Handel's Messiah by Halleluja Chorus


Sunday, September 28, 2014

A Hymn to Jesus

O Jesus My Lord and God: You died to liberate us from death and slavery to sin, and rose to lead us to heaven;
O Beauty of Old: You created us in your image and implanted your beauty in creation;
May your name be blessed as grains and plants grow to deliver fruits in valleys and on your high mountains;
May your name be blessed as the morning nightingale sings to you and the birds on trees praise you;
May your name be blessed as the waves of the sea and ocean move creatures and obey you;
May your name be blessed as the wild animals of the forests beseech your grandeur;
May your name be blessed as scientists explore the vast cosmos and search communication of quantum-entangled particles which your mind makes;
May your name be blessed as neuroscientists attempt to map the human brain and biologists research cells and organs which your mind creates and sustains;
May your name be blessed as your most pure mother Mary blessed you when she visited Elizabeth and when she saw you in the glory of your ascension;
May your name be blessed as Abraham blessed you when he was visited by you in the three missionaries of your servant Melchizedek;
May your name be blessed as Peter blessed you when he spoke of you the Messiah Son of God;
May your name be blessed as Augustine blessed you when he found you in the preaching of Ambrose of Milan and the Biblical witness of Paul;
May your name be blessed as Francis of Assisi sought you to rebuild what was lacking in the living Church and led many to you;
May your name be blessed as the angelic Thomas Aquinas taught your truth with humility and Ignatius of Loyola lived it in his conversion and spiritual discernment;
May your name be blessed as Teresa of Avila climbed the mountain of doubt to be possessed by you and Teresa of Calcutta served you in the dying poor;
May your name be blessed as your little flower Thérèse of Lisieux loved you O Love Eternal and Maximilian Kolbe sacrificed his life for his fellow prisoner in love for you;
May your name be blessed as Pope John XXIII did in convoking Vatican II the greatest Council in history and John Paul the Great restored confidence in the mission of your Church;
May your name be blessed as the saved creation will praise you on that day in which there will be no sunset and no dawning.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Why Weep?

Last Saturday September 13, Pope Francis said Mass in the largest cemetery in Italy to commemorate the centenary of World War I. With a voice expressing anxiety and fear, he brought the attention of thousands of listeners to the planned aggression and wars today citing wars in Syria, Iraq, and the armed conflict in Gaza, Ukraine,and parts of Africa. "War is madness. War ruins everything even the bonds between brothers...War is irrational; its only plan is to bring destruction...It seeks to grow by destroying - Even today after the second failure of another world war, perhaps one can speak of a Third War, one fought piecemeal with crimes, massacres, destruction. Humanity needs to weep and the time to weep is now."
You may wish to listen to his voice here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D7hY1F3Oryo  

If you listen to him here: http://www.romereports.com/pg158331-pope-francis-warns-of-world-war-iii-en  you will find what he thinks causes war: "Greed, intolerance, the lust for power" said Francis. These motives "are too often justified by an ideology, and when there is no ideology, there is the response of Cain 'Why should I care?'"

Francis' prophecy for the possibility of a global war may be discredited as pessimistic but in the current threats of a distorted radical Islamism such as ISIS, Islamic Jihad, Salafist Wahabism, Boco Haram, Hizbullah, and the Muslim Brotherhood on a global scale, we need to individually and socially (in community) wake up and return to the love of God. We need to discern the will of God. "Humanity needs to weep and the time to weep is now." Tears of repentance can be a temporary emotional reaction to fear. And to claim that we are good because of charitable work and awards we gain can be a mask for our inner insufficiency. "But may I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ through which the world has been crucified to me and I to the world." (Galatians 6; 14).

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Who Do You Say I Am?

In "Catholicism" first video whose object is Jesus Christ, Fr. Robert Barron comments: Jesus did not say 'What do people think of my teachings.' He asked 'Who do people say that I am' (Mark 8:27). It's hard to imagine another great religious founder asking such a question. The Buddha would not focus on himself, and I say it to his credit, he would say 'There is a way I discovered and I want you to know it.' Mohammed would not focus on himself - He would say 'There is a revelation I received I want you to know it'. Confucius would not say 'It's about me' - He would say 'It's about this path I found'. Then there is Jesus who says 'Who do people say that I am'. The whole gospel really hinges on this point. Jesus identity personally is what it is about, because throughout the gospel he consistently speaks and acts in the very person of God.

