Thought for First Week of Advent


AdventAnimWreath1The new liturgical year starts with the First Sunday of Advent which falls on 29 Nov 2015. In this new liturgical year, the Church not only wishes to indicate the beginning of a period, but the beginning of a renewed commitment to the faith by all those who follow Christ, the Lord. This time of prayer and path of penance that is so powerful, rich and intense, endeavours to give us a renewed impetus to truly welcome the message of the One who was incarnated for us. In fact, the entire Liturgy of the Advent Season, will spur us to an awakening in our Christian life and will put us in a ‘vigilant’ disposition, to wait for Our Lord Jesus who is coming:

‘Awaken! Remember that God comes! Not yesterday, not tomorrow, but today, now! The one true God, “the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob”, is not a God who is there in Heaven, unconcerned with us and our history, but he is the-God-who-comes.

The Season of Advent is therefore a season of vigilant waiting, that prepares us to welcome the mystery of the Word Incarnate, who will give the ‘Light’ to the womb of the Virgin Mary, but essentially this time prepares us not only to welcome this great event but to incarnate it in our lives. We could say that the true light enters the world through the immaculate womb of Mary but it does not stay there. On the contrary, this light flows out into our dark, obscure, sinful lives to illuminate them, so that we can become the light that illuminates the world. For this reason, let us live this time of waiting not only to celebrate a historical memory but to repeat this memory in our lives and in the service of others. To wait for the Lord who comes, means to wait and to watch so that the Word of Love enters inside us and focuses us every day of our lives.

The Advent Wreath is a great tradition to implement in all homes during the Advent Season.

Obscure in origin it is believed that the Advent Wreath may have had its beginnings in the pagan fire wheel. In Christian symbolism the wheel or wreath stands for eternity. Its use is especially fitting during Advent the season of the anticipation of the coming of our Lord. Lighting candles in an Advent Wreath is a simple way to start a tradition of family worship in the home.

The ceremony is simple. It starts at the evening meal on the Saturday before the first Sunday in Advent with the blessing of the wreath.

(The head of the household is the one designated to say the prayers following which various members of his family light the candles. If the group is not a family then a leader may be selected to say the prayers and others appointed to light the candles.)

For blessing the wreath the following prayer is suggested:

Father: O God, by whose word all things are sanctified, pour forth thy blessing upon this wreath, and grant that we who use it may prepare our hearts for the coming of Christ and may receive from Thee abundant graces. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Then follows the prayer which is said before the evening meal each night of the first week in Advent.

The First Week

Head of Household: O Lord, stir up Thy might, we beg Thee, and come that by Thy protection we may deserve to be rescued from the threatening dangers of our sins and saved by Thy deliverance. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Each night the first purple candle is lighted by the youngest child of the household and is left burning during the meal.

Nov 30

Cathedral Parish accepts 174 inquirers into Order of Catechumenate

The catechumens are being signed by their sponsors during the rite.

The catechumens are being signed by their sponsors during the rite.

KOTA KINABALU – Sacred Heart Cathedral Parish here accepted  a total number of 174 inquirers into the Order of Catechumenate over the weekend of 28-29 Nov 2015 – the First Sunday of Advent.  Around 45 adults and 28 children were accepted during the 6 pm English Sunset Mass Nov 28 while 90 adults and 11 children were accepted during the 10:45 am BM Mass Nov 29.  Another 40 inquirers would be accepted during the 7 am Chinese Mass Dec 6.

The first of the public rituals celebrated in the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) is the Rite of Acceptance into the order of Catechumens (for unbaptized Catechumens) and the Rite of Welcome (for baptized adult candidates preparing to celebrate Confirmation and Eucharist in the Catholic Church). An important moment in the Rite is when each candidate is asked if they are ready to accept the Gospel Way of Life. Their affirmation is a public expression of their intention to follow the way of Jesus Christ. The candidates are also marked by the sign of the cross by our priest and their sponsors. With this ancient mark, they are claimed for Christ.  Part of the rite is the giving of the Bible to each catechumen after the homily.

After being placed in formal relationship with the Church through the Rite of Acceptance and Welcoming, the Catechumens (unbaptized) and Candidates (baptized) enter a period of receiving gradual and systematic instruction in the teachings of the Catholic Faith based on the Catechism, as well as a time of formation in prayer and works of charity. They also receive special blessings and prayers and participate on Sundays in the Breaking Open the Word-a shared discussion on the meaning of the Scriptures for their lives.

Nov 30

Likas parish marks parish day with three events

Abp Wong sprinkles the people with holy water during the rite of blessing.

Abp Wong sprinkles the people with holy water during the rite of blessing.

