Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Tribute to the late Mdm.June Chin

Mdm.June Chin returns to the Lord

Parishioners of NBVM have lost one of their illustrious daughters, the late June Ng Yoke Lin or Mrs. June Chin as she is fondly called by her friends. She was called to the Lord on 27 September 2011 after a long battle wit cancer.

I got acquainted with her for the last 3 years or so when she used to come for treatment at my hospital. I still remember the first time she walked into my office to congratulate me for my writings to the Herald and the Star. Later she not only became a good friend but like a mother advising me on many issues in the church.

She was an active member of the charismatic group and very talented in sharing of the word of God. The two greatest attributes in her that impressed me most were her resilience in fighting her fatal illness and her unshakable faith God even till the final days of her life.

As we bid farewell to Mdm.June,let’s pray for her beloved husband, that God will give him the courage to continue his journey alone without her. Let us emulate him in the wonderful way he cared for her till her death.

The following is a short tribute to the lady whom my wife and I will miss for a long time

The Final Goodbye

When we heard the news of your demise we was shocked but not surprised

You may be gone but your memories remain vivid in our minds

We do not know from where you came or how you came to us but in that period we knew you, you have left a lasting impression in our hearts

We were impressed by the way you fought for over fifteen years the fatal illness that inflicted you

We were touched by the unshakable faith in God despite your terminal illness till the final days of your life

Your resilience in the long fight against cancer has given us inspiration and courage to meet the many challenges that come our way.

Now you may be gone but we will continue to cherish the many pleasant and happy moments we had with you in the hospital and at home

We pray that God grant you eternal rest where you will join Him in glory with His angels and saints

May your soul rest in peace


Monday, September 26, 2011

Migrant Sunday 2011

Greater role for migrants

We dedicated last Sunday, 25 September 2011, to the migrants and we appropriately called it Migrant Sunday. I could not be there for the mass on Sunday but I understand that our Parish Priest  (PP), expressed great concern for the migrants in the parish and urged the parishioners to do all they can to make the stay of the migrants here a pleasant one. He even went out of the way to provide lunch for them after mass.This change of heart may be a positive change which many were taken aback. 

I am surprised at the about turn of our PP who was the one to unceremoniously terminate the services of the previous person who was managing the Migrant Ministry so well for over 20 years. Many of us who were here long will know how well the migrants were being catered for in our parish which was once the model of migrant care for others. We would all remember the migrants gathering in our church compound every Sunday and witness the various activities carried out by them – prayer, games, singing, cooking and talent contests shows. We would still remember their active participation in masses on the last Sundays of the month. I for one was particularly impressed by their choir that used to be so lively. 

That person in charge of the migrants whom I was closely working with in helping deserving migrants, used to be a staunch church goer but she was so disillusioned with the way she was treated by her own PP for doing something good for the migrants. Sad to say she has even stopped going to the church although she is still a strong Catholic at heart. The greatest disappointment is that the PP and other senior members of the PPC and other ministries were least bothered about the ‘loss’ of such a dedicated worker. 

It was the present PP who slammed the doors of the parish to the migrants by closing down the little office space they had and forbid them from using the church premises for their weekly gatherings. Isn’t it being hypocritical of him now to preach about caring for them? 

Act of tokenism? 

It is most unfortunate that the migrants are only celebrated once a year in the parish. It appears to be just an act of tokenism like the rhetoric of our politicians. On this one day they are given the opportunity to organise the mass and they are given free food and drinks, often sponsored by some kind souls out to seek some sort of penance. 

Our relationship with the migrants should not be like master and slave but like father and son as Jesus mentioned in this Migrant Sunday’s Gospel of Mathew 21: 28-32. 

The way forward 

The Church in particular our priests and lay ministers, must show greater sincerity and empathy in dealing with the plight of our migrant workers in their parishes. They should be treated with greater dignity and as equal members of the parish and not as second class citizens just because they are mere workers here to earn an income. There is no reason why they can’t play a bigger role as wardens, communion ministers, readers, commentators and choir members on all Sundays instead of only during the Bahasa Malaysia masses. 

