Fr Joshua Liew presided the First Holy Communion Mass on Nov 27

By CMI SOCCOM

Nov 30 2020

KOTA KINABALU – Earlier this year, during the meeting of the Parish Pastoral Committee of Church of Mary Immaculate (CMI), it was decided that the First Holy Communion (FHC) and Confirmation would be held on Dec 8, to coincide with CMI’s feast day, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception of Mary, and the pastoral visit of Archbishop John Wong.  The evening would end with a fellowship dinner.

But then the Covid-19 pandemic came and chaos ensued. In March, the Movement Control Order (MCO) was implemented with Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) to curb the spread. The suspension of services in houses of worship was one of them. 

For the church, it affected the Sunday schools. Eventually, Sunday school teachers had to continue with lessons online with Google Meet, Zoom, Kaizala to name a few.

When the church was finally allowed to open, during the recovery stage of MCO (RMCO) in July, only one-third capacity was permitted with age restrictions for children 12 and below and senior citizens 70 and above. This age restriction for children caused all Sunday schools to continue to be suspended by the church and lessons to be online. 

The spike of cases in Sabah recently caused the churches to close again during the controlled MCO (CMCO) in October.  After a few weeks, houses of worship were again allowed to open and Sacred Heart Cathedral Parish (SHCP) decided to resume Mass on Nov 29 just on time for Advent.

With the latest reopening of churches, parish priest Fr Paul Lo decided to hold the First Holy Communion before another suspension befell us. Over two separate evenings on Nov 26 and 27, 37 boys and 31 girls made their Confession and First Holy Communion at SHCP Hall, witnessed by their parents and teachers. The two Masses were celebrated by Fr Paul and Fr Joshua Liew respectively.

During Mass on Nov 26, Fr Paul quoted the responsorial psalm “Happy are those who are being invited to the wedding feast of the Lamb.” He explained to the children that they were the happy ones and that the wedding feast was referring to the Holy Mass that was celebrated in church daily and every Sunday. He further explained that Jesus Christ is the Lamb and so the Holy Mass celebrated every Sunday is the wedding feast of Jesus Christ.

He reminded the children that for the first time they were invited to participate fully in the wedding feast, unlike in the past where they would miss the important part of receiving Holy Communion. He emphasized that they have to be respectful of the Eucharist. He said, “When you say ‘Amen’ in response to receiving the Holy Communion, you must say with conviction and belief that you are receiving Jesus Christ.”

He added, “In preparation we make our Confession to help us realized that we have sinned and are not worthy, but through Jesus Christ who died on the cross, we have the forgiveness of sins and are made worthy.” He advised that it is a good practice to go to Confession two to three times a year, and to attend Mass every Sunday as a preparation to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.

Left: The children went for confession before the Mass, right: Fr Paul presided the First Holy Communion Mass Nov 26

In closing, he advised everyone present that even if we were in another place or country, we could still make the effort to look for a church and to attend Mass.  “Although it could be a different language that we might not understand, but bear in mind that God understands us,” said the parish priest.

Fr Paul concluded with a reminder to the children that they have received the most precious gift in the Holy Communion – the Food of Angels. He prayed that they would never want to be parted from Jesus Christ, but have the desire to always be with him.

At Mass on the following day Nov 27, Fr Joshua compared the children to fig trees that are growing, maturing and bearing good fruits. He reminded parents and teachers of their responsibility to lead the children in their faith and to ensure their growth.  He likened the parents and teachers to a gardener who manures the plants to make them grow well and be bountiful.

He also encouraged everyone to have within them a heart of joy in these trying times, and not to be disheartened that the celebration of their First Holy Communion was only held in the parish hall and not in the church. “What matters most is that we embrace Jesus Christ in the celebration of the Eucharist. Regardless of where we are, Jesus is always present in our midst,” said Fr Joshua. 

He commended the children for their good preparation which could be seen in their readiness during their first Confession.

Church of Mary Immaculate congratulated all 68 children in receiving their First Holy Communion.  They were the good fruits that came from the commitment, efforts and care of the Sunday school teachers and parents.