Posted by: Fr Chris | February 21, 2018

Second Week of Great Lent

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Glory to Jesus Christ. For the rest of Lent, I will be posting some of my Lenten sermons here. Feel free to share: this is for the second Wednesday

The lectionary, the cycle of readings, used in the Byzantine rite, both Orthodox and Catholic,  is ancient, and has not been changed in centuries – the Church set these readings up for the the evening Lenten services. There is a reason therefore that these readings fall on these nights: to speak to the congregation about very important messages from Scripture! This is from Thursday’s readings.

Adam and Eve have a 3rd child, Seth, since Abel was killed and Cain has gone elsewhere. Seth in Hebrew means to replace – he is more than that though. The gift God gave to humanity in Genesis 1:26-28 of being fruitful and multiplying, and also remaining the peak of God’s creative work, and being made in the image of God, is passed down through the line of Seth.

The numbers of years for people’s lives in the genealogy are not meant to be exact. In the ancient Near East, kings were said to have lived 36,000 years – obviously not true. They loved exaggeration, something common in Jesus’ time centuries later, and the point of those exaggerations was to say that the kings were awesome rulers. It was a common belief that the very ancient world was a time of giants, a time when life was on a larger scale than now, so the years were greater. But for the Jews, there is a limit – 1,000 years is divine perfection, and none of the descendants live that long. They come close, but never make it.

21: When Enoch had lived sixty-five years, he became the father of Methu′selah. 22: Enoch walked with God after the birth of Methu′selah three hundred years, and had other sons and daughters.  24: Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him.

Enoch: he lived righteously – despite the alienation of original sin, it is still possible to live according to God’s commandments. He does this so well that God “took” him – the same verb used for Elijah when he is taken away by God in Kings. The word is deliberately mysterious. If it was possible then to live in full righteousness, so well that God would want to have the soul live with Him, all the more so for us who have been given the fullness of revelation of Christ Jesus, the Son of God, the King of Glory, Whose passion and resurrection we are preparing for. If Enoch could live well in a time of increasing alienation from God’s ways, how can I do so now? Part of the answer comes in the 2nd reading, from Proverbs, chapter 6: 3-20, in verses 16-19.

There are six things which the Lord hates,  seven which are an abomination to him:      1 haughty eyes,  2 a lying tongue, 3  hands that shed innocent blood, 4  a heart that devises wicked plans, 5     feet that make haste to run to evil, 6  a false witness who breathes out lies, 7  and a man who sows discord among brothers.

Presuming none of us are killers of innocent blood – the other six unfortunately we can do, and do often: pride, lies, making up bad things to do, hurrying to commit sins, lying to the point of excluding any truth, and causing trouble. God HATES covering the truth with falsehoods and making trouble. That last one can be anything from children fighting over toys to Russian trolls creating fake news and other such folks who spread falsehoods.

I cannot tell you the number of times I get some message in email or on Facebook and I think “hmm, that can’t be true” and within five minutes of research I find out it is not true. Then when I post the truth, I get attacked. What is it with our modern society that it exults in spouting such nonsense? I read on the BBC website today that there are Americans already denouncing the teenagers who survived the massacre in Parkland, Florida, saying they are paid actors who travel from massacre to massacre and are paid by some secret government fund. Seriously? Who attacks children who just survived seeing their teachers and friends shot down in cold blood by a masked gunman? That is being someone who sows discord, and the bible clearly states that this is something that the Lord HATES.

Enoch walked with God, as Adam and Eve did in the cool of the evening in Paradise: that means that they lived in perfect harmony with God. Human beings are made for that: to walk with God in peace and unity NOW, on Earth. And the God Who HATES lies, evil, doing wicked things, working to create evil, is not going to want to walk with someone who does. This is the fierce warning given to us tonight as we now shift into the second part of the liturgy and prepare to receive the Sacred Body of Christ. It is meant to be a night of self-examination, and an opportunity to dedicate ourselves to truth, and to work so as to be a person who can walk with God, here and now.  Christ is among us.

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Posted by: Fr Chris | February 14, 2018

2,000 New Homes for Christians in Iraq

The money came from Aid to the Church in Need, not the US. Despite Vice-President Pence’s promise that we will be helping the neglected Christian population directly – since the UN only helps those in UN camps, whose populations are very hostile to Christian refugees – no American government funding has shown up yet.

Charity Gives Aid to Repair 2,000 Assyrian Homes in Iraq
By John Newton and Murcadha O Flaherty
Click on the link below to donate directly to A C N. 
Assyrian family in north Iraq. ( Aid to the Church in Need)

Christians forced out of their ancestral lands in northern Iraq are rejoicing after a leading Catholic charity announced an urgent injection of aid to rebuild an extra 2,000 homes.The US$5 million (£3.6 million) package from Aid to the Church in Need will support projects renovating 2,000 houses on the Nineveh Plains –1,500 in Qaraqosh and 500 in Bartella, Bashiqua and Bahzani.

