Saturday, December 27, 2008

Christmas reflections 2008

Jesus is born but have we found Him yet?

Three important encounters during this Christmas made be reflect on the the significance of the birth of of Christ to me and us Christians.There were two neglected elderly parents,two couples at the verge of divorce and a close relative who left the faith due to marriage.Then there were 2 case of serious illness in the family.What were the significance of all these at time of celebrations and joy?

Christmas is a commemoration of God’s coming into the world as a man to live among men just like every one of us. He came for all of us – believers and non-believers,good and the bad alike.

His birth should bring us hope and triumph which will dispel the sadness from our lives. But after years of celebrating Christmas after Christmas many of us are yet to see that triumph in our lives and our hopes may be giving way to despair. Has the Messiah really come? If He has where is He? Why doesn't He bring the triumph to dispel the sadness of man?

The real problem today is that we are waiting for God to literally come to us. We celebrate His birth just like that of any one of us – offering prayers, eating, drinking and making merry. We celebrate his coming into the world but we do not welcome Him into our hearts and lives.

Yes, He has come into the world and is very much in our midst but unfortunately we refuse to recognize Him therefore fail to welcome Him into our lives. The way he chose to be born into the world has great significance for us as a great lesson in the wonderful virtue of humility.

By being born to poor parents, in an environment of extreme poverty, Jesus is telling us where He dwells - not in places of majesty and glamour but among the poor and the down-trodden, the sick and dying, the hungry, the oppressed and in those we love and even in those we hate. In short He is in every one we encounter in our daily lives, our spouse, children parents, friends and more importantly our enemies, those who hurt us.

Amidst all our celebrations, did we pause a while to look around us to recognize that Jesus who is among us, in every person and in every trial and tribulation we encounter in our lives? As step into the New Year, let us make a resolution to look around to recognize Jesus in those who do not have joy and peace in their lives.

Let us resolve to do the little within our means to alleviate the pain and misery in their lives. Let us do whatever we can to give them the hope that triumph will one day wipe out the sadness in the hearts.

We too, like Jesus, must have the humility to come down from our positions of comfort and power to meet Him in the people around us. If we isolate ourselves from the masses by building a fortress around us with all our wealth and power together with greed, selfishness and pride, then we can keep waiting for Jesus all our lives but it will only be in vain.

Jesus is born into the world but have we found him yet? Has he been born into our lives yet? If we haven’t then his birth, that is Christmas, will be just another day to celebrate, eat, drink and make merry. It will never become the day when we bring hope of triumph that dispels the sadness in our lives and in those around us.

Dr.Chris Anthony

Friday, December 12, 2008

Allah issue an opportunity to exhibit Christ's love

What is in a name after all

The Kuala Lumpur High Court has set a new trial date on Feb 27 on the suit filed by our Catholic weekly Herald on the use of the word 'Allah’. It is sad that we have to resort to human judgment to determine the name we use to address the one and the same God for all mankind.

Since the case was filed a number of other interested parties have joined in as co-respondents. These include eight Islamic agencies, the Home Ministry and the Malaysian Gurdwara Association representing the Sikh community. It appears that when the case may be paving the way for a showdown between the Muslims and non-Muslims, in particular, Christians.

"Allah" is the same name used by Christian Arabs and Jewish Arabs in their Bible, centuries before Islam came. The non-Muslims in Malaysia, like Christians and Sikhs, have been using the word 'Allah' without any problem all these years. It would be wrong for the government now to create an issue out of something which has been a non-issue all these while. What is their motive in forbidding others from using that word?

At a time when racial and religious differences are causing so much tension and anxiety among the people, will a public debate on the 'Allah' issue help to restore the much needed inter-religious harmony? Wouldn’t it aggravate the already existing tense situation.

There is no doubt that we are frustrated at being denied our fundamental rights of worship and are tempted to react with anger and hate. However Jesus has taught us to love all men regardless of the race, religion, social status and political ideology. By his Passion and crucifixion, Jesus has taught us to love and forgive even those who hurt us, to offer the other cheek when struck on one. In short Jesus has asked us to even love our enemies as ourselves which seems to be ridiculous in today’s world. If our neighbour is hurt by what we do or say, wouldn't the right thing for us to do is to refrain from continuing with those offending acts?

This dispute over the right to use "Allah" has given us the opportunity to demonstrate the true meaning of love, goodwill and tolerance as demonstrated by Jesus himself. These virtues may appear to make us the losers in a material world governed by wealth,power and egomania but in the eyes of God, truth will definitely prevail as the ultimate victor in our struggles for justice.
Our judicial system may be a civil way that allows one to seek revenge and hitting back at those who have hurt us in some way. As the true followers of Christ what are we to do? Should we fight back to just to regain our rights to call God Allah? Can’t we call him by some other name? After all what is in a name as God is still God by whatever name we call him.

Instead of spending our time, energy and resources to fight over the use of “Allah” it would be more fruitful for us to be more worried about the rapidly declining influence of the Church in the lives of peoples in the world. Christianity is losing its identity as the promoter of peace, love, humility, forgiveness, morality and a champion of the masses. Let's spend more of our time and energy to address these problems that plague our Church in particular and humanity in general.

Let's implore the Holy Spirit to guide the minds of all so that we can one day, regardless of our different religious believes, come together as His children, to worship the one true God, addressing Him by any name we like.

Dr.Chris Anthony