Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Washing of feet

Washing of feet, sign of extreme humility

We just celebrated Holy Week which culminated in Easter commemorating the resurrection of Jesus. On Holy Thursday we witnessed the priest washing the feet of the 12 “apostles”.

Unfortunately nowadays this ritual seems to be over- publicized, carried with pictures by all our leading national dailies as though it is a political event.

This act of Jesus was a revolutionary one which would have been scorned by those in power. By Jesus washing the feet of his apostles He has demonstrated the most extreme form of humility and love for man and this love resulted in the ultimate sacrifice of His life for us on the cross.

As the followers of Jesus, are we willing to demonstrate that humility and love for those below us? Are we willing to sacrifice whatever we can for the betterment of others? These are the questions we must pose to ourselves and ponder over them. We must follow Christ, to humble ourselves, to wash the feet of others especially those under our care.

Every year the priest makes it a point to wash the feet his twelve apostles. To many it is just a ritual and they do it as a show. They fail to understand that the act itself is reminder that they are the servants, not masters, of their parishioners. Instead of being of service to the people, they engage in all sorts of political game with them.

The washing of the feet is a lesson not only for the priests but for of us as well. It a lesson for us in our relationship with those we encounter daily - our spouse, our children, parents, priests, friends particularly our subordinates. Do we treat them with respect and love?

The washing of the feet is a clear demonstration of Christ’s second great commandment to us – love your neighbour as yourself. Mother Teresa had this great virtue of humility in abundance as she fulfilled this commandment to the fullest. Let us ask God to also give us this great virtue so that we can emulate her on earth.

Dr.Chris Anthony

Peninsula Malaysia Pastoral Convention III

Laity’s pre-PMPC III

The delegates to the laity pre PMPC III would be gathering at the end of April 2006 for their convention. As they go into their deliberations at the convention, our prayers will be with them, for its success.

We pray that God would enlighten their minds and give them all the necessary wisdom and courage to come up ideas and solutions to the many pressing problems of the Church today.

There is a general feeling among Catholics that the church today is slowly moving away from the true teachings of Christ. We hope the convention would provide the opportunity for open and constructive dialogue in the spirit of Christ.

Some of the present issues that need to addressed are: 1. Promoting unity and racial integration in the church 2. The declining morality among the youth 3. Creating awareness of the current socio-political developments in the country 4. Promoting Christian education that is on the decline 5. Promoting and developing BECs as basic functional units in the parish

I feel these issues need to be urgently addressed. The future of our church in Malaysia will depend on the how we address these problems today. We need all the feedback, ideas and opinion from every member of the church, either active or inactive.

The church authorities must make available avenues for this feedback and be open to them especially criticisms which are meant for the betterment of the catholic community as a whole.

Dr.Chris Anthony

Ninth Malaysia Plan(9MP)

Let’s pray for just implementation of 9MP

The Ninth Malaysia Plan(9MP) has been unveiled in parliament by Prime Minister,Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.There has been an overwhelming support for him from citizens of all walks of life.

One encouraging factor is his pledge that the 9MP will benefit every citizen, regardless of their race, religion and political alignment. This has given a ray of hope for us, the minorities, after all these years. It is also heartening to note that the Prime Minister himself has taken a deep personal interest in this plan and that he would go to the ground to monitor its implementation.

As citizens we must give whole hearted support to the prime minister and his team in ensuring the fair and just implementation of the 9MP. There should be no doubts in the minds of those involved in implementing the 9MP that the rakyat, regardless of race or creed, should be the ultimate benefactor of all the projects of the 9MP.

Public participation is of utmost importance in its delivery and in ensuring its success. All departments involved in the 9MP should be open to scrutiny and public feedback. This is an opportunity for us as Christians to offer feedback and suggestions and express our frustrations as members of the minority group. We must mobilize all our resources to provide the feedback and claim our rights as equal citizens of the nation.

Sad to say the church does not take a proactive role in the affairs of the state. We seem to be happy to just attend mass week after week and are not perturbed by what is happening around us. If we continue to be complacent, soon we would become irrelevant in the national agenda. The church must create this awareness among its congregation as it is vital to apply Christ’s teachings to what is happening around us.

Let us pray that God would guide the hearts and minds of all the officers involved in implementing the 9MP to carry out their duties without prejudice and ethnic discrimination. May they be guided by the Almighty to consider everyone as equal citizens of our beloved country, without mistrust and suspicion.

In this context, as Christians, we must take the lead. As we ask the government to implement its policies fairly, let us also examine ourselves to see whether we are doing the same to those under our care and those we deal with everyday.

Dr.Chris Anthony


Multi-language mass

Multi-language mass,benefits no one

I had the privilege of attending a Palm Sunday mass celebrated by Archbishop Emeritus Soter Fernandez . The Archbishop appeared to be pleased to celebrate the mass in English. He commented that today it has become fashionable to celebrate mass in all three languages which he termed “Rojak” mass.He was skeptical as to the real benefit it brought to the congregation.

