All posts by leba24

My general interests are in the areas of Knowledge, Education, Philosophy, Theology, and Science. My aim is to introduce these topics (as far as possible) in everyday language so that everyone can be engaged by them, their many treasures, wonders and questions. This may lead to several outcomes. Among others, it can potentially serve to clarify and develop your own thought, to refine your analytical skills, to improve your own self-knowledge, and to enrich your thought with a world of philosophical ideas and insights.

The Human Condition–Part One

The human condition is full of contradictions: our world is marked by great progress and great suffering, by wonderful opportunities and sad failures, by amazing discoveries and unexpected tragedies, by deep sorrows and profound joys.

Each soul is a reflection, in one way or another, of these contradictions that mark the human condition, as though each individual represents a unique microcosm of the world at large. Each soul knows the meaning of hope and fear, joy and sorrow.

We all share in this common ’thread’ that runs throughout human history, this clash of contradictories, while each individual is a unique expression of the same. This is one of the greatest of all paradoxes: we are all the same yet each one of us is different.

And one of the greatest of all consolations is that the Son of God is no stranger to the human condition.

Jesus entered into this world as a human being and became acquainted with the human condition. The only begotten Son of God, who is in eternity, descended from heaven, was clothed in human nature, and entered upon the stage of the human drama.

The Son of God became the Son of man. He took upon Himself our own nature. Jesus immersed Himself in all the joys and sorrows, all the hopes and fears of the human condition, so that He could identify with each one of us. He united His divinity with our humanity, and our humanity with His divinity. He immersed Himself in all our pain, suffering, and death so that we could come to know His peace and life: “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10)

Let us not imagine that Jesus does not understand all the difficulties and struggles, the anguish, pain and suffering that we experience:

“Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathise with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:14-16)

To the extent that we come to know the Lord, to that extent we come to share in His life and peace. Conversely, to the extent that we “hide” ourselves from the Lord, to that extent we “hide” ourselves from His loving support.

And how do we “hide” ourselves from the Lord? When we fail to believe the words He has spoken; when we fail to trust or to confide our thoughts and concerns to His Sacred Heart; when we turn away from His will and follow our own will.

Saint Augustine confessed to the Lord: “When I hide my thoughts from you, I do not hide myself from you, but I hide you from myself.” (The Confessions of St Augustine, paraphrased)

If, on the other hand, we immerse ourselves in Jesus, if we trust in Him instead of trusting in our own understanding, then He carries us and all our difficulties on the wings of His own strength and wisdom. All the Lord really wants is to save us: “Come to me all you who labour and are burdened and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)

This is the Good News: that the Son of God came to share in our human condition so that He can be present to us in the midst of our struggles and suffering; that we can confront them in the strength of the Lord’s virtue, if only we will believe in Him; that He did not leave us to cope on the strength of our own resources; that He has already carried all the burden of our sins and sorrows and negligence, if only we will seek Him.

This is the Good News: that the Son of God has immersed Himself in all the misery and suffering and death that belongs to the human condition in order that we may receive His life and peace.

“In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence. Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered. And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him.” (Hebrews 5:7-9)

But how do we immerse ourselves in the Lord? Let’s allow the Lord Jesus to speak for Himself, and take His words to heart:

“Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.” (John 15: 4-11)

Leba Sleiman Copyright June 2019

Open Letter To Australia

The discussion on how to define marriage in Australia has stirred our hearts, forced many of us to take sides, refined our debating skills, raised awareness about the stakes, and spurred us on to unprecedented levels of activism and advocacy.

Most importantly, the marriage debate has brought to light the fact that, underlying the discussion and the debates, there is a serious degree of misinformation—misinformation about the notion of “equality”, about how to ask the right questions, about human rights and where they come from, about how to define marriage, about how to understand human nature. And, finally, who is to decide?

Is it a matter of faith? Or is it a matter of reason? Can we afford to throw out both one and the other?

Some Christians are quick to point out that homosexual acts are offensive to God, that God made man for woman, and woman for man, and that this is the essence of marriage. Other Christians are equally quick to point out that God is merciful and desires the salvation of every soul. Perhaps these two approaches are not mutually exclusive. After all, a true parent is both loving and firm, merciful and just.

