Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Satanic attack on the family: The problem (1/5)

Now the most cunning serpent approaches my garden and asks me: "Did God really tell you not to take all that pleases you?" I answer the serpent: "I have my spouse and my spouse has me, and we are happy being one body, pleasing to God. We are free to take and enjoy everything around us except what the Lord God has forbidden us to touch lest we die." But the serpent says to me: "You certainly will not die! No, God knows well that the moment you take what you think God has forbidden you, your eyes will be opened, and you will be like gods who know best what is good and what is bad." (Gen 3:1-5)

The serpent got closer to me and says: "Are you happy with your life? Does your spouse bring you joy, pleasure, and happiness? Does your spouse satisfy and fulfill all your dreams and wants? Is your spouse young and full of beauty? Is your spouse exciting and full of life? Are you in love with your spouse? Are you really happy? Is what you have as good as God says it is?"

Then the serpent sweeps me further away from my garden and my family and places in my presence someone other than my spouse. The serpent then says: "All of this can be yours." [Luke 4:7]

My heart floods with new desires and needs, my blood overflows and rushes from it and fills the tiniest of my veins. With every passing second, I fall deeper and deeper in love, gliding toward an endless pit of seduction and a horizon of disordered sexual wants. With my intellect enslaved and my will distorted, I consume the fruits of the forbidden tree, and I have become indeed one of the gods, deciding for myself what is good and what is not.

My reason, puffed-up with pride, justifies it all: "I am made to enjoy it all and am truly deserving of it all. I am a higher level of being than my spouse and deserve someone better. I deserve the freedom to experience life unbounded by self-imposed human restrictions. Suppressed emotions and unrealistic expectations are counter to my nature and lead to nothing but unnecessary misery. I am free to love and free to live, more than ever before."

"I am in love and nothing at all matters to me except being with my new lover. My previous obligations, promises, and vows, to my loved ones and to God, are now meaningless empty words of self-imposed human misery. Nothing can entice me to let go of my newly found love. I am not the least concerned with what anyone else thinks of me, not even God. Who on earth or even in heaven can judge me? Who can judge love? And if someone did, even with good intentions to set my path straight, they are simply ignorant and incapable of understanding my special case."

"I want it all, and if pressed, I am willing to give everything else away for the sake of my new possession, my new love. Yes, of course, my spouse and my family remain important to me, and I love them too. Surely they would understand that I am in love?! They would understand that I want them with me too, outside the garden. If they don't understand and are not willing to be with me, I am willing to let go of them as well, for I will do whatever it takes to protect my new possession."

Pride consumes my reason, and I am so blind to that fact. My will is distorted and no longer belongs to me. I am lost in a dark world, and the light within me is shutout from me, as if turned into darkness. I am now absolutely careless of anything and anyone except myself. I am stuck in a dream and incapable of waking up. I am away from home, outside God's garden, and back where the serpent lives, and day by day the vision of my family fades away from me.

I look up toward God as I fall even deeper, and I look back down and choose pride over mercy, and mumble, "I am so far gone and there is no way back home for me, so I might as well go deeper. I place my trust in the serpent who encourages me and sympathizes with me. It tells me about God and how God is unfair in how God made me. How God is unfair in judging me after making the fruit of the forbidden tree desirable to me. How God emphasizes the value of the family, how husband and wife are to be one while it is obvious that dullness occupies such union and burdens of daily life suffocate it. The serpent assures me that there is something unjust about the whole design of the family. But it assures me that there is no way back. 'God's mercy' the serpent says, 'is not welcomed here' "

"Sometimes in secret, I pray to God, but God remains silent and says nothing. It is like God understands and approves of my new affair with my lover. I bargain with God to take everything except my new way of life. Perhaps all these human laws and burdens of marriage vows are designed by people to control the masses and not originated by God. Perhaps God never intended such heavy burdens on us. Perhaps God does not really care. It makes no difference anyway, now that I am my own god, and my will is what matters most; I will to do whatever it takes to make me happy. I am on this road but not alone, the serpent guides me. If God wants to be silent, let God remain silent!"

