This was Fr Martin Arlando’s wish as he gave out 24 coloured pencils to the children who received First Holy Communion at the Church of Divine Mercy, Penang (CDM) on the 16th October, 2016. The children had all attended a Camp a month earlier and had been earnestly preparing for this day. They had done their first confession a day earlier and prepared for a skit on the gospel of the day (Luke 18: 1-8) on the persistent widow and the dishonest judge.
The skit was performed just after the gospel reading and Fr Martin, the parish priest addressed them immediately after that. He asked if they knew who was the latest saint that had been canonized. In mentioning St Mother Teresa, he remarked that she had said this of herself, “By blood, I am Albanian. By citizenship, an Indian. By faith, I am a Catholic nun. As to my calling, I belong to the world. As to my heart, I belong entirely to the Heart of Jesus”. On her way to an annual retreat she heard “… a call within a call” from God to set out and reach out to the poor for Him. She recalled that God asked her, “Come be My Light, I cannot go alone.” But how to answer this calling. She did this by completely surrendering to God. St Mother Teresa had described herself as a pencil. “I am a little pencil in God’s hand. He does the thinking. He does the writing. He does everything and sometimes it is really hard because it is a broken pencil and He has to sharpen it a little more.” So in receiving this colourful pencil, Fr Martin asked them to surrender to Jesus, let him sharpen and guide them to be a beautiful pencil of God. They are being sent out to be a witness of God. They are to come to mass to receive Jesus as often as they can, even daily.
In addressing the congregation in his homily, Fr Martin began with a story of a six year old boy who wanted to follow his mother shopping. As he was always an embarrassment to her each time they went out, she said no. However, after much pleading, she relented but with two conditions. One, that he sit in the shopping cart at all times and the second was that he did not make her buy him anything. The boy agreed and things went well until they came to the section of Chocolates and Cookies. He asked very quietly if he could have a cookie. His mother reminded him of his promise. As they went on, he tried again to ask his mother for a cookie but she replied with a very firm “No”. On reaching the paying counter, the boy remembered the lesson from his catechism class and in the presence of many people around him, asked in a loud voice, “Mom, can I have at least One Chocolate and One Cookie in the name of Jesus?”. This brought about much clapping and laughter. In the end, many of the people around him bought him chocolates and cookies. The moral of the story is positive persistence.
What is persistence? It is to continue in earnest effort in spite of difficulties and trials. It is also known by words such as perseverance, patience, resolve, insistence, unrelenting, going ahead to pray in spite of everything. Fr said that this is seen in the First Reading of the day (Exodus 17:8-13) when the Israelites were attacked by the Amalekites at Rephidim. Aaron and Hur supported the arms of Moses as he sat on a stone holding his staff until sunset, so that Joshua was able to defeat Amalek. Besides the power and importance of prayer there is also a community involved. Moses went up the hill with Aaron and Hur to assist him. Moses did not do it alone. So persistence and communal prayer is seen here. The gospel also tells us that we need to pray consistently and not lose heart. The widow wanted justice from the dishonest judge. She came to him day and night which means to his place of work even to his house at night. To wear him down. If an unjust judge could relent and give in what would a just judge, God, do for you if you ask. This shows we must be truly and totally dependent on God. Fr explained that there have been many people who persist and have succeeded. Thomas Edison only succeeded in producing a light bulb after 1000 attempts. St Paul has asked us to pray without ceasing. But some of us set datelines for God. “Let me have this before this time.” Fr emphasized that we need to surrender to God. Imagine the persistence and effort it takes a bird to build a nest twig by twig, or a fox dig an underground home with just its paws.
Occasionally we hear people say, “I prayed but God didn’t hear my prayer”. God hears all our prayers and like a parent, He knows what might not be the best for us. In ending Fr Martin related a story of a famous singer that prayed to God every night for a pretty girl to be his. Later on he met the true women of his dreams and had children. When he next met the pretty girl she was still pretty but he thanked God for his loving wife and family and not answering his prayers. Be confident that God loves us and know that He listens to us. Put our trust in God and He will write straight the crooked lines of our lives. Allow God to write in our lives and glorify God in what he wants us to do. Be always aware of God’s presence and blessing in our lives in the way we live.
At the end of mass, each student came up to the sanctuary to give Fr a blessing upon receiving their First Holy Communion certificate. A student gave a speech thanking Fr, parents and teachers. He also asked for the support of the congregation as their family to journey on with them in their faith. A thank you card signed by the students and a basket of fruits were give in appreciation. At the reception, a cake was cut and souvenir mugs each bearing their picture with a morning prayer were handed out. This day proved to be a most memorial one for the students and their parents.
Dr. Ivan Filmer
18th October, 2016.