The concern for the migrants as expressed by our PP may be an encouraging sign that could augur well for our parish. Will it mark the return of migrants to active parish life? We hope it will be the dawn of a new scenario where the people’s voices will be heard again. We hope it will be the beginning of an era of greater transparency in the administration in our parish where the people will have a greater say in the decision making process.

Sorry,the magic word that does wonders

Apologizing is not a sign of weakness but strength

The Cambridge Online dictionary defines the word ‘sorry’ as  the feeling of sadness, sympathy, or disappointment, especially because something unpleasant has happened or been done and apology is an act of saying sorry. 

Today the vast majority of conflicts in our families, places of work,our society and the world in general are caused by people who refuse to apologize for whatever mistake they have committed or harm they could have caused to others. Even after proven wrong there are many who refuse to say sorry. The word “sorry” is such a simple word but is the most difficult to say as apologizing would mean admitting once guilt which our ego will not allow such humble act.

If only we have the humility to say sorry to those who are hurt by us, the world will be a better place for all as all inter-personal problems, misunderstandings and disputes can all be amicably solved. Every religion teaches repentance and forgiveness but lack of these basic virtues among their followers is the fundamental cause of inter-religious disputes and violence throughout the history of mankind.

I was impressed by the action of a friend who related an incident he encountered recently. His daughter after leaving school managed to get a job in an office. Apparently she had promised the employer that she would stay permanently in her job. However after some months she realized that she did not find the job suitable and she decided to resign and take some other career which she very much wanted. She submitted her resignation letter in accordance with the agreement but that was the start of the nightmares for this young and inexperienced girl facing the cruel world for the first time.

Her employer was very furious that she had breached the terms of her contract and he felt cheated by her for breaking her promise to stay long. He refused to pay her the final month salary and insisted she pay compensation for having “cheated” him resulting in financial losses for him. The young girl was so shocked and informed her father who was so angry that he reported to the labor office and the case was scheduled to be heard in the labor court.

When he confronted the boss, he was told rudely that he wanted a letter of apology from the girl, failing which he would meet her in court to claim compensation and ask the court to mete out other form of punishment for breach of trust. My friend and his wife were so angry that they refused to give in and were prepared to go to court.

On the eve of the court hearing, the father, being a God fearing man, spent some solitary moments reflecting on what was happening. He finally came to his senses that nobody was greater than God and if that God Himself wants him to apologize, there is nothing wrong to say sorry to the boss and leave the judgment to God Himself.

He quickly typed out the letter of apology and made her daughter sign it. The next day the girl submitted the letter to the employer who was quick to forgive her, pay her salary and withdrew the case against her. The problem was so quickly and easily solved just with a simple letter of apology, although the girl and her parents were convinced she did not do any wrong.my friend too was so surprised that the speed and ease with the problem was settled amicably and this is what he has to say, “It may be extremely difficult and painful to say sorry to someone we may be angry with but it is worth doing so even if we feel we are right to avoid or solve a lot of heartaches and problems”. This I take as a advice for all of who meet with such problems daily in our own lives.
Apologizing is a virtue that is a basic tenet of every religion. As Christians we recite the “Lord’s Prayer” everyday asking God to “forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us”. Do we really mean what we say in the prayer? Do we put into practice what we recite each day? Jesus was absolutely clear when he said, If you are bringing your offering to the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar, go and be reconciled with your brother first, and then come back and present your offering”(Mathew 5:23-24).

In the next verse he says, “Come to terms with your opponent in good time while you are still on the way to the court with him, or he may hand you over to the judge and the judge to the officer, and you will be thrown into prison” (Mathew 5:25).

These words of Jesus are so simple and needs no deciphering whatsoever. There is no point going all out to worship Him when we are unwilling to reconcile with those whom we have hurt, be it be our spouse, parents, children, siblings, friends or even enemies. 

My friend went to see his daughter’s employer with so much anger but after deep thought he adopted the way of Jesus which brought peace, goodwill and even justice in the end. All he had to do was humble himself to say sorry, the magic word that did wonders.

