Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Whose is the Church?

Need to adopt a more professional attitude

It was encouraging to note that you have published a number of letters expressing liberal opinions from your readers in the Herald recently. At a time when increasing fundamentalism is creeping into the Church and its publications, it is indeed a relief know that Herald is still willing to publish views of the so-called liberal Catholics.

The lettersDeal with injustices in the Church first by Paskaran of Ulu Tiram and “Are we living moral, credible lives?” by Dr Leslie Petrus of Johor Bahru two such letters published on 20 May 2007.

I fully agree with Paskaran that the church belongs to the People of God which consists of the Pope, bishops, clergy, religious and laity and we are all equal before God although we may differ in our roles and functions. This is what we mean by the famous slogan of the church “We are the Church”.

Although the laity consists of 99% of the Catholic Church but does the church really belong to them? Do they have any significant say in the running of the church? Today there is abundant talent among the laity in the various fields. We have experts and professionals in all fields – medical, accounting, teaching, legal, engineering and construction. Why aren’t these experts brought in to build the Kingdom of God?

In keeping with the times, the church has to adopt a more professional attitude in its dealings. The time has come to employ qualified lay people being as church administrators at the various levels to manage the day to day running and financial management of the parish. This would be a great relief our priests who can then concentrate fully on their pastoral duties for which they are trained. That is the vocation to which they are called by God.

Financial management is far from satisfactory. There is a need for greater transparency and accountability in monetary dealings. Many of us may not be regular church goers but we are never miser when it comes to contributing to the church. We are told of the amount collected at Sunday masses but not how is the money spent.

We are very quick to condemn the atrocities when committed by outsiders but blatantly disregard the calls to reform in our own structure and administration. Gone are the days when the laity is ignorant and illiterate. Today they are more knowledgeable and educated, not only in secular but religious issues as well,

We are going into an era where the lay people are going to increase the demands for greater accountability and transparency in all the dealings of the church. They are not going to accept anything, just in the name of God, without justification.

Dr.Chris Anthony

Reverting to Latin not the solution

Church must confront the problems of the day

We understand there plans to bring back Latin fully into our Eucharistic celebrations. One main reason for that is to improve the solemnity of the service which appears to be on the decline.

There is considerable dwindling in the number of Catholics throughout the world especially in Europe and the United States. Not only the number of new Catholics is on the decline but there is also an increased exodus of existing ones. Have we seriously pondered why many are deserting us?

The Church should be extremely, and rightly she is, worried by the secular trends that are captivating the younger generation. By reverting to Latin we hope to arrest this trend and bring back the glory of our past. Will this arrest the declining influence of the Church on people?

What we fail to realize is that it was not the alone language that was responsible for our greatness. Rather it was the political power and more important, our service to mankind, in keeping with the teachings of Jesus that brought us that glory. Latin was the most influential language of day, the language of the mighty Roman Empire.

I fail to understand how we can establish a meaningful relationship with God or for that matter any person if we try to communicate in a language we do not comprehend. In order to express our love we must think and speak in a language which we understand and it should be in the depths of our hearts.

We have come a long way to establish our liturgical services effectively in vernacular languages, especially English, which is the Language of modern era. It would be a tragedy to undo these by reverting to Latin, merely for sentimental reasons or just trying to be different from others.

There is no dispute that we should preserve our traditions of the past, but we should refrain from reverting to past laurels as escapism from the current crises and turmoil affecting us. We must change with the times to address the problems of the present using those past experiences as reference and guide. If the Church fails to successfully address the problems facing humanity today, there is real danger that she may become irrelevant in the lives of man. What we to do need is to revert back to Jesus and his teachings not Latin or, for the matter, any other language .

Dr.Chris Anthony

Monday, May 14, 2007

Limbo, a real let down

Are we being taught the TRUTH?

It is encouraging that with the approval of Pope Benedict XVI, the Vatican’s International Theological Commission has effectively buried the concept of limbo. The commission's report rightly pointed out that God wants all human beings to be saved. Not only innocent babies but all human beings living in grace should not be excluded from being eligible to enter heaven. Christ loves all and is merciful to all, even sinners and those who do not believe in him. His forgiveness is extended all regardless of race, religion and social status.

It is however surprising to know that after all these years, limbo was never formally part of Church doctrine. It is really puzzling then why we were made to believe in its existence. With limbo being non-existent, infant baptism as practiced now, becomes irrelevant.

We hope the Church, under Pope Benedict XVI, would also review a number of other such believes that do not stand the test of time and logic. Some of these would be original sin and its inheritance, the creation of Adam and Eve, purgatory and so on.

In fact some of our established believes are not only incompatible with, but may even be contrary to, the teachings if Jesus himself. His teaching was very simple and basic to be grasped by even poor fishermen. Over the centuries we seem to have complicated it so as to make it beyond the comprehension of the ordinary person. Today it has become so sophisticated that even people with tertiary education have difficulty in understanding the true teachings of Jesus.

