Thought for Sixth Sunday of Easter C

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First Reading
Acts of the Apostles 15:1-2,22-29
The early Church community determines, with the help of the Holy Spirit, not to impose the requirement of circumcision on Gentile Christians.

Responsorial Psalm
Psalm 67:2-3,5,6,8
A prayer that all the nations sing praise to God.

Second Reading
Revelation 21:10-14,22-23
The vision of the splendor of the heavenly Jerusalem is described.

Gospel Reading
John 14:23-29
Jesus promises his disciples that the Father will send the Advocate, the Holy Spirit.

Background on the Gospel Reading

This portion of John’s Gospel comes near the end of the first of four chapters that make up Jesus’ long farewell discourse at the Last Supper. This section of chapter 14 actually sums up the themes of the opening of the discourse: the Christian’s life is not shaped by Jesus’ absence but by God’s abiding presence; God’s presence overcomes anxiety about God’s absence; and the present holds in it the seeds of a fresh future shaped by love, not fear.

These verses also contain a glimpse of some of the other themes of the farewell discourse: Jesus’ relationship with the Father and the disciples’ relationship to Jesus connect the disciples to the Father as well. Jesus promises to send an Advocate or intercessor who will remind the disciples of everything that Jesus taught them and bring them peace.

Jesus is preparing his disciples in advance for his absence so that they will continue to believe in him and not feel all alone after his return to the Father. After the initial excitement of his Easter appearances, Jesus will remain with his followers in a very different way throughout the centuries.

As our celebration of the Easter season is coming to an end, the liturgy reminds us that Jesus remains with us through the Holy Spirit, who teaches us everything we need to know, reminds us of all that Jesus taught, and brings us peace. – loyolapress.com

promise of the spirit

Jesus Introduces Major Themes of His Farewell Discourse

Jesus now begins what is commonly called his “farewell discourse” (13:31–17:26). This section follows a literary form common in the ancient world, not least within Judaism (Brown 1970:598; Talbert 1992:200). There are numerous examples of a great man or woman giving a final speech to those who are close to him or her: for example, Jacob (Gen 47:29–49:33), Moses (Deut; Josephus Antiquities of the Jews 4.309-26), Joshua (Josh 23–24), Samuel (1 Sam 12), David (1 Chron 28–29), Tobit (Tobit 14:3-11), Noah (Jubilees 10), Abraham (Jubilees 20–22), Rebecca (Jubilees 35), Isaac (Jubilees 36), Enoch (1 Enoch 91), Ezra (2 Esdras 14:28-36), Baruch (2 Apocalypse of Baruch 77) and the twelve sons of Jacob (Testament of the Twelve Patriarchs). These accounts, though diverse, have several common elements (Brown 1970:598-601; Talbert 1992:200-202). The great man or woman tells of his or her impending death and in some cases offers comfort in the face of the grief this announcement produces. He or she predicts what will come in the future, including, in different cases, evil or God’s care. This is in keeping with the belief that one about to die is given prophetic powers (cf. Josephus Jewish Wars 7.353; Plato Apology 39C; cf. Talbert 1992:200-201). These farewell discourses also contain instruction on how those left behind should behave, and at times the discourses conclude with a prayer for those left behind.

Although Jesus’ farewell discourse fits this pattern, there is the notable exception that the one who is about to leave will continue to be present through the Spirit and will return at the end of the age (cf. Brown 1970:582; Carson 1991:480). Indeed, the way Jesus speaks in this section transcends time, for he speaks in oracular style and often as if the glorification has already taken place. “He is really speaking from heaven; although those who hear him are his disciples, his words are directed to Christians of all times” (Brown 1970:582).

The keynote of these chapters is assurance and comfort in the face of two difficulties coming upon the disciples, Jesus’ death and their own persecution. He prepares them for his death and the coming of the Spirit, now called the Paraclete. He speaks of the opposition between the world and them as his disciples, and he prepares them for hardships to come (cf. Tolmie 1995:228-29). He does this by showing them that this opposition comes from their union with himself.

In the course of offering assurance and comfort, Jesus develops various themes that have been introduced earlier in his ministry, including in particular glory, mutual indwelling and love. His main point is the experience of life in God the disciples have and will continue to have. The relation between the Father and the Son, which has been revealed in the first twelve chapters, is now “declared to be realized in the disciples” (Dodd 1953:397). The relations between the Father, the Son and the Spirit are described in more detail here than anywhere else in the Bible. In these chapters, therefore, is the most profound teaching on God and discipleship in the Bible–the life of believers described in relation to the persons of the Godhead.

The teaching in these chapters is expressed in typical Johannine terms, distinct from the language in the Synoptic Gospels. Yet many of the specific topics included here reflect those discussed in the Synoptics at various points. C. H. Dodd has summarized these as (1) precepts, warnings and promises for the disciples, (2) predictions of the death and resurrection of Jesus and (3) eschatological predictions (1953:390-91). Two items found in the Synoptics, however, are missing from these themes in John, namely, the discussion of signs of the end and detailed ethical instructions (Dodd 1953:391). Instead of rehearsing Jesus’ predictions of the end, John concentrates on the coming of the Paraclete. This is part of his emphasis on realized eschatology, the notion that, although there will be a future return of the Lord, already he is present through his Spirit. Likewise, instead of giving Jesus’ ethical instructions, John focuses on their substance, which is the love command. Thus, John is touching on some of the themes found in the Synoptics, but he emphasizes different aspects. The same is true for this Gospel’s more obvious difference from the Synoptics–the omission of the institution of the Eucharist. The account of the footwashing along with the teaching in chapter 6 provide profound reflections on the significance of the Eucharist without ever describing the institution itself.

