1993, Articles, Raiati

Rebuke / 05.09.93

Suspicion is one of our commonest sins. How can we commit it, and “the righteous God tests the hearts and minds”? (Psalm 7: 9) Occasionally one of those who listen to my homilies would ask me: “Why did you talk about me?”, and my answer is that I did not talk about anybody. The Divine Word has tested you, and this is good. Relationships between people are originally based on confidence, on the simplicity that is in Christ, as stated by Paul. Isn’t it mentioned in the Bible: “Do not judge according to appearance” (John 7: 24)? In fact, no one can possibly enter others’ hearts. You should content yourself with what you hear, rather than interpreting it. “God will judge the secrets of men” (Romans 2: 16). Indeed, the words we hear can mislead us. We can interpret and examine the motivations behind people’s behaviors, but how could we possibly know their intentions? Only God can uncover hearts on the last day. He who suspects intentions is impersonating The Judge; a power God has confined to Himself.

He who throws people into hell is throwing himself into hell, and he shall be overtaken in sins he ascribed to other people. You are entitled to test your heart, and you see it by the rules of God. Take care of yourself and do not be preoccupied with other people. Turn a blind eye to people’s trespasses, and leave them to God; in other words, pray for them. This will benefit you and them. Do not be cruel lest you bring the wrath of God.

“If a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted.” (Galatians 6: 1) Only gentleness can reform others. What does Paul say after that? He says: “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ”, which means that you shall bear patiently people’s sins for this is the only way that will enable them to reform themselves.

Seek to be reformed by people. Accept advices and do not be hurt. Do not say: “Why did you rebuke me in front of people?” Why do you consider that you should not be blamed? Do not be upset if one of your brothers wanted to reform you, even if he had to do it in others’ presence. If the one who blames you is right, then you should accept what he is saying, for truth can save you. Do not ask about his intentions. Maybe he loves you and he is saying this for your own good. If it was fair, then you should accept the advice no matter how severe he is. He may have harsh words, for many people are not kind. The tone is of no importance. Importance lies in sincere and fair words.

Do not consider that you are above the truth. Regarding this the apostle says: “if anyone thinks himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself.” Truth can come to you through a little child. Even crazy persons can utter words of wisdom. Accept the advice humbly, because what matters is your improvement and overcoming evil. Be grateful to those who rebuke you, and do not be sad, for they might be God’s messengers to you. “Teach a just man, and he will increase in learning” (Proverbs 9: 9).

Choose a spiritual father or a friend who would point out your vices. This is what a person who loves you would do, for he wishes you the very best. Others can be objective while testing you. You would be upset if you made an error. Your friend or your spiritual father delivers you from your illusions, whereas your sins will cause you to fall into the trap of illusions. You are blinded by your sins. A spiritual friend knows how you should be guided.

Choose someone who would teach you, for every person, no matter how righteous he think he is, needs to be taught by someone at every stage of his life. If you did not find a guide, let the Bible guide you. Let it control your behavior and your heart, so that the latter would be compliant with the Word of God. If the Bible purifies your heart as fire purifies metals, you shall become blameless. No one is as repentant as God wants us to be. Therefore, you should remove all masks; expose them to light without fear, for not accepting rebuke from the Word of God is equal to loving your sins. Loving sins is death, and liberation from them is resurrection from the dead.

Translated by Amani Haddad

Original Text: “التوبيخ” – 05.09.93

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1993, Articles, Raiati

This summer / 01.08.93

This summer and other summers are seasons of impropriety. In fact, many people consider that summer is a period during which they do not have to control their behavior. Some think that attending the Holy Mass is not essential, arguing that a visit to the countryside exempts them from meeting the Lord during the Eucharist, or that an outing to the beach takes the whole day. Perhaps they did not read about the dangers of sunlight, and about the link between long exposure to the sun and skin cancer.

The problem lies in the fact that the Lord’s Day is a rest day in Christian nations, although the Bible does not mention this. I understand the need for relaxation after a tiring week, but the Bible states that the Eucharist is to be celebrated on Sundays. Thus, we should pray early in the morning in summer, or we shall go to an orthodox church before heading for the beach or the mountains.

