Monday, December 11, 2006

ComeDivine Messiah

The world in silence awaits the day

We are again in the season of Advent and are preoccupied with preparations to welcome Jesus on Christmas day.

Most of us prepare to celebrate His arrival with elaborate festivities – luxurious food and wine, new clothes, Christmas trees, decorations and fireworks. House to house caroling and merry-making have become the hallmark of Christmas. To especially the children, it may a time for Santa Clause, gifts and “ang pow”.

It is also a time for sending Christmas cards to those we remember just once a year and to exchange greetings with friend and relatives. These days SMS and E-mail greetings are slowly replacing traditional Christmas cards among the young.

Many others take a more spiritual attitude towards Christmas. They believe attending elaborate church services, lighting the Advent candles, offering special prayers, singing hymns and going for confession as ways to prepare themselves for the coming of Christ.

Some of us resort to charitable acts, to share the joy with the less fortunate. Visit to old folks, orphanages and handicapped children are common practices during this season.

Then there are also those who make pilgrimage to the Holy Land and birthplace of Jesus to commemorate his birth.

All these may be some of the ways to welcome the coming of the Saviour but is welcoming Jesus all about these external preparations and traditions? If we picture Christmas as the infant Jesus being born in a stable in Bethlehem and await a similar re-birth year after year, we are sadly mistaken.

God could have chosen his birth in a grandeur palace fitting for an earthly king, but he deliberately chose a humble stable among shepherds in the wilderness. This illustrates his humility which we too must emulate.

Jesus is not going to come to us literally as a new-born infant; he is already here in our midst. He is waiting for in our neighbours, those we meet everyday – the sick and dying, the hungry, the destitute, the oppressed, our elderly parents, our spouse, our rebellious children and even our enemies.

Jesus is waiting for us in disguise which we fail to recognize. He is waiting for us to prepare a humble stable in our hearts for these people in whom He dwells. This may be more difficult than organising all the elaborate rituals and celebrations but if we can do that Jesus would be born in our hearts day in and day out for the rest of our lives.

Dr.Chris Anthony

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Do all religions lead to the one same God?

I read with interest the editorial entitled “Violence springing from religion?” in the Herald dated 3 December 2006.I was particularly impressed by the concluding statement which read “There is only One God and we all submit to that ONE GOD — no matter what language expression we may use for God! “

Yes,if only people of every religion understand this simple fact, then no one race or religion would fight to reign supreme and the world would be more peaceful.

In recent times, we, the non-Muslims have been under tremendous pressure. Our religious and cultural believes and practices are ill-tolerated by the ruling majority who are Muslims. Our rights of freedom of worship, as enshrined in the constitution, are increasing denied.

Our leaders advocate inter-faith dialogue at international level but locally our requests for such dialogue to solve our inter-faith problems are rejected as they refuse to accept as equal. Of late there has been even threat of mob rule as a means to solve inter-faith problems.

All these are due to the attitude that the ruling majority is superior to all others. We are told theirs is the only true God.

We are very disappointed and frustrated at the way the Muslim majority treats us, as being inferior to them. They refuse to dine with us; dress like us and even mingle with us, let alone accepting our rites and practices as legitimate, just because we are of a different religion.

We may profess different faiths, but aren’t we all children of the same God, whom we call by different names and perform different rituals to worship Him? Aren’t we all equal in His eyes? If we are all equal then why aren’t all religions equal?

All religions rightly teach us that we are equal in the eyes of God,but are we really equal in the eyes of man?The problems that plague our world today clearly demonstrate that we are not.Followers of individual religions consider themselves to be superior to others and that is the underlying cause of inter-religious conflicts and turmoil.

As Christians, what is our stand on the issue of equality of religions? Many among us may be also governed by the same misconceived egotistic attitude that we are superior to others.

By instituting stringent rules we set up a barrier around us, preventing free exchanges between ourselves and those from other faiths. We too are skeptical of the practices, rites and rituals of other religions and not willing not accept them as legitimate. We indoctrinate our children that our religion in the only way to God.

