Today's Wisdom

When we meet a person truly in need, do we see the face of God?
Pope Francis

Monday, January 2, 2017

2017 - A New Year

The first day of the year is the Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary,  the Mother of God. In the Eastern Byzantine Churches it is also the Feast Day of St. Basil the Great. In his exhortation in December 1967, Blessed Pope Paul VI asked that all observe it as a 'Day of Peace.' "Let no voice be missing from the great chorus of the Church and of the world, beseeching Christ Who was immolated for us to 'Grant us peace!'" Paul VI wrote.
Four persons are remembered on the first of January: Our God, Savior, and Lord Jesus Christ who grants peace to the world; His Blessed Mother who always listens to her Son and beseeches blessings on the devotees in the way that he sees appropriate; St. Basil the Great whose compassion towards the destitute compels many to ask for his intercession; and Blessed Paul VI whose humility, I hope, will soon crown a declaration of his canonization.
Personally, I pray very little every night. Since my stroke in 2007, I only pray "Hail Mary" then remember my family, relatives and friends. I add a prayer to God that He may, in his unbounded providence, lead everyone to Christ including us who are probably "nominal" Christians. I implore His act of forgiveness to every person on earth and his mercy to every one on the brink of death and the departed ones who in purgatory long to be with Him in the victorious Church.
Above all I learned to thank God for giving life to us. God creates out of his love. We are all beloved even when we are far from him. Christ not only teaches us in the Parable of the Lost Son, and in the Good Samaritan, but he too extended his goodness and invited the enemies of his people: the Samaritans and the Canaanites; and through his disciples went to all the known nations.
If you wish to know how good is God with me, look for his patience with sinners...It has been over 30 years since my health problems started in May 1986. Then it was only a mild heart attack (myocardiac infarct) that I had. At that time the accomplished Dr. Michael Sole, top cardiologist in Canada, at the time director of research and professor of medicine at the University of Toronto, gave us an ultimatum of what he thought would be my life expectation: 2 years! I wrote about what followed one year after my stroke and shared it with colleagues far away in my studies for the master's degree in information system.
The reason for life is the love of God. God offers us love and joy not only here but in eternal communion. "Do not be afraid little flock, for your Father is pleased to give you the kingdom" (Luke 12: 32).  Referring to himself as the divine person who will gather all the nations, Christ declares "A thief comes only to steal and slaughter and destroy; I came so that they may have life and have it abundantly." (John 10: 10). Where Satan divides, Christ gathers. We must ask what kind of abundance does Christ give? (See Ephesians 3: 20 and Hebrews 11 too).  If we are being true with scriptures and history, the new life given in Christ must be more than mere material blessings. Redemptive suffering was experienced by many people who did not particularly enjoy it, but accepted it in accord with their conscience as developed through listening to the loving voice of Christ. I know people who were terminally-ill but their illness became an opportunity for them to pray to God, ask forgiveness, and lead a life of inner peace. They died in peace with God. Christ wills to help everyone through His Spirit who urges us to repent and, ordinarily through confession and holy communion, restores us to the state of grace.
Let us do everything possible to build the kingdom of God, pray for the Church and those who are not in full communion with her, collaborate with every person of good will, help the needy where we possibly can, and encourage each other to be attentive to God. Whether  Obama, Trump, Putin, Xi Jinping, Erdogan, Netanyahu, Saudi King Salman, or Iran's Khamenei threatens the lives of people, none of them can challenge God! Pray for them too!

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Love means Zero: A Reflection on Christmas Eve

Is God One?  Is God Three? Saint Augustine of Hippo was wondering about this question at the beach near Carthage when he saw a little child filling his bucket with water  only to go back and fill it more from the sea. When he asked the question to the child, the child answered "It is easier to fill the bucket with the entire sea than for you to comprehend the Trinity" and vanished. Years ago when Fr. Bishoy was the new pastor at Holy Family Coptic Catholic parish in Toronto, he welcomed Fr. Henri Boulad, S.J. and asked him to give an answer to the question of the Creed. Fr. Boulad, in his customary beautiful way of attracting people to hear his message, gave a lecture which I attempted over the years to replicate and refine. Here is why we believe that God cannot be a unicity or a lonely person - In fact the lonely one enclosed upon himself according to Fr. Daniel Callam, CSB  and a host of other teachers of theology is in hell. Fr. Boulad's answer is YES. God is a Trinity in One. When the Father loves his Son eternally he abandons his infinite divinity and grants it in a self-sacrificial love to the Son.The Son also returns this divinity with unlimited love to the Father and the Holy Spirit binds them with his outpouring love in the unity of eternal God. Note how each fully abandons himself eternally. More here:

Every person in the Triune God shares the same divinity. This eternal love was reflected in two acts of God: Creation out of love; and self denial in redeeming humanity which was fulfilled in the incarnation, passion, and death of Jesus Christ. He had to die to himself in order to rise from the dead and restore wounded humanity in sin to the Father.

