Friday, December 16, 2011

Checklist for the Kingdom of God (invited post)

When I applied for a new passport few months ago I knew exactly what I had to do. Two photos - 3cmx4cm, copy of old passport's title page, completed and signed application form and a check for the payment of 40$ from the cashiers' office. I ticked boxes on my checklist and that was it, I knew that I would get my new passport in 10 working days. Checklists make life easy; It is not therefore surprising that during Jesus' ministry people asked him often what was it exactly that they had to do in order to book a place in this new world that he promised.

All three synoptic gospels have a story of a young rich man who asks Jesus about what he must do to go to the kingdom of heaven. "You know the commandments", says Jesus, "Don't steal, don't kill, respect your parents ...".  "That I have done since my childhood", says the young man, "but are there any additional rules that I must follow?". "Well, if you really want to know", says Jesus, "sell everything you have and give it to the poor".

Most people interpret this passage to be just a hyperbole, rhetoric exaggeration to evoke strong feelings and tell us that charity is extremely important but not something that should be taken literally. After all very few people in the history, including many saints and good Christians, have done anything like this.  That's what I thought too, but recently I have changed my mind and now I
believe that Jesus really meant what he said quite literally. Below I will try to briefly explain why I think so.

We know that one of the two greatest commandments is "Love your neighbour as yourself". All other commandments follow from this (and neighbour here obviously means any fellow human, not only people who leave in the neighborhood of your house).

My daughter is one person to whom I really apply this rule and whom I truly love as myself and even more than myself. In the future, when she grows up and leads independent life, if something happens and she falls into hardship so that she has to live on the streets cold and hungry, there is no doubt in my mind that I will immediately sell all I have to help. How can I have even a single meal or sleep in a bed for just one night when I know she is in such a trouble?! I would not be able to do any of those things until I did everything I could to help her.

Now, if I truly followed the great commandment, I would apply it to every single person and would love them as much as I love my daughter. If that was the case, how could I go to sleep in a warm bed or eat sushi when I knew that there are thousands of people who are starving, freezing, in distress and have nobody to comfort them? If I truly followed the commandment I would sell everything that I had immediately and shared it with my fellow brothers and sisters in need to help them as much as I could.

There is indeed a checklist for those who want to enter the kingdom of heaven and it is very short. It has just one item on it: "Love your neighbour as yourself", but this box is very difficult to tick.

"It is easier for a camel to go trough the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God".

This blog entry was writen by Lado Samushia. Thank you, Lado!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Christmas Story

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Christmas party: come and share my joy.

"A full house today!" said the inkeeper smiling. Then he opened the door and greeted me warmly "Please, come inside and make yourself comfortable. I assume you've heard the great news too." So, I went inside and saw that the inn was indeed full.  I counted at least eight fellow shepherds, some of them already having their second -or maybe third- drink. Right in the middle of the room, there was a donkey too, and yellow star talking with two people from the census; apparently they found it strange that almost every women in the room was named Mary. What a weird crowd! No wonder that someone had called in a roman soldier. I myself would have thought him to be an spy from Herod to get news about the birth, but his acquitance with the angels showed me otherwise. And oh!, three or four kings had also come, all wearing similar crowns. "They are so cute." I thought, and went to get a drink of something sweet, wondering also if it was appropriate to ask the filipino maid about some of the most weird people I've ever seen. Eventually I did, and she kindly inform me that there was nothing to worry about, they were visitors from the future, from London 2011, all wishing not to miss such a special night.

Then, everyone gathered, and we were officially told about the famous tidings that will bring a great joy to the world.  So we cherished, and Mr Bethlehem played his old mandolin and we all sang "Little Jesus" and "The three kings" and a long "Glo-o-o-o-o-oria" in the middle of which the young king threw a handful of golden coins over everyone. There, sat at the feet of Mary, I briefly gave thanks to the one most high.

More drinks and food followed. And everybody was happy, talking and mingling around. "Did you come last year?" some people asked, "It was colder then." It didn't snow this year, but even so, few people came outside where we made what it would be a dance with sparkling sticks, and then hurried back inside again into the crowd, where bottles of wine were piling up and the party carried on.

Time went by swiftly, and when the stars of the sky were most of their way down, slowly people started to leave. The inkeeper made the last few teas, and soon there was only me and the music left in the room. And the inkeeper. Completely awake, content to be there, I danced the last lines of the last song, waiting for the moment of tidying up; and so we did, and it was a wonderful moment of a memorable party.

