The Church of Divine Mercy Penang (CDM) celebrated the 28th World Day of the Sick on the 15th February. The theme of the mass was Our Lord Heals and a total of 60 people registered for anointing and blessing. There were eight ushered in on wheelchairs and one was bused in by ambulance on a stretcher. The oldest was a lady aged 91 and the youngest, a girl of 7 years.
In his homily, Fr Martin Arlando, the parish priest recalled the words of the Holy Father Pope Francis when he welcomed the sick on the actual World Day of the Sick with the words of Jesus. “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11: 28-30). Fr explained that the Pope’s message is that God doesn’t make demands on the sick. He provides comfort and looks into their hearts with humility. Jesus himself endured the suffering on the cross and received comfort from His Father. The sick and suffering require warmth and consolation. All those experiencing any form of illness, be it something life threatening, physically, emotionally or psychologically, require love.
A grave sickness often affects more than just an individual, often the whole family suffers along and needs support and comfort. Jesus has given the invitation to “Come to me”. Jesus didn’t given prescriptions for a cure but frees us from the grips of the evil one. In relating to a story of how two siblings, David and Jimmy were saved from drowning by a friend who knew exactly where to stand on a sandbar to reach to save them, in a similar way, Jesus is standing at the exact place to save us in this time of turmoil. We need to trust in the one who died and rose again and accept the circumstances of the life given freely to us. This message is not only for the sick but also for the marginalized, forsaken and lost. It embraces everyone and invites us to share his tender love and comfort.
In mentioning the caregivers, Fr Martin said that only those who have experienced the suffering themselves are able to genuinely give comfort to others. The experience of the lack of inner warmth needs a personalized approach of caring, attention and the need for love. Such a family that needs this support and comfort will attract the eyes of Jesus. The church desires to be a home where we can come to encounter the grace of God to obtain acceptance, comfort and rest. Everyone in the church is called to lend their support and help towards those who need it. In this service, one is to promote the life and dignity of everyone and reject euthanasia even in terminal cases. In such instances, the sick need to be protected, loved and served. The author of life requires this. Relating a story of how much time a daughter took to making a slipper for her father instead of spending that time with him, Fr Martin reminded those in the family of the sick to give priority over the emotional and not only the physical needs of those under their care. He reminded them to treasure the time given to them and turn to Jesus for the strength to overcome the grips of the evil one. Jesus gives healing to help undo every pain and disappointment if we surrender ourselves to whatever is bothering us. We need to be always in his presence with the confidence that He will be with us in everything we do.
At the end of mass, each sick person was given two mandarin oranges and an Ang Pow. Fr joked that he had extended the Chinese New Year celebrations especially just for them. Everyone was then invited for a brunch where a large variety of food was served and sponsored by the Extraordinary Ministers of Communion who organized this event. Many complimented the great hospitality and attention shown to all and praised the cordial efforts of making everyone comfortable. Some were especially happy that Fr Martin gave due recognition to the often over looked and thankless service of the care givers.
One person commented that she especially loved the Ang Pow given to her by a non Chinese priest. Another daughter remarked that she was most surprised that her invalid mother in the wheel chair was responsive to what was happening during mass. Even though the response to this event this year was a bit lower than the previous time, there was a general awareness by many who came that sickness can afflict anyone of any age and we need to know that God is always there for us when we need Him. We just need to reach out to Him.
Dr. Ivan Filmer
22nd February, 2020