Handel's Messiah by Halleluja Chorus

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Friday, October 24, 2014

Who Will Triumph?

















The terrorism events that took place in Quebec and Ottawa this week between October 20 and October October 22, 2014 have left an indelible mark on Canadians that they have entered a decisive moment of fight against global terrorism linked to the tragic massacres of innocents by Radical Islam whether in the Middle East or outside its geographic boundaries. This is only the beginning of calamities if people of good will do not recognize the signs of times and act decisively to turn things around.
If you look at our world today this is what you will see:
1. A global economic recession, never seen in its scope. Millions have lost their jobs or are going to lose them - This is particularly critical for young adults who have just graduated from university or college but cannot find a permanent job in their careers (Professor Thomas Edsall wrote in June 2014 about this issue in New York Times here);
2. A global political crisis, where America and the European Union have hardly been able to contain the claims of Russia in Ukraine while Russia and the Far East are bringing back memories of the Cold War and a dictatorial regime in North Korea is again playing with nuclear weapons;
3. Israel and radical Muslims are making every effort to escalate the situation in the Middle East to a violent war - The Arab Spring (over 3 years now) supported by the Obama government has failed to improve the lives of people it promised and was hijacked by Muslim extremists which in turn enabled wars of divisions between Sunni and Shiite Muslims in Syria and Iraq, killed many innocent Muslims and minority Christians (the scapegoat in Girardian language) and are now attempting to recreate an Islamic Caliphate which threatens to raise the black flag of ISIS over the entire free world;
4. A global food crisis continues to rage in Africa, South America and the underdeveloped countries caused in part by insufficient resources that are already controlled by local dictators and an increasing imbalance between the wealth of the North and that of the South caused in part by an imperialistic American and Western European free-market monopoly;
5. The most influential moral voice in the world, Pope Francis, is challenged by conservatives prelates in the Church over his pastoral reforms to attract the lost young generation and broken families back to Church - In his closing address to the Synod of Bishops on the Family, October 18, 2014, Francis wisely noted the temptation "to hostile inflexibility" of "traditionalists" but cautioned too against the temptation to a destructive tendency to goodness that, in the name of a deceptive mercy, "treats the symptoms and not the causes and the roots" attempted by "progressives and liberals" (Read speech here).

Can we read the beginning of the end in today's events? We know that, according to modern Biblical scholarship, the book of Revelation was written in the late 90s, as Apocalyptic literature to warn Christians and give them hope in the persecutions of the 1st century. Having said that, let's look afresh at Revelation and see whether there can be any interpretation for our world today as well. Sometimes the same text can reflect a myth and a literal event too. Can this be the case here? The New American Bible (approved by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops) in the introduction to the Book of Revelation says "The Book of Revelation had its origin in a time of crisis, but it remains valid and meaningful for Christians of all time. In the face of apparently insuperable evil, either from within or from without, all Christians are called to trust in Jesus' promise, 'Behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age' (Matthew 28:20)"

Revelation is a complex book, so I intend only to show similarities from the Book to what we are seeing today. According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, there are 5 important symbolic figures: The Lamb, the woman, and her seed; and opposed to them, the dragon, the beast from the sea, and the beast from the land.

The main idea is taken from Genesis 3:15. "I will put enmities between you (the serpent) and the woman, and your seed and her seed". The woman is arrayed in heavenly splendour; a crown of twelve stars on her head and the sun and the moon under her feet (cf. Genesis 37:9-10). She is in travail. Her first-born is destined to rule all the nation (Psalms 2:8, 9). She herself, and her other seed, are persecuted for three and a half years by the great dragon who tries to kill them. The great dragon is Satan (Genesis 3:1). He is cast out of heaven. With his tail he drags after him one-third of the stars. Taken from Daniel 8:10. The fallen stars are the fallen angels. The beast from the sea is in great part taken from Daniel's description of the four beasts (Daniel 7). It arises from the sea; has seven heads marked all over with blasphemies (probably a reference to Rome - City of the Seven Hills, called also Babylon or the Whore in the New Testament since at the time it was the center of evil and idolatry for Christians). It had also ten horns, like the fourth beast of Daniel; it resembled a leopard, the third beast of Daniel, it had feet like a bear, the second beast of Daniel; and teeth like a lion, the first beast of Daniel. The great dragon gives full power to the beast, where all the world will worship it. The followers of the beast have its mark on their head and hand. The beast from the land has two horns like a ram. Its power lies in its art of deceiving by means of tokens and miracles. Throughout the remainder of the book it is called the false prophet. Its office is to assist the beast from the sea, and to induce people to adore its image.