My soul, my soul, who will lift you up from the pit of darkness? My soul, my soul, who can descend into hell and give you life? So proud yet so blind. So free yet so enslaved. You have gained it all but lost yourself. Who will turn you around and show you that your sin can never be greater than God's mercy? My soul, my soul, who will save you and give you true life?

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Anxious and worried

"The Lord said to her in reply, 'Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her'." [Luke 10:41-42]
So many of us today are anxious and worried about many things. We feel the absolute need to control everything and everyone. When we sense a loss of control, we become overwhelmed with fear and anxiety and sometimes explode with anger, followed by regret and sorrow.

Jesus tells us that there is need for only one thing and that is to focus our eyes on Him. Our human nature is truly joyful and at peace when He is the center and Lord of our life. Since "All things came to be through him, and without him nothing came to be" [John 1:3], all things are designed by nature to be complete when in union with Him.

To make him Lord is to subject to him, every feeling and concern, every thought and action, from the smallest to the greatest, in the past, the present, and the future. It is to imitate Him in carrying our cross and being crucified to the world (Galatians 6:14). It is to be like Him in accepting and yes loving God's will in our life. Gradually we become transformed in Him and see the whole world through His eyes.

Because of our distorted human nature, this is not at all an easy task. In fact, it is a lifetime journey of growth. If it was not, God would not have shed His light on His Gospel through the writings of His saints like St. Catherine of Sienna, St. Teresa of Avila, St. John of the Cross, St. Francis De Sales, and St. Therese of Lisieux.

The task of making Christ our Lord is not possible on our own. Christianity's dogma that only God can bring us to God is absolute. We have in us, through the gift of our baptism, One who is greater than us, the Spirit of the Lord who will gently work with our will, to free us from our bondage, and to empower us to make Christ our Lord. The transformation is gradual leading first to abundant joy and eventually to peace.

St. Paul tells us "For if you live according to the flesh, you will die, but if by the spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For those who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you received a spirit of adoption, through which we cry, "Abba, Father!" [Romans 8: 13-15]

Christ has promised us His peace if we abide in Him: "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid." [John 14:27]. Take courage, focus on Christ and trust in God's mercy above all.

Monday, July 05, 2010

Look but do not see

"They look but do not see and hear but do not listen or understand." [Matthew 13:13]

So many of us today live in a world of darkness, constantly occupied with endless meaningless dreams that keep us away from real life. Occasions of grace, such as love or loss of love, awake us into reality, but soon enough we plunge back into the darkness of deep sleep. We are in a hurry for nothing and to nowhere. Our eyes are blind to God's light, and our ears deaf to His word. Our hearts have no space for Him, and our thoughts no time. We live unaware that we are busy dreaming.

Through the Gospels, Christ calls us to follow Him and walk in His light: "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life." [John 8:122] "Christ councils us to follow his life and way if we desire true enlightenment and freedom from all blindness of heart. Let the life of Jesus Christ, then, be our first consideration." [The Imitation of Christ 1:1]

Jesus came so that we "might have life and have it more abundantly." [John 10:10] To have life we must love like He loved us, and to love like He loved us we must deny ourselves and follow Him. True love requires sacrifice; our crucified Lord assures us of this reality. We need to reject the world of dreams and darkness and live in the light.

"Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road broad that leads to destruction, and those who enter through it are many. How narrow the gate and constricted the road that leads to life. And those who find it are few." [Matthew 7:13-14]

So many of us today, purposely ignore these words because we see them as burden rather than a blessing . We focus on the nice side of God and in doing so recreate Him in our own image. A god whose whole function is to serve our immediate needs. After all, we think the whole world owes us so much and exists to accommodate us. We go on assuring each other that most of us will easily drift into heaven.

Yet these words of Jesus above are words of truth spoken out of love for us. It is God's will that heaven is not reached by drifters but by those who love God with their whole strength, love others as themselves, and above all are dependent on God's eternal mercy.

