“...Know that I am with you; I will protect you wherever you go, and bring you back to this land. I will never leave you until I have done what I promised you.” (Genesis 28:15, NAB)
Last weekend, thousands of brave Malaysians thronged the streets to demand for a free, clean and just electoral system...participating in the historic 709 BERSIH Walk. Many unnecessary threats, intimidation and brutal suppression tactics were applied by the fearful ruling powers to prevent this historic march from happening...but God is great...He hears the cries of His people...similar to the days of Moses...
“...I have witnessed the affliction of my people...and have heard their cry of complaint against their slave drivers, so I know well what they are suffering. Therefore I have come down to rescue them...” (Exodus 3:7-8, NAB)
Nevertheless, the simple and peaceful people, from all walks of life, races, gender and locations around the globe, held on to a flicker of hope in their hearts...believed in the cause worth standing up for...CHOSE to walk the streets...protesting against electoral fraud, “un-cleanliness”, corrupt systems, bias processes...filth that requires CLEANING!...writing new pages and chapters in history.
However, what reportedly happened on Day 709 brought about flashbacks of scenes that appear to have been lifted out from the recent blockbuster movie, “Transformers 3: Dark of the Moon”...smoke, tear gas, stench of chemical, water cannons, menacing military trucks, roaming helicopters, elite cops, riot police, batons, handcuffs...lies, betrayals...ultimately the battle between good and evil!
These courageous simple pilgrims actually went beyond their own nervousness and fear of the worst...leaving their families and loved ones behind...to voice their right as citizens of the land. In solidarity with the rest of other courageous pilgrims, these individual voices became united as one VOICE of the people...one CRY for freedom from slavery in all forms...one society rejecting INTIMIDATION...one peaceful WALK for a better tomorrow for Malaysia!
Some pilgrims have shared how nervous and fearful they were as the 709 Walk beacons... Sleepless nights, intense prayers, fasting, quiet support from friends, companions, seeking hope, simply putting faith into action... Many Christian pilgrims believed that this would be in solidarity with what Jesus would do. As they left their homes, hugged and bid their loved ones goodbye that historic morning...endless thoughts went through their simple minds...tumbling and turning...the Evil One seem to be playing mind games.
Yes, many pilgrims did struggle with the notion of death...the possibility of arrests under the Internal Security Act, the parting, the leaving behind...the goodbyes...merely to stand up for things that matter...to them and their future generations.
It is never ever easy to part, say goodbye or farewell...especially so when we lose someone we love and care a lot for or simply lose something that has touched us or given our lives that much value or meaning.
There is obviously a deep feeling of loss, leaving somebody or something behind, separation and moving on to something else, a new phase of life...continuing with the journey.
Although goodbyes occur under different circumstances, be it for a justified cause, a change of environment, loss of job, end of a friendship, a divorce, financial struggles, some life crisis, terminal illness, family commitments, death of a loved one or dying and having to “leave” our loved ones behind...there is always a deep sense of loss, grief, sadness, emotional hurt, wrenching heart-aches, shock, cherished memories, good times, even the lesser times, anxieties, anger maybe, un-forgiveness, healing and perhaps a re-orientation or uprooting of our lives...or sometimes, even a “running away” from reality, truth and sorrows!
Life seems so unfair at times...yes, especially when these events happen to us... Why me? We often dwell in self-pity...struggling, finding it difficult to cope with the partings that life asks of us.
Whatever it is, it is simply not easy to say goodbye – time seem so short – suddenly, amidst everything else, we come to the realization that we are mere mortals, life is fragile or as some would say...too short.
Goodbyes are always overwhelming... From the Holy Scriptures, we surely cannot imagine fully the emotions and emptiness that the Blessed Virgin Mother Mary, Our Lady of Sorrows would experience...knowing that her Son, Jesus has been born to die in the hands of the cruelty and brutality of mankind. Mary simply pondered everything quietly...in the depths of her heart.
“For I know well the plans I have in mind for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare, not for woe!, plans to give you a future full of hope. When you call me, when you go to pray to me, I will listen to you. When you look for me, you will find me. Yes, when you seek me with all your heart, you will find me with you, says the Lord...” (Jeremiah 29:11-14, NAB)
Goodbye...“...originally “God-be-with-ye” or “Go-with-God” – was a recognition that God was a significant part of the going. When you dreaded or feared the journey, there was strength in remembering that the One who gave and cherished life would be there to protect and to console. Goodbye was a blessing of love, proclaiming the belief that if God went with you, you would never be alone...
We cannot keep you from this journey. We hurt deeply...you have made your home in our hearts. Yet we know your leaving is essential... So go, go with God...rest in the assurance that “God will lead you, will be with you, will not fail you or desert you. Have no fear. Do not be disheartened by anything.” (Deuteronomy 31:8)” – Sister Joyce Rupp, OSM
It’s been said that, as pilgrims of the faith, we ought not be afraid of the harsh partings that life demands of us...we must continue to live our lives...giving ourselves fully to love, growth...to people and events...standing up for the truth...in relationship with God and in solidarity with others; our fellow companions on the journey.
Emotions resulting from goodbyes – hurts, pains, regret and losses – need not necessarily destroy us, but instead, lead us to a better understanding of life...teaching wisdom, bringing about spiritual maturity, compassion and courage to continue and persevere on our remaining journey back home...towards a new world order, new life, eternal life in the glory of the resurrection.
Well, try telling this to one of the innocent citizen victim, who lost his life at the 709 peaceful rally, and his loved ones. We pray that his soul will find rest and he will forever dwell in the perpetual light of God...we are certain that his journey will now take him to a place of shelter, comfort, nourishment...a place where the harshness of this land can never harm him.
Was the sacrifice worth it? Only God will know and only He will bring about understanding, comfort and healing to all. One outcome remains certain...the people will have no issue saying quick goodbyes and courageously stand up against further threats, blackmails, corruption, fraud, persecution, injustice...everything else that is not clean...this goodbye will surely come to fruition one day in the form of clean and fair electoral votes! This 709 Walk translates to a new beginning for Malaysia...a new dawn!
“...he will destroy death forever. The Lord God will wipe away the tears from all faces...” (Isaiah 25:8, NAB)
As the tsunami waves of change continue to quietly cry out in Malaysia (and many other countries around the world), we pray that God will continue to bless and shower His blessings on the innocent people of Malaysia, keeping them safe always from the hounding enemies who are ever more intense and ruthless.
By your grace, continue to fan the fire within the hearts of pilgrims to love you more, celebrating life, with all its goodness and beauty, even when it is painful. Pilgrim God, Source of Light, we acknowledge that you are the “light that shines in the dark, a light that darkness could not overpower” – dispel this darkness and take the hands of your pilgrim people and guide them ever so gently through their journey safely towards a new dawn...Amen.