We refuse to allow others from different religion to participate in some of our rites of worshiping God because of our belief that only Catholics, regardless of whether they are good or bad, are entitled to that.

Don’t these constitute the belief that we are superior to others? Aren’t we guilty of the same misconceptions of those in power, whose actions we vehemently detest?

Yes, as you mentioned there is only One God and we all submit to that ONE GOD. In the eyes of that one God we are all equal, although in the eyes of man we are not.

Dr.Chris Anthony

Monday, December 04, 2006

Evangelism in the modern world - response

Dr. Chris Anthony:

First oif all I pray to God in order that He may Give you His Love and Peace.

I read on Internet your article regarding "Evangelism" and let me tell you this:

You can't mix oil and water, you can't mix light and darkness, you can't mix true and lie.
You article it's a mix of something that is true and something that is a lie.

You are right when you say that Christians must live as Christians, we have to be a living testimony on what we believe and, most of all, to love anyone, no matter if he/she is rich or poor, white or black, Catholic or non-catholic, american or hispanic, socialist or capitalis and so on. God loves us, we have to love as a command and a necessity, I'd like to say.

You are wrong about your opinion that in our modern world we don't have to say to nobody that our Religion (our beautiful and exceptional Catholic Religion) is the best or the only one, for there are a lot of religions and beliefs. Let mer ask you this. Which is the ONLY Religion whose Founder was God? You are right! Catholicism! Other religions , name any, had men as founders. That's the only reason (actually I have several other reasons) I do believe that our Religion is THE ONLY TRUE for God never makes mistakes.

You are wrong because there are a lkot of people (unfortunely catholic people among them) that NEED to be evangelized. O.K. Let's say that never with fear, slaverhood or death, for that is anything else but Christian.

I always have said it: american catholics are deepened in a Protestant Culture. That's the problem with a lot of catholics, here in the United States and - unfortunely - in some Latin American countries. Too bad and so sad.

I could keep telling you a lot of things regarding your wrong words but I believe that this is all, just for the momen.

God bless you and keep your Faith alive.

Manuel Morales.

Is the Church relevant to our lives?

Talk to any priest and his main complain will be the poor attendance at mass and poor participation of the parishioners in Church activities. In fact for every one who attends mass on Sunday, there are probably five others who do not. Why is this number of active participants dwindling over the years?

According to a new study commissioned by the Australian bishops, Catholics disconnected from Mass attendance and other parish life believe the Catholic Church is out of touch with the world today and is not relevant to their own lives.

This was according to the report “Catholics Who Have Stopped Going to Mass,” released by the the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference recently as reported in the Catholic Online dated 1st.December 2006.(

According to the report, the three most commonly mentioned factors that had the most powerful impact on Mass attendance, were:

1. Misuse of power and authority at all levels of the Catholic Church.

2. Irrelevance of the church to life today, as an institution “out of touch with Australian society.” “In their eyes the church had lost its ability to connect with the day-to-day lives of ordinary people and as a result they no longer regarded it as having the authority to guide them in living an authentic life.”

3. Lack of intellectual stimulation, with several noting that the sermons delivered in their parishes “were of poor quality, being ill-prepared, theologically unsound, badly delivered and irrelevant.”

It is encouraging that the Australian Bishops are taking the results of the study concerning “disconnected Catholics” rather seriously to further understand the very complex personal, spiritual and cultural factors which have seen a decline in church-going over recent decades.

I am sure if we conduct a similar study of our own “disconnected Catholics” the reasons given will not differ much from their Australian counterparts. I am sure most of our Catholics, “disconnected” and even a significant number of “connected” will agree that the Church is slowly but surely becoming irrelevant to their lives.

It is timely now for our own bishops and clergy to review the situation here in our own country and take proactive measures to make religion relevant to Catholics.