ACN’s international executive president Baron Johannes von Heereman, who has met with displaced families in the Iraqi Kurdish capital Erbil, stressed the urgent need to provide help.He said: “If we do not do everything in our power to support this first third of returning Christians, they will leave their towns again — and perhaps even the country — for good.”

ACN Middle East projects head Father Andrzej Halemba said he was encouraged that up to 35 percent of Iraq’s Christian had already returned to their homes.He said: “More than 30,000 Christians have in the meantime gone back to where they lived before the Islamist terrorist groups invaded.”However, their situations are anything but easy.”

Father Halemba said that Christians are facing high heating and electricity costs due to a severe winter. He added that although Daesh (ISIS) had been defeated in the region, their extremist ideas had taken root in some sections of society.

Rebuilding is being overseen by the Nineveh Reconstruction Committee (NRC), which was formed by the Chaldean, Syriac Orthodox and Syriac Catholic Churches.Since it was set up in late March 2017, the NRC has rebuilt nearly 3,000 houses — with ACN providing support for the renovation of 784 homes. The latest aid package is a stopgap measure until more charities, governments and NGOs back the NRC scheme.

Assyrian family in north Iraq. ( Aid to the Church in Need)

Father Halemba said: “It will be possible to achieve the greater objective — namely, to restore 6,000 houses — only if we provide concrete aid together with other players and only if this region is not left to its own devices.“This would enable at least each second displaced person of the Christian minority to return.“Otherwise, we have to fear a reversal of the currently still tangible homecoming process.”

Father Halemba added that to keep people from emigrating from the area, further steps needed to be taken to ensure long-term security.Since 2014, when Daesh seized the Nineveh Plains, Aid to the Church in Need has provided more than US$40 million (£28 million) for Iraq’s Christians.

ACN provided nearly half of all emergency aid — food, medicine, shelter and schooling — for displaced families supported by the Chaldean Archdiocese of Erbil.Iraq’s Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has stated that his country needs more than US$97 billion (£70 billion) to fix crumbling infrastructure.There were more than 1 million Christians living in Iraq before the fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime in 2003. Numbers have declined to between 200,000 and 250,000 today.

My note: Muslim states without non-Muslim populations tend to veer into harsher interpretations of the Quran and Hadith (sayings attributed to the Prophet Muhammed) and also tend to miss out on Western-style education and health care which the Churches promote through their universities, schools, hospitals, and clinics. It is in the best interest of the USA to get involved in rebuilding these countries and instilling hope in their societies. 

 

Perhaps when one Christian man is shot by Islamic fundamentalists, it is not that important a story. It is to his parents, his brother who escaped, his friends – both Muslim and Christian. There is no outcry – it is another victim killed because he believed Jesus is the Son of God, another person whose potential was snuffed out because he would not renounce Christ. Another ordinary day in the life of far too many Christians – while in the free West, the majority of baptized in North America and Western Europe no longer are drawn to step inside a church a regular basis. 

Bassem Herz Attalhah, also known as Haythem Shehata, was on his way home from work in El-Arish, capital of North Sinai governorate, on Saturday evening (13 January), with his brother Osama and neighbour and friend Mohamed, when they were stopped by three armed men, aged between 23 and 25.

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Dome of the Coptic church in Sharm el-Sheikh, North Sinai

They were wearing black jackets,” Osama, 38, told World Watch Monitor. “They approached us and asked Bassem to show them the wrist of his right hand, and when they saw the tattoo of the cross,* they asked him: ‘Are you Christian?’ Bassem answered ‘Yes, I am Christian’, and repeated that again in a loud voice.”  would we be so bold as to answer that question in a situation already dangerous?    *Coptic Orthodox in Egypt put a tatoo of the cross on their children’s right wrist as a  permanent sign of faith. 

The men then asked Mohamed his name and made him show his wrist. When they saw he had no tattoo, he was allowed to leave. Then they turned to Osama. Osama is a common name, also among Muslims, and the men didn’t know he was Bassem’s brother.

“Bassem told them that I had children,” Osama recalls. “They asked me to show them the wrist of my right hand and, when they didn’t see any cross, they thought that I was Muslim.” The men didn’t see the cross that Osama has tattooed on the top of his hand because it was hidden under his sleeve.

“They fired two shots on the ground close to my legs and asked me to leave,” he recalled. “And then they shot Bassem in the head. I could not believe what happened to my brother. He fell on the ground in front of me and I was unable to do anything.”On his way to find help, Osama says his legs gave way from the shock. Their mother, upon hearing the news, fainted and had to be taken to hospital.

