The Diocese of Penang received her newest priest, Rev Fr Konstend Gnanapragasam at the Sacerdotal Ordination Mass held at the Minor Basilica of St Anne, Bukit Mertajam on the Solemnity of St Joseph, Husband of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
The Mass, which was celebrated by Rt Rev Sebastian Francis, Bishop of Penang together with Rt Rev Julian Leow, Archbishop of Kuala Lumpur and Rt Rev Anthony Selvanayagam, Bishop Emeritus of Penang as well as with priests and deacons in attendance also commemorated the 8th anniversary of the papal inauguration of Pope Francis, 266th successor of St Peter.
In his homily, Bishop Sebastian asked the congregation to consider the nature of the rank in the Church to which Deacon Konstend was to be raised in becoming a priest. He added that while it is true that God has made his entire holy people a royal priesthood, nevertheless Christ himself chose certain disciples to carry out publicly in his name and on behalf of mankind, a priestly office in the Church.
“It is very healthy to look at the ordination to the priesthood in the context of the Sacrament of Holy Orders, which comes with three identities: Bishop, Priest and Deacon”, said Bishop Sebastian.
“According to Catholic doctrine and scripture, the Bishop is the successor of the apostles. He also represents the Priest in the fullness of the priesthood. But let the Bishop remember that before he was ordained a Bishop, he was first ordained a Priest and before that a Deacon, representing Christ the Servant. There is nothing transitory about representing Christ the Servant. It is an identity that Bishops and Priests receive when they were first ordained a Deacon and it must remain with them until the very end.”
Touching on the commemoration of the 8th anniversary of Pope Francis’ installation as Pope, Bishop Sebastian added that one of the responsibilities of a basilica is to celebrate with great dignity and love, the feasts that are dedicated especially to St Peter, where the primacy of the Pope, the Petrine ministry is specially celebrated.
Pope Francis, who was installed Pope on the Solemnity of St Joseph has often spoken about his great love for St Joseph, whom he describes as a “strong and silent man”. There is not a single word spoken by St Joseph that is recorded in the Gospels. St Joseph is the silent husband, the silent father, worker, disciple and the silent patron of the universal Church.
Bishop Sebastian went on to share about one thing from the day’s Gospel that struck him, “The Gospel said St Joseph had made up his mind using his reason and understanding of the law, to divorce Mary. That’s what the intelligent mind told him to do and it seemed the right thing to do. Then he went to bed and in his sleep God revealed to him through a dream that his decision to divorce Mary, no matter how strong his mind, is the wrong decision. He was told to do the opposite, to accept Mary, take responsibility for her and for the child in her womb.”
“So, it struck me,” said Bishop Sebastian “that we sometimes make a big deal of what the mind is telling us and we are very protective of that. But if we depend only on the mind – in the context of discernment, obedience, sacrifice, the priesthood, of being a successor of the apostles, or of being Christ the Servant – we are very poor. We have to rely on much more than the mind. Don’t absolutise everything that the mind may tell you, however intelligent we may be. Joseph followed not what his mind had decided but what was revealed to him by God through a dream.”
The Rite of Ordination
Fr Konstend speaks…
Firstly, I thank Bishop Emeritus Anthony Selvanayagam who took me into the seminary. I attended many vocation camps prior to that but I was not able to discern God’s call due to internal and external noises. The turning point happened at my last vocation camp at the Capuchin Friary.
I had listened to the Gospel reading of Peter walking on water (Matthew 14:26-28) and a thought came to me, “How did Peter have the courage to walk on water when Jesus called him? If Peter had the courage to put his feet into the water, why do not I have the courage to try out at the seminary?” Jesus said “Come” to Peter. I took that as an invitation for me to join the seminary.
There were struggles in the seminary, especially with my smoking habit and English proficiency but I took them as opportunities to keep trying to do better, and this journey of improvement continues. With each recollection in College, God gave me better understanding of what it means to be a seminarian and I really enjoyed life in the seminary.
For my Diaconate Ordination, I chose Matthew 14:26 as the theme. The Lord said “Come” and today at my Priestly Ordination the theme I have chosen is “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful” (Luke 6:36). This journey that began years ago at the Capuchin Friary continues and as I reflected on the theme of mercy, the message was clear, “Marilah mengikuti rahmat cahaya Yesus”. This is what gives me the strength to move forward each day.
My final thanks is to Bishop Sebastian. When I did my pastoral assignment under Bishop Sebastian, he said this, “Konstend, I’ll throw you anywhere. If you don’t know how to swim or if you drown or struggle, that is when we are there to help you.”
I ask that you please pray for me that I will understand my life and our God deeper. Thank you.