When Msgr Bernard Paul began mass at the Church of Divine Mercy in Penang he invited everyone to wish each other “Happy Anniversary” as the church had just turned two on the 29th September, 2012. He reminded the congregation that we are asked to fulfil God’s aspiration to open the church and our hearts to everyone. The mass was animated by the CEC children and the Youth choir.
In his homily Msgr Bernard said that many people like to hear slogans. In fact, many politicians and famous people have used slogans to attract, to advertise or win people over. For example Obama used “Yes, We Can”, Mandela called for “A Better Nation for All” and even our Prime Minister, Najib has “1 Malaysia”. Most slogans have one of three messages. They are of patriotism, exclusiveness or inclusiveness.
In ancient times they had a very neat church. It was a Church with Jesus or Church without Jesus. This was clearly seen in the day’s First Reading taken from Numbers 11:25-29, when Moses was even asked by Joshua to do something about the prophesying of Eldad and Medad who were not among the seventy chosen in the tent. This is the feeling of some being exclusive, being better than others, having a different status. To cut off people or exclude people whom we don’t like or who are different. Exclusiveness is a stumbling block to nation building and the church.
Msgr Bernard also mentioned a second stumbling block of superficial inclusiveness. This was when we want to be nice to everyone and not do or say anything that would hurt or raise tensions. In this way we do not say what needs to be said but keep it within ourselves. This superficial inclusiveness of wanting to be nice to everyone so as to avoid trouble is done at the expense of their own discomfort and beliefs. This does not help the community to grow.
The third stumbling block is that of exclusion. We are here and they are there. We are a different class, status or caste. They are opposite to us, a threat to us. Slowly as this becomes a culture, we then begin to preach fear in order to maintain the exclusion. To subdue or destroy the other so as to remain in power. This was the attitude of the Pharaohs towards the Israelites and many politicians today. The false idea that we need to exclude them to remain prosperous.
The fourth stumbling block is to demonize others. This was done by Emperor Nero when he demonized the Christians as cannibals as they ate the flesh and drank the blood of God. And so it was with Hilter who claimed that the Jews were bankrupting the German nation and sort to wipe them out. Pol Pot, the leader of the Khmer Rouge, classified the working class as dangerous and even Chairman Mao of China came down hard on the intellectuals. These four stumbling blocks will not bring peace and will destroy our nation.
But Jesus preaches a different form of inclusiveness. The first sign of this inclusiveness is that He rejoices when people are moved by the Holy Spirit. This is genuine inclusiveness.
Secondly, Jesus’ inclusiveness invites everyone to share in the joy. It does not matter if you are rich or poor. St. James, in the Second Reading, did not condemn wealth but the wealthy that were flaunting their riches and not helping to make the life of less fortunate better.
Thirdly, there is a recognition that good works come from God and lead to God. And lastly, Jesus reaches out. Jesus never forced people. He allowed them to follow, to learn and then for them to say that they needed to convert. Then he would make them realize that they are blessed and loved and asked them go and spread the message to others. The Jesus way always attributes all things to God’s goodness, God’s love, God’s openness and generosity. So we are able to say that God is Great. He is reaching out to others, He is open, generous, He is love. To be inclusive we must recognize who are with us and also who are not against us. Those who are not Christians but are kind to you can be included. These are the friends of Jesus. The little ones must also be included. They are the young in faith, those who are weak, new believers depending on us to be examples to them. Do not let anyone be lost. Jesus warns us that if we are a stumbling block to someone weaker, it is better for us to jump into the sea with a stone around our necks. This is the call for the church that opens itself to others.
At the end of mass an LCD presentation was played to show the activities of the various ministries at CDM as they proceed towards being established as a parish. An Anniversary cake was donated by a parishioner and the zone coordinators joined Msgr in cutting the cake.
Everyone then shared fellowship in a potbless breakfast in the church basement. St. Faustina Hall was reserved for the elderly who found it challenging to make the trip to the basement. The rainy weather held back to make this celebration a most pleasant and memorable one.
Dr. Ivan Filmer
16th October, 2012