CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Sunday, 1 September 2019

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Easter pastoral letter from our bishop: To be ambassadors of mercy and reconciliation

Dear brothers and sisters in the Lord

Peace be with you!” (Matthew 28:9). In the way in which our Risen Lord Jesus Christ greeted his disciples, I use His words to share with you joy and peace in this season of Easter.

This year, we are delighted to witness more than 3,200 brothers and sisters in our diocese being baptised at the Easter Vigil on March 26. We pray earnestly for their faith and their steadfast commitment to our Church. We also thank all priests, deacons, sisters, catechists and godparents for their contribution to the formation of faith and preparation for the baptisms of the new Catholics, and sharing their life testimony of Christ’s love with them.

This year, our Mother Church celebrates the Jubilee Year of Mercy. In the prayer for the occasion that Pope Francis especially composed, the Holy Father points out that the Lord Jesus is “the visible face of the invisible Father, of the God who manifests His power above all by forgiveness and mercy.”

The Holy Father calls upon us to follow the words and deeds of Christ, and to do more corporal works of mercy: to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, welcome the stranger, heal the sick, visit the imprisoned and bury the dead.

And let us not forget the spiritual works of mercy: to counsel the doubtful, instruct the ignorant, admonish sinners, comfort the afflicted, forgive offences, bear those who do us ill patiently and pray for the living and the dead (Misericordiae Vultus 15).

My dear brothers and sisters, let us respond to Pope Francis’ call and live mercy in our daily lives.

On December 9 and 16 of last year, at the Wednesday general audiences, Pope Francis especially mentioned the importance of forgiveness, saying: “We will strengthen in ourselves the certainty that mercy can truly help in the edification of a more human world. Especially in our time, in which forgiveness is a rare guest in the spheres of human life, the call to mercy is made more urgent, and this is so in every place: in society, in institutions, at work and even in the family.”

He continued: “Mercy and forgiveness must not remain as pleasant words, but must be made manifest in daily life. Loving and forgiving as God loves and forgives. When we pass through the Holy Door, it is good to remember that we must also keep the door of our hearts wide open so as to exclude no one.”

The teaching of Pope Francis on these two occasions reminded me of a touching story recorded in an ancient narrative from the history of imperial China, the Zuo Zhuan (Commentary of the Zuo Community), from 722 BC, as follows:

After Duke Zhuang ascended to be the head of state, his younger brother Duan failed to overthrow him and fled. Duke Zhuang learnt that his mother helped Duan in the attempt and angrily said to her: “We won’t see each other until we meet in the underworld!”

Afterwards, Duke Zhuang realised he should not have said those words and deeply regretted them. At a dinner, senior official Yingkaosu deliberately left a piece of meat untouched, saying: “I want to bring it back to my mother. She has never eaten any food granted by the emperor.”

Duke Zhuang was moved and said, “You are blessed. You can take care of your mother. I have no chance!” Then, Yingkaosu made a suggestion for the emperor to meet his mother. They finally met in a tunnel, were reconciled and lived happily together again.

Both Duke Zhuang and Yingkaosu are lauded as sons of filial piety, especially the former for his courage to be reconciled. To me, they were examples of ambassadors of mercy and reconciliation in ancient China.

Furthermore, I recalled an instance about 40 years ago, when I was working as the Dean with Bishop Peter Lei, the Rector of the Seminary. From him, I witnessed the face of our merciful God who gave him love and the grace of reconciliation.

One year, our formation team at the Seminary was divided in opinion over formation matters, affecting the cooperation among the priests. After understanding the matter, Bishop Lei told us that he prayed and reflected over the matter. He apologised that he was not working as well as he could.

His move inspired all concerned to be reconciled and restore harmonious relationships. Indeed, Bishop Lei’s humility and willingness to reconcile and unite inspired me. He has exemplified how one can be an ambassador of mercy and reconciliation in the modern Church.

To me, he is a witness of reconciliation, as cited in the teaching of St. Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, saying: “All this is from God, who has reconciled us to himself through Christ and given us the ministry of reconciliation. So we are ambassadors for Christ, as if God were appealing through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God” (2 Corinthians 5:18, 20).

Dear brothers and sisters: As Christians, we must act in our lives in the way that St. Paul told the Romans in Chapter 12 verse 8, to open our hearts, to exhort others to goodness, overcome apathy and greet others with a smile; but also in everyday life to exercise love, to be an instrument of peace and to sow the seeds of hope.

We are made in the image and likeness of God. Let us always remember to give a smile to our families, neighbours, classmates, colleagues and even strangers. This interaction may have a mutual effect. We can express to others this image and likeness of the merciful face of Christ and spread it around!

On March 4 and 5 this year, in response to Pope Francis’ appeal, our diocese launched a 24-hour period of prayer dedicated to the merciful Father. On those two days, many of our parishes not only took part in the Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, but also arranged priests to hear Confessions.

Many Catholics took this opportunity to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Indeed, the result was gratifying. I sincerely hope and pray that such excellent responses can become a regular practice for all the faithful to repent of their sins and accept God’s mercy. This will also enable us to live with the heart of the merciful Father, forgive those who oppose us and become ambassadors of mercy and reconciliation in our lives!

I wish you all a Happy Easter, filled with the grace of the Lord, and with love and peace!



Cardinal John Tong, Bishop of Hong Kong
Feast of Saint Joseph, 19 March 2016

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