In these chapters there is much repetition and an interweaving of themes, which is a characteristic of Hellenistic style. “We shall not repeat the same thing precisely–for that, to be sure, would weary the hearer and not elaborate the idea–but with changes” (Rhetorica ad Herennium 4.42.54, an anonymous treatise from c. 86-82 B.C.; cf. Talbert 1992:202). Instead of simply discussing a particular idea in a linear-sequential fashion, the thought is developed in a more poetic way through repetition. Accordingly, the section can be outlined in a number of ways, though three main parts are fairly clear. The first part (13:31–14:31) focuses on Jesus’ departure and discusses the disciples’ relation to Jesus and their conflict with the world. The second part (15:1–16:33) develops these same themes, moving from the relationship of Jesus to the disciples, using the figure of the vine and the branches (15:1-17), to the conflict between the disciples and the world (15:18–16:15), and on to a promise to the disciples of joy in the future after the sorrow of this time of separation (16:16-33). In the third major part Jesus prays to his Father (17:1-26). Throughout, the overall theme is the Father’s presence with the disciples and the Son’s and Spirit’s roles in mediating his presence.

The first major section of the farewell discourse (13:31–14:31) is characterized by a series of questions by various disciples and Jesus’ responses. An initial statement by Jesus gets the sequence started: he speaks of glorification (vv. 31-32), his departure (v. 33) and love (vv. 34-35). These themes are developed in the rest of the farewell discourse in reverse order, thereby forming a chiastic structure, moving from love (15:1–16:4a), to departure (16:4b-33), to glorification (17:1-26; cf. Westcott 1908:2:159; Michaels 1989:253). While there are other important themes in these chapters as well and all the themes are quite interwoven, generally speaking these five verses contain the major themes of the entire farewell discourse.

Judas’ departure, like the coming of the Greeks (12:20-23), signals to Jesus that a new stage of the glorification has been reached. The betrayal has begun, and so now is the Son of Man glorified and God is glorified in him (13:31). Glorification can refer to either the giving of praise or the manifestation of that which is worthy of praise. When Jesus says now he is referring to the manifestation of God now taking place rather than the praise it will bring forth in the future.

What is this manifestation? In general the glory of God refers to his “own essential worth, greatness, power, majesty, everything in him which calls forth man’s adoring reverence” (Caird 1969:269). This glory has been manifested throughout Jesus’ ministry, but now it comes to a climax on the cross (cf. 12:23-33). For the chief characteristic of God revealed in Jesus is his love, a self-sacrificial love. Thus, God is glorified in him through his death, “for in the cross of Christ, as in a splendid theatre, the incomparable goodness of God is set before the whole world” (Calvin 1959:68).

The Son of Man is the one to be glorified (v. 31), that is, the Messiah from heaven who brings God’s life and judgment, especially through the cross (see comments on 3:13-14 and 5:27). The cross is itself the revelation of divine glory and the way for Jesus to share the divine life with his followers. It is also the way for God to glorify the Son in himself (v. 32), which he will do at once as Jesus returns to his presence (17:5). Just as Jesus’ keynote address focused on the relation between the Father and the Son (5:19-27), so also his farewell discourse begins from that same fundamental point. This relationship is central to this Gospel.

Jesus next addresses the immediate impact of the cross on the disciples: My children, I will be with you only a little longer. You will look for me, and just as I told the Jews, so I tell you now: Where I am going, you cannot come (v. 33). By calling them children (using the diminutive form teknia, “little children,” which the NIV tries to capture by adding my) he is putting them in a relation to himself that is analogous to his relation to the Father (cf. 14:20; 17:21, 23; cf. Westcott 1908:2:161). This term would be in keeping with the Passover meal setting since “small groups that banded together to eat the paschal meal had to pattern themselves on family life, and one of the group had to act as a father explaining to his children the significance of what was being done” (Brown 1970:611).

This term of endearment expresses his love for them and is a poignant introduction to his announcement that his departure is imminent. The term a little longer (eti mikron) is imprecise (cf. 7:33), so they could not be sure how soon this separation would take place, but given the announcement of the betrayal they might suspect that it would be very soon. Jesus seems to refer not just to the time of separation between his death and resurrection, but also to the time thereafter. For he says they will look for him, which they did not do after his death, but which they did do after the resurrection. Just as the first disciples sought him out (1:38), so will they continue to seek for him after his departure. Part of the purpose of the farewell discourse is to tell them of the new ways in which they will find him in the future.

The departure had been a theme in the controversy with the Jewish opponents (7:34; 8:21), as Jesus reminds the disciples. While it is impossible for either group to follow Jesus where he is going, there is a big difference between the groups’ relationships to Jesus. For the opponents are alienated from God and can never follow Jesus into the Father’s presence as long as they remain in that condition. The disciples, on the other hand, have been cleansed (v. 10). They are little children who will indeed follow Jesus later (v. 36). As the following chapters will make clear, they first need to receive the Spirit, the Paraclete, to share in the Father’s life and love and to accomplish his works, as Jesus himself has done.

