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The Attributes of a Chaldean Apostle 4 of 7 – Sacrifice / Charity
By Frank Dado :: Wednesday, April 29, 2009 :: 96529 Views :: Article Rating :: Religion & Spirituality, Opinion and Editorials

I am often asked by other Chaldeans, how am I to know if I am making God happy.  My response, “First, we must obey Him.  We must obey His laws and act in the way He has commanded.  We know this, based on how we behave.  We have been told that we are known by the fruit we bear; meaning our behavior and motivation. God calls us to obey Him, not man.  How we choose will determine our future.”

Fr. Michael Sisco compliments this message by challenging us to that simple question.   Are we to obey God or are we to obey men?  Our actions answer this question.  Some of us are blinded to how our actions please Jesus or offend him. Our actions are simply leaves to a tree of habit. That tree nourished or poisoned by its roots.  What Chaldeans should be most concerned with is the root of their tree and how the roots are nourished and fed to their branches and leaves.  The roots of every good Chaldean are nourished by two traits.  Traits Fr. Sisco makes clear.

Like Fr. Sisco, I too favor Ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est, which means Where charity and love are, God is there.   Charity and love is the sun and water for all Chaldean roots.  The music Fr. Sisco refers to is breathtaking and included, with transcription, in this article for readers who wish to listen and meditate on how they can strengthen their obedience to God. 

John's Lifestyle Summons Chaldeans to Heed God's Call

John the Baptizer's obedience to God was a lifestyle that challenged the values of our society even more than it did his own, and may demand the attention of Chaldeans in America and Europe even more than his preaching does.

In evil times corrupt prophets remain in royal courts as God's true messengers are forced into exile and ridiculed by society.  Remember, most Jewish people in the first century practiced their religion seriously; but the religious establishment could not accommodate a prophet like John whose lifestyle dramatically challenged the status quo. A prophet with a message and values like John's might not feel very welcome in many contemporary Western churches either.

John's life sends a message to complacent Chaldeans. In the Gospel according to Matthew we are told that John lived simply. Although God calls only some disciples to such a lifestyle, this lifestyle challenges all of us to adjust our own values. Others' needs must come before our luxuries, and proclaiming the kingdom is worth any cost.

For that matter, John's lifestyle, like that of St. Anthony, St. Francis, or Mother Teresa, may challenge affluent Chaldeans even more deeply than John's message does. John's lifestyle declares that he lived fully for the will of God, not valuing possessions, comfort or status. Blinded by our society's values, we too often preach a Christianity that merely "meets our needs" rather than one that calls us to sacrifice our highest desires for the kingdom. Too many Chaldeans live a religion that costs nothing, treats the kingdom cheaply and therefore does not demand saving faith. Saving faith includes believing God's grace so sincerely that we live as if his message is true and stake our lives on it. May we have the courage to trust God as John did, to stake everything on the kingdom and to relinquish our own popularity, when necessary, by summoning others to stake everything on the kingdom as well.

John Has an Uncomfortable Message for Chaldeans. 

Chaldean traditions acknowledge that we all need some repentance.  John's call to Chaldeans is powerful.  Salvation demands personal commitment, not merely being part of a religious or ethnic group. No one can take one's spiritual status for granted simply because one is Chaldean, Catholic, Jewish, or anything else. As the saying goes, God has no grandchildren; the piety of our upbringing cannot save us if we are not personally committed to Christ.

Many Chaldeans of today are as uncomfortable with John's call to repent, considering and believing it would radically affect the way we live. That John directs his harshest preaching toward religious people, like us Chaldeans (Mt 3:7) should also arouse some introspection on our part. The knowledge that all private thoughts will be brought to light (10:26) should inspire self-discipline when other humans are not watching. Our culture prefers a comfortable message of God's blessing on whatever we choose to do with our lives; God reminds us that His Word and not our culture remains the final arbiter of our destiny.

Can Chaldeans Fit between the Eye of the Needle

How are Chaldeans to be spared?  How are we to become "servants of God?”  We are to obey Him!  This is undoubtedly difficult.  John knows this. Jesus knows this and makes it clear that it would be easier for a camel to walk through an eye of a needle. 

Jesus employs a common figure of speech when he speaks of a camel passing through a needle's eye. As much as we want Jesus to have said something else, he said that the rich and powerful could barely enter the kingdom at all. This statement shocked the sensibilities of the disciples.   Presumably because many of their contemporaries viewed wealth as a mark of God's blessing, the disciples may have assumed that Jesus' standard for people who were not rich was even stricter. If not the rich, who then can be saved? Yet because God alone is good, salvation by merely human means is impossible for anyone.

Jesus had promised a man treasure in heaven if he followed him after he challenged Jesus to what it would take to enter heaven.  The foolish man preferred to keep his treasure on earth. The well-to-do young man of Mathew 19:16-22 was like some Chaldeans today. We want God to affirm that we are religious enough without costing us anything more than we have already been offering him. We trust only tentatively the value of heaven's kingdom and hence are prepared to sacrifice only little for it; but one who is not sufficiently convinced of the gospel's truth to sacrifice everything will not prove worthy of it. This is not to say that we are justified by our merit-we must receive the kingdom like a child as it teaches in Mathew 19:13-15. But genuine, saving faith is practically shown not by merely reciting a prayer but by living and sacrificing consistently with what we profess.

Jesus promises to more than make up for our sacrifices; do we believe him enough to sacrifice whatever our calling demands? This alone should challenge Chaldeans, virtually all of whom are among the wealthiest Chaldeans in the history of the world, to radical changes in their charity.

The disciples emphasize that they have forsaken all to follow Jesus, and he does not dispute their claim. Nevertheless, even once we have committed our lives to him, we must watch and pray to be ready for still other tests. Faced with loss of possessions, the rich young man walked away; faced with possible death, Jesus' disciples would later abandon him and flee.

