With the coming of Advent, we also enter a new Liturgical Year. This new Liturgical Year will be even more remarkable, because on the First Sunday of Advent last year we began the Year of Consecrated Life, which will continue to 2 February 2016, the Feast of the Presentation of the Child Jesus in the Temple, when it will conclude.
At the same time, a few months ago, Pope Francis issued the Apostolic Letter, The Face of Mercy, in which he announced that beginning on December 8 this year, and running until November 20 (the Feast of Christ the King) next year, the universal Church will celebrate the Jubilee of Mercy.
Our diocese will positively respond by carrying out appropriate formation programmes and other activities.
We recall that, under the leadership of Bishop Joseph Ha Chi-shing, through the planning and promotion of the ad hoc committee of the Year of Consecrated Life, our awareness was raised about the need to pray for vocations and to strengthen our contact with young people.
We want to sincerely thank them for their hard work. Although the Year of Consecrated Life will conclude in February next year, we greatly hope that everyone will continue on the same path and continue to exert great effort to promote vocations, because our diocese is really in need of more priests, brothers and sisters to serve us all, and to stimulate the whole body of the faithful to preach the Gospel.
At the same time, again through the leadership of Bishop Ha and the ad hoc committee of the Jubilee of Mercy, with the planning and promotion of Father Thomas Law Kwok-fai and the Liturgical Commission, the diocese has started a series of lectures to introduce the Jubilee of Mercy.
These will explain its spirit and announce future related activities. The Central Council of the Catholic Laity, the Chinese Kung Kao Po and the English Sunday Examiner, as well as several parish bulletins, have already carried news and published concrete instructions about the Jubilee of Mercy. These are all excellent preliminary responses.
The opening of the Holy Door of the Jubilee of Mercy encourages Catholics to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation, to participate in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, to adore the Blessed Sacrament and to receive a plenary indulgence.
All these preparatory works have taken off fervently. The purpose is to help everyone to carefully receive the unlimited mercy of God, to obtain his forgiveness, to become reconciled with others and to be willing to forgive those who have harmed us.
Just as Our Holy Father Pope Francis wrote in his Apostolic Letter, The Face of Mercy, “Mercy is greater than sin; God always wishes to forgive; no one can limit God’s love… All those who pass through the door of mercy experience God’s love” (The Face of Mercy, No. 3).
Everyone knows that the whole Bible records God’s mercy. It can be said that it is the history of salvation through mercy. In the Old Testament, because of sin, the Chosen People became separated from God.
But they only had to call out to God and he would forgive them, because God is full of mercy (cf. Exodus 34:6, Ecclesiasticus 18:12, Jeremiah 3:12, Psalm 130:7). The New Testament further tells us: Jesus is “a merciful high priest” (Hebrews 2:17).
He desires to be a friend to sinners (Luke 7:34). Actually, the Four Gospels are full of passages about Jesus curing sicknesses and being full of mercy and forgiveness. He taught his disciples and us: “You must be merciful, just as your heavenly Father is merciful” (Luke 6:36). Mercy and reconciliation are linked to one another.
Reconciliation refers not only to that between countries or nations, but also to that between families and individuals. All these dimensions of reconciliation are related.
This year marks the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II. This makes us think of Pope John Paul II, who lived through that war in Poland. He and the Polish Church give us a good example of how to deal with reconciliation after the war.
In 1965, when he was archbishop of Krakow, Pope John Paul and the whole Polish Bishops’ Conference sent a letter to the German Bishops’ Conference. The letter contained the following striking sentence: “We forgive and we ask for forgiveness.”
The words “we forgive” in the Polish bishops’ letter refer to the harm the German Nazi authorities inflicted on the Polish people. The words “we ask for forgiveness” refer to the forced migration of several million Germans from East Prussia, an area transferred to Polish sovereignty at the end of the war.
The example of the Polish Church teaches us that even the wounds carried within ourselves cannot hinder us from imitating Christ—to offer the hand of reconciliation to others. The Lord’s compassion fills us with strength. It overcomes our own injuries and pain. It helps us, who have suffered harm, to have the strength to forgive those who have harmed us.
At the same time, we should not let our sufferings make us close our eyes and make us forgetful of other people around us. They may be harmed by our coldness, unconcern, selfishness and even superiority complex. In the midst of our own sufferings, let us first think of the sufferings of others and extend the hand of friendship to them.
My dear brothers and sisters in the Lord, during this period of Advent and throughout the whole liturgical year, let us actively participate in the diocesan and parish activities that mark the Jubilee of Mercy.
Let us especially read and meditate upon the Bible and contemplate Jesus’ face and the mercy of the Heavenly Father reflected by the Son of God. Let us be reconciled with each other, make an effort to eliminate the imbalance between rich and poor in society, show concern for the marginalised and the disabled, and extend a helping hand of compassion to the poor.