Sunday, 30 December 2012

New Year Thoughts

We make resolutions after resolution every year but we seldom keep them. Sometimes, we get upset and frustrated with ourselves for failing to keep our promises. We are very eager to change and amend our ways or do something different but still we find it difficult to do so. I have done the same with my life and many a times, have failed like you. However, for the past several years I have stopped making resolutions. Instead of making these resolutions, which are often meant in trying to make changes in my life, my attitudes and my ways based on my past track record, I have decided to focus on shaping my future to create new attitudes and new lifestyle by which I desire to live by. I cannot change the past but I can shape the future. The future is within my time frame and I wish to mould my life towards this future. By focusing on my future, I need to visualize it and create a clear vision by which my life will be shaped. The clearer the vision of my life, my paradigm, the easier and stronger shape it will be formed. I am challenged to gear my whole energy to align my whole self, my strength, my thoughts and my feelings in unison with my whole person, becoming and taking shape as it should be in the future. Realizing this, I have decided not to make plans of what to do, but what I wish and desire to become. Here, I wish to share with you all some ways, which you and I can shape our lives.
1. Power of Blessing
Every year, we have the reading taken from the book of Numbers, of which speaks of the blessings from God. It is a blessing which comes from God and should be passed on from generation to generation. It should be transmitted down to our children and from them to their children and so forth. It is indeed an appropriate reading for all Christians as we head towards a new year, a new beginning. To bless and to be blessed is a right starting point as we step into the New Year. To feel the blessings of God and to impart the blessings to others is the hallmark of Christian community. To begin with, we should feel we are indeed blessed. Our whole life is blessed by God. We not only know this in mind, but we should feel from deep within and grow in deeper conviction of this feeling to the point that it should be oozing out literally. When we get out from our bed, the first thought that should emerge is the thought of blessing and the feeling of blessed. I feel I am blessed not because of my virtues but because God has made us as blessed. This is what it means by ‘having been created in God’s image and likeness’. In fact throughout our life, we should allow this thought and feeling of blessed to surface as frequent as possible so that the whole fragrance of blessedness will radiate. Naturally, this will lead us to share this power of blessing with others. We have received, lived and now we give to others.
2. Grace of Gratitude
Stop wallowing in self-pity! There is no end to this and we are wasting too much of our time on it. We do not know how fortunate we are until we see someone else’s misery. I am sure we have heard this quote, “I used to complain I had no shoes until I met a man with no feet.” I love that quote! It’s such a great reminder to re-focus our minds from complaining about what we don’t have to focusing on what we do have. Many people choose to focus on what they do not have, rather than focus on what they have and what they are capable of. Being grateful is a little thing we can do to drastically improve our moods, and our whole days. In fact, grace of gratitude is the ability to recognize and acknowledge in ourselves what was initially intended by God, that God in the very beginning created the whole creation and exclaimed as “Good” (cf. Gen 1). As we express and live in the grace of gratitude, we align ourselves with the original initial intention of God. Grace of gratitude should not be mere words. In fact, it should is an attitude that we have about ourselves, others and about creation. It is an act of withholding with sanctity the works of God. Wallowing in self-pity or self-condemnation is a denial of the very creation of God. Attitude of appreciation and love of oneself and others as God intended is a way to live the potential goodness within us.
3. Power of Positive thinking
Rain falls on a good person and bad person alike. Good fortune and misfortune happen to all persons. As it happens and as it comes, we have the power to confront the misfortune with our positive perception. There is a short story of two men in prison looking through the window. One prisoner looks at the sky full of stars and the moon radiating brilliantly. The other prisoner’s eyes fall on the ground full of mud. What you see or perceive generates what you feel. We can look at a half glass of wine and say, “Wow, I have half a glass of wine. I am going to enjoy it” or I can say, “Gosh, I have only half a glass of wine. What to do, hay..ya....” It all depends on us. Beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder. It is that which is in you that you see. Events present as they are and it is we who interpret them as they befit us. The impacts they create are measured by how we perceive it. Enthusiasm and inspiration spring from positive living life and seeing the goodness in every single event should drive and energize us to live even more passionately in the world.
4. Capacity to Transform
Touch the face of God! There is no need to be like King Midas who wished that everything he touched would turn into gold literally. It is a myth about the tragedy of avarice and narrates what happens when true happiness is not recognized. Our Golden touch is not like King Midas’ touch. It does not spring from our ego or self-centred needs. It is a power which comes from God himself. When we align ourselves with the power of God, we become His co-creators. It is not so much of doing something, but it is about allowing the will of God to be accomplished in us. When I align myself with God, everything will be transformed through us. When we touch God, we become His children. As the Gospel of John would put it plainly, “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name....” (cf. Jn 1:12). It is not believing in the mere words but believing the very truth to the point of becoming the transforming agent. It is the power of God which we have harness to change and transform every opportunity into golden opportunity. Set your mind as you open yourself to the forthcoming or unfolding opportunities in life, whether it is education, business or life changing experience. As they unfold, pray and meditate to connect with God so that we will be able to harvest the power to transform our lives.
5. Power of Intention
I came across this caption said by the famous martial art expert, Bruce Lee, “As you think so shall you become.” Think about what you are thinking today. What do those thoughts say about you? About your life? Creating a life that we want to live requires us to put some focus in creating it. When we meditate and enter fully into spiritual depth of inner human life within us and align ourselves with the will of God, we eventually would be able to create the life we wish to have. However, this is not an easy process. Basically, there are 2 ways of getting there. First, it is a process of purification or cleansing. It is a process of purifying the mind of all negativities and then, putting on the mind of Christ (cf. 1 Cor 2:13-16). It is a process of dying and rising to new life in Christ. Getting rid of negativity is getting rid of all our negative understanding and negative concepts and paradigms which we have imprinted in our minds. On the other hand, we need to capture the right understanding of God, of ourselves and others. The longer we dwell within ourselves in our right understanding, right intention and keep meditating, and the more they seep deeply into our consciousness, the more fortified our intentions will be. Constantly connect with God as you become His image.
Fr Robert Daniel Francis

