Religion


Since I posted my last post – From the land of the OT – earlier today, I have tried to gather some more information about the Chaldean church. It is one of the ancient churches of the Eastern rite within the Roman Catholic Church. There are a couple of hundred thousand (depending on sources between 380 000 to 800 000) members scattered throughout the world. Their official website is: www.kaldu.org

RAGHEED

As recently as in the beginning of this month a priest (Fr Ragheed Ganni) was hit by gunfire in front of his church in Mosul. Three deacons, who served as his aides, were also killed. Before opening fire on Fr. Raghhed Gani and his three deacons, the killers demanded their conversion to Islam. They are truly martyrs and our beloved pope Benedict expressed his deep and heartfelt condolences and called the tragedy a costly sacrifice which will inspire in the hearts of all men and women of good will a renewed resolve to reject the ways of hatred and violence. Read more about it here and here. This was not the first time clergy was killed in Iraq during this war.

Please pray for their souls.

In Asianews I found several articles about the horror the Christians in Iraq faces on a daily base. Somewhat a glimpse of light was the article about Hani Abdel Ahad, another priest who was released yesterday after being kidnapped for 12 days. Read more about it here.

 


The Assault on Assyrian Christians in Iraq

 

I remember a party in the early 90’s. Desert storm was on cnn 24/7. At the party an acquaintance of mine from England met someone else’s acquaintance who was from Iraq. No one had thought of this when we where inviting people. It turned out they both had brothers fighting in the war, one on each side.

Very quickly they became friends. They understood each others situation better than any of us stupid Swedes could. It was amazing to be a witness of this. Friendship comes out of brotherly love and it runs deeper than the hatred that comes out of war. Whenever I hear the expression Brothers in arms I think of this.

Please remember all the people, both civilians and soldiers, Christians and Muslims in your prayers. We are all children of God.

Mother of God

Advertisements

The very first time I visited a Catholic mass the reading of the day was when the Lord calls Samuel, from the first book of the Kings. Samuel was only a child, and he kept running to Heli each time he heard the voice of God.

Lord calls for the child Samuel

And the Lord called Samuel. And he answered: Here am I. And he ran to Heli and said: Here am I: for thou didst call me. He said: I did not call: go back and sleep. And he went and slept.

I was sitting as far back in the Church as I could, feeling both uncomfortable and curious at the same time. I was trying not to stick out to much. Standing up, sitting down, and hoping no one would notice me. I felt misplaced, even unworthy.

And the Lord called Samuel again. And Samuel arose and went to Heli, and said: Here am I: for thou calledst me. He answered: I did not call thee, my son: return and sleep. Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord, neither had the word of the Lord been revealed to him.

I started to get the feeling that someone knew I was listening. That someone saw me there in the back, in the old parts of the church, with the hard wooden pews and the great wooden Madonna. Not anyone in the congregation, they where all in front of me. Nor the priests, I was too far in the back.

And the Lord called Samuel again the third time. And he arose up and went to Heli. And said: Here am I: for thou didst call me.

I was listening intensively.

Then Heli understood that the Lord called the child, and he said to Samuel: Go, and sleep: and if he shall call thee any more, thou shalt say: Speak, Lord, for thy servant heareth. So Samuel went and slept in his place.

I had not, truly, been to a church since my confirmation (into the Swedish Lutheran Church) when I was 14 – almost 30 years ago. Later I have of course attended weddings and funerals and so forth, but never as a believer, and never at a Catholic church. It was very awkward for me: – Me, a Christian??? It can’t be!!! And still there I was, of my own free will, in a church, feeling the presence of God.

And the Lord came and stood: and he called, as he had called the other times: Samuel, Samuel. And Samuel said: Speak, Lord, for thy servant heareth.

There it was:

Speak, Lord, for thy servant heareth.

I was overwhelmed. It was as the whole reading for the day was directed solely towards me.

Speak, Lord, for thy servant heareth.

