Monday, September 21, 2015

Anyone who welcomes a little child in my name, welcomes me


Last Sunday’s Gospel reading from Mark 9:30 -37 was very meaningful as the message that I took home was very relevant to our lives today. I was particularly impressed by what Jesus told his disciples when he saw them arguing which of them was the greatest.
Jesus was very clear with his answer to that question, 'If anyone wants to be first, he must make himself last of all and servant of all.'  He then took a little child whom he set among them and embraced, and he said to them, 'Anyone who welcomes a little child such as this in my name, welcomes me; and anyone who welcomes me, welcomes not me but the one who sent me.' 
These may be very simple words but are extremely powerful as they imply something is so rampantly wrong in our society today. Everybody wants to become first in everything and they will do anything to remain first but none are willing to do the right thing and be the last. Our leaders have become masters but they are not willing to serve those whom they are supposed to serve. In our own church despite the Pope repeatedly asking the priests to be the servants they remain masters of the people. They become of the cause of many people leaving the church and do nothing to reconcile with them. We too may be in positions of power but are we willing to serve those under our care? 
Jesus went on to demonstrate his point by asking his disciples to be like a little child who is innocent and knows or does no evil, whose heart is clean with no hatred for anyone. He asked them to see God in little children and welcome them into their lives.
The following video illustrates these fine qualities in children – forgiveness, goodwill and love which should become our ways as well. We cannot say we welcome God into our lives if we do not adopt these values into our own lives.

Gospel, Mark 9:30-37
30 After leaving that place they made their way through Galilee; and he did not want anyone to know,
31 because he was instructing his disciples; he was telling them, 'The Son of man will be delivered into the power of men; they will put him to death; and three days after he has been put to death he will rise again.'
32 But they did not understand what he said and were afraid to ask him.
33 They came to Capernaum, and when he got into the house he asked them, 'What were you arguing about on the road?'
34 They said nothing, because on the road they had been arguing which of them was the greatest.
35 So he sat down, called the Twelve to him and said, 'If anyone wants to be first, he must make himself last of all and servant of all.'
36 He then took a little child whom he set among them and embraced, and he said to them,
37 'Anyone who welcomes a little child such as this in my name, welcomes me; and anyone who welcomes me, welcomes not me but the one who sent me.'

Wednesday, September 09, 2015

Prayer for our nation in crisis

Lord, our Father Almighty, today our beloved country is in total turmoil, social, economic and political. The country that we were born and love so much in going through very difficult times. There is economic and political instability, injustice, racial discrimination and massive corruption. There is blatant abuse of power and the breakdown of law and order. The very people entrusted to protect us are threatening to harm us. There is breakdown of our cherished value system. Our system of justice has broken down. We are now living in fear, anxiety and hopelessness. The country that we slogged for with the hope it will give us a bright future for us and our children is now turning into a place of despair and possible doom.
In this depressing situation we turn to you Lord for your divine intervention to deliver us from all harm, evil and doom. Enlighten the minds of our leaders to lead us in the right direction. Grant them the wisdom to do the right thing for the people. Grant us peace and racial and religious unity and harmony.
Guide our people to shun away all forms greed and extremism and lead them in the path of righteousness, adopting goodwill and love for fellow Malaysians especially of different race and creed. Help us to get rid of the racist tendencies in our hearts and replace all hatred, suspicion and jealously with love, forgiveness and peace.
Lord look on us with mercy and forgive all our wrongs and return us and our nation back into the path of righteousness and peace. Grant peace and justice for every citizen and make us embrace one another in the brotherhood of love and compassion. 
In you we place our hope and trust.
God bless Malaysia

Tuesday, September 08, 2015

BM mass and national integration

Recently I attended a Sunday mass in Bahasa Malaysia(BM) in a slot which used to be usually scheduled for English. At the mass we were told that in future there will be BM mass every month. The reason given was that by not using BM we are distancing ourselves from the mainstream of national development. According to the priest the use of BM in mass will go a long way towards national integration which I doubt very much.

More than 50% of the congregation consisted of older parishioners, with a large proportion belonging to the senior citizen group. Being a senior citizen, like many others, was upset with the change of the regular Sunday mass from English to BM. This is not because I don’t love the national language or the country but because I am so used to English in mass and BM did not bring out the same sanctity as English. I was also disturbed at the repeated use of the word “Allah” at mass which I feel was unwarranted and artificial. In fact am more comfortable using the word Tuhan than Allah as the former was more meaningful to me, being brought up to think and speak in English.

