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Obsession with uniformity in celebrating Mass contradicts Jesus’s vision

By Varghese Alengaden

Picture credit to Public domain

Indore: The story of Emperor Nero playing violin while Rome was burning revealed his total lack of sensitivity and concern for his people. Insensitive and Irresponsible kings in the past, and leaders of modern times often behave like emperor Nero. They are ignorant about the sociopolitical realities and behave like narcissists who fall in love with their own image, security and enjoyment of privileges. They are leaders who have misplaced priorities and act according to their whims and fancies.

The insistence of the Syro-Malabar hierarchy on a uniform mode of celebrating Mass forces the priests to face the altar instead of the existing practice of facing people. It was reported that 456 priests of the Archdiocese of Ernakulam–Angamaly have unanimously written to Pope Francis against the decision of the Synod of Bishops of Syro-Malabar Church. Reliable sources say that there are many who are opposed to this decision in other dioceses also.

As reported in Matters India, Father Kuriakose Mundadan, presbyteral council secretary of the Archdiocese of Ernakulam–Angamaly has said, “Imposing uniformity will definitely create conflict over unity. If the Synod of Bishops is going to impose it, that will be the most imprudent action in the history of Syro-Malabar Church.”

The Syro- Malabar Synod of Bishops is often in the news for wrong reasons. It has often exposed its intellectual and spiritual bankruptcy when it comes up with silly and irrational statements and decisions often going against the teachings of Christ. Against this backdrop, it is worth reflecting on the following points.

1. The first question is how can a group of bishops alone make decisions for the whole Church? Have they taken into confidence the large number of lay people, clergy and religious of all dioceses who constitute the integral part of the Church?

2. Many statements and decisions made by the synod in the recent past are contrary to the teachings of Christ. Christ wants His disciples to be light of the world and salt of the earth. The priests and the bishops are expected to set example for all in society. Similarly, like salt they are expected to add taste to society by their quality of life.

They need to integrate themselves into the mainstream of society instead of remaining exclusive within the walls of the churches and convents. Their mission is to heal the wounds and prevent corruption. They are expected to work for peace and reconciliation with people of all faiths and walks of life in society.

As a large quantity of food requires only very little salt to add taste, numerical strength is not needed to bear witness to Christ and influence society. Why then this anxiety of the decreasing number of Catholics in Kerala and making cheap decisions like giving money to couples who produce more children? By this, bishops are humiliating the couple by fixing a price for their children. Bishops and all who want to increase the quantity shall contemplate on the teachings of Christ about the functions and impact of salt. Instead of increasing the number of members they shall explore the possibilities of improving the quality of the existing members.

Christ also has said that the salt will be thrown out and people will trample over it when it has lost its saltiness.

Loss of credibility, indulging in corrupt practices, public scandal caused by corrupt land deals by those in authority and cases of sexual abuse are examples of salt losing its saltiness. The priests, nuns and bishops who are charged with such cases and asked to face trial in the courts should resign instead of continue holding on to their positions of power and privileges. Such people are defeating the mission of Christ.

3. Those who insist on uniformity should know that pluralism is the heritage we have received from Jesus. He accepted and honored prostitutes, tax collectors, Romans, Samaritans and all sections of society. He chose His apostles from all backgrounds with diverse temperaments. God’s glory is manifested in the diversity of creation. Accepting, appreciating and promoting diversity is the sign of matured spirituality.

4. The agenda of RSS is imposing uniformity on all people of India by force. They are aggressively implementing their ideology and strategies based on ‘one nation, one religion and one culture.’ Why should the church leaders imitate the style of RSS-BJP?

5. It is a pity that the clergy, religious and bishops are not aware of the turbulent sociopolitical realities after Narendra Modi came to power with a brute majority. Neither the Synod of Bishops nor other church bodies ever reflect on the fascist forces who have captured power by brainwashing the majority of the Hindus in the country by communal polarization. The Church controlled by bishops and priests is like an ostrich putting its head in the sand, feeling complacent and safe only to be killed.

6. The Church has abandoned the legacy of Jesus, and is making all efforts to follow the Jewish and Roman legacy which is totally contrary to the way of Christ. The repeated appeals of the prophetic Pope Francis remain a cry in the wilderness. The Vatican bureaucracy often doesn’t listen to him.

7. Instead of wasting time for frivolous matters the top leaders of the Church shall contemplate and analyze seriously about the dangers at the door-step and make new strategies and action plans. They need to create awareness among the priests, religious and laity about the dangerous socio-political scenario and make new strategies and action plans by returning to the way of Christ.

8. The first priority shall be of cleansing and putting one’s own house in order and initiate reconciliation with compassion and unconditional forgiveness. Return to the way of Christ by constantly asking, “What would Christ do if He were here?” Make the example of Christ and His teachings as the criteria in all decision-making. Practice the Good Shepherd model of leadership searching for the lost one with compassion instead of the imperial and fascist model of controlling by force.

9. Converting, rather distorting, the table fellowship and farewell dinner of Jesus into a complicated ritual of Jewish model with all kinds of man-made dogmatic rubrics is against the will of Christ. Make it a 24X7 celebration of life to nurture fellowship and friendship.

10. Instead of wasting time preparing rituals and imposing them on the people, bishops should pay attention to settle the scandals which have tarnished the image of the Church. They should spend time and energy to counter the hostile Hindutva strategy against the minorities. They shall abandon the imaginary danger of ‘love jihad’ and encourage mixed marriages which are permitted by the Church laws.

11. Anti-Muslim propaganda, competition with Latin Rite with divisive political agenda, and exclusion of other Christian denominations are against the teachings of Christ, and defeat the mission of Christ. Bishops should take the lead for a united front of all minorities and Christian denominations against the threat of fascist Hindutva forces who follow the colonial style of ‘divide and rule’.

12. Instead of wasting time to increase the numbers in the church, why don’t we target to convert the whole 1.37 billion people of India as disciples of Christ-not members of the Church-by using the ‘NEW WINESKIN’ way of Christ? New wineskin way is to baptize all into the way of Christ by following His values: forgiveness, justice, equality, inclusiveness, fraternity, freedom, dignity of individual, transparency, truthfulness, non-violence.

Everyone will remain in their culture, customs and practice their rituals, but will follow the values and ideals of Jesus as enshrined in the constitution of India. This new wineskin way of mission is possible and practical. I propose this way after successfully experimenting with it for the last thirty years. Come and see the new wineskin way of life and mission in USM community at Indore.

13. It is time to repent and start the urgent work of renewal to be the disciples of Christ with a new focus in mission instead of remaining His worshipers only. Following the model of the Good Shepherd, why not the bishops lead from the front to show the way of Christ?

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