CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 9 June 2018

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The grace to be few

“This is not an obstacle but an opportunity to be leaven in the dough, small grain that grows into mustard, and salt that dissolves in water or food,” reflects Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith of Colombo, Sri Lanka. Over 70 per cent of the population is Buddhist, while Hindus and Muslims account for 12 and 10 per cent respectively. Here, however, Christians must fight for their faith, not given to them by the cultural environment.
 
The cardinal was expressing his hopes for the minority Church in Sri Lanka during a meeting with Father Gonzalo Fernandez, the vice general superior of the Claretian Missionaries. He considers it “a grace to be few.” 
 
He said, “If we Christians were the majority we would tend to impose our point of view, would set connivance with political and economic powers, we lose our ability to be an alternative.” 
 
According to the cardinal, “It is not easy to be a majority and maintain the prophetic power of faith.” 
 
Cardinal Ranjith stressed the need to be mutually supportive, to feel that they belong to a community, and establish close relationships between laity, priests and religious in an effort to contribute to the needs of all. 
 
“We must celebrate what unites us, imagining new ways of presence in this multi-religious and multi-cultural society and must learn to live a spirituality of smallness,” he said. 
 
Learning to dialogue with men and women of other religions is key to a peaceful coexistence. All Christians must live and believe in the mysterious powers of the Gospel that dissolves like salt in water and thereby learn to read the signs of the Spirit in other cultures and religious traditions. We shall not ask for privileges but to demand rights and fulfill duties.
 
Father Gonzalo later related to the Sunday Examiner that every time he visits a country where Christians are a minority, he thinks of the old Europe. He believes that after many centuries of Christian majority, we are called to live a period of minority. It is not a disgrace. It may be a purification that helps us to rediscover the novelty of faith. 
 
According to Father Gonzalo, some old Christians enthusiastically embrace atheism while there are others who wonder about the meaning of faith and want to learn more about Jesus. 
 
While some say, “Do not believe”, others say, “Lord, I believe, but increase my faith” (because they experience a longing that is not filled by anything else). 
 
Less is not a tragedy if at this juncture, returning to the roots and discovering the novelty and joy that is supposed to come with belief in Jesus, comes about as a result of a personal encounter and not just as a result of family tradition or cultural environment.