An Insight of God’s love in Math

Whenever I mentioned that I see God in Mathematics, people always shrugged and commented that one shouldn’t define God with Mathematics, or reduce God to numbers. That’s like saying one shouldn’t talk about God in their language, or describe God in words!

Mathematics is a language itself. If we believe that we are born in the image of God, then our logic that leads to the development of all languages or subjects came from the same source.  Therefore, while it is only logical that some prefers writing about God in traditional languages, I enjoy connecting our concepts of God to what I learn in Mathematics.

 

So, this morning I read a blogpost http://tywkiwdbi.blogspot.ca/2017/04/099999999-is-equal-to-1000000.html that explains that 0.99999999…is equal to 1.

 

As the article suggests, thinking of subtracting 0.99999……..from 1 gives us 0.  That is, 0.00000…….   is  0.

Intuitively, our minds, however,  think of the “1” at the end of a very, very long string of “0”s in 0.000000000……

Here is the neat little insight: We can never pin point where that “1” is anymore at the end of the string of 0’s. Is there an end to the string at all? If you look at the “0”s as God’s infinite love for us that push away our sins, or how He forgives us of our sins, you will understand that the “1” sin you committed only carries in your mind, but not God’s. He forgives you when you ask for it, so why can’t you let it go yourself?

How g(x) = 1/x expresses Matthew 16:24?

In Matthew 16:24, we have

Then Jesus told his disciples, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me…

This actually explains Peter’s problem when he denied Jesus three times in the high priest’s courtyard following the arrest of Jesus. He was a righteous person all along, the first one to answer Jesus as the Son of God at Caesarea Philippi, the one that Jesus handed the keys of the kingdom of heaven. However, Peter was so sure of himself that he did not believe what Jesus said he would do.  Peter trusted his own wisdom too much and had trouble denying himself.  Denying oneself is the key to be in union with Christ!

Recently, I came across a painting by Emily Carr, titled “Scorned as Timber, Beloved by the Sky”. It’s part of the Collection of the Vancouver Art Gallery and can be viewed on its website. I know nothing about art and nothing in particular about this painting. However, it makes me think of how one denies his own wishes and all interruptions and just reaches out to God. As I ponder on the message of Matthew 16:24 and this painting, the mathematician in me led me to think of my kind of art, a simple functiongcomp.jpg.

The interesting fact about this function is that

the greater the x, the less is g(x).

The more proud we are of ourselves, the more we act on our own wishes and collect our gains in this world, the further we move away from God!

Now, if we were able to deny ourselves completely, setting x to 0, then we would achieve the impossible g(0). It is common for mathematicians to denote a value that one cannot fathom as infinity infinity .

As one can never divide 1 by 0, the general notation of expression of  is

g0.

The infinity seems to point at the infinite power of God, our God Almighty!

So, here it is, a simple elegant function g

that reminds me of Matthew 16:24!

Several Minutes of Silence

I felt privileged and blessed to have the opportunity to attend a sacred music concert at the newly rededicated St. Michael’s Cathedral Basilica in Toronto on September 30th, 2016.

 

Articles about the restoration project of the Cathedral have been featured on all major newspapers. Reports on this beautiful sacred place in Toronto have been shown on local TV news channel. Praises and positive commentaries on the concert were all over social media. There are very few words that I can actually use to describe how beautiful is the building and how glorious were the sound of the choristers from the St. Michael’s Choir School and the tones from the beautiful Casavant organ played by organist William O’Meara that have not been used in all those reports yet.

True. I was blown away by how they managed to restore a Cathedral to its present glorious state. The statues, the detailing of every archway, the ceilings, every ornamental design on the beams, the light fixtures, the stained glass,… that was truly a feast for my eyes. Seriously, when my eyes could see so much more details than my digital camera could capture, I thanked God for his creation of our human eyes. I wonder what is the capacity of our eyes in terms of megapixels?!!

The choral music performed by the 275 members of the St. Michael’s Choir School was magnificent! Together with the organist and a brass ensemble, the choristers performed works across time, from Palestrina to Haydn, Bruckner to modern composers. They were really well done! Most important of all, the program was well chosen, showing reverence to the space and letting the glorious music showed the power of God.

