Saturday, February 28, 2015

Atheist Blogger Hacked to Death

Atheist and liberal blogger Avijit Roy who wrote against religious extremism and promoted rationalism, science and skepticism was hacked to death by a mob of unidentified attackers.  It is believed that he was attacked by Muslim extremists who were upset at his criticism against Islamic extremism.

Roy and his wife had attended the Ekushey Book Fair and were attacked at the Teacher Student Center intersection at Dhaka University.  Two of the attackers dragged them to the pavement and began hacking them with machetes.  Avijit was hit hard on the head while his wife was slashed on her shoulders and lost her finger.  Both were immediately taken to Dhaka Medical College Hospital, but Avijit passed at about 10 PM local time while his wife survived the attack.  Roy was previously threatened for his views, but continued posting them on his blog despite the threats.

Roy was the son of a physicist and himself earned a masters and doctorate degree in Mechanical  and Biochemical Engineering.  He wrote several essays online and published books on his views on disbelief and his criticism of faith as a "virus." Many students and fellow liberals took to the streets protesting the violent act and attempt to silence dissenting views.

This story is disturbing and is a reminder of the extremism that is taking hold now, not just in religion but also in liberalism, secularism and atheism.  There are people out there who are so insecure in their views and beliefs that they need to silence their opposition even by means of violence.  When will it end?  People are entitled to their views and should not be afraid to express them even if their views are not that which the majority hold or are not popular.  I extend my condolences to Avijit's family. Let us pray for peace and tolerance.  










Source:

http://mukto-mona.com/wordpress/?author=8

http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2015/02/27/atheist-blogger-avijit-roy-hacked-death-bangladesh-suspected-islamic-extremists_n_6768074.html?icid=maing-grid7%7Cuk%7Cdl1%7Csec3_lnk6%26pLid%3D333063

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-31656222

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/feb/27/american-atheist-blogger-hacked-to-death-in-bangladesh

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2973415/Avijit-Roy-article-Murdered-U-S-blogger-criticized-violent-radicals-hacked-death-Bangladeshi-street-Muslim-militants-crime-against-Islam.html


Blue, Gold, White Dress

There has been a commotion online with a dress which is confusing people in regards to its color. Some see the dress as white/gold and blue/black while others see it as blue/gold.  The dress has caused debate and even distress among people who have viewed it.


The human eye is an extraordinary organ.  It can register millions of colors via its components and the processing done by the brain.  Light enters the eyes via the cornea which focuses the light along with the lens which has what are called ciliary muscles which alter the lens in order to help distinguish the distance of objects.  The amount of light that enters is controlled by the iris which is the part of the eye that has color.  It opens or contracts based on the intensity of the light trying to enter.

Once the light enters these structures, it passes through the vitreous humor which is the inside of the eye and is composed of a jelly textured tissue, almost like that of a jellyfish. After this, it touches the retina which is a thin three-layered structure that absorbed the light.  Within the retina are millions of cells called rods and cones. These structures distinguish light patterns and their colors.  The rods work mostly in low light conditions and the cones detect color and details in objects being looked at by the eye.

Amazing right?

Many psychologists and philosophers have tried to figure out what perception is.  Wittgenstein was one of them.  He studied what we call illusions and posited that what we see and how we interpret them is based not only on stimuli from what we are looking at, but also how we think and how our minds are set up based on upbringing or experience.

In most cases, this is true. Our brains often take "short cuts" when processing information by relying on previous information and creating a biased interpretation of new information based on that old one. This is called representativeness heuristics. However, in the case of this dress. People are seeing it in different colors because there were three different versions of it floating around in the cyber world. The reason the dress looked different was because the brightness and contrast were altered. If you look at the three photos of the dress, you will notice that the background gets distorted.

This is because the brightness and contrasted were changed.  Because our eyes work with light and light is what contains color, then any alteration of brightness and contrast will change the color tone and how our eyes will interpret this new change.  There is nothing magical regarding this dress nor is it some illusion.  Someone simply changed the brightness and contrast and made two versions of the original image with these changes.  Depending on what version of the image you saw gave the appearance that the dress was "x" color.    


The original is on the right and is blue/black.















Source:

http://www.wired.com/2015/02/science-one-agrees-color-dress/

http://www.livescience.com/3919-human-eye-works.html

http://www.bbc.com/news/blogs-magazine-monitor-31662317

http://swiked.tumblr.com/post/112073818575/guys-please-help-me-is-this-dress-white-and

Friday, February 27, 2015

Leonard Nimoy dead at 83 - Live long and prosper!

It is a sad day for the Star Trek fandom.  Leonard Nimoy, well known for portraying the logical half-human half-"Vulcan" Mister Spock has passed away at the age of 83 after battling pulmonary disease. Nimoy was a heavy smoker but had quit 20 years ago.  Despite this, the damage had already taken effect and would take his life.  He was admitted to the hospital recently after complaining of chest pains.

Mr. Nimoy was born in Boston, Massachusetts on March 26, 1931.  His parents were of Ukrainian descent and were Orthodox Jews.  His father was a barber.  Nimoy had many roles during his acting career, but he is more known for portraying an extraterrestrial from the planet Vulcan who struggled with his dual species: Human and Vulcan. The character Spock had religious roots. Despite being a civilization of reason and logic, the Vulcans were often portrayed as being a spiritual and religious extraterrestrial race. Nimoy who was Jewish himself, incorporated a Hebrew priest's blessing called "kohanim."


The "V" shaped made by separating the middle and ring finger represents the letter shin which is the first letter for "Shaddai" a name of God, "Shalom" which means peace and "Shekhinah" which is a feminine or motherly aspect of God as creator. So all of these years, everyone was getting a subliminal Jewish blessing from "Spock" in the name of El Shaddai or Yahweh.  The irony is that I have seen on Twitter some atheists use Mr. Spock as some icon for atheism.

