Monday, July 17, 2006

Going to heaven

July 16, 2006

Doing good to go to haeven

When we were children our catechism teachers taught us that we must do good to go to heaven. This we believed whole heartedly without question and we tried our best to be good to others.

Later when we were young working adults, our priests told us that we must not do anything with an ulterior motive. We should not expect any rewards for whatever good we do for others.

Now when we are much older and hopefully wiser, we witness a trend based on the belief that we just need to be “holy” to be rewarded a place in heaven in the life hereafter. It is irrelevant whether being good to others is a part of that holiness.

We also realize that nothing is done these days without an ulterior motive, including going to heaven. We go to church, pray, observe all the obligations, receive the sacraments and do some charity hoping these acts would take us to heaven.

Is it right that we do all these with the motive of going to heaven? Doesn’t it constitute blackmailing God?

Another act related to this is fulfilling of vows. Many of us travel hundreds of miles to attend the various feasts, to seek favors and fulfill our vows. Is it right to promise God that we will repay Him in some form if our favors are granted?

In a world that is so competitive and materialistic, we are so desperate at times that we lose our focus in the search for God to help us to solve our problems. We resort, at times, to practices that are unchristian when all we need is the faith that God will provide us with what is best for us.

I am convinced,through the years, that when we sacrifice our time and energy in the service of others, God will definitely come to us. Very often He comes to us in forms which we do not, but often due to our pride and ego, refuse to recognize.

Many of us, from all faiths, leave behind all our responsibilities and become obsessed in seeking God in places where He does not reside, like the holy sites and shrines all over the world.

In this obsession of searching for God, we ignore the pleas of those around us, failing to realize, that is where He dwells. What we need to ask Christ is to give us the wisdom and humility to recognize Him in those around us.

Unless we begin to see God in fellow humans around us we will never encounter the Almighty.

Dr.Chris Anthony

Many follow Man,few follow God

Things to ponder

Who do I follow, God or Man?

There was once a very holy man dedicated to the service of God and fellow man. He was deeply troubled that the war and violence in the world is mainly caused by religion. Followers of the different religions are fighting and killing each other in the name of their respective God. Disillusioned with God for His inactivity, he prayed fervently imploring God to intervene and stop all the violence.

That night an angel appeared in his dream and took him to heaven. As he approached the gates of heaven he could hear sounds of joy and happiness and sense an air of great festivities. The man asked the angel what was going on.

The angel answered, “The citizens of heaven are celebrating God’s birthday today”.

The man was overjoyed to be able to witness God’s birthday in heaven. Then there appeared a long candle light procession comprising the followers of the various religions. The man was so excited that he will soon get a glimpse of the Creator as he passes by.

Heading the procession were the Catholics, led by the Pope followed by the Cardinals, bishops, priests and the laity. This was followed by the different Christian denominations. Huge congregations of other faiths then followed suit, the Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus and hundreds of other minor religious groups including great evangelists and miracle healers. Each group was led by its leader riding on beautifully decorated majestic horse chariots.

At the end of the procession came a frail looking bearded old man riding his frail looking horse. He appeared a total misfit in the environment of grandeur and glamour. The holy man from earth was very surprised that this poor old man had nobody following him.

The man asked the angel. “Who is this poor old man? Why is that he has no followers?”

After some hesitation, the angel answered “He is God,the Creator”.

Moral of the story

This is exactly what is happening in the world today. There is so much hatred, violence and killing in the world, all in the name of God and religion.

We all claim that our religion is the only true one and all others are false. We think we are the only ones following the right path that God has shown us.

Definitely hatred and violence are not His ways. His ways are always truth, love and peace, which very few really follow. We fail to understand that regardless of our religious differences, we are all children of God, differing only in the way we reach that one God.

Man has become so arrogant with his achievements in the world that he has instituted his own laws that ignores God’s true teachings of humility and love. These teachings are becoming rather obsolete in the world of power and glamour.

We seek God among the glamour and richness in the world, but in real life, He is among us in the poor and downtrodden.

Let us examine ourselves to see who are we really following God or man?

