Tag Archives: 2018-12

Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, Cycle C

First Reading
1 Samuel 1:20-22,24-28 (The first reading from Cycle A may also be chosen, Sirach 3:2-6,12-14.)
Hannah dedicates her son, Samuel, to the Lord.

Responsorial Psalm
Psalm 84:2-3,5-6,9-10 (The psalm from Cycle A may also be chosen, Psalm 128:1-5.)
Those who dwell in the Lord’s house are happy.

Second Reading
1 John 3:1-2,21-24 (The second reading from Cycle A may also be chosen, Colossians 3:12-21)
We are God’s children now.

Gospel Reading
Luke 2:41-52
The boy Jesus is found in the Temple.

Background on the Gospel Reading

Today we celebrate the feast of the Holy Family. This feast is part of the Christmas season, and we should place today’s Gospel in the context of what Luke’s Gospel tells us about the birth of Jesus. Luke has been answering the question “Who is Jesus?” through his stories of the births of John the Baptist and Jesus. Today’s Gospel reading continues this theme. It has no parallel in the other Gospels and is the conclusion of Luke’s Infancy Narrative.

Mary, Joseph, and Jesus are presented in this Gospel as a faithful Jewish family. They are participating in the annual pilgrimage to Jerusalem for the feast of Passover, an event shared each year with family and friends. When Jesus is found, Luke describes him as seated in the Temple in the midst of the Jewish teachers. Although he is young, Jesus seems not to need teaching about his Jewish tradition. In his dialogue with these learned teachers, Jesus astounds them with his insight and understanding. Jesus is a child of Israel. His Father is God.

The dialogue between Mary and Jesus contains many references to family relationships. In fact, in this Gospel reading Mary and Joseph are never identified by name. Instead they are referred to by their relationship to Jesus. Ultimately, this emphasizes Luke’s point about the identity of Jesus. When Mary and Joseph find Jesus in the Temple, they question Jesus and express their anxiety. Jesus replies in words that many have thought to be disrespectful. Jesus says that he was never lost; he was at home. Jesus is God’s Son, and he is in his Father’s house. Luke will continue to suggest that faith in Jesus establishes new family relationships as he describes Jesus’ public ministry.

In Luke’s Gospel, Mary’s importance is even greater than her role as Jesus’ mother. Mary is the first disciple and will be present with Jesus’ disciples after his Resurrection at Pentecost.- loyolapress.com

Archbishop John Wong’s Christmas Message 2018

THEREFORE the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Emmanuel.” (Isaiah 7:14)  How humbling it is for us each time when we contemplate on the mystery of Emmanuel – God is with us, and on the reality of how God chose to reach out to us by becoming one of us!

If we just take a moment to look at how fallen our world is, we will realize that we are living in a culture that has lost touch of what faith and the meaning of love truly mean; a culture that flows with the current of secularism and relativism. God’s design for every human person to be dignified is slowly being washed away by this current. We see a trend where every individual is now allowed to determine what they want to believe. The truth is no longer objective, but subjective to one’s right in deciding what is truth for themselves.

My dearest brothers and sisters, we truly have fallen behind; and the world needs a saviour! God is relentless when it comes to reaching out in love to His people. God had each of us in His mind when He planned to send His Son, Jesus Christ. God planned, God prepared, God brought to fulfillment, and God became. That is what Christmas is all about. God’s love is manifested because He chose to become one of us; taking upon himself every aspect that a human being can ever possibly experience or go through.

No matter what our circumstance may be at this present time – be it a personal struggle, a family problem, a financial burden, a work issue, or dealing with the loss of a loved and dear one, or just the pain of feeling and suffering alone, may we all find comfort and joy, knowing that this Christmas, He is coming to us and He is with us. He is not just with us, in a vague and general sense, but He comes to meet each of us exactly where we are at in our individual lives. In our joy, in our pain, in our suffering, in our incapability of making sense of what is going on in our own lives, in our brokenness, in every possible circumstance we are going through – God is right here, with us, and He truly understands.

Sick, our nature demanded to be healed; fallen, to be raised up; dead, to rise again. We had lost the possession of the good; it was necessary for it to be given back to us. Closed in the darkness, it was necessary to bring us the light; captives, we awaited a Saviour; prisoners, help; slaves, a liberator. Are these things minor or insignificant? Did they not move God to descend to human nature and visit it, since humanity was in so miserable and unhappy a state? (Catechism of the Catholic Church 457).

No one can put it more beautifully than what is stated in our Catechism. God is moved when He sees His children suffering, and He draws near to them at once, and at all costs, even if it meant descending to human nature. This is TRUE LOVE.  This Christmas, True Love comes down once again and wants to dwell in our hearts.

But are we prepared to welcome this Love into our hearts at this Christmas? Will Love find any room in our hearts when He comes this Christmas? How can I prepare my heart for Christmas? It is too easy to get carried away with the hustle, bustle and busyness as we draw nearer to Christmas, especially in our world today, where Christmas is extremely secularized and commercialized. While there is nothing wrong to celebrate Christmas in festivity and merriment, let us take a moment this Christmas to truly reflect on the true meaning of what we are celebrating, which is found in Christ, the “Word made flesh” in the most vulnerable form – a baby, born in a stable, on a still night.

Therefore, we may say that making room for Love to enter our hearts, means taking time to be silent in our hearts. Let us not miss the sound of the Baby Jesus’ cry when He arrives. May He find room in each of our hearts when He comes.

The great Venerable Fulton Sheen once said, “How to find Christmas peace in a world of unrest? You cannot find peace on the outside, but you can find peace on the inside, by letting God do to your soul what Mary let Him do to her body, namely, let Christ be formed in you.”

Let us not be afraid to respond to the mystery of God’s great love this Christmas. Let us be unafraid to come as we are and surrender to Him our sins, our brokenness, our weaknesses, our lacking, and all our struggles. Let us not be afraid to let Christ form our being! In the words of one of the greatest saints, St Therese of the Child Jesus, “A God who became so small could only be mercy and love.” God chose to come as a helpless infant to us. May we too, come to Him in our most vulnerable state and surrender to His love this Christmas.

I would like to end with the words of St Teresa of Calcutta as an invitation to all of us: “At this Christmas when Christ comes, will He find a warm heart? Mark this season of Christmas by loving and serving others with God’s love and concern.”

Wishing you a very Blessed Christmas!

Archbishop John Wong, Archdiocese of Kota Kinabalu 


  

Reflections for Christmas Eve & Christmas Day

The Nativity of the Lord Christmas Eve

First Reading
Isaiah 9:1-6
To those in darkness, a child will be born who will have dominion over the earth.

Responsorial Psalm
Psalm 96:1-2,2-3,11-12,13
Sing a new song to the Lord.

Second Reading
Titus 2:11-14
God has appeared, bringing salvation to all.

Gospel Reading
Luke 2:1-14
Jesus is born in a manger in Bethlehem as the angel appears to the shepherds.

Background on the Gospel Reading

During the Christmas season, our liturgy invites us to consider the birth of the Lord from many vantage points. As we begin this season, it is useful to remember that the stories of Jesus’ birth and childhood are found in only two of our Gospels, Matthew and Luke. Throughout this season, we will hear stories from both Gospels. Those Gospels tell different but complementary stories about Jesus’ birth, highlighting items of theological importance about the Incarnation and the salvation that Jesus brings.

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Kironggu Catholics regain sense of belonging, commitment and sacrifice

KIRONGGU, Inanam – For the last fifteen years Kironggu Catholics travelled long distances to attend Mass, as well as to fulfill their parish services or to take part in parish events at the main parish of St Catherine Church in Inanam.

Today the faith community of Kg Kironggu is abuzz with plans and activities to celebrate their first Christmas service on December 24 at the new St Michael Chapel, blessed by Fr David Sham, parish priest of St Catherine barely three months ago.

Sheedy Ng, 50, head of St Michael KUK (Christian Community), enthused about the multiple proposals by the members to build up the community. 

To start with, the KUK launched the Advent Messenger four weeks prior to Christmas, which visited with 60-strong families, preparing them to herald the coming of the Saviour, Jesus Christ.

Eliesa Soidin, 34, secretary of the KUK, who works as a teacher at the local Kironggu School, and a promising Sunday School resource when it is set in place, chipped in “We prepare the carolers, formed mainly by the youth and children, with a catechesis before sending them out, so that they are effective evangelizers.”

The Advent Sunday services were spent focusing on helping the faithful to grasp more meaningfully the season and its celebration, with the help of symbols (Advent candles).

The KUK head added “we look forward to the whole community coming together to spruce up the chapel, putting in place colour lights and the nativity crib. Then only Christmas will be complete, with both the spiritual and physical.”

On Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, the community would gather for prayer and communion service, and caroling, followed by fellowship.

The Christmas celebration does not end on Christmas Day. It stretches to the Feast of the Holy Family when all families would come together once again for prayer and to bless themselves with a shared meal contributed by each family.

Ng revealed that the coming together under one roof (chapel) is something they treasured and yearned for since the dismantling of the old chapel in 2003.

Soidin shared when the news of the availability of land to build the new chapel broke out, the faithful were filled with overwhelming joy and excitement. The anticipation of the completion of the construction was almost too much to bear.

People came forward spontaneously to respond to the numerous needs, from the clearing of the land, leveling of the access road, building a retaining stone wall to control soil erosion, sponsoring of fans, liturgical item such as the Lectionary, to the sourcing of monetary funds.

It was palpable to see the Kironggu Catholics regaining their sense of belonging, commitment and sacrifice.  Ng revealed that the KUK, whose members are mostly farmers and housewives, was able to raise RM15,000 within a year to cover the expenditure over and above the construction of the chapel.

The chapel was built at the cost of RM50,000 by philanthropist Datuk Victor Paul, on a land donated by former catechist, Joannes Gubud, who is also the adviser for St Michael KUK.

The community, being at the heart of the larger parish community, provides a strong visible and emotional presence in the villages that the Church serves, which would otherwise be lost if KUK members were expected to travel to the larger parish some distance away.

Kg Kironggu is one of the six ecclesial communities (KKD) that come under the care of St Michael KUK.

Small communities like St Michael KUK work well, especially with the presence of a little chapel.  It has a strong identity as a parish church, supporting its members in their lives and becoming a natural place for people to gather to mark life events.

Ng spoke of the exciting plans projected for 2019, from constructing little huts (pondok) to cater to Sunday school classes, to a multipurpose hall (dewan) to cater to community events; from forming a choir with proper catechesis, to encouraging a strong youth participation in the parish/community life with accompaniment by existing leaders. 

Already the migrants from a neighboring oil palm plantation have expressed their expectant joy of becoming “family” with the locals at the chapel.

St Michael KUK encourages its members to become a community of nurture and growth by being involved and engaged.

Already each KKD family has been advocated to live “Creation Justice” by actively planting and beautifying, not only the chapel, but their homes as well.

Interestingly, St Michael Chapel, is the first of its kind in this region to be fitted with a solar panel, providing power to light up the cross on the chapel’s roof. – CS

SHC carolers to target 2000 homes

KARAMUNSING – Sacred Heart Cathedral parish priest Fr Paul Lo commissioned 24 caroling groups to launch the parish Advent Family Visits to 2,000 homes spanning 42 zones from 5-19 Dec 2018.

A 500-crowd of both young and elderly gathered at the foyer of the parish centre, where after a simple rite, Fr Lo sent off the carolers. 

Fr Lo reminded the carolers the purpose of the visits “You are sent by the Church to parishioners and non-Catholics alike, to bring the Good News of Jesus Christ to them.  If they are in touch with Jesus, they will be joyfully blessed. And as you bring Jesus to others, you will blessed with joy yourselves.”

The caroling groups would come together again on Dec 23 for the parish “Carol by Candlelight” at the parish centre, beginning at 7.00 pm. – CS

Tadika Harmoni Penampang rolls out largest batch of 62 graduates

PENAMPANG – Judging from the thunderous applause at the end of their performance, 62 kindergartners from Tadika Harmoni deserved a pat on their back for pleasing the 900-audience with a smooth rendition of two popular songs, “10,000 Reasons” and “You Raise Me Up”.

November 20 was indeed an occasion to remember for the third and largest batch of Tadika Harmoni students who graduated after completing their pre-school education, and who would be moving on to Primary One next year.

The dinner event, which was held at the Putra Ballroom, also kicked off the fundraising project for Tadika Harmoni to have its own building to accommodate its increasing population.  The kindergarten, orginally housed in the parish hall, has outgrown its capacity.

Present at the event were Archbishop John Wong, parish priest Fr Wilfred Atin, and newly ordained Fr Gilbert Marcus. Also in attendance were Mother General Frances, Sr Rita Chew of the Archdiocesan Education Commission, and Jennifer Anjek of the Archdiocesan Early Childhood Education Committee (AECEC).

Themed “Jesus is my Superstar”, the event started off with the recitation of prayers led by the graduating children, followed by the certificate presentation by the Archbishop. He also presented certificates of appreciation to Peter Jupiter Bensing for his contribution to composing the school anthem, and to Lucy Masudal for her contribution to the development of the school logo.

In his speech, Fr Atin informed the audience that Tadika Harmoni is one of three mission kindergartens in St Michael parish, with Tadika Suriaku located at St Aloysius Limbanak and Tadika Cahaya Harapan at St Augustine Kinarut. The three kindergartens have a total enrolment of over 250 children.

