‘We can only appreciate light in darkness’
KOTA KINABALU: On Christmas Day Mass, the St Simon Church Likas rector reminisced the years when he was posted in Tawau, on living in the outskirts which are lacking in artificial lighting and brought newfound appreciation for the natural light.
Fr Cosmas Lee recalled how there were 23 outstations during his posting in Tawau and how the interior folks were deprived of Christmas Eve and Christmas Day Masses. “Many would have to have the celebration a few days before or after Christmas Day.”
“Just three days before Christmas, I went to a place called KM62. A place where most of the people were just workers in the oil palm estate and mostly (foreigners),” he said.
“We were to begin Mass at 6pm. We were there very early. In that simple Chapel they even managed to make a beautiful crib. I told them not to switch on the lights, those twinkling lights… I told them you would only turn them on after I bless the crib, after the Gospel reading during Mass.
“The children were all asked to sit in front because there was no more room. They were all seated in front, before the altar and the crib. So after the Gospel reading I asked to turn off all the lights. And with the light of the candle, I blessed the crib and I said, ‘pasang lampu (turn on the lights)’.
“They turned on all these twinkling lights in the darkness of the chapel. And the children, they said, ‘whoaaa’. After that I asked them, ‘cantik kah (is it beautiful)? And they said, ‘yaa’. ‘Kenapa beautiful? Kenapa cantik‘?”
Speechless, the children again went, “ahhh”, Fr Cosmas said of the youngsters’ reaction to the Christmas lights.
“After that I said, ‘cantik kerana gelap‘. Beautiful because these lights twinkle and shine in total darkness. I always remember driving from Tawau to Kunak… On a good evening I would stop just to look at the stars in the sky… in the glory of the heavens, wonderful.
“Because we can only appreciate light in darkness. If you have listened to the prologue, the beginning of the Gospel of St John, in such lofty poetry, John presents to us the Word – God – the source of true life and light.
“John speaks about all that lived have come through God, created through this Word. That this Word is coming into the world. A light that shines in the dark, that darkness could not overpower. He came among us, we saw His glory. ‘Glory’ means the brightness of revelation. Glory means the splendour of seeing. We saw it – full of grace, full of truth.
“It’s incredible how John placed in life and light – first there is light, and when that light is authentic, when it is true, we will become the splendour of God’s light in the dark.
“This year is the Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy and I really urge all of us first to recognise the dark. People in ancient times were always so scared and fearful of the dark, but after we discovered electricity we seemed to have lost that fear. Wait until SESB shuts down,” he said, somewhat jokingly.
“We no longer fear dark but we panic when there is darkness. Last night (Christmas Eve), I told the people Pope Francis had said that the Third World War has already begun. We don’t seem to see it, we don’t seem to feel it. We feel (that it has) ‘nothing to do with me’. Because there’s so much of conflict, division and everyone is now quickly taking sides. Every tribe, every religion, every people and nation are beginning to take side in this global conflict.
“Do we see the darkness? Have we already contributed to the coming of darkness beginning in our own family? We look at the darkness of our day-to-day life. We’re so caught up with so many things – no time and no space. How could we ever grasp the mystery of life and light unless we really we have space and quiet.
“So, first, you recognise darkness. Never panic. We will never panic if we have heard the Word. Secondly, be the light. And that light we have been asked this year, is to shine as mercy of God. This mercy, that Jesus born for us, is the face of God’s mercy. Jesus’ mercy is the light in the darkness, a light that the darkness cannot overcome.
“So, once more blessed Christmas,” Fr Cosmas said, concluding his sermon.