KOTA KINABALU – “When a diocese has no bishop, there is no church.” Paraphrasing from the letters of St Ignatius of Antioch to the churches, who said “Let no man do anything connected with the Church without the bishop”, Archbishop Emeritus John Lee called on all to “support your bishop.”
Smiling broadly but with a serious and firm tone, the Emeritus attempted to give an answer to the many who had wanted to hear about his 50 years of journeying in priestly service on the occasion of his golden jubilee dinner.
He stressed that if the church wants a good bishop, she is obliged to pray for him. A bishop could only do well, supported by his priests and the laity alike. Without his priests, a bishop would not be able to move around.
In this sense, he exclaimed how happy, how sufficient, and how it has made his day even if it was only to have the bishops and clergy to celebrate the Eucharist with him on the occasion of his golden jubilee!
Highlighting on the Catholic Bishops Conference for the region of Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei, the Emeritus remarked that the presence of the big number of Emeritii signified that many younger bishops have taken over! He called on the laity to pray very hard for them to be able to respond to the Holy Spirit so as to guide and build up the church in the region. He took note of the fact that each bishop might do it differently but all to head towards the same direction to God, through Jesus Christ.
With tongue in cheek, the Emeritus said, “However, do not bully the young bishop!” Referring to his successor, Archbishop John Wong who also happens to be the youngest bishop in the region, he recalled some had been happy with his episcopal ordination in anticipation of the ease of dealing with a young bishop! He reiterated his call to pray for bishops and clergy.
On the topic of his retirement, he had cherished the thought that he could do a lot now that he has retired!
To his surprise, he found that he could not cope physically though in spirit he was still raring to go. As he grew older, he was physically growing more incapable of performing what was expected of him.
He asked for understanding whenever he has to say “no” to any requests.
He finds himself praying more … more for peace and harmony in the world, more for the bishops of the region to be strengthened, more and more for the grace to grow old gracefully.
In his struggle to grow old gracefully, he finds himself growing more in his struggle with the flesh. He struggles to make greater effort to resist the temptation of the flesh, and to focus on Jesus who helps him to overcome the physical tiredness and the incapabilities.
Concluding on his thought of the day when he would be taken back to the Father, he has hoped that he could experience more the presence of God, the presence of Jesus and His strong love guiding him back to the Father.