Today in Malaysia the ordinary man, especially the non-Muslims, is under tremendous pressures to cope with all the problems he is forced to encounter.

Managing the family is an arduous task these days. Firstly there are the marital problems to handle with the spouse and the in-laws. As a result divorce is increasing by the day even among Catholics.

Then there are the rebellious children under the influence a very materialistic and immoral culture. To them even their parents are becoming irrelevant because of out-dated moral values. Where does the Church stand in their lives?

In addition to these are the financial problems, increasing cost of education, health care, housing and lack of job opportunities. To make matters worse are the discriminating policies of the government.

How is an average wage earner going to manage all these? There is nobody to turn to for help and guidance. The government agencies are of no help. His Church which use to be the savior fails him miserably.

The priests make it even more difficult by imposing their own unrealistic conditions. They seem to be only interested in large crowds at the various celebrations to participate in the numerous rituals which are of no meaning to an already over burdened individual. Instead of reaching to these estranged Catholics, they in fact further isolate them.

Dr.Chris Anthony

Is the Church becoming irrelevant?

Catholics disconnecting from Mass see church out of touch, Australia bishops' study says

Catholic Online

SYDNEY, Australia (Catholic Online) – Catholics disconnected from Mass attendance and other parish life believe the Catholic Church is out of touch with the world today and is not relevant to their own lives, according to a new study commissioned by the Australian bishops.

Catholics’ alienation from the church in general, the study found, has been a “gradual process in which changing attitudes to church teaching have interacted with negative personal experiences of church personnel and regulation.”

The summary of the report, “Catholics Who Have Stopped Going to Mass,” was released Dec. 1 on the last of the five-day twice-yearly plenary meeting of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference here.

While acknowledging that the drift away from active parish involvement by many Catholics has been ongoing for a number of years and the percentages of the faith community attending Sunday Mass has fallen to 15.3 percent in 2001, the study authors stated that “the church does have the capacity to take actions which will reduce the likelihood of current attenders joining the ranks of those who have stopped attending and increase the chances of returning of some of those who have left.”

The research sought to respond to the desire of the Catholic bishops of Australia “to know more about the reasons why people are ceasing to attend Mass so that action can be taken to stem the flow or reach out to those who have gone,” the report summary said.

A total of 41 Catholics – 28 women and 13 men – between the ages of 29 and 74, of whom more than two-thirds were aged 50 to 69, were interviewed in seven Australian dioceses – Bunbury, Hobart, Melbourne, Parramatta, Perth, Rockhampton and Sydney. The research was carried out by the Pastoral Projects Office of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference.

The researchers examined factors that participants perceived as having led to their disconnection from church life, whether they still see themselves as belonging in some ways to the church and whether they could foresee any changes which would encourage them to renew church involvement.

The Australian bishops said, after discussing the study report at the plenary meeting, the “disconnected Catholics” research project was a help in understanding the very complex personal, spiritual and cultural factors which have seen a decline in church-going over recent decades.

“The research project is part of our deep and ongoing desire to connect with people who have left the church and to listen to their experiences, so that we might identify ways to reach out to them and welcome them back,” they said.
“We welcome this study, which provides us with valuable insights into the reasons why some Catholics no longer attend Mass and take part in the sacramental life of the church,” the bishops said.
“Together with our own pastoral experience and in the context of the broader cultural situation, we will use this study to help chart a path forward,” they said.

The researchers found that there were both “church-centered and participant-centered” reasons for study participants identified as main reasons for stopping to attend Sunday Mass.

The three most commonly mentioned and “the factors that had the most powerful impact” on Mass attendance, according to the study summary report, were:

- Misuse of power and authority at all levels of the Catholic Church.

- Irrelevance of the church to life today, as an institution “out of touch with Australian society.” “In their eyes the church had lost its ability to connect with the day-to-day lives of ordinary people and as a result they no longer regarded it as having the authority to guide them in living an authentic life.”

