Sunday, 27 December 2015

Planning to Get Married? Sure or Not?

When a couple comes to see a priest when they are planning to get married, there are several questions which may normally be asked. Among the many questions asked, some are quite important or crucial, since such questions would help determine whether the couple is really ready for marriage. In other words, whether the couple is approaching their graduation to earn a degree in "paktorlogy" or not ("paktorlogy" is a Chinese-like word roughly translated as dating with intention and hope of eventually tying the knot). Since some questions may be confidential or sensitive in nature, I will mention only some which should be thought about before the couple goes to see the priest. Other questions may be asked, and some questions would require a response without any prior preparation (so as to ensure that the couple answers genuinely and truthfully, without any coercion or 'kacauing' (interference or disturbing) from other parties who may be trying to ensure the marriage takes place, come what may):

1. How long have you known each other
Sounds like a strange question, isn't it? But very necessary, since some couples have known each other only for a very short time. Some couples, from past experience, have known each other only for a month or even less, especially through the internet or one of those social media thingys. If a couple knows each other only for a short time, would you honestly think they would be able to live together till death do us part, especially these days where situations, attitudes and environment have changed? If the couple has not known each other for a reasonable period (say about a year or longer), how are they going to "tahan" or stand each other for the rest of their lives? Insufficient knowledge of each other could lead to surprises, sometimes attitudes and habits which could cause serious problems and difficulties.

2. Why do you want to get married?
Another strange question, but surprisingly, some couples have not even thought about such a question carefully. Don't rush into marriage unless you have seriously and honestly thought about this question. One common answer given is "because I love him or I love her." But why do you love him or her? In some situations, the couple is being coerced into marriage due to some family reason (including the possibility of "shotgun" - not "senapang" but a different meaning, some of you may understand ;)  - a hint... something to do with "a bun in the oven" or "roti dalam ketuhar")

3. Have the couple made preparations spiritually?
Some couples are so "kan cheong (緊張)," or nervous, or worried, or concerned, or kiasu about making sure they get:
a. The nicest 4 or 5 star hotel
b. The nicest wedding photos
c. The nicest wedding lunch and/or dinner
d, The nicest wedding apparel (some brides especially want to wear stylo-milo or shockalingam wedding dress, without considering the suitability of such clothing especially in church; or whether the dress is suitable for the climate, without undesirable consequences; or whether the dress or "baju" can fit properly or not, without disastrous consequences).
e. The nicest honey-moon location
f. The nicest whatever.
But how many couples have actually taken the trouble or effort to prepare for their wedding spiritually. Have they been regular in their confessions, participating at Mass, spending time in prayer, some form of spiritual direction with a priest or religious sister (if the girl feels more comfortable talking to another "girl")? How many couples have taken the trouble to prepare for a proper church wedding, including the date, time, readings, hymns, etc? How many couples are seriously putting God as the center of their lives?

4. Are the couple prepared for married life, both physically and financially?
Sounds strange, but some couples may be getting into marriage without realising potential health issues (some of which may emerge or appear a little too late, after the wedding), or that they do not have sufficient funds to support each other and the children that they may have. Many marriages have ended in the rocks because of insufficient preparation for these. Health related matters could be discovered by going for a thorough medical examination, and one should consider the cost of the wedding, as well as the cost of supporting a family. While some couples may want to have a grand wedding with all the bells and whistles, it does not seem wise to start a marriage in serious debt, or with serious shocking health issues which one may not have taken into consideration, right?

5. Are the couple communicating well?
I have seen some couples spending a lot of time using their hand-phones, android tablet, iPad or some other fancy gadget to communicate with each other (through sms, whatsapp, Facebook, Viber or some other messaging app), but are they making much effort to communicate with each other face to face? All these gadgets and gizmos are fine, but face-to-face communication is necessary, as one could pick up body language, visual, voice and other cues better. Also, are the couple making effort to resolve issues together, prior to getting into marriage? If the couple is not able to see eye to eye on small issues, just imagine what would happen when a bigger or serious issue arises? Would the marriage survive? Would the couple remain faithful and committed to each other? Communication is very important, since the couple would need to deal with many matters together. It is no longer a "sdn. bhd." or "personal" thing. It is a "together" thing. And this together thing is for life.

6. Interference from In-laws and Out-laws
Are the parents being, well, too "parently" or too involved with the couple's life (in other words, are the in-laws and/or out-laws being too interfering with the the couple's matters)? If every single matter the couple has to turn to daddy or mummy for approval or consultation, how to survive as a couple laa. Are you getting married to the man or the woman, or are you getting "married" to the whole extended household? I remember one incident where the couple came to see me in my office for initial marriage preparation, accompanied by their "kaum kerabat" or entourage of father, mother, sister, brother, grandfather, grandmother, uncle, auntie, and God knows who else. I immediately inquired: "Wah! So many people want to get married aah?" Immediately, the whole jingbang of in-laws and out-laws left, so that I could speak to the couple without interference or interruption. A word of advice... your son or daughter is already old enough to make his or her own decisions... he or she is already a "big buffalo" laa... Let him or her do what he or she needs to do laa ;) :p :D

7. Spouse of Different Faith
If your spouse is of a different faith, are you prepared to live with him or her, while ensuring that you do not abandon the Catholic faith? There are other implications on this, which the priest will advise the couple, so one needs to consider the challenges of living with another not of the same faith. It can be done, and it has worked out for many. Just need to be well informed and prepared, with the help of the parish priest and Catholic community.

So, as you can see, planning to get married is not a walk in the park. It requires one to make proper and thorough preparations, so that one could stay married for life. My professor in the seminary used to tell us: "A marriage is: one and two, super glue." Once, you are stuck, you remain stuck to each other for life. Don't get married unless you know what you are getting yourself into. Some folks have told me that sometimes, a marriage may involve 4 rings: engagement ring, wedding ring, suffering and enduring. It does not necessary have to be like that, and it does not have to be always that way, if one does the necessary preparations, with God's help.

Of course, this list is not exhaustive, since there are many other matters and elements to consider. But these are perhaps some of the more important matters to consider. That is why couples are seriously encouraged and expected to see the parish priest at least 6 months prior to the wedding. Don't go and prepare everything else then only see the parish priest. See the parish priest first. Once the initial preparations, interviews and guidance have been made, then only go to town with the other stuff. The parish priest is not interested in making your life difficult. He is only trying to help you be prepared for marriage in every way possible. Remember, a wedding is only a moment in time, a marriage is for a life time. Don't play play with getting married, but be good and be ready for the ride of a lifetime.

Sunday, 20 December 2015

Christmas Carol or Christmas Song?

