Church of Divine Mercy Penang (CDM) celebrated the feast of St John Paul II at the evening mass on the 22nd October. It was a memorial event as CDM is the first Church in Malaysia to obtain a first class relic of the recent saint. It was also significant that this saint who had died on the vigil of Divine Mercy, had established the Divine Mercy feast day and canonized St Faustina, whose relic is also at CDM.
In his homily, the parish priest, Fr Martin Arlando explained the meaning of humility in a person’s life. Often when we want things we do not have the humility to ask for it directly but make it sound as if it is a thing you are asking is something that others need. To elaborate he related a story of a small boy who watched his mother cook a meal of delicious fried rice for dinner. He knew he had to wait sometime to taste that meal due to his mother’s unrelenting rule not to eat between meals. After his mother washed up and went to rest, he approached his drowsy mother and awaking her remarked, “Mommy, your face looks like it wants to eat fired rice”. The boy showed no humility as he put his need on someone else.
We need to be down-to-earth with God and our communication with Him. We must show humility in prayer, as prayer without humility is no prayer at all. But prayer with humility is powerful. Fr Martin explained with an experience he had while visiting homes. Arriving late for a home visit, he was told the youngest member of the family had gone to bed and was saying his prayers. He asked if he could listen in on the 5-year-old boy and this is what he heard. “My God, I love you. Please keep father safe as he earns money for us. Tell mom not to scold me so much. Tell my teacher to show me more love and please take care and keep everyone healthy. Please take care of yourself too because if something happened to you we are all gone.”
In explaining the message of the Gospel of the day of the parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector (Luke 18:9-14), Fr said that there were three important differences in the two voices of prayer. First was trusting in oneself more than God. Second was despising others and lastly was the lack of humility. The Pharisee appeared righteous and separated from others. Praying with rituals at set times and showing it off to others. The Tax Collector was commonly known as a Roman collaborator, a cheat and a public sinner. The Pharisee was the oracle of self-praise giving God all unnecessary information of himself as God was already aware of it. The parable shows the gap between the spiritual person and the moral misfit. The Tax Collector implored for mercy acknowledging himself being a sinner, turning his life around and returned home exalted. It clearly showed the proud and humble ways to pray. One came filled and left empty. The other came needful and left satisfied. This Pharisee syndrome also appears when we label others not of our faith as sinners and candidates for hellfire. Fr Martin reminded the congregation that God doesn’t need anyone as a co-judge. In our own Church, there has been a survey that shows actions of some lacking humility in ways of prayer. Some find it difficult to kneel during the consecration for fear of dirtying their clothes or knees. Some shy of making the sign of the cross before meals in public unlike some footballers who openly sign themselves as they enter the football pitch before a match. We tend to hold on more tightly to our handphones than our bibles or rosaries.
In closing Fr read a note found in the clothing of a dead child at the Ravensbruck Women’s Nazi concentration camp at the end of World War II. In this camp over 50,000 women and children died as a result of hunger, disease, medical experimentation, torture and slave labour. This note illustrated the powerful example of humility and forgiveness in prayer. “O Lord, remember not only the men and woman of good will, but also those of ill will. But do not remember all of the suffering they have inflicted upon us. Instead remember the fruits we have borne because of this suffering—our fellowship, our loyalty to one another, our humility, our courage, our generosity, the greatness of heart that has grown from this trouble. When our persecutors come to be judged by you, let all of these fruits that we have borne be their forgiveness.”
Fr Martin reminded everyone to place everything at the foot of the altar and forgive all transgressions. To respond to the call to grow in the love for one another and emulate St John Paul II’s call for humility, forgiveness and to bear all sufferings without complain and reaching out to others with the love of Jesus
This celebration proceeded with a procession of the statue of St John Paul II around the church. This was followed by benediction and veneration of the relic of the Saint. The evening ended with fellowship sponsored by the family of a generous parishioner to all those who faithfully stayed to the end. It was a meaningful and happy celebration for CDM who is blessed with housing both relics of St Faustina and St John Paul II.
Dr. Ivan Filmer
31st October, 2016.