Saturday, 29 December 2012

Interview with newly baptised Pauline Mah


A happy Auntie Pauline

RCIA Class 2011-2012

Auntie Pauline being interviewed by Joseph Wang

Madam Mah, who prefers to be called 'Auntie Puay Lim', was baptized on Christmas Eve, 2012 at the Christmas Vigil mass after having gone through more than a year of preparation in RCIA. Below is an account of her Journey of Faith.

When and How did you become interested in the Catholic Faith?
Since I was a small girl when I saw my mother praying. My younger sister had earlier became a Catholic in Singapore and Fr. Surmon used to come to my house to give my mother catechism lessons.  I have 3 brothers and 7 sisters, except for one brother, all of whom have become Christians .
Later in 1956 -59, when I was sent for teacher training in Kirkby College in England, I joined a group of catholic trainee teachers who were invited by Fr. Ramsbottom every Saturday evening for prayers and sharing/talks and supper. It was a happy time for me. Around 1957, I was fortunate to visit Lourdes in France and the experience remains with me to this day. I felt peace and joy and was filled with wonder at the many people who came with crutches and in wheelchairs, but left Lourdes without them.
Although I was not yet a Catholic,  the  faith that God had given me earlier helped me in my married life.  I used to pray and I believed God answered my prayers.

What brought you to ask for baptism ?
Three events which happened and  I believed God answered my prayers convinced me of my faith in God and that led me to ask for baptism:

1)    For 30 years, my husband has been troubled by heart palpitations which could not be explained even by specialists. Then, 14 year ago, we met Dr. Mahendran Raj, who was lecturing in USM and he was instrumental in sending my husband for a checkup at  IJM (Heart Institute of Malaysia). The specialists there found the cause of the palpitations – a extra vein in the heart. He had an operation to remove the vein and since then he is no longer troubled by palpitations.

2)    The second incident  in which I prayed very hard and I believed God answered my prayers happened 2 years later. After bath one day, my husband had breathing difficulties and I drove him to Hospital USM. Again, it was Dr. Mahendran who took the trouble to stop his work and ordered a stress test for him. Again, he was sent to IJM where they found 3 arteries were blocked. Immediately he underwent  a heart bypass operation and thank God, he is OK 12 years later now.

3)  For the last 14 years, I suffered from back pain and it became excruciatingly painful until I couldn’t walk. I was scared to have the operation done as I had heard of the high risks and  stories of other unfortunate cases.  In 2009, I was recommended to ProfessorDr. Kwan at Universiti Malaya Medical Centre who convinced me to have the operation done.  I put my life in God’s hands and He did not fail me.  My spine operation was successful, thanks to God and I have been free of pain since then, and able to walk and drive.
Throughout these years, I believe that God was with me, and He answered my prayers.

Can you share with us your Faith experience after you decided to enroll in RCIA Class?
I am very happy to attend all the RCIA classes,  to listen and to share with the other students and to learn so many new thngs about God and the Catholic church. In fact, after every RCIA session, I call my daughter who is living in US to share what I have learnt.

How do you feel after being baptized?
Happy, that I am finally God’s child. 

We praised and thank God for Auntie Pauline who has gone through her Journey of Faith, and may God continue to bless her and her family as she begins her 'new life of faith' and continue to grow in her spiritual life.
Thanks to Sr. Regina and all the students of RCIA 2011-2012 without whom this continuing Journey in Faith would not have begun.
And thanks to Fr. Robert for his tremendous encouragement throughout this journey.

Joseph Wang.

