You may still remember a much discussed comment by Pope Francis, “It is not necessary to believe in God to be a good person.” It was a paraphrased version of a homily by the Pope in May 2013 which made headlines in the following year. If there are good people among non-believers, does that mean the sacraments and concept of sin are irrelevant? To me it seems that some of the parents, students, and even some of the teachers of the Catholic Schools consider philanthropy is the only purpose of religion. To them a speeding ticket is sin, but blasphemy does not count. Such an erroneous attitude is creating lapsed Christians to whom fellowship gatherings and sacraments are irrelevant.
At the Easter Vigil, to our great joy, four catechumens were initiated into the Church. I baptised, Confirmed, and gave Holy Communion to Christina Kailahi, Prescila Mafi, Christopher Hayes, and Edwin Kong. Unlike most parishioners who are cradle Catholics, these neophytes cannot claim knowing Christ from very early in their life. Does that make them second class Catholics? None of you might have even dreamt of asking such a question. But in the early church such questions were real. Aren’t the first generation Christians who knew Jesus of Nazareth personally more blessed than the later additions to the Church? John the Evangelist addresses this question of the time by presenting Thomas and encounter with resurrected Jesus, in the Gospel.
Nobody saw Jesus come out of the tomb. Most of the disciples were not there to witness his death on the cross either. But all his disciples had a strong and very compelling experience of the resurrected Christ with them from the third day of his death. Even the ones who, out of their human weakness, deserted Jesus at the hour of need were not denied the vision and experience of the resurrected Christ. Therefore, my joy and faith is also not unfounded. Though I have not witnessed Jesus come out of a tomb, the experience of the resurrected Christ with me is the strong foundation of my life based on trusting faith.
When the downtrodden and the persecuted soar, their stories bring about great hope and joy. Through the passion narratives of the Gospel, we can see that Jesus whom they tried to kill in a very shameful way is in fact the true life giver.
Lin Htet left his home in Mandalay early morning, 11 March, to join the Mya Taung protest group. He died when the regime forces attacked his protest column near Koe Lone Tagar pagoda on 90th street. The military who took his body, told his family and others that they did not have the body. “I just want to see my son’s face. I just want to give him a burial,” his father, Zaw Lin said. But what he said after that is more remarkable; “I don’t feel sad for my son. I’ll be proud of him forever,” he added. The strong conviction of this father and his son is that any inaction in the face of the brutal coup of the military will not help them in their pursuit of dignity and prosperity. Sacrifices are required to regain the dignity of life and democracy from the evil of the military junta. “Unless a wheat grain falls on the ground and dies, it remains only a single grain; but if it dies, it yields a rich harvest.” (John 12:24).
“What touched me most was the testimony of a mother in Qaraqosh,” Pope Francis said last Monday, on his flight returning home after visiting the ISIS destructions of Christian centres in Iraq. Pope Francis met Doha Sabah Abdallah, the mother who lost her son, in the Syriac Catholic Immaculate Conception Church in Qaraqosh which was occupied by ISIS from 2014 to 2016.
ome of the German bishops promoting intercommunion with Protestants have been in the headlines recently. It is a continuing saga including directives from Pope Francis more than a couple of years ago. In 2011 bishop Bill Morris of Toowoomba was asked by the Vatican to retire because of his attitude to some of the Sacraments.
A few days ago, with some of my priest friends, I went up Mount Gibraltar in Southern Highlands to various lookouts. After a period of introspection in a retreat centre, viewing the panorama from a mountain top was a fitting finale for the program.
With all that is happening with COVID19 and related matters, is it the best time to commence evangelisation plans? When is the best time to speak about religious matters?
Thirty years ago, at a shack of a building in Kerala India, a young man and his wife came to see me. I was just about to light a fire in the cooking place in the smaller of the two rooms which was the designated kitchen in the shed. The bigger room which had a table and a couple of benches was the parish centre and my dining room. There I was about to establish a parish.