Friday, December 30, 2011

The plight Bernadette Lau

The plight Bernadette Lau

I received a surprise call from a person I least expected and whom I hardly know. It was Mdm.Bernadette Lau, the former sacristan of NBVM. She was so upset as she related how she had been terminated from her job. I would like to share the plight of this old lady with fellow members of NBVM.

According to Bernadette, she had been serving the church for the past 20 years, being first employed during the tenure of Fr.Murphy Pakiam who is now the Archbishop of KL. She had been a paid a salary and allowances totally RM900.00 per month. As an independent contract worker, she worked long and irregular hours without leave or overtime.

In a letter dated 20 July 2011, the present PP of NBVM, issued a 3-month notice to terminate her services. She was shocked and despite verbal appeal to allow her to work another 2 years, he was adamant that she leave. She says she was sacked without any reason being given which she described as unjust and is very upset. I am sure the PP has his reasons for terminating her service which was not revealed to her.

Out of anger and despair she lodged a complaint with the labour department where the officer in charge advised that she settle it out of court. Based on some formula, he suggested the church pay her RM12, 000 as retirement benefits for her maintenance as she is already 67years and not married. The representatives from NBVM were not agreeable and the case is due in January 2012.

Most of the parishioners feel that she should be paid a token sum for all the years of services to the church. The amount derived must be determined by some formula based on our labour laws. Consideration must be given to the fact she did not resign or retire but was terminated against her wishes for reasons not revealed. The majority of parishioners I spoke to agree that the sum of RM12,000 is reasonable and within the means of the Church.

The legality and status of her employment are within the jurisdiction of the labour Department and the Labour Court so is the quantum to be paid in compensation.

To my mind the question here is not so much of legal rights but compassion to an old woman who had served God in the church for two decades under so many priests. The employer, the church, is not a corporate organisation fighting a legal battle against a huge corporate institution over millions of ringgit. The employer is the church that is fighting against an old woman who served well for so many years over a few thousand ringgit which it can well afford.

The main issue here is not legal rights but compassion by which the by church should be governed. Looking the way this issue was handled it looks as though the church does not have any compassion especially for the poor and downtrodden which is indeed a very sorry state of affairs. Why do we a need an institution that says it represents Jesus but does not have compassion, one of the His basic teachings?

As a catholic and member of the NBVM, I am deeply disturbed that our church will be dragged into a court case that will not help its image in the eyes of the non-catholics. The PP is not just an individual but represents the parishioners of NBVM in particular and the Catholic community in general. He must not do anything to bring disrespect to the community he represents and the institution based on Christ’s teachings of love, compassion and humility.

While we wait for an amicable settlement of this dispute, let’s pray that the Holy Spirit will guide Bernadette, the PP and the PPC to submit to the rules laid down not by any human court but by Jesus Himself.

Meanwhile as fellow members of NBVM, let’s show our care and concern for this old woman during this season of Christmas in any way we can. As we celebrate this joyous occasion of the birth of Christ, let’s share that joy and happiness with someone who is in need and definitely Bernadette is one such person whom we must touch during this season.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Christmas 2011 – Humility and hope

Part 2 - Hope

As we decorate our homes with Christmas trees and the crib, let us have a peek into the latter bearing the infant Jesus and reflect on the divine infan’s extreme act of humility being born among poor shepherds. As we look at the poor shepherds let us be reminded that God has intentionally chosen to come into the hearts of the poor and oppressed and we too should do likewise. The images of the three kings who have come from afar amidst great risks to offer gifts should remind us that we too must face up to the challenges that we may encounter in seeking God in doing good in our lives.

Christmas has different meaning to different people. For those who have met only success after success in their lives, Christmas would be a season of parties, merry-making and some of charitable works for the less fortunate. For them it is a day of joy and happiness as they have never experienced any difficulties in life to understand its true meaning. We were like that when we were young, leading care-free lives.

For those who are terminally ill and for those who have tragically lost a loved one, Christmas is not a time for celebration ut sorrow. For those in poverty and those affected by some form of tragedy and are left without proper food and shelter, Christmas is not a time for joy but one of hope. For those parents who have been disserted and neglected by their own children in whom they placed all the hopes, it brings no happiness whatsoever as their yearnings for the company of their loved ones continue to agonize them.

For such desperate people who have never seen success and for those in distress undergoing the various trials and tribulations in life, Christmas is a sign of hope for a better future. To these unfortunate people the birth of Jesus in such humble surroundings should bring hope that He has come to be born among them to guide them out of their agony and pain. It is this humility of Jesus that brings hope to the poor, the sick, the oppressed and the despised.

Of late we see the collapse of various institutions in our country. The good are persecuted and the bad rewarded over and over again. Law and order are been blatantly disregarded by those in power. Justice is trampled upon and there is open discrimination based on race and religion. Decline in morality is threatening the sanctity of marriage leading to divorce and disintegration of the family unit. Everywhere we go we see groups and individuals who have virtually hijacked Jesus for their own agenda that often contradicts the very principles that He stood for on during his life on earth. We look around us to only see everywhere evil triumphing over good and as we witness that helplessly, we begin to doubt the very existence of God.