Monday, 24 December 2012

Christmas Sermon


During this season of Christmas, we often share gifts with one another. This spirit of “I buy for you and you buy for me,” overpowers the real and true Christmas season. Of course, we are indeed happy, joyful, and delighted when we give and receive gifts during this season of Christmas. And for some, the joy to give is more than the joy to receive as to give is an opportunity to show kindness and generosity. On the other hand, others would prefer to receive, and they would call it as an act of humility to receive graciously. However, in all these acts or actions of giving and receiving, there is one particular gift at Christmas, which we can only receive, and can never be able to return. No matter what, we cannot return it, nor should we try to return it as it is impossible to do so. And that gift is this baby, lying in the manger – a gift from God, a gift of God himself to us. You can only open your arms to receive graciously. You can only feel thankful and grateful in receiving him. You can do nothing else, but to only receive him. Thus, this makes us vulnerable. We will always feel we need to return what we have received. We become even more vulnerable when we know that God does not demand any form of compensation for what he has given. God just wants to make your life full with this Gift. When we are full and overflowing with gratitude and thankfulness, instead of turning to God, we should turn to one another and share this very blessing with one another. In sharing, we should be like lights, which can never be contained but always shinning ever brightly. It is when we receive God as our gift, and then only can we share him to others. In this way, we ourselves become gifts to one another. Thus, treating each other with reverence, sacredness, appreciation, kindness and much love.

Wishing all of you a Blessed Gifted Christmas
Fr. Robert Daniel

Sunday, 23 December 2012

Fourth Advent with Luke

In today's gospel, we have the scene of the meeting of two great women of Israel, namely Mary and Elizabeth. The meeting of these two women is well depicted in many of the paintings in the Christian tradition. Most paintings described them in an intimate, joyful and ecstatic spiritual state. Hence, when Mary and Elizabeth got together, the vibes were all positive. This was not because both pregnant women were merely excited about the prospects of being mothers, but as both of them prophetically knew something about the significance of their forthcoming arrivals. Their first response which sprung up from this positive energetic encounter was this sheer joy. This experience of joy could even reach down to the womb of Elizabeth, thus, triggered the child to make a leap of joy. It was also a joy that caused Elizabeth to be filled with the Holy Spirit. Look! It is amazing that such a genuine encounter could open up human persons to experience tremendous joyfulness and newness of life. Indeed, this is a true human encounter, which in fact is possible for every one of us if we genuinely open up ourselves to each other. Thus, this would allow our joyous experience in and within us to penetrate through us to the very self, and eventually travels out to be shared with others. In this modern world, there is fair criticism around us, which states that our Christian churches seemed to be devoid of joy. It goes on to say that there is no radiance of contentment and inner joyfulness in our lives. In addition, no one wishes or dares to express their joy in a loud and exuberant way. Our church services have become too solemn to the point that it seems too genuine to be true. Thereby, sacredness has been identified with solemn, serious and rigid celebration, which in fact should be complemented with lots of joy. The Church should be a place for genuine human encounters, where we should feel full of grace and good about ourselves, and not be a place where we feel we are lesser and inadequate. The Church is a place where we feel we are complete with God. It is only when we feel we are indeed adequate, complete, positive, full of grace and joy, which God has made us to be, thus, any encounter will become a great genuine spiritual experience, just like Elizabeth and Mary’s experience. And through this encounter of Elizabeth and Mary’s, may we be challenged to rediscover joy in the celebration of Christmas.

Fr Robert Daniel Francis

Saturday, 22 December 2012

Wishing All Readers a Merry Christmas


Beautifully decorated lighted Christmas Tree in Fatima Hall
'Christmas begins with Christ" Poster in front of Father's House
Click on the link below for video:

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Third Advent with St. Luke

When we begin our journey through Advent, we are faced with many strong spiritual images. The First Advent Sunday presented us with the Prophet Jeremiah, who echoed the promise of the Lord. It is the Lord who would bring forth “a virtuous branch” by which Salvation and Confidence of the people of Israel and Judah were assured. From this virtuous branch, we moved to the desert, where the Word of God came to John the Baptist. It is an indication that through solitude, that the voice of God becomes clear. Now, from solitude, we move to notion of repentance, the first calling made by John the Baptist.

For life to be interesting, alive and vibrant, there should be colours. Colours bring variants. Variants bring beauty. For beauty to happen, there should be creativity. When there is creativity, there is thinking. Thinking breathes reflection and this gives birth to changes and modification. That is the art of living. Hence, for us, some changes are needed for new elements to sip in, so that meaning could be drawn from Christmas.  It is though these changes that will create new rhythms, new chords, new songs, new lyrics and new words. John the Baptist becomes the forerunner of this very new song of salvation. The theme of his song is this ancient religious word “repentance.” Of course, his song sung in the wilderness, sounds fierce, alarming with no sense of rejoicing. However, as part of the preparation of accepting the coming of Christ, this song of repentance have to be part of our Christian living. And repentance, which is marked by justice, can be our Christian way to herald the Messiah into the world.

Friday, 7 December 2012

Thursday, 29 November 2012

Second Advent with St. Luke

Where shall we begin our Advent journey? How can I celebrate this advent meaningfully? What can I do to make this advent different than the previous years’ advent? These could be some of the thoughts lingering in our minds or words spoken from the pulpit. As these thoughts linger on in our mind, the gospel of Luke gives us a clue on how to enter into the mood of Advent: “...the word of God came to John son of Zachariah, in the wilderness.” Perhaps, we could start our journey, in the ‘desert,” in solitude and in quietness. For the people of Israel, wilderness represents both the presence and the absence of God. It is a place where their faith is tested, and at the same time, they strongly felt the presence of God. The first journey through the wilderness began with Moses as he brought the people out of Egypt into the Promised Land. This exodus though the desert remains as the foundation of the experience and relationship of the people with their God. God was really journeying with them through the desert. Later, in the Christian tradition, wilderness has become a spiritual abode for all those who seek to intensify their relationship with God. Desert Fathers and Mothers– the Hermits, Ascetics and Monks, who lived mainly in the desert of Egypt, beginning around the third century CE - abandoned the cities of the pagan world to live in solitude. They ran to the desert or withdrew to the desert to spend in ardent preparation and to intensify their spiritual union with God. With the bare state of the desert and with practically no inhabitants, they were left alone, wandering in solitude and with thoughts lingering on God. In the desert, it is you and God and no one else.

Today, there is no need to look for a desert for solitude. The objective of withdrawing to the desert is to create solitude. However, we can create that solitude in where we live. When we create a quiet time and being alone wherever we live, we make that ‘desert’ come ‘real’. When we enter into that solitude, that quietness, we are present to ourselves and to God. So, during this advent, we go into this space of quietness to meet the child Jesus – a child born for us. Meeting him face to face in this very solitude situation will probably unearth the true meaning of Christmas. Let me share with you my experience of one particular Christmas break which I spent alone when I was in Rome. It was Christmas break and most of the students were away for some pastoral work at certain parishes in Italy. I did not go anywhere that year and stayed back in my room alone. In fact the whole college was empty except for a few elderly Italian priests.

On Christmas Eve, I decided to walk to St. Peter’s Square to look at the crib. It was cold and the walk took about 15 minutes. The whole street was quiet as most of the people were at home having their family meal on the Eve of Christmas as Christmas was a family affair in Europe. When I reached the square, I saw a huge magnificent crib that year. I stood before the crib, completely absorbed into it so much so I felt I was completely alone before God. That aloneness (not loneliness) was very strengthening and edifying. I felt something different – something that I could spell out clearly even today. Indeed it was a new experience, a faith-lifting experience that brought newness and meaning to my Christmas that year. It was a quiet but powerful moment. I still carry that experience until today. Sometimes I do long for that moment. I suppose something happens to us more profoundly not in a big way but in small and quiet way, hence leaving a profound impact in our lives. It is small things that sometimes count and not the big things. It is the small things that are left hidden in the inner most of our selves – heart, mind and soul. So, let us spend some quiet time everyday looking at small things as well as big things. Let them emerge, surface and lastly, let Christ rises with them, so that celebration of Christmas would become an inner proclamation of faith - a proclamation that is deeply rooted in our conviction that Christ is with us and he has saved us.

First Advent with St. Luke

Introducing Luke for Advent Season
This year we enter into the spirit of Christmas with St. Luke. Understanding the purpose and the intention of the author of the Gospel of Luke enable us to better grasp better the meaning and the saving intention of God through Jesus. The Gospel of Luke was written in Greek, whereby and Luke is the only Gentile Christian writer of the New Testament. The language of Luke reveals that he is an educated man and a physician (Col 4:14). Being a Greek and a doctor would explain his scientific (often makes reference to sickness and diseases) and orderly approach to the book. In his gospel written to the Gentile, Luke introduces Jesus to them. Among the various themes expounded through the Gospel, there is one most significant theme running through the Gospel, namely ‘Jesus, the Saviour of the World’. Luke is the only one among the other Gospel writers to have coined the word or title “Saviour” and attributed it directly to Jesus. The title “saviour” is derived from the Hebrew root, Yeshua, which corresponds to the Greek spelling Iesous, from which comes the English spelling Jesus. As a belief among the Hebrew people, the naming of the person signifies the destiny of the person. One is born into the world for a purpose and that very purpose is realized through that very name. The calling of the name constantly reminds one of his or her destiny or his or her role in the world. In the case of Jesus, the invocation of the name Jesus not only reminds us of His destiny but also brings about his saving grace to all of us.

