Not disappointing the last eight years ever since the Church of Divine Mercy (CDM) Penang was established, it rained again on St Faustina’s feast day this 5th October. However, just before mass began the rain ceased and the parishioners who came for this celebration braved the light drizzle to go on procession carrying the decorated statue of the Saint reciting the chaplet around the church compound.
The parish priest of CDM, Fr Martin Arlando, began his homily at mass with a story about the late Russian Nobel prize laureate for Literature, Alexander Solzhenitsyn who was interned in the famous Gulag camp for dissenting against the then Soviet Union and Communism. In his anguish and suffering of hard labour and hunger, Alexander had decided that in this isolation from the outside world even God had forgotten him. His intention of committing suicide was taunted by his upbringing in the faith of his mother’s Russian Orthodox Church and the need to avoid committing this grave sin. So instead he decided to try and escape so that the guards will shoot and kill him. But just as he was about to execute his plan, a huge fellow prisoner stood before him to prevent him moving and in that instant he saw so much love and concern another person had for him. As the prisoner traced a sign of the cross on the ground before him, Alexander knew God had not forgotten him and was always beside him. Little did he know that there were others praying for him and he was released and banished from Russia three days later. Fr Martin drew this story as a parallel to the day’s first reading from the prophet Habakkuk 1:2-3;2:2-4. How often do we say “God You don’t listen. You don’t intervene.” Our faith is only strong when we are not in crisis. When a crisis hits us we believe God has gone on holiday. This happened to the Jews when they were hungry in the desert but forgot the work of God in the Exodus. Perhaps this is the greatest sin of the Jews - forgetting. It is said that a major crisis will happen to each of us every ten years and we need to accept this as an opportunity to grow instead of to complain. We need to remind ourselves of the words of God “The just one because of his faith will be saved.”
Fr Martin went on to explain that many saints had been faced with dark periods in their lives, like St Therese who wrote on the wall of her cell in despair “Jesus is my only love.” In the second reading Timothy is reminded by St Paul that God gave us the power of love and self-control. God is with us in our deepest pit and our faith is to help us understand his truth and to remain strong to overcome obstacles from doing His will. Our faith is linked to trust and obedience to do whatever God demands of us.
He went on to explained that in the Nicene Creed we express this by saying the “I believe”. Faith is also an affair of the heart to accept Jesus. This faith has five characteristics. Firstly, it is personal. A personal disposition to trust God. Secondly, Faith is reasonable. St Peter explains we can always give a reason for our faith. Thirdly, Faith demands commitment and we do not give lazy excuses if we have strong enough faith. Fourthly, Faith is living and dynamic and reflects in the things we do. And lastly, Faith is apostolic or missionary. We share with one another this faith. It should not be hidden away but like a burning lampstand used to illuminate the way for others to enter into faith.
Fr Martin ended the homily by relating a story of the famous French tightrope walker (ropedancer or funambulist) and acrobat Charles Blondin who first walked over the Niagara Falls in 1859. He performed many acrobatic feats while doing this act which included riding a bicycle, walking blindfolded, even frying an egg on a stove on the way over. When asked if he could do the feat pushing a wheelbarrow he proudly proclaimed he could but no one accepted his invitation to be in the wheelbarrow when he would do it. Fr emphasized our faith must not be like this but it should be a doing word (verb) not just a noun. Are we willing to be in the wheelbarrow of life as Jesus guides us through the obstacles of life? On this day of the feast of St Faustina we are reminded that when she complained to God, God came to her door as a poor man asking for food, to experience His love and mercy through her. We need to show love and mercy to others. Are we living our faith according to the will of God? Do we know what kind of Faith we have? Does it draw us to Jesus or act as a barrier? If it is a barrier then we need to ask God to remove it so that we can blossom in our faith through our words and deeds.
The celebration ended after the procession with benediction and veneration of the relics of St Faustina and Blessed Michael Sopocko, the confessor of St Faustina. The parishioners were then all treated to a fellowship dinner sponsored by a CDM family.
Dr. Ivan Filmer
8th October, 2019