Firstly, I was surprised that the layout for the blog has changed and it looks more modern now with the new theme.
I wanted to write this blog post during my holiday from 24th to 31th of July 2014 in Hong Kong and Macau as I now prepare to go back to my studies in the university and the option of freelance work which means to study and work. However, since it was a holiday I was worn out after reaching the hotel room. I experienced good food, shopping with my mum, sightseeing and also visiting the many churches which left me tired but satisfied.
I will focus more on the spiritual journey first which began in Hong Kong where I had the opportunity to listen to the Cantonese mass and participate in the English mass as we were early in the church near the hotel. The Rosary Church is the oldest church in the Kowloon district and it is crowded with many Catholics attending mass. The English mass was celebrated by the parish priest Fr Michael Joseph Sloboda who had a special guest with him – the Bishop of Slovenia, Eastern Europe. It was a pleasant surprise and reminder as I had just come back from a pilgrimage in the beautiful country two months ago.
I enjoyed the mass due to the enthusiastic singing by the Filipino choir and also the homily by Fr Michael which touches on Discernment, Substitution and Renunciation and his light-hearted and yet thought-provoking reflections which can be found at his blog . The gospel reading on 27 July 2014 was about Jesus comparing the Kingdom of Heaven to a treasure that is buried in a field, a fine pearl and a net. In life, we treasure the people close to us such as our friends, family, pets and also our material riches which we want to have and accumulate. Money seems to be the end goal of having the best of everything that we forget the eternal treasure that Jesus has promised us. The kingdom of heaven can offer something that money cannot buy which is happiness, peace and contentment. This is what the world lacks and is trying to find to feel contented in life and with our own selves without the need of material possessions or riches. Perhaps we have to discern between consumerism and happiness; which one is more important?
Now, people might wonder, where is this Kingdom of God? The answer is Jesus; as children of God, when we pray and treasure our time with God, nothing can substitute this special time we spend with Jesus. Many people are caught up with materialism including myself but there is much unhappiness as the desire to buy or earn more is very great and it cannot be satisfied easily. However, Jesus gives us the opportunity to experience peace in our minds and hearts in prayer and reflection, knowing that even when the going gets tough, Jesus is always there for us and that we are not alone, even when we feel stressed, angry or sad with life.
Jesus through the church is drawing us to his kingdom through the daily mass and church activities. The church doors are always open for us to seek the things that Jesus offers us and to comfort us in our greatest time of need. Therefore to be able to experience the kingdom of God, we have to renounce certain areas of our life that are weighing us down and let go to let God. Renunciation means focusing on the things that give us true happiness and peace such as our hobbies, interests and not on riches or materialism alone which only makes us more stressed and unsatisfied.
I also noticed that unlike Singapore, there are altar girls and boys too at the mass , and the church doors are locked during mass and are only opened at the end of the mass. The congregation also stays until the priest has exited the church as a form of respect. The church also reserves the first few front seats for the elderly in the congregation so that they can find seats easily. These little things made me realise that this church is very community centred, and they welcomed newcomers like us to the church.
I also visited the Catholic Cathedral of The Immaculate Conception an old but very beautiful church due to its architecture and history. I chanced upon the parish bulletin which had a meditation column which speaks about Jesus’ sermon on the mount with his disciples and the beatitudes that keep us being devoted to Jesus and follow his teachings and way of living the Catholic faith. Also the parish asked us to pray for Pope Francis’ monthly intentions for the month of July which are for sports and lay missionaries. Sports in the form of growth and spirit such as the on-going Commonwealth Games and for Lay Missionaries that the Holy Spirit may support the laity who proclaim the gospel in the poorest countries and those countries that are besieged by war and violence. I got to visit the Catholic Centre where religious items and books were sold. They have very good religious books on various topics and beautiful items such as statues of saints and of Jesus for sale. I got to observe how the Novena was celebrated in the chapel at the centre also, and it was crowded.
Also, I visited the cozy St Peter’s Chapel where it gave us respite from the heavy rain outside and I noticed that the parish priest Fr Valan Arockiaswarmy has his own personal website where he shares with the community his homilies and the parish bulletin as well. It is good that the priests have made use of new media to engage with the Catholics in the community where they can re-read the homily to get a better understanding and to share it with others for evangelisation. The Christ the King Chapel , an old one located behind a hospital was closed when we reached there but we could tell the community was mainly Chinese as the notices on the notice board were all written in Mandarin.
Written By: Darren Chan Keng Leong