During the tridium services of the Holy Week that followed, it was not just the 3 languages, English, Mandarin and Tamil. Bahasa Malaysia was also included and as I see it, this may not end there. In time to come I just wonder how many more languages are going to be added to this multi-language mass?

We had to sit through more than 2 hours of the service, just to actively participate for about 20 minutes of service in the any particular language we are conversant in. Our minds are left to wonder for the remaining one and a half hours. One can imagine how difficult it would be for the parents to control the children who become restless and agitated.

Multi-language masses have become a regular practice on most Sundays in many churches throughout the country. Does it have the impact on the congregation as a mass used to have? Most Catholics seem to say no.

The readings, homily and hymns are very important in the meaningful preparation of one’s mind and spirit for the all important Consecration of the bread and wine. Unless one is actively involved in this preparation in a language he is conversant, he cannot fully benefit from receiving Jesus.

Moreover it is the message of Christ in the readings and homily that we carry back to apply in our lives for the rest of the week. To really have an impact on the congregation, the readings, homily and singing must be in a language we are fluent in. As for me, I can say for sure that whenever I listen to a all the readings and a good homily in English, it remains in my memory for further discussion in the week with the members of the family.

As such the mass must be monolingual to cater for a specific congregation. It is better to have a smaller group that is actively engaged in worship for a short time than a large crowd for hours, which hardly participates meaningfully due to the haphazard blending of languages.

Our church must seriously reconsider the system of multilingual mass and return to the older monolingual system. I am all for masses in English, Mandarin, Tamil, Malay or any other language for a particular congregation, but we should not mix them all up to become, in the Archbishop’s words,a “rojak” mass.

Dr.Chris Anthony

Saturday, April 01, 2006

"Culturerization" in the church

Church must lead not follow the crowd

I refer to the letter by Peter Wong, “Is ancestral worship necessary during Chinese New Year Mass” (Herald,March 19).

I must congratulate him for having the courage to voice his opposition to ancestral worship during mass and also being considerate enough to take into account the feelings of the non-Chinese among the congregation.

Of late the Catholic Church has begun to accommodate the various cultures into its system of worship such the ancestral worship and the Ponggal celebration. This may be alright in a homogenous society but in a multiracial society like Malaysia, it would only divide the various ethnic groups.

The national policies have already segregated us by race and religion and by adopting the so called “culturisation”,the church would only make this segregation worse.

The Church must take the lead to educate the congregation in fostering mutual love and unity among its members of differing ethnicity,and not succumb to pressures from any group to accept rituals and practices for the sake of popularity. If it is absolutely necessary to have these ceremonies, then as Peter Wong suggests, conduct the ceremony in the privacy of your own home.

As for ancestral worship is concerned, it would be better for us to take care of our parents and elders when they are alive on earth, and not resort to rituals and prayers to show our love and respect after their death.

Dr.Chris Anthony

Tribute to Uncle George

Love begins when we grow old

The Penang Diocese Lenten theme for this year is “Touch a life”. I was contemplating how I was going to touch a life when I received an inspiring letter from an elderly gentleman, whom we used to fondly call Uncle George since we were kids. As a young man, in the sixties, he was an active member of Parish of St.Joseph, Batu Gajah, Perak.

His greatest gift was his perpetual cheerfulness. As a matter of fact we have never seen him angry or sad. Because of this gift of his he was well liked by all, especially the children.

As school children we used to accompany him to visit the sick in hospital and also visit the SVDP adoptee in their homes. In fact it was this hospital visits with him in a way inspired me to take up medicine as a career.

He now lives alone with his wife, both in their eighties, and spends all his time taking care of her, who is now handicapped due to an accident. He still cycles out to town several times a day to get food for himself and his wife.

On a recent trip back home I happened to meet Uncle George after many years and all I did was to buy him a simple breakfast costing just RM2.20, and chatted with him.

A week later I was surprised to receive a letter from him praising me and my wife with such fantastic words, praises that we don’t really deserve. The following paragraph in his letter really touched me and my wife. I quote,

“This year I am 86 and my wife is 82.If we can live till 28.12.06 we will be married for 60 years and we can live to celebrate our diamond jubilee. Yes, you know doctor true love begins when we grow old; I think I love my wife more than I first met her. But soon we will have to part”.

A mere two ringgit, few encouraging words and the willingness to listen was all that was needed to touch a life in the form of Uncle George. In return his invaluable experience of “TRUE LOVE” managed to touch us deeply.

This reinforces my fervent belief that there are still lot of good things in life that cannot be obtained with money and power and that, is the greatest gift of God to us.

All couples intending to get married, those having marital problems and want to rejuvenate the fading love in marriage should make a visit to Uncle George and his wife and I’m sure they will be able to touch you as well.

Dr.Chris Anthony