The crux of this new quality of life with God is found in the love command: A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another (vv. 34-35). On one level, there is nothing new about the command to love. While there are different understandings of love, the love command, or ideal, is already known widely in Judaism (for example, Lev 19:18; Rule of the Community 3.13; m. ‘Abot 1:12) and the Greco-Roman world (for example, Pliny Natural History 2.17.18; Marcus Aurelius Meditations 7.13, 22; Porphery To Mark 35; cf. Klassen 1992:382-84). But on another level, this love is new in that it is in keeping with Jesus’ own love for them. The love of God has now been mediated in a radically new way, through the incarnation. And the possibility of sharing in that divine love now becomes possible in a manner and to a degree unlike anything up to this point. The disciples are called to enter into the relation of love that exists between the Father and the Son (10:18; 12:49-50; 14:31; 15:10; cf. Barrett 1978:452). This love also is not new; it has existed from all eternity. But it has not been manifested or made available until the incarnation. Such love is the fruit of the disciples’ union with Jesus and, in Jesus, with the Father (cf. chap. 15). The disciple, therefore, is one who is characterized by love, which is the laying down of life. The disciple, like the Master, reveals the Father.

This love command focuses on relations within the new community rather than toward outsiders, a focus that has led many to view John as a narrow sectarian with no concern for outsiders. Such a view, however, misses the larger picture. John is quite clear that this divine love, in which the disciples are to share, is for the whole world (3:16; 4:42; 17:9). Indeed, their love for one another is part of God’s missionary strategy, for such love is an essential part of the unity they are to share with one another and with God; it is by this oneness of the disciples in the Father and the Son that the world will believe that the Father sent the Son (17:21). Jesus’ attention here in the farewell discourse, as well as John’s attention in his epistles, is on the crucial stage of promoting the love between disciples. The community is to continue to manifest God as Jesus has done, thereby shining as a light that continues to bring salvation and condemnation (cf. chaps. 15–16). Without this love their message of what God has done in Christ would be hollow.

John was known in the ancient church for his concern for love. Jerome tells of John in his extreme old age saying, whenever he was carried into the assembly, “Little children, love one another.”

When his disciples got tired of this, they asked, “Master, why do you always say this?”

“It is the Lord’s command. If this alone be done, it is enough” (Jerome Commentary on Galatians at Gal 6:10).

The story of John and the conversion, fall and restoration of a brigand (Clement of Alexandria Who Is the Rich Man That Shall Be Saved? 42 par. Eusebius Ecclesiastical History 3.23.5-19) is another beautiful story that illustrates the love revealed in this Gospel. For when John finds this fallen Christian he entreats him to repent, saying, “If it must be, I will willingly suffer your death, as the Lord suffered for us; for your life, I will give my own.”

In the earliest centuries of the church divine love was indeed the hallmark of the community of Jesus (for example Ignatius of Antioch Letter to the Ephesians 4.1; Justin Martyr 1 Apology 1.16; Minucius Felix Octavius 9). Tertullian reports that the pagans said of the Christians, “See, they say, how they love one another . . . how they are ready even to die for one another” (Apology 39). E. R. Dodds (not to be confused with C. H. Dodd), himself not a Christian (Dodds 1965:5), thinks that the genuine love and unity among Christians was “a major cause, perhaps the strongest single cause, of the spread of Christianity” (Dodds 1965:138). “Love of one’s neighbour is not an exclusively Christian virtue, but in our period [from the second century A.D. to Constantine, early in the third century] the Christians appear to have practised it much more effectively than any other group” (Dodds 1965:136-37).

Such cohesiveness is part of what made Christianity attractive to Constantine, for he saw that it would help unify the empire. Before Constantine, when one became a Christian there was no question but that a death to self was involved in being a Christian. But this changed after Constantine, and so it is not surprising to find Chrysostom, preaching in the fourth and early fifth century, chastising his congregation for their lack of love. In contrast to the earlier age, he now must say, “There is nothing else that causes the Greeks [that is, the non-Christians] to stumble, except that there is no love. . . . We, we are the cause of their remaining in their error. Their own doctrines they have long condemned, and in like manner they admire ours, but they are hindered by our mode of life” (In John 72.5). In parts of the world today the church continues to be the greatest obstacle to people’s coming to believe that the Son has come into the world, sent from the Father.

The love that Jesus is speaking of is not simply a feeling. One cannot really command a feeling. It is willing and doing the best for the other person (1 Jn 3:11-18). Since God’s will alone is that which is truly good in any situation, love acts in obedience to God’s will, under the guidance of the Spirit. Jesus has revealed such a life–only doing what he sees the Father doing and only speaking what he hears from the Father. The same pattern is to be true of the disciple, because “whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did” (1 Jn 2:6). Feelings of compassion and concern will be present as the disciple more and more perfectly shares in God’s own love for those around him or her, but such feelings are not the source nor the evidence for this love that Jesus demands of his followers (cf. 15:1-17). – biblegateway.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Resurrection and “Amoris Laetitia”

 

In his new apostolic exhortation on the family, “Amoris Laetitia,” Pope Francis writes:

Here hope comes most fully into its own, for it embraces the certainty of life after death. Each person, with all his or her failings, is called to the fullness of life in heaven. There, fully transformed by Christ’s resurrection, every weakness, darkness and infirmity will pass away. There the person’s true being will shine forth in all its goodness and beauty. This realization helps us, amid the aggravations of this present life, to see each person from a supernatural perspective, in the light of hope, and await the fullness that he or she will receive in the heavenly kingdom, even if it is not yet visible (No. 117).

