Of late, like in all religions, there has been an over-emphasis on the rituals than the substance on which the church was founded. The celebrations during the Holy Week are full of rituals to which we all seem to be more attracted rather than the real principles for which Jesus suffered and died – Humility, Forgiveness and unselfish Love (Agape).
The church asks to charity during the period of Lent and many of us do so faithfully. However we seem to give more importance to rituals in the church than to good deeds which unfortunately had taken a secondary role. We have the wrong notion that by adhering faithfully to the many rituals that we have we can be saved. This might have been right when we were children but it is time we grow up.
After many years of following these rituals faithfully I now begin to wonder whether Jesus is all about rituals. I now know for sure Jesus is not about waving palms, fasting, reading and enacting His Passion and feeling sorry for his unjust and cruel death on the cross. It is not just about cueing up to kiss the cross as a mark our veneration for the man who died on it over 2000 years ago. Jesus is not just about history where we enact his birth, life and death but He is about the present and future. I am now convinced that Jesus is about the way we live in the midst of fellow men. He is about going the extra mile to touch the hearts of others by our emotions, words, actions and attitude towards them, especially those in helpless situation. Jesus is about us seeing Him in each and every person we meet.
The following true stories helped to illustrate what Jesus should mean to me and I am sure it should also be the same to you as well.
The first story is about a friend whose attitude towards her maid really touched me. Her maid, with whom she was not happy as she always took advantage of her kindness, came one day after recovering from a short illness. She looked so weak and could hardly do her work. On enquiring what had happened to her, the maid told her she had eaten a decent meal for many days as she was sick. She hardly had any money to buy food for herself. My friend was so disturbed by the plight of her maid that she not only cooked some special food for her but also gave her RM50.00 to buy for her food. The maid was so grateful that she stayed longer that day to help out.
The second story is about another friend who visited an old folk’s home with his colleagues. They spent some time talking to the inmates and presented a mahjong table bought from their contributions to be used by the old folks there. He described the happiness he felt on seeing the response from the old folks who were so delighted to see them. He described how he was touched by one of the inmates, a young handicapped boy, who rushed forward to open the gate and gave them the warmest welcome with a most radiant smile of happiness. The incident made my friend conclude, “Happiness is doing something, however small it may be, for others without expecting anything and seeing them being happy”.
My friend had just reinforced a very hard fact of life that we often tend to forget. We need not do big things but little things with great love and expecting nothing in return. We will get true happiness in seeing others happy without expecting anything.
The third story is about a seventy year old man who has been fighting his wife’s cancer for the many years. His wife is now terminally ill but he continues to shoulder on his responsibilities to her. She has become very demanding and gets angry and loses her temper over many trivial things that he overlooks but he continues to keep his cool fully realizing it will not long when she will leave him for good. Her friends and relatives ‘leave’ her one by one as she lingers on but he is the only one there for twenty four hours without fail.
However there a friend who never fails to visit this terminally ill lady every week to be just a companion for an hour so.
These are just a few true stories of the some good people whose good deeds have touched me during this period of Lent. There are many more such good people in our midst doing many such good deeds. Unfortunately we pass them by without noticing them as they were mere ordinary people with small deeds, nothing to shout about.
At the final judgment, God is not going to ask us whether we prayed, fasted or abstained from eating meat. He is not going to ask us whether we went to church, waved palms, burnt candles, carried his statue in procession or kissed the crossed on which he was crucified. No He is not going to ask all these things which we do without fail. On the other hand as mother Teresa said He ask us, ”When I was hungry did you feed me, when I was naked did you clothe me, when I was sick did you visit me, when I was in prison did you come to see me ……. “
I begin to realize that Holy Week is not about just praying, fasting, abstaining from certain food or attending the various rituals in the church. It is more about touching the heart of someone who is in pain, agony or distress not by our big deeds but the small things in life that we tend to overlook. Jesus is not dead but risen and is alive, not it the beautiful and elaborate rituals that we perform but waiting for us to seek Him in each and every person who we encounter . The only way to find Him is to touch the heart of these people in whom He dwells.
Wishing you all a blessed Holy Week and a Joyous Easter