“24 Hours for the Lord” at KA

Vigil candlesPope Francis states in Misericordiae Vultus – the Official Bull of Indication of the Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy, that he would like Friday, March 4 through Saturday March 5, 2016 to be set aside as the “24 Hours for the Lord”. Responding to this worldwide initiative called for by our Holy Father to invite all people to receive the mercy of God through Eucharistic Adoration and the Sacrament of Reconciliation, KA planned and carried out the Vigil. It started with a Mass at 7 pm on Friday followed by Way of the Cross, and half-hour activities of praying the Rosary by KAYM, BECCOT  and Liturgical Ministry interspersed with Silent Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. The youth focussed on the Sorrowful Mysteries while BECOTT prayed the rosary with examples of mercy instances selected from the Bible and intentions devoted to the family. The Liturgical Ministry on the other hand undertook prayer reflections prepared by the KL Archdiocese, and CCR rounded up the night with chanting of the Divine Mercy Chaplet. 

Day of Recollection

“24 Hours for the Lord” at Kristus Aman continued the next morning with a Day of Parish Lenten Recollection themed “Sowing the Seed of Life” conducted by Fr Michael Chua himself. While it was meant mainly for the church leaders and members of the different committees, coordinators and the core groups, heads of  ministries, teachers of catechism and  facilitators of KA, non-parishioners were also welcomed. Though organised by the Formation Ministry, the effort was a result of combined energies from the other ministries who helped in the registration, catering, and facilitating of the sharing during the sessions.

Fr MC

At the start of his presentation, Fr Michael informed his audience of 148 participants that the theme of “Sowing the Seed of Life” was basically about evangelisation. In being “Catholic” and having a personal relationship with God also meant stepping out of ourselves and sharing the faith with others. He stressed that it was an identity that had to be expressed externally; one cannot be a “Lone Ranger” in being Catholic.

He brought the participants  through 4 sessions of  the parables of the Sower,( Matt 13:3-9) the Mustard Seed (Matt 3: 31-32) and the Wheat and the Darnel ( Matt: 13:24-30)with each session beginning with prayerful refrains, followed by expositions to the very deep meanings and implications on what it means to evangelise. There were short meditations on the passages and each one culminated in group sharing to bring home participants’ own experiences and enquiries and even doubts in the light of what “sowing” meant in evangelisation.

sower2

The sessions talked about our reasons for not evangelising – do not know enough of the Gospel, the time was not ripe, situation not appropriate, fear of rejection. Out of the 4 soil conditions where the sower scattered the seeds, only one proved to be fertile and bore wheat.  The other 3 which consisted of the birds getting to the seeds before they grew, poor, rocky soil, so roots were not deep enough for the plant to flourish, and soil that was full of thorns that the plants were choked.  Fr reminded that Catholics shouldn’t shy away from less than ideal conditions for sowing the seed. He said that we will meet with different soils in evangelising, but rather than wait, he encouraged us to start with what we had, where we are and be mindful as to who God has led us to. He added that the process of evangelisation was about going to the margins of the good soil to “throw our voices out” as those margins were very “wide”.

Evangelisation as in the image of the sower going out to sow also means leaving your comfort zone, and taking the first step forward can be the hardest thing to do. It also can be “costly” as it meets competing forces of power, materialism and culture. He acknowledged that it often requires humility. But we should not allow our fears, anxieties and apprehensions to cripple us, rather to trust in the Lord and to let Him do His work. 

Mustard seed

While it was natural for man to adhere to the economics of scarcity and so want to sow only where the soil is fertile, Christ the sower practises the economics of abundance and throws seeds everywhere generously. To sow with generosity and abandonment means not pre-judging the success of our efforts, rather trusting in the power of the Mustard Seed which is the Word of God. Fr Chua reminded that the Kingdom of Heaven like the growth of the mustard seed is big enough for everyone and in evangelising we should not limit its capacity.  Fidelity, perseverance, and patience are the hallmarks of the joyful witness of the Gospel.

On the issue of “enculturalisation” that the Church should change in order to be more acceptable, the audience was given a powerful reminder that it is the Gospel that must transform practices of culture and not the other way round. Preaching the Gospel to culture was to a point where culture becomes the platform for the Gospel, and one’s efforts should not be suppressed by the “darnel” or weeds. 

On the parable of the Wheat and the Darnel, Fr said the seeds of truth and goodness were in every man and community. Like the darnel that messed up the wheat, God works in the midst of messiness. In evangelising, one needs to bear imperfections, which are inevitable in life. One needs to work as a church “militant”. It’s about a Church that would not accommodate to the demands of the world, but one that offers salvation, and struggles for victory over evil. Even though sometimes we lose, God’s grace sustains us to get up and to continue fighting. Evangelisation is usually counter-cultural, never giving in into the culture of the darnel. An example of being a church “militant” is for parents to speak up especially in today’s culture of children living together with their partners.

Discernment is also necessary to distinguish the Standard of Christ and the Standard of the World. The standards of the world are wealth, possessions, status, honour, pride as opposed to standards of Christ which are spiritual poverty, humiliation and humility which are the pre-requisites to freedom. Evangelisation work calls for patience and forbearance, just waiting for harvest time and often resisting the temptation of an early Utopia. 

1216Fr. Chua ended his talk with the prayer from St Theresa of Avila:

Let nothing disturb thee;

Let nothing dismay thee;

All things pass;

God never changes,

Patience attains all that it strives for;

He who has a God

Finds he lacks nothing

God alone suffices.

Comments from the participants:

Fr’s session makes us think of our relationship with Christ, and what Christ’s message is to us on evangelisation. We need to this “extra knowledge” to move us.

-Liz Ho

I enjoyed it, and learnt a lot. Father’s message was very focussed and I liked it.

-Pat Corbett

Fr really planted the seed in us in what the parables were stating. It makes us reflect on our roles in evangelisation; we should not procrastinate, but get started straight away. God will lead the way.

-Theresa ML Wong

The parables that were used had this very close connection of being green and zen at the same time. Fascinating how a seedling in developing into a tree can evoke faith to such a deep level. I also had some level of reflection and self-introspection during silent adoration on Friday night as well. My first foray into Christian contemplation.

-Aaron Lim 

I found there are words and phrases from the group sharing - questions that I would like to reflect and ponder again and again, such as: how have we felt the ‘sacred’ …. and how often do we give the Good News to others. Fr Chua’s Recollection is well rounded in terms of presentation format and context.

-Rita Lai