this is a tridium Mass, I can presume on your
indulgence and preach longer than my usual homily
of maximum 10 minutes.
readings today focus on the duty to evangelize.
readings of today all focus on the duty to evangelize
or using St. Ignatius’ term, mission.
years, perhaps even now, many Catholics have
been or are complacent, practicing their faith
by going to Sunday Mass and holy Days of Obligation
and saying some prayers now and then. Looking
at them, you hardly know that they are Christians
until by chance you bump into them in a Church.
If this is what it means to be a Christian, then,
no wonder, people who meet them do not want to
you are different. You are here on a day which
is not a day of obligation. You must have something
more that being, what is termed, nominal Catholics.
You are good Catholics. You live your Christianity
by your words and by your lives; hence, witnessing
to or proclaiming Jesus Christ. This was what
St. Ignatius of Loyola wanted to do. His whole
life and spirituality were centred on mission – witnessing
to Christ Jesus by carrying out with Christ His
mission on earth – in other words, evangelization.
how can you witness to J. Christ to persons,
who do not know or have not come to accept Him,
if you do not know these persons with whom you
are communicating – if you do not know
their religious background?
in a multi-religious society, have you ever asked
yourselves what makes you, Christians, different
from people of other faiths, e.g., from the Buddhists,
Taoists, Hindus and Muslims? Comparison, as is
commonly said, is odious or offensive. It is
offensive only when your aim is to put someone
down and to raise yourself up as better than
others. It is not odious if you want only to
know who you are in relation to others, as they
are, different from you. In fact, it is in comparing
yourself with others that you know more precisely
and clearly who you are. I do not have a high
huge nose but a rather small nose because I am
a Chinese and not a European. I respect and obey
my elders more than the Europeans who care more
for their individual freedom. By this, I am not
degrading the Europeans or looking down on myself.
It helps me see myself clearer. It is like placing
a rather dark picture against a white background.
The dark picture becomes clearer and more beautiful.
Hence, I will compare what it is to be a Christian
with people of other religions so that we may
appreciate more being Christians and may be able
to present Jesus Christ more effectively to people
who have not yet come to accept Him.
telling a non Christian who I am, a Catholic-Christian,
and why I believe in what I believe does not
imply that I want to make him or her to be like
me. Not at all. I accept their freedom to choose
what they want to believe in. But, if he or she
accepts what I believe in and joins us, I rejoice
and thank God for it. So, let me share with you
who Christians are in relation with people of
other faiths in order that we may more effectively
bear witness to Jesus Christ.
of all, Christians believe in a God who is very
involved in their history, their lives of sorrows
and joys on earth to a point that HE came down
to be like us in all things except committing
a sin. God became Man in the person of Jesus
who suffered, died, buried and rose from the
dead to save us, and for us Catholics, He continuously
gives His life to us as food
in the Eucharist to strengthen us to live a life
more like Him – fully human, fully divine.
Having Jesus Christ and living in Him here and
now is what makes us different from people of
Chinese who are not Christians believe in a mixture
of Buddhism, Confucianism and Chinese folk religion
Buddhism teaches that in each person
there is a “Buddha” in him. So, he
does not have to rely on God but only on himself
to attain to “enlightenment” which
is “nirvana” or, in Christian terminoloty, “heaven.” Christians
differ radically from this teaching. Christianity
teaches that we rely completely on God, especially
on Jesus Christ, without whom we cannot attain
to salvation. For Buddhists, they try to get
into themselves where they touch the Buddha in
them from which they radiate compassion, goodness,
kindness, etc. For Christians, it is getting
out of ourselves and going to God, who is Love
(1 Jn 4: 8, 16), that we receive an abundance
of grace to reach out to others in loving service
of them. Through this, we are fulfilled and saved.
Hence, Jesus said, “for those who want
to save their life will lose it, and those who
lose their life for my sake will find it.” (Mt
6:25) We have just to look about and at ourselves
to realize how weak and poor human beings are.