Some of us may still be confusing the difference between Christmas carols and Christmas songs, especially when we are going around spreading the joy of Christmas in our neighbourhood, community, or even church (including the times we go around Christmas carolling). While the two are "supposingly" about Christmas, their wording and purpose are actually quite different.

Christmas carols contain wording concerning the birth of Jesus Christ and some description of the Nativity, including key figures surrounding or concerning the Nativity scene. There are many traditional Christmas carols which may have not been sung for quite some time, and surely through sufficient practice, one could learn how to sing them well.

Christmas songs, on the other hand, are generally secular in nature, and concern more about stuff like Santa Claus, Christmas trees, Winter, Snow and other similar topics. Quite often, such songs are used to promote a secular and "materialistic" idea of Christmas, especially in shopping malls trying to cash in on the season. A classic example would be songs containing the words "white Christmas," "sleigh ride," and "snow." Even if there is an attempt to promote the feeling of Christmas, would such songs actually convey the true meaning of Christmas, that is the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ? Also, would such words really and honestly mean anything to people who are in the tropics or where Christmas is during summer time? (For example, in Australia, Christmas is summer time in December).

So, as Christians, perhaps we should relook at what we are singing. Are we singing about Jesus, His Nativity, and important scenes and figures surrounding or concerning His birth? Or are we singing merely about the season of Christmas, something of a "feel good" experience, without having anything to do with Jesus? What then is the true meaning and focus of Christmas?

Saturday, 3 October 2015

Receiving Holy Communion - Some Observations

It is interesting to observe how some folks receive Holy Communion. Every once in a while, I remind the faithful that one should receive Holy Communion in a proper way. Whether one receives Holy Communion on the tongue or by hand, these are some observations for your attention:

Receiving Holy Communion on the hand
  1. Some people receive Holy Communion with only one hand. Would you receive a gift with only one hand? Not very polite aye?
  2. Some people receive Holy Communion with the fingers of the right hand shaped like the open beak of a baby bird calling out for food. Cheeep cheeep cheeep.
  3. Some people receive Holy Communion but their hands are dirty or soiled. Surely one should have ensured that one's hands are clean before coming for Mass.
The proper way is to receive Holy Communion with your left hand on top and your right hand beneath your left hand. Then you pick up the Holy Communion host with your right hand fingers and place the Holy Communion host in your mouth.

Receiving Holy Communion on the tongue
  1. Some people receive Holy Communion on the tongue, but they stick their teeth out like Jaws. There have been several instances where the poor padre had his fingers bitten when the person closed his or her mouth and the teeth bit into the padre's fingers. Ow! The agony.
  2. Some people receive Holy Communion on the tongue, but their tongue sticks out like a lizard's tongue, so quick and yucky, especially when the tongue touches the padre's fingers. It went shhooop... like a lizard catching a meal.
  3. Some people receive Holy Communion on the tongue, but they do not stick out their tongue a little longer or open their mouth a little wider. This sometimes causes the Holy Communion host to accidentally fall from the mouth and into the clothing. There have been instances where the person is a lady, well-endowed and wearing a low cut dress. Guess where the Holy Communion host fell in between? The padre certainly did not want to touch that place and asked the lady to hunt for the Holy Communion host herself. Aiyoyoyo! Mamma mia!
The proper way to receive Holy Communion with the tongue is to open your mouth wider a little, stick out the tongue a little more, so that the padre could place the Holy Communion host towards the center or back of the tongue. That way the Holy Communion host would less likely fall out of the mouth and end up at unmentionable or undesirable places.

Saturday, 18 July 2015

Evangelising through Music

Music is a powerful form of evangelising today, especially among our youths. This is because our youths are more receptive and inclined towards listening, singing and remembering songs, and it is through many of these songs, both old and new, that we receive teaching, our minds being exercised along with our hearts. God reaches our hearts through our minds. As Paul said, “Let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will know what God wants you to do, and you will know how good and pleasing and perfect his will really is” (Rom 12:2). 

So how do we fully utilise music to evangelise? First of all, we have bible verses which can be memorised through a catchy song. This is often used to teach young children through repetition of the verse until they can sing from memory. By doing so, these children would have learnt much of the bible by the time they are teenagers. Knowing the bible well leads to knowing Jesus better and His command to go out to proclaim the Good News.

For youths, due to their energetic and impressionable ways, perhaps musical plays concerning the life of Christ, the life of a saint, a story based on a passage from the bible, or even a story which reflects a Christian virtue or Christian life situation could be meaningful. This is because such musical plays give our youth an opportunity to express themselves both visually and audibly, while proclaiming a Christian message to the audience. Furthermore, since many of our youth can be influenced by their peers, inviting and encouraging the older youth to participate in such musical plays could encourage the younger ones to tag along and become involved, because they see their friends taking part and would not want to be left out. Some examples I recall are the Witness, which is about the life of Jesus; and The Choice, which is about the life of a Roman Centurion who later became a Christian when he had a conversion experience upon witnessing the passion and resurrection of the Lord Jesus. 

Youth concerts and rallies, where a lot of Christian music is played and sung, are also another form of evangelising. When our youth bring their non-Christian friends along, the charged atmosphere and powerful songs soon lead our young friends to their feet, singing, clapping, cheering and dancing away. Of course, this would need to be followed up by keeping in touch and using other forms of evangelisation, such as providing reading material and personal testimonies from other youths, so that the Gospel message can be experienced and learnt.

Music workshops for youths and other interested parties could be a great way to evangelisation. People could be invited first to have a jamming session with their Christian friends and hopefully, they may become more interested in Christianity, as the join the fun in playing and singing Christian songs. 

In this age of the internet, using a website is also a powerful means of evangelising; more so if Christian music is promoted on the website. Through such a website, people from all over the world can gain access to such songs, listen to them, and perhaps through the meaningful words and lovely melodies, they too may become interested to know more about the Christian faith. This is made even more effective when some basic Catholic teaching is included in the website, enabling visitors to read something about the Catholic faith while listening to the songs.

Even hand phones and MP3 players so commonly used these days can be deployed as a form of evangelising. How so? By using ring tones in the form of Christian songs, since many hand phones nowadays support complex polyphony features, someone just might get inspired to enquire more about that ring tone and the Christian can then introduce the other person to Jesus. Friends could share the earphone plug of an MP3 player with another friend who may not be a Christian, and this could lead to further enquiries about the Christian song being played, especially if it is a catchy or “cool” tune, and further evangelisation could occur. 

Through singing the story of Jesus, singing what we believe and sharing the Christian music we enjoy, we give people a context for living. As we relive the coming of Christ into the world, our own lives make sense. In worship and song we see ourselves on the continuum of time – we live for the here and now, with an eye for the future.

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

我们是否应该保持各方面的卫生和洁净?

