The launching of this year’s Lenten Campaign at the Church of Divine Mercy (CDM), Penang traditionally fell to the Form 5s. They are known to be the parish’s Love Squad especially for this for this purpose. They planned and performed a skit in line with this year’s theme entitled “Heal Our World”. The skit showed the dialogue between a beggar and a former classmate who helped him in spite of criticism by others. It underlined the sub-themes of embracing the poor, upholding human dignity, promoting social justice, loving our families and saving the environment. Towards the end of the skit a video of environmental pollution was shown and the students unfurled four banners of the sub-themes. These banners would be hung up in church to remind the parishioners of the Lenten Campaign’s theme during the remaining days of Lent. Lenten Campaign bookmarks and pamphlets were also distributed to all those who attended the weekend Masses.
In his homily, Fr Martin Arlando, parish priest of CDM began by relating a story of a royal gardener who shrived diligently to produce the finest flower of the land for his future queen. At the end after many years of arduous work, he succeeded in producing the beautiful “Rainbow Rose ” that radiated all the colors of the spectrum. But the queen choose just an ordinary rose beside the one he had planted. This was because his Rainbow rose had a vital flaw. It had no scent and the queen was blind. This is a story of expectations unfulfilled, of illusions and false hopes, of one that is unseen or unknown. We can see in our world things of beauty and full of colors that have faded and turn bad. This is a feeling that so familiar with God who created a beautiful world that turned bad due to man’s sinfulness. God’s initial feeling of anger resulted in destroying the world with a great flood. Later, He had second thoughts and decided that never again would He do this and gave this promise with a rainbow across the sky.
Fr Martin asked those present to begin this time of Lent by recalling that promise of God’s forgiveness and that God’s loving goodness still endures and reaches out to us. The redeeming sign is Jesus who was tempted just like us. Often in this busy world we find it hard to recognize this sign. It is exactly where Jesus said it is. “The kingdom of God is close at hand”. Fr added that we have many expectations of friends, neighbors and co-workers that are manifested in various ways and it is difficult to recognize Jesus and the many ways His presence comes to us. We often place greatest expectations on those closest and dearest to us and even on God Himself. Jesus says “I am the bread of Life”. What do we expect from this? Often this is what we want and need from God. Can we accept God as He is manifested in those around us? And believe that God will provide what we truly need. How much will we risk and give to accept Jesus especially in family and friends, and resist temptation? Fr also admitted that temptation is an ever present reality in our lives. Even our Lord was tempted as the gospel of this Sunday shows (Mark 1:12-13). In temptation, the devil seldom appears as the evil looking fiend. He can appear to be a well dressed person who can sweet talk you into doing what is against God.
Fr Martin then explained that repentance can be looked at in the 5Ws and 1H. The “Who” is ourselves, you and me. We need to change for the better. The “What” is the behaviors or attitudes to be avoided or cultivated better. The “When” is the use of our time turning away from the useless waste of time to the time of fulfillment. The “ Where” are the circumstances or occasions of sin which we can turn to occasions of grace or life. The “How” is something we alone know best to do along the path of repentance. But do not neglect the sacrament of reconciliation. The “Why” is where St Peter gave the reason that Jesus suffered and died for our sins. This is so that we might be led to God and if we are not led to God then Christ suffered in vain and what would be the point then. Jesus also gave the reason that the kingdom of God is at hand to turn back to God through repentance. Lastly, to “Hope” for the kingdom of God which is well worth repenting for.
Fr concluded by saying that temptations are ever present in our lives. Not just temptations of the flesh but those of the injustice, cheating, stealing, pride and anger. The royal gardener in the previous story produced a rose to be appreciated in a certain way and he had high and narrow expectations of the queen. Similarly, we have such poor expectations of Jesus in wanting things in our own way. We should avoid temptations to fall away from Jesus and not expect things the way we want it but the way God wants it. We need to strive to come accept Christ and embrace Jesus more and more each day and to see Christ as he is manifested in others. To grow in Christ likeness, in His love and mercy towards everyone always.
At the end of Mass, the CDM Lenten bookmark for Week 2 was distributed to all parishioners offering them suggestions of Works of Mercy that they may do in the course of the week and to offer them up next Sunday.
Dr. Ivan Filmer
21st February, 2018.