KOTA KINABALU: The rector of St Simon Catholic Church Likas, Fr Cosmas Lee, advised Christian fathers to be model followers of Christ by taking up the crosses of life with courage and knowing that Jesus is always by their side.
On Father’s Day, he told the faithful that suffering meaningfully is the “heart of our faith” and not so much to strike the lottery or to be cured of illnesses but to take up His cross. In God’s infinite wisdom, He has chosen pain, suffering, death as “that very tool of salvation” because the world today has an aversion towards pain, suffering and defeat.
“For at least two or three generations we have struggled not to allow our children to suffer because we believe that suffering in itself is not good for anybody.
“Suffering cannot be avoided in life, brothers and sisters, we’re not asked to look for pain and suffering. But sufferings are always there. God, in Jesus, has chosen suffering itself as the way to resurrection and life.
“Let’s make no mistake about this, brothers and sisters, like today as we thirst for the Word of God – the first requirement of a follower of Jesus is to deny himself, take up the crosses of his life and follow the Lord.
“Because in the mystery of suffering is the very mystery of salvation.” He said recently one of the parishioners approached him and sought advice on how to talk to a terminally ill patient. “Tell the patient to suffer with Jesus. Don’t do it alone. I often tell the patient, what’s important is that we belong to Christ.
“Just be with them with our faith, faith in following Jesus, carry our cross everyday especially those big crosses when we leave the land of the living.
“We must, as the Prophet Zechariah said, look up to the one we have pierced – look up to Him and understand that there is no resurrection without the cross in our life. Let’s not try to soften it.
“The whole world is teaching us that suffering is bad. All the advertisements are about avoiding suffering and conveniences.
“God has asked the fathers to be His face in the family, the face of mercy. Teach the wife, the children’s mother, the children, to learn the meaning of suffering.”
“For You my soul is thirsting, O God my God.” Fr Cosmas also called on the faithful to have a thirst for the Word of God as he quoted Psalm 63. “Let’s have that thirst to possess truth, life in the Word of God today.
“Every year about this time in Ordinary Time, whether the Gospel of (Sts) Matthew, Mark or Luke is being used, Jesus confronts us with the most fundamental of all questions: ‘Who do you say I am?’
“So often we try to avoid facing questions that really matter. I’m sure many of us right here in Church are procrastinating many questions – vital, critical questions.”
He said every year the Word of God empowers the faithful to look at the question by Jesus Himself. “Many of us consider ourselves as followers of Jesus Christ because we somehow subscribe to a list of highly selective values – selected by us.”
“To have a set of values does not make us Christians. What makes us Christians is to know, to love and to imitate Jesus Christ.”
Like the people over 2,000 years ago, he said the faithful “probably like to identify Jesus as some hero, some legend, wonder-worker like John the Baptist, Elijah – one of the ancient prophets back to life.
“We’re not asked to look at Jesus only as a hero or legend, we’re asked to follow Him. He is the first model that we look to when we grapple with this fundamental question: ‘Who do you say I am?'”
Citing the Gospel, Fr Cosmas talked of Jesus’ time of contemplation in prayer on the Cross that He would bear from the Father. It was at this time that He turned to the disciples and asked them the question.
He said the question came from a “personal time of reflection of communicating with His Father, a time when He could see more and more who He was, what His mission was about and He had no doubt whatsoever that the Father wanted Him to suffer, to die”.
Fr Cosmas said Jesus then anxiously turned to the disciples and asked the question, to which Peter replied, ‘You are the Christ of God, the Anointed One, the Chosen One, the Messiah’.
“In St Luke, Jesus is not linked to this profession of faith from Peter with His decision to found the Church on Peter the Rock. Jesus says, ‘Don’t tell anyone… if anyone wishes to be a follower of mine let him deny himself and take up his cross everyday and follow Me; he who wants to save his life will lose it, anyone who loses his life for My sake will live’.”
The rector explained why Jesus strictly gave orders not to tell anyone about the discussion.
“Because the scandal of the cross can be very overwhelming for those who are uninitiated. But you brothers and sisters and I, and you Christian fathers, we have been baptised and here facing us, every time we come to Church is a suffering Christ, a defeated Christ, a dying Christ.”
After the Morning Mass, those at the canteen had a pleasant surprise as they witnessed the birthday cake-cutting ceremony for the head of Wardens and Hospitality Ministry, Aloysius Tsen.