“We lost a person dear to our hearts. My brother Bassem was a very good and kind man. He had a strong relationship with God. He was always reading in the Bible, praying and going to the church. He was loved by all people,” Osama said.

When Bassem’s close friend Milad Wasfi heard he had been killed, he couldn’t believe it and called his friend’s phone. His call was answered, but not by his friend.“The terrorists answered me and said they belong to State of Sinai and promised to kill more Copts before they put down the phone,” he told World Watch Monitor.

Scores of Coptic Christian families left for Ismailia and Suez, about 200 km away, after a string of killings in El-Arish last year — including one incident where a woman witnessed her husband and son killed by a gunman who then ticked them off an IS hit-list. In March 2017 it was estimated that 70 per cent of the 160 Coptic Christian families living in the city had left.  Bassem, Osama and their parents had been among those who fled the city. Struggling to find work in Ismailia, however, the two brothers left for Cairo, and when things did not work out for them there either, they decided to return to El-Arish in September. The situation seemed to have stabilised and their father joined them, selling carpets, while Bassem and Osama set up a shop for mobile phones. One month later they brought the rest of the family back from Ismailia.

Saint George church in El-Arish, burned out in 2015 by Muslim Brotherhood. Christians can wait years for a permit  to restore a church, build a new church, or hold services without a church. 

Bassem’s friend Milad, who is still living in Ismailia, fears for his own future and for the other displaced Christians families of El-Arish. “The hope and the dream of [one day] returning to our homes in El-Arish has become very difficult, especially after this incident,” he said. In February last year President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi ordered his government to “take all necessary measures” to help resettle Christians fleeing North Sinai. But, as World Watch Monitor reported in July, as the attacks against Copts continued, they have found it harder and harder to believe their government could protect them.   

Bassem was buried this morning (15 January) in his home village of Dweik, in Tema district, Sohag governorate. “Bassem was a very good man,” Milad says. “Honest, quiet, modest, a light-hearted person and close friend to me. From early childhood he loved the Church and he was a man of prayer and worship. He didn’t renounce the faith and didn’t deny his Lord Jesus Christ. He didn’t fear death. Actually, he didn’t die but has won the real life in Heaven, enjoying being with Jesus. We pray that God will comfort us [and] thank God for saving the life of Osama, to care for his five children and his parents.”

Posted by: Fr Chris | January 6, 2018

A Fundamental Change: Sunday after Theophany Sermon

In the gospel today, we heard a verse adapted by St Matthew from the prophecy of Isaiah chapter 9:

Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali,
the Way of the Sea, beyond the Jordan,
Galilee of the nations
16 the people living in darkness
have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of the shadow of death
a light has dawned.”

The land allotted to the tribes of Zebulun and Naphtali

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The majority of the people in Galilee were pagans who lived in darkness, but Theophany is a feast of lights in the dark of January to show how powerful J’s presence is.

His light pierces the physical darkness with the bright illumination of churches at night, and the spiritual darkness of those who lived either as pagans or under the influence of paganism. The Israelite tribes of Zebulon and Naphtali were given this northeast corner of the Holy Land to live in. By the time of Isaiah the Jews who were still living there had trouble holding onto their faith and customs, and this was even more so in the time of Christ.

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Jesus calls the fishermen to become fishers of men

The Galilean Jewish population was looked down upon by the Jews living in the region of Judea and Jerusalem. Those Jews saw the Galilean Jews as not being orthodox enough and the province was called Heathen Galilee by Judeans. However, the Jews living there were also open to new ideas and they were also looking for the messiah. Jesus comes with a radical preaching as He calls the disciples to follow Him, not for military glory but instead to heal the sick, to feed the hungry, to clothe the naked, to teach the way of God to those who do not know God — and the core of His message is of the need to repent.

Repent

From that time on Jesus began to preach, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” It was a constant theme of  John the Baptist’s preaching, of  Jesus’ preaching, and in the messages of Our Lady to the world at her various apparitions in the 19th and 20th centuries: repent.

To repent:  in English: to feel or express sincere regret or remorse about one’s wrongdoing or sin. But in the original Greek it is much stronger – a transformative change of heart; especially a spiritual conversion.

Looking at Hellenistic Jewish writings, scholars have found that for Jews living at the time of Jesus, “repentance” meant “a fundamental change in thinking and living.” For the New Testament, this change is a necessary ingredient in accomplishing God’s plan for salvation and community for everyone.  A FUNDAMENTAL CHANGE – in the core of my being, in the depths of my soul, in the deepest part of my heart, in the chambers of my mind – CHANGE from one way of living to a totally different one.

