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Thursday, July 14, 2011

Veni Sancte Spiritus...Come Holy Spirit

“You are the light of the world.  A city seated on a mountain cannot be hid.  Neither do men light a candle and put it under a bushel, but upon a candlestick, that it may shine to all that are in the house.  So let your light shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:14-16, Douay Rheims)
Following the highly publicized, shameful events arising from the 709 Walk in Malaysia, it was reported in the international media that Malaysia now intends to establish formal diplomatic ties with the Holy See; Vatican; meeting Pope Benedict XVI on July 18.

Unfortunately, the local archbishop is somehow controversially made part of the entourage of the ruling Government...under whose leadership, the world has come to witnessed shocking scenes of water cannons, tear gas, arrests, lockdowns, brutality, denials and lies.

Very simply, it would be easy to discount this as a non issue and claim that these events are not related, these are separate unrelated issues and that as Catholic Christians, we should just keep on praying, and praying, and praying...hoping, and hoping...

For over two thousand years, the Church has put in tremendous efforts to relate the Gospel, the Good News of Jesus Christ, to human bring the Word of God back to the transform individual human hearts, liberating them from the evil seduction of the secular world.

In preservation of basic human dignity, the Church sees that all people are sacred...made in the image of God.  As pilgrims all over the world, we are all bound together in a common humanity.

Jesus himself identified with the poor, the oppressed and the marginalized...offering them the hope of the Kingdom of God...eternal life.  Conversely, Jesus demanded love of enemies and renunciation of violence.  Jesus stood for human freedom...the freedom of love and goodness...freedom from the slavery of sin...a freedom experienced by the people when God is sovereign...the relation to God’s will is right.

Jesus was not a revolutionary social reformer, nor fanatical about the political powers that be...the corrupted Romans!  Jesus never intended to spill the blood of his enemies...instead He simply allowed himself to be crucified by the Romans...spilling his own Holy and Precious Blood for the love of mankind.

Although the Church believes that religion belongs at the center of everything, Father Thomas Bokenkotter adds that, “ is not enough just to mouth pretty words about justice and peace in the pulpit.  The message must be put into action.”

As pilgrims on the journey back home, we are called to be doers of the Word and not just hearers only...we are called to be genuine and authentic witnesses to Jesus Christ in all that we do along our short journey through life.

Father Thomas continues to add that, “The Church commits itself to the work of social change and the struggle against all forms of oppression.  ...What is at stake is nothing less than the redemption of the human race.”

Along these lines, we recall the famous words of Blessed John Paul II,“(a) world of justice and peace cannot be created by words alone and it cannot be imposed by outside forces: it must be desired and must come about through the contribution of all.  It is essential for every human being to have a sense of participating, of being a part of the decisions and endeavors that shape the destiny of the world.”

These extract from the beautiful document, Justicia in Mundo (Justice in the World), at the Synod of Bishops (1971), further echoes very clearly...

“Unless the Christian message of love and justice shows its effectiveness through action in the cause of justice in the world, it will only with difficulty gain credibility with the people of our times. (#35)

The Church, indeed, is not alone responsible for justice in the world; however, she has a proper and specific responsibility which is identified with her mission of giving witness before the world of the need for love and justice contained in the Gospel message, a witness to be carried out in Church institutions themselves and in the lives of Christians. (#36)

Our mission demands that we should courageously denounce injustice, with charity, prudence and firmness, in sincere dialogue with all parties concerned.  We know that our denunciations can secure assent to the extent that they are an expression of our lives and are manifested in continuous action. (#57)”

Looking at what is happening around the world today...injustices continue to disfigure our land and age...the people continue their constant silent struggle...towards a life that is founded on real spiritual and moral values, justice, integrity and freedom.  The Church simply cannot be seen as remaining silent and distant.

Pilgrims must be able to connect biblical teachings and most importantly, experience these teachings to their own journey; be it in their everyday lives or at work.  The moment this vision becomes blurred, our simple journey becomes much more challenging, distracting and complicated...not to mention, our faith being put to the test vis-à-vis basic human rights.

Blessed Pope John XXIII in his encyclical, Pacem in Terris, Peace on Earth (1963), calls these rights “inalienable” and “inviolable” rights.  The source of these rights – they are natural rights which flow from the very nature of humankind.  The ultimate foundation of human rights is God.

Furthermore, the mystery of human solidarity and interdependence is such that whenever one human being is made to suffer, the rest of humanity simply suffers too and is weakened and threatened at the same time.

The assassinated Most Reverend Oscar Anulfo Romero, Archbishop of San Salvador, reminds us that...

“The Church would betray its own love for God and its fidelity to the Gospel if it stopped being…a defender of the rights of the poor…a humaniser of every legitimate struggle to achieve a more just society...that prepares the way for the true reign of God in history.”

Amidst the distracting noises and cries of the world, let us also quiet our hearts and not forget the sublime words of St Teresa of Avila...

“Christ has no body but yours.  No hands, no feet on earth but yours.  Yours are the eyes through which he looks with compassion on this world.  Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good.  Yours are the hands with which he blesses all the world.”

Are we listening to what the Holy Spirit is whispering to us today, as disciples of Jesus Christ?

As faithful pilgrims, we can only pray that the awesome power of the Holy Spirit will touch the hearts of the leaders so that truth, faith, freedom and justice will courageously prevail on July 18 at Castel Gondolfo.  Veni Sancte Spiritus!


Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Goodbyes Are Never Easy...

“...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 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 CRY for freedom from slavery in all society rejecting 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 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 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 have made your home in our hearts.  Yet we know your leaving is essential...  So go, go with 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 ourselves fully to love, people and events...standing up for the 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.