Bishop Cornelius Piong of Keningau Diocese
By Agnes Chai
April 12, 2020
CELEBRATING Easter means we want to continue a way of living that is empowered and encouraged by the presence of the Risen Lord Jesus Christ, who participates in and cares for our personal well-being, our families and our society. It is not to be taken as only a “come-and-go” celebration. We are confident that the Jesus we believe in is the Jesus who is “the same, yesterday, today and forever” (Heb 13:8).
With such words, Bishop Cornelius Piong’s Easter Message, which was released on Apr 9, acts as a beacon in the storm for all God’s people who are suffering in the throes of the COVID-19 pandemic with the whole nation on partial lockdown.
Through the gift of social media and the internet, the Church continues to speak a word of Hope to her faithful that we are an Easter people, who are celebrating Jesus, our Lord who has risen from the dead and now is living with us for all eternity (Mt 28:20). The message of the Risen Christ to the women who met Him is thus the same for us today – “Do not be afraid.”
“This Lent has seen encounters and experiences where we are seized by the fear of the COVID-19 virus, devastated by the political situation in our country, and beset by crimes relating to drugs and pornography which are on the rise among our own people and the society where we live in,” lamented the Keningau bishop.
But Lent, underlined Bishop Piong, has also brought us to “an encounter with Jesus through prayers, fasting and almsgiving leading us to live in His joy.”
He added, the Lord Jesus, who is with us, cares about our lives. From the start of Lent, with the imposition of ashes, which expressed our desire to repent and to admit that only with a loving relationship with God, we are enabled to live in harmony with Him, between ourselves and with His Creation.
The experience of our journey of faith as demanded by Jesus that we follow Him by “not being selfish, carrying our crosses every day and follow Him” (Lk 9:23) is not easy, admitted the bishop. “Many a time, because of our selfish attitude, we neglect our responsibility to God, to each other and to God’s Creation,” said Bishop Piong.
He wrote, “We are grateful to God because throughout the season of Lent, through His Word and the sacraments, the Lord helps us and reminds us of our commitment as His children. Easter is an opportunity for us to renew and establish our unity and loyalty to Jesus in all of our callings and ministries.
“Our unity with Jesus enables us to foster a spirit of unity in our families, communities and society. Our fidelity to the will of Jesus will protect us from the deception of the evil one. The word of the Lord that we hear and reflect everyday will help us to live in the light of the Lord (Jn 8:12), particularly in living these difficult days by heeding the COVID-19 partial lockdown to ‘stay at home’, the bishop reflected pensively.
His written message urges us to reflect on the COVID-19 pandemic, that it may bring about a realization that our joy cannot be separated from the unity and love we have for God, men and creation; and that it may also help us to appreciate Jesus’ Presence in our daily life, just as the Movement Control Order (MCO) causes us to appreciate and understand the importance of others in our lives, especially our families and God’s creation.
Concluding on a hopeful note, Bishop Piong called on the people to always live with “one heart and mind” (Acts 4:32), confidently and diligently following Jesus’ teaching in spite of any disturbance. “Our confidence in the living Christ drives us and enables us to live as a community that always put God first, sensitive towards the welfare of our fellow human beings and love towards God’s creation,” asserted the bishop.
“In the spirit of Easter, let us as members of the Church, help one another to live as Easter people, always proud of our Christian identity (Jn 13:35), committed in our mission (Mt 15:13-16), and confident in our destination in life (Jn 14;6),” urged Bishop Piong.