy lines. He is unarmed and he sings to the glory of God in the highest heavens. The men arise from the darkness, one by one, coming out of the grey mists of time to resume their rightful place as the living. Lest we never forget. These heroes of the war sacrificed all, the chance of having a career, family and a long life lived together in the midst of their loved family members. One young soldier even remarked that they would be home for Christmas. This war would surely be over by then. However, the war was far from over. Millions would die, many in senseless, uncaring deaths, slaughtered for a cause that is still debated today. The Pope called for a ceasefire, but to no avail.Yet that one night of grace in 1915, the power of God’ s love shone forth and His glory stood all around. The soldiers on both sides raised their voices in song. They sang of love, home and the peace embodied by men of goodwill. One of the most poignant songs was Silent Night performed in three different languages, French, German and English and in three different keys. In canon, their voices, gentle at first rose to the heavens above. Christ came down and was among them where they lay in the trenches. Over a hundred years later, we, as both audience members and also witnesses, were moved to tears, as were the documentary writers and cast members. All were changed for ever in the rendering of the past, bringing these forgotten heroes to life. Each singing member introduced himself and his name will be inscribed in the annals of history forever. The glory of God shone through that night. Peace and goodwill remained and enemies were reminded that they were brothers after all, united in a common humanity and bound by the power of God’ s love in Christ.] Third: The Joy of Christmas with Georges Farah While we celebrate Christmas, we miss Fr. George Farah, the priest who was pastor of Jesus the King parish for the past-twenty one years. A man of joyful character, his last name “Farah”means joy. He joked with me that he and I not only carried the same name “George” but almost the same last name except that mine “Farahat” meant multiple joys. In reality George Farah has been an outstanding minister of joy, not only at Christmas but all the time in preaching and action. A man for people, he celebrated with all and invited all to enjoy their gifts together in the Church and elsewhere whether in the Eucharist, lectures, church festivals, or outings. Joy is a fruit of the Holy Spirit, he said quoting St. Paul. It is the sign of Christians who, in spite of their weakness and sufferings, are called to rejoice in meeting the other and grow in faith to Christ. Fr. Georges Farah obtained a doctorate in philosophy and another in theology from the highly-esteemed Sorbonne in Paris. Yet his academic credentials did not alter his joyous character but only deepened his faith in the love of God. God, he preached, is not only the generous father, but is an outpouring love for all human beings; sinners and saints. As taught by St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas, God is the eternal self-sacrifice abandonment or love of the Father to his eternal Son Jesus Christ and the Son returning love with gratitude to his eternal Father in the unity of the Holy Spirit who is the binding love. The Church is the minister of love who, by the power of the Holy Spirit, witnesses to Christ in the entire world. “The Holy Spirit reveals the Son and the Son reveals the Father” he said.A philosopher himself, George Farah was interviewed about God and freedom since his doctorate thesis in philosophy dealt with Nietzsche's post-modern philosophy. Nietzsche had questioned the morality of power in religion. For him, a God who presses his power on humans through an agency or religion is not real because he strips humanity of their freedom and creativity. In George Farah, the God of Christians offers the only real freedom that guarantees human development, not only in eternal love, but in appreciating human creativity and dignity too here on earth. The entire philosophical and scientific explorations rooted in Christian civilization are only the beginning of realizing that God is in us, encourages us and moves us to him. It is this freedom of Man's dream in becoming God, one with God, for which the Word of God assumed our nature. How was it possible that God could assume our nature in the incarnation of the Word (Christ)? George Farah responds “God could not stay away from his beloved creation. His love made him become one of us and dwell with us 'Emmanuel'.” God does not wish anyone to be lost. He came for the lost (Cf. Matthew 18:14; Luke 15: 4, 9, 24, 32; Luke 19: 10; John 6: 12). Today we need to examine our conscience and return Christ to Christmas by educating ourselves and children guided by the Church, exiting ourselves and our worries, thinking of others, praying for the sick, an helping as much as we can the needy in our community and especially the suffering Christians in the Middle East. Fourth: The Jesuit scholar Fr. Henri Boulad gave a homily this morning in Cairo. He said that while everyone fears COVID and is therefore confined at home, some 100,000 kids are under bombardment in Yemen. The news of the lost children in Yemen are seldom followed or published in the mainstream media, because the West is not involved. The battles are between factions of Arabs and other factions of Arabs/Muslims. Where is God? Is God in heaven looking down at humans that are killing children ? Does he care? Why is atheism widespread ? A God who looks down on the misery of people is not my God, said Fr. Boulad. But he came down and was born a child in Bethlehem to be with us "Emmanuel". This is our Christ - He is God the Saviour says St. Paul "who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross.Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." (Phil 2:6) Have a blessed Christmas!
