Pastoral Message - Looking ahead and beyond the CMCO

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

“Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. I thank my God every time I think of you and every time I pray for you all, I always pray with joy.” (Phil 1:2-4)

After almost three months of living under the MCO and CMCO and as the nation moves into the recovery phase, there is a growing excitement and anticipation that we are finally seeing the end of lockdowns and restrictions, at least for the most part of it. For us Catholics, this does not just spell a return to some limited form of social and economic life, but also our most cherished sacramental life. A live-streamed Mass helps, but it does not have the same sustaining power as going to Church, being with other Catholics and actually — not just virtually or spiritually — receiving the Lord’s Body and Blood.

The Church’s decision to suspend the public celebration of Masses even before the implementation of the MCO was difficult and painful but necessary. But now as our society takes small cautious steps to reopen various sectors of public life, the Church too must begin to explore how we can open our churches and chapels and allow some limited resumption of public worship whilst complying with public health measures. Although, we have not arrived at a zero count in terms of new cases, we can observe that many other sectors have gradually and successfully opened up in a safe albeit limited way.

Both the authorities and the Archdiocese have issued protocols and guidelines to keep us safe and prevent a resurgence of this pandemic, and we must adhere strictly to them, not just because we are compelled to do so out of blind obedience but we should do it out of charity for our neighbours. These protocols and guidelines will limit both the frequency of services and density of persons within each service. This would ultimately mean that the majority of you will still not be able to return to church for some time. We will be providing you with more information about the steps that needs to be taken before we can open our church/chapel safely. The Archbishop has assured us that he will continue to dispense everyone from the obligation to assist at Mass on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation until such time when more of the faithful are able and willing to return to church in a safe way.

In the meantime, we will continue to support all of you spiritually through live streamed Masses, online formations, catechism through e-learning and meetings over virtual platforms. Appointments can be made with the parish office for confession and anointing of the sick. This year’s Feast Day Celebration of Corpus Christi, the Patronal Feast of the Church of Jesus Caritas, has taken on a very different form. This has usually been an opportunity to bring the community together, to mobilise volunteers to plan and execute different activities connected with the celebration, and finally, to process through the streets of Kepong with the Blessed Sacrament. But this year, our celebration has been confined to live streamed Masses preceded by the on-line talks on the Eucharist.

This year’s celebration of Holy Week, Easter, Pentecost and now the Solemnity of Corpus Christi is definitely different and may even seem weird, since we are physically away from the Eucharist. But we must not, however, think that our ties to the Eucharist are broken. The circumstances are certainly different, but we remain a community steadfastly oriented to and centred on the celebration of the Eucharist. In these weeks and months, that orientation takes on a different shape. Just like the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, we are on the way to the celebration of the Eucharist. It will happen. This interruption in our customary worship could be a moment of grace that enables us to appreciate and to prepare more deeply for that time when we once again meet the Lord in the celebration of the Mass. Think of our prayer-at-home, our live-streamed Masses and our spiritual Communion as patterned after the journey of the two disciples on the road to Emmaus — an extended time of preparation and movement toward the Eucharist – so that the end of the journey, we too may exclaim, “were not our hearts burning within us?”

Jesus walks with us today — often as undetected as he was with the two disciples. For those of you who miss the Eucharist and the sacraments, here is a reassuring and consoling thought: remember that the Lord is always with you. At every moment of life and at every juncture of our experience, the Lord is walking with us. He is with us now in this painful time, when the Eucharist is unavailable. If we listen attentively, His Word found in Sacred Scripture illuminates the questions and dilemmas we face, as it did for the two disciples. And we anticipate that He will one day — we hope soon — gather us before the altar, break the bread that is His body and reveal Himself to us, again as He did to the two disciples.

As we are assured of Christ presence, be assured too of the Church’s companionship during this same period. We thank the many who have supported us financially so that the Church can continue to carry out her mission and meet its daily expenses. We hope that you can make a commitment to continue supporting the parishes financially. The donations we have received during the MCO and CMCO stand at half of our average monthly collections before this period and without your assistance, we will be unable to sustain our work, upkeep our facilities and pay our staff. We know that this period has taken a financial toll on many but we appreciate if you can continue to contribute whatever amount that is within your means. In solidarity with all of you, both of us have agreed to forgo our June monthly allowance.

Dear friends in Christ, we are profoundly proud of all of you as you had shown such courage, perseverance and faith during this time of crisis. We know that you had been suffering so much from being denied access to that which is described as “the source and summit of Christian life” - the Holy Eucharist and the other sacraments of Christ. It would seem cruel to ask of more from you but this we must do. Be patient, persevere in faith and do not lose hope in God, for as the author of the Letter to the Hebrews exhorts us:

“Let us keep firm in the hope we profess, because the one who made the promise is trustworthy. Let us be concerned for each other, to stir a response in love and good works. Do not absent yourself from your own assemblies, as some do, but encourage each other; the more so as you see the Day drawing near.” (Hebrews 10: 23-25)

Your loving shepherds in Christ,

Fr Michael Chua and Fr Dominic
Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ
14th June 2020