Thursday, February 21, 2013

Lent 2013 – What this Lent means to me?

 A time to prepare ourselves to do right

The temptations of Jesus

The gospel reading for the first Sunday of Lent on 17 February 2013 rightly summarizes what Lent should mean to each one us in today’s materialist world where greed appears to rule supreme. It was taken from Luke 4:1- 13 which relates how the devil tempted Jesus to subdue to his demands in return for all worldly attractions. The following were the three temptations of Jesus :

1. Realizing Jesus was hungry from fasting; the devil asked Jesus to turn the stones to bread to satisfy his hunger and thereby proving he was the son of God. Jesus flatly rejected it saying, “Human beings live not on bread alone”
2. Then leading Jesus to a height, the devil showed him all the kingdoms of the world and promised to give them all to him if only Jesus would pay homage to him. Once again Jesus was firm and refused to honor the devil saying, “You must do homage to the Lord your God, him alone you must serve.”
3. Subsequently the devil led Jesus to Jerusalem and set him on the parapet of the Temple and challenged to jump down to prove that he was truly the son of God as if he really was the angels will protect him from all harm. Once again Jesus refused to take up the challenge to prove who was saying, “Do not put the Lord your God to the test.”    
These temptations of Jesus are exactly what we all are being exposed to daily in our lives. Despite being extremely hungry he was strong enough to reject the devil demands. Despite the tremendous wealth and splendor laid in front of him, he refused to give in to his human greed. Despite being challenged on his status as the son of God, Jesus refused to submit to the devil’s wish to show his power and might.   
In the world today we are all the time being tempted with all forms of luxuries in life - food, wealth, and power, and to go against the basic virtues taught by Jesus – righteousness, love and sacrifice. How strong are we to reject these temptations that come our way? Most of the ills in our society are basically due to our weakness in rejecting these temptations.

Lent represents the time, about 40 days, which Jesus prepared himself mentally and spiritually for his ultimate self-sacrificing love on the cross. Jesus gained his courage and strength to reject evil, endure the agony of his passion and sacrifice his life on the cross for us by his prayers and fasting. Despite being tortured and crucified unjustly he had the courage and even the love to forgive those who persecuted and killed him when he said, “Father, forgive them as they do not know what they are doing”

We too fast and pray during lent, but are we doing them for the right reasons? Like Jesus praying and fasting must give us the strength and courage to say “No” to the temptations of the world, fight evil and share our love with others including our enemies.

Preparing to defeat evil and injustice


The Penang Diocese has chosen a very appropriate theme for its Lenten campaign this year.   It is Faith = Love + Action which in simple terms just means that Faith without love and action is useless. We all have faith in God but does that faith translate to love in action?

Our society today appears to be driven by greed and selfishness. One’s success and status is determined by the amount of wealth he has accumulated, doesn’t matter how it is done. One is respected for the power and wealth he has and not for his virtues. Massive corruption, abuse of power and suppression of the legitimate rights of the poor are the norms. We are angry but appear helpless in the face of theses abuses that occur rampantly right in front of us.
Yes, things look hopeless but as Christians we must have the faith that if we do the right thing God will come to our side when it matters most. The right thing to do is to put our love into action, which we all must start this lent. Let us look around to recognize those in need of our love and put into actions to share that love with others and at the same time to let’s gain the courage to say “No” to the injustices around us.
God has given us the best chance to right the wrongs in our country at the coming 13GE.   What is needed most to win this  most crucial elections is unity among the different races and this unity can only be realized by our love and mutual respect  for one another, especially for those from different race or creed. We need to put into action our faith by sharing our love and goodwill with others thereby maintaining the unity needed to defeat evil.
We must do the right thing with the wisdom God has given us. We must not let our greed and selfishness to affect our decisions in doing right. Jesus had shown us that that evil and injustice can only be won with love and sacrifice. For us today it may not be easy to tolerate the insults and injustice against us but that is what Jesus and lent is all about.

Friday, February 15, 2013

"Enculturation" of the Eucharistic Celebration of Mass

Of late it has become a fashion to in co-operate cultural practices into the Eucharistic celebration of the Mass. This become a standard practice on the Tamil festival of  Pongal and the Chinese New year. There has been tremendous opposition to such in cooperation of cultural elements into Mass from Catholics, especially from senior members of the congregation. Instead of organizing dialogue and debates on the issue, as usual, these objections have been ignored by the church administrators resulting in many members leaving the church with heavy hearts. Some of them have been actively practicing Catholics for many years and we can imagine the extent of disappointment they would have suffered, in coming to a decision to leave the church they loved so much.
Unfortunately their leaving does not seem to upset the present leach leaders and clergy whose attitude of  “ If you are not happy you need not come” is most irresponsible and un-Christ-like. It is disturbing that   such cultural practices may become permanent features of our mass in the future. 
Cultural practices should not be in-cooperated into the Mass which is central to our faith. By doing so the sanctity of the Mass as a Eucharistic celebration is diluted and I am afraid that soon its real meaning will be lost too. Many of our children today do not know the real meaning of mass and this practice of assimilating cultures into will only accelerate the confusion among them. They will grow up think the mass is a time for entertainment and nothing more.

I feel the mass should be left intact - one solid hour of serious worship, prayer and reflection to enrich our lives with the word of God as his coming to us Holy Communion. It should an hour of great solemnity communicating with God. Mass is not a place or time to "enjoy" ourselves as it not an entertainment or reality show. You can always have traditions and cultures at other times other than during mass inside the church. I admit our cultures are important to be upheld but why bring them into the mass and the church. Why can't they be held outside mass separately?
Even an eulogy to celebrate the life of the deceased at funeral services are not allowed as we are told that would divert our focus from Jesus but ironically cultural practices and even dances are allowed. In fact a good eulogy on the life of the deceased can be a lesson for us in our own lives.
In our country we are already so racially divided by the government and racism has already taken a strong footing in our Church, why make it worse by in cooperating individual cultures into our church services?
Finally it amuses me when we emphasize so much on worshiping our ancestors, when many of our aged and ailing parents and grandparents are left neglected and lonely in deplorable conditions in homes for the aged.