VICTOR S E MOUBARAK

Thursday, 29 May 2014

History - Charles Darwin


Charles Darwin was a controversial Englishman, naturalist and geologist who lived between 1809 and 1882. He came up with the idea of evolution. That is to say that humans have evolved over many many years from another species of animal - basically monkeys.

At the risk of over-simplifying all his works and theories here, suffice it to say that he believed that one species does change into another.

In his book On the Origin of Species he writes "As many more individuals of each species are born than can possibly survive; and as, consequently, there is a frequently recurring struggle for existence, it follows that any being, if it vary however slightly in any manner profitable to itself, under the complex and sometimes varying conditions of life, will have a better chance of surviving, and thus be naturally selected. From the strong principle of inheritance, any selected variety will tend to propagate its new and modified form."

In other words, each generation would evolve a little bit more than its predecessor in order to improve itself and adapt to its environment and thus survive. He added that "light will be thrown on the origin of man and his history".

Ever since the theory that men could be descended from apes came to light people have been arguing for and against that particular possibility.


What I'd like us to focus on, however, is the possibility that we may have evolved, over time into what we are now. We may not have started as apes, but perhaps we were always humans who looked like apes; i.e. we were covered with a lot of hair to keep us warm since clothes had not yet been invented and were not easily purchased on the Internet.

As we learnt to cover ourselves, first with fig leaves, (they don't cover much do they), and then with various animal skins, we evolved into humans with less and less body hair. So ... what I am saying is ... we did not evolve from apes but from humans who were covered with body hair when they roamed naked and then lost this covering when fashionable clothing was made available in shops and on-line.

Are you with me so far?

It doesn't matter if you don't agree. Just hold that thought for a moment.

Now then ... as time goes by we "evolve" or adapt to survive our various environments. There is evidence for instance that in the Middle Ages people were much smaller and shorter than they are now. This is seen from the size of doorways in castles, and from bones found in graves. But as time went by and diets improved, as well as health standards, today's people are much bigger and stronger compared to their Middle Ages counterpart.

Now, if we accept this fact. It follows that we continue to evolve as time goes by into the future. Who knows how future people would look like!

Do we need toe nails for instance? What are they used for? Perhaps future people will not have toe nails.

But as we get busier and busier a second mouth would come in handy. We could use one mouth for talking, or answering the phone, and another for eating our lunch. This way we don't need to have a lunch break and we would work for longer and be more productive.

Personally, I'd like a mouth on top of my head. This way I could put a sandwich under my hat and eat it whilst going to work.

It would also be a good idea to have an extra eye. Say at the end of your index finger. This way you could clean your ear and see what's inside at the same time.

You know how you sometimes say "I've only got one pair of hands!" Well ... wouldn't it be nice to have two pairs of hand? Both coming from the side like now. This way I could drive the car and scratch my bottom at the same time.

I'm beginning to like this evolution thing. I wonder what else we could think of? A turkey with 12 legs so we can have one each on Thanksgiving and Christmas? Problem is ... he'd run too fast and we won't be able to catch it. Scrap that idea!

Can you think of any evolutionary ideas which would benefit us in the future? Don't be shy now ... let your imagination run wild and share your thoughts with us.

I promise not to laugh!

Sunday, 25 May 2014

The Advocate. What Advocate?

John 14:15-17
‘If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Advocate, to be with you for ever. This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him. You know Him, because He abides with you, and He will be in you.'

Who is this Advocate? Some might ask.

Jesus here is speaking of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit of God, and Jesus Himself, who will come down from Heaven at Pentecost and be within the disciples.

There's often confusion in people's minds about the Holy Spirit. Who is He exactly?

We are taught about God the Father, Jesus the Son, and the Holy Spirit … He doesn’t seem to have a title or description.

St Hilary of Poitiers, a Bishop in the 3rd Century AD, described the Holy Spirit as “the Gift”.

He is the gift given to us by God after Jesus ascended into Heaven.

He is the very Spirit of God, God Himself, come back to us on earth to dwell within us and to help us in our Christian life.

That’s why He is sometimes referred to as the Helper, the Counselor, God’s own Being living within us.

The Holy Spirit didn't just descend on the disciples at Pentecost and that's it. A once in a lifetime event. He is present here and now today and is within some people who ask for His presence within them.

Now that last fact itself, God's own Being living within us, causes even more confusion amongst Christians and non-Christians alike.

Sure, Christians believe the Holy Spirit descended upon the disciples at Pentecost teaching them what to say in various languages and how to proclaim the Good News to all. But now? Today? Does the Holy Spirit enter our very souls today?

Can you imagine that?

God. Living within us. Guiding us. Helping us. Teaching us. Advising us when to speak and when to remain silent. What to say and what to do.

Isn’t that wonderful? Or is it too difficult to imagine or believe?

If you were to say to a non-Christian that God is living within you in the form of the Holy Spirit they would most probably scoff, or smile politely or perhaps think you've lost your mind.

The very concept is difficult for many Christians to believe; never mind those who don't believe at all.

And yet ... Isn’t it a tragedy that in this day and age, when many are too willing to believe that the devil can possess an individual unwillingly and reap havoc in their lives; many people find it difficult to understand that the Spirit of God is willing to abide within us and lead us to an eternal better life in Heaven.