In the Fourth Gospel, the Resurrected Lord takes up earth’s unfinished love. Like so many of us, death had robbed Peter of the chance to redeem his denial. You cannot apologise to the dead. You cannot undo what life has ended. But the resurrection of Christ reveals an eternal life that finishes earth’s loves. Heaven doesn’t cancel earth. Paradise is not a winnowing away from the loves of this life. In Christ, what was wrong can be righted. What sin ruptures, grace can heal.

This is the deepest meaning of purgatory, which should be understood as the compassion of the Risen Christ. It is not a place of minimum security. It is an ante-chamber of heaven, if you will, a process of mercy, whereby the Christ, the Alpha and the Omega, heals the wound of time.

In the Eucharist, heaven’s meal, the Lamb redeems us and, with us, all of human history.

“Do you love me?” is the great do-over of the disciple. It reveals the depth of redemption. Resurrection is Peter’s solace and our security, because resurrection completes earth’s unfinished loves.

Today Christ reveals that the darkest of human nights yields to the dawn of resurrection. In “Amoris Laetitia” Pope Francis quotes his predecessor Pope Saint John Paul II,

Moreover, moments of joy, relaxation, celebration, and even sexuality can be experienced as a sharing in the full life of the resurrection. Married couples shape with different daily gestures a “God-enlightened space in which to experience the hidden presence of the risen Lord” (No. 317).

Human relationships aren’t lost in death. To the contrary, it’s there that the Lord of life makes them whole again. – America

Communication and Mercy: A fruitful encounter

wcd messagePope Francis’ message for the 50th World Day of Social Communications was released at a press conference in the Vatican on 24 Jan 2016, which is traditionally published in conjunction with the Memorial of St Francis de Sales, patron of writers. The message, entitled ‘Communication and Mercy: A Fruitful Encounter’ is focused on the responsibility of all communicators to promote caring and healthy relationships in our fragmented and polarised world.

Quoting from Shakespeare, the Gospels and the Old Testament, the Pope reminds us that, as Christians, our “every word and gesture, ought to express God’s compassion, tenderness and forgiveness for all.”  If our hearts and actions are inspired by charity and divine love, he says, then our communication will be touched by God’s power too.

As sons and daughters of God, the message stresses, we are called to communicate with everyone, without exception. Communication, the Pope insists, has the power to build bridges, to enable encounter and inclusion, to heal wounded memories and thus to enrich society. In both the material and the digital world, he says, our words and actions should help us all “escape the vicious circles of condemnation and vengeance which continue to ensnare individuals and nations, encouraging expressions of hatred”.

Pope Francis invites all people of good will to rediscover the power of mercy to heal wounded relationships and to restore peace and harmony to families and communities. Even when ancient wounds and lingering resentments stand in the way of communication and reconciliation, he says, mercy is able to create a new kind of speech and dialogue.

Our political and diplomatic language in particular, the Pope says, would do well to be inspired by mercy, which never loses hope He appeals to political and institutional leaders, as well as the media and opinion makers to remain especially attentive to the way they speak of those who think or act differently. Even when condemning sins such as violence, corruption and exploitation, the Pope says, we must speak with meekness and mercy that can touch hearts, rather than with harsh, moralistic words that can further alienate those we wish to convert.

True communication, the Pope says, means listening, valuing, respecting and being able to share questions and doubts. Online or in social networks, he stresses, we must remember that it’s not technology which guarantees authentic communication, but rather the human heart and our capacity to use wisely the means at our disposal.

The Pope concludes by encouraging everyone “to see society not as a forum where strangers compete and try to come out on top, but above all as a home or a family, where the door is always open and where everyone feels welcome”.

In sum he says “Communication is a gift of God which involves a great responsibility” and the “encounter between communication and mercy will be fruitful to the degree that it generates a closeness which cares, comforts, heals, accompanies and celebrates.” – Vatican Radio

 

KK Archdiocese gears up for “Communication and Mercy” programme

kk archd gears upKOTA KINABALU – The Archdiocese of Kota Kinabalu is geared to implement a special programme at parish level that is in line with the theme for this year’s 50th World Communication Day, “Communication and Mercy: A Fruitful Encounter”.

Planned and organised by its Commission on Social Communications (SOCCOM), this programme is aimed at helping Catholics in the Archdiocese to gain knowledge and understanding on the meaning and purpose of the Jubilee Year of Mercy.

This action is designed to bring this message of mercy right to the personal level, particularly in the healing of broken relationships within a Catholic family. This is in tune with what Pope Francis says in his WCD message, that communication has the power to build bridges and that words can build bridges between individuals and within families, social groups and peoples.