LIKAS, Kota Kinabalu – St Simon Parish here marked its parish day – though a month late – with three events: blessing of its renovated church, confirmation of 31 candidates and 34 children received their first Holy Communion on 29 Nov 2015.  The parish day is normally celebrated on Oct 28 – feast of Sts Simon and Jude.  Archbishop John Wong presided over the Mass, concelebrated with parish priest Fr Cosmas Lee, assisted by Deacon Joshua Liew.

The high Mass began with Abp Wong blessing the renovated church with holy water.  The renovation consisted of a new flooring (the carpet was taken out), new ceiling and new airconditon units replacing the old ones, a choir loft was added above the main entrance so that there would be more room for the parishioners to worship, additional awning was constructed around the church.  During the six-month period of renovation (amounting to almost RM1 million) the Eucharist was celebrated in the parish hall.  Moreover, the surroundings were beautifully landscaped and the Marian grotto was moved to the interior near the gardener’s quarters so that it would be more conducive for the devotees to pray there.

The Mass proceeded normally with the Rite of Confirmation held after the homily.  The first communicants received the Lord at the Rite of Communion.  After the Mass, most adjourned to the parish hall for the reception.  In his address to the parishioners, the prelate reminded them to “read the Bible, receive the sacraments, live the commandments, and go forth to evangelise.”

Nov 29

GS Seminar draws unexpected response

Fr Toni touches on the various themes of the document.

Fr Toni touches on the various themes of the document.

KOTA KINABALU – Although only 260 people registered for the Gaudium et Spes (Church in the Modern World) seminar, almost 400 turned up for it, taking the organisers by surprise.  The seminar, conducted in Bahasa Melayu/Bahasa Indonesia on 28 Nov 2015 at the Sacred Heart Parish Centre here, was held in conjunction with the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council by the Archdiocesan Human Development Commission (AHDC).

The speaker was Fr Paulus Toni Tantiono, a Franciscan Capuchin Friar from Pontianak, Kalimantan.  The document, released in 1965, deepened and expanded the Church’s self-awareness as a People-in-Community, called together by Christ to love and serve God, each other, and all the human family.  The speaker touched on the two parts of the document: (1) The Church and Human Vocation – human dignity, human community, human beings at work in the world, the Church in the modern world; and (2) Some Major Concerns – marriage and family, development of culture, socio-economic life, political life, and peace.  He also took time to explain its shortcomings.

A spokesperson for the organisers said that plans are afoot to invite the speaker back to talk on the other social encyclicals.  He said it was the first time the AHDC has organised such a seminar on a specific document although the commission has gone to the parishes to raise the awareness of the social encyclicals in general.  The unexpected large turnout manifested a sign of the people’s hunger to understand more the Church’s teachings on relevant socio-economic-political issues touching their lives.

Nov 29

Thousands attend Divine Mercy Seminar

A section of the crowd attending the seminar.

A section of the crowd attending the seminar.

KOTA KINABALU – Over a thousand people from all walks of life attended the Divine Mercy Seminar at the Sacred Heart Parish Centre here on 21-22 Nov 2015.  Many of these participants came from outside the Kota Kinabalu Archdiocese.  The seminar, conducted in Bahasa Melayu, was in preparation for the Jubilee Year of Mercy.  Prior to this, registration was held at the church entrance before and after the BM Mass on 8 and 15 November.  It was organised by the parish Divine Mercy Apostolate.  The seminar touched on the history of the devotion and its message, life of St Faustina, the chaplet, and others pertinent to it.  The participants also went through the experience itself.  The devotion is conducted in English on Saturdays, in Chinese before the 7 am Mass on Sundays.

Nov 28

Be Advent people

opinion2Advent is the liturgical season of vigilance or, to put it more mundanely, of waiting. During the four weeks prior to Christmas, we light the candles of our Advent wreaths and put ourselves in the spiritual space of the Israelite people who, through many long centuries, waited for the coming of the Messiah.

In the course of the Christian tradition, there is much evidence of this spirituality of waiting. Relatively late in life Ignatius of Loyola realized he was being called by God to do great things. But before he found his path he passed through a wide variety of experiences in the course of many years. Only at the end of this long sojourn-founding the Company of Jesus-did he realize the great thing God called him to do.

All of this, I submit, is very hard for most of us. I suppose we human beings have always been in a hurry, but modern people especially seem to want what they want when they want it. We are driven, determined, goal-oriented, fast-moving.

So what sense can we make of the countercultural and counterintuitive spirituality of vigilance? The first thing we have to realize is that we and God are, quite simply, on different time tables. The second letter of Peter states this truth with admirable directness: “To you, O Lord, a thousand years are like a day” (2 Peter 3:8).