But only if we ask Him.

Unlike the devil, the Holy Spirit will not abide in a person unless He is asked. Unless He is invited.

All we have to do is to believe and to invite the Holy Spirit to be within us.

Saturday, 24 May 2014

Victor On the Radio - 2

Here's another short recording from the days when I was on the radio presenting a program called Time for Reflections. I hope you enjoy it. God bless.

Thursday, 22 May 2014

Hello ... How may I help you?

Travel Agent Lady: Hello ... how may I help you?

Me: Oh hi ... I'd like to book a room in a good hotel in Aberdeen for about a week.

TAL: Certainly Sir, when will that be?

Me: Now, right now ...

TAL: You'd like a room starting today, Sir?

Me: No ... no ... I'd like to book the room right now.

TAL: I understand ... and when would you like to stay in Aberdeen?

Me: Next month ... the week starting the 12th. I'll be staying for the whole week.

TAL: Do you have a preference of hotel Sir?

Me: No ... I don't know Aberdeen that well. I want a good hotel, not just a bed and breakfast.

TAL: Yes Sir. I have one available which I am sure will be suitable. May I have your name and address please Sir? ... ... ... And a telephone number where we can contact you? ... ... ... Thank you Sir. Will you require a single or a double bed room?

Me: Oh double bed ... a large bed. And make sure there's a TV too.

TAL: Yes Sir ... all rooms have a TV, telephone, Internet access, as well as adjoining bathroom and several other facilities. I'll be sending you a hotel brochure Sir. Meanwhile, I need a name for the other guest staying with you, Sir. Will that be Mrs M...?

Me: No ... no ... my wife will not be with me.

TAL: So it's just you, Sir?

Me: No ... me and Maurice.

TAL: Maurice ... That's the other guest ... May I have Maurice's surname please Sir?

Me: Just Maurice ... he has no surname ... Just Maurice and I will be staying for a week.

TAL: I understand Sir ... That's a double room for a week commencing the 12th of next month for yourself and Maurice. Will there be anything else Sir?

Me: Eh ... yes ... does the hotel have room service? Can we order beakfast and other meals to be delivered to our room? We'd rather stay in the room most of the time.

TAL: Yes Sir. There will be a menue in your room and you can phone your order which will be delivered at any time day or night. Some guests prefer to have a meal at all hours, like two in the morning, for example. This hotel will deliver any meal you wish to your room at any time for you and Maurice to enjoy.

Me: That sounds great ... One more thing. Will they also deliver bones?

TAL: Bones, Sir?

Me: Yes... raw bones, for Maurice.

TAL: I don't understand Sir.

Me: Maurice prefers raw bones before his performance.

TAL: I still don't understand Sir.

Me: We're in Aberdeen for the sheep dog trials. We're coming incognito. We'll enter the trials in the last possible moment. That's why we'll stay in the hotel room for as long as possible. Maurice is a champion sheepdog, and any news of his entrance in the show will affect the betting odds, you see.

TAL: Yes Sir ... I see clearly now ... (deep breath) ... I understand.

Monday, 19 May 2014

History - Helen and Hannibal and others too


An interesting thing you notice when learning ancient history is the number of people whose names start with the letter H.

Today we'll learn about a few of them. No doubt you can think of others.

We start with a Greek doctor called Hippocrates (460 - 357 BC), who studied bodies expertly and believed in proper healing based on science as it was limitedly known then. He invented the Hippocritical Oath which promised that he'd heal any hippopotamus regardless to the danger to himself. As there were no hippos in Greece his promise was never tested. So he healed hippies instead.

He believed in bleeding as a cure for most things. When a sick man visited him a quick punch on the nose followed by a nosebleed sorted him out. He also took samples from sick people like, their vomit, nose droppings, ear wax, tears and urine and tested it by tasting it. It is not clear what he discovered but no doubt he often had stomach ache.

Heraclitus (c. 535 – c. 475 BC) was a Greek philosopher who didn't like people in general. He was always sad and melancholy (face like a melon and body like a collie) and always cried in his beer in the pub. He was known as the "Weeping Philosopher"; and no doubt bored every one to death with his cheerful stories!

One day Heraclitus got sick with dropsy and no doctor could cure him. So he decided to cure himself by covering his body with cow manure and sitting in the sun for it to bake. This certainly did the trick. He died within a day.

Which goes to prove - when you're up to your neck in **** don't sit in public for all to see.

Helen of Troy - now listen carefully because this bit is a little confusing. Zeus the Greek god was chased by an eagle so he turned into a swan. Whilst he was a swan he hid with a woman called Leda and fell in love with her. With me so far?

Leda produced an egg from which Helen of Troy was born.

Helen then went on holiday to Paris (or is it with Paris?) and they had a great time.

Homer was a Greek author living around 850 BC and is thought to have written two outstanding books called the Iliad and the Odyssey. Unfortunately, opinion is divided as to whether Homer actually wrote both works; a bit like the debate about whether Shakespeare did actually write all that he wrote. After various attempts to contact the publishers to find out the truth it was discovered that they'd gone out of business. So we'll never resolve this mystery.