Bats in North America have been suffering from a fungus on their noses. It has killed nearly six million bats in their dark caves – but now a cure has been found: light. Showing a little ultra-violet light on the bats kills the fungus and saves the bats. Saving the bats means saving the ecology as they have a critical role to play in nature and in our food supply.  What does this have to do with the sermon?

As it happens, next week is Zacchaeus Sunday – that means the preparation season for Great Lent begins in January, since Easter is April 1st. Lent is of course THE time to repent – not only of sin, but to do this – have a transformative change of heart, have a spiritual conversion, to be open to the Divine Light which kills all sin!  This is already the time of the year therefore to start asking myself:

What must I repent of?       What must I convert to?   What must I change inside of me in order to follow Christ more authentically?

There is a famous painting of Jesus knocking on a closed door. The door has no handle. The person inside the house must open the door and answer Jesus’ knock. If not, Jesus will walk away.

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Jesus does not want people who say, oh it’s too hard, God understands. He wants people willing to break free of the chains of sins, to turn away from that darkness of sinful lives to His shining light. Jesus Christ is  the Son of God who says in the Gospel of Saint John:”I am the true light. He who follows me shall not walk in darkness.”  Jesus is the light that kills human sins, enabling us, empowering us, to fulfill the roles He has assigned to each of us in His world.

Everyone has a darkness to walk away from. The child who refuses to play nicely, or to do chores in the house without complaining. The adult who doesn’t like the co-worker or boss and makes it known to everyone. The soul who resorts to alcohol, or marijuana, or other drugs, or pornography rather than God’s grace. The person who says I go to church for two hours on Sunday, what more does God want?  Funny how we expect God to be attentive to us for the whole 168 hours of the week but people can resist giving Him more than Sunday worship time.

Jesus invited the apostles to follow Him – they abandoned careers, families, bank accounts in order to walk with Him. And the key here is that Jesus walked with them, as God once walked in the Garden with Adam and Eve every evening at sunset. He walked with them and worked with them as they were then, gradually leading them to change from followers to apostles.

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Take up your cross and follow Me; walk with Me. 

He wants to walk with me – say that to ourselves – He wants to walk with ME.

He wants to be there the whole time, knocking on the doors of our hearts and minds.  We have to open the door from inside and let Him in, and when we let Him in, He comes with His bright light of love and grace to pierce the darkness of our hearts and minds and let the light kill our bad habits, our sins. But we have to open ourselves to that light – and then like the tribes of Zebulun and Naphtali, we will each indeed see a great light – one of grace and God’s energy working with our free will to become new people this year, different from last year, people who are aware that God is indeed walking with each of them.           

Christ is among us!

Posted by: Fr Chris | January 4, 2018

An ongoing legacy of ISIS – Christian Children’s Traumas

Christian Children ‘Have Been Through Trauma No Human Being Should Ever See’
By Stoyan Zaimov

Christian children in conflict areas around the world are suffering through trauma that “no human should ever see,” says Open Doors USA, one of the biggest persecution watchdog groups in the world.

“The next generation of Christians in the Middle East, in Asia, in Central Asia, in places like Iraq and Syria, places like Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan and Afghanistan — these young Christians have been through trauma no human being should ever have to see,” David Curry of Open Doors USA told Mission Network News in an article posted on Tuesday.

“How can something good come from this? We’re going to help reach out, rebuild, and give some deeper context for these kids, give them assistance, give them the care they need so we can have a strong and healthy Body of Christ,” he added.

Curry said that in many terror attacks, such as the killing of nine Christians at a church south of Cairo last week, it is children who suffer the most.

“We have the ability as adults to sort of contextualize things, even in the most difficult situation. But imagine a child in that circumstance,” he noted.

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He recalled the story of a young man named Noah from Iraq.

“His experience was like so many others. In the middle of the night, he was awakened by his parents and told, ‘ISIS is coming to attack us because we are Christians.’ So he had to leave everything in his house, even his most precious toys, everything. And when he came back, it was all destroyed,” Curry said.

The Open Doors CEO argued that many children have to ask questions that people in the West don’t have to deal with.

“Oftentimes, we see kids, like I was speaking with just last week, these young people from Iraq, their personal faith is so deep because they’ve had to decide, ‘Am I willing to die for this?'” he said.

Other Christian children are ostracized in communities where their faith is a minority, and are being singled out for deciding to follow Jesus, Curry added.

Some of the deadliest terror groups in the world, such as the Islamic State, called on attacks during the holiday season regardless of whether children are present.

A recent IS video from Somalia demanded “lone wolves to attack during #Christmas and #NewYearsEve, and to hit nightclubs, churches, and markets, regardless of the presence of children.”

Children have been kidnapped and used as soldiers by radical groups, and have even been forced to kill themselves and others. The IS-linked Boko Haram in Nigeria forced at least 135 children to carry out suicide bombings in 2017 alone, according to a report by the United Nations Children’s Fund.

