Sunday, 1 March 2015

2nd Sunday of Lent: Faithfulness

 
"...I know now how devoted you are to God,... "
GENESIS 22: 12
 
When its time for autumn I notice some species of trees will start to shed their leaves. Even in tropical countries when the weather is extremely hot and dry, certain trees will shed their leaves to minimise water lost. We call this response by plants as ADAPTATION.
 
For us human beings, sadly so often we do not trouble ourselves to adapt. When we do not like somebody we rather just ignore that person and keep our distance. In some Parish Church with cold priests, parishioners will rather drive all the way to another parish for Mass. When our economy is not doing well, we put the blame on governments and companies (banks). If we make mistakes at work, at work or in society, we quickly either put the blame on others or we quickly use 'decorative' words to make the situation look 'beautiful'. When we feel hot, so easy, we take the controller and switch on the air-conditioner.

Aren't we homo sapiens so pampered, taking things for granted? Maybe that is why so often we choice to ignore the plight of those who are poor, the lonely, the sick, those under mental/emotional stress?
 
Recently, end of 2014, in Pope Francis' Christmas greetings to Cardinals he was rather harsh and cold with his direct comments to the Cardinals on the sins/mistakes of the Cardinals. Yet, I felt his directives was good and needed; sorry as I do share the Pope's sentiments because I have seen terrible attitudes of Priests, Religious, and even Lay leaders (readers, pastoral workers, parish office staff...).
 
Lent is a great time, an optimum season of the year to have that guts needed to change - we need to learn to ADAPT. If we don't want to adapt than don't hope for a better, sincere, positive and humanistic society. We need to rise to the occasion, do the good we expect of others and in our own little ways allow the light of God's Love shine.
 
Remember, Jesus has done much for us and He continues to do a lot for us every moment of our life. Let us take time to acknowledge the work Jesus do for each of us. 

Sunday, 8 February 2015

Allah Case Closed and Forced Conversion to Islam

The human heart is one that is full of restlessness - we are greedy, we want fame, we want dignity, we want all things good. Perhaps we forget that in all our fights with the issues around us, we forget what the Book of Job says, "Remember that my life is like the wind; I shall not see happiness again."

Perhaps, it is good to ask "WHY as human beings, with conscience, do we go about arguing, fighting, pushing others to the edge?"

'Although I am free in regard to all,
I have made myself a slave to all
so as to win over as many as possible.
To the weak I became weak, to win over the weak.
I have become all things to all, to save at least some.
All this I do for the sake of the gospel,
so that I too may have a share in it.'

1 Corinthians 9: 19-23

I am glad that the 'Allah' court case carried out by the Herald publication of the Roman Catholic Church has now come to an end; I am glad there can be peace for now and a re-focus on issues that really need the Church's attention. From the beginning I knew this fight over the use of the word "Allah" for the Herald news paper publication was an unnecessary one; in all honesty I belief it made the Malaysian Catholic Church look and sound STUPID! It made Malaysia to be judged as STUPID by other nations!

In Christmas 2014 I sent out formal signed letters to Bishops, the Archbishop, Priests and a number of Politicians in Malaysia. Calling them to STOP fuelling this "Allah" issue and imploring them to stop all these nonsense that brings no good to the Church and the people of Malaysia. I am glad that - looking at the recent case outcomes, the Church's acceptance that they have "used all available" resources and it is time to move on, and the silence in the news from those Politicians that received my letter- my letter was fruitful, it worked for the betterment of others!

There are so many failed Church projects around Malaysia that need more attention compared to fighting over the use of the word "Allah". Many of our schools and hospitals are all now commercialised and run, at times, by non-Catholics. The fear now is the mission areas of the Church is shrinking because we allow private companies to run our schools and hospitals, without taking much care to protect the right for Catholics to witness to God's Goodness in these schools and hospitals.

These are something we urgently need to look at - our mission schools and hospitals.

Of late, I observed news in the media of forced conversion to Islam. This was done by adults towards under aged students, mainly in the rural areas of Malaysia. I was also told, some years back, that poor villagers in Malaysia were also given cash money as incentive if they should embrace Islam.

I hope those adults who are involved with this scheme of forcing or luring others to embrace Islam will know that in God's eyes, this are selfish act not blessed by God Himself. In saying that God is a God of Mercy, to force others to embrace Islam is not the desire of a Merciful and Good God.

For us as Catholic Christians, there is no point at all in complaining only. The very important question is to ask each of us, in all sincerity, "WHAT AM I DOING? HOW AM I RESPONDING?"