All the above would be worthy for one to dwell on and to write a touching article. However, I want to talk about a magical moment that happened at 7 PM! As the booklet for the concert says,

booklet-t

The Cathedral’s capacity, I was told, would be around 1200.   Prior to 7 PM, people were entering the Cathedral, claiming their favorite spot to sit, walking around, taking pictures, or chatting with friends. The choristers had walked in 5 minutes earlier and were standing in place. The place was bustling with people and sounds. I was reading the program booklet when I noticed a sudden dead silence. At first, I thought someone important walked in but I did not see anything out of the ordinary from my spot in the choir loft with an unobstructed view. I looked at my watch and it was 7 PM. The silence was so pronounced that one usher walked up an aisle with a stack of program booklets in her hand and I could hear her every footstep clearly. The silence went on for about 7 minutes until Cardinal Collins, the Rector of the Basilica and the Director of the Choir School walked in and approached the ambo. During those 7 minutes or so of silence, the atmosphere was stunning.

Why would so many people in the Cathedral collectively willingly participating in this moment of silence? I really cannot explain the phenomenon. I did not hear an announcement asking for silence. I did not see anyone signaling people to quiet down. Except for the choristers standing at the edge of the Sanctuary, there was no movement by the altar in front of us. The only explanation that I can think of would be that our good old Catholic training, attending mass and learning to be silently praying in church trained us all to this stillness, but that still wouldn’t explain the “sudden” silence at 7 PM for so many minutes! We are talking about over 1000 people in the Cathedral here!

I remembered that after the first puzzling minute of silence, I found myself willingly staying quiet and sitting there by the pew. Personally, I just felt that I could use that time to clear out the noise and the chatter in my mind and in my heart.  I was anticipating a sacred music concert and needed that time of silence to properly prepare myself for the coming of the glorious sounds. Looking up at the ceiling of the Cathedral, there was a dove suspending from a light fixture.

dove

It seemed to symbolize the coming of the Holy Spirit among us, weaving through the music, reaching deep into our souls. Mother Teresa had said that

“In the silence of the heart God speaks. If you face God in prayer and silence, God will speak to you. Then you will know that you are nothing. It is only when you realize your nothingness, your emptiness, that God can fill you with Himself.”

Of course, there is also the famous line from St. Augustine saying that “he who sings prays twice.” Such is the power of music!

I would say that evening, in the St. Michael’s Cathedral Basilica, everyone faced God in prayer and in silence. I knew I went home after the concert with my heart enlightened and my spirit renewed. The Divine communicated with me in a very personal way and, more importantly, I experienced that power of silence.

What does Jesus Christ mean to you?

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I can tell you what I do as a person. Perhaps, I can even tell you why I do certain things a certain way because I am a Catholic. However, it will be difficult for me to give a two -lines answer to the question “What does Jesus Christ mean to me?” to a non-Christian on the spot.

At the 69th Ontario Catholic Women’s League Convention yesterday, Bishop McGrattan , Bishop of Peterborough, talked about the Year of Mercy and what it means for members of CWL. One of the points he asked us to think about is the need to evangelize. Of course, to evangelize, one has to engage someone else in a conversation on Jesus Christ, but how many of us can readily give a concise answer to the question: What does Jesus Christ mean to you?

 

So, after pondering on this for some time, I think I will say:

If spirituality means living the tensions of life, then being a Christian means living those tensions by following Christ’s example. In order to do that, one must get to know Christ and his Church.

God reveals himself to us in many ways. He shows us who he is through his creations. Sometimes, he talks to us directly. Other times, he might give us subtle hints. These revelations are, unfortunately, often missed. Fortunately for us, God also gives us his divine revelation through Christ. Now, here is someone’s life that we have a record of in our Bible. The teachings of Jesus Christ are studied and contemplated on through and through by the Church, which are presented to us as our Church teachings. Living the tensions of life, therefore, gets easier, if we pay attention to the Word and get to know our Church teachings.

During the past December, when my family was confronted with the impending death of my father, my children asked if we should carry on with our usual joyous celebration of Christmas. It was a very confusing time. On one hand, we had our Christmas celebrations planned out and were looking forward to the excitement, the anticipation, our Christmas experience at church, and our Christmas concert (which happened to be our 100th sharing) at a local seniors’ residence. On the other hand, we were constantly waiting by the phone, waiting for updates on my father’s condition, or sharing our sadness with relatives and close friends. Talking about tensions of life! Of course, God seems to be always ahead of us… The topic of my December session at my CPM course happened to be “The Mystery of Christ.” A section of the course was on how Jesus taught us to be human and another section on the meaning of his death. After taking in all that I could that session, it was surprisingly easy for me to announce to my family that it would be even more important for us to celebrate Christmas during those agonizing weeks. Without Christ, there would be no hope. Without Christ, there would be no meaning to our lives.

So…What does Jesus Christ mean to you?

 

 

How to Evangelize?