保持家庭或是居所的卫生和整洁是我们通常每天都要处理的生活习惯. 保持清洁就是要清除垃圾. 堆积在家里或是周围环境的垃圾 , 将会吸引很多危害人类健康的昆虫,爬虫, 或是老鼠之类的动物. 它们将在垃圾堆里寻找所需的食物,因此,它们也会互相残杀, 更会带来一些有害人类的疾病.相信大家都在媒体中看到有关的动物造成可怕的疾病.而且难以应对。

同样的我们也应该照顾身体的清洁和卫生。为了保健,多数人都会吃有营养的食物或是维他命丸。有些人每天都会做体操和运动;甚至常常都去医院做身体检验,以防万一。当然,每天洗澡后还擦香油或喷香精,使到我们的身体干净而且没有异味。我们更不希望见到旁人捻着鼻子而瞪着我们;因为身体流汗而发出阵阵的狐臭味,实在使人很难堪。假如几天或是一两个星期没有洗澡,身体所发出的臭味和汗酸味更是使人作呕而退避三舍。

大家也许都有注意到:无论是保持住所的整洁或是身体的健康都只是暂时性的。过了一段时期,房屋将会残旧不堪而需要装修或是重建。身体的情况也是一样,最终都免不了要面对死亡。也许大家没有注意到那永远不死不灭的是我们的灵魂。纵然你有清洁又美丽的房屋,你有清洁,健康和骄人的身材,但是,你的灵魂是否一尘不染?

每当我们犯了大罪或小罪,我们的灵魂已经被污染了。要是没有把灵魂上的污渍除去,我们的灵魂永远不干净。相信大家不会留下衣物上的污渍吧!为何你们不立刻除去灵魂上的污渍呢?难道你的灵魂不比衣物更重要吗?要是你以为还有很多时间可以清理灵魂上的污点,那么,你是否了解灵魂上的污点是越久越难清除的?再来说,死神会任何时候向你招手,到时你如何是好呢?

要除去灵魂上的污渍,我们就要去办告解或是和好圣事。当我们办和好圣事时,是耶稣基督赦我们的罪,同时也把灵魂上的污渍除去。很多时候,教友可以很方便地向神父告解,可是,一些教友仍然顽冥不灵和缺乏信心。更有一些教友觉得每年在降临期和四旬期办一两次告解就足够了。难道在漫长一年岁月里,教友可以控制自己而少犯罪,甚至完全没有犯错吗?或者是因为自己懒惰,又有诸多藉口去避免告解?请大家别忘记,天主在你不知不觉和毫无准备时可以召你回去,向祂报告有关你一生的所作所为。因此,希望教友们时时警惕自己,更不希望自己的灵魂将来得不到永生的赏报。

Monday, 20 April 2015

Are We Really Keeping Clean?

Maintaining cleanliness in our homes or living quarters is something we do regularly to ensure good hygiene and overall tidiness. Maintaining cleanliness includes taking out the garbage, lest the house itself ends up becoming a rubbish dump, which would then attract unwanted creatures like cockroaches, rats, mice and other creepy crawlies which either thrive on the rubbish or feed on the pests and vermin that thrive on the rubbish, which would then pose a danger to humans. We have read horrible accounts of diseases and other deadly forms brought by such unwanted creatures.

Likewise, most of us would make much effort in keeping our bodies clean and healthy. We would eat well, take vitamins and other supplements, go for regular exercise and go for regular medical checkups. Most of us would also bathe regularly and put on nice smelling perfume, so that we feel clean and pleasant smelling as much as possible. We would not want our body odour to get the attention of others around us, as we would feel quite embarrassed if people start holding their noses and looking at us with disgust. Could you just imagine what would happen if we did not take a bath for a few days, or even for a week? Surely people would avoid us as the stench, stink and smell emitting from our body would to quite unbearable and nauseating.

If you noticed, keeping our homes and living quarters clean and tidy, as well as keeping our bodies healthy and clean are only temporary matters. One day, our homes and living quarters will become obsolete, and we may need to have it renovated extensively, or even torn down to be rebuilt as new. Our bodies too do not last forever, it doesn't matter whether it is sooner or later, we will die one day. This leaves us with something which perhaps many of us have been neglecting or have not been giving enough attention: our soul. Our soul will not die, but will live on and face God some day. If we consider for a moment: our homes and living quarters may be clean; our bodies may be clean; but is our soul clean?

Each time we sin, it doesn't matter whether we committed a small sin or a serious sin, our soul is being stained and soiled. As long as we do not clean our soul, the stain remains. When a stain is found on your shirt or dress, would you let it be? Surely we would get rid of the stain as quickly as possible, since the stain would eventually ruin the shirt or dress if we do not do anything about it. But it seems strange that there are people who do not seem to bother about removing the stain on their soul as quickly as possible. Such people go on living, thinking they have got plenty of time to get the stain on their soul removed, but what they fail to realise is that the longer they leave the stain there, the harder it is for them to get it removed. Not only that, they may be caught off-guard and may not have the opportunity to get the stain on their soul removed since death could come unexpectedly. What would happen then?

To clean our souls, we need to go for the Sacrament of Reconciliation. At the Sacrament of Reconciliation, it is Jesus who is forgiving your sins and cleaning our souls. It seems strange that, though we have easy access to the Sacrament of Reconciliation by just going to a priest, some of us seem to be slacking or procrastinating. Some of us seem to be content with going for the Sacrament of Reconciliation only once or twice a year, especially during the seasons of Advent and Lent. Does that mean we have managed to control ourselves to the point where we sin very little, or even managed not to sin at all? Or are we just being lazy and making all sorts of excuses not to go regularly? Remember that the Lord could call us at any time to give an account of our lives. May we not be caught unprepared, and through our own neglect, cause us to lose our eternal reward.

Saturday, 11 April 2015

寻找和索取领洗证书

由于教会法 (877#1)的规定,为了确保教友的一切重要个人资料包括领洗证书,不会遗失,教会还是把各种个人资料记录在册子或书本中。至于用电脑保存教友个人资料,有可能容易遗失,而且不是每个堂区有电脑人才,经费和适合材器来处理该事项。

既然,以前所有堂区都用大册子或记录簿来书写教友各种资料,那么,要找一个教友的资料,并不是那么容易了。有些堂区,教友众多,又经过几十年或上百年的历史,那就更困难了。

