An Easter message 2019
This is the day which Yahweh has made, a day for us to rejoice (Psalm 118.24)
Dear Brothers and Sisters in the Lord:
May the Resurrected Lord bestow his peace and joy upon you!
Thank God for giving us over two or three thousand adult candidates to be baptized as Catholics each year. And this year is no different. This year we have 2,800 new members receiving Baptism, entering the great family of the Church and sharing the joy of the faith. New strength is added to the team of preachers of the Gospel. On behalf of the diocese, I would like to offer them our sincere warm welcome, and thank our catechists and catechism guides who accompany them in the pursuit of faith.
Dear new Catholics: God loves you unconditionally. He showed this firstly by choosing you to become His sons and daughters by receiving the Sacrament of Initiation, and by bestowing His saving grace upon you. You have only to think back on your path to conversion. You most likely felt the warmth and patience of God’s great love. He was like a merciful Father. He never pressured you. He appeared in your lives by continually using other persons, like family members, good friends, and co-workers, or by using certain events in your lives, to call you to open your hearts, so that through your personal experience you could feel his merciful love. Then when you were completely ready, He led you to participate in the catechism class. Then through the teachings of the catechists and guides, and through your reading of the Bible, step by step, you gradually and more deeply came to know Who God and Jesus are. You came to know how God loves each one of you. I think that that year and a half spent in the catechism class were very precious moments for each one of you.
Dear brothers and sisters: Every year, when several thousand new Christians are baptized and enter the Church, we can think back to the situation of the early Christians as described in the Acts of the Apostles, Chapter 2, verses 42 to 47. Three points described there are worthy of our attention, for they help us to understand how to live a holy Christian life:
The first point is that the early Christians “devoted themselves to the teaching of the Apostles.” The teaching of the Apostles was the “catechesis” of the newly baptized at that time. I sincerely invite both new and old Catholics, beginning now, to take time each day to read the Bible. By doing this, we will more thoroughly understand Jesus Christ, and learn Christ’s unselfish love. We will leave behind our own selfish thinking, and let God’s Holy Word water our hearts. In the midst of our lives, this will help us to love God, and to love both the people we know and the people we do not know. It will help us to become a person full of compassion and humility. Moreover, the Bible records the teachings of Jesus. This can serve as a guide throughout our lives. It will help us to never stray from God’s path, by becoming completely secular. It will help us to become true Christians.
The second point is that the Christians of the early Church “were devoted to living a communal life, to the breaking of the bread and to prayer.” I believe that the catechists and the guides in the catechism class, when they were teaching, clearly explained to you the meaning and the importance of the Eucharist, the sacrament of communion, and that participation in Sunday Mass is the source and foundation of the Christian life. Therefore I strongly encourage you to participate in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass on every Sunday and Holy Day of Obligation. At the same time we learn from the Bible that Jesus was always praying. Prayer not only helps us to maintain a close relationship with our heavenly Father, we can also pray for the whole world and all the people in it. In the Gospels Jesus taught us how to pray. First of all, we look for a suitable place, which will allow us to address our heavenly Father. It is not necessary to say things over and over. Only be thankful, and forgive others from the heart. After prayer, Jesus was full of faith and strength. May we realize that when we pray, God will also give us the faith and strength to lead a holy life. Today the situation of life in Hong Kong is more tense. However, I fervently invite everyone to take time out each day for prayer. Let us not forget this good habit for being a good Christian.
The third point is that the early Christians led a life of charitable service. Jesus Himself also carried out works of charity, especially to those in need and to the weak ones in society. As Christians, you also, like Jesus, must have a compassionate heart, and peacefully, humbly and generously practice charity by serving others. Charitable service not only builds community within the Church, it spreads to our families and to other brothers and sisters we meet in our daily lives. Now many parishes have set up a Social Concern Group. Every Catholic is encouraged to join such a group to carry out practical service to needy persons in society. This year also marks the continuation of the Year of Youth. All the faithful are hoped to show concern and give support to the youngsters in their faith activities, and help them discern the calls of the Lord. Certainly, we should care for the mainland and the Church in China; and pray for the Universal Church in facing the challenges in the new era.
Lastly, I encourage all Catholics, in accordance with each one’s charism and talent, to join a parish group. You will not only encourage one another in the group, but your own faith will deepen. You will be working with the pastor and members of your parish to build up a community full of love and mutual support. The whole parish can become a united force for preaching the Gospel, and bringing faith and hope to our society and to humankind.
May our heavenly Mother Mary protect each Catholic, and help us to become Catholics, who are full of life and love.
Happy Easter, alleluia! May God bless you and keep you!
+ John Cardinal Tong
7 April 2019, Fifth Sunday of Lent