Inspired by a homily given by Fr. Boulad on the baptism of Jesus, I spoke about the "naked" God in January this year. See here:
Naked means he has nothing - He leaves everything he has in order to complete his mission...
When I had graduated from engineering in 1976, I thought that "theology" could be expressed in mathematical forms. In this holy season of Christmas I wish to share this idea subject to correction by experts...In mathematics we have numbers but they are not unlimited. Infinity is expressed by the symbol ∞. If you divide ∞ by any number the result is always ∞ or infinity. The same is with 0 or zero. If you divide 0 by any number the result is always 0 (or zero). In differential equations "Limited" is used to express the tendency of any function: Ltd t -> 0 means time tends to zero. It is never zero.
This is only a simple example compared to the huge research in quantum cosmology, Big Data, artificial intelligence in computing technology, neuroscience, the origin of the human mind and other areas. ​
But ​to return to the topic, in the incarnation of the Word (Logos) God becomes ZERO. God the Word who is infinite is united to an imperfect humanity (or humanity that is wounded with evil) by becoming the smallest thing to the point of zero. He so much loves his creation that he could not leave humanity far from him. His love, always present in many ideas of philosophers and in some way in other ancient religions, was in the "fullness of time" present at last with the Covenants of God to Israel - the smallest nation broken by the Babylonians, Greeks. Romans and others - as the fulfillment of Israel's prophets and fathers. He was born away in a cave, a manger, in a little town from a little virgin who knew very little but only dared to say Yes to the angel.
ZERO means nothing. For the Divine who is unlimited in every good thing, becoming a little human is like ZERO!
For us, this requires action to unite with each other and with every one in the world in the love of God and for his glory. It means more than buying gifts to my family or yours because it is Christmas. It means unity of Christians against hatred...which translates to helping those in need everywhere we can help. May the Lord have mercy on me sinner...May the Lord be glorified in everyone we know...May the Lord's peace fill every heart in these days of fear, confusion and terrorism that the world is witnessing...It is easy said but it means that we accept and cooperate with the Spirit of God wherever he leads us as did Mary the mother of Christ...
Mary Did You Know? [Click here to listen]

Ibrahim El-Haddad: Out of the Cave

The little infant was happy to dwell in the womb of his mother for 9 months. That was his cave but not like ours who move in this world's cave blinded by darkness that wants to choke our lives. The womb of the Virgin Mary became "larger than heavens" as the Byzantine liturgy reminds us. Christ came to redeem and to restore to his Father the entire human race. About 2000 years ago he was born in a cave too in the town of Bethlehem surrounded by his mother the Blessed Virgin Mary and Saint Joseph, and simple shepherds who welcomed him with their sheep while the arrogant Herod, probably many today, could not rest when he knew that the Messiah was born there. If kings from the East worshiped Jesus Christ in the manger, why do we hesitate?
To all the faithful, and not only to the Knights of Columbus, I say "Do not be afraid; for behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people" (Luke 2: 10). To men who read me, I invite you to join our Council of the Knights of Columbus because you will benefit and will benefit others in the faith and charity of the Lord. Open your hearts. Come out of the cave. The Lord is here!

Friday, December 23, 2016

The Knights of God?