FASCINATING, right?  :)

As a fan of Star Trek, I am saddened by the death of Leonard Nimoy.  He was a great actor and inspired his fans to use logic, reason and faith via his portrayal of the spiritual extraterrestrial Mr. Spock.  Nimoy will be missed greatly.  I was happy to see him reprise the role in the remake of Star Trek in 2009 with a younger cast.  It seems like Leonard Nimoy was saying goodbye on Twitter.  This was his last tweet:




Rest in peace Leonard Nimoy, aka Mister Spock.  Live long and prosper!







Source:

https://uk.yahoo.com/movies/read-leonard-nimoys-heartbreaking-last-tweet-112235733011.html?soc_src=mail&soc_trk=ma

http://us.hellomagazine.com/film/2015022723722/star-trek-leonard-nimoy-passes-away/

https://uk.news.yahoo.com/leonard-nimoy-word-famous-mr-spock-star-trek-172957783.html#za59kS3

https://uk.news.yahoo.com/leonard-nimoys-legacy-obama-astronauts-pay-tribute-224039841.html#rg7pDan

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/27/arts/television/leonard-nimoy-spock-of-star-trek-dies-at-83.html?_r=0

http://www.foxnews.com/entertainment/2015/02/27/leonard-nimoy-spock-star-trek-dead-at-83/

http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/leonard-nimoy-jewish-origins-spock-vulcan-salute-1489849

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BBiTRaHnXt4



Monday, February 23, 2015

Blocking HIV


Research regarding HIV is coming up with possibly new ways to treat, prevent and even block the virus.  A new study entitled, "AAV-expressed eCD4-Ig provides durable protection from multiple SHIV challenges" presents new data on a protein compound (eCD4-Ig) found in muscle cells which block the HIV virus from attaching itself to a cell.  If proven successful with all cells, then this would leave the HIV virus unable to attach itself to any cell. ThHe body's immune system will then search it out and kill it as it does with other viruses and bacteria.

This study was conducted on our cousins, monkeys. However, it may be a reality in human beings since we share similar genes.  This new artificial compound protected monkeys for 40 weeks. ECD4-Ig is so strong that it may even slow down or eradicate the virus in human beings already infected with it.  The research looks promising, but there is still much that needs to be studied in order to finalize some cure or treatment that is compatible with human beings.








Source:

http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/nature14264.html

http://www.healthline.com/health-news/scientists-create-powerful-new-hiv-blocking-protein-021815

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/19/health/new-approach-to-blocking-hiv-raises-talk-of-an-aids-vaccine.html?_r=0

http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/a-new-twist-on-hiv-vaccines-shows-results-in-monkeys-study-says/2015/02/18/ac01ca34-b7a6-11e4-a200-c008a01a6692_story.html    

Sunday, February 22, 2015

1st Sunday of Lent - Walking in the Desert

We are now in the season of Lent.  Lent is a time for spiritual renewal. Today's readings remind us that God always keeps His promises and patiently waits for us to return to Him.

In the first reading from Genesis, we read of how God establishes a covenant with Noah. As you may know, Noah was selected by God to build an ark. In this ark, animals of all kinds would have shelter from a great flood that would wipe the Earth clean of people who have become so wicked that they could not tell right from wrong any longer. Humanity once again failed and God pressed the "reset button," so to speak. However, God promised that the world would not be destroyed via a flood of this magnitude and used the bow in the clouds or the rainbow as confirmation of that promise. This story should remind us that God always keeps His promise (Numbers 23:19). The great flood wiping out the wickedness of humanity and "resetting" the world was a prefigurement to Baptism where Original Sin is wiped away and the doors to salvation are opened up to us. God waits for us to return to Him.

This brings us to the responsorial Psalm which reminds us that God's ways are of love and truth.  God is not out to torment us or make us fall. He wants the best of us. God wants us to live in truth and not confusion (James 1:5). No matter what we do in life, God will always be with us and will never abandon us (Hebrews 13:5). The Psalm reminds us of this and that God has our well-being always in mind.

In the second reading, Peter reminds us that Christ suffered for all of our sins once. He suffered for the good and bad on Earth and those souls in Purgatory or the "spirits in prison."  Peter tells us of the days of Noah and how the eight passengers along with the animals were saved through water. During the forty days, the great flood represented a long period or a period of preparation or transition (Deuteronomy 8:2). For us Catholics, Lent is a period of preparation and renewal into the person of Christ via His passion, death and resurrection. This brings us to the Gospel.

In the Gospel, we are told that the Spirit drove Jesus out into the desert where he roamed for forty days. While there, Satan tempted Him. The desert is a dry, hot place that seems lifeless. During Lent, we walk in a spiritual desert in order to seek Jesus. Satan and his minions will, of course, appear to us along this journey and tempt us. Like Jesus, we must renounce him and all his empty promises. Walking in this spiritual desert is not easy. Catholics often "give up" something for Lent and there is a reason for this. This "giving up" reminds us that we do not need anything but God in our lives.  We live only by God's word and grace (Matthew 4:4).

Fasting and giving up meat on Fridays is a symbolic representation of this self-denial and total reliance on God who cares for all (Matthew 6:26-30). We trust solely in God's providence. Moreover, the Gospel not only tells us briefly of Christ's  temptation in the desert, but it also reminds us that the kingdom of God is at hand and that we should repent and believe in the Gospel. This thought should be in our minds during Lent and after Lent. God patiently waits for us to return to Him (Isaiah 30:18).  Lent is a period of preparation via penance. We should make use of the Sacraments, especially the Sacrament of Reconciliation.  Let us go now and find Jesus in the desert, ignoring the temptations of the ancient liar.    

 








Readings: http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/022215.cfm

Friday, February 20, 2015

Lent & The Purge

Spoiler alert.  If you have not seen the movie, "The Purge," then too bad.  You will know about the plot in this post. :)

In this movie, the United States of America collapsed after economic and social disarray. We are not given the details of this, but are told that there is a new order that runs the nation.  This order was developed by a totalitarian regime that is described as the "New Founding Fathers."