This year’s theme for the celebration was decided in order to coincide with the Jubilee of Mercy, the Holy Year called by Pope Francis to announce the mercy of God.

The choice of the theme is most appropriate. It is clearly determined by the celebration of the extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy, and the Holy Father undoubtedly wants to see that the World Communications Day would provide the appropriate occasion to reflect on the deep synergy between communication and mercy.

It should be recalled that in the ‘Bull of Indiction’ of the Jubilee Year, the Pope had affirmed that: “The Church is commissioned to announce the mercy of God, the beating heart of the Gospel, which in its own way must penetrate the heart and mind of every person.”

He adds: “Her language and her gestures must transmit mercy, so as to touch the hearts of all people and inspire them once more to find the road that leads to the Father. It is helpful, in this regard, to remember that our reflection is situated in the context of an awareness that communication is a key element for the promotion of a culture of encounter.”

The Pope, on this occasion, refers to the language and gestures of the Church but the context makes it clear that all men and women in their own communications, in their reaching out to meet others, ought to be motivated by a deep expression of welcome, availability and forgiveness.

The theme for WCD, therefore, highlights the capacity of good communication to open up a space for dialogue, mutual understanding and reconciliation, thereby allowing fruitful human encounters to flourish.

It was pointed out, when the theme was picked, that at a time when our attention is often drawn to the polarised and judgmental nature of much commentary on the social networks, the theme invokes the power of words and gestures to overcome misunderstandings, to heal memories and to build peace and harmony.

Once again, Pope Francis is reminding us that, in its essence, communication is a profoundly human achievement. Good communication is never merely the product of the latest or most developed technology, but is realised within the context of a deep interpersonal relationship.

SOCCOM in Kota Kinabalu has also lined up other activities to mark the 50th anniversary of the WCD, maintaining its tradition to celebrate the occasion each year without fail. The day is celebrated universally each year on the Sunday before Pentecost, which this year falls on May 8.

It is the practice in the Kota Kinabalu Archdiocese to allow parishes to volunteer the hosting of the annual World Communication Day celebration.

The venue for this year’s celebration takes a rural setting, at St Philip Neri, Pekan Nabalu, an outstation chapel  under the parish of St Pius X Bundu Tuhan, with a Holy Mass at 10.30 am that Sunday.

Last year, the SOCCOM of the Archdiocese of Kota Kinabalu celebrated the 49th WCD at the Church of the Assumption Sugud, hosted by the youth from three parishes – St Michael Penampang, Holy Trinity  Inobong and Holy Nativity Terawi. It was attended by over 300 youth from those parishes.

Fr Thomas Madanan, the Spiritual Adviser of SOCCOM, presided over the Mass in Bahasa Malaysia that focused on the “Family.”  He stressed that the family that prays together stays together, from cradle to grave, adding that the family is a resource and should not be viewed as burdensome.

Last year, the Catholic Sabah also observed its 3rd Catholic Sabah Day in conjunction with the 49th WCD on May 16, 2015. A forum was organised as a follow up to the Catholic Sabah Readership Survey two years ago.

At a thanksgiving dinner that day, Msgr Primus Jouil, the Editor of Catholic Sabah, highlighted the aims of World Communications Day, reminding Catholics of their responsibilities in communication and media consumption, their obligation to contribute funds, to pray and support those engaged in social communications of the church.

On that occasion, Archbishop John Wong spoke about the challenges faced by Catholic Sabah and the competitive nature of the media world.

“Everybody wants to be the first to tell a story. Everybody wants to share something new, something that’s the latest. This is the challenge people in the media world are facing. How then would Catholic Sabah face such challenges?” he asked.

Giving a clue to the direction the archdiocesan paper should take, the head of the archdiocese proposed that “as long as we aim to communicate truth, communicate love and communicate mercy and forgiveness to our readers, or in other words, communicate the Good News of Jesus who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, I believe our readers being distracted by so many things in life will find the contents of our paper appealing and relevant to their deeper yearnings.”

Each year on the Sunday that marks the WCD, parishes throughout the archdiocese would make a collection at the Masses as a means to contribute funds for social communications and the media apostolate.

The Catholic Sabah is a fortnightly publication that serves the Archdiocese of Kota Kinabalu, the Diocese of Keningau and the Diocese of Sandakan, covering the entire state. – SOCCOM, Archdiocese of Kota Kinabalu 

Charity dinner held to raise funds for Pilgrimage Centre Nulu Sosopon

charity dinnerKENINGAU –  Keningau Diocese’s 2016 charity dinner  was organized to raise funds for the development of Pilgrimage Centre Nulu Sosopon (PZKKNS). Over 1,000 people came to the dinner at Dataran Terbuka Keuskupan Keningau on 1 Apr 2016.

Organising chairperson, Maria Kuntou expressed her gratitude to all parishioners who were present that night. She commended their generosity and said that this has enabled the smooth progress of developing the pilgrimage centre. She also thanked Bishop Cornelius Piong for entrusting the organisation of this year’s dinner to her team. She hoped that all who gave generously have experienced the love of God.

In turn, Bishop Piong said the development of the centre has reached 95% in its construction. He also revealed at the same time, that an effort to build a cross-shaped tower of 70 feet height is in process. He hoped that this tower would become an attraction for Keningau Diocese as well as for the whole of Sabah.

