As on any auspicious celebration at the Church of Divine Mercy (CDM) in Penang, the day began with a heavy downpour. Fr. Martin Arlando reminded the congregation at the 9 am mass that we were joining Pope Francis in celebrating Marian Day with the theme “Blessed are you for believing”. He also said that Bishop Sebastian Francis was consecrating the Diocese of Penang to Our Lady of Fatima on this same day. Fr. Martin began mass with a story of a man named Harry who went to a restaurant for a meal. A stranger asked if he could join Harry for his meal at the same table. When the food arrived, Harry bowed his head to say grace. The stranger then asked if Harry was not well or if there was something wrong with his meal. Harry replied that he was just giving thanks for the gift of his food. The stranger replied that he never did so because he earned everything by the sweat of his brow and promptly ate his food the moment it arrived. Harry replied, “Just like my dog.” Fr said that the general theme in today’s mass was that of “gratitude”. He explained that some people think that they do not need to thank God for anything. He questioned what any of us had done to be born alive and well when others were still born or born with handicaps. What did they do to deserve loving parents or pay God for giving them their ears, eyes, mental abilities and for all the wonderful people around them? He warned that we should not take things for granted. He commented that if the stars were to come out just once a year, everyone would stay up all night to gaze at them. But for now they are just stars.
In his homily on the gospel (Lk. 17:11-19) regarding the single leper who returned to thank Jesus for curing him, Fr gave some possible reasons why the other 9 lepers failed to show up. Perhaps they did not think the cure was for real and was waiting to see if it be permanent; there was still plenty of time to thank Jesus later; perhaps they didn’t really have leprosy after all; it was a matter of time before they would get healed by themselves, they just had to be more positive; any rabbi could have cured them it just happened that Jesus was nearby; perhaps they just had to see a rabbi to get cured and, finally, perhaps Jesus would be angry at them if they thanked him now. Fr explained that we can always find an excuse for not doing what is right.
He explained that the 10th leper was a Samaritan, on outcast of the Jewish people, who could not go the priest as his temple was not in Jerusalem to show that he was cleanse of leprosy. Yet he followed the common sense and reason and returned to give thanks. He reminded the congregation that just like the 10th leper we need to be grateful for what we have received. This is also the essence of tithing. Thanking God for the first fruits we received but we need to be cheerful givers too (2 Cor. 9:7). Gratitude enters every aspect of our lives. Some people do not attend mass. This is a sign of ingratitude as the Eucharist comes from the Greek word that means ‘giving thanks or thanksgiving’. We need to count our blessings and then return to share our gifts and talents with the ministries of the church and with others. If we don’t, we suffer from a spiritual leprosy. He questioned, how often do we thank God during mass? God gave us his most precious possession, His only son. Are we going to just sit around doing nothing? This choice is ours.
At the end of mass, Fr Martin launched a senior parishioner’s 7th publication entitled, “Whispers of His Light”. The challenges of Edmund J Lee’s faith journey were explained in verse and the profits of the sale of his book would be donated to 4PAWS (Penang Animal Welfare Society). This is an NGO run by Barbara Jenssen, a German lady who is currently caring for 200 stray dogs in her shelter. A powerpoint on his book and 4PAWS was also shown to the audience.
To commemorate Marian Day, a decade of the rosary was recited after mass. A rosary session was also held at the grotto of Our Lady of Fatima at night which was well attended by parishioners. A birthday cake was also cut to celebrate the birthday of two parishioners as well as the day of the last apparition (13th) of Our Lady to the three children at Fatima.
Dr. Ivan Filmer
16th October, 2013.