The ‘inclusive’ nature of the Catholic Church
KOTA KINABALU: While the secular world had taken down Christmas decorations and stopped playing the “holiday” songs in shopping malls and elsewhere, the Catholic churches, including St Simon Church Likas, are still in Christmas mood.
Officially, Christmas only ends on the Sunday after the Epiphany of the Lord, which is on the Baptism of the Lord. To coincide with the Gospel reading of the Magi paying homage to baby Jesus, the statues of the three Wise Men were added to the manger.
On the Feast of Epiphany, the rector Fr Cosmas Lee recalled a “long tradition” of the students of the Propaganda Fide College in Rome who “would be invited to serve in the Mass of the Pope that day”.
“All the other students who were not serving would have to put on their national costumes. In the college, there are students from ALL the four corners of the earth. So you will find Japanese costumes, Vietnamese, Koreans, Siamese, Malaysians… everything.”
Fr Cosmas described the colourful presence of people from various races and creeds – “from black to brown to yellow to grey to white” – to coincide with the Feast of Epiphany which reflects the inclusivity and universal nature of the Catholic Church.
“Because epiphany is that ‘colour’ – that light. It’s that revelation of God. By that revelation we have come to know Him especially His love and mercy. And that this revelation is a gift, a present,” he said.
“There is an ancient tradition in the Church that on this day of Epiphany children would be involved in the play of Epiphany. They will be dressed like the three kings and they will all come forward and put their presents at the crib. After this whole play, reenacting what happened 2,000 years ago at the visit of the Magi, the presents would be distributed and shared among the children.
“Just as God gave Himself as a ‘gift’ to us. Epiphany is also very Catholic because when God revealed Himself as a gift of Love and Mercy to us, this gift, this revelation, is for all peoples – the whole spectrum of colours and creeds… ‘Catholic’ means universal.”
Fr Cosmas also shared three points on the Epiphany of the Lord:
- Light, revelation: “God turns on the light on Himself. He opened His heart to us. God is not someone who is secretive and hides himself from us.to be a disciple of God is to be like Him – open – allowing our heart and our spirit be known to others. Many people are very careful, very secretive… don’t even dare tell people where they want to eat at lunch. In Sabah, I find this a terrible ‘disease’. People do not want to let people know. That’s not Godly. Our God, as we’ve come to know Him through Jesus, is one who opens His heart, taking the risk of people exploiting the knowledge of Him and His endless love, forgiveness and mercy. If you find yourself very secretive, always very cautious… be careful. Something is wrong. No one is asking us to broadcast everything about ourselves, I’m not saying that. But we need to allow ourselves to be known, and to come to know the intimate soul of each other.”
- This revelation is for all peoples: “We Catholic Church are very proud (that) our members come from every corner of the Earth. The blackest, the whitest, the yellowest… You find all kinds because God has no favourites. He reveals His love and mercy to all. So if we find ourselves exclusive, ada clique-ish punya… we’re not Godly. We’re not Catholics. Even in the different creeds and colours, St Paul tells us today that they all belonged to the Body of the Church in some way. So we need also be like God – inclusive – having everybody in our favour.”
- This Light of God (revelation) given to us as a gift: “The tradition of exchanging presents at Christmas is actually from the Feast of Epiphany, not from Christmas itself. The Eastern Orthodox Church celebrates Christmas today, or on the Feast of Epiphany. Christmas is a day of revelation, for presents, imitating the three kings bringing our gifts not just to God but to each other… without excluding anyone. We, who have received and have seen through the wrappings and the complications of life – the love and mercy of God – that we offer these gifts also sharing them with everybody.”
“So as we celebrate the Feast of Epiphany, brothers and sisters, let us first of all thank God, praising Him because He is the Light by which we can see His heart. That He has come for all and I am also for all. He came as a total gift of Himself. I, too, must become a gift to other people.”