He then enlightened the crowd on the spiritual meaning of ‘dinner (having a meal)’. He considered a charity dinner as an appropriate means to raise funds, because in the Catholic faith, ‘having a meal’ means fellowship and togetherness. Bishop Piong further explained that the purpose of attending the charity dinner was not solely to enjoy good food but to give thanks to God for His gifts and sustenance, and in their turn, the people would contribute to the charity purpose of the dinner.

Among the items for that night were lucky draws and singing performances by the diocesan priests, Seminarian David Gasikol and a few parishioners. Aldrin Benedict

Prelate blesses St Cecilia’s Shrine at SMK Konven St Cecilia

st cecilia shrineSANDAKAN – More than 100 people comprising members of the School Board of Governors, religious sisters, members of the Christian Students’ Movement (CSM) and teachers witnessed the blessing ceremony of St Cecilia’s Shrine officiated by Bishop Julius Gitom on 9 Apr 2016 at SMK Konven St Cecilia here.

The life-sized solid concrete statue of St Cecilia of about half a tonne was installed adjacent to the basketball court amidst a beautiful floral landscape of colourful flowers.

Construction of the shrine is intended to maintain the ethos, character as well as the identity of the school and to honour St Cecilia, the patron saint of the school. St Cecilia is the patroness of musicians. Construction work began in November 2015 and it took some five months to complete.

Cecilia D’Souza, chairperson of St Cecilia’s SBOG expressed her appreciation to Bishop Julius for the trust and confidence in the SBOG to construct and complete the shrine.

After the opening speech by the SBOG chairperson, all guests and attendees adjourned to the shrine to witness the blessing ceremony administered by the bishop, assisted by Fr Sunny Chung. – Rogena Sining

Catholic Women ‘s Apostolate celebrates IWD with Parish Women’s Day

cwa celebrationSANDAKAN – International Women’s Day was celebrated for the first time in St Mary’s Cathedral parish with the theme “Celebrating Women’s Call” on 12 Mar 2016 at the parish hall. One hundred and eighteen women participated in the one-day programme organised by the Catholic Women’s Apostolate of the Cathedral parish here. Here’s a testimony from Anathasia Thomas who speaks of being affected by such an initiative of the parish for women:

I am grateful to celebrate Women’s Day because there are many new things that I have learned. Through the activities and with Sr Appollonia fsic to guide us through the Scriptures, I was able to understand and learn more deeply about the uniqueness of woman and how special woman is.

“I was deeply touched by the sharing session and the activities conducted by Sr Maria rgs on “Why are you crying?”  As a woman, I have experienced many bitter experiences since my childhood. I realised that there are more women who are suffering because of violence and inhuman attitude of some parties.

Through the activity of ‘The Cup of Life,’  I learn about the goodness of sharing the Word of God with other women. To share and reflect on God’s Word together, we will be able to edify one another. We will also be blessed if we mutually help each other.  – Sr Appollonia

 

Some neophytes share their stories

This year over three thousand were baptised in the three dioceses of Sabah during the Easter Vigil and Easter Sunday Masses. Here are some of the testimonials of the neophytes on why they have “decided to follow Jesus”, and declared a “no turning back” for them, after a Christian hymn entitled “I have decided to follow Jesus” by which they sang with conviction and much gusto after their baptism rites.

 There’s no reason for me to turn back

ely sipinElly Sipin of SHC realised that being born into a Christian family does not just guarantee anybody eternal salvation unless we truly understand the sacrifice that God has made in order to save us from the curse of sin and henceforth to dedicate our life solely to God.

She recalled: “Ever since I  attended the RCIA class, I have truly understood how to live my life as how God wants me to.” Elly insisted that making God as the centre of her life “has guided me in every decision making.”

She philosophised that life always would have its ups and downs but “I know that there’s no reason for me to turn back or resort to the worldly things as He has finished His work and I am saved!”

She marvelled how she now looks at the crucifix not in the same way as she used to look at it, “Nothing is greater than the price which He has paid for me on the cross.”

Professing her love for Jesus, she became open to being taught by His Words to deal with people regardless of their colour, character and status.   “I have been more loving, empathic and merciful and would want everyone to know the merciful God that I serve in my life, in my daily walk, in my career and when dealing with families and friends!” said Elly.

However, like Jesus, a price has to be paid. She experienced that “Along the way, people treat me differently because of my decision to follow Him. I cried at times questioning God why I had to face such people.” She believed that God is purifying and strengthening her so that she can be “a living testimony to others.” She said that she does not harbour hard feelings or hatred. Instead,  “I have a stronger desire to pray for them so that they may see how great my God is and one day that they will also truly understand the beauty of our Father’s work!”  She said that the journey in RCIA has “opened my eyes and my mind to His amazing grace. I want to trust in Him wholeheartedly as Mother Mary trusted Him.”

My heart is certain that this is where I belong”

paulinePaulina Irawan of SHC came from a Buddhist background but after going through the RCIA journey and being initiated into the Catholic Church during Easter Vigil was certain that this was where she belonged. She found herself having arrived ‘home.’

