Saturday, October 11, 2014

Are We Stuck Moving in One Direction?

Despite the sophistication of the modern aircraft carrier, it will never be known as nimble, or highly maneuverable…they just don’t turn on a dime. And that’s because of what they call inertia.

Newton’s law of inertia tells us that a body at rest tends to stay at rest, and a body in motion tends to stay in motion unless acted upon by another force. What that basically means is that it’s hard to get something moving in the first place, and that once it’s moving, it’s hard to stop it, or to change direction. While Newton’s law was meant to be applied to things that have mass and form, think of it for a moment in terms of things like beliefs, or corporations, or institutions, or behaviors…especially behaviors. Think of it in terms of friends; and of families, and of communities. Think of it in terms of relationships. God designed and built us to live in relationships…with Him, with our spouses and children, with our parents and grandparents, with the people around us. It’s no wonder, then, that since the Fall of Adam and Eve, our biggest defect is our tendency towards self-absorption…that interior inertia that makes it so difficult for us to turn away from ourselves, and towards those around us…our husbands and wives, our moms and dads, our kids and grandkids, our co-workers, our fellow parishioners, the widow and the orphan, the hungry and thirsty, the sick and the lame, the imprisoned, the homeless…so difficult to turn away from ourselves, and towards God.

The story has always been the same, and our scriptural readings today poignantly outline for us the problem…and the solution.

The prophet Isaiah was called by God during the decline of the Israelite kingdom; he lived during a time when the people of God were far from Him; unwilling, and unable to turn towards God for help. Isaiah gives us the image of the vineyard that was carefully prepared and planted with the choicest vines. While poetically evoking this image, Isaiah leaves nothing to the imagination at the end: “The vineyard of the LORD of hosts is the house of Israel, and the people of Judah are his cherished plant…” God’s relationship with the Israelites was one of recurrent episodes of betrayal and infidelity. Despite God’s careful tending to the vineyard, all they produced was wild grapes. God never turned away from his people, although at times He stood at a distance; it was Israel that turned away from God. And the harder and faster and longer they turned away, the more difficult it was to turn back…the law of inertia in relationships; and the more they turned away, the more it actually became a turning towards selfish desire. In those dire circumstances, they couldn’t even see God.

In our time and space, this we have come to know as addiction…that state of being where we can’t turn back. We have done the “…oh, one more time won’t hurt anything…” line of reasoning enough times that all we can see is our own disordered desire. It’s almost ironic in a sad sort of way…only God can save us at that point, and He is the very one we have turned completely away from…and that is the experience that we are all familiar with…the experience of sin.

Our responsorial psalm gives us a sense of repentance, and hope…that first step towards recovery: “…Protect what your right hand has planted…then we will no more withdraw from you; give us new life, and we will call upon your name…”

And now in our gospel reading, the story Isaiah started is finished by Jesus. Even though Isaiah and Jesus are separated by some 750 years, the strength of the metaphor is not lost; it is completed. The landowner sent his son. Isaiah has already told us in his prophecy that the owner of the vineyard is the LORD of hosts, God himself…and now as Jesus completes the story, God sends his son. In both Isaiah’s story, and Jesus’ retelling, the landowner has sent his representatives to collect what is rightfully his. What appears to be the fruit of the harvest is actually love, the fruit of relationship. That’s what God wanted from the Israelites; that’s what God wants from us…our love. It’s bad enough that the landowner’s representatives were killed, but when the landowner’s son is killed, the insult and the injury are tragically magnified. The tenants’ depravity, their addiction to self-gratification, their sin, drove them to the point that they could not see what they were doing, or the consequences that would surely follow…and the landowner was left not only with righteous anger, but also the anguish of an unspeakable loss. What a moving description of sin, and its effect on us…and on God! What a moving description of the impact of inertia on our relationships!

“The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; by the Lord has this been done, and it is wonderful in our eyes.” The inertia of our addictions blinds us, and we reject the stone; we ignore it; we don’t even see it. But God never abandons us; through the death and glorious resurrection of his son, Jesus, he has poured out on us what we need to recover from our addictions, what we need to heal our incurable wounds, what we need to turn away from sin; he has poured out on us the answer to the inertia that impacts all of our relationships…and that is his Grace; and with Grace we can stop what we are doing; we can change our course in an instant. Inertia can only be countered by the application of force, and in the case of our relationships, that force is Grace…and not even the most sophisticated aircraft carrier afloat has access to that…only we do.

Deacon Bill Whibbs

Twenty-seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time Readings
Is 5:1-7
Ps 80: 9, 12, 13-14, 15-16, 19-20
Phil 4: 6-9
Mt 21: 33-43

Catholicism and Islam

There are a number of linkages between Catholicism and Islam. For example, in the Qur'an ("Koran" or the Islamic sacred scripture), Jesus is mentioned in over ninety verses.
There are more references to Mary in the Qur'an than in the Bible. There have been twelve Imams (charismatic leaders) in Islam, occupying virtually the same position as the Twelve Apostles in Christianity. The number seventy-two is likewise shared by the two faiths: For example, Muhammad's grandson, Husayn, led an expedition of 72 disciples into an important controversy with a rival faction, and in Luke 10:1 we find that the Lord appointed 72 disciples to go to every town he intended to visit and report back to him. And both the Virgin Mary and Muhammad's daughter, Fatima, stand as mothering female saints of a central holy family. Both women are considered immaculate and impeccable by Catholicism and Islam respectively.

