“Mass Line”

by Chris Creo

WE have a phrase we used to use in the student movement during my days in the University of the Philippines to describe a tactic or a strategy of winning over people to our cause. It’s called “mass line”. Simply put, it reminds us—yes, student activists—to always be at the people’s level, explain social realities in a way people can understand, tap on people’s concrete situations so they can identify with the imperatives of our cause and therefore they themselves decide to act. For those who held opposing views—even perceived as possible “threats”—the tactic was to isolate and neutralise.

bullying-in-workplaceMore recently, after a government benefit for fulltime students has been withdrawn from me, it was necessary that I find work. Luckily—and I took this as God’s providence for me—I immediately found one. Work was good and interesting. I got to work on a machine again in a pasta-making factory. But just like any new work environment, one gets to meet different kinds of people—some readily friendly, some aloof, and some manifestly (although may not be intentionally) hostile.

With my new job, I found two people of the latter kind. I was puzzled. Why the negative attitude towards me? Well, towards all of us new workers on that factory.

Initially, my reaction was to go back to an old tactic as an activist: Neutralise and Isolate. Consciously I cultivated friendship with other workers on my shift—especially the new workers. I was always on the alert to any actions of the two. I constantly observe them whenever they come to my machine; suspicious that they might do something to jeopardise or sabotage my work. There came a point that I had to talk to my boss about two incidents with the machine.

But at that point I came to a realisation and I asked myself: “Is this how a future deacon supposed to react?” Deacons, more than any other minister of the Church are supposed to be witnesses of the Good News of Christ in the world; in the streets; at home; and at workplaces. Deacons should always be reminded of the advice of one of its own—St. Francis of Assisi: “Preach the gospel always, if necessary use words.” We should witness our faith and the faith of the Church more with our actions.ET-preach-gospel-alwaysSo I decided, instead of the tactic of neutralizing and isolating them, I should instead be employing the tactic of mass line. Or more appropriately, I should be employing the mass line of Jesus. Facing negative attitudes I should respond with friendship and charity. As my wife said, teasing me: “Kill them with kindness!”

After that I tried to be more positive in reacting to my two co-workers. Instead of stressing what they could do to my machine, I learned to give them the benefit of the doubt. If I disagree with them, I tell them but always making sure to communicate that I appreciate what they were trying to do—that is to help me. After every disagreement I make sure to tell them: “We’re alright.” I also started saying “thank you” every time they helped me with something—whether supplying ingredients, packing products or fixing minor faults. I also try to show them that I am there also to help them—with simple gestures such as throwing the content of their rubbish bins after my work. Furthermore, I try to make an effort to talk to them about things other than work. For example, I asked one of them about their home country; about their language—something or anything about them! And I try communicating to them that I am interested—really interested in knowing them as a person.

It may still be premature to make a judgment but somehow, I am starting to notice small changes in their attitude towards me. They are more ready to engage in small talks with me—with us new workers. They are also more helpful than before—even giving me the usual Italian coffee that I am beginning to love!

jesus-washing-feetAlthough their sudden change in attitude could be the result of my brief talk with the boss, I would like to think that it is also the result of my effort to be more positive towards them. I’d like to think that kindness, friendship and charity have more effect. Because I believe that the friendship and charity of Christ is more irresistible than any other response. To respond to aggressiveness with equal aggressiveness may lead to more conflict, escalation of negative attitudes, even violence. But who could resist the charity and friendship of Jesus? And because deacons should be icons of Christ the servant, we should reflect Jesus in us.

If the “mass line” tactic of activists is good in winning over people, how many more people can we win over if we employ the “mass line” of our Lord? Besides, being friendly is also good to the health. ###

Post script: Today, I was admitted to the Ministry of Acolytes by our Archbishop together with two other men preparing for the permanent diaconate and five seminarians preparing for the priesthood. Please pray for all of us so that we may be worthy to be God’s servants and the Church’s ministers.


