Wednesday, January 27, 2010
Lent 2010 – Love your neighbor
Giving up something for peace
The Penang Diocese Lenten campaign theme for this year is “Love your neighbor”, a theme that is very appropriate in a world that is ruled by hate especially for those of a different race and creed. In the world today there are clashes between people of different ethnicity, color and creed, which has resulted in the wars in many parts of the world; in the Middle-East, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Ireland and many others. Then there are the violence and killings by suicide bombers and the gruesome slaughter of those taken hostage by religious militants. It appears that the world is taken over by those with hate and vengeance and killings perpetrated in the name of God and religion.
The violence continues with no end in sight. Politicians and others including religious leaders in power and entrusted to bring peace are themselves guilty of abuses and scandal-ridden with immoral deeds. Where are we heading to as a human race?
On the home front we too are witnessing such acts of hate among the various races although not as serious as in other countries. The recent dispute over the word ‘Allah’ almost took our nation to the brink of religious riots, being saved by the moderate Muslim majority who rose up to the occasion to stop the violence and offered their goodwill in the form various conciliatory gestures. The Christians onthe other hand for once followed Jesus in adopting the virtue of forgiveness and offered the other cheek when struck on one.
The court may have ruled in our favor but the issue of Allah is far from over. There is still a lot of inter-racial and inter-religious tensions that need to be relieved by the concerted action of all peace-loving Malaysians. On our part let us do the little we can to bring peace to our neighbor.
As we set foot into the season of Lent, it may be the right time for us to adopt the virtues that Jesus demonstrated during his triumphant entry into Jerusalem, the washing of the feet and the subsequent Passion and death on the cross.
The entry into Jerusalem indicated the willingness of Jesus to stand up for the truth despite knowing well that it is going to cost Him his life. How do we measure up to Jesus when we are asked to stand up for truth many times in our own lives? Do we take the easy way out and follow the masses or stand up to be counted knowing that by doing so we may be penalized? In times of trouble do we abandon those under our care for fear of reprisal?
The washing of the feet of his apostles was an act of extreme humility that Jesus wants us to emulate in our own lives. “If I, then, the Lord and Master, have washed your feet, you must wash each other's feet”(John13:14). In the Passion and death he demonstrated his forgiveness towards even those who insulted and persecuted him in the cruelest form. Instead of retaliating with anger and vengeance he reacted with love and forgiveness saying, “Father, forgive them; they do not know what they are doing”(Luke 23:34).
Most of us will not be able to do what he did but that is what we must try to do to be worthy to be called his followers.
Very often we consider only the poor as our neighbor but we forget everyone in our midst is also our neighbor including our adversaries. Today we are confronted by some of our fellow Muslims who are misled into wanting to deny our rights to worship, threaten our peace and security, ridicule our believes, using scare tactics to make us submit and provoking us to react with anger.
As humans, we are angry, frustrated and tempted to react with anger and hate. But they are our neighbors and Jesus had commanded that we should love them not hate them. This is the time to remember what Jesus had taught us – to uphold humility, forgiveness and love even towards those who plan to harm us in one way or another. His commandment “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you”(Luke 6:27) is that should make us different from all others.
As a demonstration of these virtues exalted by Jesus, it may be wise for us to give up something, which is also rightly ours for the sake of peace, unity, goodwill, and above all love for our Muslim brethren. This will be in keeping with our Lenten theme of “Love your neighbor”. This theme does not come from the bishop, priest or the Church but from the commandment that Jesus himself gave us, “You must love your neighbor as yourself”(Mark12:31)
Let us be humble to refrain from using the word “Allah” for the time being until they are ready to accept without fear or suspicion. We have nothing to lose but all to gain by helping them to overcome their fears and anxiety over the use of Allah. After all aren’t we, Muslims and Christians alike, the children of the one same God, whatever name we may choose to call Him?