Friday, 29 January 2010

Giving Glory Back to God

Giving Glory Back to God
by Friar Jack Wintz, O.F.M.

Most of us who are Christian are well acquainted with the familiar prayer: “Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning is now, and ever shall be world without end. Amen.” This prayer is known as a doxology (from the Greek word doxa, meaning "glory"). A doxology is a liturgical expression of glory or praise to God.

We will reflect on the meaning of the Glory Be. The prayer can help us come into greater union with God. Biblical scholars tell us that the Hebrew word for "glory," kabod, literally means "weight," and it leads us to the idea of glory. How does this happen? Well, the weight of something suggests its importance or value—and ultimately its glory. However, one must always distinguish true glory from false glory.

Sometimes a person’s wealth or high social position can be mistaken for true glory. For example, in our own society we have heard of rich bankers and millionaires who have defrauded poor people out of their property or life savings. We don’t see true glory (or real importance) in them. Even among the kings in the Old Testament, we have seen examples of glory that can be either true or false. Great kings like David and Solomon, for example, had their moments of both true glory (when they followed God’s will) and false glory (when they fell from grace). We get a hint of this in St. Matthew’s Gospel, when Jesus says: “Consider the lilies of the fields…; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these” (6:28). True glory is a reflection of divine glory.

Examples of the Lord’s Glory and Christ’s Glory
Divine glory is revealed through the radiance or flashing light of the Lord’s glory, as when God saved the Israelites at the crossing of the Red Sea. “The Egyptians shall know that I am Lord, when I have gained glory for myself over Pharaoh, his chariots, and his chariot drivers” (Exodus 14:18).

Or God’s glory was manifested through the bright clouds and fire on top of Mt. Sinai, as when Moses went up the mountain. “The glory of the Lord settled on Mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it for six days; on the seventh day he called to Moses out of the cloud. Now the appearance of the glory of God was like a devouring fire on the top of the mountain in the sight of the people of Israel” (Exodus 24:16-17).

This divine glory is equally present in Christ. As we read in Hebrews,“[Christ] is the reflection of God’s glory and the exact imprint of God’s very being” (1:3). We get a glimpse of Christ’s glory, moreover, in Matthew’s Gospel, when Jesus is transfigured before Peter, James and John “on a high mountain" (see illustration at the top of the article). Jesus “was transfigured before them and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became dazzling white” (Matthew 17:2).

Surely this is a vision of Christ in glory, who never lost, of course, the glory he shared with the Father in the beginning. In the context of the Last Supper in John’s Gospel before his passion, Jesus said: “Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son, so that the Son may glorify you….I glorified you on earth by finishing the work that you gave me to do. So now, Father, glorify me in your own presence, with the glory that I had in your presence before the world existed” (John 17: 1, 4-5).

After his resurrection, Christ shared his glory with his disciples. He breathed upon them and sent his Holy Spirit upon them for the forgiveness of sins. He does the same for us today, sharing his glory and inner life with us. Through Baptism and the Eucharist, for example, we become his adopted children and share his very life, so that we can say with St. Paul: “It is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me” (Galatians 2:20). Through his grace, even now we can share Christ’s inner life and glory.

Giving Glory to God
We return to our doxology—to our familiar “Glory Be” prayer. Now that we are more aware of the biblical meaning of the glory of God and have seen dramatic instances of it, we can recite the prayer with a growing awareness that the glory we give to God originally came from God and not the other way around. By opening ourselves to God’s overflowing love and devoutly repeating this prayer, we can share more deeply the glory that God first showers on us.

In glorifying God in this way, we can begin sensing the infinite glory, importance and weight of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Let yourself be swept up into the brightness and glory of the Holy Trinity. It is a gift that Father, Son and Holy Spirit have bestowed on you and me. We do well to give back the glory that has been graciously given to us!

We give you thanks, gracious God of heaven and earth, that we can be part of the great song of praise rising from all the creatures of the universe, as we glorify you forever and ever with the words: "Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning is now, and ever shall be world without end. Amen."

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Today's Inspirational Quote:

"One must never lose time in vainly regretting the past or in
complaining against the changes which cause us discomfort, for
change is the essence of life."

-- Anatole France

Thursday, 21 January 2010

Don’t call your Dad “Ayah”!

Don’t call your Dad “Ayah”!

I just received this "funny email" from a friend and wanna share it here with all...