Into the Ministry of Lectors

by Chris Creo

LectorInstallation-4May2014-10LAST SUNDAY, 4 May, was a special day for me and my family—and two other families. On the 11am Mass at St Patrick’s Cathedral, Melbourne our Archbishop installed me and two other Filipinos to the Ministry of Readers or Lectors. This is the first step in our formal preparation for our diaconal ordination, come November. The next step is the installation as duly instituted Acolytes, which we will be undergoing on the end of the month.

As we were on our way to the cathedral, my wife said to me: “Dad, this is it…after six years!” I did not know how to react. As I drove, I was searching my feelings but I can’t feel anything—or more precisely, I cannot explain what I was feeling then.

The clarity of feeling came to me when I was sitting listening to the Archbishop’s homily. Yes, indeed! The fruit of six years of formation and discernment is coming to its conclusion. That realisation came especially when I recall just two years ago, I was one of the faithful witnessing the same liturgical ceremonies for the two groups who were ahead of us. Two subsequent years, I was sitting on the side aisle watching them as they responded with the same “AMEN” as I did when the Archbishop entrusted to me the responsibility of being a proclaimer of the Scriptures.


From left: Me, Danny, Archbishop Hart and Neil after the Mass.

During the homily I tried to reflect; digest and internalize every word the Archbishop was saying. But in particular I will try to keep in mind—and heart—what he said about the responsibility of one who is to be proclaimers of God’s good news and that is to love the Word of God in order to “see the people with the mind and heart of Jesus.”

The Archbishop also reflected on the significance and appropriateness of that 3rd Sunday of Easter for our installation as Lectors. The gospel reading was about the two disciples on their way to Emmaus. Just like the two disciples, the three of us are also on a journey; a journey that seeks to change us to be more Christ-like.

The diaconal journey is not just to gain knowledge about the Church, Church teachings, liturgical rites, etc. but as a journey of conversion in order to reflect Christ as we serve his people. See the people with Christ’s mind and heart so that as deacons we may serve them as Christ would have.

And so, the journey continues…


Our Emmaus Road

Gospel Luke 24:13-35 ©
TWO of the disciples of Jesus were on their way to a village called Emmaus, seven miles from Jerusalem, and they were talking together about all that had happened. Now as they talked this over, Jesus himself came up and walked by their side; but something prevented them from recognising him. He said to them, ‘What matters are you discussing as you walk along?’ They stopped short, their faces downcast.
  Then one of them, called Cleopas, answered him, ‘You must be the only person staying in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have been happening there these last few days.’ ‘What things?’ he asked. ‘All about Jesus of Nazareth’ they answered ‘who proved he was a great prophet by the things he said and did in the sight of God and of the whole people; and how our chief priests and our leaders handed him over to be sentenced to death, and had him crucified. Our own hope had been that he would be the one to set Israel free. And this is not all: two whole days have gone by since it all happened; and some women from our group have astounded us: they went to the tomb in the early morning, and when they did not find the body, they came back to tell us they had seen a vision of angels who declared he was alive. Some of our friends went to the tomb and found everything exactly as the women had reported, but of him they saw nothing.’
  Then he said to them, ‘You foolish men! So slow to believe the full message of the prophets! Was it not ordained that the Christ should suffer and so enter into his glory?’ Then, starting with Moses and going through all the prophets, he explained to them the passages throughout the scriptures that were about himself.
  When they drew near to the village to which they were going, he made as if to go on; but they pressed him to stay with them. ‘It is nearly evening’ they said ‘and the day is almost over.’ So he went in to stay with them. Now while he was with them at table, he took the bread and said the blessing; then he broke it and handed it to them. And their eyes were opened and they recognised him; but he had vanished from their sight. Then they said to each other, ‘Did not our hearts burn within us as he talked to us on the road and explained the scriptures to us?’
  They set out that instant and returned to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven assembled together with their companions, who said to them, ‘Yes, it is true. The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.’ Then they told their story of what had happened on the road and how they had recognised him at the breaking of bread.

