For those who received my weekly sharing years ago, you may have remembered that I mentioned of the day when the “Allah” issue will turn out for the worst; my predictions were correct after seeing the commotion happening in Malaysia recently. When these words “Allah” and “Tuhan” started to be fantasized by our local Church, I prayed about it and I observed (the spread of news from word of mouth and events). Seeing how these words were used, I knew it was not used totally as a means of reaching out to our Catholic community who did not understand English, I think I felt there were politics involved in the usage of these words; I always felt the insistence of using these words were not merely to assist those who were not fluent with English.
As a Catholic, living in this age in Malaysia, witnessing to the many noises I constantly see in the news and on social media about court cases to challenge the local government to allow the free use of the word “Allah”, Bibles confiscated and now returned, then again we hear that the Bibles were ‘desecrated’ and, most recently, Fr Cyril’s parish hymn books were confiscated and then returned. Honestly, I feel these events have no profound use for the Church and also for the process of ‘justice’ (if that is what as Church we are fighting for?).
I am not suggesting that the frequent noises we make in the name of the Church, and more importantly in the name of Jesus Christ, is bad; I am not saying the efforts the church puts into fighting for justice is bad.
My main concern is as much of noise we place in fighting over mere words, more importantly I hope and pray that we too as Church will stand by our own parishioners and the local people; it is life that we need to nurture and protect. Pope Francis, thanks to God, is constantly reminding the Church to first look into ourselves, make ourselves clean first, and make our systems and ministry more Merciful. This is a good call, because more than 10 years ago I desired the same, because I saw that as Church we have not put in enough effort to minister to our very own people within our church communities; there are among our ordinary parishioner who are elderly, hurt by the past (sometimes events done by the Church’s own ministers), the youths who desire a more wholesome Catholic education (better education system), parishioner who desire to be more committed to God but do not have the excess and means to do so, and health care.
As Church let us remember that, yes every religion is good, but when we represent the Church as baptised Catholics, we are called by God and Mother Church to work in the name of Jesus Christ; in mere words, we are called to work in the attitude of Jesus promoting values of the Gospel (peace, respect, love, hope…). Thus, can I suggest that we too pay as much concern and attention to the matters below:
I. Ordinary Catholic Parishioner (those who attend worships at our churches) – let us reach out to those who are not actively involved, those who are materially poor, those who are spiritually poor, those who have left the parish- let us go to them. We need each baptised Catholic, you, me and they are important people; we are all VVIPs in God’s Kingdom.
II. Youths – Regaining some, if not all, of our schools that were once run by religious. I think this is a worthy project when in Malaysia there is so much news about the need of better education system. Abandoned Brother’s and Sister’s Living Quarters can be converted to mission sites to run educational projects for our youths; please stop selling them away, when it is so difficult to buy lands for religious/religious-based missions – let us be creative and courageous to use abandoned religious buildings that once housed the religious brothers and sisters. We do need the youths; they are the future and life line of our Church. These abandoned living areas can also be converted to activity places for youths and the church to run projects for our own parishioners and even for the wider public.
III. Hospitals – Pardon me if I am wrong, but the few hospitals we have are now run as a corporation due to the dwindling numbers of religious. Yes, I admire the way the hospitals are run because it is more dignified, systematic and more professional. What I think we need to look at too is giving lay Catholics the opportunity to continue the work of Jesus Christ among the sick, the dying and the elderly? Also of concern is if there is any avenue that allows Catholics to work as volunteers, hand-in-hand with the staff of hospitals to spread the message of Jesus (and I do not mean converting people to Catholicism. I oppose this, as much as Pope Francis has advised); the message of Jesus Christ that is of God’s Love, that God cares for the sick, the dying, the lonely, the aged?In union with Pope Francis, which is very much the desire of Jesus too, is we as individuals and, important too, as a CHURCH must behave in unison to spread the message of Jesus not through mere words, but more importantly by a Joyful way of life; a life that has Jesus within, a life that is convinced of Jesus and a life that can ATTRACT others to Jesus.
Bro Kenneth Mary Gan of Our Mother of Perpetual Help