This was the advice given by Fr. Martin Arlando, parish priest of the Church of Divine Mercy, Penang to 19 First Holy Communicants at the 9 am mass on the 18th October, 2015. In the first part of his homily directed especially to the communicants he asked them if they knew how a butterfly come to be. In their time at catechism they had been a caterpillar and then a cocoon and now today it was time for them to become a butterfly. In receiving Jesus at the Eucharist that morning they were going to be transformed into a beautiful life where they can be a Jesus to others. Many saints, like their patron saint, St Faustina, have done this. She allowed Jesus to come into her life as she owed everything to God and became a living host giving her life entirely to God. This is what they must also do with their lives, to live a worthy life, a life of Jesus. He asked them to to spend time everyday in prayer and invite their parents to sit and pray with them.
In his homily to the congregation, Fr Martin related a story of how a young boy wanted the reward of a bicycle for doing well in his exams so badly that he lied to his father and altered his report card. This is the similar attitude of some people today as they seek the desire to be always first and reap its rewards. The same was also true of the sons of Zebedee, James and John, in the gospel reading (Mark 10: 35-45) when they asked to be seated at the right and left of Jesus on the day of glory. They wanted to reserve their places in a glorious position not fully understanding that Jesus was not seeking a political position. The two brothers were ambitious and were seeking glory but not the path to glory which was suffering. They did not show any fear and exhibited the “Who knows Who” syndrome and one had to work fast in order to ask for rewards before others asked. They were bold to declare their intentions in front of the other apostles without going through its due process to achieving greatness. This is similar to many things we have in our lives today. There are technological short cuts that are linked to the many spheres of our lives. People want to get rich without hard work like getting baptised without going for classes (just ask the priest to pour the water). This is so well stated in Gandhi’s Seven Social Sins. Wealth without Work, Pleasure without Conscience, Knowledge without Character, Commerce without Morality, Science without Humanity and Worship without Sacrifice, Politics without Principles.
Fr Martin explained that it is good to be ambitious but one must retain good values too. There must always be due process as it is not always rosy. This has been explained by Isaiah (Isaiah 53:11) that it is the will of God that suffering leads to salvation. So it was with Abraham who waited 25 years for a son, Joseph who was disappointed by his brothers, Moses who wandered 40 years in the desert and David who had to fight a giant. Wherever you are in life, if you are connect with faith, you will get where God wants you. But some did not give to God first and landed in the wrong place in life. To be in the right place is to summit to God first. Fr then related the story of a farmer who sacrifice his fields that were ready for harvest by burning them to alert his neighbours of a coming Sunami and saved them. It costed him everything. Similarly, God took the place of a slave and was elevated. For a Christian, the way up is always down first. For Jesus gave selfless service to others, he sacrificed all and he gave it gladly.
The congregation were also amused by the skit put up by the First Holy Communicants as they enacted the gospel in the way they understood it. To remember the occasion each of them also received a souvenir and shared a cake with friends and relatives after mass.
Dr. Ivan Filmer
27th October, 2015.