Apr 19, 2014

Happy Easter!

Dear friends,

Happy Easter. Video message from Niigata, Japan for Easter.

And some photos of the 2014 Holy Triduum in Niigata Cathedral

Apr 18, 2014

Passion Sunday@Niigata Cathedral

It was a beautiful and warm spring day for this year's Passion Sunday. With this favorable weather, members of the Cathedral community could make procession from the Parish Hall to Cathedral. Mass was presided over by myself and following is the homily during the Mass.

"The Lord GOD has given me a well-trained tongue,
that I might know how to speak to the weary a word that will rouse them"

Sometimes, believing might be deceiving over judgement between right and wrong. On the Passion Sunday, the liturgy stipulates two readings from the Gospel passages. One is a story of Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem and the other is a story of passion and death of Jesus.

There were crowds of people who welcomed Jesus as if he was a King of this world. And there were crowds who shouted at Jesus that he should be put to death on a cross. Between these two incidents were quite strong and strict teachings and words of Jesus in Jerusalem. Though there are huge differences in hearts between crowds welcoming Jesus and crowds shouting against Jesus, we know that these two crowds were the same people. In consequence of time, people changed their hearts.

What happened between these two completely different hearts of people? Change of hearts took place within the framework of the "heart of believing". Why did people welcome Jesus? Because they thought Jesus might be a strong leader for the people whom the one they had been waiting for. However, their expectation was not based on what Jesus had been teaching but on rumors of what Jesus had been doing. People heard about his miraculous deeds and thought that he perfectly conformed to their expectation on true and strong leadership. That means initiatives of their belief in Jesus was in people's hands and Jesus did not play any active role to let people believe in him. Why, because there were no personal contact with people and Jesus. They just believed so based on what they had heard which were not so much different from rumors. They just assumed that Jesus was their true leader while giving people's desires and expectations the highest priority.

However, real Jesus who entered Jerusalem was completely different from their sweet expectations. He expelled business people from Temple, or argued with Teachers of Law over authority, condemned rich people and criticized pride of people as chosen. He was not the one to fulfil their expectation. Rather he was a dangerous destroyer of present system of the society. When they realized this, their expectation and Joy were turned into hatred and rejection. 

I have mentioned that, sometimes, believing might be deceiving over judgement between right and wrong. That believing I mentioned is the one based on self-serving expectations as these crowds welcoming Jesus as their King. It was not Jesus who had initiative to let people believe in him but was people themselves who wanted to believe in their own image of leader based on their expectations. The crowd just found a fitting character in Jesus based on their wish and desire. Such believing with selfish conditions might be deceiving over judgement between right and wrong. That is why the crowd could not hear the true voice of God in Jesus and killed him.

Passion Sunday is also the World Youth Day. On this XXIX WYD, Pope Francis issued a message. He wrote in the message as follows.

"The Beatitudes of Jesus are new and revolutionary. They present a model of happiness contrary to what is usually communicated by the media and by the prevailing wisdom. A worldly way of thinking finds it scandalous that God became one of us and died on a cross! According to the logic of this world, those whom Jesus proclaimed blessed are regarded as useless, “losers." What is glorified is success at any cost, affluence, the arrogance of power and self-affirmation at the expense of others"

In such a reality we are pursuing the value of Gospel. Holy Father pointed out that happiness according to Gospel message is regarded as "losers" according to the logic of this world. And "affluence, the arrogance of power and self-affirmation at the expense of others" are glorified.
What we are communicating to this world as the message of Gospel are, unfortunately, not enough to satisfy worldly expectations and common sense of judgment or, worse, sometimes our messages are hated by majority in the society. Why so? Because the world reality is far from what God commanded to be realized. Gospel of Jesus Christ is not yet to be realized in present society. That is why our message of Gospel are talking about the reality which are far from what people would like to hear.

In case if we yield to the criticism from majority in the society against our Gospel value and make compromise to the demand of worldly expectations or build our faith upon these framework of human desire, then initiative of our believing is in our hands and not in God's. Such faith or believing might be deceiving over judgement between right and wrong.