Manuel Fontaine, UNICEF director of the Emergency Program, said in December that there is a major disregard of international laws that protect youngsters, with children “being targeted and exposed to attacks and brutal violence in their homes, schools and playgrounds.”

During the three-day Third Archon International Conference on Religious Freedom in Washington, D.C. late last year, Curry explained that major human rights abuses in North Korea, Iraq, Syria and elsewhere begin with the persecution of Christians.

“This is the issue, I think, of our time. I say that with confidence because persecution, … and particularly the persecution of Christians, is the tipping point in every major crisis around the world,” he said at the time.

It is worth noting that in 2015 the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child reported that Christian and Yazidi children were beheaded, crucified, or buried alive, while mentally handicapped children were used as suicide bombers. In addition, children as young as eight were either used as soldiers or to provide blood transfusions for ISIS “warriors” — Go to http://www.cnewa.org or https://www.churchinneed.org/  to donate to funds that will directly help persecuted Christians. 

Posted by: Fr Chris | December 23, 2017

Remember Persecuted Christians this Christmas

I couldn’t say it better myself. May all the world be open to the Prince of Peace and HIS PEACE . 

Wrecked Catholic church in Nineveh Plain, Iraq 

From Candice Malcolm

Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year. That is, it’s a wonderful time of year for us in North America, where we enjoy vast religious freedoms and the ability to observe religious holidays without fear, harassment or persecution.

Sadly, this is not the case for millions of Christians around the world. Christians have become the most persecuted religious group on the planet, and we in the West are not doing enough to defend and protect Christians under attack in other parts of the world.

Nowhere is this plight more evident than in Christianity’s biblical homeland in the Middle East – where deadly attacks against Christians have become commonplace.

On Palm Sunday 2017, Islamic State militants waged a callous attack against Coptic Christians praying in their church. Two suicide bombers struck and killed 44 people in one of the deadliest days for Egypt’s already threatened Christian population.

While many Egyptian Muslims condemned the attack — many rushed to give blood, and three female Muslim police officers were killed trying to protect Christians — this type of violence in the Middle East is only intensifying.

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Refugee with all her belongings in a Catholic church 

Countries that once boasted significant religious diversity, including Iran and Turkey, no longer have any tolerance for minorities; the Muslim population in these countries now surpasses 99%. In other Middle Eastern countries that once housed sizeable Christian and Jewish minority communities, including Syria, Iraq, Egypt and Jordan, hostile political environments have forced many in these communities to flee.

Even in Lebanon, the only country in the Middle East where Christians are constitutionally granted a political stake, Christian numbers are dwindling. Christians once made up nearly 80% of the population. Today, less than one-third of Lebanon’s population is Christian.

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Burned out church in Qaraqosh, used for shooting practice by ISIS, then torched 

Christians, Jews and Muslims coexisted in the Middle East for centuries, but a new strain of Islamist extremism is making life unbearable for non-Muslims. Religious minorities are increasingly treated with suspicion or outright hostility across the region, and a rising zealotry has made intolerance the new norm.

This intense persecution and mistreatment of minorities has been highlighted under the cruel reign of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, but it can be traced back one hundred years to the fall of Ottoman Empire.

As the Ottoman Empire collapsed, a group of Turkish nationalists called the Young Turks began targeting and slaughtering Christians, particularly those in the Armenian community. While the new Turkish empire tried to hide its ghastly crimes, a German diplomat and ally to the Turks wrote that there “no longer was doubt that (the Turkish government) was trying to exterminate the Armenian race in the Turkish Empire.”

In the end, at least two million Armenian, Assyrian and Greek Christians were murdered by the Turks. Surviving Christians fled to the West, or into Iraq and Syria where they were protected – until the Islamists took over and began slaughtering Christians in their own genocide.

This intense hatred towards Christians has led to a drastic reduction in the Middle East’s Christian population. As recently as 1910, roughly one in five people in the Middle East were Christian. Today, it’s less than four percent.

We are witnessing an exodus of Christians from the Middle East. It’s textbook ethnic cleansing, and yet, the world remains silent.

This Christmas, we should pray for the safety and survival of ancient Christian communities in the Middle East, and we should demand that our politicians provide aid and protection to the world’s persecuted Christians.