Lent is soon approaching, and instead of complaining against forced conversion to Islam, the question we each need to urgently ask is, "are we doing out part?" Where are we? Are we out there with the ignorant villagers who are easily tempted by cash money, even to the extend of embracing Islam to get that money?! Are we out there in the rural schools and in the hostels run for rural children? Are we out there to preach the Good News and to care for the ignorant villagers, the poor villagers and the youth in rural areas?

If your individual answer is a "NO!" Then no point for you to complain.

Sunday, 1 February 2015

Freedom

Brothers and sisters:
I should like you to be free of anxieties.


1 Corinthians 7: 32

I guess when it comes to freedom, I will imagine myself having a constant feeling of ease, comfort, contentment and a healthy well-being. I imagine myself with a constant smile on my face, as to be free means to be happy- it means the absence of sorrow. Freedom means to be young and easy every moment of my life.

In reality, I do not experience what I imagine with the free wandering of my endless mind; a mind free to imagine and to dream. There are moment when we worry about the future and about the issues at hand. We face moments when our body is not in a healthy state and decided not to secrete hormones that gives us the feelings of freedom. All of us, workers and students, are bound by our work place; we have expectations to meet, roles to play and pressure to conform even when it goes against our conscience.

The pressures of a fast paced life, adds onto us the reality that life is after all not all the FREE.

Yet, as a Catholic it is very important that I remember that Jesus Christ has set me totally free through the waters of baptism. Each moment on entering the church, we sign our selves with holy water reminding me that I have been set free from sin, and am a child of God. Yet, how do we sustain this freedom? How do we live out this freedom that we have found in Christ Jesus?

First and foremost, to be free we need to LISTEN to God's voice and not be stubborn. "Oh that today you LISTEN to His Voice and harden not your heart" is what we sing today in the Responsorial Psalm taken from Psalm 95. Becoming immune and unresponsive to God's soft voice can mean the lost of our freedom as children of God. When we decide to shut ourselves from God's voice and venture on a journey of our own selfish making will only lead to further misery and ultimately we die; we cease to become our true selves.

Secondly, let us live in accordance with our role in life. The 2nd reading from Corinthians gave two groups of people - unmarried people and married people. St Paul to the Corinthians suggested that if we are single, then we should be concern only 'about the things of the Lord' and 'how to please the Lord'. On the other hand married people are to be concerned with 'the things of the world' and 'how to please the wife/husband'.

At the end of the day, easier said than done, we do find that many times we fail to remain totally free. We become slaves when we decide to move from respecting our roles in life and decide to listen to our own voices. We hear so much voices around us - gossips, jealous comments by others, false judgements by others.

Let us return to our centre - let us return to Christ in our very life.

Sunday, 18 January 2015

Here I am

Samuel answered, “Speak, for your servant is listening.”
1 Samuel 3: 10
 
Gospel of 2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time: John 1: 35-42

 
 
My journey in responding to the call I know I have in life is one like many of you, and today I realised it is like Samuel's call too! God called Samuel 3 times, " Samuel, Samuel!" And 2 out of 3 times, Samuel ran over to Eli and said, "Here I am. You called me." Samuel was not yet familiar with God's call as he was still young, a youth.
 
I think many Catholics are like Samuel too, most often we are in the first '2 times category'; we run to Eli and not to God. A very good number of Catholics till today belief that to respond to God's call we must tire ourselves to search for religious order or parish groups, we go through all the procedures for the priests/order/president of the group to scrutinize/interview us and once it finishes most of the time the enthusiastic candidate is rejected. We as Catholics, and even as ordinary people, we believe that to live this life fully we must be 'OUTSTANDING'. No, that is wrong when the fact that we each were born naked and naked we shall return to the Lord; we are in fact very ordinary beings.
 