Thursday, December 17, 2020
Bless the LORD, my soul; all my being, bless his holy name! 2 Bless the LORD, my soul; and do not forget all his gifts, 3 Who pardons all your sins, and heals all your ills, 4 Who redeems your life from the pit,a and crowns you with mercy and compassion, 5 Who fills your days with good things, so your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.* II 6 The LORD does righteous deeds, brings justice to all the oppressed.b 7 He made known his ways to Moses, to the Israelites his deeds. 8 Merciful and gracious is the LORD, slow to anger, abounding in mercy.c 9 He will not always accuse, and nurses no lasting anger; 10 He has not dealt with us as our sins merit, nor requited us as our wrongs deserve. III 11 For as the heavens tower over the earth, so his mercy towers over those who fear him.d 12 As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our sins from us. 13 As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him. 14 For he knows how we are formed, remembers that we are dust.e 15 As for man, his days are like the grass; he blossoms like a flower in the field.f 16 A wind sweeps over it and it is gone; its place knows it no more. 17 But the LORD’s mercy is from age to age, toward those who fear him. His salvation is for the children’s children 18 of those who keep his covenant, and remember to carry out his precepts. IV 19 The LORD has set his throne in heaven; his dominion extends over all. 20 Bless the LORD, all you his angels,g mighty in strength, acting at his behest, obedient to his command. 21 Bless the LORD, all you his hosts, his ministers who carry out his will. 22 Bless the LORD, all his creatures, everywhere in his domain. Bless the LORD, my soul!
Wednesday, December 16, 2020
On Wednesday December 16, 2020 I listened to two homilies that I thought would be of true value to me and my readers. The first was by Msgr. Sam Bianco at the Daily TV Mass here. Msgr. Bianco commented on the Gospel's reading from Luke "John summoned two of his disciples and sent them to the Lord to ask, 'Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another?' When the men came to the Lord, they said, 'John the Baptist has sent us to you to ask, ‘Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another?’ At that time Jesus cured many of their diseases, sufferings, and evil spirits; he also granted sight to many who were blind. And Jesus said to them in reply,'Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind regain their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have the good news proclaimed to them. And blessed is the one who takes no offense at me.” Msgr. Bianco said that in the ancient culture, 'offense' meant a trap to capture a bird. What trap was John the Baptist facing in his relationship to Jesus? Part of it is the expectation that John the Baptist had for Jesus. John the Baptist would have destroyed evil. He thought that the God of wrath would not tolerate evil. Jesus was probably a stumbling block because he showed himself a merciful God... He touched the lepers that he healed, and the blinds whose light of eyes he restored. He was physically present to the people that he healed - a COVID, or sickness. He had compassion for the poor, sinners, and the trodden. The second homily was that of Pope Francis: Pope Francis on December 16 encouraged everyone to “‘hasten their steps’ toward Christmas,” taking up the restrictions that will characterize this year’s holiday as a chance to make the feast more “authentic, more true.” The pope offered this encouragement at the end of the Wednesday general audience, which he dedicated to the theme of intercessory prayer. He said: I would like to encourage everyone to ‘hasten their steps’ toward Christmas, the true Christmas, that is to say, the birth of Jesus Christ. This year, restrictions and inconveniences await us; but let’s think of the Virgin Mary and St. Joseph’s Christmas: it wasn’t a rose garden! How many difficulties they had! How many concerns! And yet faith, hope and love guided and sustained them. May it be thus also for us! May it also help us – this difficulty – to purify a bit the way we live Christmas, the way we celebrate, leaving consumerism behind: May it be more religious, more authentic, more true." More here.
