Wow, January 2019 – time again to make those New Year’s resolutions and probably for many of us, these are top on your list: lose weight, do better financially, take more vacations, get a better job, get organized, and spend more time with family. I’m sure all of us have had one of those on our list and in reality, how long do we really keep them (if we even start them at all)?Read More
It’s the time of the year when the Christian world will be celebrating the feast of Christmas. This feast is arguably the most popular holiday season for Christians and non-Christians alike, but do we really know what this feast is all about? The word Christmas comes from the old English Cristes Maesse, the Mass of Christ.
Apparently, Jesus Christ is the focus of the feast and in order to celebrate this feast properly one would need to know the person of Christ. I want to shed some light on the person of Jesus Christ from three perspectives posed as questions: How was Jesus understood throughout history? How is Jesus presented to us in the Bible? Finally, how should we understand Jesus today?
Jesus throughout history
Historically, the person of Jesus Christ has always been a controversial figure. Jews, Romans and Gentiles disagreed as to who this person is. His followers on the other hand and from the beginning of his public ministry perceived him as the Maasai, the savior of Israel.
This Messiah was understood by some believers as God taking on a human flesh. The letter to the “Diognetus” which was written in the early part of the second century attests to the understanding of the person of Jesus Christ as full man and full God. Some other Jews thought the idea of God becoming man is a challenge to their core belief as Jews. Jews believed God is one and they reminded themselves of this reality twice daily through the Shema prayer “Listen o Israel, the Lord your God is one” for those Jews the idea of the divinity of Jesus presented a stumbling block to their belief in him.
Not only Jews but some Christians throughout history were challenged with the idea of the divinity of Christ, so they attempted to simplify it by presenting some logical alternatives which led to many heresies. Some attempted to put all the focus on the human nature of Christ. the result of that made Jesus a mere messenger created by God (Arianism). Others attempted to explain the person of Jesus Christ by focusing solely on his two natures. The outcome of that made Jesus two persons figure with two natures (Nestorianism). And others attempted to explain the person of Jesus Christ by focusing on his divine nature only. The result of that undermined the humanity of Jesus (Monophysitism).
All these attempts and others tried to explain the person of Jesus by using reason alone. Reason is good but as I mentioned in my October article, reason cannot work independently from God, who is the source of all reason. Giving the limitation of the human mind, the approach of reason alone could lead man to fall in error (heresy). Heresies have always been the product of man’s attempt to explain a reality bigger than himself; the result of that is a new set of teachings that fit a particular mindset at a particular time.
On the other hand, the church has always understood Jesus as the savior of the human race, the new Adam who came at the fullness of time to re-do what Adam did. Adam sinned as a human person therefore atonement for his sin had to be paid by a human person, but since the gravity of Adam’s sin against God was so great it needed God himself to take on a human person and pay the price of that sin. Jesus accomplished that by living all his life without committing a sin and then dying on the cross as an atonement for our sins. It is based on this reasoning and what sacred scripture reveals to us, the church proclaims Jesus as one person with two natures (Human and Divine), but is that what scripture teaches us about Jesus?
Jesus in the Bible
The books of sacred scripture presented Jesus to us as a complete man and as a complete God in many occasions, directly and indirectly. As a man Jesus was born of a woman LK 2:7, grew up as a young man LK 2:40, got tired JN4:6, was thirsty JN 19:28, got hungry MK 11:12 and experienced death MT 27:50. The bible also shows Jesus performing acts that only God is capable of performing. He healed physical illnesses JN 9:6, healed mental illnesses MT 17:14, forgave sinners MT 9:1, raised the dead JN 11:38, showed control over nature MK 4:35 and many other miracles. All these miracles were performed by Jesus using his own authority unlike all other prophets before him.
The bible shows the uniqueness of Jesus’s authority in the Sermon on the Mount presented to us in the gospel of Matthew chapter five. In this chapter, Jesus teaches the crowd by contrasting between what they have learned before him by the prophets versus what he is teaching them now, so he repeatedly says “You have heard before... but I say to you” as an indication of the uniqueness of his Godly authority. The bible not only speaks of Jesus’ divinity through his miracles but it clearly teaches it in more than one place. For example, the gospel of John starts with “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Jesus is the word and in this verse the bible confirms the equality between the word and God Himself. All these bible verses and others solidify the understanding of the person of Jesus as fully human and fully divine which is conditional to his mission as a savior. The savior’s mission is to bring humanity back to God the father after the fall of Adam in sin which caused complete separation from God. In another word, the savior’s mission is to bring the human will back in union with the divine will which can only be done through the one who has both, Jesus Christ. Jesus as God man is the missing link that was needed to bring the fallen human will to its union with the father’s eternal will and by doing that, He made salvation possible. What does that mean to us?