Since this is the year of consecrated life let me open myself to you and share a private experience with you. Many religious orders, sadly but honestly, behave very much like the world; they play around with potential candidates. Some years now, priests have apologized to me in person for past events. I write this not to criticise them, because like us, religious and priests are also trying their best; adding to that the culprits have apologized to me in person. This was how many enquires of new candidates are played around (it also does happen with Parish Groups!) when they approach to express with call:
  1. Silence - one religious that I was brought to, made me talk for almost an hour and he gave no reply at the end of it. After a few years I got to know that this man is not very much a man of the Church; I got to know he is a little radical, believed in living outside his community of Brothers and does not agree in wearing the habit, he prefers normal clothes even at official functions while majority of Bothers dresses in the cassock.
  2. "Go and work first, go complete your Master degree, get a girlfriend" - As a young boy, 18/19 years of age, I was honestly surprised to hear this. My parents told me and ordinary people told me the same thing, but I never expected it to come from a religious/priest with whom I was so passionate in sharing God's Call with. I felt betrayed and lost.
  3. Passion and enthusiasm is not allowed - At every meeting that I had with religious to share my call with, my passion and enthusiasm was look on as not required for a candidate to religious life. Enthusiasm was even looked at as an obstacle to religious life, thus causing the possible candidate to be rejected. This I was surprised because, did not the Bible ask us to be full of life for Jesus Christ? I was surprised because Pope John Paul 2 too was so full of energy in his proclamation of the Gospel. Again when religious said I was wrong because I was too full of energy for God, it added towards my sense of lost.
 
Today's reading at Mass is a reminder that when God calls us, God does not expect us to be abused or to be the abuser. I think where many of us go wrong is we expect candidates who approach us to be lousy; we want candidates who are totally empty, no idea of his/her own Faith, no connection with God (do not pray, do not read the Bible). I have come across events where a candidate to religious life with a doctorate degree being rejected, because he was smarter than the Rector (Principle) of the seminary.
 
No, this is not the way, and Pope Francis even has said so. The Bible even have said so, that yes test the candidate at all cost, but do the testing mercifully.
 
Today, I encourage all of you Catholics who totally commit yourselves to God to not be afraid. Like Samuel, all we need to say to God is a simple sincere response, "HERE I AM. YOU CALLED ME!" Take the word "HERE" to heart, because God calls you to live life fully, that is to obey His will, in:
  • the HERE and NOW; where you are right now, if you hear God's voice, respond with action. Do not go hunting for organisations to join, parish groups, orders. If priests and religious and lay leaders are smart enough (sadly often not) they will invite you to join.
  • the ordinary; if where you are right now is a place of sorrow, a place of hardships, maybe you telling yourselves "I am not good enough". God has something great for you in every situation, we just have to say to God, "Here I am Lord, You have called me".

Saturday, 10 January 2015

He is well Pleased with You

And a voice came from the heavens,
“You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”
Mark 1: 11
 
Baptism of the Lord, 11th January
Gospel from Mark 1: 7-11
 

Celebrating the baptism of Our Lord Jesus Christ, I recall my own baptism to the Roman Latin Rite Catholic Faith; mine was a baptism in my early high school age after having experience a Divine intervention.
 
One thing I remind myself as I worship God this weekend is the very reality that I am a "beloved Son" of God. When I was baptised I am baptised into Christ, I become part of the covenant (promise) of God and I become a child of God; this is a reality of every baptized person. Thus, I share in God's favour - we are all a "beloved" son, a "beloved" daughter of God.
 
This fact, I pray I never forget! How sweet it is to have God's favour be upon us? No words can ever describe the experience I have in knowing each day that God's favour is upon me.
 
What is God's favour? To me, when I say to someone, most often it is my students, that "I love you". It means that the person or the group of people is one that I look up to, one that I am willing to be selfless, one that I will do as asked and that they are important to me. It is the same with God, when God's favour rest upon us God is saying to us, in a personal as well as a communal way, that you are important to Him, you have direct right/access to Him.
 
As the students of Stella Maris begin another year in school, I remind the students who I have taught that each of you are in my prayers and memories. Be mindful that God's favour rest on each of you, you are important to God and also to me. Do your best always, strive hard no matter how hard and dull the journey maybe, always remembering that being in God's Presence everything will turn out just fine! Each of you, students of Stella Maris past and present, I am very well pleased with you.

Sunday, 4 January 2015

God where are you?

"Where is He who has been born King of the Jews?
For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him."
 
Matthew 2: 2
 
Solemnity of the Epiphany
Gospel from Matthew 2: 1-12
 
I must admit I have never went in search for God, it was God who mysteriously came and made me fell in love with Him. One day, without any maturity and with no one pushing me towards religion, I just said that I desire to "go to this Church"; it turned out to be a Roman Catholic Church and I was about 12 years of age that time.
 
Let us cut the long story short....
 
If I was to be asked this question: "WHERE IS GOD?" I will be very excited to answer this question not because I have already know where God is hiding at, but this isn't a question in itself. I think none of us, including myself, is worthy to give a straight to the point, a definite answer, to where God is. To say that God is in Heaven can be only partly true, but yes, Jesus prayed 'Our Father who art in Heaven...'. If we say God is in Heaven then, as many asked, where is Heaven? It is the same when we say God is in His creation, God is in the ground, God is in me...These are only clues to where God really resides.

