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Vatican releases papal message for World Mission Sunday

World Youth Day Cross

VATICAN CITY – The Vatican on Saturday, 19 May 2018,  released the message of Pope Francis for this year’s World Mission Sunday, in which the Pontiff is inviting young men and women who want to follow Christ, to seek, to discover and to persevere in their vocation.

Observed by the Catholic Church on the penultimate Sunday of October every year, World Mission in 2018 Sunday falls on Oct 21.  Instituted by Pope Pius XI in 1926, the annual day urges prayers and help for missions as well as recalls the fundamental missionary character of the Church and of every Christian.

The theme of this year’s observance, “Together with young people, let us bring the Gospel to all,” echoes the upcoming synod of bishops, scheduled from October 3-28 in the Vatican, whose theme is “Young People, the Faith and Vocational Discernment.”

In the message addressed to all Christians, but especially to young people, the Pope reminds all that “we are not in this world by our own choice,”  and hence there is “an initiative that precedes us and makes us exist.”  Each one of us, he says, is called to reflect on the fact that ‘I am a mission on this Earth,” which is why we are here in this world.

In fact, the Pope says, “every man and woman is a mission.” “To be attracted and to be sent are two movements” of the heart that “hold out promise for our future and give direction to our lives.”

In his message, the Pope urges young people not to be afraid of Christ and his Church, because, he says, “it is where “we find the treasure that fills life with joy.”

Speaking from his own experience, he says that through faith he found the sure foundation of his dreams and the strength to realise them.

“For those who stand by Jesus,” the Pope continues, “evil is an incentive to ever greater love,” because “from the cross of Jesus we learn the divine logic of self-sacrifice as a proclamation of the Gospel for the life of the world.

The Pope thus invites young people to ask themselves, “What would Christ do if he were in my place?”

All Christians by Baptism, the Pope recalls, have received the mission to bring the Gospel to everyone.  Young people too are part of that great stream of witnesses, in which elder persons with their wisdom and experience become a witness and encouragement to the young.   This way, he says, the mission of the Church bridges the generations bringing about unity.

The heart of the Church’s mission, the Pope continues, is the infectiousness of love, where joy and enthusiasm become the expression of a newfound meaning and fulfillment in life.  The spread of the faith “by attraction”, he says, calls for hearts that are open and expanded by love.  This generates encounter, witness and proclamation even in “extreme peripheries” which are indifferent and hostile and to the ends of the earth in ‘missio ad gentes’.

The Holy Father expresses satisfaction that through numerous ecclesial groups such as parishes, associations, movements, and religious communities, young people find in missionary volunteer work a way of serving the “least” of our brothers and sisters, promoting human dignity and witnessing to the joy of love and of being Christian.

After recalling the contribution of the Pontifical Mission Societies to the human and cultural growth of many populations, the Pope says that who are helped in their personal needs can in turn bear witness to the Gospel in the circumstances of their daily lives.

“No one is so poor as to be unable to give what they have, but first and foremost what they are,” the Pope says. –Robin Gomes, Vatican News

Pope’s message for the Sick focuses on Mary’s maternal vocation

The 2018 message of Pope Francis for the World Day of the Sick focuses on Mary’s maternal vocation. Below is the full text of the message.

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

The Church’s service to the sick and those who care for them must continue with renewed vigour, in fidelity to the Lord’s command (cf. Lk 9:2-6; Mt 10:1-8; Mk 6:7-13) and following the eloquent example of her Founder and Master.

The theme for this year’s Day of the Sick is provided by the words that Jesus spoke from the Cross to Mary, his Mother, and to John: “Woman, behold your son … Behold your mother.  And from that hour the disciple took her into his home” (Jn 19:26-27).

1.  The Lord’s words brilliantly illuminate the mystery of the Cross, which does not represent a hopeless tragedy, but rather the place where Jesus manifests his glory and shows his love to the end.  That love in turn was to become the basis and rule for the Christian community and the life of each disciple.