She recalled her childhood and growing up years were not a happy journey. “My mother died when I was 5 and my father sent me and my sister to a Catholic orphanage in Surabaya for three years. I know nothing about Catholicism, nor what religion is. The orphanage took good care of us, although everything goes by strict rules. Our daily routine started and ended with prayers, 5am Mass, and going to school.”

She also related that her favourite pastime was surprisingly reading the bible. “For me, it’s like never-ending stories to read. Watching the movie of the journey of Jesus Christ has also touched my heart deeply.”

When her father took her and her sister back to their hometown, he remarried a buddhist wife, who later taught them Buddhism. Since then she labeled herself a Buddhist.

Then she married a Catholic and her son was baptised when he was just a few months old. “We went to Sacred Heart Cathedral to have our marriage blessed before our son could be baptised” recalled Paulina.

However, when her son turned 8, she came face to face with questions like “Where do I actually belong? Where my son is going?  Where am I going?”

She recalled her journey: “One day I just woke up and decided to embrace Catholicism. I registered for RCIA at Sacred Heart Cathedral. Through the RCIA journey, I have come to know more about the church, the Sacraments and about Mass. I can now actually teach my son more about faith and to share it with my husband.”

“I feel like I’ve been Catholic all my life. But only now, I feel I am truly home. I am very excited and enthusiastic to share this journey with my family and with Jesus” said Paulina.

She ended: “On 26th of March, I was initiated into the Catholic Church. I thank God for this beautiful new life.”

“I am so glad that I have decided to follow Jesus”

jeffrey teohIn answer to the question “What made me want to be a Catholic?”  Dr Jeffery Teoh of SHC responded with clarity, “I want to know more about Christianity.”

He recalled “I survived a serious motor accident in 2008, which I actually felt God’s saving hand on me, and I knew that he has given me a second chance. But at that time, I hesitated to embrace Christianity, until I met my fiancée who is a catholic. Through her I became a more disciplined person. I began to go to church and to search for Jesus (the Truth). Thus began my journey by joining RCIA classes.”

That there were the noticeable changes in him since joining the RCIA classes, Teoh could not deny: “for example my bad attitude gave way to a better attitude, jealousy became a thing in the past, and I have learned to be a more generous person. I have also learned to pray daily more earnestly. Mass attendance with my fiancée has become a regular thing despite my hectic schedule as a medical doctor in the public hospital.”

The RCIA journey has enabled him to discover and understand more about the Catholic faith and its rich traditions. “I am learning to give my all to Him and to trust Him in whatever situation I face” said the re-born doctor. “I am so glad that I have decided to follow Jesus. There’s no turning back.” he acknowledged and was grateful to his fiancée for always being there for him.

Through the RCIA process, I discover my faith”

hermanHerman Khoo of St Mary’s Cathedral Sandakan made the decision to go for RCIA class because he wanted to know what the Catholic faith is all about. Though he is married to a Catholic, he is unaware of the faith that his family professes. “I am interested to learn from the church’s teaching and most importantly, what my children are learning about the faith” said Herman.

After journeying for nine months in RCIA he learnt and understood that basically RCIA is more about sharing the experience of God in our life, as well as learning the teaching, culture and the faith of Catholic Church.

Seeing light out of his situation of darkness, he said,  “Now I know and understand why there is Mass, why we need to attend Mass, why and how Jesus died for us, why we have sin, the Sacraments and more about Jesus Christ and the role of Mother Mary in the life of Church.”

The RCIA process has enabled him to discover his faith, which to his understanding, “has begun to take root and grow. I now believe in Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. I believe this is the beginning of my faith” but he also acknowledged “I still need Jesus to guide me, and there is still much for me to learn and understand from the Bible.”

God has not abandoned her desire to be a child of God

estelleEstelle of St Mary’s Cathedral was born to a Catholic family and brought up in the Catholic environment, although she was not baptised and had no knowledge of the teaching of the Church.

As a child, Estelle recalled her constant desire to be a Catholic. For family reasons, her desire to be a member of the church did not materialise. But little did she know that God has a plan for her. God has not abandoned her or her desire to be a child of God.

Last year, she was shown the way to the RCIA process. Through the dedicated commitment of the facilitators and their willingness to share their own faith experiences, she began to understand the Catholic faith, what it means to be a Catholic and how to live life as a Catholic.

“I began to know about God and one way of staying close to God is to read the bible. I was excited to be baptised this Easter, thanks to the guidance of the facilitators” said Estelle.

God actually noticed me”

stephanieStephanie Tai of St Mary’s Cathedral sensed that something was missing in her life and tried to fill it with other things and entertainments, but the emptiness still persisted.

So she started going to church with her boyfriend and his family. Though she did not know God, she talked to God every day to guide and lead her to Him. She felt that God actually noticed her! “I felt that God knows the emptiness in me through my struggle to get close to him. He gave me a chance to know Him by leading me to the RCIA process.”

Stephanie noticed how she has changed along the journey.  “In the first few months after joining the RCIA, my life changed for the better, I am becoming a more forgiving person!” she said.  “I feel closer to the Lord as I learned from the teaching and guidance from the facilitators. I am thankful to the Lord for giving me this opportunity. I was filled with joy and peace as I prepared myself for baptism during Easter.”