The opening words of the Lord, through the prophet Jeremiah are very assuring for this season. As a prophet who lived in the midst of uncertainty of the 7th century B.C.E, a torn-situation whereby his people were threatened by the rising power of the Assyria empire in the North and Egypt in the west and south, – it was indeed his call to speak of hope. A prophet does not lie or provide an easy answer. A prophet rises above all these situations and clings to the promise made by the Lord, “I will make a virtuous Branch grow for David....In those days Judah shall be saved and Israel shall dwell in confidence. And this is the name the city will be called: The Lord-our-integrity.” The promise made by the Lord will not be forgotten and the role of the prophet is to unearth this promise. The prophet is the one who holds out a vision for us to cling, especially when we are in the midst of a difficult situation, thus finding it difficult to look beyond. The strength of Jeremiah's proclamation regarding the coming of the righteous branch lies in the fact that these words speak from the perspective of ultimate power, the power of God. It is exactly when the problems of our people are most murky and complex, when the future seems most bleak, that we turn to the word of the Lord for vision. Hold on to this image of that righteous branch and let the words of Jeremiah absorb into our hearts. Let the words of Luke, “Your liberation is near at hand,” constantly echo in our minds and hearts as we step into season of Advent.





Monday, 19 November 2012

34th Sunday - Gospel Reflection

Regnat Dominus Noster! We enter the last liturgical year with the Gospel of John depicting the scene of the trial of Jesus before Pilate. In the time of Jesus, Roman Empire was considered a powerful empire the world had ever known and Pilate represented this great power. For Pilate, being king could only mean a powerful exertion of authority and establishing order. Any claim of kings or kingship, could only mean that he or she becomes a threat to the Roman authority and order. On the contrary, Jesus sees himself in line with the biblical description of a Shepherd King, the one who seeks the lost. Perhaps, it is here that John, the evangelist brings out a sharp distinction or rather making it very clear for his audience as to what kind of king Jesus is. The issue of Jesus' kingship is already raised in chapter 6. After he satisfies the bellies of the 5000, they try to seize him and force him to be king. It is in the midst of intense expectation of the people for a Ruler-Messiah to establish or restore Israel, together with the dilemma faced by Pilate as to who Jesus really is that John sets the scene to clarify the status of Jesus. Hence, Jesus is presented as not an earthly King, a presentation which did not match the needs, the expectation of anyone present there, neither the Jews nor Pilate.

How many times in our lives did we want God to fit into our moulds, our concepts, our needs, our expectations, or our ways? When things do not happen the way we expect, we reject them as ungodly or we lament or we even purge God from our lives? The classic temptation is: “To make God into our Image,” is one of the most difficult hurdles to overcome. It requires a constant discernment and acute awareness. It is like walking on a tight rope. Instead of making God fit into our agenda, we should discern always on how we fit into God’s design.       

Sunday, 18 November 2012

KCYS Youth Camp 2012

KCYS  G.I.F.T CAMP  from Friday 9th  - Sunday 11th November 2012
(G.I.F.T. means Growing in Faith Together)

Monday, 12 November 2012

33 Sunday - Gospel Reflection

Adventus! People get very excited or agitated when they speak or hear about doomsday preaching. In fact, this has become one of the popular topics for preaching today. Movie world presents us with various thoughts and description of the end of the world through earthquakes, cosmic downfall, giant meteorites and interplanetary warfare and other similar ones, that are frightening as they are and more so convincingly presented as if the end is actually near. What does this indicate about the direction and thoughts of the world? Are we at the crossroad? Are we craving for a new world order? Or are we are indeed obsessed with the collapse of the world for we are obsessed with the thoughts of a new world order? Could it be a sign of crisis of a civilization where all things falling apart giving ways to new world order?

Over the centuries, from time to time people from all over the world have predicted some kind of end world scenarios, sometimes with dates and time spelled out clearly. Yet, when the world arrives at that juncture, it simply passes through. The most obvious and strange thing is that when Jesus himself declared that no one knows the hours or the day, somehow someone down the street will conveniently predict the exact date of the coming of the Lord. How can this be! The language or the manner the end of the world is presented or spoken of today is rather gory and frightening, thus causing anxiety. It is a language of misery! It depicts that everything will be wiped away – no hope, no future and those who are ‘prepared physically to confront this situation will survive’. In contrast, the weak, the poor and the less fortunate will certainly perish. Quite inhumane! Isn’t it?      

Jesus, on the other hand, uses apocalyptic language rather than language of misery when he speaks of the futuristic event. This apocalyptic language is found in many books of the bible such as the book Isaiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, and Zechariah, and of course not forgetting the book of Revelation. We need to discern carefully the difference nuances found in the biblical apocalyptic language (used by the prophets and later Jesus) from the doomsday language of misery which sprung from the modern interpretation and the implication of the biblical apocalyptic language. In the biblical world, apocalyptic language generally describes the fate of nations under the sovereign hand of God. Apocalyptic prophets like Isaiah, Daniel and others would use certain images describing passages describing hills melting, mountains being cast into the sea, the sun darkened and the moon turning to blood to show how the permanent things do not last and would come to end with the reign of God. This biblical language should not to be taken literally in its totality. It is a metaphorical and rhetoric speech meant to raise the awareness of the people of the precariousness of life as compare to the reign of God. It is awakening calling not to the end to come but focusing on the vision and the manifesting power of God. Inspired Apocalyptic language expresses the theme that God holds the future of humanity though how uncertain it may be sometimes. Hence, with our submission to this vision, certainty of God’s power and His reign, we remain victorious, we become wise and we are indeed strengthen, even in times of uncertainty. Therefore, in this sense, apocalyptic language is Israel’s theological sentiment of the reign of God actively penetrates and permeates our history.