This was what I had moving towards all my life, without knowing it. A year earlier I had started to read a little about the history of Roman Catholic Church, mostly to better understand some references in a book – than in search for a faith… Then one book lead to another. I found a forum for Catholic converts on the Internet, who helped me a lot with my questions, but it was here, in the back of St Erik’s Church in Stockholm, on a wooden bench, my year long investigation ended up and transformed into belief.

Speak, Lord, for thy servant heareth.

There I was ready to listen to him, however strange it seemed to me, what ever my friends and relatives would think. I was ready to listen.

In fact, ever since then, more than a year ago, this is what I have devoted myself to do. Probably I’m not all that good at it, but this is solely the most important thing in my life:

– Learning to listen.

 

 

St Erik Catholic Church Stockholm
St. Erik’s Catholic Church, “Katolska domkyrkan” in Stockholm.
In mid January 2006
I sat on one of the back rows on the left side.

“I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another.” (John15:17)

It seems to me that Catholics in general are aware of their sins, and they most often know when they fall for a temptation. To be aware of sin and that there are such a thing as sinful actions – and thoughts – makes you aware of the consequences of your sins. Of your guilt. All people sin, but as a Catholic perhaps you think a little bit extra on the condemnation of what you have done.

Sin is an act against God and His creation. When I hurt someone I also hurt God. My sins are foremost sins against God since all glory is His. All of creation is his. Through love for others I love God and through my sins I pound the nails in His Hands and Feet.

Still, to me “Catholic guilt” is nowhere near the guilt you feel when you think there is no forgiveness in the world. We all live with the consequences of our actions, even the nihilists does, and the Catholic guilt is a tool here. Without it you are risking that guilt will eat you up. It’s with guilt as it is with stress. Stress causes heart attacks. Stress that you can control builds you up. There is good guilt and bad guilt just as it is with stress.

In the confession you are forced to be aware of your sins, you even have to confess them out loud. You can’t regret your sins if you are not aware of them. If you not formulate them. You can’t get forgiveness if you don’t ask for it, from the bottom of your heart. Mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.

It’s like if you don’t believe there is a city called Stockholm, then you would have no reason to go there. It’s the same with Jesus. If you don’t believe in him, why would you seek his forgiveness? And if you don’t seek his forgiveness, why would he forgive you. Just as the prodigal son, full of remorse returns to his father’s home, so must we all regret all our sins and return home to be able to receive his abundant love and forgiveness. Catholic guilt and the confession is two sides of the same coin:

– We must be aware of our guilt to be able to be released from it.

Love has boundaries. God doesn’t endorse my wrong doings in any way. His endless love doesn’t mean that He loves the sins I commit. No matter if I didn’t think it through, no matter all my best excuses. He loves me despite of what I have done. Like a loving father he welcomes my forgiveness. No matter what I do, he still loves me… Hammering nails in the body of Christ – I still have his love – and there is my guilt, I hurt Him who loves me. I hurt the one I love. He gives me everything and in my sin I instead reject him and causes him pain.

This is the Catholic guilt: I can do better.

And this is the confession: I will.

Forgiven

Finally I got a date for when I’m being a full member of the Church.

June twelfth! I’m so happy. One month and four days to go

The faith doesn’t seem to affect some people’s lives that much. It surely didn’t used to affect mine. In crisis for instance God can be a great comfort, but many of us seem to think that the teaching of Jesus is like a laid out buffet:

“I’ll have the eternal life, without the third, the sixth and the tenth commandment. Skip that needle eye and give me a packacge of Camel.

Without filters.”

Jesus didn’t lose up the commandments. He sharpened them. I do not believe in Christianity as some form of smörgåsbord, where you can pick and choose. The Church is a package deal: Either you take the whole shaboom, or you don’t. It’s either or.

These very rules are guarded and interpreted by the Church, which he founded upon his disciple Simon Peter.

I believe the teaching of Christ is guarded by St. Peter, and his followers in the holy chair at the Vatican, therefore it is important that all Christians unite under this banner. Not under personal interpretations of Ulf Ekman’s in the “Word of Life” or the “Bride of Christ’s” in the sect of Knutby.