The first act of the drama concludes with a promise of victory over the beast by the Lamb of God. We can safely see in the woman Mary immaculate whose seed is Jesus the Lamb of God. Other interpretations think of it as a symbol of the Church in its suffering and ultimate glory.

We can see in the Dragon the Devil. But who are the Beast and the False Prophet? The New Jerome Biblical Commentary in 1990 gives a contemporary interpretation pointing out that the beast from the sea and the beast from the earth have both mythic and historical references. Sea in the Old Testament is an opponent of God (Cf. Ps. 74:13). In Revelation, the beast from the sea is a mythical symbol of chaos and rebellion. The beast from the earth (13:11-18) is also a counter image to the Lamb. The beast from the earth is described as a false prophet, probably an agent of the Roman empire who promoted the cult of the emperor and the goddess Roma.

The following is my own interpretation based on my readings, but mostly based on what we are seeing today. I think, and I stand to be corrected, that the False Prophet is Radical Islam and the Beast is the materialist postmodern world of the West. We can consult the "Clash of Civilizations" that Samuel Huntington wrote in the 1990s, although this is not necessary.

The False Prophet: From a historic perspective, I do note that the human race was warned in 1917 by Our Lady at Fatima and that the "Third Secret of Fatima" was officially interpreted as the assassination attempt on the life of John Paul the Great. But may be that attempt was only the first of calamities that humanity will have to suffer as the sons and daughters of Abraham, Jews and Muslims, fight to death. Recall also that for 60 years now, Israel is back as one Jewish nation, and since 1967 it has reoccupied Jerusalem thus fulfilling the prophecy of the end of time attributed to Christ "and Jerusalem will be trodden down by the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled." (Luke 21: 24). Furthermore, we can go back to the early 1930s and find the established "Muslim Brotherhood" which claims support from Muslims worldwide. But two centuries earlier Mohammed Ibn Abdel-Wahhab had preached a puritan form of Islam that forbids devotional customs such as shrines for saints and visitation of tombs. He and his followers made a pact with Mohammed bin Saud whose successors prevailed in Arabia and were given the land by the British after Word War I.  Today Saudi Arabia, a rich Arab Sunni Muslim country, exports the Wahabbi/Salafist thought (with oil from its oil reserves) to other countries in the world and has its own agenda as a regional power. In addition since 1979, the Islamic Republic of Iran has been tirelessly exporting its strict Shiite doctrine to the entire Islamic world. In 1972, President Sadat released Muslim extremists from jail and was subsequently assassinated by one of their groups in 1981. By 1982, the motto "Islam is the Solution" had appeared in Egypt. It is no accident that the revival of fundamentalist Islam has spread in all the Arab world and the Muslim nations in spite of persecution by governments loyal to the West. From Sudan, Algeria, Libya, Tunisia, Egypt, Palestine, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and India there is a huge following of fundamentalist Muslims. There have been incidents of fundamentalist rebellion in the Philippines (Abu Sayyaf).

This is only a general picture. Now, I would like to give some details: Although many people are driven to think that this is a Western propaganda and political conflict, I believe that the Vatican would not have protested repeatedly in recent years against persecution and killing of Christians in Iraq, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Nigeria, India, Algeria, and Egypt unless there was ground for such violation of human freedom and dignity. Fr. Henri Boulad, S.J. who lives in Egypt explained in 2002 that Christians there were being forced to convert to Islam and up to 20,000 conversions have been taking place according to the late Pope Shenouda of the Coptic Orthodox Church. Fundamentalist Islam today, spreading in Europe at a huge rate of 230%, is one of the major forces that Western Europe had to deal with since 9/11 and is still unable to contain. The late Libyan leader Qaddafi was quoted to have said in 2007 that by 2050 Europe will be completely Muslim. Huge money is spent on building mosques and Islamic schools and supporting Muslim organizations in the entire world. Financing is coming from Saudi Arabia, Iran, Qatar and Libya. In Ontario, Canada, the Muslim community attempted, in 2007, to have its own Sharia legalized for Muslims living in Ontario, but their attempt was declined. Add to this the violent character of such organizations as Hamas, governing Gaza in Palestine and until now refusing to recognize the right of Israel to exist, and Hizbullah which has a majority support in Lebanon since its victory over Israel in 2006. Iran is attempting to build its nuclear power and its leaders have vowed to extinguish Israel. Is this enough for describing a false prophet?