- Lack of intellectual stimulation, with several noting that the sermons delivered in their parishes “were of poor quality, being ill-prepared, theologically unsound, badly delivered and irrelevant.”

Other institutional-related reasons noted included: problems with the parish priest; structural problems, including clergy changes affecting the parish, parish mergers and Communion services without a priest; poor parish community life; and the feeling of exclusion by church rules, such as affecting those who remarried without an annulment of a previous marriage and those who have a gay family member.

Among the personal issues included those surrounding a “crisis of faith,” family or other home-related issues and Mass attendance not viewed as a priority within a busy week schedule.

However, half the respondents said they still attend Mass occasionally and almost one third of participants said they might return to weekly Mass attendance in the future.

The study summary cautioned the bishops from judging those who do not attend Mass. “It would be possible to adopt a perspective which finds fault with every participant regarding their non-attendance at Mass – laziness, lack of faith, placing unreasonable expectations on priests, lack of respect for legitimate authority, getting priorities wrong,” it said, adding that “this attitude is most unlikely to attract them back to Mass or to prevent people who are still attending from leaving.”

The summary notes that “this research project will only be truly valuable if it leads to action being taken, at all levels of the church, to halt and then reverse this phenomenon.”

While noting final recommendations will be developed after the research has been discussed at diocesan and parish levels, the study report said that among action steps might include: further research; a pastoral letter from the bishops’ conference; diocesan efforts to develop parish programming focusing on outreach to those who have disconnected or are disconnecting from parish life; and the institution of parish reviews and evaluations into practices and policies, including those connected to the liturgy.

“When the bishops commissioned this research project two years ago,” the study summary said, “they were inviting Catholics who had stopped attending Mass to enter into a conversation with them.”

The release of the report, the summary added, expands “the conversation to include all those who care about the vitality of the Catholic Church in Australia” and furthers the effort to find “ways in which the church can be transformed so that more people choose to attend Mass and fewer choose to stop attending.”

“These experiences are varied and complex and provide lessons from which to learn as well as great challenges and opportunities for us,” the Australian bishops said.

“It is our hope that those who have stopped attending Mass and perhaps many who have never been to a Catholic Church will accept our sincere invitation to make contact with their local parish and experience the love of Jesus Christ through the life of his church,” the bishops added.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Evangelism in the modern world

What it means to be an evangelist today

I would like to continue my opinion on evangelism in the modern world as contained in my last letter “What it means to be an evangelist today” ( Herald,3 December 2006).

If we continue to evangelize as we used to like our early Christians, traveling around persuading people to leave their faiths and become Christians, we will end up creating a lot of turmoil and violence in the world. History has indeed proven these through the Crusades and holy wars of the past. It has also been undoubtedly shown that those who succumb to conversion are the sick, poor, downtrodden, marginalized and suppressed, not the rich and powerful. Sometimes we even resort to overzealous evangelism by over publicized spiritual healing which defy all modern scientific principles.

Isn't it morally wrong for us to take advantage of the impoverished state of these under-privileged sections of society who are most susceptible to conversion?

In the context of the modern world, as Christians, what should be our stand on this important role of evangelism? Is our religion the only true one and all others false? Why has God allowed so many religions to flourish in the world today if all of them do not lead their followers to Him?

We may succeed in converting others to our faith, but do we realize that causes so much rift and subsequent break up of a once united happy family? Will Christ approve our actions to destroy the peace and harmony in a family by converting one of their members to our faith against the wishes of his loved ones?

Our faith is not in the rituals that we perform but rather it is God’s love deeply rooted in our hearts and lives and it can never be taken away by persuasion or force unless we willingly surrender it ourselves. It would be therefore futile to try and persuade someone to convert to some other faith; he may adopt the new rituals but not change the true faith in his heart.

In the final outcome, a modern evangelist is one who displays the love of Christ in his daily life.By seeing Christ alive in us, others should be converted to become better humans in their own religions.

Dr.Chris Anthony