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KOTA KINABALU – The Catholic legal fraternity of Sabah had been reminded to practise their profession with mercy and love during the fourth annual Red Mass celebration held at the chapel of St Simon Catholic Church Likas on Feb 14.
In his address, Archbishop John Wong beckoned the crowd to be like God, an image of love – God shows “tremendous care and concern” despite humanity’s fall in the Garden of Eden as His mercy far surpasses the gravity of men’s wrongdoings.
God disciplines but also searches out for the good and bad, especially the lost, he said at the event, which was concelebrated with parish rector Rev Fr Cosmas Lee.
Event coordinator Ruth Marcus, from the Sabah Catholic Lawyers Apostolate, said the Red Mass is “an opportunity for the local Catholic lawyers to come together to show solidarity and reinforce a sense of belonging”.
On the objective of holding the event, she said: “It is an adaptation of the Church’s age-old expression of dependence on God to the peculiar needs and institutions of the courts and the law.
“In it we call upon God the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Holy Trinity, to grant light and inspiration to police officers in upholding the law and protecting its citizens, the lawyer in pleading his cases, and to the judge in adjudicating them.
“The liturgical red signifies their willingness to defend the truth inspired by the Holy Spirit, even at the cost of shedding one’s blood,” she said.
Archbishop Wong, who is head of the Archdiocese of Kota Kinabalu, also emphasized on the depth of the love of the Trinitarian God during the event.
“God is a Father who runs to meet his prodigal sons or daughters. He is also the Son who died so that we may be healed, saved and be reconciled with Him again. He is also the Spirit who comforts, who constantly empowers us, who also constantly encourages each one of us to move forward as His beloved children.
“God is always looking, searching for each one of us – for you – even at this very moment. He always searches for us whether we are good or bad, whether we are trapped by sin or enjoying freedom, whether we are in an angry state, happy or frustrated. God never gives up on each one of us. He never stops looking for ways to fill us with His blessings and graces,” he said.
“Hence, as St Paul says: ‘Where there is sin, grace abounds more.’ The heart of God is always moved with pity and generosity.
“If you listened carefully, there is a ‘case’ and ‘verdict’ here,” Archbishop Wong said in reference to the first reading from the book of Genesis. “The verdict points to salvation, the same grace that the Lord wants to give to humanity.”
“Man and woman disobeyed God. Let’s see how God takes up this case. Of course, God’s angry with them (Adam and Eve). It’s very natural, I think, that God should punish them.
“If I were to ask all the judges… ‘If you had this case in your hand, how would you deal with it?’” he said. “Yes, you may pass a verdict to judge and condemn this man and woman.
“Look again, God did not punish them. Instead God offered them a platform for trusting Him again, trusting in His promise… After giving the verdict, God also promised salvation. In this story of the fall of humanity, God showed tremendous amount of care and concern for man and woman.
“After the verdict, God returned their dignity, their image – to when God first created man and woman. The consequence (of eating the forbidden fruit) is banishment from the garden, not as punishment, but so that mankind will not have to live eternally in their fallen state.
“The banishment from the garden is also God’s way of giving them an opportunity to reflect and think about their state of life as a creature of God. This shows how much God cares about humanity,” he said.
“This also shows who God is: Love and kindness… Even when we deserve punishment, God does not treat us according to our sins. Instead, God is always on our side. He is always thinking for our good, what is best for us and how to discipline us so that we may receive and experience His love, His presence in our life.”
For the first time since the Red Mass’ inception in Sabah four years ago, four West Malaysian lawyers, including Past President of the Catholic Lawyers’ Society of Kuala Lumpur, Francis Pereira, were in attendance.
Pereira, who is presently a committee member of the society, said they came in support of the Sabahan lawyers who were celebrating the Mass the same day as their counterparts in Sarawak.
“The significance of celebrating the Red Mass is an act of dedicating their profession to God,” he said, adding that the event has been celebrated annually in Kuala Lumpur for the past 20 years. – Audrey Ansibin