St John of the Cross reminds us that even a small thread can keep a bird from flying- it does not take a chain. We must then with God's help renounce even the least of the obstacles that separate us from God. "Everyone of you who does not renounce all his possessions cannot be my disciple. Salt is good, but if salt itself loses its taste, with what can its flavor be restored? It is fit neither for the soil nor for the manure pile; it is thrown out. Whoever has ears to hear ought to hear." [Luke 14:33-35]

Thursday, June 24, 2010

God is Love

It is not about being saved or gaining eternal life.
It is not about being enlightened or knowing the truth.
It is not about being perfect or doing what is right.
It is not about being a believer or having the true faith.
It is not about being right or being just.
It is not about being rewarded or not punished.

It is not about being religious, faithful, or spiritual.
It is not about being an intellectual, knowledgeable, or reasonable.
It is not about being beautiful, handsome, or elegant.
It is not about being strong, tough, or resilient.

It is not about happiness, joy, or laughter.
It is not about suffering, pain, or sacrifice.
It is not about peace, hope, or satisfaction.
It is not about creativity, imagination, or art.
It is not about music, philosophy, science, time, space, ...

It is about a boy and a girl's first love, expressed in words for the first time.
It is about a young couple's first look at their new born baby.
It is about an infant's long stare at her mom as she breast feeds.
It is about a toddler's comfort holding his dad's hand.
It is about a older man and his daughter hugging.
It is about a young girl kissing her dad goodnight.
It is about two lovers lost in each others arms.

It is a love story between God and his creation:
"God looked at everything He had made, and He found it good" [Genesis 1:31]
"God saw how good it was" [Genesis 1:10; 12; 18; 21; 25]
"For God so loved the world ... " [John 3:16]
"Beloved, let us love one another, because love is of God; everyone who loves is begotten by God and knows God. Whoever is without love does not know God, for God is love." [1 John 4:7-8]
"God is love, and whoever remains in love remains in God and God in him." [1 John 4:16]

This love story is fully expressed in Jesus the Christ, the true God, the true man. A relation with God is perfected only in Christ who is eternally begotten God, true God from true God, true Light from true Light.

It is not about being saved . . . it is about being in love with the One who loved us first and with His beloved children.

Monday, June 14, 2010

The lighthouse

A beautiful lighthouse rises on a cliff in the midst of a peaceful small garden with green grass and plenty of colorful flowers. She reflects God's light on many who are lost near her shores. Proud, not of herself, but of God who sustains her, enlightens her, and guides his loved ones through her.

On a very stormy night, and in a blink of an eye, the ocean waves rose way high upon her and shattered her to pieces in the midst of her garden. The light in her turned into darkness [Luke 11:35]. So great was her fall, and so intense the destruction around her, so much as to resemble an erupting volcano with rushing lava burning all those encountered in her path. Her spirit, stunned by what had happened, cried to God, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" [Mark 15:34]

This is the story of a soul who has lost the light within her when she allowed herself to turn away from her God, from her lover, and roam and flirt with other lovers. Although by His grace she did not loose herself to them, she was weakened by their seduction and stripped from her joy, peace, and wisdom.

When she woke up from this nightmare in a bed of ashes and realized the damage she had inflicted on herself and on her loved ones around her, she was immediately seduced once again, only this time by the spirit of depression, and before she knew it, she had judged herself as unworthy and plummeted into an overwhelming sadness and misery.

It is then that she remembered her lover's words: "When an unclean spirit goes out of someone, it roams through arid regions searching for rest but, finding none, it says, 'I shall return to my home from which I came.' But upon returning, it finds it swept clean and put in order. Then it goes and brings back seven other spirits more wicked than itself who move in and dwell there, and the last condition of that person is worse than the first." [Luke 11:24-26]

Is it too late for her? Is she dead in her mysery? "Your daughter has died; why trouble the teacher any longer?" But when she turns to Jesus who calls her by name, she sees him disregarding the message of a dead girl and saying "Do not be afraid; just have faith . . . Why this commotion and weeping? The child is not dead but asleep." [Mark 5:35-39] Jesus takes her by the hand and says " 'Talitha Koum,' which means, 'Little girl, I say to you, arise!' The girl, a child of twelve, arose immediately and walked around."[Mark 5:41-42]

The soul hears then the words of her lover: "Arise, my darling, my beautiful one, and come with me." [Song 2:10] "I have loved you with an everlasting love, I have drawn you with loving kindness" [Jeremiah 31:3]" She gets up and follows him. The beautiful lighthouse is risen again to reflect God's light on all his loved ones.