As for swimming suits, what can I say? Or what can I say about the gathering of the two sexes in what looks like a scene of nudity? I do not have solutions, and physicians say that swimming is a highly beneficial activity. Of course, honest people say that these indecent clothes are a source of seduction or some kind of seduction. Thus, let everyone be responsible, examine their innermost self, and behave as an adult.

That is not all. In fact, nudity is becoming very usual for many females. I want be naïve and repeat what women say: “these are just clothes”. However, no one is convinced by this. If the woman wanted to honest, she would admit that these clothes involve some kind of temptation, and that she likes it. Eyes are often pleased by these scenes; and most eyes are insatiable. Who believes that a woman wearing short and tight clothes is not doing it intentionally? Is she really convinced that she is not exposing herself and that she is not arousing men’s desires?

Poets have praised the exposed parts of a woman’s body, so you can notice a complete harmony since the sixteenth century in Europe between exposed parts and these in poetry.

Why a woman does not content herself with the spiritual and moral attraction, which is the deep aspect in her, in order for her heart to meet the man’s heart, and for her mind to meet the man’s mind? What does she want to buy him through her body as if she is not confident about her personality? Why does she want to be chosen for her body, which means that the man’s choice would not be free and responsible?

If I accepted, as a way of leniency, to be indulgent with a single lady who looks for seduction because she is despaired of her deep personality, how can I understand that a married lady, before or during middle age, would wear these indecent and tight clothes as if she was totally exposed? Doesn’t she believe that her body is an integral part of her personality which her husband appreciates, and that it is a means of communication between her and her husband?

Why would she make her body a means of communication between her and a stranger? Isn’t she aware that she might be arousing the stranger’s desire as if she was inviting him to stare at her? Everything indicates that she is pleased by all of this. Why is she interested, after marriage, in being appreciated for her beauty? Eyes touch just as hands, thus isn’t this kind of induced touching obscene? Behaving in such a manner and claiming chastity make an apparent contradiction. Perhaps our contemporary period is one where decency is not anymore one of the aspects of chastity.

Translated by Amani Haddad

Original Text: “هذا الصيف” – 01.08.93

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1993, Articles, Raiati

Envy / 18.07.93

Many are those who stain others’ reputation out of envy. Their complex souls do not want to recognize the good deeds of others, for they love to be the only ones to shine. If they heard words of praise for others, they say: but… They prefer to be the only ones to manifest goodness. Therefore, they die in their isolation, for they could not have partners with whom they would share the goodness, the vision. In their deadly aloofness, they do not rejoice at the truth and they only wish to boast to show their achievements and take the credit. It is not by the love of others that they live, but by compliments.

They are surrounded by weak people, for they fear confrontation. Confrontation is when two faces meet, and when I recognize you and you recognize me. To recognize you means to expect the truth to be uttered by you, from your opinion, and to be willing to give up my standpoint if it proved to be faulty. If I gave up, this means you exist; and if you exist, this means I am not the only one on the scene.

A person who is envious in his mind and behavior will try to eliminate you. For this reason, envy has always been associated with rage, for screaming is one of the grades of the mind. I eliminate you with my voice. This is why the Jews were crying out when they were saying to Pilate: Let Him be crucified, let Him be crucified. You crucify the one you envy. You disrupt his work or you do not wish for a work for him. The more the envious person does this, the more he isolates himself. The Bible says about the death of the Lord that they “had handed Him over because of envy” (Mark 15:10). He had proved to the people that the Pharisees and those in charge of the Jewish community are worthless in the eyes of God. Thus, in the hearts of the meek, He represented the unity of the nation. And they ceased to represent the nation. This is why He had to die. If the envious person does not repent, he will undoubtedly die of envy, crumble from the inside and vanish in every spiritual aspect.

God’s wrath is because the Church has become the greatest place for envy, for its activity is prevented or hindered since they do not let you work. Nothing is as destructive to the Church as our envy for each other. They hinder you because they exclude all people except those followers who repeat their principles and stand up for them.

Salvation is only possible if God inspired the envious person so that he would realize that the world has enough places for him and for others, and that goodness is given to him and to others, and that every one of us has a different talent depending on the grace offered. The Church is the beauty of all when they are unified, and the productivity of all when they consult each other. The condition for this is modesty; it is this virtue that makes you value other people and prefer them to yourself. For envy is the result of superiority. And superiority is when you are content with yourself and think this is sufficient for the world. To feel superior and boast is to consider others as minors or incompetent, and think you can neglect them because of their ridiculousness.