Yes, God lives in Heaven and we see the hands of God at work in all creation and situations.
 
So, why do people even want to know where does God live at?
 
The very fact that many are curious where is God, is the first step proven that God does exist. The human soul is both immortal and spirit- the soul cannot be destroyed by any of us, and the soul is not a physical quantity (we cannot measure the spirit). The spirit in each of us, we normally call our spirit the soul, grows in appreciation of our physical surroundings through our bodily senses. At the same time the human soul is able to think about God and the Angels; we are able to go to a greater level that animals do not possess.
 
Let us get back to where God is?
 
Honestly, my answer nor is anyone's answer a perfect one. Jesus already informed us in the Bible that only He alone knows the Father (God), only He alone has seen the Father (God)...Personally to me I find God in:
  • my Worship - in worship I acknowledge the sovereignty of God Almighty, I know I am in need of God and I desire to become more like God. I find God first and foremost in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, and yes, I meet God also in private/communal devotions and prayers.
  • Heaven - the human term used to describe the place where God, His Angels and all those who are saved lives in.
  • my lessons, in my students and in the poor - Jesus said the least you did to a brother/sister, you did it to Me.
  • the person of Jesus Christ - God became flesh (matter) in the person of Jesus, and He dwelt among us.
  • sacred moments of tranquillity - in moments where I am internally at peace, in joy, in thankfulness I know God's spirit is at work.
  • I see clues of God in me and in creation (***these are only CLUES because material things are not God; just like you and I are not God, but a mere reflection of God) - God formed all things and he created me in His very "image and likeness".
 
I hope my sharing above, with the few points of where I think God is will help you in your search for God.

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Joyful Christmas


“You must be cheerful and happy, animating all around you.”
-Catherine McAuley (Foundress of the Sisters of Mercy)
Christmas this Year of Consecrated Life, add a little more meaning to me as an individual who has consecrated my existence to the Lord in private vows. Taking the words of Catherine McAuley, in line with the call to Gospel Joy of Pope Francis, a life of a Catholic Christian must be marked by Joy.
Why joy?
Joy is a sign of a people redeemed by the coming of Jesus. The love of Jesus that saves and heals us has in reality set us free from the bondage of slavery; before Faith in Jesus we were slaves to sin, sin of pride, sin of gossiping, sin of false worship. Having been saved by Jesus, we are a unique people – a people set apart, for the Kingdom of God. By setting us free, we are a people who have been embraced by God’s Love.
The Love of God, preached by Jesus Christ, is a love that the world will never be able to give. This love is a love so pure, so holy, that the person who is captivated by God’s Love becomes totally new. This newness is marked by a new way of living, a gentler way of living, a more positive way of living – ultimately the person transformed by God’s Love is the happiest person on earth.
Making joy part of our spirituality is not only about going around smiling, with sweet words. No! The Joy Catherine McAuley, the Pope, myself and many people speak of is a joy that comes as the product of our communion with Jesus Christ. As baptised Catholics we are called to be in union with Jesus through constant prayer (contemplation), the sacraments (church) and, above all, in knowing God (Bible and Catechism).
Let us bear in mind, that even the pagans, those who do not believe in Jesus can smile, sweet talk and be happy. But there is a difference between the Joy that comes from a Catholic Christian and a joy that comes from a pagan. Our Catholic Joy must be one that comes from a heart that is united with Jesus Christ, Jesus is your foundation - Jesus is my foundation.

This Christmas and in the year ahead, my prayer for you and the Church is that we become more merciful. In being forgiving, kind and supportive of others may our lives be one that increases JOY in others. Ultimately, may our Catholic Christian JOY bring healing to everyone around us.

Have a JOY JOY JOYFUL Christmas and a Joyful 2015!

Sunday, 21 December 2014

The fight over the word "ALLAH"

Bear in mind, I have nothing against the use of the words “Allah” and “Tuhan” as long as we use them for the correct purpose and with a pure intention; I am neutral on this matter. Yet, on a private manner I do not think using the words “Allah” and “Tuhan” will make my Faith increase or make me a better Catholic; this is my point of view bearing in mind I received good education/I understand English (La Salle Schools) and I come from a urban/city environment.  

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.

Thank you.
Bro Kenneth Mary Gan of Our Mother of Perpetual Help

2015-Mercy