One can only understand the relationship between God and the soul through the context of a love story. It is this love story between God and the soul that sheds light on all who seek to understand the two lovers.

St Francis De Sales tells us that God sometimes pours on us an incredible spiritual energy that instantly changes us, but most often He attracts us in a gentle, gradual, powerful way without overwhelming our free will and we must respond fully and not partially to God's call. [St. Francis De Sales 'Living Love']

"Our mind's understanding of truth can be extraordinarily pleasing. But when we are lifted above natural mental processes and perceive the sacred truth of faith, we will experienced unsurpassed joy. The soul will melt with pleasure. . . . We have a thirst that cannot be satisfied by the things of this world." [St. Francis De Sales 'Living Love']

Friday, April 02, 2010

Mary and her dead son

Weeping Mary, sitting on the ground with her back pinned to the blood soaked wood, holds her son in her arms. The author of life has no life in him. She vividly remembers God's angel's words to her: "He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, and he will rule over the house of Jacob, and of his Kingdom there will be no end . . . [He] will be called Holy, the Son of God." [Luke 1:32-35]

Now the Holy Son of God lays dead in her arms. His body, all beaten and scourged, bathes with his precious blood. His hands and feet pierced, his head punctured with thorns, and his side opened. He has given it all.

Mary suffers and who can feel her pain except a mother who had held her dead child in her arms. Mary, the one whom the "Holy Spirit came upon", the one "overshadowed by the power of the Most High" [Luke 1:35] is now pierced by the sword [Luke 2:35], a sword that shatters her heart.

Mary kisses her son's face over and over again mixing her tears with his blood, wiping his face with her right hand. Just the night before her son prayed "Abba, Father, all things are possible to you. Take this cup away from me, but not what I will but what you will" [Mark 14:36]. Just thirty three years earlier Mary has also prayed: "I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word." Luke [1:38].

Mary remembers her tears the first time that she lost him. She had held him so tight and kissed him so much as he comforted her with the words: "Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father's House?" [Luke 2:50] Now she remembers his words at the beginning of his ministry: "For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life." [John 3:16] She thought to herself, today my little "good Shepherd lays down his life for the sheep" [John 10:11]

Friday, March 26, 2010

Layla the Atheist

On a certain unique night, God made someone who does not believe in Him. He formed her perfect in the womb, designed her with precision, made her very intelligent, very beautiful, gave her a place to breath, walk, swim, and live, and most of all loved her as if she was His only created being. He gave her the name "Layla".

Layla knew that she surpassed her peers in almost everything: beauty, charm, athleticism, but mostly intelligence. She observed everything that surrounded her, listened to many sounds and voices, studied many topics, and analyzed many aspect of life with absolute care and intensity.

Often Layla thought to herself: "There is a definite intelligence within everything, that is far beyond my capacity to fully comprehend. There is also in my universe a beauty of simplicity and complexity, of symmetry and a-symmetry, and of order and chaos. A beauty that infuses abundant joy in my being." Layla's senses where saturated with life, yet she was driven for a deeper journey into the infinity of life.

Layla build herself on the solid rocky ground of science. She has genuinely examined and refused to accept the sandy castles of religions and superstitions that never get tired of crossing her path. Through their human followers, she has met all type of gods. The angry selfish revengeful ones, the caring forgiving loving personal ones, the ones made of future higher human beings, the ones made of a collective intelligence, and many more. She simply refused to build her house on the sandy ground or to walk in the darkness of faith. She simply refused to believe in a god that is a lesser god; a god that does not even have the power to exist.

