Saturday, July 28, 2007
The patriarch of the Coptic Church, Pope Shenouda III, has added his voice to others in response to the recent Vatican answers to certain questions about the relationship between the Catholic Church and other Christian bodies. Saying to the effect that Pope Benedict doesn't know when to quit, he opines that first, in Benedict's Regensburg speech, he infuriated Muslims, he has now turned himself to other Christians and said that they were inferior. Of course, anyone who reads the document, plus Dominus Iesus or Unitatis Redintegratio will see that nothing has changed in the attitude of the Church toward other Christian churches. Whether or not we "needed" this recent clarification I don't know. That being said, one has to consider the position of Pope Shenouda. I don't mean his theological position, but rather his political position. See my blog for 9/18/06. The Alexandrian Patriarch is in Egypt, remember, surrounded by militant Muslims who are constantly harassing Coptic Christians, attacking their churches, raping and murdering their people. The Pope's political position makes it impossible for him to speak out against Muslim atrocities and almost makes him a catspaw in the hands of the Muslim ascendancy. (As an aside, think of the advantage of having the head of your church, and your whole church for that matter, independent from the state in its headquarters reside. Can you say "Vatican?")
How then should we take any comments by Pope Shenouda? With a grain of blessed salt, I think. We can never know what he really thinks when he has to keep his comments totally unoffensive to the Muslim overlords. Isn't it also funny that the Grand Mufti of Cairo has made a pledge with the Orthodox Archbishop of Cyprus to protect the Orthodox churches that are in the Turkish controlled part of Cyprus? Why can't he do the same for the Copts?
Let's anoint this with the prayer for the Unity of Christians from the Roman Missal:
Almighty and eternal God. You keep together those you have united. Look kindly on all who follow Jesus your Son. We are all consecrated to you by our common baptism; make us one in the fullness of faith and keep us one in the fellowship of love. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God for ever and ever. Amen.
Friday, July 27, 2007
Jesus said to his disciples:“Hear the parable of the sower.The seed sown on the path is the one who hears the word of the Kingdom without understanding it,and the Evil One comes and steals away what was sown in his heart.The seed sown on rocky ground is the one who hears the word and receives it at once with joy. But he has no root and lasts only for a time.When some tribulation or persecution comes because of the word,he immediately falls away. The seed sown among thorns is the one who hears the word,but then worldly anxiety and the lure of riches choke the word and it bears no fruit.But the seed sown on rich soil is the one who hears the word and understands it,who indeed bears fruit and yields a hundred or sixty or thirty fold.”
This explanation of the parable of the sower was probably not part of the original parable, but rather a reflection by the early Church on Jesus' words.
The privilege of being a disciple is to be able to understand, through faith, what the message of God is: firstly, Jesus himself, the Incarnate Logos, and then, his teachings. The application of the seed that fell on the path, on rocky soil, and among thorns, would mirror the early Church's experience with some converts at divers times: they started out well, but other things intervened, and they fell away. Kind of like it is today, isn't it?
The explanation teaches us that rich soil is the only environment in which the Word can flourish.
How could we be that rich soil? We can't make ourselves into fertile seedbeds for the Word, unless God blesses us and gives us the capacity. One a human level, I'm not very rich soil. There's plenty of inhospitable ground in me; but what a grace God has given us!
Islamic group in Baghdad: “Get rid of the cross or we will burn your Churches”.In the Dora quarter threats continue to be made against Christians. In the last two months Christian parishes have been forced to give in to extremist pressure, only the Church of Sts Peter and Paul has withstood so far. A fatwa forbids the practice of Christian ritual gestures. The US army occupies Babel College, property of the Chaldean Patriarchate.
Baghdad (AsiaNews) – “Get rid of the cross or we will burn your Churches”. This is the threat aimed at the Chaldean Church of Sts Peter and Paul, located in the ancient Christian quarter of Baghdad, Dora. Local sources say an unknown armed Islamic group is behind the threats which are inseminating terror in the capital. The Arab website Ankawa.com and Aina news agency speak of a campaign of persecution in act in the area. Even Mosul, a Sunni stronghold, the Christian presence is being gravely threatened.
Msgr. Shlemon Warduni, Chaldean auxiliary bishop of Baghdad, tells AsiaNews “in the last 2 months many Churches have been forced to remove their crosses from their domes”. In the case of the Church of St. George, assira, Muslim extremists took the situation into their own hands: they climbed onto the roof and ripped out the cross. In the Chaldean Church of St John, in Dora, which has been without a pastor for months now, the parishioners themselves decided to move the cross to a safer place following repeated threats.
The same threats which have arrived at the Church of Sts Peter and Paul, which has so far however withstood intimidation: the cross hasn’t been removed but the threats continue. “The Iraqi people are tired – says Warduni – we have been suffering for far too long the situation has become unsustainable; we ask God to give us peace. The Christians, just like the Muslims, want to rebuild Iraq, we don’t want to be forced to flee, because this is where we were born, this is where we have lived our lives”.
The Islamic group active in Dora seems to have delivered an ultimatum to the Christian community there: convert to Islam or die; moreover reports say that they have delivered a Fatwa forbidding Christians to wear the cross or make any religious gesture. It also permits the confiscation of goods and properties belonging to the Christian families who find themselves forced to flee their homes for safety at short notice.
Baghdad’s Christian community’s worries have been added to by the US military’s decision to forcibly occupy Babel College, property of the Chaldean Church. The Babel, the only faculty of theology in the country, houses on of the most ancient religious libraries in the region, full of priceless manuscripts. Because of the increased insecurity in the city and continual abductions of religious the faculty had transferred to Ankawa, in Kurdistan January last, leaving the building empty. The US military are now using it as an observation outpost. The building is located at a strategic crossroads: within a Sunni enclave, in front of a Shiite district. Leaders from the local Church are discussing the issue with military representatives. Apparently they have promised to abandon the structure in the coming weeks. (End of article)
Even our own presence there is causing problems for the Christian minority. Our soldiers dare not be seen as defending the Christian minority, or else they would confirm their designation as "crusaders" in the minds of the Iraqi Muslims. And since our soldiers not defending the Christians, it won't make any difference for the Christians when we pull out of Iraq, will it? You can be sure the persecution of the Church in Iraq will continue unabated as it always is under Muslim rule.
Thursday, July 26, 2007
The words of Jesus in today’s gospel follow a quotation from the prophet Isaiah: Listen and listen, but never understand! Look and look, but never perceive! This people’s heart has grown coarse, their ears dulled, they have shut their eyes tight to avoid using their eyes to see, their ears to hear, their heart to understand, changing their ways and being healed by me.
Here Jesus is approving those disciples who listen through his parables to their inner meaning, and allow them to change their lives. Many have longed to see what you see.
Think of the advantages any baptized Christian has over Abraham or Moses. What we receive from Christ is so far beyond what they received that there is no comparison.
Even if we had been present at the Burning Bush, it would not be a greater encounter with God that is that sacramental union with him that we receive in Holy Communion.
Collect for the day: God of our fathers, you gave Saints Joachim and Ann the privilege of being the parents of Mary, the mother of your incarnate Son. May their prayers help us to attain the salvation you have promised to your people. Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spriit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Wednesday, July 25, 2007
Along with St. John, he, with the help of his mother, was trying to get to sit on either side of Jesus when our Lord had come into his kingdom. He was beheaded by Herod Agrippa around the year 44, and was the first of the apostles to die a martyr. Saint James, pray for us, and for the Church in Spain!