Before all else, Jesus’ words are the source of Mary’s maternal vocation for all humanity.  Mary was to be, in particular, the Mother of her Son’s disciples, caring for them and their journey through life.  As we know, a mother’s care for her son or daughter includes both the material and spiritual dimensions of their upbringing.

The unspeakable pain of the Cross pierces Mary’s soul (cf. Lk 2:35), but does not paralyse her.  Quite the opposite.  As the Lord’s Mother, a new path of self-giving opens up before her.  On the Cross, Jesus showed his concern for the Church and all humanity, and Mary is called to share in that same concern.  In describing the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, the Acts of the Apostles show that Mary began to carry out this role in the earliest community of the Church.  A role that never ceases.

2. John, the beloved disciple, is a figure of the Church, the messianic people.  He must acknowledge Mary as his Mother.  In doing so, he is called to take her into his home, to see in her the model of all discipleship, and to contemplate the maternal vocation that Jesus entrusted to her, with all that it entails: a loving Mother who gives birth to children capable of loving as Jesus commands.  That is why Mary’s maternal vocation to care for her children is entrusted to John and to the Church as a whole.  The entire community of disciples is included in Mary’s maternal vocation.

3. John, as a disciple who shared everything with Jesus, knows that the Master wants to lead all people to an encounter with the Father.  He can testify to the fact that Jesus met many people suffering from spiritual sickness due to pride (cf. Jn 8:31-39) and from physical ailments (cf. Jn 5:6).  He bestowed mercy and forgiveness upon all, and healed the sick as a sign of the abundant life of the Kingdom, where every tear will be wiped away.  Like Mary, the disciples are called to care for one another, but not only that.  They know that Jesus’ heart is open to all and excludes no one.  The Gospel of the Kingdom must be proclaimed to all, and the charity of Christians must be directed to all, simply because they are persons, children of God.

4. The Church’s maternal vocation to the needy and to the sick has found concrete expression throughout the two thousand years of her history in an impressive series of initiatives on behalf of the sick.  This history of dedication must not be forgotten.  It continues to the present day throughout the world.  In countries where adequate public health care systems exist, the work of Catholic religious congregations and dioceses and their hospitals is aimed not only at providing quality medical care, but also at putting the human person at the centre of the healing process, while carrying out scientific research with full respect for life and for Christian moral values.  In countries where health care systems are inadequate or non-existent, the Church seeks to do what she can to improve health, eliminate infant mortality and combat widespread disease.  Everywhere she tries to provide care, even when she is not in a position to offer a cure.  The image of the Church as a “field hospital” that welcomes all those wounded by life is a very concrete reality, for in some parts of the world, missionary and diocesan hospitals are the only institutions providing necessary care to the population.

5. The memory of this long history of service to the sick is cause for rejoicing on the part of the Christian community, and especially those presently engaged in this ministry.  Yet we must look to the past above all to let it enrich us.  We should learn the lesson it teaches us about the self-sacrificing generosity of many founders of institutes in the service of the infirm, the creativity, prompted by charity, of many initiatives undertaken over the centuries, and the commitment to scientific research as a means of offering innovative and reliable treatments to the sick.  This legacy of the past helps us to build a better future, for example, by shielding Catholic hospitals from the business mentality that is seeking worldwide to turn health care into a profit-making enterprise, which ends up discarding the poor.  Wise organisation and charity demand that the sick person be respected in his or her dignity, and constantly kept at the centre of the therapeutic process.  This should likewise be the approach of Christians who work in public structures; through their service, they too are called to bear convincing witness to the Gospel.

