Sunday, February 26, 2006

The true meaning of lent

Lent,a time of unselfish sacrifice

Once again we are in the season of Lent. Lent carries different meaning for different people. To us Catholics it should be a reminder of the ultimate sacrifice of Christ, who laid down his life on the cross for us. There is no greater love than that ultimate sacrifice of Christ.

To some of us fasting, abstinence, the way of the cross and prayer are what Lent is all about. To others it is a time of abstinence from the pleasures of our senses. This may be true to some extent but these acts are in a way are merely for our own selfish purposes and nothing more.

Christ did not die on the cross for his selfish needs. No human being will allow himself to be crucified for his selfish reasons. As the followers of Christ, we are asked to emulate that ultimate sacrifice of Christ, the crucifixion.

We need not literally lay down our lives for others but we can sacrifice some precious possessions of ours - our time, energy and wealth for the betterment of fellow someone in need. At the same we can give up something which we all possess in abundance - pride, selfishness, ego, anger and greed which impede in our endeavors to serve others.

Do we see Jesus in people whom we meet daily – our spouse, our children, our parents, our boss and fellow colleagues in the office, the poor and hungry, the sick and the dying, the handicapped, the sinner, the orphans, our priests and members of our BECs.?

Are we willing to forgive and offer our hand of friendship to our enemies and those who sin against us? Are we sensitive to the needs of others around us, or do we close our eyes and ears to their cries of plea? Are we willing to go down to the level of the downtrodden to help them? Are we willing to patiently listen to those in distress? Are we willing and brave enough to speak out against injustice wherever it occurs?

These are some issues we must ponder during this season of Lent. We must consider them in the light of Christ’s ultimate sacrifice, the crucifixion.

The real meaning of Lent is unselfish sacrifice, not for our well-being but that of others. Fasting, abstinence and prayer are just a means to help us achieve that goal.

We are asked to become holy and our holiness in God,like that of Mother Teresa,should be for the benefit of mankind.

Dr.Chris Anthony

Let's stand up to injustice

Let’s emulate Mary to fight injustice

The article “Standing under the cross” by Fr.Ron Rolheiser (Herald, Jan 29,06) seems to be very relevant to us, Christians and other minority group, in Malaysia today. The last paragraph summarizes the actual situation we are in and what we should do as Christians.

“Sometimes darkness has its hour and there is nothing we can do to stop it. Sometimes the blind, wounded forces of jealousy, bitterness, violence, and sin cannot, for that moment, be stopped. But, like Mary under the cross, we are asked to "stand" under them, not in passivity and weakness, but in strength, knowing that we can't stop the crucifixion but we can help stop some of the hatred, anger, and bitterness that surround it”.

Lately a number of ugly incidents in the country appear to show that a sense of hatred is being instilled against those of differing race or faith.

We are denied our constitutional rights as equal citizens in our own beloved country in the fields of education, job opportunities and in religious practice.

We witness today the very laws and practices that were so dear to us being blatantly trampled upon with no reprisal from the governing enforcement authorities. The people whom we elected to protect our rights fail us miserably. Our peaceful protests and sincere suggestions for reform not only fall on deaf years but at times backfires as being branded racist.

The final outcome is fear and anxiety over what is in store for us in the future. As victims of these abuses we, watch helplessly as our hopes and aspirations are crucified on the cross of injustice and repression.

Unfortunately abuses of similar nature have also crept into our Catholic communities. We witness the abuses of the over-dominating spouse, the tyrant parents, the disobedient and rebellious children, the unreasonable and over-demanding boss in the work place and the dictator-like priests and church leaders.

We too, like Mary, are not able to stop the crucifixion but should stand under the cross in silent prayer to absorb the anger and hatred that ensues from these abusive acts. At the same time let us rid of all evil and greed from our hearts.

With so much of problems surrounding us today, our priests have gone into “hiding” for two long weeks to reflect and deliberate on the past and present and subsequently to plan the future destiny of our church in Malaysia.

We hope and pray that when they return, we will recognize the rekindled glow of the love of Christ in them, ready to be shared with us all so that we can together build a better Malaysai for all.

Dr.Chris Anthony

Openness and dialogue the Christian way

Let us be open and engage in dialogue

The church has rightly chosen the theme “Openness and dialogue” for the months of February 2006.The NEWBEC bulletins contain a detailed explanation of this theme.

I do hope our bishops and priests would have also discussed and reflected on this important issue of openness and dialogue during their PPMC III.

Openness and dialogue is of utmost importance in the administration of any organization. An organization is administered for the benefit of its members, without whom the organization fails to exist. This important fact has to be the main consideration of the leaders and administrators of any organization when dealing with problems of that institution. The church is no exception.

A lot of problems in the world and our country are the result of failure to practice openness and dialogue. Laws and policies are implemented unilaterally without proper dialogue and discussion with the people.

Problems like racial discrimination and religious intolerance are classified as sensitive thereby not subject to open dialogue. They are pushed under the carpet only to crop up later with much more serious consequences. How can inter-faith unity and tolerance be developed if the Muslims refused to participate in any such dialogue with non-Muslims?

Openness and dialogue are also essential in the church, which is an organization of the followers of Christ. The priest is the special representative of Christ in this organization, who guides, advises and at times reprimands us, based on the true teachings of Christ himself. As lay members of that organization, we hold our priest in high esteem, although as normal humans he has the same weaknesses as any of us.

Failure to comply with these 2 principles, gives rise to a lot of problems in our parishes from time to time. Very often we have an authoritarian priest who fails to listen to the people, bulldozing his views and ideas despite strong protest and opposition from the people. We also have the over-demanding and suspicious people who will never be satisfied whatever is done. These people fail to appreciate the human weaknesses of the priests.

As leaders of families we must be open and engage in dialogue with our spouse, children, sibblings and even in-laws to solve problems that we may encounter. Majority of family problems arise out of minor misunderstandings which can be overcome only if we are open minded and prepared for dialogue.

The Catholic Church should take the lead to establish this openness and dialogue in dealing with problems with its congregation. We should not expect the government to be open when we ourselves are far from it.
So let us just not preach but put into practice what we preach. As Gandhi said “an ounce of practice is worth more then tons of preaching”.

Dr.Chris Anthony

Politicians cause of racial segregation

Religion being used for political reasons

At last,Datuk Mohd Nazri, the minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, has admitted the shocking fact that politicians have used Islam for fishing votes at the expense and detriment of the nation. The greater shock is the admission that they have done despite them not believing in it (Malaysiakini,Feb.23)

It is very sad that today our politicians have to resort to use religion for their misguided political ambitions. By doing so the sanctity of the religion is trampled upon. Little due they realize that they are doing a disservice to their own faith.
His advice is for secular minded Muslims is to speak up. There are millions of these people but the government prefers them to remain silent. In fact if it is really serious in the voice of the silent majority, it should give more pace for freedom of expression of their opinion and suggestions.

In fact every criticism of the administration, of whatever nature, is cleverly manipulated by the powers- that- be into racial or religious ones thereby silencing the public. In fact the Malaysian public displays more tolerance and restraint despite being subjected to the frequent assaults by the politicians in this respect.

Lawyer, Haris Ibrahim, rightly pointed out that we may be held to ransom by Islamic hardliners and we don’t want to surrender this beautiful nation to a few people or hardliners who pretend to speak for the majority. In fact it is true, not only in Islam but issues as well, that the more aggressive and vociferous minority dominates the politics of every organization with no consideration for the real masters, the rakyat.

Unless we understand and follow the true precepts of our faiths, abuses of these misguided minorities would continue to rule and no reason or logic would make any sense to them.

Dr.Chris Anthony