Every year, these "New Founding Fathers" allow all criminal activity to be legal for 12 hours.  This period is called, "The Purge."  The idea behind this "purge" is based on psychological research in the movie which claims that by having a psychological catharsis via the means of violence and aggression, then citizens will remove these inner animalistic drives and this in turn brings down crime. In other words, by letting out the aggression for 12 hours, American citizens will not have this aggression repressed throughout the year in their lives which will force them to commit crimes randomly.  So by letting it all out on one night, they release all of this aggression from the Id and then can live normal lives guided by the super ego the rest of the year until they need to release that aggression again.

In the movie, we see a group of wealthy ivy-league educated Caucasian youths seeking a homeless African American man in order to butcher him. This is representative of the Darwinian view of "survival of the fittest."  The wealthy seek the poor in order to cause their extinction.  We also see in the movie how other wealthy neighbors try to kill the family the movie's plot is centered on due to the fact that they are jealous of their success and angry that the family made money off of them by selling security systems for protection during "The Purge" event.  One of these neighbors is shown at the beginning of the film as being friendly with the wife of the main character who designed the security systems.  This neighbor then tries to kill her later on in the movie and is insistent on doing so showing this animalistic aggression in her forcing her to try to kill the wife.

Psychologically speaking, the idea of a "purging" of aggression by allowing citizens to commit crimes for 12 hours is not scientific.  Aggression brings about more aggression and not retaliating actually helps (Bushman, BJ. 2002).  As a matter of fact, the only time aggression gives a sense of relief is when a victim attacks or kills someone who is trying to attack or kill him or her (Myers, D. 2013). This is due of course to the mere fact that the victim eliminated his or her threat.  If you stopped someone from attacking or killing you, will you not feel relief?  Anger is a natural emotion, but it has limits.  We should never let angry get the best of us (Ephesians 4:26-27).

As we continue on in the season of Lent, I thought of this movie and the idea of "giving it up" during Lent. Catholics "give something up" during this period as penance.  It is meant to bring our focus to God solely and as a symbolic gesture that we can give up anything for God.  Lent is a true "Purging" that is healthy psychologically, physically and spiritually.  Instead of going around and taking out our aggression on others for 40 days, we give something up for God. We show the strength of our character by sending out the message to ourselves and others that what we gave up does not control us.  During Lent, we do more penance and perform more charitable acts.  These should hopefully condition our minds, bodies and souls to be more Christ-like. Instead of holding grudges, we forgive those who hurt us and have mercy on others who may become problematic.  Holding anger and grudges does not work and hurts our minds, bodies and soul (James 1:19-20).

Lent purges us of the disordered desires that original sin has developed in us forcing us to sometimes behave like mindless zombies just running on pure instinct. Jesus gave us an excellent example when He went into the desert (Matthew 4:1-11). In the Scriptures, going into the desert meant going into isolation in order to seek God. This is why the Hebrews went into the desert after they left captivity (Exodus 15:22).  Lent should remind us of this.  We leave the capitivity of sin and society's scripts that often force us to behave in an unchristian manner in order to encouter God in the desert, so to speak. The desert is a hot, dry and weary place that will scare us, especially after we have become accustomed to societies "goods" and comforts.  We prefer to know of the desert via images or text than to experience it first hand (Robinson, "On the Lord's Appearing" p.205).

Like Israel, we will struggle and question God when the desert becomes too much to handle (Psalm 95:9).  Then the ancient narcissistic cosmic pain in the rear named Satan loves to show up in order to tempt us and remind us of how "good" we had it before we accepted Christ.  If we are not careful, we can fall into acedia or spiritual laziness/sloth which paralyzes us from being with God and living out the Christian life.  While in the desert of Lent, we must come out victorious in Jesus and not create idols of gold like the Hebrews did in order to satisfy their materialistic desires (Exodus 32).  Lent is the time to really focus on where we stand before God in light of the passion of the Christ.

God so loved us that He gave His only Son to die a horrible and humiliating death, so how do we return that love (John 3:16)?  By giving up meat on Fridays and fasting, we remind ourselves that while we are biological organisms needing nutrition, we are also spiritual beings who need God and without this God we would not exist (Matthew 4:4, Deuteronomy 8:3). What is a steak or three full meals compared to living in God who is the creator of life?  It is via this penance, prayer, reception of the sacraments, reading of Sacred Scripture that we purge ourselves truly. We begin to realize that the things we gave up that we depended on really are not needed. A true self-actualization takes place that surpasses anything Maslow could have formulated. During Lent, the mind, body and soul return to their equilibrium because God is the only center that holds and can hold us together.  May Jesus Christ be praised forever!      

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Fr. Rosica Sues Blogger Vox Cantoris

According to Michael Voris' Church Militant TV and other bloggers, Father Thomas Rosica who is a spokesman for Pope Francis and the Vatican and also president of Salt & Light TV in Canada filed a lawsuit against a Catholic blogger David Anthony Domet who blogs at Voxcantor.blogspot.ca.

According to the lawsuit, Domet posted "...various entries... that are false, defamatory, or both."  Fr. Rosica is even seeking damages for "damages to his reputation, work, and service to the church" as well as damages for Domet's encouragement of Catholics to unsubscribed from Salt & Light Television.

I first became aware of this story from Catholic Pro-life blogger Suzanne who blogs at bigbluewave.ca.  The whole story is just mind boggling on many levels.  Why would a priest sue another Catholic?  I understand that priests are protected under civil law as well, but as priests they must be more charitable and do things the "Christian" way, not man's.  Granted if a serious crime was committed, a priest should have equal protection under the law even against another priest or Catholic; however, if this is really all about something as silly as a blog post, then I do not see the reason to take it so seriously.

Nevertheless, I reserve judgment on the issue until I learn all the facts. From what I have read from the lawsuit papers, Rosica really does not have a strong case. Domet from Voxcantor was just giving his take on certain events in the Church that happened to entail Fr. Rosica. How can someone get sued for giving an opinion?

Moreover, if Fr. Rosica is doing this to save his reputation and save Salt & Light TV from bleeding subscribers, then I am afraid it will backfire. His actions have already disgusted several Catholics in the Catholic blogosphere. I can imagine how many in Canada have or are about to take Salt & Light out of their lineup.  These kinds of lawsuits often backfire in that manner.