We should cry for the envious person rather than make him cry, and offer him our deep prayers so that he opens his harsh soul. The tragedy is that he goes deeper and deeper in his hatred, and the second tragedy is that we leave him to his hatred, which means that we as well have put ourselves in isolation. Only prayers can remove the barrier of enmity and make you realize that the other person is as essential to you as your breath. The other person is your other lung. He teaches you to trust him and yourself, I mean this self that has reached meekness.

Translated by Amani Haddad

Original Text: “الحسد” – 18.07.93

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1993, Articles, Raiati

Stealing / 25.04.93

Stealing begins with desiring what belongs to others. “Out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications” (Mathew 15: 18). The cure of stealing resides in abstaining from what we do not own and in being independent of what we own; for if we become slaves of what we have, we may as well desire what is for others. Insatiable eyes persuade hands into robbing and looting. And if we ever wished for something and stormed the place where it is in order to have it, we would be willing to kill the one who is defending his belongings.

We do not know how one had made his fortune. If the said fortune was made illegally, it is not up to us to condemn him. And if we wished to strike a balance between us and those who are illegally wealthy, we would be making the same mistake. We are not responsible for doing justice between them and us. Social justice is the concern of the community as a whole and the concern of the government in particular.

Lawful money is money you earn from work or inheritance. “There are six days on which men ought to work” (Luke 13: 14). Refraining from work is a sin unless it is the result of unemployment. There are some situations where you find yourself tempted by your financial responsibilities, just like Judas who “was a thief, and had the money box; and he used to take what was put in it” (John 12: 6).  Say you are an employee at a company that has sent you in a mission and you presented false bills, or you are a contractor and you were given the price of the materials agreed upon but did not use them, or you just neglected the necessary maintenance. Stealing is not only about entering a house and robbing it: it is taking what is not yours and harming others by an omission that causes them a loss.

Depriving people unjustly of their rights is very common: the employee who is not paid his minimum wage or who is kept with a minimum wage while you are capable of paying him more; the poor maid whom you use and exploit because she is Lebanese while you pay the foreign maid twice as much; all these acts are stealing. The Bible has warned about such actions: “Indeed the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, cry out; and the cries of the reapers have reached the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth” (James 5: 4).

It is by educating ourselves to work and to love giving that we fight intentions of stealing and exploiting the poor. In this context, Paul has said: “Let him who stole steal no longer, but rather let him labor, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give him who has need” (Ephesians 4: 28).

To educate oneself to desire only the necessity, to consider that life with Christ is the true fortune, to live in austerity in order to give, and to pray for preserving a pure soul, is what paves the way for righteousness. Chastity lies in resisting the temptation induced by money, in never fearing anyone and in despising lying above all. Jesus has rejected all the glories of the world and said: “No one can serve two masters: God and money”.  Refraining from seeking illegal money is a prerequisite for loving God.

After having provided for his young children, a man may live with his wife and enjoy few pleasures. It is the only way to protect himself and to live austerely devoting his life to God.

Translated by Amani Haddad

Original Text: “السرقة” – 25.04.93

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1993, Articles, Raiati

Lying / 11.04.93

Lies are the most common sins in our country. Their definition is as simple as telling statements that contradict the truth when you should bear witness to it and inform others about what they have the right to know, unless someone’s life is put in danger; and this exception has been allowed by Eastern fathers. It is also allowed to conceal the truth if someone’s reputation is at risk, for you should not agree on gossiping if a vice or a misdeed you know about has been attributed to someone. No one has the right to reveal others’ trespasses, unless you were summoned by the court to clarify an incident.

We often say that there is a white lie that does no harm to anybody. However, changing facts harms the liar himself for it fosters cowardice, instills fear into him and undermines his personality. The truth exists in you just like God, for He is the truth. God manifested Himself by Jesus Christ and did not keep silent. The face of God in you is the truth you unfold. It has to be revealed as if you are reflecting God through it. You should not separate between the apparent and the hidden, for one of our old books mentioned that the last day shall be the one on which the apparent would be like the hidden. Christians fear nobody, and they are not afraid of death. Therefore, they refuse the concept of Batiniyya which allows for the person to disbelieve in God if he was in danger. The Bible asks you to bear witness before nations, even if death was the price to pay. “If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10: 9).

