One of the challenges I encountered when I was first assigned as a Priest in Charge of Kota Kinabalu Ecclesiastical Tribunal was to explain, in layman term, the word “annulment”. Many people either had no idea about it or equated it with “divorce”. Annulment is NOT divorce. To annul a marriage means to declare that a marriage is null and void because it did not fulfil the canonical requirements of the Church for Sacrament of Matrimony. In other words, the marriage was not supposed to have been allowed in the first place because it didn’t meet the conditions required by the Church. Usually, after hearing the explanation, parishioners (the witnesses in particular) would be more relaxed and cooperative with the Tribunal office. However, once a while, there are people who, no matter how the term is being explained, still so stubborn in insisting that annulment is evil and contradicts Jesus’ teaching. This kind of people are exactly like the grumpy labourers we have heard in the gospel for this 25th Sunday of Ordinary Time.
The labourers were grumbling because they thought they have been treated unjustly by the owner of the vineyard. They came first and yet they received the same amount of wages with those who came to work much later. They either didn’t pay attention to the deal they were offered or were so envious of their fellow labourers that they started challenging the Vineyard owner. They talked without thinking. They reacted without understanding the real issue. They didn’t analyze the situation thoroughly. The owner of the vineyard was not being injustice. The issue had nothing to do with just wages or equal right. He was simply being generous. He was exercising his right as the legal owner of the vineyard.
In the context of Salvation History, the owner of the vineyard is none other than God. Jesus told this parable to his audience because the Jews were so proud of their status as the Chosen People. There is nothing wrong with being a Chosen Nation; it is indeed a privilege. But the problem is, they deprive people from other nations to worship the One God Almighty and Creator of all. We could find in the Gospel many instances in which the non-Jews (or even Jews who were associated with the pagans) were despised and treated badly. Jesus wanted them to realise that God is impartial. Jesus is sent by God the Father for everyone. Salvation is not just for the Jews but everyone. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life”. (John 3:16)
It is no coincident that this Gospel is proclaimed on Sunday before the State Snap Election (that will be on Saturday, September 26). The Gospel has something for us to ponder with regards to the Election. To begin with, let me just clarify my stand on the Church and Secular Politics. I am personally convinced that the Church as an “institution” should not directly involve in secular politics. As best as possible, the Church has to be neutral. The reason is simple, the Church as a “people” has the freedom to choose political preferences. It is an individual right to vote. The Church is like a family – not everyone would agree to one particular party. But regardless of political differences, a family will always be a FAMILY. That is why, when we enter the “building” of a Church, we must put aside our political preferences. We must realize that in the Church we are at equal footing. We do not bother about political ideologies because we are all ONE BODY OF CHRIST. We are brothers and sisters, we are family.
However, when we are out of the Church (and especially when it comes to election), we should exercise our right to vote. Your vote is personal. Your vote is your choice. But as Christians you should be voting with the guidance of the Holy Spirit. There is nothing to be ashamed of by praying before voting. And even before the day of the election, it is your right to get all the possible information on the candidates who are contesting for the election. It is important to understand the agendas of the parties contesting for the election. Do not be like the labourers in the Gospel last Sunday who talked without thinking. You have to get the issue correctly. You have to analyse the political issues properly.
So here are few questions for you to reflect on before casting your vote:
 Do I know the candidate and the political party I am contemplating to vote?
 Is he/she free of corruption?
 Does he/she or this political party truly care for all the “rakyat” regardless of religions and ethic differences?
 Does he/she promote justice and equality for everyone?
 Does he/she fight for his/her principles with integrity and work for the common good of the citizens?
 Does he/she strive to build a cohesive, harmonious and prosperous nation?
 Have I ever seen him/her participating in the religious prayers of his/her faith beliefs?
“Every election is also an opportunity for self-appraisal not only as a nation but more importantly for us as citizens of this country” (to quote Most Reverend Julian Leow, Archbishop of Kuala Lumpur in his pastoral letter before the GE14). Therefore, cast your vote through prayerful consideration and in accordance with our conscience formed by the Catholic faith.
On the parish pastoral matters, I would like to highlight the following communiques:
 Senior parishioners above 70s but without health issues and foreigners with proper documentations are now allowed to attend Sunday Masses, thanks to Archbishop John Wong who wrote to the State Ministry of Laws and Native Affairs for the permission.
 All Sunday Masses in Penampang Parish are basically back to normal. Hence, starting this Sunday all liturgical hymns will be sung during every mass including the psalms, procession with those involve in the liturgical celebration but keeping social distancing and novena prayers will also be resumed.
 We will be celebrating the 130 years of the coming of Good News to Penampang Parish on 29 September 2020. There will be a three-day online streaming spiritual preparation. Talks will also be incorporated in each session. Kindly, please refer to the website highlights for details.
 Finally, the online streaming Korean Mass in Penampang parish will be discontinued by October 2020. This coming Sunday should be the last one. I would like to thank Fr. Andrew Kim for conducting those Korean masses all this while, and also all those Catholic Communities who have been involved in serving those masses; of course not forgetting our ever ready Parish SocCom in airing those masses online.
The Gospel last Sunday reminds us that God is good and generous. Let us pray that He will be generous in helping us to build not just an amazing parish, but a nation that promotes respect for human dignity.
May the Holy Spirit grant us the wisdom and fortitude to vote for this coming election. God Bless.
Fr. Wilfred Atin