6. Jesus bestowed upon the Church his healing power:  “These signs will accompany those who believe… they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover (Mk 16:17-18).  In the Acts of the Apostles, we read accounts of the healings worked by Peter (cf. Acts3:4-8) and Paul (cf. Acts 14:8-11).  The Church’s mission is a response to Jesus’ gift, for she knows that she must bring to the sick the Lord’s own gaze, full of tenderness and compassion.  Health care ministry will always be a necessary and fundamental task, to be carried out with renewed enthusiasm by all, from parish communities to the most largest healthcare institutions.  We cannot forget the tender love and perseverance of many families in caring for their chronically sick or severely disabled children, parents and relatives.  The care given within families is an extraordinary witness of love for the human person; it needs to be fittingly acknowledged and supported by suitable policies.  Doctors and nurses, priests, consecrated men and women, volunteers, families and all those who care for the sick, take part in this ecclesial mission.  It is a shared responsibility that enriches the value of the daily service given by each.

7. To Mary, Mother of tender love, we wish to entrust all those who are ill in body and soul, that she may sustain them in hope.  We ask her also to help us to be welcoming to our sick brothers and sisters.  The Church knows that she requires a special grace to live up to her evangelical task of serving the sick.  May our prayers to the Mother of God see us united in an incessant plea that every member of the Church may live with love the vocation to serve life and health.  May the Virgin Mary intercede for this Twenty-sixth World Day of the Sick; may she help the sick to experience their suffering in communion with the Lord Jesus; and may she support all those who care for them.  To all, the sick, to healthcare workers and to volunteers, I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing.

From the Vatican, 26 November 2017
Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe

FRANCIS

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Pope John Paul II initiated the day in 1992 to encourage people to pray for those who suffer from illness and for their caregivers. The Pope himself had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s a year before, in 1991, and it is considered that his own illness was impetus for his designation of the day.

World Day of the Sick was first observed on 11 February 1993. February 11 is also the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes, a name given to the Virgin Mary in honour of the apparitions that were said to have been seen in and around Lourdes, France, by a young girl called Bernadette Soubirous. The Church canonised Bernadette as a saint several years later.

KK prelate encourages Chinese faithful to choose right path in Lunar New Year message

PENAMPANG – The Chinese community around the world is preparing to bid farewell to the Year of the Rooster and welcome the Year of the Dog, which begins on Feb 16.

The Chinese New Year is based on the lunar calendar and features 12 Chinese zodiac signs. They are represented by animals that occur in the following sequence: rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, goat, monkey, rooster, dog and pig.

Combined with the Chinese five atomic elements: metal, wood, water, fire and earth, they form 60 possible combinations so, in fact, 2018 is the Year of the Earth Dog.

Below is the message of Archbishop John Wong to the Chinese faithful in the Kota Kinabalu Archdiocese on the occasion:

As spring of the new year  is approaching, may the Lord bless  you with His peace and good health.

This year, we celebrate the Year of the Dog. As the dogs bark (汪汪, which is pronounced as  ‘wang wang’), they sound like the Chinese character “Prosperous” (旺, pronounced as wang). For the Chinese, this is one of the favourite characters. Hence,as we enter into this New Year of the Dog,  we may be blessed with an abundant harvest and thriving careers and businesses. However, circumstances may often turn out to be against our hopes and wishes. As such, we are to shift our wishes for “prosperity” (旺) into “hope” (望, also pronounced as wang), praying that in good times or  bad times, we will be filled with hope. It is hoped that in time  of crisis, it will be turned into an opportunity.

In fact, at every turn of a new year, let us not put our focus and hope solely in prosperity and wealth. Jesus has come into the world to bring us new perspectives, broaden our vision, and change our thoughts and values, especially in terms of our behaviour  and moral values. He has come to bring us life eternal. Although the world is well-advanced in information technology and the growing abundance in material goods, we are sad to witness the deterioration in morality, care and love, etc. The world is filled with fraud, theft, sexual harassment, violence and murder. Genuine friendships are rare for many of them are built upon personal interests and profits.

