Big, round and cute is Fr Gerard’s Teddy, who makes special appearances during mass in the Church of the Divine Mercy, Shah Alam, sitting quietly listening, absorbing, reflecting.
The 14th Sunday in Ordinary Times was such a day, and what a treat it was! In the days before the weekend, there was buzz on BEC whatsapp groups when Father released a video of himself together with Teddy announcing the mass for children that Sunday.
As the day approached children, the young-at-heart types, reminded each other of the special event that Sunday. Then on Sunday, the white cuddly bear made an appearance not once but twice during the 10am mass in English and the 12 noon mass in Bahasa Malaysia, respectively.
The mass was heart-warming, to say the least. Children – shut in for months now, observing the strict restrictions of the time – did recordings of the hymns, mass proper, readings and Prayer of the Faithful with the help of their parents. A professional audio person merged and edited all the singing voices of children into one soundtrack, successfully producing the effect of a choir of kids singing joyfully in one voice.
The young lectors, dressed in their Sunday best, observed reverence as they read from their parent’s missals. Some decorated their home “ambo” with their precious things – action figures, soft toys, a crucifix.
Meanwhile, back in church, Teddy itself was looking very Catholic sporting a Rosary around its neck. It sat quietly throughout the mass and looked particularly alert during the homily but it was noted that Teddy looked a little drowsy towards the end of the homily of the second mass.
Here we were privy of Teddy origins, its “hometown”. The cuddly soft toy was presented to Father Gerard by the altar servers of the Church of Our Lady of Lourdes, Klang, as a parting gift in 2005. What an interesting gift. It obviously didn’t end up in a corner collecting dust.
The mass saw a lighter side of the trio – Father Gerard, concelebrant Father Harrison, who is spending some weeks at CDM Shah Alam, and seminarian Brother Lincoln.
The homily was delivered in a relaxed style with the celebrants sitting on the steps of the altar breaking down some pertinent and profound issues based on the Sunday’s readings – how come Mark’s Gospel talks about the brothers and sisters of Jesus? Who are prophets? And that conundrum, that when I am weak I am in fact strong. How?
The children were reminded to say the Rosary with their families and to always tell the truth, the latter being the mark of a prophet. They learned that every baptised Catholic is called to be a prophet, and with that call comes the grace to be courageous and heroic in speaking out the truth.
“Remember that even Jesus, God’s son, was rejected,” said Father Gerard. They could not accept him because of his seemingly ordinary background, his father the carpenter and his larger family.
To further drive the theme home, the priests talked about being prophets within the context of the pandemic. Daily prayers, reading the Bible at home, and reaching out to others through telephone calls and the social media are things we can do as prophets.