Dr.Chris Anthony

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

PMPCIII - Major issues for delegates

July 10, 2006

An open letter to Archbishop, Bishops, priests and lay participants of PMPCIII

Major issues to be addressed at the PMPCIII

The delegates to the PMPC III would be gathering at the end of August 2006 for the all important convention which is to chart the course of the church in the years to come. As we strive to build God’s kingdom on earth, we must face the realities in today’s world with particular attention to 2 prevailing conditions in our country:

1. There is a progressive erosion of the legitimate rights of the minorities in the country. We are confronted with an unreasonable authority which fails to adhere to established norms and refuses to engage in dialogue to solve common problems. There is real threat that the nation is slowly moving towards an Islamic state.

2. In today’s rapidly changing materialistic world, family life has become so complex and challenging. Bringing up children with good values is the biggest challenge and needs full time involvement of parents.Furthemore the cost of health care and education for the children is exorbitant. It can run into hundreds of thousand s ringgit and has become beyond the reach of the average Malaysian.

We must strive to develop our Catholic community to become self reliant in all fields, spiritual and social. Only by doing that we can overcome the “assault” by the unreasonable political authority we are subjected to.

We have the talent and capabilities within our community. We had successfully run schools, hospitals and welfare institutions before, why are we complacent now? We may be small and down but we are not out, and with Jesus on our side, we must and can rise up and become a force to be reckoned. All we need is the will and true faith in Christ and with these; I do not see why we should fail in our struggle to build God’s Kingdom here on earth. In fact we should become the conscience in hearts of those forces poised against us.

To achieve this, some pressing issues need to be addressed:

Clergy-laity relationship

Due to too many administrative duties the clergy have lost the personal touch with people, which should be their overriding priority. Church is run like a political or business institution, devoid of compassion and forgiveness, in enforcing rules and regulations.

There is a need for a bigger and more responsible role for the laity especially in the administration of the parish. Laity’s voice, maturity and intelligence are often underestimated and not utilized.

This “I know all” and “take it or leave” attitude of the clergy belittles the intelligence and capabilities of the layman.

Establishment of a laity-clergy diocesan council may be the move in the right direction in the endeavor to overcome this unhealthy situation.

Promoting and developing BECs as basic functional units in the parish.

Pastoral care should focus on family and BEC. At present most BECs function at the whims and fancies of the leader and his selected people. No real discussion or dialogue with members regarding activities. Some leaders carry out projects for the wrong reason, self glory.

Active pastoral involvement, whereby the priest establishes inter-personal relationship with the people on the ground, would overcome this unhealthy situation. There is use in having BECs without the active involvement of the priest.

Open dialogue, transparency and accountability in the administration of parishes

There is a real need to have open dialogue, transparency and accountability in the administration of the parishes. We are living in the twenty-first century and must discard all authoritarian practices of the past.

The clergy must abdicate some of the administrative functions to the laity who may be more qualified and better trained in running those functions. This will also allow them more time for their pastoral duties which only they can provide.

In this regards the parish council must be elected and thereby accountable to the parishioners. It must seek the priest’s consent in all matters in the running of the church.

Frequent review of PMPC and feedback

There must be frequent review of the policies adopted for implementation and not once in 10 years. Avenues for feedback from the people must be made available and also actively encouraged. These suggestions and criticisms must be taken seriously regardless of who proposes them.

Parish newsletters and catholic publications like the Herald and Catholic Asian News must be given importance. Efforts must be made to publicize them among the Catholics. More space should be allocated for feedback and opinions from parishioners rather than stereotype reporting in favor of the authority, similar to our national dailies.

Declining Christian education .

With the decline in education as whole, we are also witnessing deterioration in even the basic universal human and moral values especially among the young.

We have lost all our Christian schools which used to be the main source of moral and religious education of our children. Our present school system has failed miserably in this aspect; it is therefore left to the parents, the church and the lay Christian community to take over the task of teaching the young the values and traditions of their faith.

The Church must take this seriously and set up a task force at the highest level comprising experts from all sectors to tackle this problem urgently.

There is need for the establishment of a national Christian Institute of leadership and teachers training

Growing crisis in marriage and family life.

There is serious concern over the ever increasing divorce rate which threatens family institution to the core. This is becoming rampant even among Catholics where divorce is forbidden. Uncompromising parents and rebellious children who do not respect elders are becoming common. There is a need to strengthen the family unit.