Here are the lawsuit papers: http://www.churchmilitant.tv/documents/spec-2015-02-19.pdf

Here is what VoxCantor wrote that offended Rosica: http://voxcantor.blogspot.ca/search/label/Rosicanisms




Source:
http://www.catholicanada.com/2015/02/19/blog-round-up-of-reactionnews-re-fr-rosica-lawsuit-against-vox-cantoris/

http://www.bigbluewave.ca/2015/02/blog-round-up-of-reactionnews-to-fr.html

http://www.lepantoinstitute.org/uncategorized/fr-rosicas-ironic-lawsuit/

http://throwthebumsoutin2010.blogspot.com/2015/02/blogosphere-coverage-of-fr-rosicas.html

http://throwthebumsoutin2010.blogspot.com/2015/02/pope-francis-spokesperson-fr-rosica.html

http://restore-dc-catholicism.blogspot.com/2015/02/vatican-spokesman-suing-faithful.html

http://eponymousflower.blogspot.com/2015/02/vatican-suing-bloggers.html






UPDATE 3/5/15

Fr. Rosica has agreed to drop the lawsuit against David Domet who blogs at Vox Cantoris.  He wrote in a statement that "it was never my intention to sue, but rather to issue a letter to “cease and desist” the frivolous calumny."  He also claims that he is "not a high-ranking Vatican official nor a member of the hierarchy of the Church.."

Rosica wrote:

"As the CEO of the Salt and Light Catholic Media Foundation and Television Network, I am not a high-ranking Vatican official nor a member of the hierarchy of the Church as erroneously claimed in several recent blogs.  In addition to my work at Salt and Light, I have had the privilege of serving since 2013 in a volunteer capacity as English language assistant to the Holy See Press Office.  I relate on a daily basis to hundreds of English language journalists around the world.  I know that this daily service has been encouraged and appreciated by the Vatican and by hundreds of journalists all over the world.
I fully support the teaching of the Church and welcome Pope Francis’ invitation to the whole Church to reflect seriously on the foundations of our faith. The recent Extraordinary Synod of Bishops has invited us to mature, honest dialogue and conversation and to find new ways and a new language to communicate the ancient story of the Church and our beautiful, unchanging doctrine to future generations.
Mature expressions of differences are welcome.  It is one thing to have differing opinions on church matters. However, there is fine line between difference of opinion and blatant destruction of person’s lives and reputations. Having been strongly advised to respond, as an individual and in no institutional capacity to the Vatican or to my place of work, to the continuous false, slanderous statements of a blogger over a long period of time that resulted in gross distortion, misinformation, many phone calls, letters and clear threats from callers based on the repeated false information contained in the blog, it was never my intention to sue, but rather to issue a letter to “cease and desist” the frivolous calumny. A legal firm, offering its service pro bono to us, issued a letter to cease and desist. No lawsuit was ever launched against the blogger! The matter is now closed.
Popes Benedict XVI and Francis have taught clearly that the Internet and blogs can be of tremendous service to the up-building of the Church and of humanity. They have never taught that blogs and social media should be used, in the name of fidelity, to engender slander, hatred, reviling and destroying.
In a world torn apart by hatred, terror and violence, often through the gross distortion of religion, we must be much more attentive to our use of social media and how it is used to unite rather than destroy humanity. Many in the Catholic blogosphere have contributed enormously to the spread of the faith, the defense of all that is good and beautiful about our faith and our Church, and the opening of dialogue among strangers. They are to be congratulated and encouraged. Others have chosen to turn the blogosphere into a black hole of vitriol, anger and profound sadness. As Catholics, the great privilege and freedom of expression and access to social media also have certain obligations of decency, integrity, honesty and charity that reveal who we really are as a faith community.
Fr. Thomas Rosica, CSB
CEO, Salt and Light Catholic Media Foundation" - http://saltandlighttv.org/blog/fr-thomas-rosica/a-message-from-fr-thomas-rosica-csb

I had stated that his "lawsuit/cease and desist" would not be successful because free speech is a right and would backfire on him because he is a priest and it just does not look right for a priest to sue a Catholic lay person.  There are better ways of handling situations like these especially within the Catholic Church.  Moreover, Catholic bloggers have a right to their own opinions and also a duty to voice their concerns to their pastors:

Canon Law 212
§3. According to the knowledge, competence, and prestige which they possess, they have the right and even at times the duty to manifest to the sacred pastors their opinion on matters which pertain to the good of the Church and to make their opinion known to the rest of the Christian faithful, without prejudice to the integrity of faith and morals, with reverence toward their pastors, and attentive to common advantage and the dignity of persons.

 

It is absurd for a Catholic priest or leader to sue or threaten to sue a Catholic writer for doing just that.  To my knowledge, no death threats were made.  No serious threats were made to warrant legal action.  While I understand Rosica's concern for his reputation, I think he hurt it more with this theater.

Moreover, he blocked me on Twitter.  What the heck did I do to him?


I really do not understand what is this man's problem.  Not once did I attack him or side with anyone. I simply found it disturbing to learn of a priest suing another Catholic.  He apparently has some spiritual and psychological issues to work on based on my observation and opinion.  Perhaps he should reconsider his vocation.  Let us pray for him and all those involved.  






Source:

http://saltandlighttv.org/blog/fr-thomas-rosica/a-message-from-fr-thomas-rosica-csb

http://www.cruxnow.com/church/2015/03/04/priest-who-does-vatican-pr-says-he-wont-sue-conservative-blogger/

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/deaconsbench/2015/03/fr-rosica-it-was-never-my-intention-to-sue/

http://www.churchmilitant.tv/platform/index.php?vidID=news-2015-03-05

http://www.pewsitter.com/view_news_id_197741.php



Wednesday, February 18, 2015

LGBT at the Vatican

According to secular media, the Vatican has given "VIP treatment" to an advocacy group for gay,lesbian, bisexual and transgendered Catholics.  The group claims to have visited the Vatican previously and were ignored by Saint John Paul II and Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI.  The group which calls itself "New Ways Ministry" promotes same-sex marriage and "equality" among Catholics and those who are LGBT in the Catholic Church.