To the God who stands outside of space and time and who orders the whole of creation, our hours, days, years, eons have a radically different meaning. What is a long time to us is an instant for God, and hence what seems like delay to us is no delay at all to God. What seems like dumb and pointless waiting to us can be the way that God, in a unique and finally mysterious manner, is working God’s purposes out.

Or perhaps we are made to wait because we are not yet adequately prepared to receive what God wants to give us. In his remarkable letter to Proba, Saint Augustine argued that the purpose of unanswered prayer is to force expansion of the heart. When we don’t get what we want, we begin to want it more and more, with ever greater insistency, until our souls are on fire with the desire for it. Sometimes it is only a sufficiently expanded and enflamed heart that can take in what God intends to give.

What would happen to us if we received, immediately and on our own terms, everything we wanted? We might be satisfied in a superficial way, but we wouldn’t begin to appreciate the preciousness of the gifts. After all, the Israelites had to wait thousands of years before they were ready to receive God’s greatest gift.

The entire Bible ends on a note not so much of triumph and completion as longing and expectation: “Come, Lord Jesus.” The followers of the risen Jesus have all waited for the Second Coming and have hence all been Advent people. Let us also be Advent people. – Bishop Robert Barron @

Nov 28

Bishop Julius Gitom’s Advent Message: Total openness to serve others is our hallmark

adventTo everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven. As we enter into the liturgical season of Advent, we begin a new liturgical cycle. The four weeks of the season will lead us to be more aware of ourselves, our sinful state and our will to repent. The cycle will also fill us with joyful hope, the birth of Jesus Christ.

Advent reminds us to be alert and ready at all times to meet God. We recognize that He is present in several ways – in the community, in the Scriptures and in a most remarkable way in the Eucharist, becoming the very person and presence of Christ. The coming of Jesus is beautifully linked with every Mass, for Christ comes again when we gather for Eucharist.

We must be intentionally aware, no matter how busy we may be and the heavy burdens we bear that God is always near us. He shows us his love in ways that we may not see. He showers his blessings in abundance upon us through various means. Freely he has given us and freely he asks us to give.

What is the perfect gift? It is the gift of God’s only Son whose birth we prepare to celebrate. May we show our gratitude by sharing our gifts with others, allowing God’s light to shine through us to those most in need. Our Holy Father, Pope Francis has been most vocal in urging the people of faith to always extend a hand to the lost, least, last and the lonely.

I cite the gist of Pope Francis’ sermon 15 Feb 2015 that the Roman Catholic Church must be open and welcoming, whatever the cost. He urged the cardinals to move more towards reaching out to the poor and the social outcasts. ‘We will not find the Lord unless we truly accept the marginalised. We should see the ‘crucified Lord’ in the hungry, the displaced, those in prison or even those who have lost their faith. A total openness to serving others is our hallmark.’

Let us remind ourselves that as followers of Christ, we should always be ‘reaching out’ to other people regardless of their faith. We have to live by example, good deeds and charity when relating to people.

In the early part of the year, the plight of thousands of Rohingya and Bangladeshi boat people stranded at the open sea of Malaysia hoping to seek refuge in our nation, Thailand and Indonesia, initially rejected were eventually given temporary shelter. Mass graves of migrants and suspected human trafficking detention camps were discovered at the northern tip of West Malaysia bordering Thailand is a cause of concern for all people. It’s simply unimaginable how such inhumane harm could be inflicted on other fellow beings.

In April, a 7.8 magnitude earthquake hit the Himalayan nation killing thousands of people and destroying thousands of houses. The tragedy drew the attention of the international community. Relief work and aids came pouring in to help the devastated nation.

The 5.9 magnitude earthquake that shook Mount Kinabalu and its surrounding areas in early June of the year claimed the lives of 18 victims, left so many people in pain, hurt and despair. The aftermath with muddy flash floods hitting riverside villages in and around Ranau had caused undue hardship to the kampong folks. It was indeed a dark chapter in the history of Sabah.

Looking at the brighter side, the calamities moved many quarters coming forward to extend a helping hand to alleviate their plights. The loving concern of the people is a sign of Hope, hope of the coming of Christ. Charity is at the center of our Church’s mission. Our charitable work reminds those who suffer that they are never alone.

The Pope’s discourse at the Close of the Synod on Family called on all to proclaim the Gospel to the men and women of today. We are to defend the family from ideological and individualistic assaults amidst the challenge of the richness of our diversity, seeking always to embrace the goodness and mercy of God.