Confessing is the rule. This is why the Bible calls the Christ “the Faithful and True Witness” (Revelation 3: 14). The ethics of Jesus are reflected in the believers: “A faithful witness does not lie” (Proverbs 14: 5). The New Testament makes honesty the base for relationships between people, for it states: “Do not lie to one another” (Colossians 3: 9), and sometimes associates lying with the desire of boasting: “Do not boast and lie against the truth” (James 3: 14). The Bible not only insists on the importance of being always honest, but also emphasizes the necessity of rejecting lies, and urges us to refrain from listening to untruthful utterance.

However, the Divine Word shed light on another aspect of lies which we often disregard. Lies are not only about false utterance, but they also include attitudes that contradict the truth. Thus, it is stated that there are people who tell a lie and others who practice a lie (Revelation 22: 15). If you supported a liar and became one of his followers; if you remain silent when you should disclose; if you did not oppose an erroneous project; if you exaggerate when praising someone; if you praise in order to acquire something or please somebody; if you act as if you are favoring somebody in order to deceive him; all these are kinds of lies in practice. This is why Hosea said: “Ephraim daily increases lies” (12: 1).

The source of all this is the devil about whom Jesus said: “He is a liar and the father of it” (John 8: 44).

Whoever is haunted by this weakness shall attack its roots, and try not to be afraid. Confidence in God is the means by which you acquire strength so you shall not dread human punishment. And if you lied, ask for forgiveness and try to get accustomed to honesty time after time, until you find out that you can really be honest because you became strong in Christ.

In the absence of honesty and due to the prevalence of the concept of Batiniyya, people are refraining from dealing with each other, for lies raise doubts and make honest people reluctant to deal with others. The rule is to “say simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’”, to keep your promises and to feel that honesty delivers you from cowardice, makes you eminent in the community, and encourages people to stick to the truth in both their utterance and their behavior.

Translated by Amani Haddad

Original Text: “الكذب” – 11.04.93

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1993, Articles, Raiati

The Ethical Rule / 28.03.93

Many people believe that the Ten Commandments include all Christian ethics. However, the truth is that they are just an example, with numerous sins not being mentioned. Furthermore, the second commandment “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy” is a feature of the Jewish liturgy that we no more have to respect, for the Lord has set us free from the Sabbath through His resurrection. And the fact that we abstain from work on Sundays is not a divine commandment, but rather an ecclesiastic arrangement to hold the Mass. Even in the Old Testament, the most comprehensive commandment is: “Love the Lord your God as yourself” (Leviticus 19: 18). This commandment was also adopted by the Christ, when He said “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment”. Then He added: “And the second is like it: you shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Mathew 22: 37-40). Having said this, He summarized and claimed: “On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets”. According to the teachings of Jesus, ethics are equal to love.

But, what is the link between this new commandment and the Ten Commandments? Paul explained this association when he declared: “He who loves another has fulfilled the Law. For the commandments, ‘You shall not commit adultery’, ‘You shall not murder’, ‘You shall not steal’, ‘You shall not covet’, and if there is any other commandment, are all summed up in this saying, namely ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’. Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the Law” (Romans 13: 8-10).

One might begin to abide by the laws, but, when he knows Jesus, he will discover that our capability to fulfill the commandments is derived from the grace of God. In order not to turn the commandments into a sword that threatens humans, they should be emanating from the heart illuminated by the light of the Christ. This is the New Testament Jeremiah had spoken about when he said: “I will cause them to dwell safely. They shall be My people, and I will be their God; then I will give them one heart… And I will make an everlasting covenant with them; that I will not turn away from doing them good.” (32: 37-40). Thus, with the Holy Spirit dwelling in us, and with the safety we know God has delivered to us, we shall be capable of fulfilling every word He said. If the Word has dwelled in us, it will generate good work.

We have become in the Kingdom of the Christ, in His sovereignty upon us. When we realize His love to us, we do what satisfies him; and this shall bring us joy. With the appearance of the Kingdom of Christ, Jesus gave us the compiled Law of the Kingdom in the Gospel of Mathew, in the so-called Sermon on the Mount, mentioned in chapters 5, 6 and 7, and their equivalents in the Gospel of Luke.