I have not confirmed this via Catholic media so am not sure what to make of it.  Since it is Ash Wednesday and Pope Francis has stressed the Good Shepherd aspect of the Papacy by calling out to the sheep lost in the world, my guess is that this "VIP treatment" was meant to call LGBT Catholics back home and take the opportunity of Ash Wednesday to repent and return to the Lord.

I will update this post as soon as I learn more.




Source:


http://edition.cnn.com/2015/02/18/world/lgbt-group-vatican/

http://www.clickondetroit.com/news/lgbt-catholics-get-vip-status-before-pope/31339082

http://www.religionnews.com/2015/02/16/gay-catholics-find-new-tone-pope-francis-bishops/

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/02/18/gay-catholic-group-gets-v_n_6704738.html

http://news.yahoo.com/gay-catholic-group-gets-vip-treatment-vatican-first-150206499.html





UPDATE: 2/21/2015

As expected, the news that the Pope/Vatican gave VIP treatment to "New Ways Ministry" is nonsense.  The Vatican has downplayed the reports and interestingly enough, the media outlets that reported the story never provided any official Vatican sources confirming this alleged "VIP treatment."  EWTN confirmed that the Vatican had no idea that this group was even present and treat all groups the same in regards to ticket requests.  A source in the Pontifical Household told EWTN news, "this declaration is simply misleading, as any of the faithful can access general audiences: they can simply ask the prefecture for the tickets, which are free.. If a Catholic nun asks for a series of tickets in the ‘reparto speciale’, it is likely that she is given the tickets..."

So, there you have it...  It seems this group is trying to garner attention via the media for its LGBT agenda. Moreover, it is not news that the media loves to embellish stories.  There are many Brian Williams' in this business. We must be careful not to believe media reports, especially on Pope Francis or the Catholic Church.     




Source:  http://www.ewtnnews.com/catholic-news/Vatican.php?id=11710











Tuesday, February 17, 2015

1 Year in Jail for Atheism



Aherif Gaber, a young 22 year old student studying at the Suez Canal University was sentenced to one year in jail for promoting atheism or "contempt of religion."  He was reported to the police by the university's own president, Mohamed A. Mohamedein after learning that the student was promoting an atheism page on Facebook.  

The news is just mind boggling and makes me appreciate even more the freedoms my great nation, the United States of America reminds us we have that are given by the Creator and cannot be taken away. Egypt really needs to realize that atheism is NOT a threat.  









Source:

http://radio.foxnews.com/2015/03/07/a-year-in-jail-for-atheism/

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/02/19/sherif-gaber-sentenced_n_6714770.html

http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/2015/02/17/egyptian-student-given-prison-sentence-for-atheist-facebook-posts/

http://english.ahram.org.eg/NewsContent/1/64/84968/Egypt/Politics-/Egypt-security-investigates-student-for-forming-at.aspx




Sunday, February 15, 2015

6th Sunday of Ordinary Time - Merciful God

Today's readings continue from last week's theme that Jesus heals.

In the first reading from Leviticus, we are told the procedure of how to deal with those with leprosy. These people were visibly ill and contagious. Like with any serious and infectious disease, quarantine is necessary as we see today with Ebola. The people with leprosy in the Bible were considered "unclean" which made them pariahs in the Hebrew liturgy and society. This disease was a visible sign of punishment after the bearer of it disobeyed the commands of God (Numbers 12:12-15; 2 Kings 5:27). They had to identify themselves via rent garments, covered beard, shaven head as well as shouting "unclean unclean" which were signs of mourning, death and penance (Ezekiel 24:17). The leprosy was a visible sign of sin. Mortal sin and Venial sin hurt us spiritually and physically. The life of grace dies in us every time we sin.  We become distant to God.  Since God is our life and the body cannot sustain itself without life, then sin eats away at the body just like at death when there is no life and the body cannot regenerate from decaying cells by replacing them.  Mortal sin bars us from receiving the Sacraments (except Reconciliation), especially the Holy Eucharist.

The responsorial Psalm responds to the first reading with "I turn to you, Lord, in time of trouble, and you fill me with the joy of salvation." This Psalm reminds us that we must seek God and ask for mercy and forgiveness. We must acknowledge our sin before God and confess our faults to Him. It is in repentance that we find salvation (Isaiah 30:15). We will see how this ties in with today's Gospel.

In the second reading from Corinthians, Paul reminds us that everything we do must be for the glory of God. The Jesuits have a great motto, "Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam" which means "To the greater glory of God." This is pretty much what Paul is saying. When we eat, drink, work, study or play; we must do it for the glory of God. It is God who allows us to exist and sustains us so that we can live life (Psalm 66:9).  Paul also reminds us that we cannot offend others and must do things that will please instead. Today we live in a world that celebrates offending others. Free speech is not considered free unless you offend others is the mantra of today. This is unfortunate and goes against the second greatest commandment to love our neighbors as ourselves (Leviticus 19:18, Matthew 22:29).  By loving our neighbors as ourselves, we open the opportunity for them to be saved; not because of us, but because we imitate Christ. Pope Francis has been showing us how with the way he has been delivering the Petrine ministry to the world with charity and compassion. This is where today's Gospel comes in.

In the Gospel, we read of the leper who came to Jesus and kneeled before Him begging Him to have mercy and asking to be healed if it was Christ's will.  The next thing that happens is amazing. We read that Christ is moved with pity. Jesus immediately succumbed to this beggar's plea and said, "I do will it, Be made clean."  Immediately, the man's leprosy left him and he was cleaned. Christ then warns the man to not tell anyone but instead go to the priest and follow the rituals which Moses prescribed. This would be proof that the man was cleansed. We see here how Christ respects the old rites and did not come to dismiss them, but to make them into a tangible reality (Matthew 5:17).  Why did the priest need proof?  Well, news of Jesus traveled quickly and the priests of the time were suspect of Him. In the Old Testament, only God healed those with leprosy (2 Kings 5:7).  Elisha healed a leper only by calling on God in order to prove that Israel had a prophet (2 Kings 5:8).  He could not do it on his own will because he was a mere man.  In the Gospel, we read how Christ does it Himself.  This is because He is God.  God made flesh living among His people (Luke 7:16).

