Red Mass 2016

Red Mass1
The legal fraternity in a group photo with Archbishop John Wong and Fr Cosmas Lee after the Red Mass. – pix by Vanessa Lim and Thomas Lee

Archbishop to lawyers: The sun shines on the good and bad

KOTA KINABALU: Some 70 members of the Catholic legal fraternity heard about two sides of justice at the fifth annual Red Mass on Saturday (Feb 20).

The Mass, held at the St Simon Catholic Church Likas, was presided by Archbishop John Wong and concelebrated by parish priest Fr Cosmas Lee.

In his sermon, the prelate compared worldly justice and justice in the eyes of God.

“Just before the Mass began, one of you came and whispered to me, ‘Bishop, today is so appropriate for this occasion’ for the lawyers… especially after listening to the Gospel reading from St Matthew where Jesus said: ‘The Lord makes His sun rise on the bad as well as the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust.’

“How is it possible? We should know good is good and bad is bad. Especially when you (need) to come to a verdict…

“Many of us will say, ‘Hang on a minute, isn’t that unfair?’ (Shouldn’t) the good and just get special treatment, whereas those who are bad and unjust should be punished? This is our human mentality.

“So my dear sisters and brothers, if God is perfectly just, then shouldn’t that be the way things go? But God’s justice comprises something much more profound… and that is the Good News for each one of us. Who is just? Who is good? We know all of us are sinners in the eyes of God. Who, among us, is not a sinner?

“We should thank God for His justice, fairness, wisdom and all that He has done. It is love that makes God merciful to those who do not deserve it – that includes you and I.

“He loves each one of us, receives, embraces and calls us His children despite our sins. This is Divine Love which encompasses everything.

“Today, in the Gospel, Jesus asks each one of us to be perfect as ‘your Heavenly Father is perfect’. How do you feel after listening to this statement?”

Archbishop Wong said for him he would feel “some sort of discouragement or being frightened… how could I be holy, perfect as the Heavenly Father?”
“To be perfect, to be holy – not so much ‘I am perfect’ or ‘I am holy’ but because He is holy, He is perfect. Every time, coming to celebrate the Eucharist, do you realize what you’re receiving? You’re receiving the God who made Heaven and earth. You’re receiving the God full of love and mercy.

“Indeed, He is inviting each one of us to be holy and perfect. If you wish to, He will make us perfect and holy,” he said.

The prelate also reminded the lawyers on their vocation as Catholics and “coming together as lawyers to be sent for a special mission to carry out justice with love and mercy that He has showered on each one of us through His Son, Jesus Christ”.

“Let us in the spirit of this celebration, pray as the Psalmist prays: ‘They are happy who follow God’s law’,” the prelate said at the end of his sermon.

Meanwhile, Sabah Catholic Lawyers Apostolate Co-ordinator Ruth Marcus, at the sidelines of the event, said: “We are not activists. Our duty is to build bridges and not walls.

“I have been asked, even this morning, ‘Who are we – Catholic Lawyers Apostolate? Are we a registered society? The Catholic Lawyers Apostolate is part of the Human Development Commission of the Archdiocese of Kota Kinabalu.

“We are born of the Church – not of the Registrar of Society. The Archbishop Emeritus John Lee had the good sense of forming this apostolate,” she said, adding that one of their thrusts is to help Catholics on matters of their faith and basic human rights.

“Our aim is to give free legal counseling to Catholics in matters affecting their constitutional rights.

“For the last five years, we have been doing things quietly. We are not activists. Since the existence of this apostolate, hundreds of people have approached us.”

Addressing her fellow lawyers, she said: “Is it so difficult to be the voice of truth? The voice of the oppressed? Are we worthy to be called ‘lawyers for God’?
“We have a big plan for next year, as we have had in the past. We are planning to visit as many parishes as possible to create awareness programmes.”

She hoped the priests would support their plan and accept requests to hold such programmes at their parishes.

During the prayer of the faithful led by lawyer Doris Ubing, the congregation prayed that Catholic lawyers “may be the agents of change in the universal Church and in society”; and that they “may remain steadfast and united in faith, justice and truth”.

“To my fellow lawyers, some from Sandakan and Tawau… without you, this Red Mass would not materialize. So I thank you for your presence,” Ruth said to the lawyers. “I also acknowledge the support of your families.”

She also thanked Archbishop John Wong, Fr Cosmas Lee and all those involved in the Red Mass.

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