Then within such reality, what shall we do? In the same message, Holy Father urges us as follows.

"I especially entrust the task of restoring solidarity to the heart of human culture. Faced with old and new forms of poverty? Unemployment, migration and addictions of various kinds? We have the duty to be alert and thoughtful, avoiding the temptation to remain indifferent. We have to remember all those who feel unloved, who have no hope for the future and who have given up on life out of discouragement, disappointment or fear"

Challenges we are facing in today's reality are so diverse and vast especially in the country where Christians are definite minority. We feel powerless to find answers to all these challenges and take action. As we wonder what to do, prophet Isaiah encourages us with these words in today's first reading:

" The Lord GOD has given me a well-trained tongue, that I might know how to speak to the weary a word that will rouse them"

It is not myself who are to speak. It is Lord himself who give us tongue to speak to weary a word that will rouse them. As we spend sacred period within this Holy Week, let us mediate passion of our Lord, give thanks to his love of self-sacrifice for us and pray that we may be partaker of glory of his resurrection. Let us also pray that as disciples of the Lord, we may have courage to proclaim words which are given to us. Also let us pray that we have courage to work for realization of Kingdom of God and not for fulfillment of human desires and expectations.

Apr 6, 2014

20 years since the tragedy in Rwanda

Today marks 20th anniversary of beginning of the genocide in Rwanda. On 6 April, 1994, then president of Rwanda, Mr.JuvĂ©nal Habyarimana, was killed with the president of Burundi when their plane was shot down by unknown party while approaching Kigali airport.  After this assassination of two presidents, the genocide began on 7th April. More than eight hundred thousand people were killed. Some claim the number reaches one million.

It is said that the reason of killing was ethnic hatred between minority Tutsi and majority Hutu. However, it is not so simple. What we can say now is that political motivation took advantage of human emotion and instigated simple people to hate each other and kill each other. This could happen any where in a world even today. International society has to learn a lesson from the Rwanda genocide case otherwise some kind of ethnic hate killing may happen any time in any where.

I was sent to a refugee camp in Bukavu, then Zaire, in March, 1995 and stayed there for 2 months as a coordinator of Caritas Japan. That was my first encounter with Rwanda issues and also my first assignment with Caritas Japan.  (Photo above is myself in 1995 in Birava camp over looking Rwanda behind me over lake Kivu)
During my stay there, our camp was attacked by unidentified armed group and more than 30 refugees were killed. Caritas Japan team, two Sisters and two priests, were not hurt. It was a horrible experience of 2 hours of shooting which I will never forget. At the end of the shooting, the armed group bombed a storeroom of medicine in the camp clinic. I will never forget the sound and shake of that bombing. I was so shocked that I had difficulty to hold flashlight for a Japanese Sister of Caritas Japan who was a nurse attending those refugees who were shot. Blood all over.

We really have to ask why and how these ordinary people could kill their neighbours or even family members because of ethnic differences. Do we really hate and kill each other because we belong to different ethnic group. What is the difference in ethnicity to begin with? It is political agenda of certain group which took advantage of human emotion of self-identification of belongingness. Colonial government took advantage of it before independence and military dictatorship took advantage of that emotion. Radio broadcast was said to be one of the cause of instigating people to kill others. That would be true but radio broadcast alone can not motivate people to kill. Killing has long preparation behind and accumulation of several factors to increase fear among people against other ethnic group without clear reasons. Probably fear does not need clear reasoning. I guess, that is exactly what is happening in several developed countries, not in Africa, today including my home country, Japan.   

As we know, Rwanda is quite a Christian country. From the experience of Church in Rwanda we may say that we have to put more and more energy to proclaim Gospel message of love, mercy and forgiveness to people in our respected country. Because even in country like Rwanda where quite majority are Catholics, such horrible incident could not be stopped. If so, then, we really have to work hard to evangelise our culture so that such tragedy could be prevented in future.