This Gospel not only shows us the power of Christ and the fact that He is God, but it also shows us the power of repentance and prayer. The leper knelt before Jesus.  This is not easy for a grown man to do.  What grown man kneels before another man? This would be a humiliating act in most cultures. The leper begs Jesus and Jesus is moved to act. God waits for us to repent and ask for mercy. He waits for the sheep to return (Matthew 18:12-13).  Once we return after we repent, He will heal us from the damage done by sin which is the soul's leprosy.




Readings: http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/021515.cfm

   

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Pale Blue Dot -25th Anniversary



Today is the 25th anniversary of the photo Nasa's Voyager 1 took on February 14, 1990 at roughly 4.5 billion miles from Earth.  This photo is considered the first ever photo of the solar system.  In the photo, Jupiter, Venus, Neptune, Uranus, Saturn and Earth can be seen.

Naturally, the Earth is focused on more and inspired the late Carl Sagan to write in 1994 his book, "The Pale Blue Dot" where he reminds humanity of its place in the cosmos or the recycling of the "Copernican principle" which posits that Earth/Man is not the center of the cosmos.






Some atheists and those in the scientific community erroneously believe that religion makes man into the main focus of this universe. He is the "special creation," as they often describe the human being. However, the idea that man was created by God and given dominion over nature does not mean he is a "special creation" etc (Genesis 1:26). It means that human beings are unique because we have the life of God in us. It does not mean that we are better than this universe. Before Sagan made his "Pale Blue Dot" analogy, the Bible already mentioned that we are nothing but dust (Genesis 2:7, Psalms 103:14). The Bible has always reminded man his place in the cosmos (Psalms 8:3-4, Job 7:17).   

While we seem to be just a "Pale Blue Dot," we are much more than that.  To date, we have not found any other intelligent life elsewhere.  This is odd considering that we are all made of "star stuff," and the fact that our galaxy has the same materials to repeat the same creation of life as it took place on Earth.  This begs the question: why does Earth only have life?  So far, the Bible is winning on this question since it clearly places Earth as "God's Ant Farm" where He created life and sustains it.  Nevertheless, the "Pale Blue Dot" photo reminds us that while we were created by God, we are not God.  We must care for one another and our world because it is the only place we have called home.    




Source:

http://www.space.com/28564-voyager1-pale-blue-dot-photo-25-years.html

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Atheist Kills Young Muslims


Craig Stephen Hicks, 46 of North Carolina murdered three Muslim students, Deah Shaddy Barakat, 23, Yusor Mohammad, 21, and Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha, 19 execution style according to reports.  Hicks is a militant atheist according to his facebook which is littered with atheist propaganda and religious hate.  He wrote on his page, "When it comes to insults, your religion started this, not me. If your religion kept its big mouth shut, so would I."  The investigation is ongoing and authorities are indicating that this may have been a hate crime.





I will update this post as more information comes in.



Post from Hicks' Facebook showing his Militant Atheism




Source:

http://www.cnn.com/2015/02/11/us/chapel-hill-shooting/index.html

http://news.yahoo.com/man-arrested-3-shot-death-north-carolina-080105974.html

http://www.msn.com/en-us/news/crime/victims-father-says-chapel-hill-triple-homicide-was-a-hate-crime/ar-AA9gDx6

https://www.facebook.com/craig.hicks.967

_________________________________________________________________________________

UPDATE: 2/12/15

According to news reports, atheist Craig Stephen Hicks was known in his residential complex as being an angry tenant always complaining about parking spaces and harassing others. Last year, a meeting was held regarding his behavior. The father (Mohammad Abu-Salha) of one of the slain said that Hicks would harass the victims due to their religious garb and often intimidated them by walking to them with his handgun visible. However, Ripley Rand who is the district attorney said that the shooting seems to be an isolated incident.  Nevertheless, the local police are not convinced and are still investigating the possibility that Hicks' actions were based on religious hate.  The FBI has also stepped in to investigate the incident as a hate crime.

Thousands attended the funerals of the three victims and are calling for a charge of religious hate against Craig Hicks.  Hicks' page is full of the typical atheist nonsense meant to stir a response and offend others.  In contrast,  Yusor Abu-Salha and Barakat who were married recently often spent their time helping the homeless and even raised money to help Syrian refugees. They planned to go this summer to Turkey to undertake this endeavor.  Hicks instead used this Facebook to voice his hatred for religion and religious people.  He was described as "..very angry.." according to Samantha Maness who lives in the complex. Hicks' ex-wife described his as being out of touch with his emotions and did not response appropriately to movies that dealt with sensitive issues.

Richard Dawkins who is an idol of Craig Hicks spoke out condemning the attacks.  His doing so places an emphasis on the atheistic beliefs of Hicks since this is what Dawkins espouses.  Dawkins took to twitter to condemn the attacks despite spewing hateful anti-Muslim rhetoric.  It seems that he is trying to deflect attention that perhaps his views may have influenced Hicks hatred for Muslims and Christians.








Source:

http://talkingpointsmemo.com/fivepoints/craig-stephen-hicks-guns-anti-theism

http://www.breitbart.com/big-government/2015/02/11/vehement-atheist-charged-with-executing-3-muslims-students/

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/02/11/chapel-hill-shooting_n_6658580.html

http://www.christianpost.com/news/richard-dawkins-follower-craig-hicks-spewed-anti-religious-sentiment-online-wife-insists-killings-of-3-muslims-not-hate-crimes-133994/

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/people/richard-dawkins-condemns-chapel-hill-shooting-suspected-to-have-been-carried-out-by-antitheist-that-left-three-muslims-dead-10037983.html














Sunday, February 8, 2015

5th Sunday of Ordinary Time - Christ Heals All

Today's readings remind us that Christ heals all things.

