CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 15 June 2019

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24 Hours for the Lord

HONG KONG (SE): Hong Kong joined in the 24 Hours for the Lord initiative that Pope Francis called for with four parishes on Hong Kong island and five in both the New Territories and Kowloon keeping their doors open from the morning of March 4 to the evening of March 5.

Although for local reasons, some of the churches had to close from the middle of the night until early morning, people were asked to keep watch for a time during the 24 hours and a continuous vigil was kept in each church before the blessed sacrament.

Each vigil featured a penitential rite highlighting the sacrament of reconciliation. The bishop of Hong Kong, John Cardinal Tong Hon, presided at the cathedral, while Bishop Michael Yeung Ming-cheung was at St. Teresa’s in Kowloon Tong and Bishop Joseph Ha Chi-shing at the immaculate Heart of Mary in Taipo.

Now in its third year, this initiative places importance on prayer in the Christian life, as well as Eucharistic adoration and, in this Year of the Jubilee of Mercy, the sacrament of reconciliation takes on a greater significance.

Father Eugene Silva, from the office of the New Evangelisation at the Vatican, told Vatican Radio he believes that because the mercy of God has received a lot more airplay this year in the Church, people should be in a more receptive mood to open their arms to the mercy of the Lord.

Significantly, Pope Francis opened the 24 hours in Rome by presiding over a penitential service at which he himself knelt at the box to confess and receive absolution, before swapping places with the priest and doing a turn administering the sacrament himself.

The pope quoted the Gospel of St. Mark as saying, “I want to see again” (10:51). He went on to say, “This is what we ask of the Lord today. To see again, because our sins have made us lose sight of all that is good and have robbed us of the beauty of our calling, leading us instead far away from our journey’s end.”

He described the blind Bartimaeus in Mark’s story, whose sight impairment led him into poverty and pushed him to the outskirts of society, as being pushed into dependency on others for all his needs.

“Sin has this effect. It impoverishes and isolates us,” the pope said. “It is the blindness of the spirit which prevents us from seeing what is most important, from fixing our gaze on the love that gives us life.”

He pointed out that the world can be distracted from what is important for society, and believe that happiness is dependent on what we have and that our salvation lies in the economy and material consumption, rather than in social responsibility.

The pope then returned to Bartimaeus, saying that he cried out for mercy, as do so many people in our society today, yet like in the days of this blind beggar, there are still the many who are too busy to stop and offer a helping hand to those in need. They simply shield their eyes and keep walking.

He encouraged people not to miss the opportunity to meet the Lord as he passes by, as we are all begging for mercy, especially from the Lord.

 

The pope concluded his homily by reminding the congregation of the end of the story of Bartimaeus, which simply says, “… immediately he received his sight.” Pope Francis then commented, “When we draw near to Jesus, we too once more see the light.”

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