It is very unfortunate that we seemed to have placed Jesus on a majestic pedestal where the poor and downtrodden masses do not have access.

Dr.Chris Anthony

Friday, May 04, 2007

Plight of migrant workers

Do we see Jesus in them?

In a fast moving global world, migration in search of better opportunities has become not only easier but necessary as well. But this migration brings with it a lot of problems for the host country and the migrants themselves, especially unskilled workers. Our country too has been hit with such problems. What are the some of the problems faced by these poor migrant workers in our country?

From the time of recruitment in their own country till they leave after their contract expires, they are subjected to inhumane treatment by the employment agencies and the employers themselves. I do not say all these agencies are evil but many of them are. Most of us employ such workers at home and factories and we do appreciate their problems.

The majority of these workers are promised the heavens but when in fact they are given hell. Inspired with the rewards promised, they mortgage their houses, sell their properties to pay for greener pastures in a foreign land. They leave their spouse, children and parents behind to earn the meager salary for the well being of their future and that of their loved ones.

Only when they reach the Promised Land do they realize that they have been cheated. Some of them are smuggled into the country to become the fashionably called “illegal immigrants”. Many are left stranded in the airports and in some unknown places without food, shelter or money until some good soul comes to their aid.

Others find themselves in police lockups and detention centres where they are verbally and physically abused. At many of these detention centres their living condition is atrocious. They are denied proper food, water and medical facilities and they lack proper sanitation.

Those who manage to finally reach the place of their work, new problems await them. Many domestic helpers were not even told the nature of their duties although we were assured they are fully trained in the tasks we require of them. Many of them were promised factory jobs but ended up with us as domestic helpers and this may explain their rebellious behaviour. Can we blame them totally for that?

Those lucky ones end up with considerate employers who treat them with kindness and consideration but by enlarge the majority of them are not treated well. For the first 4 months or so they are not paid as their salary is used to offset the exorbitant administrative charges incurred in bringing them over.

They are overworked, without proper food and place to rest. Some of them are asked to work in a number of households .They are not given adequate clothes and the expenses on basic amenities like soap, tooth paste, shampoo and sanitary pads are deducted from their already meager pay.

The other major problem is medical expenses. No proper arrangements are made to cater for medical treatment. Our health system, both government and private, is not at all compassionate to these workers. We have known of workers who spend huge sums on unwarranted medical investigations and treatment, almost depleting all that they have earned.

We, Malaysians often claim that we are generous, compassionate and friendly. It is time to demonstrate these in our actions, especially when dealing with those more unfortunate than us.

I do not deny the migrant workers also create numerous problems for us. Increase crime is without doubt a real problem for us all.All these social problems can definitely be minimized by our right attitude towards them and if a proper screening system is used to recruit these workers. We must change our attitude of exploitation to one of service.

As Christians especially Catholics, how do we treat our own domestic maids and other migrant workers whom we employ? We set aside one day in a year for them – Migrant Sunday, when we offer mass and hold banquets and celebrations. Definitely as Christians, our treatment of migrant workers should be much more than these.

It is important to reflect our own attitude towards these migrant and our own workers. Are we treating them in a humane way? Do we treat them with dignity and love? Are we sensitive to their feelings and needs? Do we treat them in the way Jesus would have liked as to. To put it simply, do we see Christ in them?

This brings to mind the words of Mahatma Gandhi,“Man, for instance cannot be untruthful, cruel or incontinent and claim to have God on his side."

If we profess to really love God and want Him on our side, there is no other way then to love fellow men, especially those less privileged than us. It is left to us, and us alone, to decide if we want God to be on our side.

Dr.Chris Anthony

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Paying tribute to mothers – Mothers’Day 2007

When love makes sacrifice a pleasure

Once again Mothers’ Day is just around the corner. The mass media is these days are full of advertisements on the various offers to celebrate this day. Many of us make elaborate plans to celebrate the day in ways unique and special to us. Expensive gifts and grandeur banquets are common ways of commemorating this auspicious day dedicated to our mothers.

Amidst all the celebrations and joy let us go back in time to relive the days we spent with her. She gave birth do us, fed us, took care of all our needs as helpless babies, supported us during school going days, then as young men and women, was a maid to take care of our kids and keep our house.

Now she may be healthy and fit, striken with illness of various sorts, bed-ridden, terminally ill or she may even in her death bed waiting for a last glimpse of the children she loved so much. Some of our mothers could also be dead and gone.

Whatever her state she may be in let us reflect a little on our lives with this extra-ordinary creature of God who was a servant of sorts to us throughout her life.