Hannibal (247 - 183/182/181 BC) was a Carthaginian military man who appears to have died three times. Either that or perhaps we don't know when he died. But die he did!

He is most famously remembered for marching an army which included elephants from Spain to Italy over a range of mountains known as The Pair of Knees and the Alps.

Whilst on the Alps he lost many elephants because he did not have skis big enough for them to wear. But the apres-ski parties were great fun.

He defeated the Romans in Italy because they had not seen elephants with skis before. After the battles he set up a travelling Circus with the elephants.

Hadrian was a Roman Emperor (76 AD - 138 AD) at the time the Romans conquered most of Britain up to the Northern borders with Scotland. there he built a great wall dividing the country from coast to coast.

The wall was 117 kilometers long and several portions still exist and are a great tourist attraction. It is so big that you can see the moon from there.

A few years back some archaeologists digging near the wall found a few spent match sticks and cigarette ends, proving that the Romans did smoke the same brands as we do now. They also found a cell-phone which was sent to a lab in London to find out whether it contains photos of the Romans all those years ago.

Finally, in this History Lesson of people whose names begin with the letter H we have to mention Heel.Now come along ... pay attention ... don't tell me you've never heard of Achilles Heel?

Apparently he was a demi-god, a hero of the Tojan War and the son of Thetis and Peleus. When he was a baby his mother dipped Achilles into the river Styx to make him immortal and invincible. She held him by his heel and dipped him right in; and that's how he got the name Achilles Heel. Since then he was invincible except of course for the bit of his heel which was not dipped in the water. He was killed by a Frenchman called Paris who shot him in the heel with an arrow. He was aiming for his back at the time but missed by shooting too low.

Now what is not clear is why his stupid mother had not dipped him totally into the river Styx. That way, not only would he have been totally invincible but her hand too would have been invincible. Can you imagine? Being able to pull out a pot of meat from a hot oven without the need for oven gloves. Or being the catcher in a game of baseball without needing those big gloves. I bet there are many things she could have done with an invincible hand.

For your homework this week I want you to write ten things you'd be able to do with an invincible hand.

Saturday, 17 May 2014

Ignatius' Inferno

The first thing Father Ignatius noticed as he entered hell is the total and absolute darkness of the place. Not the faintest glimmer of light shone in that bottomless abyss of intense void.

He tried hard to peer into the pitch-black darkness to make out something, but it was totally in vain. He could see nothing. Totally and completely nothing.

It was then that he noticed the full and utter silence which accompanied the extreme blackness of this place. Not a sound whatsoever. It was as if he had gone suddenly deaf. He rubbed his fingers in his ears and concentrated hard but silence reigned supreme. He clapped his hands together but heard nothing. He spoke to himself and could not hear his own voice.

Darkness and silence had partnered together and negated all the senses as he knew them. He could not smell anything whatsoever. No burning fires and brimstone, or the acrid smell of sulfur he’d expected in this place. He could feel no burning sensation and pain. No cries of help or gnashing of teeth.

In other words; hell was nothing.

Hell was a total void of everything physical as he’d experienced in his previous life.

Yet in this pure nothingness he felt a very powerful and intense feeling of extreme sadness. An overwhelming grief leading to desolation and desperation tormented his very soul.

A continuous sensation of sorrow and anguish filled the emptiness which was hell.

He sensed another soul there too. He could not make out who or where it was but it was there, somehow, sharing the void with him.

He felt a telepathic communication with this spirit in similar torment. Not in words, not in images, but in a mutual empathic sensation, as if the two were one.

He shared that soul’s torment which had lasted for … … … an eternity.

There seemed to be no beginning as to when that soul arrived in this eternal void, nor any prospect of when its terrible terrible suffering would end. The total and perfect hopelessness of this state of nothingness, this state of wretched emptiness, engulfed the forgotten soul consumed by its everlasting regrets.

For this lost soul constantly and interminably viewed and reviewed over and again its past life on earth; filled with memories best forgotten yet brought to mind with no respite. The inner pain from such memories tortured this forgotten soul left here all alone.

Father Ignatius shared with this soul the deep desire to weep bitterly for its past mistakes and its present solitary ordeal. But this was not possible, for there are no tears in hell. No matter how strong the desire to cry in profound regret, and so gain some temporary relief, this was not possible in a state of void. So the pain, sorrow and sadness built up within one’s soul and consumed it eternally from within; with no respite whatsoever.

And what is worse, is that the soul’s constant feelings of regret were persistently underlined by another sensation.

For it knew with unshakable certainty of the existence of God.

This tormented soul had been given, on entering hell, undoubted and unquestionable proof that God indeed exists. And somehow, it had witnessed His immeasurable and overwhelming love for His creations.

Yet the soul also knew, without a doubt, that for an interminable eternity, it would be totally excluded from that Fatherly, Divine love.

Father Ignatius realized that hell consisted of complete isolation with ones thoughts and regrets, and the sure knowledge that there will never be an end in sight. No light at the end of the tunnel. For there is no tunnel.

A permanent state of inner pain and sorrow, coupled with the knowledge that God’s love is for ever out of reach.

