The Incarnate Word gives us life and light (John 1:1-5)
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
At Christmas, we rejoice at the mystery of the Incarnation of the Word and sing with the angels: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to those on whom his favour rests” (Luke 2:14). The Infant Jesus, born in a manger, in a fragile and restless environment, brings hope and salvation to humankind, especially later by His death and resurrection, as depicted in the Gospel of John, verse 4, chapter 1: “Through him was life, and this life was the light of the human race.”
Throughout the ages, people lived in despair and experienced sorrows and fears, but Christians even in their difficult days were able to find comfort and hope in the Messiah and follow the true light that “enlightens everyone” in the world (John 1:9).
The resurgence of Covid-19 coronavirus infections have troubled and have hit society hard, not only the health and medical systems, but also people’s lives and livelihood, workforce and schooling, resulting in an economic downturn, a surge of unemployment and an imbalance in resource supply. The grassroots sectors always bear the brunt of the blow.
Social distancing limits connections between people, causing loneliness, anxiety and alienation. Such challenges have even restricted open religious activities in the diocese. Moreover, since the social movements in 2019 and the implementation of the national security law in Hong Kong in late June this year, there has been an uneasiness and restlessness in the society.
Amid a global fight against the pandemic, Pope Francis, on the occasion of the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, announced in his apostolic letter, Patris Corde, the Year of Saint Joseph that will end on 8 December, 2021. The special year not only marks the 150th anniversary of the proclamation of St. Joseph as the Patron of the Universal Church, but also inspires more prayers to him. A plenary indulgence is granted to those who call upon the intercession of St. Joseph during the year.
The papal letter states that St. Joseph was a humble parent, who was silent and introspective, but also faced confusion and challenges in life. Regarding his call, he obeyed God by taking care of Jesus with Mary. He was deeply loved by Christians for bearing his fatherly duties. St. Joseph, a carpenter in Nazareth, suffered gravely from the “concrete problems” of his family, such as migration, war and violence. We feel a lot of that at the moment.
Over the past months, I greatly appreciate the efforts made by our priests and faithful, who have engaged in prayers, liturgy, study activities and pastoral care through social media, in order to keep pastoral concerns going. These are indications that they are positively responding to crises, continuously attending to social needs and uniting in love and action, as Pope Francis calls us to become a Church reaching out to society. We really have to open our hearts and pray to the Lord to let the light of Christ enter our own lives, to receive mercy, justice, and peace, and to move towards the light. Let us follow the examples of the Blessed Mother Mary and Saint Joseph, who said to God: “Thy will be done.”
As Christmas approaches, let us deeply reflect on our relationship with God, with our neighbours and with creation, and pray especially for our 2021 pastoral diocesan theme, Parish Renewal, and for the family. May we entrust our prayers to the Lord to grant eternal peace to all those who have lost their lives as a result of the pandemic, an early recovery for the sick, and that the generosity of the medical and health care workers in this pandemic fight be rewarded.
Wishing you a Merry Christmas and a Happy and Healthy New Year!
+ John Cardinal Tong
Apostolic Administrator of Hong Kong
Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe,
12 December 2020