On Jan 13th, Fr. Dwight Longenecker  @dlongenecker1 wrote 10 Reasons Why Catholics Don’t Evangelize. http://www.patheos.com/blogs/standingonmyhead/2016/01/ten-reasons-why-catholics-dont-evangelize.html

I think his #6 Ignorance, or (I think) feeling ignorant, is really the main reason why Catholics don’t evangelize. At least, ignorance will explain the other 9 points. However, the article screams out another question:

How do we actually evangelize?

We have all heard that it is necessary to evangelize, but so many of us are cradle Catholics. It’s not like we have watched someone evangelizing to ourselves. So, how do we start?  Assuming that one can put aside the feeling of ignorance in our own church teachings, where do we start? I don’t really think shouting on top of your lungs at a busy road intersection will work.

I am definitely not qualified to answer this on my own, but I happened to have read a few articles/webpage/book in the last few days that when I put the information all together, it presents itself like a nice if-or flowchart-type mindset of instructions to evangelize. Let me share it here.

 

  1. I have this gut feeling that there might be more introverts than extroverts among all Catholics. (This might actually be a good pew research topic.) Anyway, if you are an introvert, you really probably won’t go out to the street and meet a stranger and talk to that person about God and religion. So, it looks like the best way is for you to go out there and perform some good works, be it volunteering or donating. Basically, anyway to show how a Christian should act. Let your action shows God’s love. After all, God is love and that’s the message that you want to present to someone who has never met God.
  2. Now, you might have the curiosity of others and they want to know why you act in the way you do. When this opportunity arises, talk about God is love and God loves them.
  3. If you still have their attention, then go ahead and talk about whether one can be “good” without God. Really, tell them why you need God to guide you to do “good”. Personal stories are the most attractive. Let them reflect. (Here’s @catholiccom article on “Can you be Good without God?” http://www.catholic.com/blog/todd-aglialoro/can-you-be-good-without-god )
  4. If they conclude that they need God, then proceed and talk about Christ.
  5. Now, if your aim is to invite the other to join your Catholic church, talk about how we meet Christ at mass, how God forgives us when we join in communion and participate in the Eucharistic meal, how we are the Body of Christ, and how we are embraced by his love among the rituals at mass.
  6. If you need to invite Catholics who left the church earlier to come back and join us again, you will need to talk about the difference between a theist and a Christian, how being a Christian means being with people whom we can see, even if it means standing among people that you like or not. (It might be worth reading Rolheiser, Ronald. The Holy Longing: The Search for a Christian Spirituality. New York: Doubleday, 1999. Print. P. 61-62.)

 

I know this seems like a set of simple instructions, but I think having instructions is better than not having any at all. At least, I think it’s worth a try. I am going to try this for the next few years.  Perhaps, I will write another blog a few years down the road; Or, I might just write another set of instructions.

Welcome to WHY@Breakfast

I love to learn more about the Catholic Church teachings and love to learn with others!

A few years ago, while sipping my coffee in a local cafe on a Saturday morning, I saw a few parishioners who were enjoying their cup of Joe, reading the local paper.  I had this aha moment of why weren’t we all sitting in our church Parish Centre, sharing information with each other? 

As a cradle Catholic, I have always felt that I adopted a lot of “traditions” without asking, going along with the motions.  I am pretty sure there are meanings behind a lot of those traditions.  If they were taught to me when I was in elementary school, I am sorry to say I did not retain much from those years.  I was also confident that I was not the only Catholic in this predicament of ignorance.  If professionals need to take courses or attend seminars for continuing education points for the renewal of their status every year, it makes sense to me that Catholics should have some good system for their “continuing education.”

In December of 2011, with the question  “Why does the church talk about Mary if Jesus is our Savior?”, I organized the first WHY@Breakfast talk at my parish St. Michael’s Church in Waterloo, Ontario. I invited Anne Jamieson from the Catechesis offices of our Diocese of Hamilton to gave a presentation on Mary to about 30 parishioners on a Saturday morning.  It was a very enjoyable experience where everyone were enjoying their breakfast with coffee/tea, absorbing in valuable information.

Since then, I have been organizing two to three talks every year at St. Michael’s.  The support of my pastor and the sponsorship of St. Michael’s Catholic Women’s League for the speakers and  the food were amazing!

Our list of topics to this date include angels and demons, purgatory, human sexuality, forgiveness, recognizing Trinity in humanity, etc.

The goal of these presentations is to inform Catholics on our church teachings on various topics, dispelling myths and to give directions to those who would like to dig deeper into the topics.  I do hope to continue organizing WHY@Breakfast either at St. Michael’s or elsewhere.  It’s fun to learn and it’s so much more enjoyable to have others learning with me!

Soli Deo Gloria!

-Therese