“What a terrible state of despair and hopelessness” thought Father Ignatius, “to know for certain that God exists; and to know of His love for us; yet to be excluded from that perfect love for ever. To remain here, in a state of total void, filled with past memories and regrets for deeds long past. Alone, in permanent thoughts of total and infinite exclusion!”

Father Ignatius woke up suddenly from his turbulent dream.

It was then that he heard in his head, clear as a bell, the words: “Go and warn all you get to meet not to come to this place!”

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

A night at the Opera

I inadvertently mentioned at home that my boss had given me two tickets to the opera followed by a booked table at a great restaurant. I really shouldn't have done that. I really shouldn't ...

Next thing … we were sitting in one of those private balcony seats watching a lot of people on stage shouting at each other in song and walking about as if they’re constipated.

What was all that about?

I've never understood opera, and after that performance I understood it even less.

I smiled and feigned enjoyment. In order to educate myself in one easy lesson I quickly read the brochure we were given at the entrance to find out how many intervals there were, and whether this theater had a bar or not.

As there wasn't much else of interest to read I resigned myself to glancing at the summary of the plot of this play, or musical, or whatever it was that we were watching.

Apparently there's this fellow called Orlando. He's the one with tight trousers and a squeakee voice. He is a knight and he loves the lovely Princess Miranda. One day as Orlando was riding through the forest on his way to visit Miranda he bumps his head against a low lying branch from a tree and falls from his horse.

He is found dazed in the forest by a young and beautiful peasant girl called Amnesia, who takes him home to her lover Memorandum. She and her lover look after the handsome Orlando and nurse him back to health. But sadly, his forest experience has wiped his memory of the love of his life, Princess Miranda. He now has eyes only for Amnesia ... no wonder he's so forgetful.

Amnesia is confused and doesn't know who to love more. Her faithful Memorandum who stood by her all this time, or the forgetful Orlando who has declared undying love for her but doesn't even know who he is.

Meanwhile, Princess Miranda back at her palace, not having seen Orlando for such a long time, presumes him dead, eaten by a vegetarian dragon, and she falls in love with a restaurant waiter called Risotto.

On the day she was to marry Risotto she invites the whole town to the palace and ... as it happens ... Orlando the forgetful Knight, Amnesia his girlfriend, and Memorandum who originally loved Amnesia, are all invited as guests.

Upon seeing Orlando, Princess Miranda recognises him and falls in love with him all over again, pushing her Risotto to one side. I don't blame her ... a risotto isn't much fun is it?

Anyway ... Orlando now regains his memory and declares his undying love for Princess Miranda. After all, better marry a rich Princess than a pauper like Amnesia ... what?

Amnesia is beside herself with indignation and embarrassment. She turns to her former lover Memorandum who now is himself rather annoyed and has turned his affections towards Risotto. Or was it Orlando? By now I was totally confused. Maybe it was Princess Miranda.

As you would expect in any good opera; an argument erupts between Miranda, Orlando, Amnesia, Memorandum and the side-lined Risotto. They all break out into song each out crying each other louder and louder. At one point a chorus of about thirty people turn up on stage and join in the screaming as if their lives depended on it. I'm not sure who the chorus represents, perhaps it's the other wedding guests, but it all added up to the noise.

"Do you love me?" screams Princess Miranda in Italian. "Mi ami?" she sings at the top of her voice.

"Mi ami?" responds the handsome Knight Orlando even louder.

"Mi ami? Mi ami? Mi ami?" Amnesia and Memorandum ask each other over and again accompanied by the choir of thirty as well as Miranda and Orlando.

"Doesn't anybody love me?" screams the side-lined waiter Risotto who feels rejected like a half-eaten meal.

At this point a duel breaks out between the Knight Orlando and the waiter Risotto. Orlando uses his sword and shield whilst Risotto uses his serving tray as a shield and a breadstick as a sword.

At one point in this duel accompanied by a crescendo of music and singing, Orlando is hit in the eye by Risotto's breadstick.

Orlando falls to the ground holding his chest and singing ever so loudly.

“Son morto … son morto …” which means I am dead.

Instead of calling for an ambulance and taking him to the ER room at the hospital; the rest of the cast, including the chorus, join in the singing.

The more they sang, the more Orlando screamed "son morto" still holding his chest although I clearly saw he was hit with the breadstick in the eye.

Suddenly Risotto breaks into the finale song ...

"Mangerò Mangerò Mangerò ..." he sings " All'alba Mangerò ..." and he ends with an ever lasting "Mangeeeeeeeeeeròòòòòòòòòòò !!!!!!!!" 

The audience stands up on its feet to rapturous applause which lasted over 7.58 minutes.

I really enjoyed that evening at the restaurant afterwards. Best chianti I had for ages.

Monday, 12 May 2014

A Ghostly Experience

Not many people believe in ghosts. I didn't either. Until one day I saw one. Yes, I saw a ghost and he spoke to me. I'll never forget the experience.