Brothers and sisters, we know that we cannot attain true peace and happiness from wealth and pleasures of the world, but from a purpose-filled life, as the saying goes: The foundation of happiness stems from reaching out to others. For this reason, true happiness comes from serving and giving, not wealth. On top of that, a fulfilling life is not measured by how much we own, but by how much we have given, like Jesus who has lived his whole life in loving and serving, the total gift of self.

At the end of the year, the Chinese of our nation will pick a significant Chinese character. which reflects the aspirations of the people to conclude the year. This year, the character chosen is “road (路).”  I am sure that as we face the economic downturn, some of us cannot make ends meet. For this, we want to find a way out, especially financially. On the other hand, many of us are at the crossroads feeling lost and worried about our lives, careers and businesses. We are striving to ensure that our lives do not come to a dead-end.

Jesus once said, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life” (John 14: 6).  Not only that He shows us the way that leads to eternal life, He also indicates the right path we should take in this earthly journey. His way is different from the ways of the world and our ways. His way is a practical, simple and straight-forward. It is also a road filled with love, peace, forgiveness, acceptance and humility, one that is filled with goodness for ourselves and others.

The worldly ways often lead us unscrupulously towards prosperity, fame and power. When we own it all, we lose ourselves and make many vicious decisions for own interests and profits, endangering the community and causing chaos to the world.

Life is like a journey, from birth to our passing from this world. We cannot predict the length of this journey, but we are sure that it will come to an end. In this journey, there are times of uncertainty,  anxiety and loss. We are bound to encounter many failures, difficulties, pains, trials, temptations and disappointments. Whatever it is, we are called to be courageous, striving continuously because Jesus is with us always. He will never abandon us. These trials and experiences will enrich our lives, leading us to a wonderful and fulfilling journey.

The most important thing in life is to choose the right path to tread on. Some paths allow us to turn back and start over again. Others do not, for example: drug trafficking, murder and committing serious crimes. Therefore, we should be very cautious in the decisions we make. What is most important is to call on God to guide our every step and decision so that our choices are made according to His Will.

On this occasion of the New Year, I would like to encourage you with these words from the Bible: Thus says the LORD, your redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: “I am the LORD, your God,teaching you how to prevail,leading you on the way you should go.” (Isaiah 48: 17) and the famous Chinese saying: “When the door is closed, He opens the window.” As long as one is willing to work hard and bravely tread on one’s path, he/she will find a way out.  With this, let us be filled with hope and faith for this New Year, because we know that God is with us and He will surely bless us and lead us. – ucanews.com/various sources

Catechetical Sunday message focuses on Christ ‘who hopes in us’

In his message for Catechetical Sunday on 21 Jan 2018, Father Michael Sia of Marudi Sarawak writes:

We hope in many ways — depending on who we are, and how our circumstances turn out, the ways we hope are determined by what we place our hope in. And we all need hope in order to go forward in life.

However, sometimes we place our hope in the wrong things. As Christians, we do not hope in things, but only in the person of Jesus Christ. Placing our hope in Christ does not mean waiting around for Christ to fulfill his promises, but rather, how much Christ hopes from us — a dynamic, living relationship to Jesus Christ, our Saviour and Lord, who challenges us to become missionaries of his love, overcoming selfishness or lukewarmness, and as the writer of the Letter to the Hebrews says, “He who promised is faithful; and let us … stir up one another to love and good works…,” which, in effect, as Jesus said, means we should do all to exceed the righteousness of the Pharisees (Matthew 5:20).

As we consider what Christ hopes from us, it is clear from the Word of God that lukewarmness or complacency (mediocrity) is distasteful and therefore one who is lukewarm cannot enter the kingdom of heaven (Revelation 3:16). Regular Sunday Mass goers can easily fall into thinking that as long as they stay away from big sins, they are still all right: “Don’t be so hard on yourself, not everything is a commandment, some things are just advised for special situations.” Sadly, this kind of thinking thrives among the majority of us, and this is exactly what Jesus condemns!