A man came home from work and his children ran to him and called out ‘Ayah! Ayah!’.
His neighbor got very upset and said to him, “Can you please tell your children not to call you ‘Ayah’?”

The man asked, “Why?”

The neighbor retorted, “Because my children call me ’Ayah’ too. They might get confused and mistake you to be their father.”

Then the man told his neighbour, are you not a shame to say that your children do not know who is their 'Ayah'. So you are saying by using the word 'Ayah' , your children will call me Ayah too without knowing who is their father.

The neighbour said yes,only I should use the word 'Ayah'.

The man said, then there is something wrong in what you are teaching your children.They are not sure and do not know who is their 'Ayah'

forwareded via email by: C Chiew

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Sabah churches say ‘no’ to Nazri

Sabah churches say ‘no’ to Nazri

Tue, Jan 19, 2010


KOTA KINABALU: The Sabah Council of Churches has rejected a proposal by de facto Law Minister Nazri Aziz that the word “Allah” can be used only by Christians who live in Sabah and Sarawak, not those in peninsular Malaysia.

The council felt that Nazri’s suggestion was “illogical, inconsistent and untenable for Christian communities … especially those residing in the peninsula,” said its president, Jerry Dusing.

“The intended concession also goes against the spirit and intent of the Prime Minister’s 1Malaysia concept of forging unity and harmony among all races and religions by mutual respect and acceptance,” he said in a news release.

He said the proposal also impinged on the rights of the Christians as it “dichotomises and segregates” the rights to profess and practise one’s faith on the basis of geographical location.
Today's Inspirational Quote:

"A good laugh and a long sleep are the best cures in the
doctor's book."

-- Irish Proverb

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Risking fragile compromise in Allah's name

In the late 1980s, when I was in the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia, a friend suggested that I drive out into the desert near Jubail to see the oldest extant Christian church in the world.

By Gwynne Dyer (NZ Herald)

And there it was, surrounded by a chain-link fence to keep casual visitors and foreign archaeologists out. Experts who saw the site before it was closed said that the church was built by Nestorian Christians, and was probably used from the 4th to the 9th century.

Its existence embarrassed the Saudi Government, which prefers to believe that Arabia went straight from paganism to Islam. But it confirmed the assumption of most historians that Christianity was flourishing in the Arabian Peninsula in the centuries before the rise of Islam.

So what did these Arabic-speaking Christians call God? Allah, of course.

I mention this because recently the Malaysian High Court struck down a three-year-old ban on non-Muslims using the word Allah when they speak of God in the Malay language. The decision was followed by firebomb attacks on three Christian churches in Kuala Lumpur, and protesters at mosques in Kuala Lumpur carried placards reading "Allah is only for us".

Prime Minister Najib Razak condemned the attacks on the churches, but he supports the ban on Christians using the word "Allah" in Malay and is appealing against the High Court decision.

"We ... have the right to use the word 'Allah'," said the Rev Lawrence Andrew, the editor of the newspaper of the Catholic Church in Malaysia, the Herald, whose use of the word in its Malay-language edition triggered the crisis. Parliamentary opposition leader Lim Kit Siang simply observed that "the term 'Allah' was used to refer to God by Arabic-speaking Christians before Arabic-speaking Muslims existed".

Of course it was. Arabic-speaking Christians predate the rise of Islam by three hundred years, and what else were they going to call God? The word "Allah" is a contraction of the Arabic definite article al- and the noun 'ilah, which means god. In parts of ancient Arabia it once referred to the creator-god (who was not the only god), but for a very long time it has meant the One God.

This Arabic word was imported into the Malay language by converts to Islam, which arrived in the region several centuries before Christianity. All ethnic Malays are considered to be Muslim under Malaysian law, but there are numerous Malay-speakers, especially in northern Borneo, who are Christian and not ethnically Malay. They also use the word Allah for God.

What's the harm in that? Why are Malaysia's Muslims so paranoid? The real paranoia, alas, is ethnic.

Malaysia is an ethnic time-bomb that has turned itself into a peaceful and prosperous country by a huge effort of will. The original population was mostly Malay, but under British rule huge numbers of Indian and Chinese immigrants were imported to work the mines and plantations.

By independence, Malays were only 60 per cent of the population, and much poorer than the more recent arrivals. They resented the past, the present, and the probable future.