Even the Church, of which we were once very proud, seems to be failing us as politicking has become an established trend there too. It seems to have become more obsessed with rituals rather than the real essence of our faith that was based on the teachings of Christ. Love, compassion and justice that were once the hallmark of our faith are not there in the church anymore as it becomes more ritualistic and embroiled in materialism. Even our own pastors whom we had high regards as men of God seem to fail us as they get politically involved, being no different from us. We call ourselves Christians, the followers of Christ but becoming increasingly less Christ-like in our lives. We are so saddened and hurt that the very Church that moulded us is now failing us. Where are we heading?

In our own parish of NBVM we witness many shocking developments that we never imagined. Administration unjust, unfair elections, insulting priest, non-transparent financial management, division of BECs, etc. etc. It appears that all that matters is money and nothing but money. The church is no different from any other secular institution.

As an air of despair looms over us, we feel like packing up and leave the country and our faith but something deep in us says that we should not let these setbacks deter us from continuing with our good works towards fellow men. That inner voice tells us that we must pick up courage and face up to these challenges, with confidence in our hearts that God will be there with us if we do the right things under all circumstances. He has chosen to be born among us and his birth should inspire us continue His works among fellow men.

It is in doing good to others that inspire us to brace up to all the challenges. It is in sharing the blessings He had bestowed upon us, however little that may be, with those who are in dire need of those blessings that gives us the courage to go forward. Every one of us, however poor or handicapped, will have something to share with others; all it needs is a heart to do so. We may not have much wealth and money to share but a little of the little we have is all that matters as Mother Teresa rightly put it, “It is not the great things that matter but the little things done with great love that really matters”. Our time and energy are the invaluable possessions that we can share with those who are down and out.

Let’s welcome this Christmas in the spirit of the true meaning of the birth of Jesus into the world. To those who are down it is a symbol of hope for a better future and to others who are up it is a call for humility in their lives. Whichever category we may in, His birth has a special and significant meaning in our lives.

Friday, December 16, 2011

New Translation of the Roman Missal

I had the opportunity to participate in the mass using the New Missal translation that was introduced on the first Sunday in Advent this year. There had been a lot of hype about the changes to be introduced in the new translation which made me rather excited and eager to see what they were. I was disappointed with the changes that were introduced as there was nothing new. It was just some change in the words and on when to bow, stand or kneel which to me is really insignificant.

Whether we respond “And with you also” or “And with your spirit” when the priest says “The Lord is with you “does not make any difference. Whether we stand or sit during certain ritual is immaterial as long as we do it with respect and reverence. Does the use of bombastic words, like “consubstantial”, really matter to us who are at mass to worship God? It is more important to use simple words that we understand and come from our hearts and not use difficult words which we ourselves do not really understand. The vast majority of English speaking Catholics are not English experts.

The church continues to portray God as a powerful, supernatural and mysterious being who has to be confined to majestic buildings and the tabenacle and worsipped by elaborate rituals.It may be so for some ancient deities but for us who follow Jesus,God is not such a mysteriois being.He is a living God who has to be brought into every aspects of our lives.He must be in involved in every inter-personal relationship of man.

The changes introduced into our liturgy failed to do this. It failed to address the very grievous problem the church is facing in the world where it is fast losing its appeal and relevance to man. What the changes did was just whitewash the outside with little or no real change in its substance to make it more relevant to modern man.

To remain relevant the church must bring about real change in substance to help modern man cope with the many socioeconomic, psychological, physical and moral problems that he is facing in a world that is governed technological advancements that tend to question His very existence. To bring back the practices of its glorious past to address the problems of the present and future is not going to succeed. We all know that but we insist in doing something futile.

Monday, December 05, 2011

Sunday Reflection 4 December 2010

Second Sunday in Advent - Preparing the Way

Last Sunday I attended mass at St.Anne’s Church,Bukit Mertajam celebrated our newly ordained priest Rev.Fr.Martin Arlando.It was indeed a pleasant surprise for me and my family and friends who were there at mass.

Being the second Sunday in Advent, the theme based on the Gospel reading (Mark 1: 1-8) was ‘Preparing the Way’.It was indeed a very appropriate theme in preparation for the coming of Jesus. John the Baptist called for repentance and baptized those came forward to confess their sins. Baptism then was the symbol of repentance which was so important in preparing for the coming Jesus, whom John himself humbly described as someone who is more powerful than me, and I am not fit to kneel down and undo the strap of his sandals”. Yes, the 2 important things in preparing for Jesus are repentance and humility which many us badly lack.