St Anthony M Zaccaria expresses it well: “For if you let lukewarmness ensnare you, your life in the spirit will be overcome by the flesh, and, to use the proper word, you will become Pharisees rather than Christians and spiritual persons.

“Now, here is how the lukewarm—the Pharisee—behaves. Having left his old ways, he does not commit big sins any longer but takes pleasure in little ones and does not feel remorse for them. For instance, he stops blaspheming and insulting his neighbor, but he attaches no importance to getting somewhat upset and to insisting on his own opinion rather than giving in to his opponent. Speaking evil of others is no longer a bad habit of his, but indulging quite often in vain and useless chatting during the day is not much of a sin to him. He got rid of overeating and drinking excessively as drunkards do, but he enjoys snacking here and there, between meals, without necessity. The vicious habits of the flesh are a thing of the past for him, but he takes delight in conversations and entertainments that are not so clean. He loves to spend hours in prayer, but during the rest of the day his spirit wanders aimlessly. He no longer seeks honours, but if they are given him, he gloats over them….”

Unless our focus is on Christ and others, self-preoccupation brings the danger of laying heavy burdens on the shoulders of others, without us lifting a finger to get involved or help them (Matthew 23:4). Both, those teaching the faith, and those who receive instruction, can be guilty of excusing themselves from getting their hands dirty in the process of spreading the faith. Pope Francis is well known for challenging pastors to ‘smell like the sheep’ and for laity to ‘get their feet dirty’ walking the streets of the world while evangelising; there is no room for spiritual stagnation if we are filled by the Lord’s hope for us.

Christ is our hope, but whatever we hope for from Christ has already been fully accomplished and given to us in Christ. We should take every opportunity, in society and church community, to receive and respond to the abundance of Christ’s graces found in the Church’s Sacraments and doctrines, daily being converted, from glory to glory, realising that despite sin, grace abounds even more (Rom. 5:20). As the Blessed Virgin Mary deeply entrusted all her hopes to the Lord in her “Yes” (Luke 1:38) to the message of Archangel Gabriel, wholly committed to the life of her Son and Lord, let us do likewise daily, to be more like Christ, in word and deed.

CS editor urges faithful to make full use of paper for evangelisation

File photo: Some of the participants looking through Catholc Sabah at a journalism training workshop in Dec 2016, St Thomas Catechetical Cemtre Tg Aru.

PENAMPANG – In his message marking the 60th anniversary of Catholic Sabah in December 2017, editor Msgr Primus Jouil urges the faithful to make full use of it for evangelisation.  Below is the full text of his message.

As editor of Catholic Sabah, I urge Catholics in our three dioceses on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the existence of Catholic Sabah to take stock of the tool of evangelisation that we have in our hand and realise that we, as church, are responsible for spreading the Gospel message, and that we shouldn’t waste the moment nor the evangelising tool that God has given us.

Over the years, sitting on the editorial board I hear the lament of members that the Catholic Church lacks prolific Catholic writers, as well as committed contributors.  Without writers and contributors, the archdiocesan publication will not have a chance to continue.

Catholics are not always comfortable with the idea of evangelising but they need to be willing to step out of themselves and share about their faith as part of an encounter. We are called to be evangelising disciples and this role requires courage, a sense of urgency, compassion and joy.

Why evangelise?  We are to evangelise because Jesus commands it, and because people deserve to receive the greatest message there is, the best news that anyone can ever hear. How will they hear it if there is no one to tell?  “But how are they to call on one in whom they have not believed?  and how are they to believe in one of whom they have never heard?  And how are they to hear without someone to proclaim him?”  (Rom 10:14)

Writing can be an ideal medium of evangelisation – a form that transmits easily through space and time.  Writing allows us to take our time in crafting a phrase or fashioning a thought. Writing gives our reader the opportunity to read and re-read at his or her leisure.  However, we need to remember that, no matter how brilliantly creative we might write, it is God who changes (or does not change) the hearts of men and women.