After several bouts of savage anti-Chinese and anti-Indian rioting, the country arrived at its current, successful compromise. The Malays dominate politics, but the Chinese and the Indians thrive in trade and commerce - and most people understand they are ultimately in the same boat, which is called Malaysia.

The state spends a lot of money to raise the living standards of the Malays, and gives them preference for university places and government jobs. They haven't done badly out of this deal, but nevertheless they feel perpetually insecure.

Since they are all Muslims, while few other Malaysians are, they also feel their religion is under threat. Some respond by being aggressively intolerant of minorities.

Not all Malays behave this way. Major Muslim organisations, including the Islamic political party, PAS, have agreed the other "Abrahamic religions" - Christians and Jews - may call their God Allah in Malay.

But it's getting ugly, and it's high time for the Malaysian Government to stop playing along with the extremists.

It should take a lesson from the early Muslims of Arabia. Both the archaeological and the textual evidence suggest that most Arabs in northern Arabia and along the Gulf coast had been Christian for several centuries when Islam first appeared in the 7th century. They were swiftly conquered by Muslim armies, but they were not forcibly converted.

As in all early Islamic empires, Christians had to pay higher taxes, but they were allowed to keep their property and practice their religion. It is highly improbable they were forced to change the word they used for God.

They did gradually convert to Islam, but the last Christian churches in the region probably survived into the early 9th century.

The Christians, Hindus, animists and others who make up 40 per cent of Malaysia's people pay higher taxes, in the sense that they subsidise the poorer Malay/Muslim majority. Few of them will ever convert to Islam, but they are not its enemy either.

Malaysia has achieved a fragile but workable compromise that gives its people a good life. It should not endanger it so frivolously.

* If you need a reference on Christians in 4th-7th century Arabia, the best is a scholarly article by John A. Langfeld, Recently Discovered Early Christian Monuments in Northeastern Arabia, published in Arabian Archaeology and Epigraphy, 1994: 5: pp. 32-60. It is available online (Wiley InterScience), but you have to pay to view it.

Gwynne Dyer is a London-based independent journalist whose articles are published in 45 countries.Malaysia's ethnic and religious divisions.

Friday, 8 January 2010

Malaysian Bishop Laments "Allah" Ban

Malaysian Bishop Laments "Allah" Ban
Says Church Holds Firm on Minority Rights
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia, JAN. 6, 2010 ( A Malaysian bishop is underlining the rights of minority religions faced to the controversy over a ban prohibiting non-Muslims from using the word "Allah."

Bishop Paul Tan Chee Ing of the Melaka-Johor Diocese in Malaysia told ZENIT that the controversy over the use of the word "Allah," as well as other Arabic words, is "not a linguistic battle."

Rather, he said, it is a political "battle for votes."

On Dec. 31, the Kuala Lumpur High Court overruled the ban, which was instated three years ago, affirming that it was unconstitutional and that the word "Allah" is not exclusive to Islam. It granted the Catholic Herald, which was using the word as a translation for God in the Malay language section of the periodical, permission to print "Allah."

However, today the decision was suspended after days of protests. Meanwhile, the Home Ministry is appealing the act in an attempt to uphold the ban.

Muslim groups are protesting that Christians and other minorities should not use "Allah" for "fear of confusing Muslims," the Herald reported today.

Muslims constitute some 60% of the country's 28 million people.


Bishop Paul Tan Chee Ing explained that the debate has a definite political tone, as the ruling party "is afraid of losing the Malay votes, which make up of about 60% of the population."

He added, "In Malaysia, unfortunately, Malay is identified with Muslims -- the only country in the world where religion is tied to a race in the constitution."

Yet in the Quran, the bishop pointed out, "it is said that Jews, Christians, Sabeans and Muslims worship Allah."

He continued: "How can a Muslim go against its Holy Quran? Not possible.

"It is due to sheer ignorance or due to some political expediency. Any objective scholar can tell you that the word 'Allah' is pre-Islamic. It has its root in the Semitic language."

Not all Malay-Muslims are against non-Muslims using the word, Bishop Tan Chee Ing clarified, as long as it is not being "abused."

Those who are sparking the controversy, he said, are acting "due to ignorance or motivated by political biases or for some personal gains."

The "public declaration that non-Muslims can use the word 'Allah' is a contradiction to what the National Fatwa Council issued," the bishop affirmed, and "contradiction is another game for playing politics."