Jesus and me
As we prepare to celebrate the birth of Jesus, we need to ask ourselves who is Jesus to us? The English thinker C.S. Lewis once said that in light of everything we know about Jesus from reason and revelation, Jesus must be one of three words that start with the letter “L”. He is either a lunatic, a liar or Lord. He reasons through that by saying how can a person live all his life without committing a sin, heal the sick, raise the dead, claim to be the road to eternal life be anything outside of these three options. Well, I can say with certainty that no human being today would dare to claim that Jesus was a lunatic or a liar that leaves us with one option. He is our Lord and if He is our Lord then the most important question that we should ask ourselves today is: Have we in our life met this Lord personally? Only when we meet Him personally will Christmas have a real meaning.
Karam Bahnam has a BA in Philosophy and is currently working on his MA in Theology; he is a co-founder of the Eastern Catholic Re-evangelization Center (ECRC).
The question we ask ourselves in these times that we live in is; “can we find joy in suffering?” At first this seems like a contradictory question, joy and suffering are opposed to each other, so how is this even imaginable? As always let’s turn to the gospel. In the letter to the Romans, St. Paul takes the question above and gives us a deeper meaning on suffering.
More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit which has been given to us. (Romans 5:3-5)
Suffering is a part of the human race, because of the fall of man (disobedience of Adam and Eve) we all must endure some type of suffering in our lives. The questions are, what do we do with our sufferings and can we get closer to Christ by suffering?
First, what do we do with our suffering? In all my years of evangelizing, I have noticed two kinds of people: the kind that curse God for their suffering and the kind that thank God for their suffering. St. Paul suffered with joy for one reason only and that was to bring the Gospel, the message of salvation, to the people. He endures his suffering so that they may obtain salvation.
“I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation which in Christ Jesus goes with eternal glory.” (2 Tim 2:10-12)
Everyone that “rejoices in their suffering” are doing it for the sake of the Gospel and are bringing souls closer to Jesus because of their witness. Our Lord did not obtain eternal glory until he went through his passion, death, and finally his glorious resurrection. If Jesus had to suffer to obtain eternal glory then we will also suffer to obtain eternal glory. One of the reasons that St. Paul can rejoice in his suffering is because he says “God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit which has been given to us.” He is filled with the Holy Spirit just as we are since our baptism and we know that when we are filled with the Holy Spirit we can endure any trials or tribulations that life throws at us.
Suffering comes in all different forms; they could be mental, physical, or spiritual. In whatever form they come, we are to “take up our cross daily” offer it up to the Lord and unite it with his suffering. If we were just to suffer without any meaning then, it would be empty suffering, but suffering in faith, suffering knowing that we are created for the Kingdom of God, produces endurance to keep going. When an athlete trains for a race he is training for endurance so he can finish the race and not be left behind; he does whatever he can to build his endurance, his muscles, and his mind to complete what he has started. We, as Catholics, must also prepare for the suffering that will come our way – and it will. We should never wait for the suffering to come but, let us always be prepared. Some of the tools that we have to train for this suffering are given to us by the Catholic Church; the sacraments, mass, prayer, the rosary, the saints, novenas, relics and adoration.
These gifts that the Church has given us should not just be used when suffering comes our way, they should be a part of our daily lives so that when the suffering comes, we will be prepared to handle it and not fall into despair. Because, if we fall into despair then there is no hope in our lives. When we fall into despair, we turn from God and do not allow him to be effective in our lives. We even convince ourselves that God is not doing anything in our lives. If we don’t have hope in everything that we do, even going to church and receiving the sacraments, would be useless. Hope cannot disappoint us because His Spirit has filled us with His love.
In my own journey of suffering, I came to the realization that either I can do something to bring people to Jesus or I can do things that will lead people away from Jesus and of course I chose to lead people to our Lord and my life has been filled with nothing but joy, peace, and happiness. I look back at the time I was going through all my suffering and I can honestly say that it was the some of the best moments in my life, because that suffering united me more intimately with Jesus and his own passion.