The declining morality among the youth.

Our children are exposed to the strong attraction of a misconceived culture that is prevalent in today’s world. This culture contradicts every established principle of all religions. Free sex, abortion and adultery are not frowned at anymore. Corruption and greed for wealth are becoming acceptable norms.

Over-emphasis on spiritual and neglect of social teachings

There is an unhealthy trend where there is over emphasis on spiritual development at the expense of social values that were the earmark of our Catholic faith. Holiness is just not just praying and observing church laws blindly without a feeling for the human heart. Jesus stressed on loving God and man and unless we combine the spiritual and social teaching we are not going to appeal to the vast majority of the people. There should be emphasis that spiritual development accompanying social values is not Christian. There is a general belief now that Christ is only present in the Eucharist, whereas in reality he is alive in every one around us.

Racial segregation in the church.

Racial segregation, initiated by the government, is creeping into our church and becoming a real problem. This is further aggravated by our practice of segregation of the races according to language groups. This was not a problem when English was the main language of the church in the seventies, why are we making it one now? We should not succumb to the forces that propagate a divide and rule policy but unite as one community because our strength lies in this unity in diversity.

Awareness of the socio-political developments in the country.

Islamisation and marginalization of minorities by the government will soon be accepted as a way of life. Christians are complacent hoping and praying that they will not be affected.

The church must make the members be aware of the serious repercussions of Islamisation on our religious beliefs. We should not just happy to pray and go home; there are serious problems ahead which must be addressed now.
We must make clear our uncompromising stand on rights abuses that are so frequent these days.

Unity with other religious groups

We are not alone in our struggle against injustice, racial and religious prejudice. We have the other Christian denominations and other major faiths with whom we must cooperate and interact. We should not adopt the misguided notion that ours is the best religion and all others are false. We must be open to the universality of God, where every faith leads to the same God along different paths.

Lack of basic facilities in small parishes

Every attempt must be made to improve the basic facilities in all parishes to develop them into centres of education, training and human development. Many of the buildings and infrastructure in small parishes are in a sorry state due to neglect.
A task force at diocesan level must be formed, comprising experts in the various fields, to upgrade the facilities in all parishes.

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

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

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. We the Catholics hope and pray our bishops, priests and those in power listen to our passionate plea and be receptive to all the ideas put forward and act accordingly.

Dr.Chris Anthony


June 30, 2006

PMPCIII Surveyby CANews

1."To think and Feel WITH THE CHURCH” What do you understand by the theme?

Frankly I do not really understand the real meaning of this theme.

This is one of the many fashionable phrases coined to complicate the teachings of Jesus which to my mind is simple enough for the man on the street to comprehend.

The church is like the body of Christ and we are all members of that body as such should feel with that body. In this context the members should feel with and for one another. The clergy and laity should have mutual feeling and respect for one another.

2. What does “THE CHURCH” in the context of the theme mean to you?

The church is a man-made institution that comprises of people who practice and propagate the teachings of Christ. In this process the clergy has also instituted certain laws according to customs and traditions handed down from the disciples of Jesus.

The Church is made up of the clergy, religious and laity who are equal partners. Over the years due to certain practices the church has become synonymous with the clergy. As a result many talented members of the laity who are critical of the running the church have become “outsiders”.

3. My expectations of PMPC III

I hope there would be a sincere deliberation on the various problems the church in Malaysia faces today with a genuine concerted effort for its improvement. The clergy and laity participating must realize the gravity pf the problems we are facing in the country today.

There is an unhealthy trend where there is over emphasis on spiritual development at the expense of social values that were the earmark of our Catholic faith. As a result social values have become totally irrelevant in the lives of the younger generation. If this continues I’m afraid the church will become just another religion where politics and rituals are the rule.

PMPC III should address this issue very seriously. Spirituality must touch the human heart and result in social service to fellow man. Unless we can reconcile these 2 essential aspects of our faith, the church stands to become irrelevant in our lives of our future generations.

We must learn from the situation in the West where the church is losing its grip on the lives of people. Church in our country may face a more serious fate with a non-tolerant government that is fast moving towards making Malaysia a Islamic state.