Everyone had been invited: black and white people; men and women; straight, gay and bisexual; transgendered people; astronomers, theologians, accountants, students, writers, cleaning workers, unenployed people; young and old, from seventeen the yongest to more than seventy the oldest -if my numbers are correct-; and all those who came were welcomed and enjoyed the party. I wondered, did the inkeeper know that even if it was he who sent the invitations this party was not ordered by him but by the one who is to come? And when he comes he will say "well done faithful servant, come and share your master's joy"(Mt 25:23).  I kept silent though, it was not a moment for wording theology.

The party was over. The inkeeper nicely offered me a soft bed upstairs. I wanted to say a short prayer but instead I thought "I should write a story about today in my blog". I closed my eyes and slept; and I had a very nice dream.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Sorry, I don't have any money

To encourage reflection, as a challenge to our -and mine- personal Advent preparations, I thought I would share this cartoon from Naked Pastor. 
From Naked Pastor

Saturday, November 26, 2011

They even burn their sons and daughters as sacrifices to their gods

Abraham's sacrifice. Rembrandt
There are stories in the old testament that stand against our sensibilities. One of these is the story of the sacrifice of Isaac. 
Early next morning Abraham got up and loaded his donkey. He took with him two of his servants and his son Isaac. When he had cut enough wood for the burnt offering, he sent out for the place God had told him about [where he Isaac was to be sacrificed]. (Gn 22,3, NIV)
The story of the Binding of Isaac is well known. God asked Abraham to sacrifice his son to him, and he accepted. At the last moment however an angel of the Lord stops the sacrifice of Isaac and in his place provides a ram. This is a very unsettling story, one that makes us ask what kind of God is this that demands the offering of a son? I will try (at least partially) to address this question here, possibly in more than one post. 

It would be quite convenient to start by looking at the context. We know that many cultures from the world have sacrificed humans to their gods. These cultures include the aztecs, past hinduism, original tribes from Canada, tribes from Africa, etc. It seems that sacrificing human beings is quite universal. It should then not come as a surprise to find that, in the Old Testament times, nations to which the Israelites relate do the same. For instance, take the nation of the Moabites. At a given time, according to what the book of Kings tells us, the Israelites attack the king of the Moabites because he decided to stop paying taxes to the king of Israel
When the king of Moab saw that the battle had gone against him, he took with him seven hundred swordsmen to break through to the king of Edom, but they failed. Then he took his firstborn son, who was to succeed him as king, and offered him as a [burning] sacrifice on the city wall. The fury against Israel was great; they withdrew and returned to their own land. (2 Kings 26-27, NIV)
What we see here is a human sacrifice. The son of the Moabite King, the heir of the trone, is burnt on the city wall as an offering to the Moabite God, in order to invoke his favor. And, according to the story, it worked, even if it could have been because the israelites might have been horrified at the sight of this barbaric action.

In any case, the fact that the Israelites were in contact with nations that were offering their sons and daughters as sacrifices made the Israelites to wonder if they should do the same.  Fortunately, the religous sensibility of the Israelites had come to the understanding that human sacrifice is not what God wills. In the book of Deuteronomy, for instance, within other prescriptions to be observed in the promised land, we find the following:

The LORD your God will cut off before you the nations you are about to invade and dispossess.But when you have driven them out and settled in their land, and after they have been destroyed before you, be careful not to be ensnared by inquiring about their gods, saying, “How do these nations serve their gods? We will do the same.” You must not worship the LORD your God in their way, because in worshiping their gods, they do all kinds of detestable things the LORD hates. They even burn their sons and daughters in the fire as sacrifices to their gods. (Dt 12, 29-31)
And indeed. Some of the Israelites succumbed to the temptation, because otherwise we wouldn't find this next, neither the one in Levitic 18, where the sacrificing of sons or daughters is forbidden again.
The story of Abraham therefore, in this context, seems quite an appropriate one. When the Isrelites were tempted to burn their sons or daughters, they could turn their minds to this story and remember that this was not the will of God. Maybe this is what the Binding of Isaac tells us, even if it seems to us that God demans a human sacrifice, this is not so, this is not how God wants to be worshiped.

This is all for today.  I hope you liked this post.

Finally, Good advent everyone!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Friday, October 28, 2011

The precepts of the natural law

Image from Tom Woodard

As a preparation of a discussion on natural law with a friend of mine. I write below my summary of Question 94 of Summa Theologiae. 

The precepts of natural law  (I-II, Q94,2)

What are the precepts of the natural law?

The precepts of natural law are self-evident principles of the practical reason, the reason that is directed to action. In a similar way, the axioms and the demonstrations are self-evident principles of the speculative reason. 

What self-evindent means, though?  