The Lord taught us how to pray: Our Father Who Art in heaven... Hallowed be Thy Name... Thy Kingdom come... Thy Will be done on earth as It is in heaven... Give us this day our daily bread, and Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us, and Lead us Not into temptation but Deliver us from the evil one.
Do we really talk to our Father with the trust that children have? Do we sanctify his name in the way we think and act?  These are the questions that Christians must ask themselves especially in the holy season of Christmas that reminds us of the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ as a little baby more than 2000 years ago in a little manger surrounded by his mother the Blessed Virgin Mary and St. Joseph; both humble persons, and the shepherds who ran to see him with their sheep before the arrival of the kings of the East to pay him homage! The earth knelt and worshiped Christ while the angels in heaven sang their "Glory to God in the highest, and peace to his people on earth"!
Today, in a materialistic world, we hardly hear "Our Father" in public even though he gave us life and offered eternal life to those who wish to listen to and follow him.
In today's world, a few organizations try to help the successors of the Apostles in the living Church of God as much as the Knights of Columbus. With close to 2 million members, the Knights of Columbus, founded by Venerable Fr. McGivney as a fraternal organization to help the widows who lost their husbands in wars, portray a solid Catholic faith in their charitable work within the community, and for the needy and persecuted ones everywhere. They are pro-life who walk every year to support mothers to carry their babies in the womb to full term and deliver them to the joy of life. Many of them support their families and at the same time serve the parish or multiple parishes that constitute the community of the faithful. They serve in the collections in the Mass, and some as honor guards during religious festivals. They help the parish council(s) in planning and organizing events. They also organize social dinners, lectures around faith topics, and Bible studies. They sell holy items from the Holy Land for the benefit of the poor, refugees, and expansion of church little buildings. The Knights of Columbus publish books or booklets that help readers in their spiritual quest. With a chaplain (usually a priest) in every Council, their goal is to pray for the distressed and sick, reach out to those who despair, enrich those who are spiritually in need, and, above all, prepare people on earth for the Lord; a Biblical theme. To the distressed and persecuted in the Middle East, the Knights of Columbus sent much assistance to rebuild families, restore broken churches, and provide medicine in Iraq and to feed the hungry, help refugees, treat the wounded, and give medicine in Syria. The Supreme Knight participated in calling on the U.S. government and European governments to recognize the wars in the Middle East as acts of genocide. In the recent Supreme Convention in Toronto (August 2016) which some of Jesus the King Knights of Columbus Council members attended, we listened to Thomas Cardinal Collins advocating the right to life for the terminally-ill thus proclaiming the Church's stand for life and against the recent law in Canada for assisted suicide. Cardinal Collins has often spoken of the Knights of Columbus as "the strong arm of the Church." But above all, churches around the world have been called by Pope Francis to pray for peace in the lands that witnessed the early Christian testimonies from Jerusalem to Antioch (Syria) and beyond in the land of the Assyrians (today's Iran and Iraq).
The Church is here. Wishes alone do not deliver. Every member of every Council is encouraged to commit a few more hours to noble projects. The Knights of Columbus lead the Church in their services but they need more young members. This is the question that every young adult must ask himself.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

The Church's Prayers

There are billions of people who do not know Christ. Some of them are atheists. Others are extremists who bomb people and kill them. Still others are Christians, devout Christians, who are only asking God for themselves and praying for their own little families. How about the rest?

I ask the entire Christian people whom  I know to pray everyday for the above people and for each other. They are like us men and women and children. They and we need God. Jesus said "I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit because without me you can do nothing" (John 15:5).

As the star guided the Magi to Christ, so we too can guide many to him. When they found him, the Magi adored him in the manger. Are we arrogant and selfish as Herod was? Do we only look for vanity? I saw many yesterday December 17, 2016 in the Christmas party in which we thanked Fr. Michel Chalhoub for his humility in 10 years serving the congregation of Jesus the King parish as a priest and others too who served the parish for so long. Are we only in Christmas to have a party? No. We thank God for him and them.

By the same token, we ask the Lord to help us prepare for Christmas by helping the needy, sending money or children clothing to pro-life organizations such as Birthright where mothers need help to avoid abortion, working with St. Vincent de Paul to feed the lonely and old, preparing some food for Out of the Cold program in Toronto and other cities, participating in "Baptism Preparation" for parents who wish to baptize their children or at least engaging in helping them if asked,

For our own sanctification, we need to fast if we can, go to confession - possibly with a spiritual director priest, receive the Holy Eucharist in the Church on Christmas where we mystically become one with Christ.

You may wish to listen to Bishop Robert Barron here on having a personal relationship with Christ:

The Church is praying...Always trusting in our Lord the Holy Trinity who loves all that He created in His own image and likeness (Genesis 1: 26-27).

"For in him we move and live and have our being" (Acts 17: 28).

Today's Quote

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


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