In the immediate aftermath of the despicably inhuman mass massacre, which transformed Easter Sunday into a mournful Good Friday for the Christians of our land, the churches in general seem to have arrived spontaneously at a fourfold conclusion: (a) that our martyred co-believers are among the Blessed coram Deo; (b) that the mourners have found their consolation in the One who accepted, for our sake, a lethally prolonged torture rather than an instant death; (c) that the brutal act of the terrorists is never to be blamed on Muhammad (pbuh) or on Islam; and finally (d) that all feel justifiably indignant about the culpable inaction of the self-servingly inefficient politicos who enjoy the country’s best at the expense of the people that they claim to serve.
But for us Catholics, this is not the whole story.
In this whole tragic scenario, there is something we all tend to overlook; something that reveals a blind spot in the leadership of the Roman Catholic Church. My allusion is to an embarrassing fact which makes us Catholics beat our breasts in repentance, namely, our equally selfish silence and inaction during recent years when a large number of churches belonging to other denominations were under attack by extremists: 86 incidents last year alone and 26 in the first quarter of this year. Did we, the Catholic clergy, say a word on their behalf? Did we not go so far as to persuade the former regime to suppress them?
Even today we, the Catholic clergy, lament the damage done to the lives and property of our own RC churches but were culpably late, too late (in the genre of an after-thought) in expressing our solidarity with the Zion Church in Batticoloa where little children were martyred by the same terrorist group. Where is ecumenism which is the will of Christ who yearned “that they [we] be one”? Inter-church tensions have already marred and disfigured the face of the ecclesial Christ. We need to pray and work for a Spiritual (i.e. Spirit-led) renewal, a new Pentecost.
Hence, the question to be asked before the Lord is the same as the poser writ large on the debris of the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris: Which church needs to be re-built first? The French government as well as ours have both pledged to reconstruct the churches made of bricks and mortar. As for the Church made of People, who would be the Re-builder? Obviously, the One who built it first. In the Credo we repeat every Sunday (as our martyrs would have done on that tragic Easter Sunday) the words “I believe in the Holy Spirit”, words which are immediately followed by what the Holy Spirit is responsible for…… the first of which is “the Holy Catholic Church”, followed by “Forgiveness of Sins” and other functions of the same Spirit! Where then is the Spirit which animates the Holy Catholic Church? The answer to this question leads us to another scandal:-
There is a shamefully grave reason for the Spirit to be driven away. Right in the Catholic Belt that stretches from Kocchikade church to Negombo (Little Rome), there is another “spirit” that has taken possession of our people. For Catholic Negombo is now notorious as a den of drug dealers and drug consumers. The church-led processions and slogans against the drug-mafia, though highly advertised in the media, were no more than another palliative that has deadened our conscience from plunging into an effective crusade against this anti-social menace. Rhetoric we have heard recently against the government’s inactivity and the NTG’s brutality is put on the silent mode when it comes to our own well-known Catholics vitiating the entire new generation of believers.
A cleansing of the Temple, a renewalist shake up of Little Rome and a confrontation with the politically powerful Roman Catholic drug agents, are a necessary prelude for a much needed epiclesis -the summoning of the Spirit of Christ to descend once more and re-animate the Catholic Church where it is most represented. The IS inspired explosions blown by National Thowheed Jamath are a recent phenomenon and would hopefully be brought to an end in course of time; but the opiate explosion in Catholic Negombo has always been an enduring danger. Catholic leadership has to show courage in words and deeds to re-build the Catholic Church in what was once its most hallowed breeding ground.
The swarm of refugees from Pakistan, mostly Christians, cannot find as yet a Catholic asylum even in the Catholic belt, where fatally anti-social chemical substances do not require an entry visa. While we hear Pope Francis’ clarion call to welcome refugees, we seem to listen to another voice which contradicts that papal appeal: the voice of a cardinal who was already on the presiding chair of the dicastery on the Sacraments and Worship when Francis came to office; a ‘liturgist’ who could not distinguish between ritual and worship and, therefore, issued rather naïve rulings such as celebrating mass facing the East, censuring communion in the hand as a satanic temptation, the validity of the Eucharist made dependent on the presence or absence of gluten in the bread, and so on. This same Cardinal’s latest dogmatic utterance publicised in the media is that hosting refugees is anti- Biblical!
Obviously His Eminence, Robert Sara, does not seem to think that Mt 2:13-15 is part of the Bible; that this Gospel text says in no uncertain terms that the Son of God became a refugee in Egypt by Divine Will communicated to his foster father! Hospitality to strangers, aliens, foreign sojourners or refugees is a recurrent demand made by the Lord in the Holy Writ. Has Cardinal Sara’s rejection of God’s Word so clearly revealed in the Bible now become the policy we should follow in our local church, as some already do in matters liturgical? Come, Holy Spirit, and renew your Church.