By self-evident Thomas means an internal property of the propositions, this is, 
that the subject and the predicate imply each other. They are self-evident in themselves.

However, In relation to us, these principles are not necessarily self-evident. Some of these
principles are apprehended universally, but others only the wise can gasp.
An example of a self-evident principle that is not gasped by everyone is that
angels are not circumscriptively in a place. This is because angels are not bodies.  

What are the first principles that man apprehends?

The first thing that man apprehends universally is the notion of being.
As a consequence,  the first self-evident principle of reason is the principle of no contradiction, 
since "being" and "not being" cannot be affirmed (or denied at the same time).

The first principle that the practical reason apprehends universally is the notion of good.
This is because good (or something under the appearence of good) is what all things seek after.
Therefore, the first self-evident principle of the practical reason is "seek good and avoid evil" 

Classification of the precepts of the natural law

The following precepts belong to the natural law, classified according the order of natural inclinations:

a) precepts following from the nature that man has in common with all substances
b) precepts following from the nature that man has in common with all animals
c) precepts following from the nature that man has in common with himself, what is proper to man. 

Thomas' examples of the precepts of natural law according its classification

a) every substance seeks good, and, according to its nature seeks the preservation of its being,
thus, whatever helps the preservation of the human being belong to the natural law.

b) nature has taught to all animals sexual intercourse and education of the offspring,
thus, sexual intercourse and education of the offspring belong to the natural law

c) finally, in accordance to the proper nature of man, that of reason, man has a natural
inclination towards knowing the truth about God, and to live in society. Thus to shun
ignorance and to avoid offending fellow citizens belong to the natural law, regarding
the inclination of man that follows from its rational nature. 

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Notes on identity: imitation of Jesus

As you probably know, next weekend I am going to a retreat with the folks of my parish. The recurring theme will be the topic of identity, which will be wisely approached from different perspectives. In some sort of preparation for the retreat I have been more attentive lately to the passages of the gospel that could shed some light on this topic and talk to our lives. In one of my readings, I came across the following passage.
I tell you the truth:  the Son can do nothing by himself, but what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, the Son also does in the same manner. (Jn 5,19)
This passage strikes me as very fundamental. What Jesus does is to imitate the Father. He does not claim anything of his own, but he only does what he sees the Father doing. He is the less original guy ever. (!) All he does is completely rooted in the Father.  So possessed is Jesus by the Spirit of the Father, that whoever has seen him, has seen the Father (Jn 14,9). He is his perfect image.

Now, does not all these stand in contrast to the common delusion of the world that asks us to be original? A world that seems to be saying that to be ourselves we need to claim or be different from the rest of the people? This is not what we see in Jesus though, he claims no originality.  

If René Girard is right, our identity as humans is constructed by imitation of the desire of another. Therefore the key point is not whether we should be original or not (assuming that we could be), but who is going to be our model, from whom are we going to draw our personality.

Jesus imitates the Father. Because of this he is not of the world. Likewise we are called not to be of the world, building up our identity from mimetic rivalries, but to do the same as Jesus, to be perfect as the heavenly Father is perfect (Mt 5,48). And, since whoever see Jesus sees he Father, we are then called to imitate Jesus.

Finally, it is interesting to remember what Paul said to the Corinthians: Imitate me, as I imitate Christ. Very interesting phrase, that can spur some discussion! It may simply mean that we need to learn how to imitate Jesus in part by looking of how other followers of Jesus imitate him.

All in all, originality is over, when thinking about your identity, look at this question: who are you imitating?

Language note. For the geeky ones that, like me, want to translate the passage themselves, the above verse (Jn 5,19) in Greek is:
Ἀπεκρίνατο οὖν ὁ Ἰησοῦς καὶ ἔλεγεν αὐτοῖς· ἀμὴν ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν, οὐ δύναται ὁ υἱὸς ποιεῖν ἀφ’ ἑαυτοῦ οὐδέν, ἂν μή τι βλέπῃ τὸν πατέρα ποιοῦντα· ἃ γὰρ ἂν ἐκεῖνος ποιῇ, ταῦτα καὶ ὁ υἱὸς ποιεῖ ὁμοίως. 

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Notes on identity: Family

In two weeks, together with more than twenty people, I will go on a weekend retreat at The Friars, a monastery near Aylesford. Since the topic of the retreat is the very interesting subject of "identity", I thought that I could devote some posts of the blog to it.