His Church is a living Church. You can’t only trust your own interpretations. If this was the meaning, Jesus would have written a book instead of teaching his disciples. The keys to the kingdom is in the hand of his living Church, ever since that day he gave them to St. Peter, who later settled down in Rome and then on his death, passed them down unto his successors.

When Jesus Christ instituted the Church, the Bible was not written yet. It is clearly by the authority of the Church and the Holy tradition his teachings are meant to be upheld. The Bible was put together in this tradition and should be interpreted through this tradition.

Either you believe in Jesus Christ or you don’t. If you do, there is no middle way: Et Unam, Sanctam, Cathólicam et Apostólicam Ecclésiam**. It all comes down to the Cathedra Petri, the Chair of Saint Peter. To acknowledge this will lead you to heaven.

I find it hard to relate to Jesus on the cross. I mean, it’s almost too great to grasp: The suffering of it all, being nailed to a cross, left to die in agony, taking on the sins of the whole world, yet being totally without sin. I have a hard time to relate to it on a more personal level. Somehow I feel it is easier for me to understand Mary’s pain in this. I can relate to her sufferings, because I can put myself in her shoes, kneeling by the cross, crying for her son. But I can’t grasp the suffering of Christ himself.

Another part of the bible that is difficult to comprehend is when poor Abraham are asked to sacrifice his only son. Everybody with children can relate to this tremendous proffer. I doubt I would be able to do what Abraham was prepared to do. I have asked myself how God could ask this of him, and why. I can’t understand how a loving God can ask this of a parent.

In the passion I can understand why, but I can’t really relate to the emotional side. In Abraham’s sacrifice I can relate to the emotional perspective, but I can’t understand why. And yet, Abraham’s sacrifice and the Passion of Christ is very similar parts of the bible: The father sacrifices his only son.

When I think of God’s great sacrifice for us in these terms, I can suddenly grasp what God have done and how he could ask this of Abraham. But God, in his great compassion gave Abraham a way out: He let Abraham keep his son and further let him have many more. God could ask this of Abraham because He could do the same for Abraham. He asked for Abraham’s sacrifice but did not fulfill his request. In the end Abraham did not sacrifice his son, but God did sacrifice his. The question should not be how he could ask this of Abraham, but how he could ask this of himself. And then the answer is more evident: For the love of us.

It is in this context, someone simpleminded as me, actually can grasp the passion of Christ and the endless love God has for us. God actually sacrificed his only son for us, for his people, for my family, for me…

The universal bias of God for each and one of us is important here. “Dieu nous aime d’un amour universellement partial” – God loves us with a love which is universally partial, as Gabriel Marcel puts it. The personal bond which He has, with each and one of us. The greatest sacrifice is universally done for us as individuals. The son of God died upon the cross for my sins, for your sins, for the sins of Abraham and his son. For all our personal sins, individually.

There you have it. How could one be indifferent for this great sacrifice? Someone has given us his only son to help us gain our lives.

– How, on earth, could we not take him up on his offer?

If you, as I did, found out that Jesus actually is sitting there waiting for you, to which church would you belong? The Mormons or maybe the Baptists? The Church of England or perhaps of Sweden? Maybe the Orthodox Church has shoes that fit, or the Roman Catholic? Or perhaps we don’t need a church at all…

In a couple of posts I will describe my view upon different churches and why I chose the way I chose.

Jesus as merely a philosopher
Here in Sweden it is common to believe in some good power, instead of the traditional Christian God. Those people often say that they feel that Jesus was some kind of great philosopher…

Well, have they really thought this through? Listen to this:

And Jesus coming, spoke to them, saying: All power is given to me in heaven and in earth. Going therefore, teach ye all nations; baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and behold I am with you all days, even to the consummation of the world.Matthew 28:18-20*.

This is not the words of a great philosopher. This man is either a complete lunatic or the Son of God. It’s either or.

For me his divinity struck me a few years ago. I couldn’t help it. I believe we all, sooner or later, have to make this choice of to believe or not, and if we find ourselves with a belief in God, we should seriously contemplate the consequences on how we live our lives, not out of fear but in humble respect and love.

Next Page »