I do not think we are ready for the switch as we all still think and converse in English not BM. Why deny our rights to worship just because you want to change more for of political reasons than spiritual sanctity. Change to BM may be inevitable in the long run with the younger generation but why the rush to do so?

The intension of the church may be noble in wanting to integrate itself with the national aspirations of the people by using BM but must it do it at the displeasure of its older congregation? To me our younger generation is being left out of national development not because the church is not using BM in its services but more so due to the failed education system that intentionally isolated our children from the very beginning for political reasons. Many of our children today can hardly converse well in BM, let alone getting integrated into national development.

By converting to BM in our Sunday services, we are just kidding ourselves into thinking that we will be acceptable in the mainstream of national development. We need more humane leaders with greater wisdom, goodwill and tolerance to accept everyone as equal citizens regardless of race and creed and it needs much more than using BM in our services.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

The priest with the heart for the poor

The parish that opted for Solidarity with the Poor
Published on: April 09, 2015
Anil Netto
St Anne’s Church in Bukit Mertajam may be better known for being the major Christian pilgrimage centre in the country. 
Within the parish, there is always plenty to do, the stuff the usual parish is involved in and more. But at the end of 2013, something happened. 
Parish priest, Fr Henry Rajoo, raised a question during a parish pastoral council meeting, “Do you see any direction we are moving towards?” 
“We were all ‘blur’,” he recalls. “We were just doing things for the sake of doing them. We were not taking the parish in any direction.” 
With Pope Francis moving the Church towards the poor, and Henry’s personal conviction drawing him in that direction, the priest asked, “Why don’t we, next year (2014), move towards being in solidarity with the poor? Maybe that will change our whole parish.” 
And so it came to pass: the parish adopted a theme along those lines. For the Kulim-born Henry, the journey toward this solidarity coincided with his own personal epiphany. 
The eighth child among nine siblings, his father a taxi-driver and his mother a rubber tapper, Henry was no stranger to poverty. “I know how we suffered when we were young. But I never felt a lack of facilities. Though we went through a hard time, there were no days when we were without anything to eat.” 
Entering the seminary at the age of 20, and now seated inside comfortable quarters, Henry has come a long way. “I am here now (at St Anne’s). It’s a nice place, isn’t it? It is like living in a bungalow. It’s a huge place...26 acres … a Security Department.” A battery of about a dozen cctv monitors with flickering images from all around the premises hangs on one side of his hall as if emphasising his point. “
I can run my life as I want. It looks like I am king of the kingdom! I realised one thing though: How am I to go on with this? Is it meaningful to live like this?” 
“There are plenty of poor in BM, and I never really reached out to them.”
A visit to the home of one of the church workers, however, changed all that. Henry recalls in vivid detail his trip to the low-cost flats where the family lived. “That’s a terrible place to go. The flats were not properly maintained. These people have no money to pay the maintenance fees. The water tank is leaking because someone had stolen a bronze device that stops the water from overflowing. ” 
The home was almost bare. The man of the house had run into difficulties with loan sharks after standing as a guarantor. 
Yet, he also pointed Henry to another home in the next block where someone in a household had committed suicide. The grieving widow, a homemaker, had five children. What would happen to the family? The question haunted Henry. 
“You see the reality? Well, something told me, what am I going to do with this? There must be a reason why all these things are coming my way.” 
He decided to visit the Hindu family bringing along some red packet money, which parishoners and pilgrims had handed to him, and some provisions. “I went inside. They were very respectful. I was from St Anne’s Church, living in a bungalow. And they were living in a simple home.” 
The bread-winner had used a hosepipe and hanged himself inside the bathroom. Why he died, no one seemed to know. 
While Henry was there, a stranger knocked at the door. “Hari itu, paper kata ada orang mati sini, kan?” he said. “Ada orang cakap, you banyak susah? Saya boleh tengok sekejap?” 
The stranger came in and looked around, and then asked the widow. “Apa you mahu? You cakap sekarang.” He jotted down what the widow said. Completing his list, he said, “Esok saya bawa.” He left and the next day, brought what she needed. 
Henry was amazed. “I didn’t know who he was. And I was thinking to myself. “What is charity, man? You come to help those who are struggling. He came in, he saw the need, and he addressed the need.” 
Thus began Henry’s journey, as he started helping the family. “By then I was telling stories of poor people in Mass and saying these are the real struggling people in our midst.” 
The money for the poor started flowing in. I told myself, “If I am not accountable, it is dangerous.” He started preparing his own accounts. 
The widow Henry helped put him in touch with another woman who had fled from domestic violence from her husband. She too had five children. They started putting him in touch with more people in need. 
Soon others wanted to join in the ministry. “We started buying more and more things. I was already helping 25 families. The group was getting bigger.” 
A structure was needed and a group was eventually set up, dubbed the Care and Concern Group. Henry decided to park this group within the Parish Human Development Committee headed by Dr Mary Fernandez, so there would be a layer of monitoring and accountability. 
Eventually, he told those handing him cash for the poor to hand over the money to the parish office, where a clerk would issue them with official reciepts. The accounts would be tabled monthly. 
The reaction of the parishioners was interesting. “Some of them, we can mould to help the poor; some of them would ask, ‘Why do we have to help the poor?’ Some of them have been ‘hit’ by the poor – perhaps a snatch thief. 
“I told them we can stand aloof. You can say, ‘I don’t want to help the poor.’” There was a lot of argument in the BECs though many of them cooperated, he recalls. 
“The participation from the parish is there. And I think people are seeing the difference. I find that people who resisted helping the poor in the beginning are now donating. Something must have touched them. 
“I realised one thing: the whole feeling when you reach out to the poor, there’s some kind of calmness, some kind of peace inside. I don’t know how to explain this. “
People will start realising how much they have and how much others don’t have. And that itself calms people down from the competitive mentality in society.” 
Henry then told those interested to bring their children along when they visit the poor. In the process of helping the poor, “have a chat with them and let your children listen. They themselves will learn how blessed they are in all that they have.” 
“My life has also changed,” says Henry. These days, he feels compelled not to waste and now opts to live a life of simplicity. 
The youthful-looking priest stresses the importance of personal contact with the poor, visiting their homes, and interacting with them — much like how Matthew 25:25 exhorts us. Motivating them and drawing them out of Poverty Land is key, he realises, though he concedes there are cases of high-dependence, where people are unable to work for various reasons. 
A realisation dawned. “I have the power to change (things). Today I can walk on the street and see one poor man, he has no money to eat lunch. I can buy lunch for him; I can change his life. Telling him somebody cares for him. I can’t do that for the rich, they don’t need me. But I can do that with the man on the street.” 
But it is not just a one-way traffic. “I realise also, spending time with (the poor man), communicating with him, it opens my mind, it challenges me to think what he is thinking and also to show him a kind of outlook of life that I want to listen to you, what’s your problem. 
“I personally feel this is what Christ was doing. He was giving life to the poor, when he was talking to them, when he was relating with them, when he was spending time with them. And I think that’s what Pope Francis has gone into. 
“If the Church goes into this, I tell you, it will make a big difference in the world. It is already happening...”