Sunday, December 13, 2020
Yes. The Infinite is within You. This is what the Jesuit scholar Fr. Henri Boulad said in his homily today Sunday December 13, 2020. Fr. Boulad spoke of it as a inner movement of conversion. He told a story of a young man that wished to be rich and, on his way of looking into this desire, he met an old man who, upon learning from the young man about his desire, directed him to go into a cave. As the young man goes into the cave, he finds himself in darkness that blinds him. However, when he touches the wall, he finds himself before a large and luminous palace full of treasures and in the middle a large table of delicious food. He needed to have courage in order to make a decision and start the journey...And Fr. Boulad said that he experienced the same reality. It is the road to fulfillment. Every human person will have to take the same road. We all have in ourselves the hidden treasure. Yet we do not really see it. I think that we are too busy with the things that float outside. We need to start the process of conversion. Let us read it in the conversion of Saul of Tarsus. The vision that Saul experienced is the same. The word "conversion" has been used since the early Fathers from the Greek "Metanoia." In The Acts of the Apostles, it is written "But Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. Now as he journeyed he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven flashed about him. And he fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, 'Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?' And he said, 'Who are you, Lord?' And he said, 'I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting; but rise and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.' The men who were traveling with him stood speechless, hearing the voice but seeing no one. Saul arose from the ground; and when his eyes were opened, he could see nothing; so they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. And for three days he was without sight, and neither ate nor drank. Now there was a disciple at Damascus named Anani'as. The Lord said to him in a vision, "Anani'as." And he said, 'Here I am, Lord.' And the Lord said to him, 'Rise and go to the street called Straight, and inquire in the house of Judas for a man of Tarsus named Saul; for behold, he is praying, and he has seen a man named Anani'as come in and lay his hands on him so that he might regain his sight.' But Anani'as answered, 'Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to thy saints at Jerusalem; and here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call upon thy name.' But the Lord said to him, 'Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel; for I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.'" (Acts 9:1-16). Years ago, Fr. Henri Boulad gave a homily in Advent. Listen here: "Jesus is a revelation. Jesus is a revolution". But what kind of revolution? "Jesus empties heaven and moves the [Divine presence] to be among us: Emmanuel." and continues "Is it possible that God makes such a radical move? I have a response here to our Muslim brothers who think it is impossible. For them God cannot descend from heaven without losing his honor and dignity." Listen carefully because here Henri Boulad summarizes the Christian Mystery in as simple language as possible "If Jesus Christ is an illusion...If Christianity is a sheer mystification...If God did not come to us and did not descend from his heaven...If he did not take the radical and seemingly impossible leap of the incarnation, then he ceases being credible - he ceases being love - he ceases being God." Let us reflect. Here is the message: "The scandal of the Incarnation, which means that we cannot believe that God could debase himself, becomes the key and the supreme proof that this is the truth." "But a God in heaven well served who looks to me and says 'You suffer. Have courage. Perhaps one day you will be with me in my heaven' is not God. A God who says 'Patience. I am fine here but you over there can suffer' is not God. This is the false God that we, often, figure that he sends us prophets from time to time to console us' . NO, NO. NO. This God who looks to me with a telescope is not my God. I do not want him." "If there is a phenomenon of atheism today in the West as well as in Egypt, it is precisely because men say we are in fact better than God. The walk that I walk to help when I see a hungry person or a thirsty one or a person without faith, can't God do it? Has he no choice regarding his honor?" "No. He did it. This is the supreme proof of the Christian Mystery. Do not look somewhere else. 'Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down...' He descended. No more seventh heaven..." "The only God I can believe, love and worship is the God Jesus Christ because he descended to me." "'Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down...' " And the great preacher and Jesuit scholar Henri Boulad finished here his homily. I love Jesus. He loved me before I knew him. I am the Prodigal Son who needs God. In Jesus, God came to earth.In the Eucharist, he is within me. Let us sing to Him: Love Divine - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sw5ZCZeS32M