A CHINESE NEW YEAR LESSON FOR MALAYSIAN CATHOLICS
Written by Carmelo Ferlito, CEO of Center for Market Education
The Chinese New Year is approaching and the announcement of controversial Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for the Thursday dinner raised several criticisms in the Malaysian-Chinese community, but also from prominent politicians as Dr Ong Kian Ming. I was pleased to see that such protests forced the government to revise the SOPs, bringing the possibility for 15 people to celebrate together the approaching beginning of the new lunar year.
The peaceful and successful protest is at odds with the official behaviour of the Catholic community during the 2020 Easter and Christmas; in particular, when last December the government allowed Christmas celebrations, the official position of the Church was to keep churches well closed, denying the faithful access to the sacraments during one of the two most important liturgical moment of the year.
This comparison is peculiarly important in the present moment, as next week Catholics will begin to live the period called Lent, the fasting and mortification period which leads to the other pivotal liturgical moment of the year, Easter, during which the faithful celebrate the victory of Jesus Christ over sin and death.
What is at the horizon for the Malaysian Catholic community? Another series of virtual celebrations which are depriving each event of its essential core – receiving the Eucharist – which is bread and wine transformed into the body and blood of Jesus Christ? I believe that it is time for Malaysian Catholics to stand up and learn from the Chinese community a little love for what they believe in.
In fact, for Catholics the weekly celebration of the Eucharist is much more than listening to a well-crafted sermon. It is even more than the memory of Jesus’s last supper. Indeed, it is the re-happening of Jesus’s last supper and His supreme sacrifice for love of mankind.
The matter is not to disregard the risks posed by Covid-19, but to take them into account without making them the only element determining our daily routine. The great historian Pierre Chaunu once wrote about our times: “A curious adventure happened to us: we had forgotten that we must die. This is what historians will conclude after examining all the written sources of our time”.
But there is more. When protesting against the CNY SOPs, the Chinese community showed love for what they hold dear. And love is the best generator of creativity (we all know this if we have ever been in love). If to celebrate mass and receive sacraments is not possible under the present circumstances, we have to put our love in motion in order to think about alternative ways so that our weekly personal and live encounter with Christ can be restored after one year of forced starvation – something that did not happen even during the Great Plague or the World Wars.
Love can inspire minds to think about new ways. And, if the core of our faith is receiving the body and blood of Christ, then online masses are not creative enough. Since few decades lay people are allowed to help priests in distributing the Holy Eucharist; why then not to multiply the number of extraordinary ministers of the holy communion and to deal with the authorities in order to identify weekly distribution points? In the end, if we are allowed to go to restaurants for take-away food, why cannot we think about a sort of take-away spiritual food? During the first movement control order (MCO), some parishes implemented drive-through Eucharist distribution; these initiatives were pointing in the right direction, but they were not enough and are now stopped, at least for what I know.
This is only one idea I beg the Bishop and parish priests to consider. I am sure that the Catholic community can find more courage and new ideas if seriously reflecting on one simple question: what do we hold most dear? Indeed, nothing else but the Eucharist is the source of a true and meaningful life for Catholics. However, courage and creativity can only be inspired by true love, by a living flame of love.