There is a story within Layla's story that no one knew. God would often see her coming from a distance to spend time with him, talk and laugh with him. She would often walk up to him with a small gift in her hands. She would approach him when no one cares and ask him if he needs her help. She would set money aside and secretly send to him. She was very concerned with his well being, his shelter, his food, his surroundings. Layla also would comfort God when he is crushed for loosing a loved one or loosing his job. She would forgive him when he hurts her. Encourage him when he is depressed. She would listen to him when he needs her time knowing she has given all she can give and has no more. The story that no one knew was that Layla was always there for God.

One day Layla died and stood in the presence of God who with open arms spoke within her: "Come to me you whom I have always loved, you whom has loved so much." Layla spoke back with her condemned heart [1 John 3:21]: "My God when did I love you? Much less when did I have faith in you?" God answered: "Amen I say to you whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did it for me." [Mathew 25:40] and he told her she is his child for loving "not in word or speech but in deed and truth." [1 John 3:18] Layla the Atheist smiled with joy and said: "My Lord and My God" [John 20:28].

Friday, January 22, 2010

Abortion: "The infant leaped in her womb"

If within their hearts they do not hear the call of God, they will not hear you either, and they will not allow you to speak to them or to others. They will shut you down with pride, feeling so justified for doing so. Yet, no slaves are greater than their Master (John 13:16), for the spirit that dwells in them has used others before them to shut down your Master.

There is no room for this unborn infant in the inns of Bethlehem (Luke 2:7). There is no room for this baby in the world of King Herod; Jerusalem must have only one King (Matthew 2:6). The infants of Bethlehem are sacrificed to avoid the chaos that one infant would bring. Herod's law silences them, permits them to be massacred based on their gender and stage of life (Matthew 2:16). The voice of God's great prophet proclaims: "Rachel weeping for her children, and she would not be consoled, since they were no more." (Matthew 2:18).

There is no room for Jesus in their world, he is destined to be pinned to a cross, his blood and life drawn out of him. Their actions are justified by human laws. Even spirituals among them justify this necessary action of silencing the one for the sake of others (John 18:14) . They choose to draw life and blood out of him, so that they don't have to hear him again. His innocent pure voice counters the world's voice, which they have given consent to govern their hearts. The real Jesus must never be heard again, for human hearts can never have two masters they must accept one and reject the other (Matthew 6:24).

Should you judge them for shutting you down? Far from it. Even more, repeat your Master's prayer for them as he hangs on the cross "Father, forgive them, they know not what they do." (Luke 24: 34). Invite them to take courage and choose to hear God in their hearts, so that they can choose to let go of the darkness that enslaves them with fear. Invite them to take up the light of Christ that bring them life, a light that has no part in darkness, shines in it, and cannot be overcome by it (John 1:5).

It is my brother who informed me how Mother Teresa replied when she was asked about abortion. I don't have her exact words but I am basing my words below on her simple answer.

The first human person to proclaim the arrival of our Lord Jesus the Christ with us here on earth is an unborn infant in his mother's womb, and his name is John. According to our Holy Scriptures, Luke 1:39-56, the unborn infant John, when hearing the voice of Mary, the mother of Jesus, leaped in Elizabeth's womb, letting his mother know who is in her presence. The Holy Spirit fills her, and she cries out to Mary:

"Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And how does it happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy." (Luke 1:42-44)

John does what God sent him to do. He testifies to the true light that enlightens everyone so that all might believe through him. He testifies to the Word becoming flesh and dwelling among us. (John 1:6ff)

In John's first testimony, Jesus is an infant in his mother's womb. Does Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit, call Mary "Mother-to-be of my Lord"? Far from it; she calls her after being filled with the Holy Spirit, "mother of my Lord." She also refers to John as the "infant in my womb," an unborn infant that "leaps for joy" .

Open your eyes my dear brothers and sisters. Or better yet, open your hearts so that you can see as God wants you to see. Put away fear and have no choice in darkness. Be brave and trust in God.

God is well aware of the heaviness of your cross and even more of your ability to carry it as long as you stay focused on him. God will fill your heart with joy that no one can take from you. Remember his words: "Whoever receives this child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me." (Luke 9:48).

