Archbishop exhorts the faithful to know Advent and God’s love
Event also saw celebration of Year 2015 Confirmants and First Holy Communion candidates as well as the blessing of the newly renovated Church
LIKAS: Scores of parishioners and guests were on hand to welcome the head of the Kota Kinabalu Archdiocese, Archbishop John Wong to the St Simon Church Likas parish to usher in the First Sunday of Advent on Nov 29.
The Mass, concelebrated with parish rector Rev Fr Cosmas Lee and Deacon Joshua Liew, also coincides with the celebration of the Confirmation of 31 candidates and 34 First Holy Communion candidates who were under the guidance of catechists Nicholas Chong and Agatha Voo, respectively.
The renovation works which included the choir loft in the Church was also officially blessed by the Archbishop who was assisted by Fr Cosmas while the choir sang “On This House (House Blessing)”.
In his sermon, Archbishhop Wong posed the congregation three questions and invited them to reflect on these questions throughout Advent:
“As we journey in this season of Advent, I invite you to ask yourself three questions: 1) We know in this season of Advent someone very important is coming. Who is this person? 2) Why is He coming? 3) Knowing that he’s coming, what is your response in receiving Him?”
“I hope you remember these three questions. Reflect on them throughout this season of advent.
“Every year in this season of Advent, the Church again and again wants to remind each of us – telling each one of us – our Lord, indeed, is a faithful God. Because He never forgets each one of us. He never abandoned any one of us. Even though very often, on the other side, we forget Him. We abandoned Him. But the Lord still keeps coming to you.”
He went on to quote St Luke’s writing in the Gospel reading:
“Jesus Himself said: ‘There will be signs in the sun and moon and stars; on earth, nations in agony, bewildered by the clamour of the ocean and its waves; men dying of fear as they await what menaces the world‘.
“Listening to this statement made by Jesus, how do you interpret it? Very often, it seems to give us the impression that the end of the world is coming. The end of the world is soon.
“So my dear sisters and brothers, the Lord also said, ‘No one knows the day except the Father’. Not even the Son. Do you know when the end of the world is coming? How do we understand what Jesus has presented to us?
“I will invite you to join me in this reflection. Very often in our day to day living especially when we face difficulties, challenges, persecutions, sufferings… when we are down, we often make a statement: ‘Si lo‘. Or ‘mati lo’ – ‘the end of my world’.
“We find it so difficult to carry on with our life… When you face all these kinds of challenges in life, just also imagine the Lord has created the whole Universe. Indeed, everything He’s created is very good.
“Today the Gospel presents, it seems that He wanted to recreate and make a chaos in this Universe. It’s impossible, what He’s saying to us especially when we are facing ‘the end of my life’.
“What shall we do? He said: ‘You will see the Son of man coming to you in the cloud with power and glory’. And He asked each one of us: ‘Stand erect, hold your heads high’. Because in that very moment, if we are faithfully standing erect, hold your heads high, focus on Him, your liberation, indeed, is close at hand.
“The Lord is so eager, wants to enter into our life; wants to save us, redeem us, and to share His love and joy, especially His peace in our life.
“Do we have faith in Him? Do we have faith to continue to trust Him, no matter what situation that we are in?
“Very often, we also hear of His coming. When is His coming? His coming is at every moment of our life, even in this very moment He is here. Waiting for just the moment, for all of us to welcome Him. He will immediately enter and live together with us.
“As the Psalmist today says, ‘To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul’. The Psalmist is inviting each one of us to constantly pray this prayer: To you, O Lord, alone, I constantly lift up my soul, my being into Your hands.
“Surrender yourselves into the loving hands of the Father. He will continue in meeting, speaking and coming to your assistance; to your rescue; to share His life and His joy with you and transform you to become the new person.
He also quoted St Paul who invited us to “love one another and of all human race. Because this is the Love that we have received from the Lord, we have to love one another and the whole human race.
“St Paul also said in order to make more and more progress in the kind of life that we live. Indeed, what type of life that we should live? The life centred in this person – Jesus Christ.
“Let us, as we enter into this season of Advent, ask the Lord especially to bless us and fill us with His spirit so that in our day-to-day living we are always centred on Him,” Archbishop Wong said.
At the fellowship after Mass, Fr Cosmas thanked those involved in the building and renovation works and congratulated all the Confirmation and First Holy Communion candidates.
He shared that he had asked one of the confirmants previously how important is the occasion, and the candidate “really” wanted to be confirmed.
“Why?” The answer: “I want to complete my journey.”
To which Fr Cosmas replied, “Where got complete, just started.”
“This is the noisiest ever in the history of St Simon Likas,” he joked, referring to the First Holy Communion students, to an echo of laughter from the crowd at the parish hall. “But they are very good also.”
“We had a recollection for all the groups and ministries in the parish. And I just want to remind you the one word that Fr Simon Yong said to us. All of us here in Likas, especially those in ministries, are not just carrying tasks or doing our job,” he said, referring to the recent recollection.
“We should be devoted. We must be devoted. That’s what we should be. And those who have just been confirmed, join us. We are not here to do a job. We are here because we are devoted. Our heart, our spirit is here,” he said.
The Parish Pastoral Council Chairperson Anne Wong, meanwhile, pointed out the “selfie” and “wefie” culture among the youngsters today and reenacted their photo-taking antics on stage while giving her welcoming speech.
“Everyday, some of us, do it (selfie) first thing in the morning. Some of us do it the last thing at night. But my question is, we keep in touch with everybody, do we keep in touch with God? Everybody has a handphone, and everybody communicates with their friends. Their friends communicate with them. Let us not forget to communicate with God.
“But if I tell my students to do that, they will say, ‘Teacher, God doesn’t have handphone number bah. They will say, ‘How to WhatsApp God?'” Anne, who is also involved in the Sunday School, said.
“But then, I think God’s answer will be this: ‘My child, my handphone is better than your iPhone 6, your Samsung, your Lenovo, all the phones in the world – mine is better. Mine no need to charge, no need to pay, and it is the most powerful one in the world’.
“‘I have the biggest chatroom in the world. Everybody can chat with me. And you don’t need a handphone. You just pray, give me some of your time. You are my child, I sent you so many love letters. You know where is your love letter? It’s in the Bible. So don’t forget to read, every now and then, my love letter to you’.
“So my message today is enjoy our fellowship together because Archbishop only comes and visits us once a year so we can go and take selfies with him. I think he doesn’t mind,” she joked, to a response of laughter.
“But most of all, as we use our handphones to keep in touch with everybody else in the world, don’t forget to keep in touch with the most important person in your life, and that is the God we believe in,” she said.
Also present were guests and representatives from the Sacred Heart Cathedral, Daughters of St Paul, Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate Conception, Good Shepherd Sisters, and La Salle Brothers, among others.