It happened years ago on a dark and wintry night in the depth of a mountainous region of Scotland. I was driving late at night after visiting some business customers up North and somehow I lost my way. It was the days before satellite navigation systems and cell-phones to help you communicate and get from one place to another. It was raining heavily with thunder and lightning brightening the skies for brief intervals and piercing the darkness of the road ahead. As usually happens in ghost stories and movies, my car eventually stopped having run out of gas. But this was for real. Not a movie script which I could put down and return to my reality sitting next to a warm fire with a hot chocolate drink in my hands. This was for real. My car stopped in the middle of nowhere on a cold rainy night with thunder and lightning for companionship. I swear I heard the howling of some wild creature in the distance.

What was I to do? I couldn't stay in the car all night and possibly freeze to death. Or be tinned food for whatever hungry creature is out there. I had no blanket in the car and I'd forgotten my overcoat at the office of the business I was visiting on behalf of my employer.

So there I was. All alone in a car with no means of communication. Cold. Hungry. Afraid. And I wanted to go to the toilet too. I should not have had that second cup of coffee they offered me. Coffee is quite diuretic, you know.

Stupidly perhaps, I decided to get out of the car and water a nearby tree. I could hold it no longer. Moments later I was back in the car totally wet and even colder than before because of the driving rain; but greatly relieved. After all, I had to do what I had to do and I could not do it from inside the car.

Now back in the car I was shivering and my teeth were chattering in tune with my racing heartbeat. My wet clothes stuck to the leather seat. My shoes and socks were soaking wet throughout. Because of the rain ... the rain ... are you paying attention? Please don't make up your own jokes at my misfortune.

Stupidly again, I decided to get out of the car and walk in any direction trying to find shelter. I locked the car and walked ahead in total darkness and driving rain, (or should I now say walking rain?). Every so often my solitude was broken by the occasional clap of thunder followed by a flash of lightning. (This was Scotland where thunder comes first because up North sound travels faster than light. Everyone knows that!)

Anyway, after walking for about half an hour there it was. Not a castle, as you'd expect in the Highlands. But a house. Admittedly a large house; again just like you'd expect in horror movies, big and dark with overhanging trees and climbing ivy everywhere. But not a castle.

I knocked at the door ... no bell. And eventually, after what seemed an eternity an old man opened the door.

He was wearing an eye patch. What I mean, he was wearing clothes, very old clothes, and he had an eye patch on. Did you really think he was wearing nothing else but an eye patch? I wish you'd pay more attention.

"Och aye ... It’s a dreich day! Aye right." he said in his native tongue. I didn't understand a word he said, so I asked him whether I could seek shelter for the night.

"Yer're drookit!" he said, "Aye ... come in ... come in ..."

I entered a dark room lit by a couple of candles. He beckoned me to sit by a small log fire to keep warm. As I sat there still shivering he walked away towards the wall and vanished through it. My blood ran cold. A shiver, ran down my spine ... that's a new shiver, not the one I was shivering with previously. I could have said a frisson, but I was in Scotland not France. So a shiver it was ... och aye!

I could not believe my eyes. The man had actually walked through a wall. Admittedly, it was dark, I was cold and freezing wet and quite hungry, but I assure you I was not hallucinating. I did not imagine it. The man just walked towards the wall and vanished through it. The experience made me want to go to the toilet once again; and this time it had nothing to do with the coffee. I must have cried in fear a little because I felt tears running down my leg.

Moments later he returned through the wall just as he had vanished. He stood there looking at me with one eye. The other eye was covered by an eye patch, remember.

My knees were knocking together in rhythm with my heart and chattering teeth. I had butterflies in my stomach and their knees were knocking too. Even my goose bumps had goose bumps of their own.

"Are you ... are you  ... a spirit?" I heard myself mumble.

"Yer mean ... be I a drop of whisky?" he muttered, "Of course not ... I be a ghost ... A ghost, laddie. I been here fer' years. Och aye! Trapped in this house of doom fer ever, laddie."

I gulped and asked "Are you the ghost of a pirate? I mean ... the eye patch ..." I continued pointing at his face.

"Och no ... laddie," he said, "this be no pirate's doing! I got this one day as I was sliding through a keyhole and someone put a key in it. Occupational hazard for us ghosts!"

I smiled and said nothing.

"Now I just walk right through walls and solid objects" he said in perfect English, "much safer what?"

I picked up a bottle of vintage whisky nearby and took a gulp to keep me warm.

They found me the next morning fast asleep with an empty bottle beside me.

Saturday, 10 May 2014

If you don't believe ... leave ...


John Chapter 6 has been the source of much debate and confusion over the years ... and the arguments will still go on. No doubt to the amusement of Jesus looking down upon us and saying: "You of little Faith. Why can't you just believe and stop dissecting and analysing everything I said as if I were an insect in your lab!"

I speak of course of the part in that Chapter where Jesus says He is "the Bread of life" and later when He says that unless people eat His flesh or drink His blood they will not have life.

As you can imagine, this was very confusing to His listeners; even His followers and disciples.

"What is He on about?" they asked. "How can we eat His flesh and drink His blood? This is cannibalism surely. This is too much for us. We don't want to follow this guy any longer!"

So what did Jesus do?

He didn't say "Hey ... wait a minute. You didn't understand what I meant. This is what I really meant to say ... let me explain!"