Monday, January 18, 2010

Why am I a Christian?

In my Maronite Catholic Tradition, God is referred to as "Muhib Al-Bashar," which is Arabic for "Lover of People," or "Lover of Humans," or "Lover of Man-kind." The closest parallel we can make to this relation, is the love of a mother for her children, and we know from scripture that this falls short to the love of God for us.

When great religions compete for my soul in a direct or indirect manner, I admire the presence of what is good in them, and I confess that God communicates to many through them, and loves with his divine passion many who profess them, and many love him back.

Some like Hinduism and Buddhism are older than mine and have passed the test of time. They still appeal in their wisdom to the hunger of many people today, bringing them closer to enlightenment and humility in a tightly connected universe.

Some are newer than mine, like Islam, and give assurance and comfort to many in emphasizing the perfection of the Islamic Testament, descending directly from the mouth of God in the most beautiful miraculous poetic way. It appeals to many in projecting the greatness, transcendence, and providence of the one and only God, high above all, who gives eternal blessings to all who surrender to his will.

One religion, namely Judaism, gave birth to mine. It is the story of Israel the "first bride" and favorite of God. She confesses him as the creator of all. She witnesses to his adventures with her. How he loves her, walks and talks with her, gets angry and abandons her, regrets his anger and goes searching for her, brings her back to him, completely in love with her and passionate about her. She tells of his promises to her; promises that she trusts he will fulfill.

As I reflect on the mercy of God and give him thanks for his relation to all these people, the crucifix stands before me. Silent I become, and I understand in my heart and in my mind why I am for Christ and in Christ. A whisper says, "God became man;" the world shouts, "no way." A whisper says, "God died on a Cross;" the world says, "non-sense". A whisper says, "God rose from the dead;" the world cannot believe.

The wisdom of the world shouts back, "What kind of a foolish God would do such a thing?" "What does the eternal have to do with time, space, and human indwelling?" "Our God rises above crucifixion and resurrections." "Our God is not capable of love and other human emotions;" "Your God is so different than ours."

A voice says, "Why would the God of the universe risk the integrity of salvation by letting his story be told in weakness by human beings who contradict each other or at least emphasize their own distinct points?"

Yet God does not justify his ways. He inspires the common person to tell his story and the common person to be touched and to recognize him through the story. He wills that inspired human beings tell this story. It is like children telling a story about their mom's love for them while sitting all around her, and she is rejoicing in their excitement and is paying no attention to their faults in telling the story. For what is most important, the story of love between her and them, is coming through so clearly.

For those who value love above all else, God will speak to their hearts, and they will fall in love with the crucified one. They will fall in love with the lover of man-kind. They will fall in love with all man-kind since he tied loving him with loving them.

I am a Christian because I am in love with God who is also in love with me. In time I will learn to let him fully live in me so I may become like him a lover of man-kind. And there is no greater image of how to love than the crucifix.

Friday, January 15, 2010

God is here and now

Everything has tumbled down. What is down beneath the earth has surfaced. Bones are crushed, blood has poured, and lives have ended. Many remained captured within tight coffins, without light, water, or food. Many are praying. Many are crying. Many are afraid. Many are anxious. Many are dying. Many are lost. Humans do not have the capacity to capture the horror. Many are helping from within and from all around the world. May God have mercy on us all.

It hurts so much. The hurt does not go away. Eyes are lifted up to God with shock. Eyes are lifted up to God with anger. Eyes are lifted up to God with painful sorrow and begging for mercy. The pain is here and now and it does not go away.

God is good. The hand that moves the stone is created by him for this purpose and it has fulfilled his will. The mouth that comfort the abandoned is created by him for this purpose and it has fulfilled his will. Every soul that lifts her prayer to God on behalf of the sorrowful has fulfilled his will. Every act to help the injured, the sorrowful, the dying, the orphan, is an act directly toward God. Still the pain does not go away.

The pain is here and now and does not go away .... and so is our God.