4.Will the PMPCIII fulfill your expectations

Judging by what is happening now, there is not going to be any positive outcome from PMPC III.People in authority are not going to listen to suggestions to change for the better as we have succumbed to a culture of “I’m the best” and “take it or leave”.

Instead we have to develop a culture where each member is considered valuable and a single loss will be considered a miserable failure of all especially the clergy. In order to achieve this, every member of the church, under the leadership of the priest, must reach out to everyone around us and establish a deep personal relationship with them in the true spirit of charity, love and forgiveness.

Dr.Chris Anthony

Lessons from World Cup 2006

July 5, 2006

The World cup is coming to an end. Many of us may be disappointed that our favorite teams failed to make to the finals. We became so accustomed to staying awake in the wee hours and now suddenly we realize we have to get back to routine as it used to be. Like any viral fever, the World Cup fever too will take a while to recover from.

Watching the World Cup, made be ponder on a number of realities of life as a Malaysian.

Each match starts with the players marching in holding the hands of children who are a symbol of innocence. Although the whole tournament may be far from being innocent due to politicization and commercialization but nevertheless FIFA still manages to portray its noble aim of promoting goodwill and unity among the masses throughout the world, in keeping with the vision of its founder, Jules Rimet a Christian, committed to “universal brotherhood”.

In fact the World Cup truly deserves to be called “The greatest show on earth” as it makes people forget their differences and come together to celebrate this festive month. This is evident in the huge crowds comprising all races that gather in our nasi kandar and other coffee shops at unearthly hours all over the country to watch the game.

Then the national anthems of the competing teams are played and close up views of the players seem to reveal the sense of pride in their faces in representing their respective nations.

Following this is the display of a huge banner that reads “Say no to racism”. It is an appropriate reminder to a world that is divided by race and religion which has plunged it into violence and war. If only our political leaders from all over the globe can get together every four years to “Say no to racism”, a major battle against that evil would be won.

I was particularly impressed with the degree of patriotism displayed by the players to their countries. Imagine Zinadene Zidane, at the age of 34, managed to pump all the adrenaline into his system, to rise up to the occasion to steer his team almost single-handedly into the semi-finals. Then there was David Beckham shedding tears of sorrow that he was kept out of the penalties by which England loss to Portugal. There was also Ronaldo who was so determined to become the greatest world cup scorer which he finally succeeded.

We witnessed Germany and Argentina toiling for more than 2 hours to outplay each other for the glory of their nation. We also witnessed the visible sorrow in the faces of the Brazilian players who were prematurely sent out of the tournament. In the clash between Germany and Italy, the spirit of perseverance of the Italians till the dying minutes brought them the desired result.

Every player, regardless of his color or creed displayed so much patriotism for his country. Most of these young men are rich and lead glamorous lives but their zeal in seeking glory for their nation surely must be lesson for us all.

Do we, Malaysians have that much patriotism for our country? If we had we would have joined the ranks of South Korea and Japan in the World Cup finals, as we were once superior to these nations.

From what I see we had all the national patriotism before but this is regrettably slowly slipping by. All we can do is to sadly stand idle and watch this patriotism to the nation being substituted by “over-patriotism” to ones own race, religion and material wealth. This regrettably has brought with it ethnic segregation and intolerance of diversity. It fact patriotism has now become fanatism.

It is even more frustrating such attitude has also crept into the Catholic Church. I was rather surprised that a number of our faithful supported Portugal in their clash with England because the former was more Catholic than the latter. How can we condemn the government for being discriminatory when we ourselves are guilty of it?

How can we inculcate patriotism in our people especially the young? John F. Kennedy told his countrymen, “Ask not what your country can do for you, but you can do for the country”. This was very pertinent in the sixties, as the country then provided the needs of ALL citizens, but today as the rakyat, we are prepared to “do what we can for our country” but in return unsure of “What the country can do for us”.

How can you be patriotic when you are marginalized and denied basic rights and you are just waiting for opportunities in an alien land? How can you be patriotic when all your contribution and sacrifices towards nation building are brushed aside and even erased from the nation’s history?

Dr.Chris Anthony