The Beast: This is the great desolation of Western civilization. If I have to explain it in detail it will take me a full week. Just briefly: It started with the Reformation in the 16th century. Martin Luther thought that every individual Christian is free to interpret Scriptures according to what he feels the Holy Spirit is telling him. This idea created "individualism." Individualism is rampant today, thanks to other modern philosophers such as the existentialist Sartre. Only me counts. "The other is my hell." It is interesting to note how this has been applied successfully in contemporary thought and technology too. Nothing is done in a vacuum. One thing you must understand is that we are all related in this cosmos. Following Luther in interpreting St.Paul, Calvin thought that God predestined people as he willed to heaven or hell so if they were destined to heaven they will also be blessed here on earth. John Courtney Murray, S.J. who was the main contributor to Vatican II's "Declaration on Freedom of Religion" wrote how Calvinism re-emerged in North-America. Calvinism was brought by the early Europeans to America.  Soon enough the idea of individualism combined with the idea of blessedness on earth and produced the idea of Capitalism long before Adam Smith thought of it in economic terms. In simple terms, if I am blessed here as a Christian, I would rather use all the resources available to me to realize this blessing on earth as much and as wide as possible. This is greed in the form of Capitalism. Sure I will help the needy but I will also help myself much more from what they have. The earth is mine and I will explore its richness to the end! Today, Capitalism rules the earth. Free market enslaves people. Recall the political and economic pressure by the IMF on the underdeveloped countries to free their economy in the 1980s and 1990s. What is the global crisis but the result of that greed globally? Why is the globe in economic recession today but because of the powerful wanting more power and meanwhile robbing the nations of Africa and Asia from their resources? It is part of the nationalist movements' claims in the underdeveloped world. The entire U.N. charter is only ink on paper...Along with Capitalism a twin ideology was born: materialism.

Since the Enlightenment in the 19th century West, philosophers and scientists have been asking whether there is indeed any reality beyond matter. Some great materialist/atheist philosophers include Hume, Voltaire, Marx, Carnap, Wittgenstein, Derrida, Michel Foucault and many others. The "New Atheists" of today such as Richard Dawkins and Lawrence Krauss are scientists who devote much time attacking religion because they constrain their research to what is observable in the cosmos. In schools today, our children learn mostly what constitutes physics but very little, if any, about metaphysics (i.e. beyond physics).

Today we see how our consumerist society has invested in this ideology. Businesses flourish based on selling products to consumers. The more we consume the more business flourishes. This is the child of materialism married to capitalism. With globalization in the 1980s-1990s and beyond, large businesses and huge investors were able to reach the entire globe. Europe and the Far East imitated America and did the same. Who paid the price? Small business, and ordinary people like you and me. Materialism also bore the ideology of Communism which was carried out in Russia and persecuted religion from 1917 to 1989 in the USSR and Eastern Europe. Today Communism still lives in political pockets in Europe and is widely known under a more moderate name as socialism. Communism robbed people of their rights to private property. People became enslaved to the government of their land. It engulfed a whole generation of thinkers, even within the Church particularly in Latin America where people remain quite poor. Capitalist America supported dictatorial regimes in Latin America in order to suppress these movements.

Another twist of the moral order took place in the two World Wars. Because many men were sent to the battlefield women were forced to work in order to support their families. The radical feminist ideology was born  in the early 1920s and grew quickly in the 1940s and 1950s. Women started building their own career like men. Equality with men, not in dignity as known in traditional Christianity, but in all aspects of roles in business as well as at home was furiously demanded. This started the collapse of the family as we know it. Today we know many men and women who are, contrary to the moral Law, legally divorced. The feminist movement also produced legalization of abortion as the right of woman according to the land's law has a priority over the existence of the fetus in her womb. The Western civilization lost millions of unborn babies in this genocide. By the 1960s the sexual revolution was in the making, this time freeing people from the sex complex as defined by Freud. Soon afterwards, it became common that young people practice their intimate sexual "love" in the public with no shame. Today we know of couples who live together a life of sexual promiscuity and adultery without marriage or within marriage by prior agreement.