In this second post I would talk about family. We are all born into a family, or at least most of us are. Putting aside those exceptions, we all begin our lives in close relationship with very few but relevant people. These people are our family and, specially in our early years, almost completely saturate our meaningful univereses. It is easy to see then why they are so influential regarding our identity. At the start of our lives, we don't know who we are. We need to learn it, slowly, across all our years. At the same time, even when we are so young that we are beginning to learn who we are and who we can become, during this very time, we still need to have a view of ourselves. And, since we have none, but are in need of one, we borrow it from our surroundings. And remember, our surroundings are saturated by our family. Consequengly, we come to view ourselves as our family does, and, in many aspects, we tend to grow up according to this view.

Summary: identity and family are very related: we tend to view ourselves as our family does.

Let me talk now a little about my growing up, about my family. To me, being born into a family meant that I was born into a place where my mere existence was a motive of joy. And you can relax into this joy. From it I grew up as a happy and confident kid. And a very lucky kid indeed. Not only I had (and have) loving parents and a brother, but I also had (and have) an extended but very close family of cousins, aunties, uncles and grandparents, a family that always made me feel very welcomed. I am quite certain that this contributed a lot about I growing up with a positive and trustful view of life.  Finally, I also want to say that my family was the place where I first learned what is to take care of another. And this seems to me quite important to remember.

Family: a place where I am always welcomed, where I am a motive of joy, and where I learn to love.

After all I wrote here, I hope that the relevance and influence of the family on everyone's personal identity is quite clear. What is more, having a loving family helps you to have a better and happier life. This may seems trivial to say, but what seems trivial for some people is not trivial for other people. Some might even claim that an un-loving family makes you good because prepares you for the hardness of life. In fact the opposite is true, the hardness of life is better faced having experienced love!

As always, I have many more things to say about family, specially in its relation to Christ, the Church, and our neighbours, but these will need to wait until another day. My blessing to you all, and don't forget to comment, if you wish!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Peter Rollins on Identity

Here is Peter Rollins talking about identity. Even if I am too theologically nerd for formulating things his way, or maybe because of it, because some times I need to listen through his words, instead of at his words, I found that he could be inspiring. Not that these details matter to most of you. So here we are, I hope you will enjoy it.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Thursday, September 8, 2011

letter to a friend: Smile, you can eat me!

Dear Kode,

Because Jesus knew he was about to die, what he did and said during the last meal with his friends is of great importance, and it can be understood as a summary of his life and teaching.

As I told you, when the last supper started, he - the Lord our Teacher - washed the feet of his disciples, and tell them the new commandment: love one another as I have loved you. This, my friend, is the core of being a christian, a follower of Jesus.

Also, during his last supper, Jesus took bread, blessed it, broke it, and gave it his friends saying: eat it, this is my body given up for you. Do this to remember me. Likewise he did with a cup of wine. He took it, gave thanks, and passed it to his disciples saying: drink all of you, for this is my blood shed for you. Do this to remember me.

See how surprising this is! If, at that moment, the disciples where the ones to choose how to remember Jesus, they would probably have chosen another image. Some might have wanted to remember Jesus as a great healer and exorcist, casting demons out of people. Some might have chosen to remember him as a great teacher, one who teaches with an inner authority like no one else has. And -who knows- maybe some might have liked to remember him as the one who changed water into wine at a wedding in Canna. While all this images are certainly right, and are complementary one of another, they seem to lack something, like a focus that is made more explicit by saying that Jesus is the bread for us eat and the wine for us to drink. This is so because his life was a constant offering of himself for us. That is what we need to remember. That is what underlied his teaching, his healings, and his concern for the socially excluded. He loved us so much that he gave all his live for us to eat and drink. And now, as his disciples, we are called to love one another like he loved us. We are called to be bread and wine for others. And to do so, like he did, with the joy and freedom of authentic love.

Maybe we, followers of Jesus, should wear a T-shirt saying "Smile, you can eat me!" That would be a fun way to go around.

Finally, let me tell that as catholic I believe that when we gather as Jesus' Church and break the bread an pour the wine, we not only remember Jesus, but he becomes present among us; in the bread and wine he continually gives his life to us.

As always many more things I'd like to say, but they must wait until my next email.

My best wishes and blessings,


Saturday, August 20, 2011

Alvin Plantinga: On the problem of evil

This is a good place to start talking on the problem of evil. Please, comment, if you like.

Monday, July 18, 2011

The Fourfold Franciscan Blessing

May God bless you with a restless discomfort about easy answers, half-truths and superficial relationships, so that you may seek truth boldly and love deep within your heart.

May God bless you with holy anger at injustice, oppression, and exploitation of people, so that you may tirelessly work for justice, freedom, and peace among all people.