假如你要找领洗证书,你要有足够的个人资料,让神父或堂区办事处书记知道,才可尽快地找出你的记录。最好是你能够提供旧的领洗证书。让书记更快办妥事情。然而,由于各种原因,大多数教友都没有保存领洗证书的习惯。因此,以下有一系列的建议,希望教友能善用和作参考:
  1. 完整姓名(根据国民身份证的登记或是报生纸的资料)。
  2. 出生日期(根据报生纸上的资料)
  3. 出生地点(包括医院或是诊疗所名字)。
  4. 父母姓名(完整姓名)
  5. 领洗日期(假如不能记得,提供大约的日期)。
  6. 领洗地点(教堂或是小堂名字,地方名等)。
  7. 领洗时的圣名(完整圣名而不是别名,更不是简称).
  8. 领洗时代父母的名字。
请大家切记:如果要更快或是顺利得到领洗记录证书,教友们一定要充分合作,提供完整的个人资料。

Monday, 6 April 2015

有关降临期和四旬期忏悔礼中的点点滴滴

在降临期和四旬期忏悔礼中,有些事情不断地发生。因此,我们有必要注意下列一些课题:
  1. 提早到场。 假如你通常比较喜欢向那从远方来的神父办告解而你又迟到,那么你可能会见不到他。提早到场也可以给教友们更多的时间去准备办个妥善的告解。
  2. 如果有小孩的教友们要办告解,拜托你吩咐先生或太太暂时守住他们。不然,他们可能会骚扰他人祈祷或办告解。
  3. 当你告解时,请你直接说出罪过。不需要说出犯罪的始末或是来龙去脉。
  4. 告解是直接向神父说出你的罪过而不是告他人的罪行。有些教友却向神父投诉有关太太,先生或孩子们的事情。神父没有兴趣听你们发牢骚。
  5. 告解之前好好准备和反省。如此,你才能发觉所犯下的罪过,尤其是严重的过失。
  6. 准备告解时,切记要保持冷静。尤其是在告解之前,正在进行中或是之后,都不应被一些事情来分散你的集中力。
  7. 应当要谦虚礼让,尤其是泊车或是等待告解时。因你的恶劣行为而导致他人犯罪是不应该的。举例来说,到教堂时把车子泊好在泊车格里,以免妨碍其他车主的需要。有些车主随意泊过位,而阻碍他人的需要,因此,也造成他人大发牢骚。
  8. 请记得告解的程序。反之,神父会引导你办个妥善的告解。最好教友能够知道告解时应该说什么和做什么。这样不但可以顺利告解而且也不妨碍其他教友的时间。
  9. 告解时切记要控制情绪。我们知道有些教友因罪过而感到伤心或很羞愧而哭泣。但是,告解室不是一个心理辅导中心。如果教友遇到这种问题时,最好找辅导师的帮忙。
  10. 告解后,用一时间祈祷。过后请你离开。尤其是教堂里的泊车位很有限时。让其教友也可方便停车而办告解。
虽然还有其它各种各样的事项我没有注意到的;不过,拜托教友们多多注意上述的一切,好使降临期和四旬期间的忏悔礼,能够更顺利地进行;也使教友们能在灵修方面更进一层

Tuesday, 31 March 2015

到底是圣堂还是多元用途的大厅?

什么是圣堂? 很多人会以为神父在开玩笑,提出那么简单的问题。到底你们对圣堂的了解有多深?是否有真正地把圣堂当着主的家庭?或者有些教友早已把圣堂当着是超级市场,购物广场,电影戏院,公众娱乐场或是其它的公共场所?是否我们之中有些人早已把圣堂看成世俗的建筑物, 并非一个神圣的地方?

从过去的经验来说,的确有些教友把圣堂当着公共场所,没有尊重它为清静圣洁的地方。为了一些不知情者,还是让我多唠叨几句。
  1. 不妨在每次弥撒结束后,你细心地观察圣堂座位之间,你可以发现到一些遗留下的纸巾或是糖果包皮等等。很明显的,这些教友们不会把自己的家庭当着是垃圾堆,但是为何不注意圣堂场所的清洁呢?
  2. 当神父站在祭台上做弥撒时,他能够一目了然地看到圣堂的每一个角落。曾经好几次见到年轻情侣, 为了要更了解对方,竟然躲到楼上后座去方便。其实,类似的勾当应该发生在一个更恰当的场所而不是在圣堂里。
  3. 有位修院的神学教授曾经批评说:有些圣堂的女教友参加弥撒时,穿着方面太过暴露性,她们好像是在参加时装表演。(尤其是进行婚礼弥撒时 ,新娘的礼服更是惹人遐思,想入非非呢!这种情况在普通主日弥撒中也不少见。)由于情况逼人,神父们只好避开视线,或视若无睹。有位神父说:当他派送圣体时,由于女教友穿着太惹火,神父手中的圣体竟然掉入女士的丰满胸脯里,而神父却不敢伸手取回圣体,只好叫她自行解决,以免产生不愉快的事情。
  4. 圣堂是教友祈祷或静默反省的地方。可是有些教友却在大谈阔论,没有顾及他人的感受,有时,他们声量更是骚扰别人 。
  5. 还有一些参与弥撒者在教堂内阅读报纸,或是发送短讯给朋友;有些母亲正在喂奶(一些孩子已经是长大了,不再是婴儿。)为什么不等到弥撒过后,才传短讯或是喂食呢?假如你们懂得尊重国家元首,苏丹或是其他高官显要,为何你们在圣堂里的行为那么不检点呢?到底教会的律法和尊严去了那里?
  6. 当我们在生理上有需要时,当然要到厕所方便。 而不是让小孩在教堂前面的沟渠旁或是教堂周围解决。难道你们可以随意把世界的任何角落当成厕所吗?
  7. 圣堂范围里的停车场空间通常是很有限的。有些教友却不顾他人的需要,只顾自己的方便,而随意泊车。当弥撒结束后,有些车主因为进退两难,而情绪高涨;也不记得大家都是主内兄弟姐妹。不愉快的事情就发生了。其实,弥撒最后时,神父都会吩咐教友们:“去吧! 为爱主和为祂服务”。一旦教友离开圣堂并在外时,一切教诲都化为乌有。哀哉!哀哉!
当然还有很多其它列子可以证明教友不尊敬圣堂。不过,我相信以上的看点,已经足够让我们来默想和反复思考。问题是到底我们有没有以身作则,崇敬和善用教堂圣所,去鼓励其它教友?或者是完全不闻不问?难道我们不是主内的兄弟姐妹吗?主耶稣不希望祈祷的圣所变成贼窝。因此,我希望教友们同心合力,建立一个有纪律,有崇敬,有好品德的信仰团体,恭恭敬敬地在圣堂作祈祷和朝拜耶稣圣体。

Saturday, 21 March 2015

聚集在一起祈祷或是误导?

