At the morning mass on the 4th October, a large number of parishioners of the Church of Divine Mercy, Penang (CDM) competed with many migrants for the limited places in the church under the SOP rules of the present MCO. The adjoining St Faustina Hall had to be opened to accommodate all who came to welcome the second parish priest of CDM, Fr Michael Raymond OFM Cap. This was an especially auspicious occasion as it was also the feast day of St Francis of Assisi, the founder of the Franciscan Order.
Fr Michael began his Sunday homily on the gospel of Matthew 21: 33-46, regarding the Parable of the Landowner of a Vineyard and the Wicked Tenants, with a humorous incident that had happened to him after he had said mass in another parish. A young boy presented him with a card that thanked him for his preaching the gospel but in the last line expressed his delight when he had ended his homily. Similarly, in the parables that Jesus taught, the last line would be the message of the short story. The gospel of the day reflected the journey of Christian life. Jesus spoke in parables as he understood his audience very well and used signs and symbols that the people could relate to. The last line of the parable warned them that the Kingdom of God would be taken away from them and given to others if they did not take the opportunities of finding and discovering God’s presence in their lives. Like the tenants in the gospel we often fail to encounter and recognize Him present in our families, BECs and society.
Fr went to on to explain that there were three blocks or blindness that prevent us from seeing God. The first is Spiritual Ignorance. As creatures of habit we fail to capture the many things around us that reflect God’s presence. The sunrise, that line in the gospel and all the everyday experiences that we miss to see God around us. The second is Cynicism or otherwise the frozen heart disease. Everything viewed in the negative perspective. This was so apparent in the Pharisees and the Scribes in the bible in their attitude towards Jesus. Lastly, is the Hardness of Heart. A stubbornness and refusal to move. To cast a blind eye or a deaf ear and an indifference to what is happening around them. These three things prevent us from experiencing God. In reference to the life of St. Francis of Assisi, Fr Michael related how the saint was able to capture the presence of God not only in his being but having the capacity to see God in others and in creation. As such he could not but help to love God in all things. If you can find God in yourself then you will be able to see God in others just like St Francis. He even composed the song Canticle of the Sun celebrating God’s creatures in creation. In parting, Fr Michael reminded the congregation that if you see God in little things, you will see God in all things.
At the end of mass, the parish council chairperson, Zeckry Chan welcomed with joy Fr Michael to be the new shepherd at CDM. He emphasized that the parish would like Fr Michael to walk in his own shoes and not in the previous parish priest’s shoes. The parish truly believed in it’s motto Jesus, I Trust in You and as only the Lord knows what he has in store for us (Psalm 139) the parish will diligently let its new shepherd lead it on. He reiterated that we all know the destination but not the journey, so we trust in the direction the Father would lead us. With the help of the Holy Spirit we will remain faithful in doing God’s work and pray for continued guidance of the shepherd in our midst. At the end of the speech the Tamil Apostolate presented Fr Michael with two baskets of fruits and cookies as a welcoming gift.
Dr Ivan Filmer
7th October, 2020.