No ... Jesus let them go. He didn't try to justify Himself or what He had just said. It was as if He dissolved the unspoken contract between them. They could not accept a certain clause so He let them go.

Then He turned to His disciples and asked: "How about you? Do you want to go as well?"

As ever, Peter was first to answer: "To whom shall we go?" he asked. "We're in this for the duration, all the way, to the end". Or words to that effect, signifying the he trusted Jesus without question; albeit no doubt he had many questions in his mind. Peter accepted Christ's words without question and stepped out in blind Faith and dared to believe.

So what are we to make of all this after all these years? Did Jesus mean what He said literally or was it all symbolism and imagery using common day articles of the time like bread and wine to signify the sacrifice He is to endure for us? His flesh would be torn by the beating and the nailing to the Cross and His blood would be spilled for us. Was it all symbolism?

Quite frankly, I'm with Peter on this.

I don't believe there is much to be gained in debating this ad-infinitum because in reality I doubt any of us will ever come to a satisfactory conclusion. Wiser heads than mine have argued this matter over the centuries much to the amusement of Jesus looking down from above. Any efforts by me at interpreting this would no doubt have Jesus rolling on the floor with laughter.

So I am minded to accept it for what it is. Something that Jesus said and we're to believe it as best we humanly can.

There's no point in closing your eyes tightly and repeating over and over again "I believe ... I believe ... even though I don't understand it ... I believe".

God who can see deep within our hearts, and knows our human nature and its failings, realises that it is too difficult for us to understand.

But then, He does not ask us to understand Him. He asks us to love Him and to trust Him without any evidence whatsoever.

It's what is called Faith.

To believe when your common sense tells you not to.

By the way: you may wish to visit this link and see what happened to a priest who had difficulties in believing. Click HERE.

God bless.

Thursday, 8 May 2014

History - Cleopatra and the Romans

Cleopatra was a beautiful Queen or Pharaoe of Egypt who ruled until around 30 BC. At the time the Roman Empire was large and strong and was ruled by Julius Caesar. She got to meet him and after a few dinners and coffee they became great friends. Enough said.

After Julius Caesar was assassinated in 44 BC the Roman Empire was ruled by three triumvirates, which means three rulers. These are different to the rulers you get in class or at home to measure things with and they are not made of wood or plastic.

These three rulers were strong generals and leaders of the Romans. They were Mark Antony, Lepidus and Gaius Julius Caesar Octavianus the legal heir of Julius Caesar. This is heir like successor and has nothing to do with what grows on peoples' heads and on their bodies. It has nothing to do with rabbits running wild either.

Now there was a bald ruler in Mesopotamia who was distressed that although he was very rich he had no children to inherit. One day he cried out loud "Why is it that despite my riches I have no heir?" Someone bought him a wig which inherited the whole kingdom after his death. Eventually, the people got fed up being ruled by a wig so they deposed him (or it) and were ruled by a ruler instead - that's a real ruler, not one made of plastic or wood used for measuring things. But I've already said so, and you were not paying attention!

Back to Cleopatra and the three triumvirates - Mark Antony, Lepidus and Julius Caesar.

Although each of them ruled a part of the Empire in reality they were rivals and each wanted to be the top man ruling alone.

One day Caesar held a big party on his ship out at sea and had invited Mark Antony and Lepidus. As happens at parties, after a few vinos Mark Antony and Lepidus got rather drunk and no doubt started singing "O Sole Mio"; a well known Roman song at the time which was Number 1 in the POP music charts for weeks on end. This particular song had been made famous by a protégé of Julius Caesar, the singer Maximilius Tonsilitis the Fifth, also known as MTV.

Anyway, one of Caesar's helpers whispered in his ear: "Both of your rivals are drunk. If we were to throw them overboard by accident like, you'd be left to rule the Empire alone."

After cleaning his ear from the man's spit Caesar replied: "If you had done this without telling me, I would have rewarded you greatly afterwards. But now you told me, I cannot sanction such an act."

Which goes to show that opportunity spits in your ear every now and then; and if you fail to take it you just end up with the spit.

So from then on, Cleopatra sided with Mark Antony instead of the rightful heir Caesar.

Their first meeting was in Egypt when Cleopatra sailed down the Nile in her royal barge and Mark Antony was on the shore and was astounded by her great beauty. His knees trembled at the sight.

Antony's lieutenant Enobarbus, once described Cleopatra's charms by saying: "Age cannot wither her, nor custom stale her infinite variety. Other women cloy the appetites they feed, but she makes hungry where most she satisfies."

Which loosely translated means she's for ever young with no wrinkles except the one she sits on.

Historians believe that the reason Cleopatra had such smooth skin is because she bathed in asses milk. I tried doing the same to help my complexion but the supermarket did not have asses milk. They had buffalo milk, goat milk, chocolate and strawberry flavored milk; but they'd just ran out of asses milk. Try bathing in chocolate milkshake and see what happens!

Well, as I said, Mark Antony felt his knees tremble at the sight of Cleopatra and invited her out for coffee. One  thing led to another and enough said about that too. They had smiles on their faces for ever after.

One day after a heavy defeat in battle, Mark Antony committed suicide.

