Monday, October 31, 2011

Sunday Reflection 30Oct 2011

The greatest among you must be your servant.

Last Sunday’s Gospel is particularly relevant to life today. Jesus in no uncertain terms tells the Scribes and the Pharisees that what they were hypocrites as they do not practice what they preach and warns the people to be wary of what they preach.

This is indeed very true even today more than 2,000 years later. Everywhere we go we encounter such hypocrites; people in very esteemed and revered positions who do not practice what they preach. In fact many go against the very principles which they preach. They are great preachers but poor doers of what they preach. We see them everywhere; in our bosses, teachers, politicians, religious leaders, pious people and even parents.

They want praise and honour for themselves among men but fail to realise that real honour should be accorded by God himself for our services in accordance with His teachings. Yes we do a lot of good deeds but we do so with great pride for self glory with no humility whatsoever. We want to be popular; we want titles and want to be given importance in public.

Jesus clearly sates there is only one Father, one Master and one Teacher and that is God Himself and everything we do must be to please Him and none other. In whatever we do we must seek the recognition of that God and not any human awards. In order to do that we must humble ourselves to serve those under our care and not be subservient to the worldly masters.

As Jesus said “The greatest among you must be your servant. Anyone who raises himself up will be humbled, and anyone who humbles himself will be raised up”. We are all, to some extent guilty of what Jesus said of the scribes and Pharisee. We preach but fail to practice what we preach. We are quick to judge others but fail to judge ourselves.

After having listened to His Word last Sunday, let’s spend some moments today in solitary and sacred silence reflecting on what those words mean to us in our lives. We may be masters in our society but are we humble enough to become the servants of those under our care? Do we seek glory and fame in whatever we do? We cannot be the greatest in the eyes of God by being mere masters of others but by humbling ourselves to become the servants of them.

Below is the Gospel Reading for last Sunday

Gospel, Mt 23:1-12

Then addressing the crowds and his disciples Jesus said,

'The scribes and Pharisee the occupy the chair of Moses.

You must therefore do and observe what they tell you; but do not be guided by what they do, since they do not practise what they preach.

They tie up heavy burdens and lay them on people's shoulders, but will they lift a finger to move them? Not they!

Everything they do is done to attract attention, like wearing broader headbands and longer tassels,

like wanting to take the place of honour at banquets and the front seats in the synagogues,

being greeted respectfully in the market squares and having people call them Rabbi.

'You, however, must not allow yourselves to be called Rabbi, since you have only one Master, and you are all brothers.

You must call no one on earth your father, since you have only one Father, and he is in heaven.

Nor must you allow yourselves to be called teachers, for you have only one Teacher, the Christ.

The greatest among you must be your servant.

Anyone who raises himself up will be humbled, and anyone who humbles himself will be raised up.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Sunday Reflection : 23October 2011

Loving God & our neighbor

Last Sunday’s Gospel reading was about the very fundamental teachings of Jesus taken from Mathew 22:34-40. Jesus gave us the 2 most important commandments; firstly to love God with all our soul and our entire mind and secondly to love our neighbor as ourselves. According to Jesus there is no law greater than these as all other laws and even the prophets depend on them.

In other parts of the Gospel Jesus tells us that we cannot possibly love God if we do not love our neighbor and he clearly describes who our neighbor is. Are these commandments too difficult to understand? To my mind it is so simple but we make it look difficult because we refuse to obey them. We refuse to see our neighbor who is all over wherever we go. This blindness to the neighbor in our midst is due to our selfishness, greed and pride not because of our ignorance or complexity of the commandments.

We tend to pick and choose to obey those commandments that benefit us but ignore those that don’t. It is strange that many of us are willing to go great extent to show our love for God, with elaborate rituals, whom we cannot see, hear or feel but refuse to see him in those around us who we can see, hear and touch. But Jesus tells us, unless we love Him in our neighbor there is no way we can love God.

When we try to live up to this great commandment we are accused of being proud and arrogant and our interpretation of those simple commandments as misleading and deviationist (ajaran sesat) by those who claim to be the experts in the Word.

