Sharing God’s mercy so that there will be hope in the world again
KOTA KINABALU: Despite still in the mood for Chinese New Year celebration, the faithful flocked to St Simon Church Likas to begin the Lenten season with Ash Wednesday Mass on Feb 10.
At the service, concelebrated with visiting priest Fr Jojo Fung, parish rector Fr Cosmas Lee enlightened the crowd on the meaning behind the official hymn for the Jubilee Year of Mercy.
“Without getting tired, in the chorus and refrain of the official hymn of the Jubilee Year of Mercy, we sing ‘Misere cordes sicut pater / in aeternum misericordia eius (Be merciful like the Father for His mercy endures forever)… on and on and on,” Fr Cosmas said to the crowd that overflowed to the chapel and around the church.
“How can we get tired repeating these words that truly give us hope. These words that save us. We’re all sinners. I don’t think we need to argue about that. We all need to repent. But we need to experience the joy of repentance. We need to experience not just the joy of God’s mercy but the consolation, the hope of His mercy that endures not once, not twice, not 70 times seven – but to the end of our life. It endures forever.
The rector related an incident several weeks ago that left him feeling miserably guilty. “Somebody wrote to me and asked me to see a patient in the hospital. I read it, then I forgot about it. When I remembered it two days later, and called this person up, some other priest had gone to the hospital to anoint the patient. I felt so guilty.
“Last Saturday when I was walking in Kokol, feeling guilty about it at the time, it suddenly – by the grace of God – dawned on me that it’s OK. Hold up your head. God forgives, He is merciful. Not just this time, the next time and the next time… and forever. It really struck me, like thunderbolt.
“How wonderful – I can begin again. I will not put down my head and say, ‘I am a useless person’. There is hope. There is salvation because the mercy of God endures forever.
“This Lent, in the Jubilee of Mercy, brothers and sisters, we must come to know more deeply the merciful love of God, His forgiveness…
“If only we knew His mercy. We need to know it more deeply. We need to experience it. And we need to share it, so that there will be hope again in the world.
“Look at the mess around us, in the whole world. In this very complex conflict, Pope Francis has dared to say, ‘We can save the world if we become merciful.’
Elaborating on the pontiff’s message, Fr Cosmas said: “It will not just save us – it will save our family, it will save our society, it can even save Malaysia… hopeless as it seems.
“But it is not possible to know God’s mercy unless we spend time in prayer. And let the grace of His mercy – just like bluetooth – come into us.
“And when we pray, learn to be merciful. Pope Francis has told us that it’s not just a question of knowing the mercy of God, but that we need to share that mercy with others. And that each one of us find something concrete – some concrete corporal works of mercy to do this Lent.
“There will be lots of activities (in the parish) this Lent… The Ministry for the Aged, Sick and Needy will be organising lots of activities.”
He warned the churchgoers not to just give alms and leave everything to the ministry to carry out the corporal works of mercy.
“The idea is not that we do plenty of jobs to be merciful but that we become merciful. The Pope asked us to do something concrete about mercy, we must take up personal initiative.
“This whole Year of Mercy will be in vain unless each one of us personally become more merciful.
“When we do good works, be careful. We just heard in the Gospel – be careful that we do not do all these just to attract the attention of people. We live in a world where people are so starved of attention and care from others. We got plenty, tons of information and data but nothing personal.
“So be careful. We should not commit a double crime of using works of mercy to see how many ‘hits’ we got. Your left hand should not know what your right hand is doing.”
He also said these acts should not be “trumpeted before us” and when “we fast don’t look as if, satu tahun tidak ada makan (did not eat for one year).”
“Do all these because we have experienced the joy of mercy. I suggest that this year, we say to each other, ‘we’re going to do it together’. We’re going to pledge to each other that we’re going to spend more time in prayer. Knowing the faithful mercy and love of God, we will no longer be starved anymore with love and attention. That we decide to do something concrete about it as we share His love and mercy we’ve experienced, to others.
“As we move along towards Easter, I dare to pledge that if we do this, God will not fail us. We will all know the wonder and marvel of God’s love and mercy.”
Before the distribution of the ashes, the congregation, led by Fr Cosmas, recited a “personal prayer” which was composed by one of the parishioners.
He said the prayer will help “us mean more about what we are entering into – a time of repentance. The time of experiencing God’s mercy and new life.”