Posted by: Fr Chris | December 12, 2017

The Bully of Asia

If ever there was a country that pushes forced abortion, sterilization, and absolute control of its citizenry, Communist China is it. This new book explains, the author, Steve Mosher,  how China

  •  invented totalitarianism thousands of years ago
  •  has killed 400 million of its own unborn citizens in an effort to speed up economic development
  • has economic power, built on stolen American ideas, factories and jobs, now rivals our own
  • believes its superior race and culture give it the right to universal deference
  • teaches its people to hate America for standing in the way of achieving its narcissistic “dream” of world domination
  • believes in its manifest destiny to usher in the World of Great Harmony
  • publishes maps showing the exact extent of the nuclear destruction it could rain down on the United States

l’s dream of “engagement” with the People’s Republic of China and its “peaceful evolution” toward democracy and freedom. Wishful thinking has blinded us to the danger we face and left the world vulnerable to China’s overweening ambitions.  My book is a wake up call.

The author  is director of the Population Research Institute knows China as few Westerners do. He writes: As a visiting graduate student having exposed the monstrous practice of forced abortions, he became the target of the regime’s crushing retaliation. America has about a decade to respond to the challenges posed by the Bully of Asia. After that it will be too late.  PRI is a leading pro-life charity and activity.

Go to https://www.pop.org/donate/bully-of-asia/  and for a $25 donation, you will get the book in first-class mail for Christmas.

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Posted by: Fr Chris | November 25, 2017

Week to remember Persecuted Christians

It is incredibly sad that there should even have to be a week like this – but conditions for Christians are worsening in nation after nation, including the so-called Western countries of Europe and North America. While many  of us may face harassment or ridicule for our beliefs, that pales compared to what is happening in many Muslim nations, China, North Korea, Laos, Cuba, India— the list is unfortunately long.

Solidarity in Suffering 470 wide

In the Roman Rite, today is the feast of  Christ the King, the last Sunday before Advent. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops is designating this Sunday and following week as a special time to commemorate the Suffering Church in the Near East. Jesus is indeed our King – and that drives  certain people to inflict as much pain as possible on those who follow Him: from President Xi of China who is ordering pictures of Christ to be replaced with his photograph to the  Muslim fanatics who seek to terrorize Christians into Islam.

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Christians across south China are being pressured to remove crosses and holy pictures in their homes and replace with the new Great Leader, President Xi.  What greater proof is there that  Communism hates God? 

Christianity in the Near East  http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/global-issues/middle-east/christians-in-the-middle-east/backgrounder-on-christians-of-middle-east.cfm

Catholicism in the Near East – http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/global-issues/middle-east/christians-in-the-middle-east/backgrounder-on-catholic-churches-in-middle-east.cfm

Four Ways to Help – instead of more “stuff” think of giving to one of these Catholic agencies

Aid to the Church in Need is an international papal
foundation that provides pastoral and humanitarian assistance to the
persecuted Church around the world. Our objectives are: to support and
promote the Church, especially in countries where Christians are
suffering persecution or discrimination; and to further the other
charitable work of the Church by providing practical assistance and
pastoral care for persons in need, especially those who are living in,
or are refugees from, such countries. Each year, we fulfill more than
5,000 projects through our spiritual and material aid programs. Our
shared goal: To help strengthen the Church and keep the Faith alive.
Website: http://www.churchinneed.org/ Tel: (800) 628-6333
http://www.churchinneed.org/pray_for_persecuted_christians/

Catholic Near East Welfare Association (CNEWA) has been a lifeline throughout the Middle East, Northeast Africa, India and Eastern Europe for more than 90 years. Founded by Pope Pius XI in 1926, CNEWA works for, through and with the Catholic Eastern churches. In the Middle East, our activities are diverse, from
helping to form priests to serve the people of God in Egypt to providing irrigation to farmers in southern Lebanon
— from providing the best in neonatal care in Jordan to supporting sisters in Iraq — from providing emergency relief to Syrian refugees to counseling for war-scarred children in Gaza. CNEWA connects you to your brothers and sisters in need. Together, we build up the Church, affirm human dignity, alleviate poverty, encourage
dialogue and inspire hope.
Website: http://www.cnewa.org Tel: (877) 284-3807

Catholic Relief Services (CRS) is the official overseas relief and development agency of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. CRS helps people in great need, including Christians and other minorities across the Middle East who are the target of persecution. We are on the frontlines in the “cradle of Christianity,” supporting people and communities regardless of race, creed or nationality. Our deep partnership with the
Catholic Church allows us to respond quickly and deliver lifesaving assistance with a commitment to full recovery. First established in 1943 to support refugees fleeing war-torn Europe, our mission is rooted in the gospel of Jesus Christ. We provide lifesaving emergency relief in times of crisis, as well as address chronic poverty and injustice through innovative, sustainable development programs. Through our dedication to
operational and programmatic excellence, we work to deliver maximum impact and full accountability to our supporters and the people we serve.
Website: http://www.crs.org Tel: (877) 435-7277
Knights of Columbus is the world’s largest Catholic fraternal organization, whose first principle is charity. That principle continues to guide the Knights’ projects in communities throughout the United States and around the world. The Knights first began assisting Christian refugees in the Middle East in the 1920s in the aftermath of
World War I. More recently, in the aftermath of ISIS’ recent genocide, the Knights of Columbus committed more than $15 million to supporting Christians and other religious minorities primarily in Iraq and Syria. Because the Christian refugees in the region have often been overlooked by American government and UN aid programs, the
Knights have focused on providing these neglected communities – and the others they care for – with funds for medical care, food, clothing, housing and general relief. In addition, the Knights of Columbus has committed $2 million to save the predominately Christian town of Karemles. The Knights also led advocacy and awareness
campaigns in support of the genocide designations by both houses of Congress and the Secretary of State. Website: http://www.ChristiansAtRisk.org Tel: (800) 694-5713.

