The Church is preparing to celebrate Lent, a time of renewal and grace in the liturgical year. In this 40-day journey, Christ will personally accompany us into the wilderness, experience temptations, and encourage us to face trials continually as well as to join the Paschal triumph over sin and death.
Since last June, the entire Hong Kong society seems to be living in the wilderness, losing its confidence and feeling sad and helpless. Firstly was the turmoil triggered by the “anti-extradition bill” movement, and then the panic caused by the spread of the epidemic virus. When temptations seem to be overwhelming us, it is an opportunity for us to turn our gaze to Christ and renew our trust in him.
At the moment of the severe epidemic, to avoid the spread of the coronavirus, infecting each other, most citizens try to stay away from the crowd and protect themselves. The situation is very similar to fleeing away from the secular world and walking into the wilderness. At the other extreme, people are rushing to buy pharmaceutical items and foodstuffs because of panic and a loss of confidence, but we have also seen the selfless dedication and risk-taking of medical workers to treat the sick, and the generosity of many people to donate their masks or supplies to those in need.
Therefore, if we know how to grasp this opportunity, learn to reject the inner voice of our selfishness, and discover the power of the Word of God, then we can experience a fruitful Lent. Or in fasting, learn to abandon not just the satiety of food, but let go of the mobile phone information and messages on social platforms. Or in solitude and isolation, we will find that our desire should not be just physical contact between people, but true love for all people. Then the wilderness is no longer a place of losing our confidence and hope, but a training school, where only through loving the Lord and our neighbours, can we realise the happy life we desire.
Facing the temptation of the wilderness, if we listen to the Word of God again and again, instead of the inclination of our selfishness, then we will be freed from self-centredness, fears, individualism, and mistrust. In the face of the epidemic, if we aid and encourage each other, then our souls will not be deficient. If our trust is in the faithfulness and protection of God, we can share the fruits of His resurrection, and also participate in the Paschal Life through the Eucharistic Sacrifice, from which we can draw power to face the virus epidemic.
Lent is a gift and a commitment. In the current challenges, as long as we are not subdued, compromised, discouraged, or in excessive panic, we could put our hope in the love of the Father, and talk to him intimately (Hosea 2:14). It is just as the Holy Spirit led Christ into the wilderness (Luke 4:1), He will also inspire us to transform the desert of our lives into an oasis of living and enjoying peace; to accompany us and open a new chapter in our resurrected life.
Through the intercession of Our Blessed Mother Mary, let us pray with Maranatha (Come, Lord Jesus!) (Revelation 22:12) and ask Jesus’ help to solve the problems faced by all the epidemic-hit areas!
+ John Cardinal Tong Apostolic Administrator of Hong Kong 11 February 2020 Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes