“Do not let people disregard you because you are young” (1 Timothy 4:12)
Dear brothers and sisters in the Lord,
As the Passover of this year is approaching, we shall once again experience the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Christ. Lent is a time of repentance and spiritual conversion, in order to prepare our hearts and minds to truly celebrate the Resurrection of the Lord, the climax of the liturgical year.
The verse “Do not let people disregard you because you are young (1 Timothy 4:12) ” is chosen as the theme of the Lent of the Diocese this year in the light of the Diocese’s pastoral orientation of 2019 with a focus on young people, highlighting the relationships of “Practice, faith and youth”. The Preparatory Committee for the Lenten Campaign hopes that our faithful will actively engage in spiritual and charitable activities to strengthen our faith. With the presence of Christ, we then have the strength and vitality to follow Him on the path of Calvary. Youthfulness does not necessarily refer to age, but more to the state of our mind. Each one of us in the Church is advised to take this opportunity of Lent to renew our faith, and reflect on what we have done and can do for Christ.
In so doing, Saint Paul the Apostle explains that he wants us to “set an example to all the believers in the way you speak and behave, and in your love, your faith and your purity” (1 Timothy 4:13-14).
Remembering our beloved Bishop Michael Yeung, his love and care for the youth came to our mind. He often encouraged the young people to face their tribulations: No matter how difficult the road ahead is, the Lord will walk with us. As his episcopal motto says: “Arise, let us go forth from here!” (John 14:31), he inspired to learn from Jesus to arise and to boldly face the challenges in life.
Indeed, many people in Hong Kong, especially the young and the elderly, are faced with grave hardships and challenges. The Church must accompany them in their practical ordinary living. (cf Bishop Yeung’s Christmas Message of 2018)
To deepen our love and faith, the Lenten Committee has prepared for each of the five consecutive weeks of Lent, starting from Ash Wednesday on March 6, a sub-theme on different aspects to “reawaken the Word of God latent in your heart,” “discern the roots of right and wrong,” “be vigilant to retain purity and modesty,” “stay on course to making peace” and “realise the Kingdom of God on earth”.
In this Lenten journey of repentance and conversion, the Church invites us to pray, to observe abstinence and fasting and to offer the works of mercy. To purify ourselves for the Passover of Jesus Christ, we have to focus our lives on the Word of God.
The Gospel of the First Sunday of Lent encourages us to read and reflect on the Scripture: “Man lives not only by bread, but also by all the Words of God.” (Matthew 4:4) Therefore, it is advisable to walk with Christ to begin by listening humbly to the Word of God, and then to discover that God whispers to us, or inspires us by the people, the environment and things around us, to provide us with spiritual life and the nourishment of charitable actions, and to respond with love and warmth to their needs.
The liturgies during the Lent and the Holy Week are enriched, especially to prepare the catechumens to receive the Sacraments of Initiation at the Easter Vigil. As the whole Church is accompanying the catechumens on this journey of faith, our faithful will also experience the presence of Christ in the liturgies to guide us in our lives.
The inner conversion also prompts us to attend to the needs of others, especially of the weak. Pope Francis described the Church’s task as “like that of a field hospital” (The Joy of Love, n. 291), and that we should be sensitive to the needs of our weak and traumatised neighbours and help them rebuild confidence and hope.
Dear brothers and sisters: the journey of life should point to the eternal heavenly Kingdom; with the intercession of our Mother Mary let us join hands, especially with the youth, with couples and families, to closely follow the footsteps of Christ. Let us bring the messages of love and hope to others, and respond courageously to the call of God.
May the Lord give you and your family joy and peace!
＋John Card Tong
Apostolic Administrator of the Catholic Diocese of Hong Kong 22 February 2019 Feast of the Chair of St. Peter, Apostle