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Burned out church in Qaraqosh, Iraq, 2017

Posted by: Fr Chris | November 20, 2017

Presentation of Our Lady, 21 November

This is the sermon I am giving at the vigil service tonight:

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Glory to Jesus Christ.

Today’s feast comes from a popular book written in Syria in the mid-100s – The Protoevangelium of James. That book created stories and traditions that the author wrote in order to fill in the gaps of our knowledge of the lives of Jesus, Mary, and St Joseph outside of the gospel. But it does have valid theological points – the early  Church firmly believed in the specialness of the conception of Our Lady in the womb of her mother, the virginal conception of Jesus on Mar 25, the celibate union of Mary and St Joseph, the perpetual virginity of Mary, the bodily assumption into heaven of Our Lady after her death, and that she had a unique role in Christian life as the Theotokos (Mother of God) . From these roots our full understanding of God’s working in the Second Eve has grown.
In particular, the story claims that as a little girl Mary is placed inside the temple sanctuary, in the Holy of Holies, the spot where the high priest only went once each year. Obviously that did not take place – no child would have been allowed in there. But it is making a theological point – she who would become the living tabernacle of God is worthy of being in the holy place where the Ark of the Covenant once stood. The Ark held the Ten Commandments – she is the Mother of the Incarnate Word, through Whom the Father gave the Commandments; the Ark held manna from heaven – Jesus in her womb is the Living Bread of Heaven; the rod of Aaron that blossomed was in the Ark – Mary has life inside of her through the power of the Holy Spirit.

She is the new temple – and through the redemption achieved by her Son we are living temples also. Humanity is redeemed through the incarnation of Jesus in her womb, through His passion and resurrection.  Mary points the way in the icons – her hand points to the child Jesus in her arms, her head bows or turns toward Him. Her life is most especially given for her only Child the God-Man Whose birth we are preparing for.

Another aspect of the story is Mary living apart from the world, the first cloistered convent. The point the story makes is for us – we must live apart from the world’s temptations. We live in the world, but we do not have to be of the world. The world has many good things about it – but there are also fallen things, things that can look extremely attractive to the human mind and human desires.  But for the Christian, living out our destiny in Jesus Christ has to be the most attractive thing to do – our churches are beautiful to both glorify God and draw us into Him. Our calendar is filled with various holy days and customs to renew us, year after year, in God’s love and great mercy.

Mary did not look back on her hidden, quiet life in Nazareth. She looked forward: to the birth on Christmas, to raising God’s Son, to supporting Him with her presence on Calvary, testifying to the power of God on Pentecost, and supporting us with her prayers from heaven.

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So also for us – we have to look forward.

Our sins are forgiven – let us work not to sin more; we are called by God Who is Love -let us strive to bring His love to others;

we are invited to this heavenly banquet at every Liturgy  – let us work at appreciating its power and the immense gift given to us by Jesus in His Body and Blood.

And let us use this feast as an opportunity to keep the rest of the Christmas Fast as a time of thinking, pondering, praying, loving, acting so as to bring joy to Christ’s Heart, and thus help further His work of redemption.  Christ is among us.

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Posted by: Fr Chris | November 9, 2017

Never Again? Kristallnacht in 2017

On the night of November 9-10, 1938, the Nazi regime unleashed a wave of “spontaneous” violence across the entire Third Reich, including newly annexed Austria.  The name basically can be translated as Night of Broken Glass from all the windows smashed in Jewish businesses, homes, and temples.

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Broken shop windows of Jewish business

Thousands of Jewish businesses were looted, Jewish synagogues burned while firemen poured water on adjacent buildings so as to prevent the fires from spreading, and Jewish men and boys sent off to the concentration camps built in the previous five years to hold the Nazis’ political opponents and undesirables.

Synagogue ablaze 

With this carefully managed nation-wide assault, the Nazis’ planned to drive out all of the Jews remaining in Germany and former Austria – except since they refused to let them leave with any real wealth, and due to anti-Jewish diplomats in Canada, the United States, Latin America, and much of Europe, there were few refuges left for Jews in 1938.

