Dear brothers and sisters in Christ and especially those brothers and sisters who will be baptised at Easter, may the Risen Lord bless you.
Regrettably, in order to avoid the spreading of the SARS virus, we made the painful decision to cancel three of the Scrutiny celebrations and while it was a correct decision, we still feel a sense of loss. But the celebration of the Scrutiny on 23 March went smoothly and it filled us with tender feeling of having new lives born into our family.
Our Pascal Liturgy celebrates the Sacrament that brings many brothers and sisters through death with Christ to new life as members of the large family of the Church. It is a time of great joy for them, for their teachers in the Catechumenate and for the whole Church as we once again experience the redemptive effects of the Passion of the Lord.
The Diocesan Synod, in discussing and reflecting on the topic of “Faith Formation”, after a thorough assessment of the situation made some concrete suggestions among which are some that are listed among the top priorities to be implemented by the diocese. I would like to share three of these with you as an exhortation, a good wish and as my Easter gift to you.
1. We have been baptised “In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit” and have become children of God. Thus God － the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit － is no longer a stranger to us. Every day we hear God’s voice through Scripture and the Liturgy as well as within our own hearts and through the events of our lives. We respond and speak to God and offer ourselves to him through our prayer and our daily living.
Through the Incarnation the Son lives among us and enables us to have an intimate relationship with Him, with the Father and with the Holy Spirit. What a great blessing this is! When confronted with a hostile life situation as we Hong Kong people are at the moment, our faith makes us unafraid and gives us interior peace and the courage to face the problem, to protect ourselves and to care for others.
2. In Baptism there has been planted in us a seed, the Pascal mystery we celebrate at the beginning of a journey through life. We must make that seed grow and blossom into “the fullness of Christ”. The growth of this seed is first of all the result of its own innate potential. However it needs suitable conditions: fertile soil, water and sunshine. Its growth is a process of continuous conversion and so each Lent we do penance, we pray and we offer charitable service. These are ongoing endeavours whereby, recognising first of all our reliance on the power of the Risen Lord, we also know that our own effort is indispensable. The development of life has its own rhythm and we must not neglect the discipline necessary for sustaining that rhythm. We should set some rules and goals: what we have to do daily, weekly, monthly and yearly in order to nourish our faith, goals that include prayer, self-examination and retreats along with good use of the sacrament of reconciliation and the frequent reception of the Eucharist.
3. We are not alone as we walk the way of growth. We have many brothers and sisters holding our hands because through Baptism we have joined a big family community which has a universal, a diocesan and a parish dimension.
The leader of the universal Church is the Pope in Rome. He is not a stranger to us. His constant exhortations and teachings are a light that shines throughout the whole world. It is evident that the Holy Spirit is active in the Church. Every diocese is a complete local Church. The diocese of Hong Kong has a geographical advantage in that our size makes it easy for the faithful to gather together for diocesan activities. It is also so convenient for the Bishop to meet his flock for “heart to heart” dialogue. The Catholic weekly papers also have their role to play as instruments to bind us together as a community.
The parish is the basic community of our faith life. The parish is the fundamental support of our faith especially during the Eucharistic gatherings on Sundays. We should not look on these gatherings as an obligation but rather as a blessing. In the atheistic and secular modern world our faith is constantly assailed. So along with the big community of the parish we need the support of closer, smaller communities.
These small communities can be of different kinds: associations of the laity, neighbourhood communities, a continuation of the Catechumenate and communities formed by those with similar ideals or in similar life situations. But most important is that the members of these small faith communities share in depth their faith, increase their understanding of the Word of God, enhance the practice of faith and charity, integrate their faith into their lives and nourish a zeal for evangelisation and social concern. Experience shows that joining a small faith community is a most efficient way of keeping our faith.
Dear brothers and sisters, especially those who are newly baptised, the above are three secrets of a “blessed life of faith”. I invite you to try them out.
May the Risen Christ accompany you and your families.