Lenten Pastoral Letter 2003

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Each year our Diocese, with the special help of Caritas-Hong Kong, organizes a Lenten Campaign to encourage the parishes, schools and organizations to express their concern for our brothers and sisters who are in need.

Whenever disasters occur in any part of the world, people in Hong Kong respond with compassion and generosity. The Annual Lenten Campaign is an appropriate occasion for forming people in the spirit of charity.


For the catechumens, Lent is a period of proximate preparation for Baptism, and for the baptized it is forty days of renewal. The daily readings of the Mass indicate the direction of this preparation and renewal: “Return to the Lord”. They also help us understand the inseparable triple relationship: the prayer and fasting of those who do not care for their neighbour will not be pleasing to God.


Those who indulge in selfish pleasure are not capable of caring for others. Care for others offers us an occasion for self-sacrifice and liberation. What motivates us to care for others is the fact that God has first loved us, and asks us to love all those he loves. For us who believe, and for those who do not yet believe, God is made manifest in the people we care for.

The theme of the Holy Father’s Lenten Message this year is taken from Jesus’ golden maxim, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). To be able to return the love God has for us by loving our brothers and sisters is indeed a great blessing. Certainly, we have all experienced this. Many non-believers are in agreement that “to do good is the greatest joy”.


Since caring for the poor is a blessing and a joy, let us do it with a cheerful heart. I am reminded of another golden maxim: “God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Cor 9:7). To be “cheerful” is not simply to be lighthearted and jovial, I think it includes the following attitudes:


– Not seeking one’s advantage, not expecting rewards.
– Not being boastful, not looking for publicity. “Do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing”.
– Not only giving from our surplus but also from our need.
– Not only giving our possessions, but also our time, our energy and our ideas.
– Not counting on the worthiness of the recipients. Did Jesus not come to redeem us while we were still sinners and far from him?


Dear Brothers and Sisters, we are now facing a long-term economic recession.


Many people find it hard to make a living today. Is it a delusion that we still want to care for the poor? A pessimistic attitude blocks our vision of the future. Let us be “the light of the world and the salt of the earth”. Let us strive each day during this Lent to build up “a civilization of love”. It is not the quantity that matters. What really matters is to act with a cheerful heart!


Wishing you a heart overflowing with love!


Your Bishop
Joseph ZEN, SDB
Lenten 2003

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