But again, what if society decides to do away with the “faith” dimension? And, moreover, to ignore the obvious truth that traditional marriage is founded on the natural complementarity of male and female which, in turn, is ordered to procreation, the preservation of the human race? Then we shall have to bear the consequences, all of us without exception, knowing that past civilisations have risen and fallen with the ebb and flow of their moral integrity.

It’s not merely that we’re debating who can marry whom. It’s that we are questioning the very foundations of thought and liberty. In such an atmosphere, where the debate ranges from civil discussion to open hostility, the realisation that we are no longer certain about the basics of human nature has slowly, eerily dawned upon us.

Whether or not you agree with the traditional definition of marriage, whether or not you think we can ignore this question, whether or not we arrive at a resolution, one thing is certain: there is a sense that something has gone wrong, that the foundations of human existence have been shaken and disturbed.

Like the Hobbits in “Lord of the Rings” who were persuasively removed from their beloved Shire, we feel as though we have been robbed of our true culture. Nothing will be right for the Hobbits until they can return safely home, even if in the meantime they must confront the darkest forces in the world. Nothing will be right for us until we can return to the truth about human nature, even if in the meantime we must confront competing ideologies and various humanisms and half-truths.

If a nation throws out both “faith” and “reason” then it is already in grave danger.

Nevertheless, the Lord revealed to Saint Faustina that “Mercy is God’s greatest attribute.” (Diary 301). This means, of course, that sometimes mercy triumphs over justice, which is what happened on the Cross when Christ freely poured out His Blood for us. God’s real desire is to save our souls, no matter how much we deceive ourselves, no matter how much we resist His calls and inspirations, no matter how much we despise His words and commandments.

While some accept some religious authority on the question of marriage, others do not.

Be that as it may, the homosexual question has been so politicised that it has created problems and misconceptions on many levels. The only way forward is a dispassionate presentation of the truths which to a great extent have remained unknown, truths such as: (1) preserving traditional marriage and maintaining respect for homosexual persons are not mutually exclusive; (2) affirming the dignity and worth of a human being does not entail agreeing with their opinions; (3) homosexual persons in Australia are no longer discriminated against (see the Same Sex Relationships Act of 2008); (4) changing the Marriage Act could potentially rob all Australians of the freedoms of speech, association, conscience, and education; (5) human rights do not come out of nowhere—they have a foundation in reality, in human nature, in our capacities, in our real purpose.

But while you might proclaim such truths and meet with varying degrees of success, there is another, more subtle, more dangerous consequence to the idea of a “vote” on marriage. Think about this for a moment. If the majority voted in favour of telling lies or stealing goods or killing an innocent human being, would that suddenly make it “lawful” to commit such acts? Which, of course, begs the question: What is the “good”? Surely, the good has to be good for everyone.

But let’s put such philosophical considerations aside, shall we? The realists in our society, those who courageously confront this grave moment in Australia’s march through history, are quick to remind us that our fundamental freedoms are now up for grabs. Right now in the hallowed halls of the Australian parliament. The freedoms and rights which we have long enjoyed in Australia are no longer guaranteed for us. The Australian people are on the threshold of a profound cultural and political turning point. This will make or break our long standing traditions and rights and freedoms.

So what good is it to bring to people’s attention the religious or philosophical foundations of the marriage debate? The point is that, win or lose, ideas have consequences in real life. The point is that our senators are currently positioning themselves in a vote for or against the rights and freedoms of Australians.

What are the possible outcomes? At best, changes to the Marriage Act could be reconciled with the fundamental rights and freedoms of all Australians. At worst, we could lose the foundations of a liberal democracy as we know it.

But who cares, you might ask? That’s the real the question.

And even if the Australian government were to pass an unjust or inappropriate or inconvenient law tomorrow—that would not stop us from being genuine activists, would it? It would not stop us from fighting for human dignity, on one level or another. You can’t legislate against the creative power of the human spirit; you can’t legislate against love; you can’t stop the human spirit from rising above the limitations of the prevailing culture. There will always be room for the creative freedom of men and women of good will to recreate culture, and to recreate the world.

Is this marriage debate really about equality or about pointing the finger at homosexual persons? And if not, then what really is the nature of this present moment that we face as Australians?