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Stepping from the murderous Night of Broken Glass to the organized mass slaughter proposed at the Wannsee Conference of January 20, 1942, was a very short step indeed.

From that Conference came the ideas of mass executions in the conquered regions of the Soviet Union by the dreaded Einsatzgruppen  of the SS and locally recruited henchmen (carefully recording how many Jews, Communists, and presumed partisans were shot), then the gas chambers of death camps, and starving the inmates of the ghettos to death. This documentary details the work of the Einsatzgruppen, with interviews of survivors, but be aware there are photographs taken by the executioners. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gLUgou38QGo

Be aware that the German film showing happy residents of Lemberg (Polish Lwow, L’viv today) at being delivered from two years of Soviet terror is accurate – but they would quickly learn that they were sub-humans in Nazi ideology. The mass killings of Jewish neighbors and townsfolk  has left many of the local Christians who witnessed it emotionally numb and damaged to this day, as Father Patrick Desbois has learned in his mission to uncover all of the mass graves of the region. This was worsened by the Soviets’ forbidding them to ever speak of it, as the emphasis was on commemorating the Soviet liberation of 1944-45, not Jewish deaths. 

As awareness of the scope of the Holocaust grew after 1945, the slogan “Never Again” became associated with it. Initially it referred to “never again” would there be a mass slaughter of Jews, later it grew to encompass all genocides. Unfortunately, genocides have taken place since, in full view of the entire world thanks to mass media, in former Yugoslavia, the Great Lakes region of Africa, Cambodia, Communist China, Nubia and Darfur in Sudan. However, while killings of Jews continued in different nations, especially in Israel and the occupied West Bank, it seemed that at least that lesson had stuck.

Now I wonder. The BDS movement (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) movement against Israel over the Palestinian issue has steadily degenerated into hatred of Israel and the Jewish people, as repeated demonstrations on university campuses often show. Equating Israel’s mistakes regarding the Palestinians with Nazism and calling Jewish Israelis Nazis is beyond offensive, yet it continues to spread in Europe and North America.

The Netherlands saw 75% of its Jews deported to death camps under Nazi rule, often with the help of Dutch collaborators: over 102,000 innocent people slaughtered because of their identity as Jews, be they Christian, religious Jews, or secular. Yet today’s observance of Kristallnacht in Holland was marked with presentations that frankly are anti-Semitic: cf. https://www.timesofisrael.com/dutch-anti-semitism-watchdog-outraged-by-anti-israel-kristallnacht-speakers.

Watch this interview with a survivor of Kristallnacht – https://www.timesofisrael.com/dutch-anti-semitism-watchdog-outraged-by-anti-israel-kristallnacht-speakers/.  How in the world can there be people who think commemorating the atrocities of 1938 by condemning Israel and Jews?

Bad enough that in Berlin, commemorative Stolpersteine, or “stumbling stones” ,which are put in front of the houses or on streets with  the names of Jews taken from their homes and murdered, have been dug up before Kristallnacht this year.

The site where the Stolpersteine were stolen in Neukölln, Berlin (picture-alliance/dpa/P. Zinken)

On Long Island, a local mother took a photograph of a car with the bumper sticker “Proud Anti-Semite” on it driving on Route 110! Proud? How can that be?

'Proud Anti-Semite' bumper sticker a sign of the times, ADL says

How can any American ever carry a Nazi flag? Or shout “Away with the Jews!”?

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Hatred of “others” never brings about any good results. The Soviet Communists did it to their opponents, lumping them into categories: bourgeois middle-class; believers; clergy, monks and nuns; supposedly wealthy peasants (kulaks); people from the wrong ethnic groups (Germans, Chechen, Ingush, Kalmyks, Crimean Tatars, Greeks, Karakai, Karakalpaks, Jews, Balkars, Turks, Finns and Estonians who lived near Leningrad). Chinese Communists did it to intellectuals, monks, nuns, believers, engineers, anyone who could be considered an “enemy”, a category that continues to shift to this day. Racism gets us nowhere. Ditto for class hatred, anti-Semitism, sexism, anti-Catholicism, and all the other anti’s floating around today in our enlightened world.

That news stories for Kristallnacht today contain stories of anti-Israel BDS activists and Holocaust deniers stuns me. That the internet is filled with Holocaust denial is tragic: too many young people do not have a critical sense when surfing the Net and think that if someone took the time to publish it, it must be true. Talk about fake news!

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On this Kristallnacht anniversary, may all people of good will step up and dotheir best to counter hatred, and remind Americans and others that God made everyone in His image and likeness, male and female, and He saw that it was good. Deliver us, O Lord, from  hatred. Lead us, O Lord, to peace.

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