The hatred, the jealousies, the cut-throat competition,
the corruption , the killings and mass murders
surely will convince us that human beings by
themselves cannot bring salvation. We need God;
for us Christians, Jesus Christ, God and Man.
said that if we cannot even understand ourselves
and others and how to relate with them properly,
how can we know God. So, leave God alone and
let us concentrate on proper human relations.
This is because Confucius did not have the revelation
of God in Christ Jesus who tells us who God is
and how we are to relate to Him and to our neighbours.
Christ teaches us that because God is love, if
we love others, God lives in us (1 Jn 4: 13 ).
Love, says St. Paul in his letter to the Romans
chapter13 verse10, is the fulfillment of all
laws. This is how we are different from those
who follow Confucianism.
Chinese people who practice Chinese folk religions
try to appease all the different spirits so that
they will not harm them, and pray to them for
favours. Although Christians believe in spirits,
they know that Jesus Christ is above all of them
and hence there is no need to appease these spirits
out of fear or ask them for favours. We go straight
to Christ, who is more powerful than all spirits.
Many Chinese converts tell me that the greatest
joy they have when they are baptized is that
they are freed from fears.
have Muslims in our society. They believe that
Allah is transcendent, i.e., above all completely
beyond creatures and, hence, before Him, all
must bow down in total submission and obedience.
This is in fact the meaning of “Islam.” Therefore,
obedience to the law of God is essential to Islam.
The Koran, believed by the great majority of
Muslims as word for word revealed by God through
Achangel Gabriel to Mohammad, is central to obedience
to God’s law. We can understand why Muslims
try to implement the “Shariah,” or
Islamic Law everywhere.
Christians have also this concept of God as transcendent.
He is God the Father, creator of all things,
the Almighty. But the Transcendent is revealed
to us by God Himself as love manifested in the
person of Jesus Christ, His Son. So, God is transcendent,
yes. But He is also love. Thus, for Christians,
if a law does not enhance and enrich love in
us and for others, then, the law is of no use,
at least, defective. Legalism in any form is
not in tune with true Christianity.
Christ, the infinite love of God made manifest,
is for us what the Koran is for the Muslims.
The latter is a book of laws to be followed;
the latter is a person with unconditional love
to give us life and life to the full (Jn 10:10)
have also Hindus in Singapore . Their religion
is in complete contrast to Islam. The Hindus
believe in the immanent presence of God. He is
in everything to such an extent that the Almighty
Immanence is in the heart of everything. A Hindu
mystic can say: “I am God” because
his soul is identical with God or in their own
language, “Atman (soul) is equal to Brahman
(God).” This is why Hindus can worship
a tree or a snake because they are really worshiping
the Immanent Almighty manifested in a man or
a tree or a snake. The appearance of the Immanent
Almighty in a human person is called “avatar.” So,
you have Sai Baba claiming to be god.
Christians have also the concept of God as being
immanent. He is in everything in the sense that
without Him everything will disappear into nothingness.
But this immanence does not make Him a tree or
a man or a snake. A Christian mystic in complete
union with God will never say that he or she
is God. There is always a distinction between
God and creature even a Christian mystic is in
full union with God. For Christians, this Immanent
God is the Holy Spirit who is in everything and
continuously works in them.
you can see, this is why I am proud to be a Catholic-Christian.
Not that I am better than people of other religious
beliefs. But because I have a
loving God who is Almighty and above all things (Transcendent),
[the belief of the Jews and the Muslims] who
is in all things (Immanent) [the belief of the
Hindus] and who
is with us as human beings in the person of Jesus
Christ, the Son of God,
sharing everything in our lives except sin. Our understanding
of and sharing in the life of God is indeed great!
His love is unlimited and unconditional. When
you have something wonderful, you want to share
it with others. So, SHARE your faith with others
by your life and words!
Paul Tan, S.J. & D.D.