The last evil came under the influence of the philosopher Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche (died 1900). The ideology is known as Moral Relativism: Nietzsche sees the slave-morality as a social illness that has overtaken Europe — a derivative and resentful value which can only work by condemning others as evil. In Nietzsche's eyes, Christianity exists in a hypocritical state wherein people preach love and kindness but find their joy in condemning and punishing others for pursuing those ends which the slave-morality does not allow them to act upon publicly. Nietzsche calls for the strong in the world to break their self-imposed chains and assert their own power, health, and vitality upon the world. In Relativism (called also Postmodernism), everyone is right. There is no absolute right and absolute wrong. This helps political correctness in the pluralistic world of today.

In my humble opinion, we need to pay attention to the present, learn lessons from the past, and pray for the future. We seem to have lost our way between the False Prophet (Radical Islam) and the Beast (Western Civilization).

There is a tremendous thirst in the young generations for spiritual nourishment that gives meaning to their lives. Let us focus on those ones for their deprivation of spiritual nourishment leads them to emptiness and depression which in turn cause suicide or worse they could join the extremist Jihadists (as we already see in Europe and North America) and we end up having a crazy army of terrorists killing themselves and us in the name of God as prophesied "children will rise against parents and have them put to death"(Matthew 10:21).

The world needs a lot of prayer and intelligent collaboration in good faith to avoid a clash of civilizations and a third World War, something that Pope Francis warned about. Christians need to respect and love their fellow Muslims who worship the same God - The crimes of extremists cannot be counted against the vast majority of Muslims. We hope that the warnings of Fatima will be avoided. Mary is the mother of both Christians and Muslims, and as Bishop Fulton sheen said, Mary will bring them all to her Son.

But more prayers are needed to save the civilization of the West from destroying itself internally. This is the harder one. We believe in what the Saviour said 'Behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age' (Matthew 28:20).

Monday, October 20, 2014

Henri Boulad: Evangelization Today

On Sunday October 19, 2014 Fr.Henri Boulad, S.J. spoke about  evangelization (Readers can listen to him in French here)

Thursday, October 16, 2014

The Historical Development and Eradication of Christianity in Iraq


The dire situation of Christians in Iraq is not something that happened overnight. It took many centuries of persecution and displacement by force as the price of division among Christians themselves.

Apostolic Roots 
The Christian movement grew out of Jerusalem  after the Ascension of Christ and the reception of the Holy Spirit by the Apostles and their companions at Pentecost. The first task the Apostles undertook was to preach the good news of Christ to their fellow Jews in the Temple and in other cities in Judea.

In the first, second and third centuries AD Christians became involved in a life-and-death struggle with the Roman empire's pagan culture. They were required to sacrifice to the pagan idols and if they refused they often had to be thrown to hungry lions for the crowds to enjoy them being eaten alive in the Colosseum theaters. Ignatius, martyr and the third Bishop of Antioch, experienced this end around 107 AD under order by Trajan, the Roman emperor (98-117 AD), because he was Christian ...Nero had crucified Christians accusing them of burning Rome in 64 AD. He is remembered in Apocalypse (attributed to John the Apostle) as the "Beast" who will come back and his mark is 666, a transliteration of Nero's name in Greek (Revelation 13:18). According to Christopher Dawson, the main achievement of the Church was "the successful domination of the urban Roman-Hellenistic culture." In spite of intermittent persecutions, the Church, nevertheless, became the greatest creative force in the second and third centuries culture.

This is the age of Clement and Origen in the East and Irenaeus, Tertullian, and Cyprian in the West. On theologians of the 2nd and third centuries, Jaroslav Pelikan wrote that they could take the Apocalypse of John as their model and repudiate pagan thought just as they repudiated the imperial cult; or they could seek out, within classicism, analogies to the continuity-discontinuity which all of them found in Judaism. According to him, the most comprehensive of apologetic treatises was "Against Celsus" by Origen (Cf.  Pelikan: "The Christian Tradition: A History of the Development of Doctrine: Vol. 1 - The Emergence of the Catholic Tradition" P. 27). From a sociological perspective Christianity proved to be not a mere sectarian cult but a real society with a high sense of citizenship.

Thomas and Thaddaeus sent to India
There is evidence that the ancient Church in the East expanded through the Apostles Thomas and Thaddaeus as far as India. The Assyrian Church of the East, the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church in India, and the Chaldean Catholic Church claim historical presence in the lands by the lineage of their patriarchs, but especially that the Eucharistic prayer in the Divine liturgy of Addai (Thaddaeus) and Mari dates back to 3rd-century Edessa near Cappadocia (See map).