We too meet with such problems almost daily in our lives. Are we prepared to say the magic word “sorry” whenever we seem to have hurt someone even unintentionally? Are we willing to say sorry even to those whom we think are unjust to us? If only we can do that, like my friend, our life will be more peaceful and rewarding as humility in apologizing  is not a sign of weakness but strength.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Fr.Martin Arlando ordained a priest

Priestly ordination symbolizes humility

Reverend Deacon Father Martin Andrews Arlando was ordained to the priesthood on 29 August 2011 at Church of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary(NBVM).The ceremony was witnessed by about 2,000 people who came from all over the country to be with Fr.Martin on this most auspicious day in his life.
Going through the album of the his ordination , the one that touched me most was that of Rev.Deacon Fr.Martin prostrating on the floor in front of the Bishop of Penang Reverend Antony Selvanayagam who graced the ordination ceremony that was full of colorful and meaningful rituals.
Newly ordained Fr.Martin prostrating in front of the bishop
To the bishop this prostration was a sign of absolute obedience to him as the representative of Christ. While obedience to human authority is important, is it right to observe that absolute obedience which should only be reserved for none other than God Himself?
Sign of humility

To me and to many who observed the event, such a prostration was more of a sign of extreme humility which should be the guiding principle for a priest in his service to the people. Christ demonstrated that humility in his life on earth which should be a lesson to all us; particularly his priests who should like Christ lead their people in the virtuous path of love, compassion and humility. 

In his address Bishop Antony said the decision to become a priest is not that one makes but it is a call that comes from God. It is a spiritual calling to serve the human race and not be served. He went on to cite the example of John the Baptist who lost his head for speaking the truth during biblical times. These were very powerful words that all priests in particular and Christians in general must take heed and put tpractice in our lives.



It is sad today that many priests forget these words of the bishop soon after their ordination. They observe very strictly their oath of obedience to the hierarchical authorities but fail in the oath to serve the people with humility. We are all familiar with the arrogance of many of our priests in the way they deal with their people. With time they become masters of the very people they are to serve.   
Not only should they serve the people with great humility but they should also like John the Baptist, be willing to stand up for truth against all odds. In a materialistic world driven by power, glamour, greed and lust, our priests should stand out as role models for us and our children.

  Deacon Martin being ordained by the bishop

It is significant that Fr.Martin has chosen the meaningful verse from, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Phil 4:13)as the theme of his ordination. We hope that he will continue to depend on Christ to strengthen him to great things in life as a priest and a spiritual and moral guide to the people under his care.
We hope Fr.Martin will carry the image of his prostration at his ordination into his life of priestly service for the rest of his life. 
We congratulate him and wish him well and pray that God will guide and guard him always.

Congratulations Fr.Martin and May God bless you

TBC one year on – successes and failures?

We just celebrated the first anniversary of our Togetherness in Building a caring (TBC) Community of Butterworth. The TBC as we know took its roots from the Taman Senangan BEC,after the latter was forcefully divided by the new Parish Priest Fr.Victor Louis in June 2010 with the help of some members of the BEC.

I for one was dragged into the problem as I saw what the PP and some members did was uncalled for and unjust move on their part. Since our exclusion from the BEC, we decided to go ahead with the formation of our group to prove to the PP that we are indeed a legitimate group that should be recognized as the new BEC.As the PP was not prepared to listen to us or recognize us as the legitimate BEC we decided to call ourselves the TBC, which the PP was quick to declare as an illegal group. It was shocking that he considered not just the group as illegal but even the prayers that we offered were regarded as illegal.

The way forward for us and our TBC

After much prayer and reflection we decided to continue our struggle for justice for us and our BEC in a peaceful way without anger and hate. We should continue to strongly oppose our BEC to be spilt in the manner it was done, high-handedly without consultation whatsoever. We should continue with our pressure until the PP and the leader realize their folly in dividing the BEC. We may not succeed now but I feel we must try and leave the rest to God as the truth will finally prevail.

Our struggle to build a united God’s Kingdom consisted of three aspects as follows: 
1. Prayer – asking for almighty guidance to rebuild our new group,TBC
2. Fellowship – strengthen the bonds of love among one another.
3. Charity – reaching out to those in need in our midst
We decided to continue doing what God wants of us with great love and commitment, without anger or hatred towards those who dissent, disagree with us or even hurt us. We hoped by our example we will make them realize the value of being together with us as one happy family. We placed our trust in God that He will deliver us out of this mess amicably and take us to greater heights.