To this end, the Archdiocesan Social Commission has been conducting writing and journalism training courses and workshops for the benefit of Catholic writers who contribute to Catholic Sabah and other Catholic outlets.  These initiatives are organised to enhance the ability to progress further in the field of social communications, and to be better equipped to go out in their mission as Catholic writers.

Archbishop John Wong, at a journalism training workshop, gave a stark reminder that writers need to build a strong relationship with Jesus Christ as only then they could pass on the Good News.

In gratitude to God for His grace in our 60 years of journey, I wish to acknowledge and thank God for your support and contribution, in readership as well as in penmanship, and that with God’s help, with Mother Mary’s intercession, and with the power of the Holy Spirit, the work of evangelisation in the field of print media continues with greater fervour and faithfulness.

Pope Francis: Healthcare is part of the Church’s mission

Pope Francis greets people with disabilities following the General Audience on 15 Nov 2017. Credit: Daniel Ibez, CNA

VATICAN CITY – Just as Jesus healed people during his earthly mission, care for the sick is a mission the entire Church is called to take part in, Pope Francis said in a message published Monday for the World Day of the Sick.

“Jesus bestowed upon the Church his healing power…The Church’s mission is a response to Jesus’ gift, for she knows that she must bring to the sick the Lord’s own gaze, full of tenderness and compassion,” the Pope wrote in a message published on 11 Dec 2017.

“Health care ministry will always be a necessary and fundamental task, to be carried out with renewed enthusiasm by all, from parish communities to the largest healthcare institutions.”

“Doctors and nurses, priests, consecrated men and women, volunteers, families and all those who care for the sick, take part in this ecclesial mission.”

The World Day of the Sick will be celebrated on Sunday, 11 Feb 2018, with the theme: “Mater Ecclesiae: ‘Behold, your son… Behold, your mother.’ And from that hour the disciple took her into his home (John 19:26-27).”

Reflecting on the scripture passage from which the theme was taken, Francis explained how John, as a close disciple of Jesus, could testify to the fact that Christ healed many people suffering from both spiritual and physical illnesses.

Jesus, he said, “healed the sick as a sign of the abundant life of the Kingdom, where every tear will be wiped away.”

The disciples know that Jesus’ heart is “open to all and excludes no one. The Gospel of the Kingdom must be proclaimed to all, and the charity of Christians must be directed to all, simply because they are persons, children of God.”

Pointing to the Church’s long history of care for the sick, including innumerable initiatives, Francis said we cannot forget this “history of dedication,” which continues “to the present day throughout the world.”

In countries with adequate public health care systems, Catholic religious congregations and dioceses and their hospitals provide quality medical care that puts the human person at the centre, also carrying out scientific research that fully respects life and Christian moral values, he said.

And in countries with inadequate, or even non-existent, health care systems, the Catholic Church works to improve health, eliminate infant mortality and combat widespread disease.

“In some parts of the world, missionary and diocesan hospitals are the only institutions providing necessary care to the population,” he noted.

This is all a cause for rejoicing within the Christian community, the pope stressed, ” but we also need to take note that long legacy and use it to help us build a better future. Especially in cases where Catholic hospitals fall prey to the business mentality that seeks to turn health care into a profit-making enterprise, which ends up discarding the poor.”

“Wise organisation and charity demand that the sick person be respected in his or her dignity, and constantly kept at the centre of the therapeutic process,” he said.

“May our prayers to the Mother of God see us united in an incessant plea that every member of the Church may live with love the vocation to serve life and health.” – CNA/EWTN News

Lunar New Year Message: Mercy builds a family of faith and happiness

happy-new-year-2016-a

Spring brings joy and fills the earth with hope!

At this turn of the season, people are generally preoccupied with planning. What is your plan? I hope that your plan will include building a family of faith and happiness.

It has been an important and a long-practiced tradition for generations of Chinese to have their families gather around the dinner table on the eve of Chinese New Year. Despite the long distance and minimal availability of transportation system during the agricultural era, reunion dinner was a day not to be missed but to be greatly treasured.