The priest with the heart for the poor

Today there are too many preachers and few doers. Fr.Hendry Rajoo is one of the few who does what he preaches and only preaches what he does. His humble beginnings may have contributed to his concern for the poor that takes him to the ground to see and experience personally the pain and suffering of the poor people. This had driven him to organize the various aid programmes for the poor in his parish of St.Anne in BM. In fact it is gratifying to note that he has adopted charity and solidarity with the poor as the main focus of his parish, in keeping with the teachings of Pope Francis that the church must be poor.
It is time for churches all over to realise the importance of being poor and show solidarity with the poor, suppressed and despised in society. Jesus was poor and he identified with the poor and as his followers we too should do likewise.

In last Sunday's second reading we read, "Whoever says, 'I know him' without keeping his commandments, is a liar, and truth has no place in him" (1 John 2:4). These are strong words that tell us we must keep Christ's commandments otherwise we cannot claim to his followers. His commandments are being poor and being one with the poorest of the poor.
Jesus didn't command us to build majestic buildings to house him but to seek him in the poor and needy. Ironically today we are more concerned with building big beautiful churches, huge pastoral centres and organize mammoth  feasts and elaborate celebrations to mark important days  but  have little time and money for the poor and needy in our midst,who matters most.
Fr.Henry is an inspiration for us to reach out to Jesus in the less fortunate in our midst. Jesus' commandments is not about rituals to cleanse ourselves but more about seeking him in the most difficult and desperate situations and in those in struggling in pain and agony in their lives. It is about charity, love and compassion for fellow men.
As Fr.Henry says,“There are plenty of poor in BM, and I never really reached out to them.”,so are there many poor among us,whom we have yet to reach out and discover. The question is whether we are willing come down from our pinnacle of comfort to look our for them.
Let us be like the amazing stranger who Fr.Henry described,"He came in, he saw the need, and he addressed the need.”