An important relationship between Catholicism and Shi'i Muslims (but not Sunnis) was started on March 11, 1999, when then Pope John Paul II held an audience in his private library with Muhammad Khatami, President of the Islamic Republic of Iran, the leading Shi'i Islamic country in the world. Keep in mind that Islam is divided into two frequently warring and always hostile factions: Sunnis and Shi'i. The meeting between the Pope and President Khatami established Catholicism and the Shi'i faction as friends and partners in dialogue. The emotion of the moment was emphasized when one of the clerics accompanying Khatami, at the end of the meeting rushed to the Pope, embraced him and kissed him on both cheeks. The cordial contact was furthered when the Pope visited Damascus, Syria in May, 2001, a largely Shi'i city, and was warmly received. The division of Islam into Sunni and Shi'i occurred soon after Muhammad's death in 632, when the two factions became rigidly organized, down to the present day.

Their basic quarrel is over the leadership of Islam by a particular Imam (religious leader, or caliph), and the choice of whether Islam as a religion should adhere to philosophical and theological study or whether it should base itself strictly on law -- shari'a (meaning "the path" or divine will for Muslims). The Shi'i adherents of Islam are more "theological and philosophical" than the Sunnis. The latter depend for the guidance of divine law (shari'a) not on what they call the "weak human reason" of the Shi'i, but solely by reference to the Qur'an and to the traditional practice of Muhammad, "the Prophet" as found in the Hadith or writings.

The Sunnis might be thought of as analogous to Protestants in Christianity, while the Shi'i practice of Islam could be said to correspond to Catholicism. That is so because Christian Protestant evangelical fundamentalists, and the majority of Protestants generally tend toward mistrust of "vain philosophy" whereas the Shi'i have a well-developed philosophy, based not just on the Qur'an but also on the "Traditions", or "Hadith." Sunnis greatly outnumber the Shi'i in the Muslim world: out of 1.2 billion Muslims worldwide (the exact same population as that of Catholics), Shi'i number just 140 million, constituting 95 percent Shi'i in Iran, 70 percent Shi'i in Bahrain, 55 percent Shi'i in Iraq, and much lower percentages in other countries. Shi'i Islam overlaps frequently with Catholicism. One dramatic example was that of the life of the former chief justice of the Pakistani Supreme Court from 1951 to 1968, A.R. Cornelius a devout Catholic, who synthesized Islamic and Catholic values while playing a major role in the development of the Pakistani constitutional system.

When comparing Catholicism and Islam below (whether Sunni or Shi'i) in depth, we will juxtapose a Catholic doctrinal position against either the Qur'an (Islam's sacred scripture) or the Hadith (its traditional spiritual writings). By doing so we find that, even given similarities, there are significant and essential differences between Catholicism and Islam Let's turn to the writings of each faith and see what these material differences are. We will use the following system in comparing and contrasting Catholicism and Islam. "Sura" followed by a number refers to the chapter (one out of 114 total) in the Qur'an where the quotation is found, while "Hadith" followed by a number refers to the place in the collection of Traditions outside of the Qur'an regarding the life and sayings of the prophet Muhammad.

JESUS: (1a) God revealed his nature in Jesus in a way that could be seen and touched (Jn. 20:24-30; 1 Jn. 1-4); (1b) Qur'an Suras 4:157; 5:72-75 Jesus was only a prophet and he did not die on the cross.

(2a) Jesus is the exact representation of God's glory and God's being (Hebrews 1:3); (2b) Jesus Christ is not God and the Holy Spirit is not called God. Hadith: "The Meaning of the Holy Qur'an."

(3a) Jesus will return as king and lord to judge the living and the dead (Rev. 20:11-15); (3b) Jesus will return and judge people by the law of the Qur'an and establish Islam as the true religion (Hadith 4:658; 3:425).

(4a) Jesus died on the cross and took man's sin away (Jn, 1:29; 19:30; 19:40; Acts 13:28-30; (4b) "Peace on me the day I was born, and the day I shall be raised alive! Such was Jesus, son of Mary." (Sura 19:33-34)

(5a) Jesus intercedes for his followers. (Hebrews 7:24-25; (5b) "Let us request someone to intercede for us with our Lord...Jesus will say, I am not fit for this; go to Muhammad." Hadith 8:570.

(6a) Jesus will inflict punishment on those who do not acknowledge God. (2Th. 1:7-8) (6b) "[W]hen the son of Mary descends among you he will judge people by the law of the Qur'an not by the law of the Gospel (Hadith 4:658).

GOD: (1a) Christians believe in one God (Dt. 6:4); (1b) (Sura 5:116.) (Christians believe in God, Jesus, and Mary as three gods.)

(2a) Ananias lied to the Holy Spirit; he lied not to human beings but to God (Acts 5:3-4) (2b) The Holy Spirit is the angel of revelation, Gabriel (Sura 2:253).

(3a) All have sinned and are deprived of the glory of God (Rom 3:213) (3b) Each person is born weak but good and does not need salvation (Sura 4:28)

(4a) Our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ (1Jn1:3) (4b) Allah does not have fellowship with human beings

SIN: (1a) Cleanse me from my unknown faults (Ps.19:13) (1b) The Prophet said, If you do not feel ashamed, then do whatever you like (Hadith 4:690.

Post by Tony Gilles