Where are we one year later? 

Where are we after one year since the formation of the TBC? What have we achieved? Have we succeeded in our aims or have we failed? Do we regret choosing the path of departing from BEC recognized by the PP? Where do we go from here now that the PP continues to neglect us? These are the questions that should run through our minds on this first anniversary.
The two great Commandments
Christ’s teachings are very simple – Love God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with your entire mind, and your neighbor as yourself (Luke 10:27).These were His two great Commandments which override all others before Him.
It is of utmost importance that we really understand these tow commandments in order to do the right things that Jesus wants of us.Fig.1 illustrate the relationship between the two commandments. We show our love for God by the various physical means of worship and our love for our neighbour by acts of charity and fellowship forged among ourselves in our TBC.                                                      

In the story of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10: 30-37) Jesus clearly tells us who our neighbor is. He further elaborated what he meant by ‘love your neighbor’ in his Sermon on the Mount, particularly in the Beatitudes (Mathew 5).
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.

Worshiping God encompasses not just the many rituals that we perform but by our acts of charity, forgiveness and humility towards our neighbour.

His words “I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me”.(Mathew 25:40) clearly tells us that unless we love to our neighbor there is no way we can love God Himself. It is through our neighbor that we can reach Him. This is the greatest commandment that Jesus had given us which we often do not take it seriously. We do all sorts of things to reach Him and go all over the world to search for Him but forget that He is in the people around us and it is through our love for them can we reach Him.

Jesus commands us to reach out to others

With these words of Jesus it is very clear what we should do as His followers in the TBC – we should reach out to those in our midst as it in them resides Jesus. Are we doing that? In this respect we in the TBC had initiated many activities to build the love among ourselves. We had succeeded to forge the closeness among us, ridding of the suspicion and jealousy from our hearts. We were like strangers when we started 1 year ago but today we have become like members of a big family. This is indeed a great achievement for us that were made possible by the splitting of the BEC. We all know that God works in mysterious ways but did we realize He did so by splitting our BEC despite vehement protests from us.
With these commandments in mind, it may be time to search our conscience to see whether we are indeed in the right path as Christians and TBC members. We may have many great fellowships, outings and other such activities but are we in the path that of Jesus? Did we see Him in the fellow members of our TBC, the old folks we visited in Ai Xiang Home, the orphans of Shan Children’s Home and the sick June Chin for whom we prayed? If we have then we can be proud that we have succeeded but if we did not see Jesus in these people who came into our lives, then we would have failed in our mission and it is time that we try harder to succeed in the coming year.

Our charitable acts of visiting the sick like June Chin, the Ai Xiang old folk’s home and lending support to the children from Shan Children’s Home are all commendable. However as far as I am concerned, I  must admit that my enthusiasm for such acts of love for others was must less as compared to that I placed in the various fellowships and outings that we organized for ourselves. I feel I should strive for greater spirited commitment into helping the more unfortunate people around me in the coming year.

Results of survey done on TBC

A total of 22 people returned the answers to the 3 questions posed to the members at the recent TBC anniversary dinner. The results are as follows.

1.TBC to continue? 21 said yes,1 abstained
2.If yes,suggest 3 ways to move forward.
a.Family outing and fellowship
b.Community prayer,payer for those in need
c.Charitable deeds,visit old folks,works of mercy for those in need,visiting those I need

Others :
Everyone should take part
Team building
Fund raising including to help those need for education
Field trips
More health walks, games,Bowling,camping,
Visiting church members
Register officially,open an office
Encourage more to join
Discuss current issues,politics,educate about truth and justice
Bible study
Get together more often and do projects

3.i. Any other comments for improvement – Doing fine,continue,no comments
ii. Is the TBC doing it correctly in building God’s Kingdom among us?
      All said yes,yes,yes

Hope more will join,more talents
Do more charity
Be proud of what we are doing
Meet up with BECs in our area to offer hand of friendship but we stay together
Minimise expenses