Large-scale Divisions
Yet, Christian leaders failed to maintain unity. In the 5th century, Nestorius, Patriarch of Constantinople, understood (or rather misunderstood) the true nature of the incarnation of the Word. He preached that in Christ there were not only two natures but also two persons: one from God (the Word) and one created like men who was born of the Virgin Mary. If this is followed, then the Virgin Mary could not be called Theotokos (Mother/bearer of God). For this understanding, Nestorius was excommunicated at the Council of Ephesus under the leadership of St. Cyril in 431 AD, after securing the support of the Pope of Rome. Nestorius was exiled and his followers escaped to Persia and Assyria, the enemies of the Byzantine Christians. It was an opportunity to preach Christ to pagans. Assyria became the center of Christianity in the East. The Nestorians went as far as India. But their numbers dwindled over time.

The Islamic Conquests
In the 7th century. Muslim invaders from Arabia conquered Assyria and ruled it, but for a few centuries Assyrian Christians, including scholars and doctors, played a significant role in Iraq.  By the 8th century Muslims were already divided and each sect attacked the other to regain power of the Islamic Caliphate. Numerous Christians who were not rich enough to pay  the Gezya tax as Dhimmis lost their lives unless they accepted to convert to Islam. 

The Abbasid Caliphate centered its government in Kufa, but in 762 AD the Caliph Al-Mansour founded, and moved his capital to, the city of Baghdad close to the Persian capital of Ctesiphon. Baghdad became a center of learning in science and philosophy that included a large library. The growing dominance of Islam expanded throughout the Middle East and threatened the Christian dominance in Europe when Muslims invaded Spain. To reduce tensions with the Islamic Caliphate and secure trade with the East, the Catholic Frankish Pepin entered into negotiations with the Abbasid Caliph in 762 AD. In 800, as the Roman Emperor Charlemagne was crowned, ambassadors from the Abbasid Caliph Haroun al-Rashid arrived in Rome and delivered the keys of the Holy Sepulchre Church in Jerusalem to the new Emperor (Einhard, "Annales", ad an. 800 in "Mon. Germ. Hist.: Script.", I, 187).

More Massacres
In 1258, Baghdad was sacked by the Mongols under Hulago Khan. The Mongol Empire, founded by Genghis Khan in Central Asia, spread over most of Eurasia, Russia, China, and the Middle East. In their conquests, large-scale slaughters of local populations took place. Many Christians in Iraq and Syria were massacred, but their remnants managed to survive. Northern Iraq remained predominantly Assyrian Christians who maintained the Aramaic language in their liturgy. By the 14th century, the Assyrian Church of the East existed in the so-called Assuristan (Sassanid), and twelve Nestorian dioceses extended from Peking (Beijing) to Samarkand. However near the end of the 14th century, the Muslim Mongol warlord Tamerlane (Timur) conquered Persia, Mesopotamia, and Syria. Timur had 70,000 Assyrian Christians beheaded in Tikrit and another 90,000 in Baghdad. Following the massacres of Tamerlane, the episcopal see of Ancient Assyria was moved to Alqosh in the Mosul region and Patriarch Mar Shimun IV Basidi (1437-1493) made the office of the patriarch hereditary.

Reunion with Rome?
In 1552, a group of Assyrian bishops from the Northern regions of Amid and Salmas challenged the hereditary c laim of the office of the patriarch and elected Mar Yohanan Suluqa as a rival patriarch. Suluqa was received by the Pope in Rome who in 1553 consecrated him Mar Shimun VIII, Patriarch of the Chaldeans. The link with the Roman Church proved providential as missionaries increased and churches were opened. In the 20th century, the Catholic Church opened a dialogue with the Assyrian Church of the East. In 1994 Saint Pope John Paul II and Mar Dinkha IV Catholicos-Patriarch of the Assyrian Church of the East signed a common Christological Declaration in which both recognize the legitimate different expressions of Christian dogma on the incarnation of the Word of God and recognize the attribution of Theotokos (Mother of God) to the mother of Jesus.

The New Massacres
The 20th century Iraq was also dominated by political rivalries between Shiite and Sunni Muslims.  Under the Baath Party, dictators governed Iraq for the 2nd half of the century but Christians were mostly secure. In a prolonged war between Iraq and the Islamic Republic of Iran that started in 1980 and ended in 1988, Iraq sought to protect its territories especially because of fear of Shia insurgency in Iraq after the establishment of a Shiite Islamic government in Iran but each lost significant military forces and each withdrew to its territorial boundaries.

