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A mission of love

At the Easter Vigil celebrations in Hong Kong this year around 3,560 adults were scheduled to receive the sacraments of initiation, baptism, confirmation and the Eucharist.

While the number of baptisms in recent years has indeed brought us joy, the challenge of spreading the faith must take on a broader and deeper approach to enable more people to hear the good news of Jesus Christ and allow our own faith to influence other lives, in order to build a society of charity and justice.

The key lies in quality formation.

In 1980, the Hong Kong diocese launched well thought out introductory courses for catechumens. At present, the catechumenate in most parishes lasts 18 months. This is considered adequate time for catechumens to absorb doctrine and prepare themselves for a life lived in faith.

This year the Church has also celebrated the Year of Faith. It is an important gift bequeathed by Pope Benedict XVI. It allows the newly-baptised more opportunity to become familiar with the catechism and the documents of Vatican II.

The Year of Faith is also concerned with ongoing formation. In his Easter pastoral letter, John Cardinal Tong Hon encouraged the newly-baptised, “Those who are embracing the Catholic faith will have spent 18 months taking part in a catechumenate before receiving the sacraments. But, in fact, what they have completed is only the initial stage of the Christian life, as Christian baptism is just the introduction to a lifelong catechumenate. This Year of Faith has reminded each member of the Church that we must undergo a systematic and holistic faith formation.”

To provide effective faith formation, the diocese set up the Commission for Ongoing Formation of the Laity last year to facilitate ongoing formation in the faith, an important thing for everyone.

However, theoretical knowledge alone is still far from being practical, because faith is a lived reality within the community. Only ongoing openness can show the face of Christ to others.

At his installation Mass on March 19, Pope Francis invited people to learn from St. Joseph and St. Francis of Assisi in responding to God’s call to fidelity. St. Joseph was willing to be the protector of the Holy Family, taking care of Mary and Jesus.

While this was a challenging mission, he accomplished it with faith. St Francis showed us how to serve the vulnerable and protect all creation through living a simple life.

Recently, a spate of family tragedies has had a depressing effect on society in Hong Kong. However, perhaps behind these incidents is an invitation urging us to care for our neighbour, listen and offer a helping hand when they need us.

Pope Francis reminded us that charitable acts are the proclamation of the love of Jesus Christ: the commandment to love God and neighbour.

Our charity relies on the power of the Holy Spirit. Because of injustice, division and violence in society, we must exercise our power to share the love of Jesus Christ with others, becoming the protectors of the others where needed and protectors of creation.

In this way we can be part of rekindling hope in times of despair.

Let us, in the Lord and with all the newly-baptised brothers and sisters, follow the words of the pope and together shoulder the responsibility of protecting all creation and those in need. SE