Non-Muslim rights

In the midst of this, he said, "the Church's stand should be calm, firm in its stand for the rights of non-Muslims as enshrined in our federal constitution."

We must "cooperate with all reasonable persons, try to keep harmony by not provoking the other side with words or actions and not putting them down those who want to stop non-Muslims from using the word," the prelate said.

"It is a tightrope walk," he affirmed.

Bishop Tan Chee Ing told ZENIT that despite the current issues, the Church in his country is "very stable, united and strong."

"Our ecumenical movement and interreligious cooperation have been good in spite of a few hiccups here and there," he said.

Although statistics are showing that the Catholic population is stagnant in numbers, the bishop acknowledged, this is due to the fact that "Chinese and Indian Catholics tend to have fewer children than the Malays."

As well, he continued, "their children are sent abroad to study because of discrimination against them in the universities and many of them do not return to Malaysia because of the fear of being discriminated."

Stand for truth

"In spite of all this," the prelate affirmed, "the churches are generally full to their capacity with men, women and children."

He continued: "It is a vibrant Church. The local Church has been reaching out to help other poorer dioceses in other countries."

Bishop Tan Chee Ing reported that the people of his diocese, "in spite of the fact that we are not rich," has been sending money to the Church in Kenya, Myanmar and Laos.

"This is in imitation of the earliest Catholic Church during the apostolic times," he affirmed.

The prelate continued: "We have also cooperated with the Protestants and even the Buddhists, Sikhs and Hindus.

"The one contribution we can offer to the Universal Church is standing up for the truth and the rights of people against all odds because we know that God who is the Lord of history, sees and knows all and will in his time and in his way right what is wrong. Patience!"

Confident People Do Not Get Confused

Confident People Do Not Get Confused
I found by chance this article the other day:

Prophet Muhammad’s Promise to Christians

The document is not a modern human rights treaty but even thought it was penned in 628 A.D. it clearly protects the right to property, freedom of religion, freedom of work, and security of the person, says Muqtedar Khan.

Muslims and Christians together constitute over fifty percent of the world and if they lived in peace, we will be half way to world peace. One small step that we can take towards fostering Muslim-Christian harmony is to tell and retell positive stories and abstain from mutual demonization.

In this article I propose to remind both Muslims and Christians about a promise that Prophet Muhammed (pbuh) made to Christians. The knowledge of this promise can have enormous impact on Muslim conduct towards Christians. Muslims generally respect the precedent of their Prophet and try to practice it in their lives.

In 628 AD, a delegation from St. Catherine’s Monastery came to Prophet Muhammed and requested his protection. He responded by granting them a charter of rights, which I reproduce below in its entirety. St. Catherine’s Monastery is located at the foot of Mt. Sinai and is the world’s oldest monastery. It possesses a huge collection of Christian manuscripts, second only to the Vatican, and is a world heritage site. It also boasts the oldest collection of Christian icons. It is a treasure house of Christian history that has remained safe for 1400 years under Muslim protection.

The Promise to St. Catherine:

"This is a message from Muhammad ibn Abdullah, as a covenant to those who adopt Christianity, near and far, we are with them.
Verily I, the servants, the helpers, and my followers defend them, because Christians are my citizens; and by God! I hold out against anything that displeases them.
No compulsion is to be on them. Neither are their judges to be removed from their jobs nor their monks from their monasteries. No one is to destroy a house of their religion, to damage it, or to carry anything from it to the Muslims' houses.
Should anyone take any of these, he would spoil God's covenant and disobey His Prophet. Verily, they are my allies and have my secure charter against all that they hate.
No one is to force them to travel or to oblige them to fight. The Muslims are to fight for them. If a female Christian is married to a Muslim, it is not to take place without her approval. She is not to be prevented from visiting her church to pray. Their churches are to be respected. They are neither to be prevented from repairing them nor the sacredness of their covenants.
No one of the nation (Muslims) is to disobey the covenant till the Last Day (end of the world)."

The first and the final sentence of the charter are critical. They make the promise eternal and universal. Muhammed asserts that Muslims are with Christians near and far straight away rejecting any future attempts to limit the promise to St. Catherine alone. By ordering Muslims to obey it until the Day of Judgment the charter again undermines any future attempts to revoke the privileges. These rights are inalienable. Muhammed declared Christians, all of them, as his allies and he equated ill treatment of Christians with violating God’s covenant.