May God bless you with the gift of tears to shed with those who suffer from pain, rejection, starvation, or the loss of all that they cherish, so that you may reach out your hand to comfort them and transform their pain into joy.
May God bless you with enough foolishness to believe that you really can make a difference in this world, so that you are able, with God's grace, to do what others claim cannot be done

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Who invented God? Letter to a six years old girl

This is an article from "The Telegraph" I am partially reproducing below

Alex Renton, [is] a non-believer who sends his six-year-old daughter Lulu to a Scottish church primary school. Her teachers asked her to write the following letter: “To God, How did you get invented?” The Rentons were taken aback: “We had no idea that a state primary affiliated with a church would do quite so much God,” says her father. He could have told Lulu that, in his opinion, there was no God; or he could have pretended that he was a believer. He chose to do neither, instead emailing her letter to the Scottish Episcopal Church (no reply), the Presbyterians (ditto) and the Scottish Catholics (a nice but theologically complex answer). For good measure, he also sent it to “the head of theology of the Anglican Communion, based at Lambeth Palace” – and this was the response:

Dear Lulu,
Your dad has sent on your letter and asked if I have any answers. It’s a difficult one! But I think God might reply a bit like this –
‘Dear Lulu – Nobody invented me – but lots of people discovered me and were quite surprised. They discovered me when they looked round at the world and thought it was really beautiful or really mysterious and wondered where it came from. They discovered me when they were very very quiet on their own and felt a sort of peace and love they hadn’t expected.
Then they invented ideas about me – some of them sensible and some of them not very sensible. From time to time I sent them some hints – specially in the life of Jesus – to help them get closer to what I’m really like.
But there was nothing and nobody around before me to invent me. Rather like somebody who writes a story in a book, I started making up the story of the world and eventually invented human beings like you who could ask me awkward questions!’
And then he’d send you lots of love and sign off. I know he doesn’t usually write letters, so I have to do the best I can on his behalf. Lors of love from me too.
+Archbishop Rowan

But what the letter also tells us is that the Archbishop took the trouble to write a really thoughtful message – unmistakably his work and not that of a secretary – to a little girl. “Well done, Rowan!”

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Saturday, April 2, 2011

The spirit of the great lent (invited post)

According to one taoist legend Duke Mu of Chin was looking for exceptionally good horses for his stable. A wise man - Po Lo - recommended Chiu-Fang Kao as the best expert. Master Kao traveled many miles on behalf of the duke and finally brought to him what he believed to be the best horse in the empire. "What kind of horse is it?" asked duke, "It's a grey mare, your majesty" replied Kao, but when he brought in the horse it turned out to be a black stallion. "Why did you make me hire this simpleton? This man knows nothing about horses! He can not even tell their colour and sex!" asked duke angrily. "This is how good he is, your majesty" replied Po Lo. "He only sees what is essential and completely forgets homely details. He looks at the things he ought to look at and neglects the things that need not be looked at." The horse turned out to be the best of its kind indeed and won its master many races.[1]

We live in a complicated world where information flows faster then the waters of Nantahala. We are drowning in the myriads of tasks, goals, appointments, meetings, places to go, things to see and do. To do lists are getting longer, calendar events denser. Everybody wants to be successful (you have to work hard to become successful), have a lot of fun (you deserved it, you worked so hard to become successful), see "1000 places you have to see before you die", watch "1000 movies you have to see before you die", try "1000 casseroles you have to eat before you die" ... The list goes forever. "What do people gain from all their labors at which they toil under the sun? ... All things are wearisome, more than one can say.  The eye never has enough of seeing, nor the ear its fill of hearing" (Eclessiastes:1:3,8). Meanwhile, we think less and less about the ultimate questions that get diluted in everything else that we have to think and worry about; The essential questions that humans have been contemplating on for millennia. Where do we come from? What are we? Where are we going to? Is there a meaning to life?  What ought I do? Why is there so much suffering and what can I do about it? "I saw the tears of the oppressed‚Äî and they have no comforter; power was on the side of their oppressors‚Äî and they have no comforter.  And I declared that the dead, who had already died, are happier than the living, who are still alive.  But better than both is the one who has never been born, who has not seen the evil that is done under the sun" (Eclessiastes:4;1-3).

