Mar 28, 2016

Happy Easter @ Niigata Cathedral

Happy Easter !

May the light of peace and forgiveness shine in the darkness and may the Risen Lord's hope and power bring new life to everyone.

During the Easter Vigil on 26 March in the Cathedral Church of Niigata Diocese, 4 people received baptism and 2 were received to the Catholic Church from other denomination. All these 6 also received sacrament of Confirmation.

At 7 pm, the Vigil Mass started at the main entrance area of the Cathedral with blessing of new fire and candle. The paschal candle was brought into the church by Fr.Ngaji, SVD, assistant pastor, who also sung Exsultet. After the several readings and Gloria with sounds of bell ringing, gospel was read by the pastor, Fr. Raul.

Then after the homily, 4 catechumens were called to the front for baptism. Three ladies, mother and two daughters, and a gentleman who is a school teacher, were baptized by myself. Then 2 candidates, a husband and wife, who had been baptized at a protestant community long time ago, recited the creed and received into the Catholic community. And I confirmed all these 6. Thank God we have now 6 new members in the Cathedral community which has been facing decreasing number of members because quite majority of them are over 80 years old today.

Next day, on Easter Sunday, the Cathedral was almost full. Well, that means there were around 160 participants in the Mass. Number of them attend Mass only once or twice, Easter and Christmas, a year. So what I can say is the 160 would be the reality of the size of this community despite, according to the official register, 700 supposed to be the number of the members of the Cathedral community.

While we were observing Holy Week this year, number of sad incidents happened around the world.  There were several bombing attacks in Brussels, execution of 2 inmates in Japan on Good Friday and bombing an a park in Pakistan on Easter Sunday which killed at least 67 people.

In the first reading of Easter Sunday, Acts of Apostles, Peter was giving his strong witness on Jesus Christ. We can imagine how they, disciples, felt after the killing of their Master. Fear, anger, hatred or regret. But Peter was talking about none of them. Rather he emphasized that those who believe in Jesus will receive forgiveness. Peter was changed to live new life as he met and believed in the Risen Lord. He was now more living in the old life of fear, hatred, anger or regret, but now he is living with forgiveness of the Lord, the face of Fathers's mercy.

What violence produces is fear and sadness which in turn produces anger and intent on revenge. Revenge just creates vicious circle of violence which, as history proves, has been destroying so many people's life and put so many innocent people in danger of life. That is not the world which God wants us to realize. And it is a terrible contradiction to capitalize name of God as excuse of using violence for any kind of solution of the problem as God is the one who created our life with so much love, love which forced God himself to die for us. Then how can God allow us to destroy life?

At the time of Easter, what we have to proclaim is forgiveness brought into us by Risen Lord who invites us to live in new life filled with mercy of God.   


Mar 25, 2016

On Good Friday in Japan

On this very sacred period for us Christians, Paschal Triduum, and particular on Good Friday, it is quite unfortunate to note that Japanese government has executed two convicted people this morning. It is also unfortunate to note that the Japanese government has record of executing 4 convicted people on the Christmas day in 2006.

Though I know, according to the government explanation on the issue,  the quite majority of general public in Japan supports government position on maintaining death penalty and, I know, quite number of Catholics in Japan also support this position. Therefore it is not easy task to realize Japan without death penalty and it seems almost impossible to abolish this system.

However, we, as member of one body of Jesus Christ, should give heed to our Shepard, Holy Father, on this particular issue. On 21 February this year after the Angelus, Holy Father appealed again to abolish death penalty.    Holy Father said that “the commandment ‘You shall not kill’ has absolute value, and covers both the innocent and the guilty.” Then he continued saying “I appeal to the conscience of the rulers, so that we achieve an international consensus for the abolition of the death penalty.”

This call for abolishing death penalty has been repeated by previous Pontiffs despite the official teachings of Catholic Church do not forbid it.

But for Pope Francis, it is much more than repeating the same appeal as his predecessor. This is the Jubilee Year of Mercy.  So he appealed to the world leaders saying “I propose to those among them who are Catholics to make a courageous and exemplary gesture that no sentence is executed in this Holy Year of Mercy.”

It is true that Japan is not Christian country and our government is very much secular government with strict separation of religion and state. And it is true that our national leader is not a Catholic, though the number 2 in the cabinet is. And it is true that the execution is decided by minister of Justice who is also not a Catholic. So they have no obligation to consider Holy Father's appeal. However, only a few days ago on 19 March, foreign minister of Japan, Mr. Kishida, paid a visit to the Holy See and met with Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, Secretary for Relations with States of the Holy See, inviting Holy Father to visit Japan to pray for Peace in Asia and the World. When thinking about the seriousness and insistence of Japanese government to invite Holy Father to Japan, for which Japanese Bishops are also working on, I am a bit surprised to note the timing of today's execution. In any case, despite popular support for the death penalty in Japan, I have to repeat the appeal of Holy Father to abolish the death penalty in respect of human life.