We continue to gaze at the image of the Holy Family as we await the coming of our Lord Jesus so as to prepare ourselves and our family spiritually for the event. This way, we will build up our family, an integral component of our Christian community. By this, we may proclaim the mystery of family love as authentic witnesses.

The Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy, to be launched on 8 December 2015 is a timely event for all us to turn our eyes to the centre, the Mercy of God. Let us be bearer of the Word of the Lord: ‘Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful’ (Lk 6:36) and bring others into contact with the compassionate Mercy that saves. In this moment of Mercy, let us manifest the Mercy of God for all mankind in words and deeds.

Like Blessed Mother Teresa said, ‘we shall need the hands of Christ to touch these bodies wounded by pain and suffering. Intense love does not measure – it just gives. Let us move forth to give and share our treasure, not merely during this season but throughout our life. That way, we will have a blessed, meaningful and fruitful Advent and certainly will enable us to celebrate the glorious birth of our Saviour.

May this time of Advent be an opportunity for us to pause and spend time with Jesus, who is, who was, and who will be.

Nov 22

KK cathedral parish celebrates 34th dedication anniversary

Abp Wong addresses those present at the fellowship after Mass.

Abp Wong addresses those present at the fellowship after Mass.

KOTA KINABALU – Sacred Heart Cathedral Parish here has a low-keyed celebration of its 34th dedication anniversary on 22 Nov 2015, the Solemnity of Christ the King.

Parish priest Abp John Wong presided at the BM Mass, concelebrated with Fr Willfred Atin, one of four assistant priests of the cathedral, assisted by Deacon Joshua Liew  at the altar.

In his homily, the prelate dwelt on the readings of the day, elaborating on the kingship of Jesus.  He also touched on the meaning of the dedication anniversary.

In his address at the fellowship at the parish centre after Mass, Abp Wong told those present that the dedication anniversary is an occasion whereby the leaders of the seventy plus groups/ministries in the parish can get to know each other so that they can work together for the good of the parish.

In his turn, Parish Pastoral Council Chairman Jason Joenoi briefed those present about the recent PAX Assembly and the need to integrate the outcome into the parish planning.

Nov 20

New bishop for Melaka-Johor appointed


bp tan n successor bernard paulKUALA LUMPUR – Msgr Anthony Bernard Paul from the Diocese of Penang has been appointed the new Bishop of Melaka-Johor Diocese by Pope Francis on November 19.

The Holy Father accepted the resignation presented by Bp. Paul Tan Chee Ing, SJ from the pastoral governance of the diocese of Melaka-Johor, Malaysia, in accordance with canon 401 § 1 of the Code of Canon Law, and appointed Rev. Anthony Bernard Paul, presently parish priest of the Cathedral and Vicar for Pastoral Care of the Diocese Penang, as the new bishop of the Diocese of Melaka-Johor.

Archbishop Joseph Salvador Marino, the Apostolic Nuncio to Malaysia made the announcement at 7.00pm.

Msgr Bernard was born in Kuala Lumpur on July 6, 1953. After completing his education, he entered the seminary in Penang and was ordained a priest on July 21, 1989.

He has served in almost all the states in the Penang Diocese except for Kelantan. After his ordination, he was posted to St Mary’s Church Tapah as assistant parish priest. Three years later, he was appointed parish priest of the same church. In 1995, he became the parish priest of the Church of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Butterworth.

In 1998, he became the administrator of the Church of the Immaculate Conception in Penang and the Church of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in Kulim, Kedah. One year later, he was the parish priest of Church of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in Kulim until 2005.

Then he served for five years as the Parish priest of Our Lady of Lourdes in Silibin, Ipoh.

From 2010 until now he has been the parish priest of the Cathedral of the Holy Spirit, Penang.

Besides his tenure as a parish pastor, Bishop-elect Bernard has also served as the Vocation Director in 1996 and in 2006 as the Director of the Diocesan Pastoral Commission.

He was appointed Vicar-general of the Diocese under two bishops. His first was under Bishop Antony Selvanayagam from 1997-2000 and later under Bishop Sebastian Francis from 2012 until present.

In July 2014, Msgr Bernard celebrated his 25 sacerdotal anniversary at the Holy Spirit Cathedral.

Pedro Geronimo, the PPC chairman of the parish described Msgr Bernard as “a man of vision and highly organised. Through his vision for our parish we have run many effective and powerful programmes. Our youth are also blessed to have a parish priest who is caring and friendly.

Bishop Sebastian has described him as “a Father, Priest, Shepherd, Friend, Confessor, …” an Enabler, a Disciplinarian and a Fun Guy.

For many, the bishop-elect is known as a humble and open priest. – Herald Malaysia.