Handel's Messiah by Halleluja Chorus


Thursday, September 18, 2014

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.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

A Hymn to God for the Missionary We Know!

A friend in Montreal sent us a message that Henri Boulad, S.J. has just celebrated his birthday...We looked up references and found that Fr. Boulad, a professor of theology and a scholar who continues to lecture and write, was born in August 1931. But late is better than never to congratulate our dear friend of his 83rd birthday anniversary...

Here is a little hymn of thanksgiving to God for the missionary we know,

How Can I Thank You?  How beautiful is your gift to us...For among us in Egypt, you raised a man that challenged the dark powers with his voice and pen...
How Can I Thank You?  How beautiful is your gift to us...For over 50 years, we have been blessed by your servant's missionary work in Egypt, Sudan, Lebanon, France, Hungary, Belgium, Germany, and many other countries including Canada my own, and the U.S.
How Can I Thank You?  How beautiful is your gift to us...He is made of steel (as in his last name: Boulad=Foulaz), yet very understanding to the needs of humanity in his projects and the humanization of a savage world.
How Can I Thank You?  How beautiful is your gift to us...It did not bother him that his family was forced out of Syria in 1860 because of persecution...He loves his persecutors. He critiques the injustice of men, yet, celebrates their being Your children - children of God.
How Can I Thank You?  How beautiful is your gift to us...He earned advanced degrees in multiple disciplines, yet he speaks with the tender voice of a child, and gives retreats to ordinary people.
How Can I Thank You?  How beautiful is your gift to us...He is the student of mystics and saints such as Ignatius of Loyola and Jean Vianney of Ars.
How Can I Thank You?  How beautiful is your gift to us...He is the open mind that learned from Teilhard de Chardin, Henri de Lubac, and Karl Rahner - Teaches as they taught and follows Vatican II.
You know his name: Henri Boulad.
Keep him O Lord of all and send him to us in Canada. May Your Name be glorified in the rest of his life, and beyond this life, when I hope he joins the Virgin Mary, angels and saints in your everlasting heaven.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Hymn to a mother

Today an old mother is having a surgery because she fell and broke her leg.Tomorrow another old mother who I know and love is having a knee replacement surgery. These ladies suffered to raise their children and have been blessed to see them grow, prosper and, in many cases, see grandchildren.

As it happened with another old lady I loved, many of those beautiful ladies do not wish to live longer. They think they are a burden to their kids or they may think that they have no more role in society especially in the West where Euthanasia is being contemplated by doctors and politicians. My beloved mother, who had a stroke some 15 years ago, was hospitalized for 4 years in a semi-comatose condition. Against doctors advice to end her life quickly, my brothers and I kept her until her life ended naturally and God called her.

Life is more important than death. Those mothers, says St. Basil the Great, delivered children that are dear to, and are images of, Christ as the Virgin Mother delivered Jesus Christ our Lord and God. How can we thank God for them? Today I had confession and received holy communion for this beautiful soul, the old mother I know, who will have surgery tomorrow. So too, all of us may wish to think of those mothers dear to everyone of us and remember them in our prayers. Without them we would not be here...Let us recall them to life; for God is the joy of eternal life!
Let us sing to our mothers, whether they are still with us in this material world or have gone in the presence of God, this hymn: For the beauty of the earth (which, metaphorically speaking, is our mother)...A hymn to Mary Mother of God:

Today's Quote

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


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