(21st Sunday in Ordinary Time – Homily)
In the state of Terengganu, we had three main Mass centres and they were located in Kemaman, Dungun and Kuala Terengganu. They had quite a small community scattered throughout the state. In all the states in Malaysia, only Terengganu does not have a church in a form of a proper building. They have their masses in the shop lots and classrooms. When I was ministering with this community, one of my dreams was to build a church. We had developed an architecture church building plan but unfortunately it did not materialise even till today.
Then, I was transferred to Church of the Visitation, Seremban. Visitation Church has the biggest congregations compared to any church throughout the Archdiocese of Kuala Lumpur. Here too, my dream was to build a second church. We have come out with the architecture building plan but it also did not materialise it the end.
If you realise, some of the churches in the Archdiocese of Kuala Lumpur took almost 15-30 years to get approval from the authorities in order to put up a church building. Nonetheless, one of the beauty of our Church in Malaysia is, we are still alive and active, even when we are only 10% of the total national population. We see the real faith of our Christians, not on the existence of a building but their faith lies alive on the living God, in Jesus, the God who lives among us.
Today’s Gospel (Matt 16: 13-20) gives us an affirmation that the Church of Christ is built through the confession of St. Peter who proclaimed, “Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Whereas in St. Paul’s letter to Ephesians, he says that “For you are … built upon the foundation of the apostles and the prophets, with Christ Jesus Himself as the Cornerstone,” (Eph 2:20). Therefore, the Universal Church is built on the foundation of the Word of God, of the Apostles and prophets and by the people of God all generations.
We, as a Church, build our faith in One, Holy, Apostolic and Catholic Church. These are the four inseparable marks of the Catholic Church and we build our foundation by these teachings of Jesus Christ as our Cornerstone. We begin the life of the Church through the Sacrament of Baptism where we become members of the Church. As members of the Church, we are invited together to stand with Christ as we continue to build His Church in His Word, with His teachings, by His plans, and entirely following His will. In this Church, we come together to build our strength and our hope. We do not only, sit here on the pews to worship our God, but when we leave the Church after the celebration, we step out into the world to become a living stone ourselves in carrying out the mission of Christ.
There is a Christian hymn – “Carry the Torch” with the lyrics: “We will carry the torch, we will lift up the flame, we will march through the darkness with the Light of His Name, until the glory of God is seen by the world, we will carry the torch of the Lord.” We, as a Church and people of God, will carry that torch of Christ high to go all over lands and seas, to live out our faith. Our Church in Malaysia, may still be young but we all will always strive to make our Church alive, active and vibrant as we confess our faith in Jesus, the Son of the living God.
Since the COVID-19 outbreak, we feel there are many things that we miss in the life of the Church. We have missed the fellowship with one another. We missed our participation in worships and activities in the Church. We have missed our formations – in order to update our knowledge of God. Our faith is diminishing time to time. But, as one Church, we will stand strong united in the foundation teaching of Jesus Christ, the living God and the Cornerstone and carry the torch of Christ high till the ends of the earth.
Rev. Fr. George Packiasamy