Is suffering difficult? Of course, it is! But, our Lord will help us through it. Always remember, that sometimes when we ask for healing and we don’t receive a physical healing, Jesus always sends us spiritual healing first before he sends us physical healing, because the most important thing is to make sure our soul is healed before our body.
Sickness, suffering, and death are an inseparable part of this fallen world. But we must remember that we are not created for this world. We were created by God and for His Kingdom, where there is no suffering and death. The Christian must not ask themselves why is there suffering. The Christian must rejoice in the suffering, giving it to God and receiving the gift of eternal life.
I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me; and the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (Gal 2:20)
Jeff Kassab has a BA in Pastoral
Theology and is a Board Member of
the Eastern Catholic Re-evangelization
Throughout our daily life, we encounter many people; we treat these people based on a certain perception we have developed for each one of them. These perceptions are built upon some common conceptions or misconceptions. For example, when we encounter a rich person, we commonly think of a proud person; when we encounter an educated person, we commonly think of a sophisticated person; and when we encounter a religious person, we commonly think of a naïve person.Read More
I don’t steal. I don’t cheat. I don’t kill. I don’t do bad things so, why do I need to go to church? I’m a good person!
First of all, let’s get something clear, you’re not supposed to do any of these things. These are all part of the natural moral law, “which is written and engraved in the soul of each and every man that is created by God.” (CCC 1954)Read More
Starting in September, we will bring you a new column about the faith. Both Karam Bahnam and Jeff Kassab will rotate in writing this monthly piece. More people might participate in the rotation. We hope our readers find it engaging and insightful.Read More
Spring is a metaphor for change. Some changes we eagerly await, and some we abhor. Some changes we plan and others arrive uninvited. To all these changes we ask the gift of Your perspective beckoning us to expectation, hope, and rebirth.Read More
Considering that it feels like we just finished exchanging gifts, it certainly seems as if it’s too soon for us to start fasting for Lent. however, here we are another opportunity the church has given to us to grow in love with Jesus, and our neighbor. Lets us prayerfully set realistic goals and work towards realizing them with the grace of God. Every year many of the same questions arise.Read More
If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.Read More
Most Bountiful God, I sincerely and humbly thank Thee for all of Thy many benefits to me during the past year, and for the privilege of beginning a new year. Do Thou mercifully continue Thy gracious help and protection, so that I may not only spend this coming year in Thy service, but also may increase from day to day in fervor and in the performance of good works.Read More
In honor of the Beatification, we share these words from Blessed Fr. Solanus Casey 1870-1957: “Worry is a weakness from which very few of us are entirely free. We must be on guard against this most insidious enemy of our soul’s peace. Instead, let us foster confidence in God, and thank Him ahead of time for whatever he chooses to send us.”Read More
We are in the month where Americans celebrate Thanksgiving. Perhaps start each day this month reciting for all the people and things you are grateful. Below is a gratitude prayer.Read More
A Novena to Saint Maximilian Kolbe for the Grace to be Freed from Addiction: Saint Maximilian Kolbe, your life of love and labor for souls was sacrificed amid the horrors of a concentration camp and hastened to its end by an injection of a deadly drug.Read More
God of wisdom and might,
we praise you for the wonder of our being,
for mind, body and spirit.
Be with our children as they begin
a new school year.
The month of August is dedicated to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Since the 16th century, Catholic piety has assigned entire months to special devotions. As CatholicCulture.org explains it, the month of August is traditionally dedicated to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. The physical heart of Mary is venerated and not adored as the Sacred Heart of Jesus is because it is united to her person and is the seat of her love, especially for her divine Son, virtue, and inner life. Such devotion is an incentive to a similar love and virtue.Read More
For all those detained and at risk of being deported, let’s pray that St. Michael the Archangel will intercede for them and protect them from any danger.
The month of June is dedicated to The Sacred Heart of Jesus. This month falls within the liturgical season of Ordinary Time, which is represented by the liturgical color green. This symbol of hope is the color of the sprouting seed and arouses in the faithful the hope of reaping the eternal harvest of heaven, especially the hope of a glorious resurrection. It is used in the offices and Masses of Ordinary Time. The last portion of the liturgical year represents the time of our pilgrimage to heaven during which we hope for reward.Read More