You may wish to watch this excerpt here:

We must understand that the gospels were written after Jesus had resurrected and appeared to the disciples. A new covenant established in his death renews the Church wherever she goes.

The entire mission of the Church has been that Jesus Christ is the Divine Son of God. God from God.
Since the Jewish authorities condemned any Jew who followed Jesus in his trial, it is hard to believe that the Apostles and other disciples in the Christian movement would suddenly be transformed from fearful men after the death of Jesus Christ on the cross outside  Jerusalem into courageous men who preached the gospel in the Temple. Yet, they did (without recourse to any swords). Stephen was stoned to death for his witness but this did not stop the early Christians from spreading what they thought were good news of salvation in the name of Jesus Christ. The explanation given in the New Testament is the witness of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ after suffering his death. According to Biblical scholar Raymond Brown, tradition contains the Biblical witness - the Gospels were written only after a period of oral transmission of  teachings by Jesus Christ to his disciples which they only understood after his Resurrection, followed by the preaching of the Apostles and other disciples in Judea and the rest of nations, which was followed by committing it to writing when the Christian community realized that most of the Apostles had already died around the year 70.
The 4 Gospels present and reflect the belief of the very early Christian communities that Jesus was divine. By the 2nd century, the 4 canonical Gospels were already in place. According to Felix Just, S.J., Ph.D.,  Biblical scholarship has established that 4 criteria were required for any book to be part of the Biblical Canon:

  1. Apostolic Origin - attributed to and/or based on the preaching/teaching of the first-generation apostles (or their closest companions).
  2. Universal Acceptance - acknowledged by all major Christian communities in the Mediterranean world (from the second century to the fourth century).
  3. Liturgical Use - read publicly along with the OT when early Christians gathered for the Lord's Supper (their weekly worship services).
  4. Consistent Message - containing theological ideas compatible with other accepted Christian writings (incl. the divinity and humanity of Jesus).
- The Gospels point to Jesus’ power over evil forces (miracles are called ‘Dynamis’ or power in the Synoptic Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke; and called ‘Signs‘ in John). 
- Through his power, Jesus ushered the kingdom of God and expelled the Devil in a way that suggests his divine authority. In his famous Sermon on the Mount, he does not speak on the authority of earlier Rabbis but on his own authority “But I say to you..” (Cf. Matt 5).
- He “clearly presents himself as changing the governance of the world and of human lives” (Cf. Raymond Brown; “An introduction to New Testament Christology”)
- Jesus forgives sins – reserved to God alone. He changes the names of his disciples - reserved to God alone in Jewish tradition (Cf. Cepha to Peter). And he alone is the judge at the end of times of all people.
- At his baptism and transfiguration, the Father testifies to his divinity (Matt 3:17, 17:5).
- In the oldest accounts, Jesus takes upon himself the divine name “I AM” (Mark 6:50; compare with John 8:58) which is the way God revealed himself to Moses, the name reserved to God alone. He also refers to himself as “the Son of Man” which does not refer to his humanity but, according to Biblical scholar Craig Blomberg, refers to his divinity as revealed in Daniel in the Old Testament: “In my vision at night I looked and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and men of every language worshiped him.” (Daniel 7:13-14)
- Peter confesses the divine sonship of Jesus (Matt 17:17), and Thomas exclaims “My Lord and my God” (John 20:28)
- The Jews understood Jesus’ claim that he considered himself divine and wanted to stone him since he made himself “equal to God” (John 10: 33)
- Modern historical scholarship shows that by the year 35 AD there were already hymns and confessions of faith in the Church praising Christ as God and quoted in Paul’s letters which talk about Jesus being “the image of the invisible God” (Col 1, 15-20) and in the very nature of God “Who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. Rather he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness” (Ph 2:6-7)
- Current exegesis has established that Jesus called God his Father “Abba” in a unique way unknown in Jewish tradition. While Jewish tradition avoided calling God by his personal name, Jesus refers to God by that intimate relationship thus changing the terms of relating to God in a significant way (Cf. J. Jeremias, “Abba”, 1966; J. Meier, “Jesus”, The New Jerome Biblical Commentary, 1990).
- As Christians started to form their distinctive communities and proclaimed Jesus was God, the Jewish Rabbis in their Council of Jamnia (90 AD) condemned Christians decisively accusing them of causing the curse of the destruction of the Temple (70 AD). However, in the New Jerome Biblical Commentary(1990). Raymond Brown critiqued the Council of Jamnia theory while limiting the discussion to a debate between Hillel and Shammai; two major Jewish schools of Biblical interpretation. This, nevertheless, did not end scholarly research on the Council .
- The early Church Fathers, well before the time of Constantine, are quoted decisively in support of the divinity of Christ: Ignatius of Antioch (1st century-107), Clement of Alexandria (105-211), Irenaeus of Lyons (c.140- 200), Justin Martyr (c.100-165), Origen (185-252). 
In his "Introduction to Christianity" Joseph Ratzinger bases the evidence of the Resurrection of Christ on the power of love with which Jesus of Nazareth defeats death and mortality in his selfless love of the Father while dying on the cross (humanly speaking: Being in the Other who still stands when I have fallen apart). In the New Testament, the Resurrection of Jesus Christ is the central theme that God leads the inspired writer to write and so bring the readers attention to. The story of Jesus walking on the waters of the sea is more than an event to show his power; for it reminds the listeners of Jesus' victory over the waters of the sea considered the abode of death. He is the One who takes Peter by the hand to deliver him from death. He is the One who leads the Church, new Israel, out of the bondage of death and "slavery in the land of Egypt." Every event recounted in the Gospel has multiple meanings; all meant to encourage the young church to persevere in the times of darkness; but more significant they proclaim the body of Christ in the Eucharist as the eternal manna that feeds the new Israel in their journey to New Jerusalem as the manna fed the hungry Israelites in their journey out of slavery - the difference being that while the Israelites who ate the manna died the new "People of God", who eat the body of Christ, will live with him for ever. While the pagan religions were declining, and the Jews were scattered after the destruction of the Temple in 70 AD, the Christian movement gave a new hope to the crowds who listened to the "good news" or Gospel.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Georges Farah on Immaculate Mary