Cleopatra was so distraught by it all that she put an asp to her breast. An asp ... not an ass or a donkey which is altogether a different creature too heavy to lift to one's breast.

An asp is another word for snake. Why did the snake not bite her hand and waited until he was at her breast, we'll never know. Maybe it was an amourous snake with trembling knees too. Enough said once again.

And sadly, that's how Cleopatra died.

Years later Shakespeare wrote a play about it all and then a film was made with Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor. I had to study the Shakespeare version at school and memorise many lines; why I'll never know. They've never served me in life until now that I have to give these History Lessons.

Monday, 5 May 2014

A banana stole my bicycle

In town there is a pedestrianised street to allow people to shop and sight-see away from any vehicles and cycles. There are bollards at either end of the street to stop any vehicles from entering and signs asking cyclists to dismount whilst going through.

I leant my bicycle against one of those bollards and walked six feet or so towards the newspaper kiosk to buy a paper.

Suddenly, out of nowhere, a banana appeared, rode my bike and cycled at speed up the pedestrianised street.

I chased after it to the shouts of the paper vendor screaming: "Hey ... come back ... you haven't paid for your paper!"

The vendor's assistant got out of the kiosk and chased after me.

There we were ... banana on a bicycle chased by me being chased by the paper assistant. At one stage I believe a small dog got away from its owner and chased after us too barking like mad.

The shoppers moved aside like the parting of the Red Sea for Moses and let us run down the middle of the street. What a sight it was ... chasing a banana on a bicycle!

I suspect the public thought it was some "flash mob" type stunt; so they stopped to see what would happen next. At the time I was wearing my usual green cowboy hat with a feather on the side, turquoise shirt and red tartan trousers. I heard someone say: "It's a Candid Camera stunt! Look how this idiot is dressed!"

I could have stopped and took umbrage at being called an idiot; but my desire to recover my bicycle exceeded my taking offence at the insult. So I kept running as fast as my little legs and rotund figure could manage.

I nearly caught up with the cycling banana and at one stage almost caught him ... her ... it ... What gender is a banana anyway? But it was too slippery and gave me the slip.

Eventually I ran out of stamina or energy or whatever it is people run out of when they can run no more. I stopped; huffing and puffing and struggling for breath.

The paper boy caught up with me and started arguing. A policeman appeared out of nowhere. I tried to explain that a banana stole my bicycle. The policeman asked me if I'd been drinking and why I was dressed as a clown. The paper boy accused me of stealing a newspaper, which technically was correct, although there were proper extenuating circumstances.

As we were all talking at the same time and no one was listening there was a voice over a loudspeaker booming "Cut ... cut ..."

We looked round and there was a small crowd of people with cameras, lights, microphones and all the paraphernalia used when shooting a film. The public watching all this suddenly started applauding and whistling their appreciation.

Apparently, some film crew were making a short TV commercial for a new fruit shop which opens shortly in town. The banana man was meant to pick up a bike from the bollard point and cycle up the street to introduce the advert. He inadvertently took my cycle by mistake, and my chasing after him ruined the whole shoot.

I paid the paper boy and got my bicycle back.

The icing on the un-wanted cake was when a small group of people asked me for my autograph thinking I was part of the whole ridiculous show.

Saturday, 3 May 2014

Forgiveness YES Reconciliation NO

“Father … I have a problem with forgiving” said Sonia as she folded the last of the vestments and put them away in their cupboard in the Sacristy.

Father Ignatius was checking some paper work at a small desk in the corner of the large room. There was a tray there and parishioners were invited to place their messages, notices and sundry bits and pieces of information intended for the weekly Church Newsletter. The priest was reading through them in preparation for printing the Newsletter that evening. He stopped what he was doing and asked:

“What do you mean? A problem with forgiving …”

Sonia hesitated.

“I know you’ve always said we should forgive with all our heart … unreservedly … if we want God to forgive us our sins. I understand that … and I try as best I can to forgive wholeheartedly …”

“I can foretell a ‘but’ coming up …” smiled the priest, “but in this case …”

She smiled back.

“But in this case it is different …” she continued.

“There’s this woman at work who has hurt me really bad. She lied about me Father. And as a result I was severely reprimanded by our manager and I was made to lose a day’s pay … which I cannot afford.

“We used to be friends and all … but she lied to cover up her mistake and I got unfairly punished. This happened about two weeks ago.”

“This is terrible,” said Father Ignatius frowning at the unfairness of what he’d just heard. “Is there not some sort of appeal procedure at your workplace? Someone to talk to about it perhaps."

“No … that’s not the problem Father.” Sonia said.

“The thing is, this woman came to see me yesterday and apologized profusely for what she had done. She cried her heart out and said she could not have been found out to have made yet another mistake. She was on her last warning and another mistake would mean losing her job. That’s why she lied and put the blame on me. She begged me to forgive her … which I did straightaway Father. I told her to think no more about it and that all was now OK.”

“That’s very generous and loving of you … so what is the problem?” asked the priest.

“She wants us to be friends again, as before. We used to visit each other at our homes … and we’d shop together, or pick up each others’ children from school and so on … she wants everything to be as before.