Janet Albrechtsen gave a succinct answer in The Australian (15 November 2017, ‘Forget Hurt Feelings, Free Speech is a Birthright’): “The outcome of this contest is not just a matter for gay people and religious people. It’s a matter for all of us in a liberal democracy. It will settle, one way or another, whether the country can finally confront and reconcile a 30-year project aimed at the sustained corruption of classical liberal ideas of universal human rights.”

Such universal human rights are what we are now having to fight for in Australia when these rights ought to be unconditionally protected and preserved by our politicians.

What good is it to remind the world that God punishes a nation for its sins when Christians themselves fail in their Christian duty? What good is it for a minority group to cry for equality when obvious features of our human nature are wilfully denied? Can we really solve this problem by fuelling a minor social conflict into a nationwide debate without careful consideration of all the relevant questions?

I don’t think so.

There are philosophical presuppositions in the debate which need to be corrected. There are false dichotomies which need to be resolved. There are social ills and misconceptions which need to be healed with love and truth, not merely legislated. The greater responsibility lies with us who believe in Jesus Christ, not with those who do not yet know the Lord.

“If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” (2 Chronicles 7:14)

As Pope Saint Pius V said: “All the evils in the world are due to lukewarm Catholics.” And in the words of Khalil Gibran: “The true wealth of a nation lies not in its gold or silver but in its learning, wisdom and in the uprightness of its sons.”

Perhaps it’s time that Christians took the Lord’s words seriously: “You are my friends if you do whatever I command you” (John 15:14). Those who are friends of the Lord are in a position to call down blessings on an entire nation, to intercede to God for the outpouring of His mercy, and to raise up a new generation of sanctified souls in the service of the well-being of the whole nation.

St Francis and the Final Era

In 1257, just over thirty years after the death of Saint Francis, the Franciscan Order was nearly at breaking point. The fierce conflict between those Franciscans who purportedly wanted to adhere to the real spirit of Francis of Assisi’s life (the “Spirituals”) and those Franciscans who wanted a more conservative, monastic type of existence (the “Conventuals”) had been raging for years. This conflict was further intensified by different interpretations of the prophecies of Joachim of Fiore.

At this time Father Bonaventure was called to take leadership of the Franciscan Order in order to restore stability. He had been teaching theology at the University of Paris and was now required to mediate between the two factions within his own Order.

Two years later Bonaventure withdrew into private retreat on Mount Alverna, where St Francis had received the Stigmata, to seek guidance and to discover more deeply the spirit of St Francis. He apparently had some kind of mystical experience at this time and emerged something of a transformed man.

We do not know what was the nature of his mystical experience but when Bonaventure returned to govern the Order his teaching took on a new direction. Over a period of about twenty years he began to unfold a new understanding of Franciscan spirituality and eschatology, which culminated in a series of most interesting lectures grouped together under the title, “Collations On The Six Days”.

St Bonaventure explained in this work that Saint Francis of Assisi would in the future bring about a new order of Franciscans completely transformed into the likeness of Christ. These holy people would be perfectly conformed to St Francis’s spirit, be fully enlightened as to the meaning of the Sacred Scriptures, be completely surrendered to the Holy Spirit, and would usher in a final era of perfect peace in the world before the Second Coming of Christ.

In 1969 Father Joseph Ratzinger (later Pope Benedict XVI) published an in-depth study of St Bonaventure’s work and, amongst other things, wrote:

“Like so many other masterpieces of scholarship, Bonaventure’s interpretation of the creation-account has remained incomplete. Neither he nor Aquinas were permitted to finish the real Summa of their lives….. Nonetheless, it does form a unified whole, and the basic lines intended by Bonaventure are unmistakable.

“At the vanishing-point of his theology of history we find the very same word which Augustine had used at the close of his ‘City of God’, which in itself is so different from the work of Bonaventure. That word is peace: ‘And then there will be peace.’ But for Bonaventure, this peace has come closer to earth.

“It is not that peace in the eternity of God which will never end and which will follow the dissolution of this world. It is a peace which God Himself will establish in this world which has seen so much blood and tears, as if at least at the end of time, God would show how things could have been and should have been in accordance with His plan.

