CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 18 November 2017

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A Family Lent

As Christmas seems to have just brushed us by, we find that we are already into Lent, which was marked with the celebration of Ash Wednesday on March 1 and both Pope Francis and the bishop of Hong Kong, John Cardinal Tong Hon, issued the messages for the penitential season.

Under the theme The word is a gift. Other persons are a gift, the pope points out that each of us meets people in need during the journey of life and the word of God helps us to open our eyes to welcome and love life.

Cardinal Tong proposes Upholding marriage and family values with the love of God in placing the gift the pope talks about in the reality of family life. His message points out that in today’s Hong Kong, many social factors, including long work hours and exorbitant property prices are upsetting normal family life and leading to problematic situations in both family and marriage.

The cardinal expresses the wish that the word of God should be at the centre of each family, accompanying its life journey in fostering communion and mutual reliance at home.

Individualism is manifest in striving to fulfil self-will at the expense of others, particularly family. This puts even the very existence of the family in peril and precludes love and communion. Catholic families are not exempt.

There is a recent case of a husband filing for divorce on the grounds that his wife suffers from a mental illness and found her ways of doing things somehow unacceptable.

If the true spirit of Christian love had dominated the relationship, then the husband would care for his wife and work for her recovery. However, he chose abandonment and decided to separate.

It had been a long time since either spouse had been to Mass, let alone together. Missing an opportunity to hear the word of God maybe left them without guidance from the word of God, let alone communion and interdependence.

Prayer and the Eucharist are the indispensable items in the faith life. They not only nurture hearts, but give direction and guidance in relationships.

Mutual support and interdependence is often missing from family life today. In The Joy of Love, Pope Francis gives us a stream flowing through the desert, inviting each one of us to reflect on the meaning of family and putting love back into life.

In Chapter 4, the pope quotes the first epistle of St. Paul to the Thessalonians in describing what love is. His analysis sparkles with wisdom and should be mandatory reading when reflecting on family life.

Both Pope Francis and Cardinal Tong remind us that we need to show more individual concern for each person we meet on the path of life.

During the Lenten season, let’s begin by showing care to our families and practicing the spirit of interdependence, love and communion. In doing so, we will be treating others as we would ourselves and helping the neighbour we meet along the way of our journey through life. SE