通常每年的五月和十月,教友们在晚上会聚集在另外一位教友的家庭诵念玫瑰经。国内以及其它一些国家都有所谓( BEC )或是基层基督徒团体的组织。同一个社区里的教友家庭,将在每个月聚集在特定教友家里做祈祷或是做圣经及信仰分享的活动。

虽然类似的活动是值得鼓励。但是,很多时候这些活动变成社交而不是灵修活动。有些教友会认为神父太过主观和武断地评论。让我告诉你如何得到结论:
  1. 曾经在几次的集会中,在祈祷,反省和分享过后,有些教友们急不待缓地抢着发表伟论。他们滔滔不绝地对当今时势提出看法。(换句话说他们只是有兴趣谈论是非。)因此,祈祷的集会便失去了意义;结果就会产生互相妒忌,毁谤和背后中伤他人的事故。
  2. 在这许多集会中,主人免不了会准备食物和饮料来招待来宾。但是我注意到很多参与者对餐饮方面比起灵修活动更有兴趣。甚至有些人在聚餐祈祷前已经手不择食地狼吞虎咽。更有一些主人好像在比赛谁能提供更美味可口的食谱。结果我只好提醒大家集会的意义不在丰富的食物和饮料,重要的是不要加重贫穷家庭的经济负担。
  3. 有时候在集会之前,尤其是有关圣经分享的课题,有些教友毫无准备地参与。我觉得他们所分享的课题很可笑,简直听不出他们在说什么。当我在修院念书时,上圣经课,有位同学对一些课题发表了牛头不对马嘴的言论(因为他没有事先准备)。最后,使教授忍无可忍地大笑一场。该课只好提早结束。
  4. 有时候,我注意到有些出席集会者心不在焉。他们只是勉勉强强地跟随做灵修活动而已。其实他们出席集会是另有原因的。
  5. 在一些集会中,我感到非常反感的是竟然有人在推销产品和招募新会员, 因为他们是直销公司的成员。我觉得不应该在这些场合做类似的活动,应该到别的地方谈生意。难道教友们要把宗教活动变成生意交易的场所吗?
总而言之, 我们应该问问自己为什么主办或参加集会? 重点和目的是什么?是否要我们大家更接近天主?或是集会越来越世俗化?让我们改变态度和方向,成立一个专心祈祷和反省的基督徒兄弟姐妹信仰团体,并且仰望耶稣基督的领导。

Thursday, 19 March 2015

Searching and Retrieving Baptism Records

Most of the baptism records in churches are still found in books. This is because, to a certain extent, books and written text are still necessary to ensure that such important and significant information is not lost should something happen, as required by Canon Law (Can.  877 §1). Data stored on computers could be easily lost in many ways, and not many church parishes have got the proper personnel, funds and equipment to convert written records to computer data, and then maintaining and ensuring proper backups of such data.

Since such baptism records are still found in books, and some parishes have been around for decades or even more than a century, some of these parishes would have several books containing such baptism records. Naturally, this poses quite a problem trying to find a particular record, since so many faithful have been baptised over the years.

If you are looking for your baptism record, you would need to have as much information as you can recall and make available, to be given to the parish office, so that your baptism record may be successfully found. The best option would be if you have an old baptism certificate which you could show to the parish office, since such a baptism certificate would make finding your baptism record so much easier. However, not many of us may have been mindful or careful about preserving our baptism certificate, due to one reason or another. Thus, these are some of the suggested information you would need to provide:
  1. Full name (according to your birth certificate or identity card, whichever available)
  2. Date of birth (actual date of birth as stated on your birth certificate)
  3. Place of birth (Including hospital, clinic, where possible)
  4. Name of parents (Father's and mother's full name)
  5. Date of baptism (if cannot recall, approximate date)
  6. Place of baptism (church or chapel name and location)
  7. Christian Name (in full, not nickname or short form please)
  8. Name of God parent/s
Note that, unless you are willing and able to provide as much information about you as possible, it would be not possible to search and retrieve your baptism records successfully.

Saturday, 14 March 2015

你是否准备好面对死亡的到来?

每个人的一生,不管是否喜欢,都要面对两件事:第一件事就是政府的各种征税。在文明世界里,社会中各种交通,住宿,建设,服务,购物或是其他公共设备,免不了要征税的。拥有一辆汽车也要付出税务:汽油,路税和购车时付出的税务。当你到餐馆用餐时,除了服务税外,还有一些食物都要付出一定的税务。有些餐馆更有打赏服务员的习惯。难道这一切都不是“税务” 吗 ?因此,我们无论如何都不可避免征税:从头到脚,前后左右,都得付税。

另外要面对的一件事就是死亡。不管你是老少,健康或生病,总有一天都要面对死亡。这就是为甚麼我们要积极地准备自己面对生命终结的时刻。有些教友会认为神父太夸张了,吓坏人,为什麽对死亡谈个不休?就因为我们在世的生命是短暂的,我们无可奈何要注重这课题。我们是旅途中的教会,也是朝圣者,一定要妥善准备自己,在末日来临时去面对天主。但是,请大家不要太慌张,利用我们的时间来好好的准备就是了。我们都知道:"罗马不是一天就建好的。"只要我们天天地好好准备,积少成多。到时就可以无愧地回天乡面对祂了。下列一些建议可以供给我们作参考。

准备世俗的事情.

  1. 把一切在世间属于你的事情安排妥当:财产和债务等等.然后,立一份遗嘱,阐明如何分配你的财产。
  2. 我不须要在这课题上多作解释,希望你不会给你的最亲近者或 后代或亲属,在你归天后带来不必要的麻烦或困境。

准备灵修方面的事情.