The first blessing is: “Blessed are the poor in spirit”. Jesus did not give a law that has no roots in the Old Testament. He came to fulfill the latter. Jesus accomplishes the prophecy and leads it to its utmost. He makes it possible thanks to the love He rendered. Jesus fulfills the ancient Law and links it to love. The commandment was above humans, but now it comes from the individual who bestowed himself to the Lord.

Jesus reached the roots. “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder’…. But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother shall be in danger of the judgment….You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not commit adultery’. But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” It is not matter of abstaining from an external sin, but rather purifying our hearts so that we have no tendency for the bad.

Hence, Christian ethics consist of guiding our souls so that we love the Lord, and keeping an eye on them, to cause them to abstain from sins and love righteousness. Then, commandments will spontaneously stem from the purified heart.

Translated by Amani Haddad

Original Text: “القاعدة الأخلاقية” – 28.03.93

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1993, Articles, Raiati

Christian Ethics/ 21 Mars 1993 /N*12

Some readers have asked us to write some articles about ethics; and now we are responding to this demand by considering the divine commandments as being addressed to every human being at any time; then by attempting to discuss some of the contemporary issues that need to be approached with a new way of thinking. Nevertheless, the latter has to be derived from the unalterable divine word.  Some of these issues have to do with ethics in the worlds of business and politics, while others are related to family life, such as abortion and artificial insemination. These topics cannot be avoided, for they are present in people’s minds and experiences.

Although it is easy to say: “you shall not steal”, it is much more difficult to accuse a poor and deprived person who is “stealing” some food for his starving children. Thus, there is an explanation for the commandment. And even though abortion is evidently forbidden by virtue of the divine word and ancient laws, what can we say to a Serbian  orthodox girl who got pregnant after being raped by an enemy soldier, and who declared to the French TV channel “This fetus is not my son, he is a monster. If I did not get rid of him, I will kill myself.” Apparently, it is sometimes difficult to have a clear ethical standpoint.

We might think that there are some common ethical principles in human conscience. “For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do the things in the law, these, although not having the law, are a law to themselves, who show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness”. (Romans 2: 14-15) Yet, human conscience can be degraded because of bad teachings, and people might then authorize what God has already forbidden. This does not happen only among pagans who did not know the Christ. Even some of us have done so many trespasses that they became accustomed thereto, and they would find excuses to keep their sins and benefit from them.

People do not always conform to the dictates of conscience. For instance, some of them accept the concept of revenge and consider it as a sign of audaciousness. Some of them accept the crime of honor, and they would kill their wives or sisters mercilessly.  And more commonly, some people monopolize certain goods, and set the prices they want, without even thinking that they are eating people alive. Others might sell drossy goods, without any blame from their conscience. Conscience in itself is not sufficient. It can be ruined by the desire of profit, the desire of the body, or the desire of glory. The moral sense in the conscience can sometimes be weakened; hence we need the divine grace to enter it again and arouse it.

The mind cannot, on its own, lead us to goodness, for it is corrupted by lust. Jesus is the savior of our minds. God spoke to us in the past through His prophets, not in order to invent ethics, but to remind us of the good qualities He had placed in us when He created us in His own image. Ethics have been present in us since the beginning, yet we ruined the image of God in us, and we overlooked our original beauty. God does not impose what He likes arbitrarily, nor does He forbid murder or theft just because He has the desire to do so. God is not a dictatorial governor who acts and imposes what He likes. He shows us what we need so that we can live in spiritual beauty. He knows that goodness leads us to joy and that we do not often want it for ourselves. As there is a physical suicide, there exists another spiritual type of suicide. People become slaves of lust and know they are dying physically, and they also tell lies, cheat and loath, and, even though they know they are degrading their personality, they continue to enjoy their sins. They would do so many trespasses that they would deny the commandment and refuse their own wellbeing. When God realized that sins of humans are leading them to death, He revealed himself and demonstrated His love. He also showed the ethical rules that would purify humans, making them more able to know Him and live as His sons.

Unmistakably, knowing the commandment is not enough to fulfill it. The misery of humans is that they know but do not obey, unless with the help of a divine momentum. Nevertheless, without these commandments, people cannot go across the correct path. Revealing the divine commandment is the beginning of the journey. Should we want to continue the road till the end, we need to love the Lord.

Translated by Amani Haddad

Original Text: “الأخلاق المسيحية” – 21.03.93

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