The Christmas season has passed with the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord and has left us with sweet and perhaps some bitter memories. Now, we are in the Sundays of Ordinary Time, and have two interesting cultural and traditional celebrations to revel in – Ponggal (harvest festival) and the Lunar New Year.
Eventhough Ponggal was actually celebrated from 14-17 January 2020, our Parish Tamil-speaking community will be celebrating it this Sunday (19 January) during the 7am Mass (Tamil). The Tamil Apostolate will be coordinating a few traditional games at the Parish courtyard after the 7.00am mass, afterwhich, they will serve a vegetarian banana leaf lunch to all Parishioners. Our Tamil-speaking community celebrates Ponggal with the church community annually, to keep their bond of identity, language and culture. Ponggal is a cultural celebration of thanksgiving to God for the fruits of the harvest, similar to the Gawai and Keamatan festivals in East Malaysia.
On Saturday, 25 January 2020, we will celebrate the Chinese Lunar New Year – the Year of the Rat, and during the 9am Mass (English), we will have the blessing of oranges and distribution of angpows (red envelopes) to those present on that day. We will also have a lion dance and the lighting of firecrackers after Mass. The Lunar New Year is celebrated culturally in our Catholic Church with a Mass of thanksgiving and blessing, as well as fellowship.
Traditionally, the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity is celebrated from 18–25 January 2020, between the feasts of St Peter’s Chair and St Paul’s Conversion. The theme this year is “They Showed Us Unusual Kindness…” (Acts 28:2) which instills the importance of unusual kindness in our dialogues within the church, and to show unusual kindness towards one another so that we grow in unity.
The Universal Church has been observing the Week of Prayer since 1908, to celebrate our diversity with the ecumenical churches and to be faithful to Jesus’ call for unity – “That They May Be One, just as, Father, you are in Me and I am in You,” (John 17:21). The Church invites all Christian leaders to reunite and to bring together “the diversity and separated church members, into one Body of Christ” and “to be loyal to Christ and His Church.” The Church hopes that all Christians have the right attitude and bear in mind that “The Church of Christ subsists in the Catholic Church” and is governed by the successor of St. Peter, (Vatican Council II, Dogmatic Constitution of the Church – Lumen Gentium, no. 8), which we profess in the Creed as “One, Holy, Apostolic and Catholic Church”.
During this Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, we will continue to pray that we belong to “One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism,” (Eph 4:5) and One Church (One Body of Christ). The Universal Church encourages us to make every effort in persevering unity to experience one baptism, to share the one faith in Jesus, to serve the One Lord Jesus Christ and to keep the four inseparable marks of the Church – “One, Holy, Apostolic and Catholic Church” in our hearts.
Let us strive for “unity in diversity” as we share prayers, reflections and fellowship among Christians, to enhance our relationship as we witness Christ in our lives. I invite all Parishioners to offer at least one decade of Rosary each day for the eight days (18-25 January) to show our “unusual kindness” towards the members of other churches through our words and deeds, so that it leads us to grow in communion.
by Rev. Fr. George P.