  1. 时常参与主日和平日弥撒.我们可能每主日都参与弥撒和领圣体,但是,平日弥撒也一样重要.难道你们每天不想得到天粮或主耶稣圣体的滋润?
    • 我们非常注重平时所吃的食物是因为要使身体更健康强壮.不过,你有想到你的灵魂吗?难道我们不希望灵魂也一样健康强壮吗?
    • 有些人不惜长途跋涉,甚至不惜付出昂贵的代价,到某些地方品尝山珍海味.可是,主耶稣的圣体是在弥撒圣事中免费给我们领受的.
      • 假如一间餐馆提供免费食物时,我相信很多人都争先恐后地领取食物.
      • 虽然圣体是灵魂的食物,永久的天粮,很可惜的是,有些教友们不渴望,也不热爱领圣体.
  2. 我们每天都要作祈祷和默想.假如我们没有天天祈祷,或是祈祷时心不在焉,更没有诚意,那么我们如何接近天主?又如何能听到祂的声音?
  3. 我们要天天阅读圣经,或是有关教会教导众教友的书籍,圣人生活记录,或是提升灵修和信仰的记载.阅读记载圣人成圣前后的册子或书籍,会鼓励我们教友更积极地跟随圣人的好榜样而渐渐地成圣.
  4. 我们要时常去办和好圣事.每天我们都花了不少时间去照顾身体的清洁:一天冲凉三四次,过后又打香水,擦香粉或是喷香露等等.你们用多少时间去照顾灵魂的洁净?
    • 我曾经注意到一些教友一年之中,尤其是在降临期和四旬期间,只办一两次和好圣事;甚至有一些教友好几年才办一次告解.
      • 这些教友们可能没有事先好好准备去办和好圣事,寻求天主的宽恕和原谅他们的罪过;或者他们都认为自己是圣人或是天使了.
    • 教友们是否知道罪行就是罪行.不管是犯了大罪或小罪,一次,两次或三次,如果不去告解,我们的灵魂就受污染了.
      • 当你的身体或衣服受污染时,为了安全起见,你是否会立刻把它除掉?
      • 反观我们自己的灵魂,是否比身体或衣物更重要呢?
  5. 有关这些问题,教友们可以寻求神师的指导.想想看,我们可以大费周章和不辞劳苦地攻读大学而获取学位或是其它文凭,为什麽不给自己在灵修方面考获更多的“文凭呢”?
  6. 虔诚地守天主的十诫:爱天主在万有之上 和爱你的近人。假如我们细心地研究这两条诫命,我们会发觉不容易实行。就因为在这些方面,往往我们可能做得不周到或疏忽了,那么我们就需要去办和好圣事。
  7. 假如家中你或是成员们患病入院或是在家卧病在床,应该赶紧请神父给病者付油。神父或普通圣体派送员都可以为病人送圣体。
    • 当病人危在旦夕时,神父可以替病人付终油:也就是替病人准备好“回乡旅途中的食物”。
    • 最重要的是病人家属要通知本堂神父或是办公室,好让病者的灵魂也能得到应有照顾。
以上各项建议都可以让我们一生反省和实行。当时候到来时,我们是否可以无愧地,而且以纯洁灵魂面对天主?我相信每位教友都希望将来主对他说:“ 好,善良忠信的仆人,你既在少许事上忠信,我必委派你管理许多大事,进入你主人的福乐吧!”( 玛 25:21 )让我们不要再冥顽不灵了,赶快诚心诚意地做好必须的准备,痛悔前非,好好地办告解圣事,以期在末日时能听到主说:“来吧!参与主人的福乐。”

Sunday, 8 March 2015

Growing in Holiness in the Parish

“You have to be holy in your position as you are, and I have to be holy in the position that God has put me. So it is nothing extraordinary to be holy. Holiness is not the luxury of the few. Holiness is a simple duty for you and for me. We have been created for that.”
Mother Theresa

We know that we are called to holiness. “As he who called you is holy, be holy yourselves in every aspect of your conduct, for it is written, ‘Be holy because I am holy.’” (1 Pet 1:15-16). Some have the idea that holiness is just equivalent to being prayerful, religious, or even ascetic. While these can be part of being holy, these are not enough, especially if they are mere external practices.

Instead, embracing the reality of living in the parish, accepting the many joys and sorrows that come my way, and learning to love and serve all people as they are, are some of the ways which help me grow in holiness as I continue to serve God's people as parish priest.

Here are some of my thoughts of growing in holiness in the parish which I have internalised by using the acronym “H-O-L-I-N-E-S-S”:

H = Holy Spirit:
The Holy Spirit plays an important role as we grow in holiness in our family, community, parish, and society.
O = Old Testament:
In the Old Testament, God set apart a people not because they were holy, but in order to make them holy, through Circumcision and the Commandments. Holiness is to be set apart for the service of God rather than for the service of self.
L = Love:
Loving God and loving neighbour are the two equally great commandments which sum up the love we strive to give to all as we grow in holiness.
I = Internal Holiness:
While man looks at externalities, God is concerned with our deepest internal motivations, which is, why we do what we do.
N = New Testament:
If the Old Testament symbol of holiness is found in the commandments, the New Testament symbol for holiness is found in the cross. As disciples of Jesus, we strive to listen, understand and do God’s will as we take up our cross to follow him.
E = Emptying oneself
In our efforts to grow in holiness, He must increase while we decrease. This means emptying oneself and giving all glory to God.
S = Service:
As we grow in holiness, we give service to all without expecting fame or recognition, for if we wish to be first, we must first be last and the servant of all.
S = Suffering:
Suffering is an integral part of growing in holiness. We are “heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him in order that we may also be glorified in Him” (Romans 8:17).

Thursday, 5 March 2015

Coming Together to Pray or to Play?

During the months of May and October, we are encouraged to gather as a community to pray the rosary. In Malaysia and in some other countries, we have what is called "Basic Ecclesial Communities (BEC)" where the faithful within a housing area are encouraged to come together (at least once a month) in a location or home (depending on the circumstances) within the housing area, to pray, to reflect, to have bible sharing, and other faith and community building activities.

While all these activities are fine and good, we sometimes come across situations where such gatherings are more worldly than spiritual. Some of you may be thinking: this padre is being too quick to assume things or to make comments, but allow me to elaborate further what I am getting at:
  1. In several gatherings, I have observed that there are some who come there not so much to pray, but to exchange juicy news. This happens sometimes after the prayers or reflection or sharing, where such people can't wait to begin their "marathon talking sessions" (in other words, they are merely interested in the gossiping, plain and simple). The whole idea of praying together becomes lost in translation, as such people begin to indulge in back-biting, making unkind remarks and other utterances about others.
  2. Many of the gatherings I have attended have food and drinks served after the prayers, reflection or sharing. However, sometimes I observe people coming more for the food than for the spiritual activities, as some would be so quick to get to the dining area and begin to tuck in, even before the prayer before meals has been said. In some instances, there seems to be some sort of competition between hosts of different houses to see who can serve the best meal. Sometimes, I end up having to remind people that the food is not so important, since some families may not be that well off and we should not cause them to experience financial burden by serving too costly a meal.
  3. Sometimes there is homework given before a gathering, especially if the gathering involves some bible sharing or bible study. I find it amusing listening to the excuses or comments of some people who have not come prepared, and end up trying to "smoke" their way through ("smoke" in this context refers to bluffing ones way through or saying things without having the faintest idea or foggiest notion what they are saying), when it is their turn to share or comment. I remember back when I was a seminarian, a fellow seminarian tried to "smoke" his way through during scripture class, and the scripture professor had great difficulty staying calm while the fellow was "smoking" excessively (resulting in a suffocatingly "smokey" situation). Eventually, the scripture professor could not take it any longer and burst out laughing till his sides ached, and class had to be dismissed.
  4. At times, I have observed people present at a gathering, but their minds are elsewhere. They go through the spiritual activities almost mechanically, but you can notice that they are not really interested and come for other reasons.
  5. At some gatherings, I was quite annoyed that there are some people who come with the intention to sell their products. Some of these people are involved in MLM (Multi-Level Marketing) and some even have the gall to try and recruit new people during such gatherings. Surely there are other times and places where such selling or recruitment could take place. Are some of us turning a religious activity into a marketplace (or "pasar malam" or night market)?
Ultimately, we need to ask ourselves honestly: why are we gathering in the first place? What is our priority and purpose? Are we coming together to grow in relationship with God? Or have our gatherings become more and more worldly? Let us change our ways and attitudes, so that together as a community of brothers and sisters of Christ, we would gather in prayer and reflection and let the Lord be our guide.

