I am aware that I am posting this reflection up somewhat a day late by the measurement of our liturgical lectionary. But this reflection is something that has been brewing in my mind all day as I went about performing my obligations for the day.
The words of our Lord Jesus in the Gospel reading earlier today sustained my attention: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest” (Mt 11.28-30).
I do not think very much of politics. But as I ponder over this passage from Sacred Scripture, I cannot help but think of the plight of my fellow Malaysians as we together live through these days of senselessness. Things have happened in these past years, especially in the political arena, so ridiculous to the human senses that we keep trying over and over again to somehow make sense of what is going on -- dirty politicians having a field day manipulating religion for their personal gains, acting in ways that compromise their integrity so publicly and yet continuing to exercise their offices without so much as a slightest shadow of shame on their faces; racial and religious bigots putting others down and repeatedly threatening to create trouble, and yet continuing to enjoy the much-favoured tolerance of those in office despite their public despise and humiliation of other races and religions as if this was an exalted virtue taught by their own religion; and seemingly no one being able to do anything about any of these realities.
We try to assure ourselves that if we analysed deeply enough, that if we were somehow able to get to the bottom of all this senselessness, we would eventually be able to find the grand hidden solution to make Malaysia a better place for our weary hearts. Because after all, we do love this land, the only motherland we have ever known, regardless of what people say about our ancestry and how we actually belong elsewhere. But perhaps it is just a matter of time before we come to terms with the fact that, maybe – JUST MAYBE – there is in fact no sense to be made of all this senselessness. Perhaps all this random outbursts of bigotry and oppression have no final outcome and are bound to continue indefinitely. And perhaps things just are that way, and these realities surrounding us and reported on the news each day are to be accepted rather than analysed ad infinitum.
Let us face it, we religious and racial minorities in Malaysia are a persecuted lot. In case you are wondering if I intentionally meant the previous sentence to sound the way it did, let me try to rephrase it: we who are not of a particular race or religion in Malaysia are a persecuted lot. There, I said it. I am not saying that all people from that particular race or religion are persecuting us, because I know of a vast many kind, God-fearing and tender people among them. What I am saying is, there are those among them who hate us and think of us as less than themselves, and they think that we do not deserve the kind of respect they do because our religions are false in their eyes and we are therefore not truly Malaysians like they are. And I do not think many other adherents of their religion actually agree with such bigoted attitudes either. But what is true at this point of time in Malaysian history is that the bigoted ones actually get away with. And in time to come, they might literally get away with anything.
I cannot speak for all other religions. But among my Christian brethren, some are of the position that we should fight fiercely to uphold the rights of other religions in Malaysian society. Many others are just dispassionate about the issue, so long as they continue having the freedom to attend their worship rituals in their various churches (these might awaken if they one day find themselves no longer having that perceived freedom).
What about me? I will certainly speak quite frankly when the occasion calls for it, in the same way that I am writing this piece. I will also moderately do my part as an individual within the confines of my constitutional rights (but then, what are these rights anymore these days, right?) However, I am also, at the same time, very apprehensive about the idea of turning the Church and the Christian community into a national political battle machine. Because I am not sure if this is what Jesus intended for His Church to be.
I am not sure that Christ instructed His disciples, “All you who are weary and burdened, keep fighting for your rights and don’t give up in the defence of your constitutional rights!” I also do not think He said, “Keep trying to make sense of all this senselessness, and one day, things will come to light, I promise.” What He did say was, "In this world, you shall have tribulation", "The world will hate you because of me", and instead of prescribing retaliation and activism, His specific instruction was, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”
Gauging from the present state of things, I have no doubt in my mind that socio-political affairs in this beloved country of mine are only going to be more and more ridiculously senseless and bewildering. I do not hesitate to say that it will get increasingly difficult to be a follower of Christ in this nation. But I am confronted by the Reality of realities today, as He bids me to come and find rest in Him. Because the world becoming more and more senseless seems to be a very possible reality now, and even more so, in the coming future. And in this storm of senselessness, He who can calm the storm within is the only Sense and the ultimate Reality that can anchor the soul.
We are each trying to find an equilibrium, or in the words of Jesus, REST, in this ocean of bigotry and oppression. Our endeavours to find sense in a world that is fast becoming more and more senseless, at some point, have to come to a halt and be replaced by a realisation that there is a more sensible way to find this much needed rest. And the rest that He gives is found not so much in the resolution of our problems, but in the peace that derives from our acknowledgement of His sovereignty over these very sources of our restlessness.
I have to stop striving. Maybe we all do. And maybe we need to just rest in the confidence that one day, the One who is Peace will speak into the hearts of all our oppressors, “Peace, be still”, at which point all WILL be at peace and still in the face of His holiness.