Jesus, living in the midst of the great expectation of the coming of the Messiah, the one who would liberate Israel, used this apocalyptic-prophetic language as part of his expression of the reign of God. Jesus’ insertion of end time, the final point or commonly known as the Omega point, within the framework of God’s reign gives added eschatological tone to his apocalyptic-prophetic language. His language is prophetic for he speaks with authority from God. His language is apocalyptic because he reveals the hidden reign of God permeating history. His language is eschatological because for him the End does not end in itself but ends in God’s reign.

We are at the last liturgical Sunday – next week, it is celebration of the feast of Christ the King. Thus, the Church invites us to look at the passing world as it converges towards the final point, which is the reign of God. For all of us, whether it is in our lives or in our faith proclamation, we are called to speak the language of hope, the language of utter conviction in the reign and power of God, the language that liberates and sets us free from all anxiety and fear, the language that dispels the darkness and brings light and newness. These are the languages of Jesus – prophetic, apocalyptic and eschatological. We are called to be his voice, speaking his languages to the broken world, hence, bringing a difference.

Sunday, 11 November 2012

FMM Golden Jubilee Celebrations in KB

Jubilee mass concelebrated by Bishop Antony Selvanayagam, Archbishop Emritus Soter  and Fr. Robert 

On Friday, 11 May 2012, the Parish of Our Lady of Fatima of the Holy Rosary celebrated the Golden Jubilee of the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary or better known as the FMM sisters in Kota Bharu, Kelantan. The joyful occasion was graced by the presence of Bishop Antony Selvanayagam of Penang and Archbishop Emeritus Soter Fernandez, who together with our Parish Priest, Rev. Fr. Robert Daniel concelebrated the Jubilee Mass.
The mass began with a lively Entrance dance by 6 Sarawakian children,  splendidly dressed in traditional costumes followed by 25 FMM sisters who had come to join in the celebrations. In his homily, Bishop Selvanayagam spoke on the presence of the FMM in the predominantly Muslim East Coast states and how they have touched the lives of others in the last 50 years. During the Offertory, various gifts were offered – the first being a globe  which signifies that the FMM is present all over the world. It was significant that Sr. Angeline Poh was chosen to offer this gift, as she is the first religious vocation to the FMM from Kota Bahru.
After Thanksgiving, to commemorate the event, a slide-show presentation entitled ’50 Years of FMM Mission in Kota Bharu’ was shown, highlighting the history and the contribution of the FMM to the local community in Kelantan. Happy memories of past events, the Fatima Kindergarten and faces of FMM sisters who had served here were rekindled.
In her speech on behalf of the FMM, the Provincial of Singapore/Malaysia, Sr. Mary Soh thanked the bishops for their presence, Rev. Fr. Robert and the whole parish who have contributed to make the whole celebration a joyous occasion. All the FMM sisters present then presented a special “Thank you” Song and prayed a special blessing for all present.
The Parish of Our Lady of Fatima would like to express their gratitude to all FMM sisters, past and present who have made a difference in our personal lives and the life of the parish.
In the spirit of St. Francis of Assisi, may the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary continue to make their presence felt and continue to touch the lives of all they meet.

By Joseph Wang

Lively Entrance Dance by six East Malaysia Children

               Entrance procession                              Sr. Angeline Poh first Religious Vocation from KB

Bishop Selva receiving Offertory Gift frim Sr. Angeline Poh

FMM sisters praying a special blessing over congregation

Sr. Mary Soh, FMM Provincial Singapore/Malaysia giving her speech

Some of the sisters attending the Jubilee Mass

FMM  sisters cutting Jubilee Cake at Sakura Restaurant.

<More photos on FMM Sisters Page>

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

32 Sunday - Gospel Reflection

Gospel :  Mark 12: 38-44

Poor Widow! This coming week’s gospel challenges us differently. Most of us think that it is a story of generosity – the act of giving without holding back. We have heard this sort of interpretation of the story over and over again from the pulpit. Sometimes, the generosity demonstrated by the widow in the gospel of Mark is blown out of proposition so much so that it sounds quite impossible for someone to act the way the widow acted in the gospel. In other words, the story of widow is too ideal to be true! Perhaps, the story of generosity or the act of giving is one side of the truth or lesson Jesus intends to communicate but this particular lesson does not entirely swallow up the other possible lesson/teaching intended.