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

House of God or Mulitipurpose Hall?

What is a church? Some of you may be wondering whether this padre has gone nuts or crazy for asking a question which seems to have an obvious answer, but sometimes I wonder. Do we know what a church really is? Do we treat a church as what it is supposed to be? Or have some of us begun to think that the church is no different from the supermarket, shopping mall, movie theater, public park, or some other place for general public use? Have some of us started treating a place which is supposed to be sacred, into something which is profane or secular?

Over the years, I have come across many instances where some folks have treated a church in a not so nice manner (okay, if you want me to put it bluntly, in a disrespectful and in some cases, a disgusting manner). Some of you may already know what I am writing about, but for those less enlightened, allow me to elaborate further what I am yapping about:
  1. If you walk along the pews or along the aisle, you may notice, if you are observant, pieces of sweet wrappings, tissue paper, or other bits and pieces strategically placed. Sometimes, such items are so blatantly obvious and yet, we still find folks who do not seem to mind throwing such things all over the place. Surely such folks would not treat their homes as a rubbish dump or a dumping ground, so why are these folks behaving differently in church?
  2. The place the altar is located is quite a strategic place, and the priest celebrating Mass can see practically everything that is happening inside the church. I have, in a number of occasions, seen young couples getting to know each other really or extra well upstairs at the back pews. Really, if such couples want to do such things, there are other more appropriate places to do so.
  3. A seminary professor once remarked that in some churches, people have dressed as if they were going for a fashion show or for a "censored." Some have been found to dress quite revealingly (especially at weddings, though at times, such incidences have happened during a Sunday Mass), that the priest has to look away to avoid looking at certain areas. One padre even remarked that it has happened before that during Holy Communion, the Eucharist had accidentally fallen in between certain areas, and the padre dared not retrieve the Eucharist from there and asked the individual to do so, so as to avoid any unwanted consequences.
  4. The church is a place where people may be praying or reflecting, and yet we come across people who seem to have much to chat about, and sometimes in their excitement, they talk quite loudly without giving any consideration about other people.
  5. At times, I observe people reading the newspaper, or texting on their phone, or feeding their child (in some cases, the child is already quite big - big buffalo already, not small one, as a padre once quipped), even while Mass is being celebrated. Surely the news or the text message or food can wait until the Mass is concluded. If people can be quite respectful in the presence of the king or sultan or some important dignitary and not do such things indiscriminately, it baffles me why such people could be behaving differently in church. What has happened to reverence and discipline?
  6. There is a proper place for people to relieve themselves when nature calls, and yet we sometimes find parents allowing their children to do so at the drain near the church entrance or sometimes even within the church compound. Have some people become so ignorant or not bothered that any part of the world has become their water closet?
  7. The church car park is not always a big place, and sometimes the car park could become quite congested. Unfortunately, from time to time, we come across folks who think that the car park belongs to them and they can park as they please. When people park inconsiderately, other people may end up unable to move their vehicle after Mass, and as a result, tempers begin to flare and people begin to be less brotherly or sisterly to each other. At the end of the Mass, people are sent forth to "go and love and serve the Lord." Then once they are outside?
There are certainly many other examples of how the church has been treated differently from what it is supposed or meant to be, but I trust these observations are sufficient for us to think about and reflect on. Do we care and treat the church with proper respect, reverence and encourage others to do the same? Or have some of us begun to adopt a "tidak apa" or "don't care" attitude, or "it's not my problem" attitude? Aren't we supposed to be brothers and sisters in Christ, and together help maintain proper discipline, proper decorum, proper reverence and proper conduct? If Jesus would not tolerate the temple being turned from a house of prayer into a robbers' den, surely shouldn't we be doing the same to our church?

Saturday, 28 February 2015

Are You Ready For Death?

Each and every one of us have to face two things in life that we will encounter whether we like it or not. The first thing is tax or taxes. As long as you are living in a civilised society with various amenities, public services and other forms of purchases of goods or services, we will be taxed. If you drive a car, you will be taxed with road tax, tax when you purchased the car, and even tax already included in your petrol purchase. When you go to a restaurant, you will be taxed a service tax, the food you purchase has some items which are taxed, and in some cases you would be expected to tip the waiter or waitress (which is like a form of 'tax', so to speak). So, as you can see, tax cannot be avoided, as we are all taxed in one way or another, left, right, front, back, top, bottom and centre.

The other thing we will face eventually is death. Death can come at any time. It does not matter how old, young, healthy, sick, fit or unfit we are, we will die one day. This is where we need to make the necessary preparations, so that we would be prepared for the eventuality of death. Some of you may say, "Yeerrr, this padre so terrible (or morbid) one. Why talk about death aaa?" But that is exactly the point: we should be talking about death because our lives here on earth are only temporary. We are merely pilgrims, and we should be prepared and ready to meet the Lord and be with Him at any time. This does not mean that we should become over-cautious or paranoid about death, but we can still take some time to make some preparations.

We know that Rome wasn't built in a day, and doing things little by little can accumulate into good habits and practices, which would help in our preparations to return to the Lord some day (or some may say in Bahasa Malaysia, "balik kampung" or "go back to eternal village"). So what ought we to do? Here are some points to consider:

Temporal or Worldly Matters

  1. Get all your worldly affairs in order. This includes your wealth, debts and other matters concerning you on earth. A will may be helpful so that those you leave behind will know what you would want to do with your wealth and belongings (your "barang-barang").
  2. I will not speak further about this, but I hope you will look seriously at your worldly affairs and do the necessary, so that you do not leave behind your loved ones with problems and hardship.