However, with modernisation and advancement in technology, our values, especially in terms of the significance of family and its values, have changed. There is a growing phenomenon where people do not know how to treasure the gift of their families as they ought. With secularisation, material wealth becomes top priority, and more time is expended at work to build a career and accumulate wealth. This has come at the expense of time spent in nourishing their marriages and nurturing their children.

Family is the basic foundation of society. When family units are broken, the order of society and the world will be in chaos. We read in Genesis that God created man and woman and hence, instituted marriage. This was the first family He has created. Married couples are called to continue God’s work through procreation. With children as the fruits of love between husband and wife, it is the primary mission of parents to share and help children experience the love of God.

Parents are the first two individuals children encounter and they play the most influential role in the lives of their children. Parents are also the children’s first teachers, where their words, thoughts and deeds have great influence in the character formation of their children. They are the pillars of each family unit and they are the messengers of love. The love between husband and wife serves as the foundation in building a happy family. Children learn about love and how to love from the love their parents share as husband and wife.

Love is the key to create a warm and intimate family. When love, care and conversation are absent, children and parents alike will feel distant from each other. The house will turn ‘cold’ and will remain a building instead of a home and a place children would want to avoid, while at the same time deep within their hearts, they desire and search for a place to belong to. We know that the deepest desires of children are love, forgiveness, accompaniment, justice and sincere care. It is not the latest video games or i-Pad that they want. These are the fundamental values in building a happy family. These values are in the core of our being and will never change.

As Catholics, are our homes filled with the Presence of God? Do we have a place at home for the Sacred Scripture, the Crucifix and holy items? Do we pray and read the Bible together? If not, let us make this New Year a new beginning to grow together in Christ as a family.

The Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph is the model family for us all. Pope Paul VI in one of his addresses said that Nazareth is a kind of school. It is here that we can learn who Christ really is, and take account of the conditions and circumstances that surrounded and affected his life on earth.

Indeed, when we know the life of the Holy Family, our values towards family will change accordingly. No longer will we build our families on material wealth, but on our faith and the teachings of Christ.

In celebrating this Lunar New Year, there are two important reasons in my emphasis on the importance of ‘Family’: first, according to the tradition and customs of the Chinese, the emphasis of the Lunar New Year revolves around family reunion and its unity; and second, last October in Rome, Pope Francis in calling forth the Synod of Bishops has set its theme on the Family “The Vocation and Mission of the Family in the Church and Contemporary World”, in which I was present. In the Synod, as in our present time, we could easily identify the risks families are exposed to. People do not give priority to their families. The divorce rate is on the rise. The vow of everlasting love that was taken on their wedding day fades away all too soon. They emphasise the fulfillment of their personal happiness instead of those of their spouses. They become selfish and are reluctant to forgive and accept each other as they are.

Pope Francis has also announced the Year of Mercy, which has commenced on 8 Dec 2015 and will end on 20 Nov 2016. I urge that we are to first bring the mercy of the Father into our homes to allow our family members the experience of God’s Mercy, in being merciful to and in acceptance of each other. Let us treat our family members with such mercy in order to build an intimate family.

Finally, love is the key to build a family. In this Lunar New Year, I would like to encourage us with this Scripture from 1 Corinthians 13: 4-7 “Love is always patient and kind; love is never jealous; love is not boastful or conceited, it is never rude and never seeks its own advantage, it does not take offence or store up grievances. Love does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but finds its joy in the truth. It is always ready to make allowances, to trust, to hope and to endure whatever comes.” These are the essential elements in the relationship between husband and wife and those among family members. How much have you lived them out?

I pray that every family will grow in love and passion for prayer, the Word of God and the Eucharist, as the way to grow more intimate with the Merciful Father.

Wishing you all peace in this New Year and may your days be filled with God’s Mercy.

+ Archbishop John Wong

 

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.

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