He went on to emphasize that establishing the right foundation for the age group 4-6 years old is critical for their development and urged parents to take cognizance that their children must not only develop academically but must also acquire social skills and most importantly, faith and spiritual development.

Fr Atin highlighted that the Vision and Mission of the kindergartens in the parish, and basically for all mission kindergartens, centers on faith development, academic development and personal development for a rounded and balanced foundation.

Meanwhile, Archbishop Wong congratulated the children for moving on to primary school next year and hoped that their exposure to English, which is the language of delivery at the mission kindergartens, has prepared them better for the next phase of their schooling.

He was happy to note that more mission kindergartens are now teaching the children additional languages (Kadazan and Chinese) after normal class hours. This would expand their language proficiency, especially in their mother tongue.

He went on to say that he recognized the need for quality education right from the pre-school stage. With that in mind, he had directed AECEC to develop a strategic plan to improve the quality of mission kindergartens so that they become a kindergarten of choice for parents.

The Archbishop could not but emphasize more the importance of a mission-kindergarten education “Although there are over 2,700 children currently enrolled in the 34 mission kindergartens, we need to attract more children especially into the newly established mission kindergartens.” – Ephraim Kouju

Sandakan Municipal President gets a visit from the Church

SANDAKAN – Bishop Julius Gitom led a five-member delegation to pay a courtesy call to the President of Sandakan Municipal, Datuk Peter Hii, in his office, at the Wisma Majlis Perbandaran Sandakan Nov 27. The main purpose of the courtesy call was to inform the Sandakan Municipal President about the Diocese of Sandakan and the St Mary’s Cathedral Parish.

Bishop Gitom briefed Datuk Hii on the history of the erection of the Sandakan Diocese eleven years ago, while parish priest Fr David Garaman delivered the history of the oldest church/parish in this region, St Mary’s Cathedral, which was established in 1883.

Historically, the St Mary’s mission, as it was called then in 1884, established the first school in the North Borneo (Sabah). Many of the local leaders, politicians, and successful businessmen obtained their early education in St Mary’s school, Fr Garaman added.

Currently, St Mary’s is running two secondary schools and three primary schools. all located at Mile 2 Labuk Road.

Besides schools, St Mary’s also has a multipurpose hall cum hostel which provides a place to stay for the outstation students, especially those from the not-well-to-do families.

Hii revealed that he was amazed and impressed by the Church’s history and work on humanity.

He responded with a gesture of appreciation to the visiting delegation as he presented his personal donation to Bishop Gitom on behalf of the parish of St Mary’s Cathedral. – DOSPO

Ruby jubilarian Fr Thomas Makajil resonates with ‘missionary’ call

SANDAKAN – On the occasion of his ruby jubilee celebration, Fr Thomas Makajil celebrated a thanksgiving Mass at St Mary’s Cathedral here Nov 6, with Bishop Julius Gitom as the main celebrant, and Msgr Nicholas Ong, who a month ago celebrated his own ruby jubilee, and seven other priests as concelebrants.

Fr Thomas is the resident priest of Paitan Mission, the only missionary area in the Diocese of Sandakan.

The jubilarian shared about his recent visit to Catholic Sabah in Kota Kinabalu. He was there to see an old friend, and noticed the tremendous changes and many new staff, one of whom recognized him and exclaimed, “You are the ‘missionary’ in Paitan!”

The word “missionary” struck him and challenged him to the core. He resonated deeply to the words of the Holy Father calling the clergy and religious to move out of their comfort zone, and to be with the people, tending to their needs. Clergy and religious are likened to shepherds living with the smell of the sheep, leading the flocks with compassion and dedication, Pope Francis underlines.

Fr Makajil shared his reflection drew him to recall Jesus’ mission as written in the prophet Isaiah “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” This, he maintained, is the core mission of the Church to which all, clergy and lay, are called.

At the subscribed jubilee dinner celebrated at Hakka Hall with 300 parishioners and invited guests, Bishop Gitom congratulated both Msgr Ong and Fr Makajil on the joyous occasion of the 40th anniversary of their priestly ministry.

To Fr Makajil, he spoke of the jubilarian’s steadfastness and love for the Church, attesting him as “a true shepherd after the heart of Christ” and “one always out on the road nurturing and leading the flock”.

 He acknowledged that the Diocese is indeed blessed to have a priest who is passionate, dedicated, generous and whose main concern is for the advancement of God’s Kingdom.

Fr Thomas thanked and glorified God for all the blessings showered on him throughout his 40 years of priestly ministry. He thanked Bishop Gitom for the opportunity to serve in Paitan Mission.

