Lenten Pastoral Letter
From the Bible to Jesus Christ

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

The Church will begin the Season of Lent from Ash Wednesday, Feb 13. The purpose of Lent is to prepare us for the celebration of the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. The three traditional practices of Lent are Prayer, Fasting and Almsgiving. Such practices can draw us closer to God by self-sacrificing and loving others.

In order to fully realize the spirit of Lent during this Year of Faith, we could take a closer look at our Early Church community who listened to the words of Jesus and witnessed His life. The members of that community possessed qualities which can be expressed in three Greek words: didache, koinonia and diakonia, meaning teaching, communion and service respectively. (Acts 2: 42-47) With God’s blessings, these three qualities have been revealed in our Diocese of Hong Kong.

On the occasion of Lent, we are invited to take “a sincere review of our life in light of the teachings (didache) of the Gospel”. (Pope Benedict XVI’s Message for Lent 2010) With the gift of the Bible, a regular reading and reflection on the Word of God will deepen our faith and nourish our spiritual life. Its Chinese version reminds us of the great work of Blessed Father Gabriele Allegra, the first ever beatified from our diocese, with his collaborators in the Studium Biblicum who dedicated their lives and wisdom in translating the whole Bible into Chinese.

The publication of the Chinese Bible reflects indeed the spirit of communion (koinonia) of Father Allegra and his team, who had manifested a testimony of steadfast faith, strength and persistence in those 33 precious years of translation work. Of course, we remember the members of his family and Church communities in Italy who had been supporting him and his great work with prayers.

The commitment of Father Allegra’s team also demonstrated the spirit of service (diakonia) of which Jesus asks us not to be served but to serve and even to the total gift of self, leading to the cross. (cf. Mt 20:28) The Bible translation was a self-giving experience of their faith and love for the Chinese people. A close friend of Father Allegra told us that he visited the lepers in Macau every Christmas, sharing with them Jesus’ love and care.

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, let us take this opportunity of Lent to repent, to abstain from some pleasures, and to love others. These actions will cleanse our transgressions and lead us to a contemplation of the Word of God. The gifted moment of conversion gives us the faith to move on, the hope to pass over, and the love to forgive and to unite.

This Lent coincides with the Lunar New Year. The “newness” of the year has prompted us to renew ourselves in the spirit of the Early Church community so that our diocese can be more prayerful, united and active in evangelization. Let us share this hope and love of God through our festive greetings to our beloved, relatives and friends as we happily welcome the new year!

+ John Cardinal Tong

Feast of the Presentation of the Lord
February 2, 2013