Jesus in Mark 11:1-12 has made his entry into Jerusalem and from now on, from chapter 11 onwards, everything Jesus does will be centred on Jerusalem and its temple. Not only that, Jesus’ death eventually will be also directly connected with Jerusalem – its temple, city and the people there. This is the first observation we should make. The very fact that Jesus has entered Jerusalem – triumphant entry and dramatic as it was - the people themselves expected some sort of dramatic event about to unfold through him. There is a high intense expectation and excitement! Within this given context, Mark, the evangelist has portrayed Jesus sitting down opposite the treasury and watching the people putting money into the treasury. Interesting, instead of accomplishing something dramatic in Jerusalem, Mark in 11:38-40, has Jesus sitting and pointing out the hypocrisy of the scribes – Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, and to have the best seats in the synagogues and places of honor at banquets!   They devour widows' houses and for a  pretence make long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation.” Note that one of the outrageous actions mentioned of the scribes is “they devour widows’ houses and for a pretence are making long prayers.” In other word, the scribes use long prayer to hide their act of injustice done to the widows. That is hypocrisy! Within this act of injustice committed towards the widows, that Jesus strikingly, sets his eyes on a widow who puts in two small coins. “Two small copper coins” were the smallest coinage of that time. It took 64 such coins to make a denarius, that is, a day's wage, which is enough to live for a day. The woman had only 1/32 of what it took to live for a day, yet she put it all in the temple treasury. One person devours as much as he wants and hides behind prayer and the other gives everything she owns. What a contrasting attitude!

Perhaps, we should ask some questions now! What is the implication of this text? What does it mean for us?
1. Have you ever thought why the widow was left with only 2 small coins? Jesus remarks, this poor widow has put in more than all those putting into the treasury;  for all, out of their abundance, put in, but she, out of her want, all that she had put in - all her living.” Was this a lesson/story to demonstrate generosity or a depiction of the state of injustice and the state of poverty-stricken widows in Jerusalem to the point that this widow in Mark (representing the widows’ of Jerusalem) had put in everything she possessed, all that she had to live on. Now, she is left with nothing to live on for! The injustice and corruption in Jerusalem has reached its climax, its peak that it calls for action from God! The plea of the poor of YHWH! Mark as an apocalyptic theologian, having written his gospel about 70 CE, after the fall of the temple perhaps saw that with this destruction of Jerusalem, all these corrupt practices of the temple came to end and God in Jesus replaces with a new order – where special care for the widows are expressed in the writings of the New Testaments, see 1 Tim 5:3-10 (by St. Paul), James 1:27, Acts 6:1-15
2. On the other hand, is this a lesson whereby in spite of being the subject of abuse,  victim of the scribes, the poor victim, though left with only 2 small coins, is yet able to contribute to the Treasury? She spoke no words, no complains and no excuse was on her lips. She just threw in two small coins! Even, in this circumstance, she could give something. What a commendable act!

 Fr Robert Daniel Francis

Monday, 5 November 2012

In Memory of Fr. Ben

FR BEN NIEUKEY (1933 -2009)

          Fr. Dr. Benedict Nieukey, or Fr. Ben, (as he was lovingly known by all), was a gentle, peace loving man who lived his life on earth to the full.
Although he could have been a great doctor, or a great pofessor or even a musician, (he was all these and more) he chose to become Christ’s humble apostle, following in his Master’s footsteps, finally becoming a priest after receiving his calling to the Holy Orders.
          He was highly educated, with a string of degrees, a Bachelor’s degree in Chemistry and Botany, a PhD in Clinical Psychology. He started his working life as a La Salle Brother, trained as a teacher in St. Joseph’s College in Penang. Later on he joined the Seminary and was ordained in  19 ...( Later he worked as a Lecturer at University Sains Malaysia in Penang and was appointed as the Chaplain for the USM students. During his tenure at the USM, he also practiced his clinical Psychology. )

