KOTA KINABALU – At the Christmas Vigil Mass, KK prelate Archbishop John Wong quoted Pope St John Paul II that “Christ is the sacrament of the invisible God – a sacrament that indicates presence…. and now, God is with us!”
He brings home the message of Emmanuel “God is with us”, whose birth we celebrate at Christmas… “A saviour born for us”.
Keeping the question “Why do we celebrate Christmas?” burning in our hearts, the prelate invited his listeners to “open the eyes of faith to see that God is not invisible, or distant from any of us”.
He underlined “We can see Him, touch Him, hear Him in the sacraments of the Church, and in the Word of God.”
“He is a God who is never far from any of us. He is present. We can find Him in each of our success, and even in each of our failure, hurt, grief, anger, or joy,” said Archbishop Wong.
He added “We can also find Him in every person, and in our very own life.”
After the Gospel, Archbishop Wong placed and incensed the baby Jesus in the manger. Drawing the people’s focus on the baby in the manger, he probed further “What do you see? What is your experience?”
Archbishop Wong invited the 3000-crowd, who packed the Sacred Heart Cathedral on that Christmas Vigil Night, and occupied every single seat placed between the Cathedral to the foyer of the parish hall, to ruminate the meaning of Christmas by providing three words: Emmanuel, Free Gift, and Silent.
Emmanuel… We need to hear the Lord saying to us “I am the God who is with you here, now and forever. Today, I am born for you!
“Open your life to Him. Let God be in your comings and goings, your joys and pains, your dreams and fears.”
Free Gift... “As part of the physical preparation for Christmas, we have been buying gifts for others, as well as being tempted to expect gifts from others, gifts that you like, or gifts that are not to your liking. But did you realize that the greatest gift for us to receive is the “free gift” that comes down from heaven, the Son of God?
“We should bring this “gift” home, which has been freely given to us by God, and give to your children/family, your friends, your colleagues, your acquaintances, etc.”
Silent… “The familiar hymn Silent Night, Holy Night bids us to share in the ‘night’ made holy by our Saviour. But in order to have a share in the ‘holiness’, we need to be ‘silent’ and ‘calm’ from the many voices that bombard us from the world and from the frenzied busyness that move us from one activity/program to the other.
This year the Cathedral featured two mangers, a beautiful large one at the foyer of the parish hall and a smaller but simpler one at the Sanctuary, which provided a more reflective ambience for the faithful to ponder over the ‘baby’ lying there.
Meanwhile the Christmas Cantata, prior to the Vigil Mass, masterfully crafted a wonderful balance between “fresh” and “familiar”, “new” and “nostalgic”, remembering Christmases past, while celebrating new traditions and the glorious hope of God with us. – CS
THOUGH only two months old, Borneo Bamboo Straw has attracted attention from interested parties.
“SMK Kolombong has ordered more than 100 sets of bamboo straws from us as door gifts,” informed Lissa Johannes, the young prime mover of Borneo Bamboo Straw under the auspices of SK Lambidan Menumbok (see main story).
“It has also received an enquiry from a well-known local hotel in Kota Kinabalu who is concerned about beating single-use plastic in their premises. A meeting was convened between us in Nov 2018, which will lead to a site visit to Menumbok at an appointed date in 2019,” she revealed.
Besides, they have also collaborated with Taman Pelancongan and Tagal Komuniti, Kg Rantai Apin-Apin to promote bamboo straws at the Crocker Range Festival in Keningau Nov 24.
The enterprising young environmentalist had more to share: “The latest order comes from a German who wants to promote bamboo straws produced in Borneo.” Lissa promotes the budding enterprise in the Borneo Bamboo Straw Instagram profile.
Although the effort to use bamboo straw as an alternative has yet to pick up locally, what matters is the awareness of it as an alternative to beat single-use plastic usage.
“Pollution, especially plastic pollution, in our globe has reached a critical stage. We need to take action. In fact it is already late… hence, the need to increase awareness of this environmental threat to as many people as possible,” said an impassioned Lissa.
She describes her own life calling as one that is gearing towards the care of environment, our common home “What I learn and do at school, I make it a point to bring it to my family, the church and practise it in the society,” she shared.
She also takes Pope Francis’ Encyclical Laudato Si as a guide, with which she plumbs for a deeper understanding of the importance of care of creation.
Lissa maintained “Wherever I am planted, there I can act and give.”
She also expressed her hope on the Church “The Church needs to take part in caring for creation. The leaders need to play their role and support related efforts on this issue at a local setting.”
For example, she suggested the Church could act, even though the efforts are small, such as beginning with commentators at Sunday Masses to encourage people not to leave any rubbish inside the Church or its compound.
Warming up to the role of the Church, Lissa confirmed that the youth have brought up their concern on the lack of support by parish priests and parish leaders for any green activities such as beach clean-up.