A remarkable aspect of the charter is that it imposes no conditions on Christians for enjoying its privileges. It is enough that they are Christians. They are not required to alter their beliefs, they do not have to make any payments and they do not have any obligations. This is a charter of rights without any duties!

The document is not a modern human rights treaty but even thought it was penned in 628 A.D. it clearly protects the right to property, freedom of religion, freedom of work, and security of the person.

I know most readers, must be thinking so what? Well the answer is simple. Those who seek to foster discord among Muslims and Christians focus on issues that divide and emphasize areas of conflict. But when resources such as Muhammad’s promise to Christians are invoked and highlighted it builds bridges. It inspires Muslims to rise above communal intolerance and engenders good will in Christians who might be nursing fear of Islam or Muslims.

When I look at Islamic sources, I find in them unprecedented examples of religious tolerance and inclusiveness. They make me want to become a better person. I think the capacity to seek good and do good inheres in all of us. When we subdue this predisposition towards the good, we deny our fundamental humanity. In this holiday season, I hope all of us can find time to look for something positive and worthy of appreciation in the values, cultures and histories of other peoples.

Dr. Muqtedar Khan is Director of Islamic Studies at the University of Delaware and a fellow of the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding.

Now, when that delegation from St Catherine's monastery came to meet with Prophet Mohamad (pbuh), I suppose it's fair to assume that they spoke Arabic to one another. And when they were conversing, surely the word 'God' must have come up. As in "May God Be With You" and such like. What word did the Prophet (pbuh) use for 'God' I wonder? And what did the St Catherinians use in return? For monotheists like them, was there a 'your God' and 'my God' type of situation, or did they understand that they were both talking about the same One?
While some idiots are mourning over the 'loss' of the word 'Allah' and therefore basically telling the world that they are people easily confused by nomenclature, and others are predicting riots over what is basically a 'copyright' issue, let me define what I think a confident Muslim should be:

1. A confident Muslim is unfazed by the issue of God's name. God speaks to all of humankind in the Quran and never said that only Muslims could call him by the name Allah.

2. A confident Muslim has 99 names to choose from to describe that One God. My favourites are Ar-Rahman (The All-Compassionate) and Ar-Rahim (The All-Merciful).

3. A confident Muslim never gets confused over which is his/her religion and which is other people's. For instance, a confident Muslim knows exactly what the first chapter of the Quran is. And it's not the Lord's Prayer.

4. A confident Muslim will not walk into a church, hear a liturgy in Malay or Arabic where they use the word 'Allah' and then think that he or she is in a mosque. A confident Muslim knows the difference.

5. A confident Muslim is generous, inclusive and doesn't think that his or her brethren is made exclusive through the use of a single language. The confident Muslim is well aware that in the Middle East, all services of ANY religion are in Arabic because that's what they all speak.

6. A confident Muslim knows the basis of his/her faith are the five pillars of Islam and will not be shaken just because other people call God by the same name.

7. A Muslim believes in only One God. Therefore it makes sense that other people should call God by the same name because there is no other God.

ART THOU NOT aware that it is God whose limit¬less glory all [creatures] that are in the heavens and on earth extol, even the birds as they spread out their wings? Each [of them] knows indeed how to pray unto Him and to glorify Him; and God has full knowledge of all that they do:(Surah Nour, Verse 41) (Asad)

So I would ask those people demonstrating against the Court decision, have you no pride? Are you saying you're easily confused?

And before anyone says I have no qualifications to say these things, read what Dr Asri Zainal Abidin (who does have qualifications no matter what JAIS says) has written about this very subject here.

And here's something interesting. In 2007, the Majlis Agama Negeri Perlis, which is a large majlis filled with people very learned in Islamic religious knowledge, discussed the question of the use of 'Allah' by non-Muslims. Their unanimous decision? They issued a fatwa to say that there is absolutely nothing wrong with non-Muslims using the word at all.(This was told to me by Dr. Asri but I cannot find the fatwa anywhere online because all the religious departments' websites are so useless.)

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Today's Inspirational Quote:

"That first peak is the best place to pause and look back, to
see if you took the easiest route, to learn the lessons from
the first climb. And it is the best place to examine the
terrain ahead, to change your plans and goals, to take a deep
breath and begin climbing again."

-- Michael Johnson

Saturday, 2 January 2010

Today's Inspirational Quote:

"We are like tea bags -- we don't know our own strength until
we're in hot water."

-- Sister Busche