Saint Ephrem the Syrian, a fourth century hymnographer and theologian, has written many hymns, poems and sermons. One of the surviving prayers attributed to him says "Κύριε καὶ Δέσποτα τῆς ζωῆς μου, πνεῦμα ἀργίας, περιεργίας, φιλαρχίας, καὶ ἀργολογίας μή μοι δῷς.Πνεῦμα δὲ σωφροσύνης, ταπεινοφροσύνης, ὑπομονῆς, καὶ ἀγάπης χάρισαί μοι τῷ σῷ δούλῳ. Ναί, Κύριε Βασιλεῦ, δώρησαι μοι τοῦ ὁρᾶν τὰ ἐμὰ πταίσματα, καὶ μὴ κατακρίνειν τὸν ἀδελφόν μου, ὅτι εὐλογητὸς εἶ, εἰς τοὺς αἰῶνας τῶν αἰώνων. Ἀμήν."; In English: "O Lord and Master of my life, give me not the spirit of sloth, periergia, lust for power and idle talk.  But grant unto me, Thy servant, a spirit of chastity, humility, patience and love. Amen" For long time I did not know what the word periergia meant. Only recently did I discover that periergia in ancient Greek means over-exactness (or over-elaboration, or futility, or curiosity about useless details).[2] In orthodox tradition, this prayer of righteous Ephrem is considered to be the crispest summary of the spirit of great lent. Every morning, on weekdays, during great lent, Practicing orthodox christians all around the world recite the prayer of righteous Ephrem during services and ask God to help them not to succumb to periergia and not to lose site of the questions and issues that are of ultimate importance.

written by Lado Samushia

[1] I borrowed this legend from "Raise high the roof beam high, carpenters" by J. Salinger.
[2] In modern Greek the word periergia means curiosity and has positive connotation.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

letter to a friend: as I have loved you

      " Then he poured water into a basin and begun to wash the disciples feet,
         and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him. "  (Jn 13,5)

My dear K., 

Let me fast-forward the story of Jesus until the last dinner he had with his friends.
Because he knew that the moment for him to be arrested and die was extremely close, 
and that this implied that he would not be with his friends much longer, 
he went to the essentials, to the core of his teaching, to what must be remembered.
Thus what was said and done by him at that meal is of great importance.

Three things happened at that dinner, that I would like to comment with two letters.
They are the washing of the disciples feet, the new commandment and the sharing 
of the bread and wine.   
Here is the question. Would you wash my feet? Would you let me wash yours? 
My dear friend, please take a minute to think about it, for this is not meant to be rhetorical question.

The actual washing of feet, confront us with our resistence of living with a humble heart, a heart where the Spirit of God can live. If we let her, she will make us more loving, more able to be loved, more able to creatively expand our love to everyone around us. We will become more like the triune God.

This happened in the last supper. Jesus of Nazareth - the Messiah, the Son of God, the Lord, the one who's name is above every other name- took a basin and started to wash his disciples feet and dry them with a towel tied to his wrist.

Even after more than two years of knowing Jesus, the washing of the feet came as surprise to his disciples. Peter, who was always very impulsive, even rejected first to be washed at all, (and then he changed his mind and asked to be washed all of him!)

Sometimes is amazing how unclued the disciples could possibly have been about Jesus and his loving way of living. In this regard, many times we are like them. We all need to hear: if I, your Lord, have washed your feet, you ought to wash one anothers feet. I have given you an example, you should do as I have done to you.

I am very glad that in my former parish in New York we were actually able to so during the Holy Thursday liturgy in which we remember this last supper.

During the last supper Jesus continues to instruct his disciples: where I go, you cannot go, so now I say to you. I give you a new comandment: love one another as I have loved you. 

This I believe is the core of Jesus teaching.  
This is how we know who is a disciple of Jesus, by the way we love and serve one another.
Well, if you still wish... it will continue... next day with the sharing of the bread and wine. 


Monday, March 21, 2011


Some doodlings I got from Kim Fabricus blog

What is the opposite of love? Some say hate. Some say indifference. Some say fear. Love does not have an opposite. What is the opposite of God?

There are Christians who reject universalism not because it is unbiblical but because, were it true, it would disappoint them.

Of course Oscar Romero should be canonised. It’s a post-mortem miracle that he hasn’t been anathematised.

Bartimaeus said to Jesus, “Take it from me, Lord, blind people actually walk along together quite safely. It’s when twenty-twenty twits try to help us that ditches become dangerous.” And Jesus said, “Oh.”

Right-wing Christians are fond of quoting Matthew 26:11a: “you will always have the poor with you.” Thus they turn prophecy into principle – and confirm the truth of Matthew 26:11b: “but you will not always have me.”

Koan: choosing a vocation.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Hope (invited post)

Hope is a word that opens to us the doors to the light in moments of darkness.

Everyone needs hope in their lives, which can be of different kind: hope to
find a job, hope to find the person to share one's life with, hope to be
healthy, hope to overcome crises, hope that tomorrow the sun will rise again.