“Here the breath of a new age is blowing; an age in which the desire for the glory of the other world is shaped by a deep love of this earth on which we live. But despite the difference that may separate the work of these two great Christian theologians, still there is a basic unity; both Augustine and Bonaventure know that the Church which hopes for peace in the future is, nonetheless, obliged to love in the present; and they both realise that the kingdom of eternal peace is growing in the hearts of those who fulfil Christ’s law of love in their own particular age. Both see themselves subject to the word of the Apostle: ‘So there remain faith, hope, and love, these three. But the greatest of these is love’ (1 Corinthians 13:13).”

From: “The Theology of History in St Bonaventure”, by Joseph Ratzinger, pages 162, 163.

Leba Sleiman

Feast of St Maximilian Kolbe, OFM.

When My Own Designs

When my own designs in life are frustrated and I feel like a failure, I might stop and consider the will of God. When my own strategies and ideas come to naught and I feel like a fool, I might begin to seek the wisdom of God. When my own strength fails me and I feel all alone in this world, it’s time to discover the grace of God and the power of trust in Him.

Jesus said, “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” St John 15:4,5.
Lord Jesus, in difficult moments grant me to realise that, if You allow me to fall, it is only to draw me back into the Loving Heart of God, wherein is my true beatitude, and to place all my confidence in You. Amen.

Saint John Paul II

Today 2nd April 2015 is exactly ten years since John Paul II passed away.

St John Paul II, clothed in Jesus Christ you walked through so many dangers and troubles in this world and you rose to victory even in this life, taking countless souls with you, and inspiring the whole world to believe in God’s goodness and mercy. Pray for us that we may keep our eyes on the Truth, always be filled with hope, and learn to overcome in Christ, to the glory of God and for our eternal welfare. Amen.

Justice or Mercy?

If God is infinitely merciful then why do we often fear His justice? The fact is that we are always confronted, consciously or unconsciously, with the choice between trust and fear, between faith and doubt. We are never exempt from responding to God’s invitations, we are never deprived of God’s help and grace, and we are never so liberated as when we believe in the Truth.

Yesterday, as I was conversing with a friend regarding this or that course of action in a particular situation, she told me quite sincerely that she would be very careful not to offend God in her choice. That was great, I thought, but something in her voice hinted that she had more fear than trust, that God’s justice loomed larger in her mind than God’s mercy. I wasn’t really sure. In any case, I felt, this is not so much an isolated incident as it is (perhaps) a widespread phenomenon. And, in any case, isn’t God’s mercy greater than His justice?

Continue reading Justice or Mercy?

O Breathe In Me

O breathe in me Your spirit of Life, Lord Jesus, and grant me to breathe all my weakness in You. O breathe in me Your spirit of Wisdom, Lord Jesus, and grant me to breathe all my thoughts in You. O breathe in me Your spirit of Love, Lord Jesus, and grant me to breathe all my desires in You.

That It May Please You, Lord

St Gertrude the Great was born on this day, 6th January, the Feast of the Epiphany.

The following prayer was made by St Gertrude when she noticed that, relying on her own strength, she was inclined to waste the graces of God, particularly the grace of God’s presence with which The Lord had favoured her:

“And that it may please You [Lord] to preserve this precious grace in me, I offer You that excellent prayer which You uttered with such amazing fervour when sweating blood in agony, and which the burning love of Your Divinity and Your pure devotion rendered so efficacious; beseeching You, by virtue of this most perfect prayer, to draw and unite me entirely to Yourself, that I may remain inseparably attached to You.”

Past Present and Future

“O My God
When I look into the future, I am frightened,
But why plunge into the future?
Only the present moment is precious to me,
As the future may never enter my soul at all.
It is no longer in my power,
To change, correct or add to the past;
For neither sages nor prophets could do that.
And so, what the past has embraced I must entrust to God.
O present moment, you belong to me, whole and entire.
I desire to use you as best I can.
And although I am weak and small,
You grant me the grace of your omnipotence.
And so, trusting in Your mercy,
I walk through life like a little child,
Offering You each day this heart
Burning with love for Your greater glory.”

Saint Faustina’s Diary, paragraph 2

Prayer Moves The Heart Of God

Prayer moves the Heart of God and opens one’s own heart to God’s presence. Prayer averts dangers, obtains blessings, and sows the seeds of sanctity. In prayer God loves and communes with the soul in secret and leads the soul to ever greater degrees of intimacy and union with God, ever greater degrees of love.