This was the message given by Rt Rev Bishop Sebastian Francis to the 23 confirmation candidates at the Church of Divine Mercy (CDM) Penang at the morning mass on the 9th July. In his homily, Bishop explained that in the first reading from Zachariah 9:9-10, that we must rejoice even when there are signs of gloom and doom. These signs have elements of truth of the happenings in the world around us. But Zachariah reminds us that those who appear to be weak will overcome the strong. The Lord will banish the strong, the powerful and corrupted. We need to bless God’s name forever and by doing so honour Him. The Bishop emphasized that the Spirit is responsible for our prayer life. It is through the Spirit that we are motivated and energized. We are never alone when we pray. He told the candidates, “Now at confirmation, the Spirit of God, the same one that raised up Jesus, has now made a home in you. The infilling of the Holy Spirit will be with you for the rest of your lives until you complete the mission of the Church. Whoever you are, pray that you obey the Holy Spirit and you will experience an inner feeling if you do not only focus on yourself.”
In the Gospel, the Bishop said that Jesus provokes us by saying that the mysteries of God will be hidden from us but revealed to mere children (Matthew 11:25-30). Children are often open with simplicity of thought. They are dependent and transparent in what they do. These are the qualities needed for us to better understand the mysteries of God. However, the Bishop reminded the candidates that as young students they must do better in their studies as it is a preparation for their vocation and mission in life. The vocation that God has planned for them. It will be God’s choice and design for them, if they accepted his Word. All they need to do is ask for discernment to understand and accept the mysteries of God.
The Bishop explained that Jesus speaks of rest for our souls. He added that in some states in Malaysia, the Day of the Lord has been shifted from Sunday to Friday. In other states, it remains Sunday. This shift is to remind us how important it is to rest our bodies. It is also time for us to rest our souls. You need to come to Him and He will give you rest. You get this rest through worshipping the Lord in Spirit and in truth together with the community that goes to Church. It is a day of fellowship with family. Thus, creating a bond with family within it, strengthening it through recreating a church which is creative, inclusive and bridge-building. The Bishop emphasized that the young candidates are now to take personal responsibility of their faith and be equipped to face whatever challenges that come their way. He reiterated that they were never alone if the Holy Spirit remains with them. If they are intelligent, creative and willing, they will always be able to find the catholic communities wherever they were, through the foundations of faith that have been laid here now. This will allow them to face anything and need not be afraid of all challenges that come their way.
At the end of Mass the Bishop gave out Confirmation certificates to each confirmand and in return, received a souvenir of a candle holder with the picture of the Divine Mercy. Fr Martin, in turn, gave out souvenirs from parents but also presented each one a personal souvenir of card from the Holy Father, Pope Francis, that he had obtained from Rome. The inscription on the card with a picture of the Pope read of a tweet made in 2015, “The heart hardens when it does not love. Lord, give us a heart that knows how to love”. Fr Martin also received a wish bottle from the parents containing affirmations of wishes and love for their shepherd at CDM. There was also a speech given by a representative of the confirmation class, Carlos Lim. He gave testimony of his faith journey and the way he came to be leader of altar servers from one who tried his best to skip mass and mostly just slept through mass when he was younger. In addition, there was a humorous video presentation based on the theme “Growing, Glowing & Going in the Spirit”. This was based on what was learned in the confirmation camp given by Martin Jallleh conducted a weekend earlier. A video recording of the whole celebration may be found on the CDM website.
The celebrations ended with a group photo and the cutting of a cake that was generously sponsored by a parent. It was a most heartfelt experience that was strongly supported by parents. A pledge was given by them to remain faithful and supportive of the church activities especially towards the Youth Ministry.
Dr. Ivan Filmer
10th July, 2017