New Mission Tadika opens at St Catherine

Mission Tadika Sinar Sukacita opened its doors to children on Jan 11, this year following approval by the Education Department of the application for registration of the kindergarten. Currently, Tadika Sinar Sukacita has 52 children between the ages of 4 to 6 enrolled in the kindergarten.

Tadika Sinar Sukacita St Catherine is one of thirteen new mission kindergartens that were established over the past year in the Archdiocese of Kota Kinabalu. Five of these new mission kindergartens are in the Inanam Parish. This remarkable emergence of so many mission kindergartens in a short time is largely due the commitment and unstinting efforts from the members of the Archdiocese Early Childhood Committee in support of the Vision and Mission promulgated by Archbishop John Wong. The committee was entrusted with the objective to inculcate our Catholic faith to the young children of pre-school age and to build a strong foundation of love for Jesus and the Church. – AECEC, Ephraim Koujou

How one mom balances Faith, Family and Work

working momIs it possible in today’s world to be a faithful Catholic, loving wife, devoted mother and a successful businesswoman?

Paige Barry of Atlanta strives to do so each day. Barry is a 43-year-old working mother of two who has been married for 15 years. She is a senior vice president with a Fortune 500 global technology provider serving the financial services industry. In addition to her career and busy home life, she is actively involved in her parish and runs the successful career ministry at her church.

How has your Catholic faith affected the way you handle your career?

My Catholic faith is instrumental to every aspect of my career. I read my Magnificat to centre me for my day. I use prayer to prepare me for difficult conversations. I pray for the individuals who work for me who are struggling in their jobs; and I ask God for guidance in my big career decisions.

As a Catholic business leader, I feel I have a responsibility to see God in everyone I work with, especially the people I find most difficult. I enjoy sharing prayers with my staff who I know are open to a relationship with God; and I find myself in frequent conversations answering questions about our Catholic faith.

As a wife, mother and Catholic, how do you balance life’s demands?

I believe that God expands time to allow us to serve him, and I look for ways to integrate my family with my ministry work. I have invited job seekers to our home for one-on-one coaching, which allows me to be present to my children and show them one way we can love our neighbour. One of my favourite ministries is playing Bingo at a nursing home. The kids and I do that together. The balance comes by limiting my time away from home to no more than one night a week and preferably only one night every other week. When work requires my time and focus when I am scheduled to serve others, and it has this past year, I have leaned on volunteers and God to provide in my absence. He always does.

Does your team know you are Catholic? How does this affect their interactions with you?

I wear my Catholicism on my sleeve. I am immensely proud of our faith. I try not to be overbearing, and I am always looking for ways to preach the Gospel without words. I find that using well-known Scripture verses or saying something like, “God always provides” or showing gratitude by saying, “Praise God!” sometimes opens a door to discussing faith in the workplace. Sometimes people just hear it as mere words. I can’t think of a single time anyone has ever questioned or objected to the way I insert my faith into the way I approach work.

The key for me living my Catholic faith in the workplace is to maintain my humility at all times while being open to being God’s instrument. This is not easy for me, as I struggle with self-sufficiency and pride daily. There is a prayer to the Holy Spirit I use every day to help remind me of the need to be humble and to let God use me for his purposes. I keep that prayer posted in my office right behind my phone; and it is also saved to my cellphone if I need it while I am away from my desk.

I have had the occasion to share that prayer twice recently with two non-Catholic Christians. One works for me and is a woman of prayer who is all about love and giving. The other is a fellow job-search support volunteer who, like me, believes that a strong relationship with God is the best (and first) job-search tool anyone in transition needs. They love the prayer, use it and have shared it with others.

With a hectic job, enormous demands on your time and typical life stress, how do you find time for prayer?

Some days I am much better at it than others. I try to start every day with prayer and at least 10 minutes reading my Magnificat with my first cup of coffee. I am not a morning person, so this is a difficult discipline. If I am running late, I take my Magnificat to work and try reading it while my laptop is booting up or I’ll read it when a conference call ends early. My husband is a musician, and, for my birthday, he made me a CD of him praying the Divine Mercy Chaplet. I keep it in my car so I can pray it during my commute. In the past year, I have improved and increased my night prayer by praying intercessory novenas; I use the “Team Novena” app on my iPhone. And I try to pray at least four novenas concurrently. For me, night prayer has been an easier discipline than Morning Prayer. The first 20 minutes I am in bed at night I devote to prayer.

I absolutely love to read, and, as much as I can, I read everything on my Kindle, so I can take several books with me wherever I go. I am always reading more than one book at a time, and I don’t pressure myself to finish faith-formation reading in a specific period of time.

What legacy do you want to leave behind? How do you want to be remembered by family, friends and co-workers?

I hope people would describe me as generous, loyal and prayerful. I pray my family remembers me as a woman true to herself who loved well. I pray my friends remember me as someone who would offer prayers for them and actually prayed them. I pray my co-workers remember me as someone with exceptionally high standards who worked hard to encourage the growth of others.

What I want most of all is for God to be pleased with how I used the many, many gifts he has given me: my marriage, my children and all the blessings that have allowed me to enjoy such a terrific career. I am eager to hear him tell me some day I got things right and followed the path he chose for me. – Randy Hain @ www.ncregister.com

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