Sometimes we humanise the Church so much, we forget that she is at once fully human and fully divine - very God and very man - inheriting utterly the two natures of the Christ into whom She has been grafted. We lose sight of the divine nature of the Church especially when socio-politically conscious minds interpret everything as a matter of power, control and the absolute necessity for human activism, even militance.
I believe that today the divine acted. It was a rather different model of the BERSIH we've come to be so familiar with in the past couple of weeks; a divine rendition of BERSIH the way God would have it, if you like. Here's what it looked like:
The Vicar of Christ, the 265th Supreme Pontiff, the Successor of St Peter, held the hand of Najib Razak, the Prime Minister of Malaysia. Is the Holy Father unaware of what Najib has allegedly done in Malaysia and the countless accusations against him about various issues? Hardly so, I dare say.
But this is where the nature of the Church, in the spirit of Gaudium et Spes, becomes more incarnate than ever in the world when, despite knowing of human attrocities, depravity, oppression, cruelty and hypocisy, She holds the hand of a man and persists in speaking peace and goodness. She does all that Christ would do, Who sat with tax collectors and all the undeserving.
Wouldn't that unjustly sway votes back in Malaysia? Wasn't that Najib's intention in the first place? I choose to trust that Christians in Malaysia are discerning enough, especially those who understand the nature of the Church. When the Church speaks with those commonly perceived as undeserving, it does not so much reflect on the virtue of the one with whom She speaks. It reflects on who She, the Church, is. It speaks of the tenderness of Christ and His unconditional love, even for the unlovable.
Today, the Supreme Shepherd of the Church held the hands of someone who is perceived to have oppressed his own spiritual children. It must have been a painful sight for many who had spent the past weeks fighting for justice and equality. For some, it might have felt like their efforts had gone to waste. Others might have felt betrayed.
To be sure, the Church shares this pain. But the Church's gesture of reaching out to hold the hand of a man commonly perceived by many to be an oppressor of Her children aptly pictures the spirit of the Christ whose grace reaches further than we can conceive. A grace that hurts; a grace that calls to mind the reality of the crucified Christ. This was BERSIH at its best, at its most divinely inspired expression.
This gesture must have kickstarted a long analysis in many people's minds about the political implications of such a crucial encounter between Pope Benedict XVI and Najib. It might perhaps be a matter of wisdom in regards to whether one is able to see past these political implications and be brought back to the divine reality that we call the Holy Church.
I've spent many weeks trying to figure out how I should respond to the urgent call for justice in our nation. I've been deeply agonising over what the most appropriate response might be to the BERSIH movement, particularly in my role as a cleric and servant of the Church. Unknown to anyone else, this agony has carried me through sleepless nights; I've even dreamed about it in my sleep. All because I could never figure out what the right response was to the injustice I've witnessed and experienced in solidarity with my fellow Malaysians.
But today, Holy Mother Church has shown me how: justice and peace through righteousness and tenderness, not by the sword. For he who lives by the sword shall die by the sword. Mother Church invites us to take the higher path