Lent – chance to live a new life

lentI was impressed by an excerpt from an article by Sr Joan Chittister. She says Lent is not only about repentance, but also about making changes in our lives. She states:

Lent is a call to weep for what we could have been and are not. Lent is the grace to grieve for what we should have done and did not. Lent is the opportunity to change what we ought to change but have not. Lent is not about penance. Lent is about becoming, doing and changing whatever it is that is blocking the fullness of life in us right now.

Lent is a summons to live anew.

The first challenge of Lent is to open ourselves to life. When we “rend our hearts” we break them open to things we are refusing for some warped reason to even consider. We have refused for years, perhaps, to even think about renewing old commitments that we’ve allowed to go to dust — spending time with the children, visiting our parents, exercising, taking time to read good books. We’ve closed our minds, maybe, to the thought of reconciling with old friends whom we have hurt. We’ve refused to put the effort into reviving old spiritual practices like visits to church, meditation in the morning, the memorization of the psalms, that we allowed to die in our youth but failed to substitute for as we aged. We’ve failed to repent old abrasions, quick words, harsh judgements made in haste and expiated never. We have closed the doors of our hearts, as time went by, to so many of the things we need to live full and holy lives.

Lent is the time to let life in again, to rebuild the worlds we’ve allowed to go sterile, to “fast and weep and mourn” for the goods we’ve foregone. If our own lives are not to die from lack of nourishment, we must sacrifice the pride or the sloth or the listlessness that blocks us from beginning again.
(…full article)

Ash Wednesday and Lent: about repentance

Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent. It’s a time of the year that’s observed by some in the Christian world.  But for most Christians today, Lent has been forgotten and goes unobserved. What is Lent?   This time of year is actually a good practice because it’s traditionally a time meant for Christians to reflect upon what we’ve done wrong toward God and others, upon our personal failings, unforgiveness, personal vices, and other ways we’ve fallen short in our lives. May we prepare to move toward repentance so that we can truly and more deeply experience repentance and forgiveness through Christ.

During Lent, may we experience a spiritual revival through genuinely repentant hearts, as expressed through the words of the prophet Joel:

12 Yet even now, says the LORD, return to me with all your hearts, with fasting, with weeping, and with sorrow; 13 tear your hearts and not your clothing. Return to the LORD your God, for he is merciful and compassionate, very patient, full of faithful love, and ready to forgive. 14 Who knows whether he will have a change of heart and leave a blessing behind him, a grain offering and a drink offering for the LORD your God? 15 Blow the horn in Zion; demand a fast; request a special assembly. 16 Gather the people; prepare a holy meeting; assemble the elders; gather the children, even nursing infants. Let the groom leave his room and the bride her chamber. 17 Between the porch and the altar let the priests, the LORD’s ministers, weep. Let them say, “Have mercy, LORD, on your people, and don’t make your inheritance a disgrace, an example of failure among the nations. Why should they say among the peoples, ‘Where is their God?'” 18 Then the LORD became passionate about this land, and had pity on his people. (Joel 2:12-18, Common English Bible)

Terrorist group ISIS murder Egyptian Christians

ISIS killing EgyptiansEgypt is another country that has joined the fight against the violent extremist terrorist organization, ISIS.  This terrorist organization has just beheaded twenty-one Egyptian Coptic Christian migrant workers in Libya on a beach in cold-blood (news here).  This is an indication that they’re terrorizing threats are real and sadistic and void of any sense of fairness or mercy.

This sadistic incident will cause many level-headed citizens around the world, and all Christians, to wonder if Islam is truly a peaceful religion.  All though I am a devoted Christian, I want to believe that Islam is a peaceful religion, but acts like these give me doubt.  I grew up in a multicultural environment in Canada, and had Muslim friends and neighbors.  It gave me an appreciation for all religions, and I want to continue believing that there is good in Islam; however, today, this expression of radicalized Islam sure hasn’t given me a good impression.  Increasingly each day, more peace-loving people will lose trust in Islam as an inherently good religion.  Peaceful Muslims need to help and speak up against ISIS!

Nevertheless, whether this was religiously-, culturally- or politically-motivated makes little difference if this sadistic terrorist activity is not taken seriously by all western nations.  In the history of pre-WW II days, many western nations took too long before they stepped in to intervene against Hitler’s Nazism in Germany.  So if there is something that we can learn from history, it is that “hiding our head in the sand” is not a viable solution.  ISIS is a very dangerous force that plans to intentionally intimidate surrounding nations. They made claims that Rome is on their target. What an arrogant claim.

Nations from every continent all have something valuable at stake—their religious, social, and economic freedoms.  Japan did not play into ISIS’ demand for $200 million.  Most recently, Denmark, was attacked by young Islamic terrorists who killed a number of people.  They targeted a Jewish synagogue that was having a Bar-Mitzvah, and also a cafe that was hosting a meeting on freedom of expression.  Very tragic

Today, Jews and all free peoples who value our beloved liberties are targets.  I wonder how many countries will come together and how soon will it take for these nations to realize that this dangerous reality should be taken seriously with real force?

Anti-terror legislation and our citizens’ privacy

Paris unity march
1 million people unite in Paris after the supermarket terrorist seige by I.S.

Due to increased radical, jihadist terrorism via Islamic State (IS) and Al-Queda, our world today is now on a much higher alert: e.g., two recent attacks in Canada, and most recently, the Charlie Hebdo-related terror attack in France that killed 14 people, and the beheading of two Japanese hostages.

It is no longer a secret that in the United States, the National Security Agency (NSA) has been setting itself up to grab much more personal/private information from U.S. residents and citizens. Today, the NSA is building a huge complex in the state of Utah to collect unfathomable amount of personal information.  This will intrude upon the privacy of not only American citizens, but of people around the world. (Thanks to Edward Snowden’s uncovering the government’s covert plans). Snowden has sought exile in Russia in order to evade American authorities who want to press charges against him. He recently spoke to 1,000 students at Upper Canada College via video.

Canada has just unveiled its new security legislation.  The risk is that it would include sweeping new powers to CSIS that will allow the government to collect private information from people without our consent or knowledge.  Canada has set itself up for a similar move toward more intrusion upon our privacy in the attempt of increasing national security.

Our private information like photos, addresses, etc. on Facebook, Gmail, Hotmail, and other social media are no longer private. Neither is surfing the web on Bell and Rogers wifi.  Intrusion of privacy will be the new price we pay for using social media.  Governments obviously appreciate the greater ease of collecting private information.  Facebook has given the government agencies a huge boost in greater information.  If this intrusion upon our privacy becomes more widely known by the public, more people will be leaving social media.  People will be choosing to close their Facebook accounts.  As people, we love and value our privacy even though we have nothing to hide.

The question is: will this prevent or stop the “would-be” terrorists from their heinous crimes, probably not.  They will probably figure out new ways to hide their communications, while the privacy of innocent civilians are tampered with.  The argument might be analogous to the gun-control debate: Would registering legal firearms prevent criminals from using illegal guns. Personally, I think…Not.  Criminals are not dummies.  Would-be criminals will find ways to evade detection of their covert criminal activities.  The danger I fear is that innocent people would be hurt, framed, or caught in the cross-fire.

Like most law-abiding citizens, we want the plans of terrorists thwarted, but we also wish to have our privacy respected.  Either way, we might have no choice. We are entering a less private world, and a less safer world. But if we want a society with more privacy, then we need to fight for our beloved freedoms. What kind of world do we prefer to live in?