Spiritual Matters

  1.  Be regular with your Sunday and weekday Masses. Some of us may be regular with Sunday Mass, but what about weekday or daily Mass? Don't you want to be spiritually nourished with bread from heaven, Jesus' body, each day?
    • We are particular about the food we eat so that our bodies are hopefully strong and healthy, but what about our soul? Don't we want our soul to be strong and healthy too?
    • We have to pay for the food we eat (and some of us are willing to travel long distances to savour delicacies, and in some cases pay exorbitant prices), but Jesus body in the form of the Eucharist is offered each day FOC (free of charge).
      • If we are invited to a restaurant and are told the food there is FOC, we would soon be faced with a stampede as everyone would want to grab as much as they can.
      • Seems strange that some are not keen or enthusiastic to partake in Holy Communion, which is food for the soul, food that will last.
  2. Be regular with your prayer life and meditation. How do we grow closer to God if we do not pray regularly, consistently and fervently? How do we listen to His voice if we do not spend some time to meditate and let Him talk to us?
  3. Read the sacred scriptures and other books on church teachings, lives of the saints, books on spirituality and other books concerning the faith. Books about the lives of the saints, for example, may inspire us to follow their example and encourage us to strive towards holiness.
  4. Be regular with the Sacrament of Reconciliation. We spend so much time and effort to keep our bodies clean by bathing regularly and nice-smelling by putting on perfume and other scents. But how much time and effort are we making to keep our soul clean?
    • I find it interesting to note that there are some who come for confession only once or twice a year (some even after a few years), especially during the Advent and Lent confessions.
      • Either these folks have not taken the trouble or made effort to identify and admit the sins they have committed and go to confession to seek forgiveness and absolution, or these folks must be saints or angels already.
    • Why are some of us dirtying our soul by keeping all our sins inside? It does not matter whether one has committed one sin, two sins or several. It does not matter whether it is a venial or a mortal sin. A sin is still a sin, and if we do not go for confession, the sin continues to stain our soul.
      • Would you allow a stain to remain on your body or your clothes for a long period? Isn't it strange that you would quickly get the stain removed so that your body or clothes would not be damaged?
      • What about your soul then? Is not your soul even more important than your body and clothes?
  5. Seek a spiritual director. The spiritual director would be able to help and guide you to grow in your spiritual life. We make so much effort to earn degrees and other qualifications, but what about our spiritual "qualifications"?
  6. Observe God's commandments faithfully. God's commandments can be summarised into two: love God, and love neighbour. If we take the time to understand and discover what it really means to love God and love neighbour, we would soon realise that it is not as simple or easy as it seems. We may have failed in one way or another to observe God's commandments at some point of our lives, and this is where the Sacrament of Reconciliation would be helpful.
  7. If you or someone is quite ill and hospitalised or housebound, do inform your parish priest so that you or the person can receive the Sacrament of Anointing.
    • The parish priest or an extraordinary communion minister may also bring Holy Communion to the sick or housebound.
    • If the need arises, the parish priest may administer Extreme Unction (also known as Food for the Journey), especially when the person appears to be quite critical or dying.
    • The important thing here is to inform the parish priest or the parish office so that the sick and the housebound would receive the necessary spiritual care as well.
What I have written here are merely some of the many ways we could consider and practice, as we continue life on earth. When the time comes for us to meet the Lord, would we be ready and would our soul be clean or spick and span? Don't we want to hear these words from the Lord: "Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master's happiness!" (Matthew 25:21). Let us not procrastinate further but do our part faithfully and consistently, little by little, so that we would be ready and happy to "Come and share our master's happiness!"

Thursday, 26 February 2015

Will the Real Prodigal Son Please Stand Up?

Many of us are familiar with the parable of the Prodigal Son. We may have read it so many times, taking comfort from the reassuring words and gestures of the father towards the younger son in the parable. But if you look and read closely the parable and read between the lines, you could actually discover a great recipe for the next "drama minggu ini" (this week's drama) blockbuster. Why so? Because, from the text, we could begin to wonder who is actually the real prodigal son, and who in the end really needs help. Before we go further, let us look at the text:

25 'Now the elder son was out in the fields, and on his way back, as he drew near the house, he could hear music and dancing. 26 Calling one of the servants he asked what it was all about. 27 The servant told him, "Your brother has come, and your father has killed the calf we had been fattening because he has got him back safe and sound." 28 He was angry then and refused to go in, and his father came out and began to urge him to come in; 29 but he retorted to his father, "All these years I have slaved for you and never once disobeyed any orders of yours, yet you never offered me so much as a kid for me to celebrate with my friends. 30 But, for this son of yours, when he comes back after swallowing up your property -- he and his loose women -- you kill the calf we had been fattening." 31 'The father said, "My son, you are with me always and all I have is yours.32 But it was only right we should celebrate and rejoice, because your brother here was dead and has come to life; he was lost and is found."' (Luke 15:11-32)

Notice that the elder son would have known that the day of the younger son's return was the greatest day in his father’s life. Also, the father has “killed the fattened calf”, an extravagance in a culture where having meat at meals was considered a delicacy. The elder son was fully aware that his father was ecstatic with joy. Yet he refused to go into the biggest feast his father has ever put on. This was a remarkable, deliberate act of disrespect. The father had to “go out” to plead with him. Just as he went out to bring his alienated younger son into the family, now he had to do the same for the elder son. What does this mean to us? Basically, it means that the elder son is lost.

The elder son is not lost in spite of his good behaviour, but because of his good behaviour. To him, such good behaviour meant his father owed him or was indebted to him. This led to the elder son becoming self-righteous, and this is what is keeping him out. Observe what he said: "but he retorted to his father, "All these years I have slaved for you and never once disobeyed any orders of yours, yet you never offered me so much as a kid for me to celebrate with my friends. But, for this son of yours, when he comes back after swallowing up your property -- he and his loose women -- you kill the calf we had been fattening. (v. 29-30)" See the kind of language the elder son used in front of his father, and the kind of attitude he had? Not only that, the elder son was also:
  1. Angry: "He was angry then and refused to go in. (v.28)"
  2. Joyless and obeying only in a mechanical way (like a robot): "All these years I have slaved for you and never once disobeyed any orders of yours... (v.29)"
  3. Jealous of the younger son and felt his father did not love him enough: "yet you never offered me so much as a kid for me to celebrate with my friends. (v.29)"
  4. Cold or indifferent towards others (he did not even want to accept or "own" his brother):"But, for this son of yours... (v.30)"
  5. Had an unforgiving, judgmental spirit (especially towards his brother). He did not want to accept his brother back, and expected his father to do the same.
At the end of the parable, Jesus is warning us of a dangerous condition. The younger son knew he had gone astray and came back. But the older son had been blinded by his self-righteousness, his anger, his unforgiving spirit and many more, that he was not aware or he simply refused to admit that he too had gone astray.

If we look at our lives, have we become more like the elder son? Have we begun to think that we are ok, or only our needs and wants matter, or that we must be rewarded for all we do, or we have adopted a "holier than thou" attitude? Sometimes in life, we may have been just like that elder son in one way or another. If we are aware of this, have we made effort to repent and change our ways? Or are we still stubbornly sticking to our ways and preferring to remain lost?

BO and MO during Confession?

Among the many challenges a padre has to put up with when it comes to confession, one which is just as potent and potentially pengsan-able...