Because families may oppose Christ's call to discipleship, a true disciple must be prepared to sacrifice more than just their possessions.  At times Chaldeans may be called to abandon their family for Christ's name. Jesus himself and probably many in Matthew's Jewish Christian audience had suffered rejection by their families, a pain felt similar in that culture as the rejection of family in ours.

The Chaldean emphasis on family values is important, but we must beware lest family become idolatry: for instance, parental opposition or concern for our children is not an adequate excuse to reject God's call to the mission field. In response to such sacrifices God multiplies our resources precisely because in the kingdom we find a new and larger family than the one we have left behind, and as a family true believers share their resources with one another.

In Matthew's context the lesson Jesus teaches is that those who sacrifice now and become least in this age will inherit the place of honor in the coming age. The disciples' reward in the kingdom will be commensurate with their sacrifice.

I rhetorically ask and answer again; how are Chaldeans to be spared?  We are to become "servants of God.”  How do we know God is there? 

Ubi Caritas et amor, Deus ibi est, / Where charity and love are, God is there.

 

Ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est,
Congregavit nos in unum Christi amor.
Exultemus, et in ipso iucundemur.
Timeamus, et amemus Deum vivum.
Et ex corde diligamus nos sincero.

Ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est,
Simul ergo cum in unum congregamur:
Ne nos mente dividamur, caveamus.
Cessent iurgia maligna, cessent lites.
Et in medio nostri sit Christus Deus.

Ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est,
Simul quoque cum beatis videamus.
Glorianter vultum tuum, Christe Deus.
Gaudium quod est immensum, atque probum:
Saecula per infinita saeculorum. Amen.

- Gregorian Chant / English translation from Thesaurus Precum Latinarum:

Where charity and love are, God is there.
Christ's love has gathered us into one.
Let us rejoice and be pleased in Him.
Let us fear and let us love the living God,
And let us love Him with a sincere heart.

Where charity and love are, God is there.
As we are gathered into one body,
Beware, lest we be divided in mind.
Let evil impulses stop, let controversy cease,
And may Christ be in our midst.

Where charity and love are, God is there.
And may we also with the saints,
Gloriously see Thy face, O Christ.
The joy that is immense and good,
Unto the ages through infinite ages. Amen.

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St. Thomas, MI USA

St. Thomas Chaldean Catholic Church
6900 Maple Rd.
West Bloomfield, MI 48322
Tel: (248) 788-2460
Fax: (248) 788-2153

Founding Pastor:
Rev. Hanna Cheikho

Current Pastor:
Rev. Frank Kalabat

Parochial Vicar:
Rev. Jirjis Abrahim

Rev. Emmanuel Rayes, Retired  


Rev. Frank Kalabat
 

Rev. Frank Kalabat was born in 1970 in San Diego, California and entered St. Francis Seminary of San Diego, California.  The admission to the Catholic seminary made him the first born U.S. Chaldean to enter an American seminary.  In 1992, Fr. Kalabat continued his studies at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit, Michigan.  In July 1995, shortly after graduation he was ordained as priest by His Excellency Bishop Ibrahim N. Ibrahim.  

Fr. Frank chose Mother of God Parish in Southfield, MI. as his first assignment serving the Chaldean community as an associate pastor for half a decade.  In 2001, Fr. Kalabat was elected to serve as Pastor of St. Tomas Parish in West Bloomfield, Michigan where he remains today.   

Rev. Jirjis Abrahim

Rev. Jirjis Abrahim was born in Telkaif, Iraq in 1942. Upon graduation Fr. Abrahim was admitted to St. Peter Chaldean Seminary in Baghdad, Iraq.  After a decade of studies and numerous degrees, Fr. Abrhim was ordained a priest in 1967.  He chose to continue ministering in Baghdad, Iraq.  There he was appointed the headmaster of the catechism at Mother of Sorrows Cathedral.  Fr. Abrahim also assisted St. Therese Church in Baghdad until 1978.  Afterward he was asked to assist St. Joseph Church in Baghdad and was appointed Parochial Vicar from 1978-1992. 

In 1992, Fr. Abrahim was called upon to assist the growing Chaldean population in Michigan.  Upon his arrival he was assigned to St. Joseph Church in Tory, Michigan.  Two years later Fr. Abrahim was asked to become the pastor of a Parish community in Windsor, Canada  where he remained the parish pastor until 2001.

Continuing demographic changes in Michigan required Fr. Abrahim to return to St. Joseph Parish in Tory as a Parochial Vicar, where he remained until 2006.  In 2006 he was elected to St. Thomas Parish as Parochial Vicar in West Bloomfield, MI. where he currently serves the Chaldean community.

 

Rev. Emmanuel Rayes

Rev. Emmanuel Rays was born in Araden, Iraq in 1930.  He studied at St. John Dominican Seminary and was ordained to the priesthood in 1954.  The Chaldean catholic ambassador ministered in northern Iraq from 1954-1963, in Syria and Lebanon from 1963-1980, and in the United Stated from 1980 to the present day.
 
Form 1980-1983, he was appointed associate pastor at Mother of God Parish in Southfield, Michigan.  From 1983-1989 he served as pastor at Sacred Heart Parish in Detroit, Michigan.  During the early 1990’s he ministered to the Chaldean community in Farmington Hills and was at St. Joseph Parish in Tory where he was Parochial Vicar until 2000.

Although Fr. Rayes retired in 2001, he remains active in serving the community.  He is the author of many articles in Arabic and is the editor-in-chief of the Al Mishal and Al-Tariq magazine.  He has translated and continues to translate many books from French and English into Arabic.