A few days ago, amid this coronavirus pandemic, there was a viral piece of news about Mario Salerno, a landlord in New York City who waived rents for the month of April for his 200 tenants. It might sound as “too good to be true” to us but that was exactly what he did. For Mario, it was more important for the people to be healthy and he was worrying about who could put food on the table rather than to concern himself about the losses incurred on him.
It happened not just in New York. In Kundasang-Ranau, a famer by the name of Simon Leong, distributed free vegetables to the public and Covid-19 frontliners in the state, rather than allowing them to go to waste. Simon has been doing that since the implementation of the Movement Control Order (MCO). Too good to be true? Well, it it not a fake story. Check it out yourself.
And back here in the Parish Rectory and St. Joseph Convent, we experienced similar situation. Every now and then, someone would just drop-by to send us food supplies, masks, hand-sanitizers and many other items. We are indeed very touched by the people’s kindness. You won’t believe it but the feeling to suddenly have some “kuih panjaram” or “Tausi basungan goreng” on our meal table is indescribable! Still “too good to be true”? Well, I am not kidding.
It goes without saying that, all over the world, churches are among the tons of many who feel the pinch of the imposed lockdown due to the COVID19 pandemic. It was for this very reason that two weeks ago I issued a circular to the Penampang parishioners appealing for financial supports. Many people probably are not aware that every month, just for the parish workers’ salaries, EPF and SOCSO, we spend a total of RM25, 253.40. That is not inclusive of other basic amenities like electricity, telephone and water bills. Honestly, I was worried then, when I thought of the 16 parish workers. Most of them have families to support. Obviously, on the one hand, we could not allow ourselves not to pay their salaries in full. But on the other hand, without the Sunday Masses, how would we get financial income to pay them? Our Church is a non-profit organisation, after all.
What came out later, however, was almost “too good to be true”! The responses to my appeal were awesome! Our parish account staff, Sharmaine Henry informed me that she has been very much occupied working from home sorting out the online bank-in donations. I am not able to disclose the amount raised at the moment, but a financial report will surely be published in the parish e-bulletin after the MCO. I am indeed very much thankful to all of you for your generous support. May God bless you all!
“Too good to be true!” – that was also Thomas’ initial reaction when he heard from the other 10 disciples that Jesus had risen from the dead. He wasn’t with the 2 others when Jesus appeared so he doubted the story of his fellow disciples. Thomas had seen how the Lord died the death of a criminal, crucified between two thieves. A few hours earlier he had witnessed Peter promised fidelity to Jesus and then denied him three times. He was disheartened, disillusioned and angry which made him still sceptical with the news by only seeing the face of our Lord. He was determined to ensure Jesus’ true identity. The face can change its expression and deceive others. The face can smile despite being sad and cry even though a person is happy but hands cannot change their appearance. Jesus clearly understood Thomas’ demand to see his hands and place his finger on the marks of his wounds. The indelible marks of the nails are indeed the Lord Jesus’ true identification.
The wounds of our Lord represent the wounds of humanity he had borne on the cross. And these wounds of humanity still exist today, all around us. Wounds of illness and depression, of unemployment and homelessness, of family conflicts, of loneliness, of addictions, of emptiness, of poverty, of neediness. Thomas touched the wound of Jesus and he believed! It was no longer “too good to be true”. The word of God today calls us to be like Thomas in this sense — not to doubt Jesus, but to touch the wounded body of Christ around us, to recognise the Lord in those who bear them. Mario Salerno, Simon Leong, all those anonymous donors and kind people I mentioned above are the “Thomases” of today. And God is calling us to join them.
This Sunday is also known as the Divine Mercy Sunday. There are loads of stories you may google explaining why this Sunday is called so. I wouldn’t touch about it here. But I would like to highlight what the Divine Mercy devotees in St. Michael have been preparing since the beginning of the year. They have been going around to each zone visiting Kampong Catholic Communities (KgCC) with a program they called “Jelejah Divine Mercy”. This program was supposed to be part of their preparation to celebrate this Divine Mercy Sunday today at 3.00 pm in Divine Mercy Church, Maang. But things turned out unexpectedly, we all know why. Naturally, they must have been disappointed because after all those hardwork and efforts, their plan didn’t materialize. But here is the stunning news -- they continued to have a 9-day Novena to prepare for this Divine Mercy Sunday celebration even though it would have to be just a live streaming mass. They realized that they would not be able to come together this time around to celebrate as a group but they kept encouraging each other to be faithful to the Novena. They even prepared Divine Mercy reading materials and devotion guidelines which were posted in the Parish Website and in their WhatsApp group. They did all these because, like Thomas, they have touched the wound of Jesus and believed. I pray that all of us could also take an example from these Divine Mercy devotees of our parish and join them in saying “Jesus, I Trust in You”. I don’t know about you but I am so proud of them!
On another note, I would like to announce to everyone that Sr. Felicity Moduying, one of our Franciscan sisters at St. Joseph’s Convent, Penampang will be moved to Stella Maris Home for Senior and Infirm Members, Tanjung Aru. She has not been feeling well lately and Mother General has decided to put her there for a better care. 3 She will be leaving the Convent by tomorrow morning (20 April 2020). Sr Felicity was transferred to our parish on the Epiphany Sunday, beginning of this year and was supposed to help in the Parish Worship Committee. I am sure that she will be missed a lot. Let us unite our prayers for her speedy recovery. I would also like to take this opportunity to thank Sr. Felicity for everything; all the help and support she had rendered us throughout her tenure here with us and wish her a blessing:
“The Lord bless you and keep you;
The Lord make his face to shine upon you And be gracious to you;
The Lord lift up his countenance upon you And give you peace”
(Numbers 6: 24 -26)
Fr. Wilfred Atin