Nature can gives us a great example of hope. For example, after a big fire
the earth starts rebirth, and new plants appear again. Also, after a long
winter, when everything seems barren, comes the spring with all its
manifestation of life. Even I have seen some small flowers between
a few tails on a roof.

We should be grateful to nature, since she gives us everyday an example
of how to act in front of the challenges of life.

We have to do like the sunflowers, that always turn to seek the light.

from a catalan text of Mercè Miret, writen for this blog. 

Friday, February 25, 2011

Here it is: conversation between Dawkins and scientist catholic priest Coyle

As some of you know I will be going to a conference on Science and Religion. For the people interested in this topic here is a nice conversation between Richard Dawkings interview with Father Coyne.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Latin mass

Last Tuesday I went to a Latin Mass with the Tridentine Rite here in the Portsmouth Cathedral. There were about thirty people, of all ages.

Regardless of the different underlying theological focus between the Tridentine mass and the Novo Ordo 'usual' masses I want to rise a question on language. When Jesus disciples, after the resurrection, followed Jesus' command of braking the bread and sharing the cup, they surely did this in aramaic, as Jesus had done. Nevertheless, when Paul celebrated the Supper of the Lord in the home of gentile christians, in the cities of Greece that he was visiting, he did tell the last words of Jesus in greek and not in aramaic, since he would not be understood otherwise. This was a good pastoral and theological move. Pastorally it was good because it allowed people to understand, and theologically it was good because in a sense it mimicked the incarnation of God, that being of divine nature, became one of us. Later, in the places where greek was not spoken, the mass was said in latin. People did not understand greek, but did understand latin, thus latin became the language of the mass. And, not so long ago, following this flow of a more incarnated liturgy, we got the vernacular languages into the mass. So my question is, regardless of the rite, should we not aim for a mass in the language that people understand? I see no grounds for a mass in latin, and I would appreciate anyone disagreeing  to put forward any theological argument in the comments, which as always, are very welcomed.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Agustine on the omnipotence of God

The City of God, Book V: The freedom of God

His [God's] power is not diminished when we say that He 'cannot' die or err. For this is impossible to him in such a way that, if it was possible, He would have less power. He is indeed rightly called omnipotent even though he cannot die or err. For He is called omnipotent because he does what he wills and does not undergo what He does not will: if this were not so, He certainly would not be omnipotent.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

The challenge of those who don't believe in God. (invited post)

What I believe in

I believe in doubt and I don’t believe in God. I believe doubt is the basis of knowledge, and thus the basis of humankind. Whatever is not doubted may eventually be misused. This isn’t a declaration of principles. The first time I met a believer, I doubted whether to use the scientific method –I still doubt it. I’m a bit of a spiritual person and I often go with the flow. I’m also a scientist. Relaxing my thought patterns and pursuing different motivations become essential in my personal life. Eventually, I’ll always be willing to go for a theory based in reasoning and doubt. I don’t want to judge here people in terms of whether they believe, in non-reasonable things, or not.

Those who believe divide the world into believers and non-believers, those who smoke, into smokers and non-smokers, and so, those who study aliens. They seek common features among people with the aim of “being part of” or “belonging to” a group. Other activities like eating peanuts or playing squash don’t create community. Users know that nothing but the activity creates bounds amongst them.

I hate labeling people and beliefs; I both love and dislike many communities at the same time –my feelings vary depending on who describes the community and what the context is. Labeling informs you about something we don’t need and something it may not be true. It’s different to be physicist among artists than among engineers; or to be a New Yorker in Paris than in Texas. Labeling depends too much on the context. I prefer to use more precise adjectives like happy, nervous, stubborn, or coward rather than physicist, New Yorker or atheist.

I consider religion both a label and a community where disagreement is hostile. I consider religion harmful for rational thought and for creativity. I’d invite everyone to give up their beliefs.  Take whatever is good from religion or whatever you’ve learned and get out of the closet; should you like communities, seek one that accepts doubt. We have too much to understand and too much to discover (as human beings and as part of the universe) to do it with restrictions and credos. 

Once I talked with a friend about people who undeniably did good wherever they went. He said that undeniably those people were guided by God. It could be. It could be though there were other reasons. In science, sometimes a similar thing happens to me; to understand an experiment I use a theory (an existing explanation) and I focus so strongly in the theory that I lose sight of the original objective, the experiment –this is one of the first lessons of a scientist.

written by Ferran Macià

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Science and Religion: my thoughts in a nutshell

Challenged by a friend of mine, I've tried to briefly summarize my current position on Science and Religion in a few lines below. Probably this is too narrow, but it might be a good start for a discussion.