We make a lot of sacrifices for advancements in our lives but often we do them for a reward. There is only one person who enjoys sacrificing her time and energy as it is done for the real love for the other person. Undeniably it is none other than our own mother. For this special person, her immeasurable love for us makes her sacrifice a pleasure not pain.

As kids we did not realize all her sacrifices as our vision was masked by her love for us. It takes a long time, sometimes even 50 long years, to really appreciate all the sacrifices that our mother has done and is continuing to do for us. When we were young we took all her sacrifices her for granted. Only now that we are ourselves parents, wives and mothers we begin to truly appreciate the fine qualities of the love and affection our mothers had for us.

In the early days there were many children in the family and it was a real wonder how our mother could take care of all of them equally well. Every one of us was equal in her eyes although the weakest did get some special privileges as far as food was concerned. We can recollect the sleepless nights she spent taking care of us when we were sick, the moments of anxiety she went through when we were involved in some accidents and the tears she shed during their intense prayers for our recovery.

All she lived for was for the well being of our future not hers. She did all that without any ulterior motive that one day we will repay that gratitude in cash or kind.

Today being parents ourselves, we understand insurmountable the pain and anxiety she would have endured when we suffered from all forms of ailments and failures in their lives. We realize the severity of the heartache we would caused her when we refused to heed her advice and meet disaster as a result.

In those days cooking was a real chore without all the modern gadgets we have today. Everything from grinding to cutting was done manually and you can imagine the difficulties encountered in preparing at least 3 meals a day for an extended family of over 10 people daily without fail. This has to be done with the meager income of their husbands who were the sole bread winners.

Apart from being a great mother to us she was an exemplary wife especially in those days when men were very over-demanding. We would agree that most of our fathers, however high and mighty, are totally dependent on mom for their successes. It is a fact that many men in advanced age do not survive long after the death of their views.

Sadly today many of her sacrifices are not appreciated by us, the children, which really hurts her to the core. Many of us simply forget the good old days when she toiled endlessly without sleep and rest for our well being, to make us what we are today. We are too busy with our own lives that we forget to spend time just talking and listening to her.

Among the siblings, we become calculative of who should take care and provide for her especially when she is left all alone after the death of her husband, our father. When she becomes ill or handicapped we conveniently pass the responsibility of caring for her to others. We give the excuse we are too busy and have no time and money.

Many of our mothers are now elderly and may be riddled with so many ailments. They are living in fear of loneliness at the twilight of their lives. The only companion they had, their husbands are gone. We may not be able to cure all her illnesses, but the least we can give her is reassurance that we care and love her. We easily forget the days when as children, her loving embrace could allay all our fears. She did that willingly and with great love and passion.

Let’s not forget that our mother, in whatever state she may be, is our responsibility to care and love. We cannot and should not run away from that obligation of ours. It is not our money, gifts and food that she yearns for but for something priceless - our company, reassurance and love.

To a mother there is nothing more comforting than to see her children in good health and happiness. As children if we can convince her that she was the source and inspiration for our success and happiness in life, she would be the happiest mother today.

As Christians are we following Jesus in the way we treat our mother? Every day and often many times a day we say “Lord I love you”. If we do not love our mother, whom we can see, hear, touch and have experienced her love, then we will be lying when we say we love God, whom we cannot see, hear or touch.

A happy and blessed Mothers’ Day

Dr.Chris Anthony

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Voters must reject abuse of power and corruption

It is very sad to note that nearly 5 million Malaysians have not registered to vote in the coming general election. More distressing is the fact that about 70% of these are youngsters (Herald, April 29).

It is encouraging that our bishops and the The Christian Federation of Malaysia (CFM) are taking a serious view of this situation and are going all out to encourage all Christians to register so that they can exercise their legitimate rights as citizens. As citizens who have a stake in this country let us not be complacent. Let us do our part to register ourselves and encourage as many as possible do so.

While encouraging all those eligible to register, it is also equally important to educate the public to vote wisely. The recent Ijok by-election has shown what voters should not do – succumb to corruption. It is indeed distressing to know that voters seem to approve the blatant abuse of power and corruption, a trend which if left unchecked is indeed sad for the future of our country.

It is very disturbing that a new culture of “get rich” quickly is gaining roots in our society whereby all forms of abuse of power and corruption are being accepted as norms as long as they bring monetary benefit to us. In this mad rush and enthusiasm to gain power and wealth, winning at all costs is the order of the day, election is no exception. Morals have no place in this race. We are increasingly becoming more loyal to the “Almighty Ringgit” rather than the real Almighty.

As Christians fighting this new culture is not an option but a religious obligation and we can only do that if we rid ourselves of the greed and unselfishness in us. Let our hearts be ruled by none other than the love of Christ alone.

Let us not be hoodwinked by the empty promises of any party but remain steadfast to our principles in deciding whom to cast our votes in the next general election. We must reject corruption in all its forms however great the benefits it may bring us.

Dr.Chris Anthony