He spoke of his dream of seeing “the empowerment of the laity who made up 99% of the body of the Church alongside the clergy and the religious, living the faith as best as they can. Both laity and clergy have complementary roles in ministry and mission”.

Fr Makajil was ordained by Bishop Simon Fung in St Michael Penampang on November 11, 1978.  Born and raised up a Penampang lad, he had his early education in Inobong and Penampang.

Interestingly, Makajil’s first appointment was to assist Fr Thomas Sham in Holy Trinity Tawau (1977-1980).  He was next assigned to Sacred Heart Cathedral and St Michael Penampang (1981-82), while at the same time serving as Associate Editor of Catholic Sabah and editor of the Kadazandusun Section. 

Other parishes where he has served included St Catherine Inanam, St Valentine Beaufort, St Patrick Membakut, St Peter Bundu, St John Sipitang, back to St Michael again, St Theresa Tambunan, Holy Cross Toboh, St Joseph Papar, Holy Rosary Limbahau, and currently in the Diocese of Sandakan (incardinated).

On the occasion of his Silver Jubilee in 2003, Fr Makajil said of himself “I have not achieved any spectacular achievements in terms of building infrastructures. I must acknowledge that I am not a builder, but I have reached out and have worked with the people. I rejoice knowing that I have done my best to walk humbly with them and allowed them to feel that the Church is a welcoming Church.”

In a nutshell, Fr Thomas Makajil fits Pope Francis’ description of “a shepherd living with the smell of the sheep”.

     Fr Makajil has admitted that he is most at home working with “simple rural and non- sophisticated people”, and that is why he is grateful to his Bishop for his current assignment in Paitan Mission. – DOSPO / CS

171 “enquirers” begin their catechumenate

KOTA KINABALU – Sacred Heart Cathedral parish welcomed 38 “enquirers” with the celebration of the Rite of Acceptance during the Sunset Mass Dec 1.

Similar Rites of Acceptance were also celebrated for 35 “enquirers” at the Chinese Sunday Mass the next day, followed by 98 “enquirers” during the BM Mass.

During the Rite, the candidates were marked with the cross, the sign of Christ’s love, and also asked to “embrace the Word of God”.

By these two signs, 1) the candidates would “embrace Jesus Christ”; and 2) they would embrace the Gospel and make it their way of life from then on.

On the part of the candidates in the Rite, they expressed their intent to respond to God’s call to follow the Way of Christ, while on the part of the Church, the faith community accepts their intention. – CS

Handing over – A proud moment for St Francis Convent Secondary School

BUKIT PADANG – No one is more proud than the ex-Franciscans (led by Peter Chin) that made up the Building Committee, who accomplished the feat of building a new secondary school for St Francis Convent on the day of ‘handing over’ on Dec 5.

On hand to witness the simple ceremony of handing a mock key to Archbishop John Wong, head of KK Archdiocese, by David Chang of C L Contractor Sdn Bhd were Fr Paul Lo, SHC parish priest and adviser to St Francis Convent Schools Board of Governors (BOG), consultants and architect, as well as representations from the Alumni, School Boards, Building Committee, PTA of both schools, headmistress/principal, teachers and students of St Francis primary and secondary schools.

For the occasion, Mary Gomez, chairperson of BOG, paid tribute to the “transparency and teamwork” of the respective fields of specialty, including the gutsy work of raising funds by her building committee with the unflagging support of the Alumni and PTA, without which “we would not be standing here today in this beautiful new St Francis Convent Secondary School”, underlined Gomez.

The RM12 million school project, which took less than three years (2015-2018) to be ready for occupation, boasts of two 4-storey blocks with a central atrium.  One block consists of 22 classrooms and living skills workshops while the second block of science laboratories, administrative offices, staffroom, library and special rooms.

Proudly installed at the far end of the atrium were the school badge and name that were used for St Francis Convent Secondary School at Jalan Kebajikan in 1959, after having moved from the first school building at Jalan Tunku Abdul Rahman built in 1922.

With the Occupation Certificate in sight, the school will begin its new term for 2019 in its new premises.  As Gomez put it to the students and teachers, “I am sure you will enjoy studying and working in this new comfortable environment which we hope will produce more and greater women of substance who will serve and contribute to a better society and nation.”

Although the building is handed over, C L Contractor was ‘laughingly’ reminded that they would have to continue to deal with a bunch of “loud, pushy and firm women” (building committee), who live by their alma mater’s motto “To love and To serve”, until the defects liability period is over.- CS

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