My dear brothers and sisters in the Lord:
The Holy Father made me a member of the College of Cardinals yesterday. He had announced the appointment on the feast of the Epiphany. It is not a personal honour, but a reflection of the care and love the Holy Father is extending towards us as Chinese Catholics.
I believe that all Catholics, no matter what position they are in, must be concerned about the unity of the Church. They must commit to being be part of it so that there will be only one flock and one shepherd giving their all in witnessing to and caring for their neighbours.
Many of us see the season of Lent as a time to focus on penitential practices, like prayer, fasting and alms-giving, as we accompany Jesus on His way up to Jerusalem.
This deepens our relationship with God and with others, and helps us to celebrate the great feast of Easter more joyfully.
Self-denial during Lent is a beginning, as it can help us to grow in faith and grace. But reaching out in service to people around us can also be an extension of that self-denial.
We have received many blessings in life, through family, health, faith, friends and the opportunities that are open to us. They bring new blessings each day.
In his Lenten message this year, Pope Benedict XVI has invited us to learn to move on from our self-centredness and learn to care for others from the example of the Good Samaritan.
In our gratitude for what we have received, we must think of different approaches to our daily lives, not only during Lent, but all year round. The blessings we have received give us an opportunity to reach out to others and share the gift of God’s love with them.
We interact with many people each day. These are opportunities for us to express our thankfulness regularly and to develop the habit of manifesting our gratitude.
Living in a big city like Hong Kong gives us many opportunities to express our gratitude in concrete ways; by being generous, patient and forgiving as we mingle among the crowds waiting for buses and trains, standing in long lines and many other situations.
The gift of gratitude comes from God and often in and through other people. We should look for opportunities to help others with our time and money, especially the weak and marginalised in our society.
There are many social agencies doing good work in the city and they are highly appreciative of all donations. Giving of our time to visit the sick, housebound friends, people of advanced age or the orphaned are also ways of showing gratitude, as well as practicing self-denial.
In today’s world, we should not only care about the material needs of others, but also their rights and freedom as children of God. This is inseparable from our faith and spirituality.
We should make good use of any opportunity we get to speak out in public and fight for social justice, as a witness to the love of Christ.
Recently, the election of the Chief Executive has become a focus of public concern. After due consultation, our diocese has made some proposals expressing what we expect of the in-coming government. They are published in this issue of the Kung Kao Pao and the Sunday Examiner.
I invite all of you, my dear brothers and sisters in Christ, to read it carefully.
Gratitude makes us true Christians; it brings us to Christ and Christ to us and, through us, it brings Christ to others.
Love and service are truly expressions of gratitude to God for what He has given us. May the Risen Lord help us to be grateful and generous throughout our lives.
+ John Cardinal Tong
Bishop of Hong Kong
19 February 2012