In the first reading from the book of Job, we see Job describing life without God.  It is a life of "drudgery," misery and depression. The book of Job is the oldest book of the Bible. It tells us about a man who suffered greatly, but never succumbed to that suffering and did not doubt God (Job 13:15). It is a book about theistic existentialism.  Without God, our lives and everything in them have no meaning or purpose (Ecclesiastes 1).  This seems like a depressing life and rightfully so. If we come from God and want no part of Him, then what else is there?  This is why only the foolish reject God (Psalm 14:1). It is no wonder why atheists have higher rates of depression and suicide as opposed to those who believe in God.  This is the forlornness that leads to anguish and despair as Sartre coined it.  Nevertheless, God is always there for all.

The responsorial Psalm responds to this first reading detailing the dark depressing environment of man with, "Praise the Lord, who heals the brokenhearted."  The Psalm reminds us that God is Good.  All things God does is good.  He even brings good out of evil!  That is how powerful He is. He heals the depressed, those suffering within, who feel empty inside (Psalm 103:3, Psalm 147:3).

In the second reading, St. Paul reminds us that we must preach the Gospel for the sake of the Gospel and not ourselves. We should not preach it to make money or receive fame. Today we see these so-called "Televangelists" profiting off the Gospel. They turn the Gospel into a show people go to see and get entertained.  This is not how to preach the Gospel.  We must preach the Gospel with love and sincerity (Philippians 1:16). Preaching the Gospel requires us to become the "slave to all." What St. Paul means by this is that we must become the servant of the people. In doing so, we become all things to them; mother, father, brother, sister, friend etc. This is how they will be able to better relate to us and the Gospel that we preach.  The Catholic Church uses inculturation for this reason. She uses the culture, music and language of the people in order to preach the Gospel to them.

Finally in the Gospel, Jesus heals Simon's mother in law after leaving the synagogue showing that God steps outside of the Temple to care for all.  God is not bound in any Temple or location (1 Kings 8:27). After healing Simon's mother-in-law, Jesus healed many others of various disease and of demonic possession. Christ heals all things. Only He can rescue man when He is stuck in his own existentialist depression (Revelation 21:4).  Science is fine, medicine is fine, psychology is fine, but God is the one who has the final say. By becoming human, Christ bore all of our sufferings and heals us (1 Peter 2:24). We should always seek Him especially when we get caught up in spiritual dryness.

Readings:  http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/020815.cfm





Friday, February 6, 2015

Obama's Moral Equivalence



During his remarks at the National Prayer breakfast, President Obama made some remarks that have Christians, Conservatives, and others up in arms. He said:

"And lest we get on our high horse and think this is unique to some other place, remember that during the Crusades and the Inquisition, people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ.  In our home country, slavery and Jim Crow all too often was justified in the name of Christ." - http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2015/02/05/remarks-president-national-prayer-breakfast

Obama is clearly insinuating that Americans are on a "high horse" for calling out Islamic terrorism which is much too real as we saw with the execution by fire of the Jordanian pilot, Moaz al-Kasasbeh. The president even went as far as making a moral equivalence statement by linking the Crusades and Inquisition to the evil acts being witnessed globally today.

While it is true that some Christians do things that are evil in the name of Christ, this does not mean that Christianity mandated those actions. We are all sinners and will do evil things. However, our faith does not call us to kill the "infidels" or force others to convert under threat of violence. Our faith is one of love, hope, and faith. It is spread with the love of Christ, hope in Him and Faith in Him and the one He represented 2,000 + years ago.

As for the Crusades and the Inquisition which are often brought up by anti-Catholics and atheists as an attempt to discredit the Catholics; well, Obama is clearly ignorant of history.  The Crusades was a defensive response to the Muslims who were terrorizing people in the Holy Land. Was the Christian world supposed to sit back and let Muslims kill them and destroy the Holy sites in the Holy Land?  If anyone comes to our nation and tries to destroy the White House, the Statue of Liberty and other "sacred" American locations, will we stand back and watch?  Rest assured Americans will take to arms and defend our land.  The Christians centuries ago did the same with the Crusades.  This is a far cry from going around dressed in black going around and cutting people's heads off for no reason.

Moreover, the Inquisition had nothing to do with the Catholic Church.  Secular authorities at the time took it upon themselves to arrest and kill those who they felt were guilty of treason due to their open rebellion of the Church and the authorities. Remember that at the time the Church and secular authorities had in many cases equal authority and were intertwined in society. This is why our founding fathers did not want this type of relationship in the "new experiment," the United States of America.

President Obama needs a history lesson.  He also needs to apologize to Christians and target the real criminals, ISIS and others who are terorrists killing people in Allah's name.









Source:

http://dailycaller.com/2015/02/05/obama-uses-prayer-breakfast-to-call-for-curbs-on-islam-criticism/

http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2015/02/05/remarks-president-national-prayer-breakfast

http://www.eurasiareview.com/05022015-obama-insults-christians-oped/

http://www.catholic.com/blog/todd-aglialoro/terrible-deeds-and-odious-comparisons

http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2015/feb/5/obama-people-faith-must-confront-insults-religion/

http://www.catholicleague.org/obama-insults-christians/

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Pope Opens Barber Shop



First he had showers installed for the homeless and held a raffle to raise money for them, now he is adding a barber shop.  Pope Francis will open a barbershop just for the homeless so that they can get haircuts and shaved. Professional barbers from Rome have volunteered for the project which is set to open along with the showers on February 16, 2015. If that is not enough, he also have 300 umbrellas distributed to Rome's homeless.  Rome has bee experiencing rainy weather lately.

Our Holy Father is reminding us that we must care for the least of our brothers.  The homeless despite their situation, still have value and must be cared for. Hopefully, this will inspire world leaders and others to do the same.  










