Lent is a time to see “the beauty of humanity and the splendor of God’s creation,” says Jesuit Cardinal Stephen Chow Sau-yan, Bishop of Hong Kong.
In a Lenten message, he said, “I believe we can see the beauty of humanity and the splendor of God’s creation. Yet, we can also see the loneliness of individualism as well as the bleeding of our natural environment from our selfish egoism.”
In the spirit of a synodal church, he called for “conversion from individualism and egoism," “learning to accompany each other for the mission of God,” and “to discern together the guidance of the Holy Spirit to fulfill God’s salvific mission in our respective contexts.”
The cardinal also delineated five areas to reflect doing the Lent.
“These five categories are those suffering from mental health issues, the youth, displaced persons, people of goodwill, and the created world,” said Cardinal Chow.
“There are five target categories where we can consider accompanying and manifesting God’s merciful love. The show will depend on our circumstances and capacities. We do not have to accompany all five but rather discern and identify one or two so that we can provide quality accompaniment for the chosen categories,” he added.
Cardinal Chow also explained the need to address the issue of mental health in Hong Kong.
Mental illness is currently one of Hong Kong's biggest issues, he said.
According to reports, depression is the most prevalent mental ailment globally and in Hong Kong.
According to certain surveys, Hong Kong is home to more than 300,000 patients with depression. According to other local studies, in 2022, one in four children and adolescents in Hong Kong between the ages of six and seventeen had at least one mental health problem, and some had two or three mental diseases at the same time.
“When we walk with them, can we not help them learn to cast their worries upon God and develop trust in God’s care for them? he asked.
As the aforementioned statistics show, children and adolescents continue to be a crucial demographic that necessitates sympathetic understanding and devoted support. They represent the future and promise, not issues.
“One of our responsibilities is to walk by them, teaching them how to recognize and have confidence and optimism in obeying God's direction. We should also remind ourselves that we will need them to stay with us when we retire,” the church leader said.
His second area of reflection during Lent is a concern for displaced people.
“Another voiceless population that requires our walking with them is the group of displaced persons, forced to leave their homes or habitual residences because of hostile or life-threatening external conditions. Some of these displaced people are refugees or asylum seekers. Hong Kong law prohibits them from seeking employment for remuneration. The application process for resettlement can take over 10 years, if successful,” the cardinal said.
These people face a range of issues, such as financial struggles, concerns about their children's education, uncertainty about the future, social isolation and instability, and exploitation by criminal organizations. All these people are summoned to journey together as pilgrims from this world to a new home beyond this life.
“As pilgrims in this world, we are called to journey together to our new home beyond this life,” he added.
Another group of voiceless people who require our support is the displaced population, who have been forced to flee their homes or places of habitual habitation due to dangerous or unfriendly external circumstances. These displaced individuals include some refugees and asylum seekers. The law in Hong Kong forbids them from looking for paid employment. If approved, the resettlement application procedure can take more than ten years.
These people face a range of issues, such as financial struggles, concerns about their children's education, uncertainty about the future, social isolation and instability, and exploitation by criminal organizations. Our calling is to journey together as pilgrims from this world to our eternal home beyond this life. According to Hebrews 13:14, "For here we have no lasting city, but we seek one that is to come."
“Praise be to God that kindhearted people are working to improve our society's future. By addressing our concerns from the viewpoints and methods of different faith traditions or non-faith backgrounds, they share our concerns,” he said.
“As we all know, kindness has very little effect when it acts alone. On the other hand, synergy can occur, and a group's voice can be stronger when kind individuals work together.”
The cardinal also draws attention to the world, especially how summer heat has surged and erratic weather conditions have become normal.
Not to mention, humans are not immune to the suffering of the created world. Just think back to the summer heat waves that are getting stronger, the harsher weather patterns, and the rising levels of food chain contamination.
“If we don't walk with the rest of God's creation and continue to disregard the devastation of nature, we will be damning future generations to an existence in an awful place. However, we will be offering future generations a fair shot at a viable life if we are prepared to accept "ecological conversion" and allow nature to recover,” the cardinal said.
Referring to Pope Francis’ invitation to prepare for the Jubilee Year in 2025, which is being observed this year with the theme "Pilgrims of Hope," the cardinal said to pray for the establishment of God’s Kingdom, where "peace, justice, and love" are valued.
“It will therefore be challenging to remain hopeless when we witness these attributes of the kingdom in our hearts and the world. The kingdom will establish itself in both our hearts and the outside world when we, the people of God, walk in unison with the five aforementioned categories,” the cardinal said.
“May your kingdom come, Father. Teach us to live honestly and faithfully alongside our good-willed, young, homeless, mentally ill, and other sisters and brothers, as well as with the natural environment,” he concluded.
Radio Veritas Asia (RVA), a media platform of the Catholic Church, aims to share Christ. RVA started in 1969 as a continental Catholic radio station to serve Asian countries in their respective local language, thus earning the tag “the Voice of Asian Christianity.” Responding to the emerging context, RVA embraced media platforms to connect with the global Asian audience via its 21 language websites and various social media platforms.