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.'


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