Source:

http://www.zenit.org/en/articles/vatican-to-offer-haircuts-for-homeless

http://www.cruxnow.com/life/2015/01/30/vatican-enlists-volunteer-barbers-to-offer-shaves-haircuts-to-the-poor/

http://www.thetablet.co.uk/news/1694/0/pope-enlists-volunteer-barbers-to-give-the-homeless-a-haircut-in-st-peter-s-square

http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/pope-gives-300-umbrellas-to-romes-homeless-amid-downpour-22582/

http://www.foxnews.com/world/2015/01/31/pope-francis-to-offer-haircuts-to-rome-homeless/


Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Jordanian Pilot Executed

After failed negotiations, ISIS once again killed off its prisoners.  First they beheaded journalist Kenji Goto of Japan and now they have executed Jordanian pilot Moaz al-Kasasbeh.

ISIS has been in negotiation with Jordan to release two held terrorists for al-Kasasbeh. Sajida al-Rishawi was one of them.  She was a failed suicide bomber who was jailed for her attempt to kill others.

Today, Isis released a video showing Jordanian pilot being set on fire.  The pilot is seen on video wearing a prisoner's jumper suit and is placed in a cage.  His clothes are wet showing that he was doused with a combustible liquid, perhaps gasoline.  Isis fighters wearing Marine uniforms instead of their black robes then set Al-Kasasbeh on fire.  He is seen in pain jumping and then grasping his face and falls to his knees as the flames engulf him.  He remains in that position as the camera zooms in showing his face and eyes literally melting and dripping from his chin.  The dead charred body then falls backwards.  A wheel loader then drops heavy stones on the cage crushing it and Al-Kasasbeh's remains.  It then rolls over it and completely crushes his remains in the rubble.

The video has angered most of the world.  Jordanians took to the streets in Jordan to protest and call for revenge.  Revenge did come as the terrorists ISIS wanted to be released were hanged.  Jordan's King has vowed more action against ISIS.

It is just disturbing not only to hear the news but also to watch the video.  My curiosity got the best of me as I viewed the video.  It is extremely difficult to watch.  ISIS even made the video cinematic.  It almost looks like it is a scene in a movie!  It is just disgusting how they have no regard for human life.  My prayers go out to Moaz's family as well as the families of the Japanese journalists killed. ISIS is of Satan.









Sources:

http://www.newyorker.com/news/daily-comment/isis-murdered-kenji-goto

http://video.foxnews.com/v/4030583977001/warning-extremely-graphic-video-isis-burns-hostage-alive/?#sp=show-clips

http://pix11.com/2015/02/03/video-purportedly-shows-isis-burning-jordanian-pilot-alive/

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-31121160

http://www.cnn.com/2015/02/03/world/isis-captive/

http://www.foxnews.com/world/2015/02/04/new-isis-video-purpotedly-shows-jordanian-pilot-being-burned-alive/

http://www.theguardian.com/media/2015/feb/04/fox-news-shows-isis-video-jordan-pilot

http://www.msnbc.com/morning-joe/watch/jordan-responds-to-pilots-death-393593923606

https://news.yahoo.com/jordan-executes-two-iraqi-militants-response-pilots-death-033203764.html

http://www.msnbc.com/morning-joe/watch/jordan-responds-to-pilots-death-393593923606


Sunday, February 1, 2015

4th Sunday of Ordinary Time - Jesus IS Lord

Today's readings remind us of who Christ is and His mission.  Christ is the Messiah or Chosen one. He has dominion over all including Satan and his demons (Hebrews 2:8, 1 Corinthians 15:27).

In the first reading, Moses tells the people that God will raise up a leader from among them.  This leader will speak for God and remind them of what God commands.  No longer will the people of God need pillars of fire and all the displays that they have witnessed in the Exodus.  This reading reminds us that Christ has been expected for a long time (Isaiah 11:1-9, Jeremiah 23:5-6). He is the One, the Anointed One who will restore creation.

The responsorial Psalm responds with "If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts." This is a reminder of last week's Gospel where Christ began calling his disciples. We read from Psalm 95 which is also used in lauds or morning prayer before the intercessions in the Liturgy of the Hours.  In this Psalm, we are reminded to remember God and not harden our hearts. We must listen to his voice and not test him even after we have seen how he has worked in our lives (Deuteronomy 6:16, Luke 4:12).

In the second reading, Paul reminds us to be free of anxieties. He tells us of the benefits of being celibate. Many today attack the Catholic Church for her discipline requiring priests to be celibate.  Some of our Protestant friends even say it is not biblical and against God's command to find a mate and be "fruitful and multiply" (Genesis 1:28).  However, today's second reading clearly states that those who are unmarried are more concerned about the things of God.  This is not to say that married people are not.  The point Paul is making is that an unmarried person has more time to dedicate to God and to do God's work. They dedicate more to the things of heaven and much be open to be celibate (Matthew 19:10-12).  Whereas, married people have to care for one another and their children most of the time.  

Lastly in the Gospel, we begin to see Jesus at work. Jesus began teaching the people with authority.  His words made sense and were in agreement with the Hebrew Scriptures. This is connected to the first reading which says, "[I]... will put my words into his mouth."  Not only does God teach with authority, but he also shows demons who is boss.  A man with an unclean spirit or a demon cries out to Jesus in fear, "What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth?  Have you come to destroy us?  I know who you are-the Holy One of God!"  These are powerful words said by, ironically a demon.  Even the demons of hell, the fallen angels acknowledge Jesus. We see the demon's phrase in the Old Testament (Judges 11:12; 1 Kings 17:18). It shows a combatant event.  Jesus tells the demon to be quiet or shut up bringing to mind Zechariah 3:2. God is more powerful than any demon. Today we live in a world where the Occult is starting to come back in the public square. Some people believe Satan is a "counter-god" to the God of heaven.  This is not true. Satan is simply a creature and is not equal to God.  God always has the final say. Jesus is the one who has dominion of this world despite Satan thinking that he does (John 12:31).  Notice that Jesus does this on the Sabbath or the day of rest. This is showing us that Christ is restoring creation with the new creation. Creation would not end with the fall of Adam and Eve.  Satan did not win at the Garden of Eden. Jesus has the final say and casts the demon out on the Sabbath.  The serpent is kicked out as Christ begins to replant Eden.
 


Readings: http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/020115.cfm

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