Not one to give up easily, Lissa impressed on the Church the need to feature annual celebration such as World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation as many of the faithful are not aware of such an event, which is celebrated globally by Catholics. – Linda Edward
WHO would have thought that a service stint at the 4th Sabah Youth Day (SYD-4) in Tawau would turn out to be a stepping stone for Borneo Bamboo Straw, an enterprise that says no to plastic straw? It is one of those surprises in life!
Ester Ermerlissa Ngoai, or better known as Lissa Johannes among her peers, is a youth from St Thomas Becket Kelampun, under the care of St Peter Bundu, Kuala Penyu.
Lissa, 31, works as a teacher at SK Lambidan Menumbok, which runs a program called SERASI, or Sekolah Rakan Alam Sekitar (Environmental Friendly School) created by the Sabah Environmental Department to bring awareness to the care of our environment.
How did the idea of the bamboo straw come about?
In June 2016, Lissa was assigned to serve at the SYD-4 as a sub-MOT (Main Organizing Team) for the Gallery Walk at one of the stations called “Hero Ecology”. The task, which involved preparing materials, visiting the landfill site in Kayu Madang, conducting research and interviews with members of society concerning environment was an eye-opener for her.
The service stint opened her eyes to see creation with the eyes of faith, which spurred her on to make it her own personal mission.
While production and usage of plastic is widespread, accumulating our landfills and becoming a source of pollution to the environment, the awareness to combat this ugly threat is on the rise globally.
Single-use plastic is often associated with plastic pollution crisis in which about 40% of plastic production is aimed for packaging, and which inadvertently contributes to the highest waste production (Source: Science Advances, 2017).
Depending on region, this category involves all stages of consumers, from manufacturers to suppliers and end users, such as domestic homes.
While global awareness on this issue has triggered efforts to combat this giant menace, mostly aimed at single-use plastic, it has at the same time suggested alternatives that are durable and re-usable.
Meanwhile, in our own backyard, Lissa has responded to the single-use plastic crisis by producing bamboo straws as an alternative to plastic straws.
“I spotted a video in social media posted by Dane Kovacs, popularly known as ‘Orang Putih Kita’, who highlighted on a restaurant that embarked on using bamboo straws,” recalled Lissa.
“It got me thinking, and I began to ask the school canteen workers, who belonged to a local community in Menumbok, whether their village possessed a source of bamboo from which straws could be produced,” she added.
To her surprise, she received a positive response, “not only from our canteen workers, but also from the school security guard, who supported the project by looking for alternate sources of bamboo!”
Lissa was pleased to point out “Incidentally, the theme for World Environment Day in 2018, which was also celebrated by SK Lambidan, was “Beat Plastic Pollution”. The bamboo straw idea is therefore in line with the theme to combat single-use plastic usage.”
In view of the positive progress, Lissa, who is also SERASI coordinator, launched the ‘Say No to Plastic Straw’ campaign in her school, and by October 12, the production of bamboo straw kicked off under the name Borneo Bamboo Straw.
Borneo Bamboo Straw was subsequently launched by Sabah Environmental Department during the SERASI Awards Ceremony at the National Department for Culture and Arts, JKKN Sabah in Kota Kinabalu on Oct 23.
It might appear that this effort only impacts a small area in Kuala Penyu but looking closely, it is a starting point of beating single-use plastic usage. – Linda Edward
WE are all creatures of habit. From the moment we get out of bed in the morning until we return there in the evening, our daily routines are much the same. We drive the same way to work, during which we listen to the same radio station; we stop at the same coffee shop where we buy the same coffee. At night, we make the same meals and mindlessly watch the same television shows. Then we pray the same prayers. And the cycle begins again the next morning.
We do this every day, all the while longing for more.
We crave the peace that we know will only come from knowing Christ better, understanding his Church more, learning about those who devoted their lives to doing his will. And yet we leave no time to tend that fire that is burning within us.
But in order to change our lives, we first must change our habits. St Paul of the Cross gives us a few suggestions: “Prayer, the frequentation of the sacraments, good reading … these are, believe me, the means of sanctifying yourself.”
While a stronger prayer life and more frequent reception of the sacraments are obvious ways to grow in faith, many ignore the third recommendation: good reading. Because in order to grow spiritually, we must grow in intellect and understanding – of God and of ourselves. More importantly, we must make time to sit in silence and be inspired.
St Jerome said, “When we pray, we speak to God; but when we read, God speaks to us.”
What God is offering us in that silence is an invitation to know him better. Are we too busy to accept?
Take the time this year to stir that fire within, because if you are tired of being stagnant in your faith, perhaps it is time to turn the page.
Our Sunday Visitor (OSV) suggests a list of books: Fr Solanus Casey by Catherine Odell; A Mind at Peace: Reclaiming an Ordered Soul in the Age of Distraction by Christopher O. Blum and Joshua P. Hochschild; Adopted: the Sacrament of Belonging in a Fractured World by Kelley Nikondeha; From Atheism to Catholicism: Nine Converts Explain their Journey Home by Brandon McGinley; and others. – OSV