Dear Brothers and Sisters in the Lord
Last Christmas, we celebrated the joy and hope the birth of our Saviour brings to us, when Christ was revealed to be “the real light that gives light to everyone. He came into the world. He was in the world that had come into being through Him, and the world did not recognise Him” (John 1:9-10).
In the beginning, God created light (Genesis 1:3) and light symbolises life. This light is not the illuminating force of physics, but the source and inception of life.
Then God created what sustains life; space, air, the waters, dry land, vegetation, the light that regulates the seasons and the climate, as well as the creatures of the seas and dry land. Lastly, God created man and woman in his own image and likeness. This is the climax and ultimate goal of His creation.
God invited man and woman to “be fertile and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it” (Genesis 1:28). From this command, the institutions of marriage and family have evolved. God’s revelation allows us to understand that the life of a family built upon marriage accords with its created nature and is sacred, making it a place where its members can rest and support each other.
It makes an ideal setting for new life to begin and to grow, as well as a haven for the elderly, the weak and the sick to be nurtured and cared for. A healthy family allows three generations—grandparents, parents and children—to be interdependent on each other and mutually supportive. It creates a favourable environment in which a society can prosper and develop.
Today, self-centredness and hedonism can easily erase the presence of God from our consciousness, blurring God’s call to cast ourselves in the role of a servant in the governing of creation. It can also blur the appreciation of the value of marriage and family.
The temptations faced by our first parents, Adam and Eve, still affect us. They drive people, both inside and outside the Church, towards an inflated pride, which embraces only personal desire, eroding respect for life and often resulting in drug abuse, addictive behaviour and domestic violence, as well as the neglect of elderly people and children.
This year, the first day of Lent coincides with Lunar New Year’s Eve, a traditional day in Chinese culture for family gatherings. There is a strong emphasis on family values in the traditional Chinese world, an emphasis that is echoed in the Gospels and should be promoted strongly in society.
Family life in Hong Kong faces many problems today, which threaten further difficulties for the future. This should prompt us to ask what has gone wrong and where, as well as how to address this situation. We must act, beginning with ourselves, if family values and relationships, which underpin the health of society, are to be nurtured.
On the First Sunday of Lent, Christ again invites us to respond to His call, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is close at hand. Repent, and believe the Gospel” (Mark 1:15).
Now is the time to renew our proclamation before God, “You are our God, we are your children. We will live according to the teaching of the Word.”
Let us join hands and live marriage and family life with love, nurturing our children with loving care and spending more time with the family. This is a road towards domestic harmony.
Society has a need for people to be more abstemious and to be more appreciative of the value of self-sacrifice in expressing love in relationships with others. This challenges everyone to live forgiveness and love in their daily lives and in the workplace.
It is in resolving emerging differences and conflicts in our society of Hong Kong that we can move forward.
Let us appreciate each other’s efforts to promote progress in society and nurture the virtue of care and respect in all areas of life.
May God grant you peace and joy!
+ John Cardinal Tong
Bishop of Hong Kong
Presentation of the Lord, February 2, 2015