Other Readings: Acts 2:14, 22-33;1 Pt 1:17-21; Ps 16:1-2, 5, 7-8, 9-10, 11

3rd Sunday of Easter

ON THIS 3rd SundayEaster, we reflect on the significance of the message of the resurrection as God’s way of showing his love for us and how he never fails to accompany us in our lives. At the same time, we are also invited to reflect on our own responses to that love.
road-to-emmaus1Today’s Gospel tells us the story of two disciples in the aftermath of the suffering, death and, at that time, the rumour of Jesus’ resurrection. These two people who followed Jesus now feel discouraged and they are walking away from the community in Jerusalem—possibly back to their old lives.
We also hear that on their way they met the risen Jesus but did not recognise him. This is odd. Surely if they are followers of Jesus, they should have recognised him in an instant. And they could have regained their joy in an instant too!But instead of joy, they not only continued to be in their gloomy state but they complained! They complained about their disappointments. “…we were hoping that he would be the one to redeem Israel,” they said.
Sometimes, in our own lives we fail to recognise God in our lives just like the two disciples who did not recognise the risen Christ. We fail to recognise God because we are so busy complaining about problems in our daily living—financial problems, family problems, love problems, etc.
This reminds me of a story that my old parish priest in the Philippines told me. There was this woman—a very devout Catholic. She not only goes to Mass everyday but she would usually continue praying after Mass in front of the life-sized cross in the altar with the image of our Lord nailed on it. The thing is, when she prays, her prayer consists only of complaints to God. “Oh Lord, life is very difficult…Oh Lord, why my son likes this girl…Oh Lord my feet hurts…”
Then one afternoon, as she was again doing her usual after-Mass prayer—or rather complaints, she heard a voice. “My daughter, you are lucky!” The voice was coming from the image of the Lord on the cross!Most of us would surely be overjoyed if this happened to us—imagine the Lord is talking to us. But instead of being joyful, the woman continued her complaints and even intensified them. “But Lord why is this…why is that…”
But the image of the Lord just keeps saying: “My daughter, YOU are LUCKY!” after every complaint. The woman was now feeling frustrated so she asked the Lord. “Lord why do you keep saying I am lucky despite of my complaints?”And so the image answered: “My daughter, you are lucky…that my feet are nailed to this cross otherwise I would have kicked you already! I was the one hanging on this cross. I am the one who have borne all the sins of the world. And I am not complaining!”
Seriously, the story of the two disciples and even the story of the woman tell us that if we loose sight of the Lord—the source of our faith, it is easy to forget the joy of his message for us—that by his dying and rising up again signal a new relationship with God.Because of the mystery of his suffering, death and resurrection, we become children of God. Now we can call God not just Lord but Father and become inheritors of eternal life! And this is indeed a message of great joy for us.
On the other hand, we can hear from the gospel reading how God in the person of Jesus, continues to accompany us in our lives—even during periods of doubt. What is amazing here is that God doesn’t just impose his love on us but leads us gently towards it.
road-to-emmaus2Jesus did not say to the two disciples, “Hey guys it’s me!” Instead he let them tell their story. “What are you discussing as you walk along?” Only after the two disciples told their story did Jesus in a sense stirred them from their state: “You foolish men!”And then he explained to them the significance of the events—reminding them of his teachings—and finally gave them signs and symbols to remember.Once the connection—or rather the reconnection—has been made did the two disciples finally recognise him; their faith was renewed; and hurried up to re-join their community, which in turn confirmed what they experienced along the road—for it is the community who told them first of the resurrection.
The gospel story of the Emmaus Road is a story of faith seeking and of conversion. And we are encouraged never to lose sight of the Lord but instead constantly seek the presence of God in our lives, and always be mindful of the joy of the Easter message.

Alleluia, alleluia! Christ is risen! Indeed he is risen! Alleluia!