Science and Scriptures:
The two accounts of creation in Genesis differ. In the first one, man and woman are created after animals are, while in the second one man is created first, then the animals, and finally the woman. This, which is obviously long known, together with other examples, clearly points out that Scripture in general is not meant to be a scientific description of the world, nor, I think, was it written with that intention.

Science and Faith:
From the same loving God comes both the profane reality and that of faith, consequently they cannot truly conflict. Even more, honest scientists in their efforts to research into the mysteries of reality are like led by God, who holds all things in existence and gives them their identity. ( Gaudium et Spes 36, to which I agree. This is my careful creative reading.)

Natural Laws and God's mighty freedom (i.e, miracles) :
I see miracles not as something opposed to the natural order of the world, but as the opening of the world itself to the constant overflowing presence of God. The almightiness of our loving God is not some sort of higher human-like power, that will solve our problems, as some may say, - remember Jesus dying on the cross! - no!, rather, confessing a pantocrator God is more like saying that there is no place where His presence makes no difference.

Thoughts? Comments?

Friday, January 14, 2011

Angel doing theological exercises

Angel doing theological exercises
Sometimes the theological discurse looks like yoga contortions: once you got used to them they might be a comfortable and liberating place, but do not ask everyone to live performing yoga.

Some weeks ago I was with some friends of mine, and end up talking about God, while we where having some drinks late night. We were two Christians and four people questioning us about this very strange thing of the existence of "believers¨. Maybe these situation sounds strange to you, but in Spain, less and less people is worshiping God these days, so we are quite rare and interesting specimens.

They asked. Is it not that you believe in God as an excuse to be a good person? Does not people have faith because it is too difficult to understand scientifically this complex world, so you invent an unneeded hypothesis?  How do you know God and what is to believe in Him/It?

Thus, I pull out my theological tools and start talking about Faith and Revelation. About different ways that people claim to know God and how faith is the appropriate response. And I talk about Jesus and try to speak also from my own life. All in all, a quite interesting conversation but it seems not a very transformative one. Maybe too many words?

In that moment, the only guy that didn't speak before, go and says: "To me believing in God means to believe that we are all brothers and sisters, or if you like, that we all have the same heavenly Father. And this implies to love as I [Jesus] loved you." I wish I could have change all my talking buy this simple sentence, which probably was all that was needed at that time. Thank you, Óscar.  

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

And the shepherds, were they crazy?

Either because we usually know the biblical texts almost by heart, or because the world they talk about is now so far away from us, sometimes we do not realize how radical the good news of the gospel are. Or at least that is indeed what happens to me. Thus, when someone like Richard Beck offers on his blog an approach to the Christmas scene of the shepherds from the point of view of social psychology, his words come like a fresh air that takes us back to the same place where the shepherd were guarding the flock, just at the moment before the angel appeared with news of a great joy for all the people.

The shepherds, according to what Richard Beck suggests, would have a psychology similar to that of herding societies, ie, they would be -according to some academic studies- more violent and retaliatory than the peaceful farmers. The psychological difference between the herding and farming societies seems easy to explain. It is hard to steal from a farmer. The harvest is only ready for some part of the year and even so, during one night two thieves would not be able to get much. Conversely, two men can very easily still the sheep from a shepherd or the caws from a ranger. The shepherds have to stay vigilant day and night all day round. If you had all your savings, and stock options in a pile in your yard, you would surely watch it closely! Thus, because of these differences, the herding societies develop a "culture of honour" in which retaliation is very important, while the farming cultures would be less violent and more peaceful.

Now, if we look again to the scene of the shepherds, our shock and amazement cannot but increase in the light of this explanation. The shepherds, after hearing the good news of a new born child, and after listening to the heavenly host proclaiming peace on earth, they decide to leave the sheep and go to look for a baby! The gospel tells us that they hurried to see the baby, thus, even if nowhere we get explicitly that they left the flock unattended, it is quite logical to assume so. Were they crazy, the shepherds, to do this? I like to think that this was one of the miracles of the Christmas night. For one day, they stopped being afraid and were filled with the good news of the Kingdom that is coming, as it were already there. They believed the angels saying "Peace on earth".

Finally, the story of the shepherds reminds me of another story, the parable of the good shepherd, the one that leave ninety-nine sheep! just to go for one sheep that is lost. So great is the love of God that our way of leaving becomes not of this world.

In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them,  ‘Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.’ And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host,praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favours!’

When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.’ So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger.

This post was very inspired and much followed Richard Beck´s one, that you can find here