Let’s ask ourselves to what extent are we willing to follow those 2 commandments of Jesus whom we claim is our Lord and Master? Do we know who really is that God we are to love with all our heart and mind? Do we know who our neighbor really is that we are to love as ourselves? If we have yet to find that God and that neighbor whom we are to love, let’s resolve to do so today.

The gospel reading for last Sunday

Mathew 22:34-40

But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees they got together

and, to put him to the test, one of them put a further question,

'Master, which is the greatest commandment of the Law?'

Jesus said to him, “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.This is the greatest and the first commandment”

The second resembles it: “You must love your neighbour as yourself”

On these two commandments hang the whole Law, and the Prophets too.'

Monday, October 17, 2011

Sunday Reflections & the sacking of sacristan Bernadette

Pay Caesar what belongs to Caesar - and God what belongs to God

 In last Sunday’s Gospel,Jesus was cornered by the learned with their question “Is it permissible to pay taxes to Caesar or not?”Jesus knowing their bad intentions very cleverly got out the situation with his simple but right answer, “Pay Caesar what belongs to Caesar - and God what belongs to God.”

Very often in our own lives we are often trapped by others and placed in difficult situations and are confused how to get out it without losing out on our principles. Often Christ’s advice of giving to Caesar what belongs to the Roman Emperor and to God what belongs to the Almighty is misinterpreted that our faith and state should separate. In actual fact there should be no separation as we should use the principles of Jesus to guide our administration in dealing with those under our care. 

The government that we administer must in cooperate the values of advocate by Jesus; justice, compassion and love for fellow humans. In Malaysia we, being a minority, may not be the rulers of the nation but we do rule the church which has more than a million members and it our moral obligation to rule with absolute truth, justice and love, thereby becoming a shining example for others.  

With this regard I was particularly disturbed on hearing of the recent sacking of our sacristan, Ms.Bernadette , who has served NBVM for more than twenty years. Last Sunday, in front of our bishop at the confirmation service our PP was magnanimous enough to praise and thank Bernadette for her umpteen years of dedicated service and presented her with a token of appreciation. I am sure the bishop was very impressed with him.

However we hear a different story from Bernadette and the parishioners close her. She says she did not retire or resign but was sacked by the PP. She is extremely saddened and hurt by the way she was sacked. She refused to attend a farewell dinner planned by many concerned parishioners as she has yet to get over the hurt and anger of her alleged unjust dismissal. Her refusal to go forward to receive the token of appreciation from the bishop in front of a large congregation despite being present in the church, shows her deep disappointment with the parish administration.
Bernadette joins many other prominent long-serving parishioners who were unceremoniously forced into similar retirement since our present PP took office. It may be time for Bernadette to make way for younger people but wouldn’t it be more Christ-like to let her retire in a more graceful way? After all she had worked for the church for over 20 years serving under so many priests. Shouldn’t we be a little more generous to compensate her for all the services to the God in His church?

Bernadette like all such lowly-paid church workers may have passed their prime working age but they still deserve to be treated with respect, appreciation and dignity. We are not a corporate or political institution where one can be sacked for the slightest mistake. We are the Church, an institution founded on the principles expounded by Jesus himself – love, charity and compassion. It is an institution where humility and forgiveness should reign supreme. 

The church should lead in the exemplary ways it treats its own workers otherwise it would lose its moral authority to criticise and reprimand others who do not fail to uphold justice and goodwill. It is extremely sad that today our church, which used to be a role model on morality and justice, is increasingly seen to be a mercenary institution that mocks the very principles on which it was founded.

Sunday 16 October 2011

Gospel, Mt 22:15-21

Then the Pharisees went away to work out between them how to trap him in what he said.
And they sent their disciples to him, together with some Herodians, to say, 'Master, we know that you are an honest man and teach the way of God in all honesty, and that you are not afraid of anyone, because human rank means nothing to you.
  Give us your opinion, then. Is it permissible to pay taxes to Caesar or not?'
  But Jesus was aware of their malice and replied, 'You hypocrites! Why are you putting me to the test?
  Show me the money you pay the tax with.' They handed him a denarius,
  and he said, 'Whose portrait is this? Whose title?'
  They replied, 'Caesar's.' Then he said to them, 'Very well, pay Caesar what belongs to Caesar -- and God what belongs to God.'