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Advent: awakening our hope

On October 31, when a United Nations report estimated that the world’s population had reached seven billion, local media were peppered with phrases like “a population crisis”, “food and housing problems “ and “overcrowding fears.” 

However, Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesperson and the director general of Vatican Radio, welcomed the birth of the seven billionth baby in an entirely different context saying, “I want to tell you that you are unique and special, that you are a wonderful gift, that you are a miracle, that your spirit will live for ever, and so you are welcome.” He alluded to the G20 meeting held in Cannes, France, in early November and remarked that the child was entering a world that is a “bit complicated” and “not friendly for everyone.”

We can and need to examine population issues from material and economic perspectives. However, the most fundamental challenge lies in how we view the arrival of a life: whether we understand that human talent is the most precious resource in the world, rather than a burden, and whether we are willing to share with our deprived brothers and sisters.  

In Hong Kong, public opinion has been tainted by negative sentiment. People are unhappy with government policies, there are deep worries about the state of the local economy in light of Europe’s sovereign debt crisis. Following the District Council elections on November 6, concerns have been expressed about democratic development. All of these apprehensions are, to an extent, well founded. Nevertheless, as Christians, we should try to understand the current state of society from another perspective.

The 2011 Caritas Fundraising Bazaars, which came to a close last week, had the theme, Give them a ray of hope — a hope that echoes the significance of the season of Advent which encourages us to address challenges in society and daily life from another perspective.

The core of the entire liturgical year centres on the birth of Jesus Christ, and the focus of Advent is the waiting with hope and preparation for the Lord’s coming at Christmas. 

There are challenges to be sure and some may be tempted to give in to despair, but Christians hope in tomorrow, drawing strength in the present moment and living a life of preparation knowing that the promise of tomorrow is the goal of what we do today.

With this conviction, we understand that despite the current challenges in the world, we should not always be boxed in by secular values. Instead, we should take the initiative and do our best to have a positive impact on the community through love and respect for humanity. We must stay awake, knowing that all our striving on this earth finds its ultimate fulfilment in Christ.

As Father Lombardi said to baby seven billion: “We hope that someone will answer your questions wisely and encourage you as you find your place in the world. We hope you will be able to love others, that you will be able to grow, and work, and live among your family, with many friends, in a nation and in a world that is free and at peace. We pray that you can understand that your life will find its fullest meaning, not in this world, but in the next… We will do our part to make this possible; but you will have to do your part, too, because your future will also depend on you and the choices you make—and it will be up to you to welcome baby eight billion” SE