May the Peace and Joy of the Risen Lord be with you all! My warm greetings especially to the newly baptized in our Diocese, and to all young people in this Diocesan Year of Youth!
I sincerely ask all to pray for one another, young and old alike, especially for the poor, the sick and the vulnerable, as well as for the Church in Hong Kong and elsewhere.
I thank all those who have so generously responded to my call to say, together with me, a special Prayer for the Church in China. Please continue to do so, in full solidarity with Pope Francis and for his intentions.
“O Lord Jesus Christ, you are the Lord of history. We humbly entrust to you the Church in China, joining in earnest prayer with Pope Francis and the Universal Church for unity of faith and love…”
As shown in the episode of the two disciples on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24: 13-35) we should not be too surprised that the Risen Lord has all the while been walking near or accompanying us unrecognized by anybody but enlightening our minds and directing our paths even when we are preoccupied with “conversing and debating”.
He may even appear to leave us until invited to stay. It was fitting that, in the episode , it was with the breaking of the bread – the sacrament of unity of faith and love – that “their eyes were opened” (Luke 24: 31) and the two disciples recognized Jesus before he vanished from sight.
“Help us, Lord, to trust in and cling to you and the Rock upon which you have built your Church..”
Simon Peter was the Rock upon which Jesus built his Church (Matthew 16: 18). Luke tells us that the two disciples in the Emmaus story “set out at once and returned to Jerusalem where they found gathered together the eleven and those with them who were saying, ‘the Lord has truly been raised and has appeared to Simon !’” (Luke 24:33-34)
This special and personal appearance of the Risen Lord to Simon Peter, as also acknowledged by St Paul (1 Corinthians 15:5), formed part of the kerygmatic proclamation as reflected in Luke 24:34. This served to reassure the faithful that, despite his thrice-denial of Jesus, Peter was still the Rock and the one who would lead and confirm his brethren in the faith (cf. Luke 22:32).
Accordingly let us pray that we hold fast to this truth and have trust in the Successor of Peter as the Vicar of Christ and visible sign of the unity that the Lord has willed his Church.
“You have counted among the Blessed those who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness. Out of their sacrificial love, may the Holy Spirit draw abundant fruit, including reconciliation, whether in or out of season….”
Jesus on the road to Emmaus patiently explained why it was “necessary” that the Messiah should suffer as he did and “enter into his glory” (Luke 24: 26). He was not thereby encouraging those who have earthly power to persecute him or his followers. Rather he is assuring those who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness that the kingdom of God is theirs (Matthew 5: 10 ).
The Holy Spirit is able to draw good out of evil including peace and reconciliation on terms which do not contradict our faith (CCC 311). Let us pray that those who have unjustly suffered will not think or have any cause to think that their sacrifice has been in vain.
“Heavenly Father, may freedom of religion be respected and upheld in fuller measure throughout the land…”
At the beginning of the Galilean ministry, Jesus proclaimed his mission and vision by reference to Isaiah 61:1 in terms of being anointed by the Spirit of the Lord “to bring glad tidings to the poor”, “to proclaim liberty to captives”, “recovery of sight to the blind” and “to let the oppressed go free” and “to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord” (Luke 4: 18-19.)
His, however, was not a political agenda as the expression is commonly understood. Rather he was evoking the spirit of and the language used in proclaiming holy jubilee years.
Let us pray that the Church will enjoy freedom to bring the good news of salvation to all and to serve the poor without any undue hindrance and that the dignity of the human person will be upheld and protected.
Our Lady of Sheshan, pray for the Church in China! Mother of Mercy, pray for us!
In 2008 Pope Benedict XVI invoked this Marian title through his Prayer to Our Lady of Sheshan on the occasion of the World Day of Prayer for the Church in China on the Feast of Our Lady Help of Christians (24 May) to whom the Shrine at Sheshan Basilica is dedicated.
In concluding this Easter Message I would simply add: May the Gospel be further preached to all the nations by those who devoted themselves with one accord to prayer, together with Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers. (Acts 1:14)