Lenten Pastoral Letter
Faith comes to perfection with love

Dear Brothers and Sisters in the Lord

The Lord Jesus, through his Incarnation, Crucifixion and Resurrection, manifests to humankind the ultimate in love and divine mercy. He calls us to an immediate conversion and asks us to share our love and concern with others. In this way, our faith is perfected by love.

Just a couple of months ago at Christmas, we experienced the deep love of the Lord Jesus for the world. He chose to be born in humble and poor circumstances.

His presence among us and encounter with us allows all souls to be filled with his love, making our faith stronger and enabling us to develop the strength and courage we need to love and be reconciled with one another.

After the Feast of the Epiphany, the daily scriptural readings, mostly taken from the First Book of St. John and the gospels of Mark and Luke, further move us to deepen our understanding of how Jesus guides people along life’s path and touches the hearts and souls of the needy.

Through his miracles, Jesus healed the sick, raised the dead, calmed the storms and fed the multitudes with the five loaves and two fish.

Miracles are not only a symbol of the Kingdom of Heaven in this world that prompt people to “repent, and believe in the good news” (Mark 1:15), but are also a manifestation of how God has given us infinite love and inspired us to love and serve one another.

Obviously, in his miracles Jesus not only used five loaves and two fish, but also his compassion (Mark 6:34), which bore fruit one thousand-fold.

Some people think that the miracle rests upon Jesus’ mercy for the people in the crowd, which prompted them to change from being selfish to becoming selfless, or from lacking awareness to being conscious of other’s needs. In any event, this saying also refers to a miracle of the transformation of hearts.

No wonder St. John the Evangelist said, “There is no fear in love, because perfect love casts out fear; and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love” (1 John 4:18). Hence, to live in truth and hope, we must nurture love in a broader and deeper dimension, to overcome and rid ourselves of fear.

Lent is approaching. It reminds us to purify ourselves, pray fervently, be concerned for the poor and abstain from living a materialistic lifestyle. By improving our relationships with others, with God and with ourselves, we may enjoy a deeper understanding of the Resurrection.

Dear brothers and sisters: People tend to spend time and energy trying to find the meaning of life, constantly seeking answers in worldly things, without seeing that Christ stays by them and guides their lives.

In Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel), issued on 26 November 2013, the Holy Father says, “Our church doors should always be open.” Evangelisers should have the openness and “attitudes of approachability, readiness for dialogue, patience, a warmth and welcome which is non-judgmental.”

Similarly, Pope Francis reminds us in his Message for the World Day of Peace that we should not treat our family and friends with indifference. We need to build friendships, overcome individualism and selfishness, and care more for the weak and marginalised.

We have to change “that throwaway mentality which leads to contempt for, and the abandonment of, the weakest and those considered useless.”

In fact, we often waste resources in our lives, which may deprive our weak and disadvantaged brothers and sisters of opportunities to use resources. Let us pray and reflect more during Lent and not fall into selfishness, indifference, greed and corruption.

Also, let us support actively the diocesan Lenten fund-raising campaign with our charitable activity. May we entrust ourselves to Our Lady and pray that she will guide us in coming closer to Jesus, more willing to repent and happy to forgive and love others.

Finally, we have to remind ourselves that good deeds cannot replace prayer. As Blessed Pope John Paul II says in his book, Go in Peace: A Gift of Enduring Love, through prayer, we take care of our souls and can be more concerned about other’s salvation.

Also, we will be strengthened in implementing a loving care in our daily lives, so that we can respond to the call of the Lord more effectively and more perfectly.

May God give you peace.

+ John Cardinal Tong

25 January 2014

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