          After he resigned his lectureship, he became a full-time diocesan priest. In this humble position, he served in many parishes in the Diocese of Penang: in the Church of St.Louis Taiping, Christ the King, Sungei Petani, and in March 1986, he was posted as Parish Priest to Our Lady of Fatima, Kota Bharu, and finally in 1991 he was posted as the Chaplain for the Sisters of the Poor in Penang He remained Chaplain to the Home until he called to the Lord on 24th May 2009.
          It was during his 5 years(1986-1990)in Kota Bharu, that I got to know him and my memories of that time is still fresh in my mind.  Alex Poh was the PC chairman then and he roped me in to start the Parish Newsletter in August 1986. Fr. Ben would faithfully write the Monthly Message from the Parish Priest in which he would share his thoughts and he wrote always to motivate the parishioners.
          Fr. Ben was a truly humble priest – a man for all seasons. When he first came, the Church was undergoing renovations – a new ceiling, and a new backdrop – he jokingly told parishioners – before you couldn’t see Fr. Ben but now with the light backdrop, he has become visible!  In fact in the first edition of the newsletter, he wrote the first article on “My re- new” church – using the pseudonym of John.
          He was a great traveler and in his first few months, he set out to the ulus of Kelantan, places like Laklok and Gua Musang, to look for lost sheep. There were many Catholic Families in those remote rubber estates who have not seen a priest for quite a long while.
          Fr. Ben was instrumental in motivating the parish to grow both in its spiritual and human dimensions. In May 1988 and March 1989 he brought the ME (Marriage Encounter) to Kelantan to more than 40 couples, and initiated a renewal of their married lives. This was the beginning of friendship and fellowship among the families in the parish. He was available to all parishioners and he opened his doors to one and all. Every time a visitor dropped in, he would be most welcoming, with a cup of coffee or tea. During the rosary months of May and October, he never fail to turn up at the home of the host on his old motorcycle.
          Through the ME and his personal friendship with the families of parishioners, there were many baptisms of non-Catholic partners of mixed marriages – Dr. Robert Bates, Mr. Kenneth Sivasamboo, Mr. Richard Khor, Mr. Charles Sim, Patricia Poh, were all baptized by Fr. Ben.
          Going through the newsletters from August 1986 – Dec 1990, brought back many memories. Every month for the 39 issues of the Parish Newsletter, Fr. Ben would type on his faithful typewriter, a monthly message from Fr Ben – always positive, very encouraging and truly uplifting. His thoughts and observations were really touching and showed how much he cared for us.
          On the occasion of his 57th birthday in June 1990, excerpts from the birthday message delivered by Mr. Vincent Na on behalf of parishioners:
          “We want you to know, Father that our love for you has become stronger. We ask you not to work too hard, but to take it easy. Otherwise the young and not-so-young parishioners of our community are going to have a tough time trying to keep up with you. Indeed, you have so often put us to shame with your strong appetite for hard work. And you always do it with a big and beautiful smile.”
          Yes, besides being a hard worker, he was a good listener, very practical and down to earth. He inherited a strong resilience from his late mother (who lived to the ripe old age of 91). During the last years of his life, when he was struck down with cancer of the liver, even when he was suffering and in great pain, he put on his usual smiling face. His mother had advised him “Whether you put on a smiley face or a sad face, the pain will still be there, so which would you rather choose?”
          I think his whole life was one of love and committed service in Christ, as evidenced by his favourite quote from Etienne De Grellet:
          “I shall pass this world but once, Any good therefore that I can do,
          Or any kindness that I can show to any human being, let me do it now.
          Let me not defer or neglect it,
          For I shall not pass this way again.”
I would like to end with a message from Fr Ben which he wrote in the last issue of the Parish Newsletter in January 1991. This are his last words to us in Kota Bharu:
“ Dear Parishioners in Christ,
          May the love and peace of Christ always be in your midst.
As I prepare to take my home leave, I am so deeply grateful to God for the gift of each and everyone of you. You have been so generous and thoughtful in your service to God and to each other in the spirit of true Christian love and charity.
          I would like to thank each of you personally for all this, but I can only express it in this note. I thank you dear (FMM) Sisters for your dedicated service to the community. I thank you members of the ICT(PPC) for your willingness to come forward and serve your brothers and sisters in trying to create a loving and caring community. I thank you, dear ladies of different groups who so humbly perform your service to enhance fellowship in the community. I thank you, individual members who have volunteered from time to time to assume responsibilities for the different organizations and functions. I thank you each and every parishioner  your contributions and encouragement that makes our community what it is today.
          May God bless you all and reward you for your generosity. Continue in this same spirit to serve the community under the guidance of your new parish priest and give him the same support and encouragement and love you gave to me. It is God who calls each one of us to this mission in the Church of Kelantan.
          I have been close to you and your families in sharing your joys and sorrows, your happiness and anxieties and I would like to assure you of my continued prayers. My greatest joy and satisfaction will be to see the community grow daily in the “love of God and of your neighbour.” May God bless you always.
Your parish priest in Christ,
Fr. Ben

We will always remember you, Fr. Ben and cherish your memory in our hearts. For your simplicity and hospitality to all who came to you. Most of all, we thank you for showing us how to share and to care as a community.
May you receive your reward in heaven. Amen.

Eulogy delivered by
Joseph Wang,
Wednesday, 27 May 2009
Church of Our Lady of Fatima, Kota Bharu
Fr. Ben at outdoor mass with parishioners during our Annual Parish Picnic on Semerak beach
Farewell dinner for Fr. Ben organised by the Marriage Encounter family of Kota Bharu

2nd Marriage Encounter in Kelantan, 1989 introduced by Fr. Ben
Fr. Ben, a self-taught musician able to play many musical intruments, at a mass for the parish councils of KB and KK