Red Mass Celebration Kuala Lumpur 2018 - Remain Steadfast To Your Original Goodness

The call to remain steadfast to one’s original goodness was echoed by His Lordship Bishop Bernard Paul during his sermon at the 24th Annual CLS Votive Mass of the Holy Spirit or commonly known as the Red Mass on Saturday, 20th January 2018.

The Red Mass was held at the Church of the Good Shepherd (CGS), Setapak, Kuala Lumpur.

Con-celebrating with Bishop Bernard were, His Grace Archbishop Julian Leow, Archbishop Emeritus Murphy Pakiam, Reverend Fathers Paul Cheong OFM Cap, Augustine Lee, Christopher Wilvaraj, Gregory Chan and Michael Chua, the spiritual director of CLS.

Also present were religious brothers and sisters from various congregations, HE The Ambassador of Switzerland, YB Teresa Kok, parishioners of CGS and over sixty Catholic lawyers from the Archdiocese.

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Archbishop Julian Leow and Bishop Bernard Paul
Tracing the journey of the Red Mass, Bishop Bernard began by noting the aspirations of Christian lawyers who have called for the defence of the constitution and the church during turbulent times. He said that there is a clamour for change and transformation; be it a change of government or even within the church. He questioned if these calls for change is possible? He queried if the call for change is equal to genuine reforms?

He quotes St Catherine of Genoa, who said, ‘Renewal without conversion is the corruption of the institute’.

He explains that change must be accompanied by corresponding conversion. Without real conversion of mind, heart and spirit, there can be no change. “Any attempt to change without conversion, is corruption”, he said. He cited the movie “Playing For Time” to illustrate the difficulties one faces to change. The movie is based on the life of a Jewish woman, Fania Fénelon, an accomplished violinist. She was captured and sent to the notorious Auschwitz camp during World War II. Whilst at the camp, she was drafted into the Women’s Orchestra that gives concerts to the Nazis. Her biggest struggle was to remain incorrupt, when everyone did everything just to survive. Although the Nazis were evil, the Zionist had their own agenda. She saw women prostituting themselves for a slice of bread. The acclaimed orchestra played for the arrivals of Jews and their march off to the gas chambers. She saw the Nazis were not the only ones with evil minds. She saw it everywhere. She saw a little evil streak in all. Old friends could do wonders to survive. She found everyone playing for time just to survive!

Relating to the reading of the day (2 Samuel 1: 1-4, 11-12, 19, 23-27), where David publicly mourned the deaths of Saul and his son, Jonathan and the gospel (Mark 3: 20-21), where Jesus’ relatives observed how he was overwhelmed by the demands of the crowd, Bishop Bernard explained that what he sees in David and Jesus in these passages are a certain-uprightness. There was a refusal to be tainted or soiled by evil, loss, animosity or by relatives or even by public opinion. They remained unaffected with the ability to see goodness, even in the enemy. They had to contend with public opinion and had to rise above them. They choose to remain unaffected and were able to rise from the original goodness in them. “These acts show that we can choose to be different. We can make the decision not to allow the system to corrupt us.” Reverting to the legal profession, Bishop Bernard explained that we must be able to do something different. “When we begin to see it as not a job but a vocation you’ll find the call,” he said.

He explained that there are 4 level of conversion. He described them as follows;

  • Personal conversion - Realising that we are sons and daughters of God.
  • Communitarian conversion - We become aware that we are part of the bigger family. Once we are aware that he is my brother and sister, we will see the common brotherhood and sisterhood. There will be no race or religious disputes. He illustrated this point by reference to the Malay word, ‘Saudara’ in his greetings to mean, ‘Kita satu darah’ (We are of the same blood).
  • Ecumenical conversion - realizing that there is one God. That we are part of the one body of Christ. We belong to one family of God and that we are essential to the Church. We must become aware of our interconnectedness and inter-dependence.
  • Ecological conversion - what happens to the world affects us. “It is not yours or mine but our home. We are responsible to this world, our common home. We must work together to make it better”, he said.

He explained that such awareness will make us realize that we cannot take anything with us. That we are all only stewards, we own nothing. “We must realize that with our children, we are mere caretakers.”, he said

Bishop Bernard preached that all renewal & transformation has to be accompanied with a corresponding “conversion”. Otherwise, we may become unjust, oppressive and exploitative.  Without reformation it is pseudo reformation. Hence, there will be no change.

He urged all to remain upright and untainted and most of all to remain steadfast to our original goodness.

Joy Appukuttan
Catholic Lawyers Society, Kuala Lumpur

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