At Jesus the King Church yesterday, we celebrated the Nativity of the Virgin Mary, and had a procession of her picture of the Immaculate Conception accompanied with honor guards from the Knights of Columbus. In his brief homily, Fr. Georges Farah was able to link the Nativity of Mary and her immaculate conception to the cross of Christ that we celebrate on September 14.

Georges Farah said: In the Eastern Byzantine icons of Mary the Theotokos, 3 stars are shown on her veil : One at the part covering the forehead; the second on the left shoulder and the third on right shoulder. The stars tell us what we sing in the liturgy: She is always virgin. She was virgin before she bore Jesus in her womb; virgin during her pregnancy with Jesus; and still virgin after she delivered him to the world. We think this is beautiful but it was a tragedy for her in ancient Jewish society. First she was found pregnant before Joseph was able to engage her physically. Second, she - with Joseph carrying Jesus - had to flee to Egypt for Herod wanted to kill the little Jesus; When Herod died, they journeyed back and settled in the different town Nazareth. Then they lost Jesus when he was only 12 and had to search for him until they found him in the temple talking with teachers. And she was left behind when Jesus went around with his apostles healing people and only close to her beloved son when he was dying on the cross. Her joy was and remains in the resurrection of her son  Jesus Christ and his ascension.

Georges Farah said a virgin is translated from Batula or Batul in the ancient Hebrew which is related to Beit Il or the house of God. How could Mary be the house or the temple of God? She could not unless she was without the stain of sin: original sin and personal sin. When someone sins, he misses his goal. Your goal is to be like God. You miss the goal when you become a slave to your selfishness and desires. But this little girl Mary was dedicate to God in the temple since her early childhood. She said Yes to his angel and never sought her glory. She was always in the shadows. To be born of an immaculate virgin, Christ saved her by protecting her in her conception from original sin and his grace accompanied her throughout her suffering and joys. And today, when there is much suffering and violence in the Middle East, we call on the Virgin Mary to protect her children there. She leads all to her son and point them to him as she pointed the workers in the wedding in Cana to Christ. To the Knights of Columbus, who many of them are with us today, we ask you to assist our brothers and sisters there.

Each one, however rich or great, still has his cross. The cross is in the middle of every human person regardless of religion. But to carry one's cross, you need the living joy of giving and sharing with others. It is not in suffering that we find glory but in serving the least of us as Jesus Christ did and Mary did.

Today's Quote

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


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