“I find that very difficult … I just can’t trust her anymore and I want us to keep our distance. I forgive her as I said; but I can’t go back as before. My husband agrees and says I should no longer speak to her. I think I can speak and be nice to her at work but that’s as far as it goes; I can’t be friends again.

“Is my forgiveness worthless?”

“No … it is not worthless,” replied Father Ignatius gently, “when we forgive someone else, we touch their very soul with the merciful love of Jesus Christ our Lord.

“You’ve been hurt Sonia … hurt and punished unfairly and undeservedly.

“When we forgive people it means that we no longer hold their wrongdoings to account. We no longer bear them any malice or ill-feelings or ill-will.

“We acknowledge that we forgive them and we let them go their own way free from any fear of punishment or retribution on our part.

“This doesn’t mean however that we forget the pain caused to us. How can we? The hurt is imprinted in our memory and try as we might the chances are that we’ll remember it time and again. It’s only natural … it’s human nature. You forgave her and told her so …”

Sonia nodded; holding back her tears.

“And that’s all that is expected of you …” continued the priest gently, noticing that she was very upset at the mere thought of the event.

“We all have a right … a duty even … to protect ourselves and to protect our loved ones …

“If we feel uncomfortable about a particular situation or relationship, we have every right to distance ourselves from it.

“For very understandable reasons you feel uncomfortable at being friendly with this person as you were before; visiting each other and picking each others’ children from school and so on.

“There’s nothing wrong with that … tell her politely that you’ve forgiven her and that you feel both of you should leave it at that. An amicable relationship from a distance …”

“But …” Sonia interrupted, “how can that be forgiveness? By keeping my distance implies that I’m still holding something against her. She knows that … you and I know that … and God knows that …”

Father Ignatius smiled.

“Oh yes … God knows that all right … and He knows the reason behind it too …” he said.

“Let me tell you a story …

“Jesus once taught His disciples and His followers about Himself.

“He said, ‘whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood lives in me, and I live in him’

“A number of His followers found this difficult to understand. What does He mean … eat His flesh and drink His blood … Many today, find this very concept difficult to understand; so you can imagine how it was in those times.

“So a number of Christ’s followers decided to leave and no longer follow Him.

“What did Jesus do?

“He didn’t call them back. He didn’t say, ‘Wait, let me explain … this is what I meant to say …’ He didn’t compromise His position in any way …

“He just let them go … and He even asked His twelve disciples, ‘How about you … do you want to go as well?’

“You see Sonia … Jesus forgave them and let them go … He didn’t curse them and send plagues and pestilence on them and their families for generations …”

She smiled again feeling a little calmer.

“He just forgave them and let them go …

“Which is what you should also do …” said Father Ignatius serenely.

ADDITIONAL REFLECTIONS

Often we tend to confuse the real meaning of forgiveness.

Let us remember that we are humans. We can't help it ... that's the way we are, the way God made us, with a multitude of various emotions, fears, hopes and ways of interpreting many situations in our lives. We're complex creatures. He had His reasons to create us this way.

Being human, one of our first instincts is to protect ourselves and the ones we love. Another feature of our humanity is the ability to remember ... the good times, but more specifically the bad times.

The worse the bad times, the more terrible they've been, the more they are imprinted in our memories.

Anything can and will trigger these memories again ... visiting a place, seeing a photo, hearing a particular song ... anything ... and the bad memories come flooding back again. That's the price we pay for being human.

Christ said: "Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who hurt us."

Thank God that He does not hold us to the strict letter of this particular contract; otherwise we'd all be taking the fastest elevator going down!

Yet ... He does hold us to the intent of that particular contract we recite in the Lord's Prayer.

He asks us to forgive ... that's the important thing. Not just seven times but seventy times seven … and many times more than that as well.

Forgiving someone means that we no longer hold a grudge, or any ill-will or ill-feelings towards them or the hurt they have caused us. We let them go in peace free of fear of any revenge or retribution on our part.

This applies whether we tell them that they are forgiven, or whether they have moved away, or perhaps never asked or sought our forgiveness, and perhaps they don’t even care about our feelings.

What matters is that in our hearts we have truly forgiven them; and, here’s the difficult bit, … we can prove it to God should He ask us to.

Of course the memories will come back … we can’t help that. But let’s use them positively by forgiving once again. Let’ us use them as a reminder to pray for the ones who hurt us. Let us say to God : “Please look after that person. Enlighten them and lead them to find your love as I have found it too.”

Would it not be wonderful if as a result of our hurt … and our prayers … someone finds God, perhaps for the first time.

Christ has His memories too when He sees the scars in His hands, feet and side. I believe He uses these memories to forgive us yet again.

I doubt very much that the Virgin Mary has forgotten the Crucifiction. But she forgives again and again.

Having truly forgiven, it is our right and duty to keep our distance from that person if we feel they create a threat to us or our loved ones. Keeping our distance is NOT a sin, and it does not mean that we haven’t forgiven or that our forgiveness is worthless.

Being human we can only forgive as humans. We cannot possibly forgive as He has forgiven, no matter how hard we try.

He was human, but He was/is God too … and that’s a level of forgiveness we can never achieve.

We can only hope to live by the intent of that particular contract in the Lord’s Prayer.

God bless.