In his sermon on ‘Preparing The Way’, Fr. Martin touched on the need to bring about the change within us in preparing to welcome Jesus at Christmas. “No point singing Jingle bells, Jingle bells...there is nothing to jingle about if we don't change to receive Him into our hearts” said Fr.Martin.

He went to tell story about an old man who regularly go to meet with and spend some time with his mentally deranged son and his demented wife in the hospital every week without fail. They do not know who he was or why he comes but they are very happy to be in his presence every week. Even the staffs in the hospital are very happy each time he comes to visit his son and wife. An air of peace, tranquility and inspiration is felt after each of his visits and them long to see him again the following week. We too should like that old man, by our actions and words generate such peace and happiness in our own surroundings.

At the end of the sermon Fr.Martin screened a short video clip of the song “Man in the mirror” in which Michael Jackson beautifully sang the lyrics, “If you wanna make the world a better place,take a look at yourself and then make a change”.

It was a touching and inspiring experience that morning, the sermon on preparing the way, the story of the old man and the video clip of the man in the mirror. I left the church very refreshed and thinking what I can do to make that change in my life this Christmas.

Fr.Martin did splendid job of effectively highlighting the need to change ourselves during this Advent. If we are doing something wrong, involved in some immoral relationship or hurting someone, it is time we make that change to repent. If we are angry and vengeful, proud and arrogant it is time we change. Unless we change and repent, Christmas will be meaningless.

The Church should lead in making that CHANGE , emphasizing more on love, charity and compassion and put a stop to the meaningless jingle year in and year out come Christmas.

The Gospel reading and the lyrics of "Man in the mirror" below for your info.

Gospel, Mk 1:1-8

The beginning of the gospel about Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

It is written in the prophet Isaiah: Look, I am going to send my messenger in front of you to prepare your way before you.

A voice of one that cries in the desert: Prepare a way for the Lord, make his paths straight.

John the Baptist was in the desert, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.

All Judaea and all the people of Jerusalem made their way to him, and as they were baptised by him in the river Jordan they confessed their sins.

John wore a garment of camel-skin, and he lived on locusts and wild honey.

In the course of his preaching he said, 'After me is coming someone who is more powerful than me, and I am not fit to kneel down and undo the strap of his sandals.

I have baptised you with water, but he will baptise you with the Holy Spirit.'

Man in the mirror

Ooh ooh ooh aah
Gotta make a change
For once in my life
It's gonna feel real good
Gonna make a difference
Gonna make it right

As I turned up the collar on
A favorite winter coat
This wind is blowin' my mind
I see the kids in the street
With not enough to eat
Who am I to be blind
Pretending not to see their needs

A summer's disregard
A broken bottle top
And a one man's soul
They follow each other
On the wind ya' know
'Cause they got nowhere to go
That's why I want you to know

I'm starting with the man in the mirror
I'm asking him to change his ways
And no message could have been any clearer
If you wanna make the world a better place
Take a look at yourself and then make a change, yey
Na na na, na na na, na na na na oh ho

I've been a victim of
A selfish kinda love
It's time that I realize
There are some with no home
Not a nickel to loan
Could it be really pretending that they're not alone

A willow deeply scarred
Somebody's broken heart
And a washed out dream
(Washed out dream)
They follow the pattern of the wind ya' see
'Cause they got no place to be
That's why I'm starting with me

I'm starting with the man in the mirror
I'm asking him to change his ways
And no message could have been any clearer
If you wanna make the world a better place
Take a look at yourself and then make a change

I'm starting with the man in the mirror
I'm asking him to change his ways
And no message could have been any clearer
If you wanna make the world a better place
Take a look at yourself and then make that change

I'm starting with the man in the mirror
(Man in the mirror, oh yeah)
I'm asking him to change his ways, yeah
No message could have been any clearer
If you wanna make the world a better place
Take a look at yourself and then make the change
You gotta get it right, while you got the time
'Cause when you close your heart
(You can't close your, your mind)
Then you close your mind

(That man, that man, that man)
(That man, that man, that man)
(With the man in the mirror, oh yeah)
(That man you know, that man you know)
(That man you know, that man you know)
I'm asking him to change his ways
No message could have been any clearer
If you wanna make the world a better place
Take a look at yourself then make that change

(Na na na, na na na, na na na na)
Oh yeah
Yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah
(Na na na, na na na, na na na na)

Oh no
Oh no, I'm gonna make a change
It's gonna feel real good
Sure mon
Just lift yourself
You know, you got to stop it yourself
Make that change
(I gotta make that change today, oh)
(Man in the mirror)
You got to, you got to not let yourself, brother oh
You know that
(Make that change)
(I gotta make that make me then make)
You got, you got to move
Sure mon, sure mon
You got to
(Stand up, stand up, stand up)
Make that change
Stand up and lift yourself, now
(Man in the mirror)
Make that change
(Gonna make that change, sure mon)
(Man in the mirror)
You know it, you know it, you know it, you know
Make that change