Building the new kingdom: Tools of the trade

The preacher obviously commands a huge following, going by the rockstar reception he received in Kota Baru recently.

Aug 23, 2019

By Anil Netto
After the khat controversy, it was Zakir Naik’s turn to be very much in the news.

The preacher obviously commands a huge following, going by the rockstar reception he received in Kota Baru recently.
But not everyone was pleased with his comments, especially some of the minorities in the country. Their reactions on social media and the responses that followed raised the political temperature a notch or two.

Mercifully, good sense prevailed among some members of the establishment and other prominent personalities who have spoken out.

Zakir’s controversial words may have had an unintended effect. It has made many Malaysians pause and reflect on what it means to be a Malaysian. Are all Malaysians treated fairly or are some of them regarded as guests?

Are all Malaysians treated fairly or do some of them feel sidelined or marginalised in their own country?

What does it mean to be a guest, a migrant (whether documented or otherwise), a refugee, an asylum seeker in our land? Are they entitled to justice and respect and fairplay?

If the voices of hatred, bigotry and xenophobia overpower the language of love and compassion, we have a problem.
In these times of great uncertainty and despair, of racial and religious bigotry, of fear of the Other, it is not easy to be hopeful.

Even within Christianity there is a sense of hopelessness,s perhaps also fuelled by certain non-mainstream beliefs such as the Rapture.

Those who believe in the Rapture believe that in a sudden end-time event, Christian believers who are alive, along with resurrected dead believers, will be zapped up into air/heaven. Those poor folks “left behind” will have to endure a period of tribulation.

In fact, movies have been made and books written about those Left Behind, the unworthy ones who will have to face great uncertainty in a lawless world.

Unfortunately, the Rapture negates all that we have learned about Jesus and his kingdom.

In his mission on earth, Jesus proclaimed the imminent kingdom of God which was already among us and within us.

If anything, and ironically, Jesus was passionately on the side of those “left behind” in our world — those forgotten and marginalised by the powers that be: the poor and the destitute, the sick and the prisoner.

So concerned was Jesus that he promised we would not be “left behind” alone. Instead, the Holy Spirit unleashed a new dynamism, accompanying us to proclaim and build a new kingdom, where all would be invited, accepted and embraced.

This Spirit would mould and recreate the world and give us strength to counter the forces of darkness, violence, hatred.

In the quest to build a more just, compassionate world, we have been endowed with the gifts of the Spirit: wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord — which are there for the taking.

We badly need these gifts — especially wisdom and understanding — because the challenges we are confronted with in the world are immense.

We need to wear the cloak of prudence, justice, fortitude and temperance — the cardinal virtues — and roll up our sleeves and get down to work.

In particular, we need Justice, which towards God is called the “virtue of religion”. And towards women and men, Justice “disposes one to respect the rights of each and to establish in human relationships the harmony that promotes equity with regard to persons and to the common good” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, No. 1807).

In building the kingdom which Jesus proclaimed, we must root ourselves in the theological virtues – faith, hope and charity.

The greatest virtue of these is charity. Charity is not just almsgiving. It is much larger than that. It is about how “we love God above all things for his own sake, and our neighbour as ourselves for the love of God” (Catechism, No. 1822).

In these days of climate change and with the ecological spirituality that St Francis of Assisi practised, this love should extend towards all of Creation, all creatures and the ecosystem, which is interconnected in a web that gives life and nourishes us all.

Without hope, we lose strength and energy on the journey in building a kingdom against the formidable odds stacked against us. The apostles had to contend with a scary imperial Roman empire, whose values were at odds with the values of the new kingdom.

So it is hope that inspires our activities and purifies them to keep them in line with the kingdom. Hope keeps us from discouragement and sustains us when we feel abandoned. Hope opens up our hearts in expectation of a new world. Hope preserves us from selfishness and leads us to the happiness that flows from love (No. 1818).

May we never lose hope in our country, its people and may we never lose sight of the new kingdom where justice, love and compassion will flourish.

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