In 1990 Iraq invaded Kuwait under the pretext that Kuwait was stealing Iraqi petroleum through slant drilling when Iraq needed to pay creditors for money borrowed to finance the Iran-Iraq war. Kuwait's over-production of petroleum kept Iraqi revenues low. In 1991, the United States led a coalition of nations to liberate Kuwait by armed forces and was able to liberate Kuwait and destroy much of Iraq's forces. In 2003, against the moral voice of Saint Pope John Paul II,  the Unites States and allies invaded Iraq stating that it was bringing in democracy to Iraq. The Baathist regime was overthrown and over a few years new governments were formed which were never able to establish security of minorities the country against violent insurgents. Due to continuing threats to their survival, many Iraqi Christians were displaced, settled in other more tolerant countries or became refugees in the West.

In October 2010, Catholics attending Mass in Our Lady of Salvation Syriac Catholic Church near Baghdad were shot dead by Islamic fundamentalists. And since January 2011, the so-called Arab Spring, supported by the United States government of Barack Obama and Western European powers, caused more violence and divisions along sectarian lines where radical Islamists attacked the religious minorities of Christians and their churches in much of  the Arab world. By 2012, Tunisia, Libya, Yemen, and Egypt had fallen to the Muslim radicals known as the Muslim Brotherhood but Egypt alone was restored to civil government with the help of its army in July 2013. For some 4 years, a sectarian war has been raging in Syria between the government's army (Muslim Alawites) supported by Shiite Hizbullah and armed by Russia against Sunni Muslim radicals supported and financed by Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar.

The Islamic State (also known as ISIS) is an extremist group of Islamists supported by some Muslim organizations across the globe. It is the latest threat yet to global civilization and security. The IS cruel killing of its opponents started to grow in Iraq in 2013 under the pretext that Sunni Muslims were not given a fair treatment by a majority Shiite government. A splinter group of al Qaeda, its ambitious strategy is to demolish civilizations and cultures that do not implement a strict interpretation of Islamic Sunni Sharia as their laws. While IS targets all nations, its command is to destroy Christianity and Judaism since the are considered infidels


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?

On 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."
We may wish to listen to his voice here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D7hY1F3Oryo  

If we listen to him here: http://www.romereports.com/pg158331-pope-francis-warns-of-world-war-iii-en  we 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. However, more pastors are also pessimistic about the decline in observing moral values in the Western Christian civilization. But this is hardly the problem of the rich West. Obsession with material possessions increases selfishness which is found in all countries.The big picture reflects fear of threats to survival whether it is because of a distorted radical Islamism, an increasing tension between Russia and NATO, or the spread of Ebola that could kill more people. To address such ugly situation, we may as well return to the gospel. In Matthew Chapter 7, Jesus tells his listeners to start correcting themselves "Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, `Let me take the speck out of your eye,' when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye." (Matt 7: 3-5). If our spiritual leaders (including patrirachs, cardinals, and bishops) follow Pope Francis in his simple way of living and dressing, Christians will probably imitate their leaders. We need to individually and socially (in community) wake up and return to our loving God. We need to discern the will of God. "Humanity needs to weep and the time to weep is now." Tears of sorrow can be a temporary emotional reaction to fear. Or they can be the beginning of real repentance in seeking God who loves all. Let's recall that there are more Christian missionaries in the world than ever. More children are born everyday that bring joy - more joy than hatred.

In his 2012 book "The Better Angels of Our Nature:Why Violence Has Declined", Steven Pinker at Harvard University provides statistical evidence that there were less victims killed in the two World Wars of the 20th century than there were in the 19th century.

And St. Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Society of Jesus (the Jesuits), articulates the vision that in spite of evil God brings good out of everything  (exercised in the discernment of spirits or daily examen). St. Thomas More followed the primacy of conscience in making decisions (exercised in the discernment of spirits  and elevated by the Christian moral teachings).  St. Francis of Assisi too spoke to the beauty of God implanted in creation: Sister Sun and Brother Moon and wrote the hymn of love Make me a channel of your peace.

If we and our pastors follow Jesus as those saints did, we will be contagious in our patience and love to others and this will render in us the peace of Christ. As long as we live, we must hope for a better life here and in heaven. And so we can sing with St. Paul and the early Church the hymn about 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, 6-11).

Today's Quote

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







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