2017 H.E. Bishop Stephen Lee Christmas Message — Straighten the path starting from youth and family

In these days of Advent, as one walks through the streets of Macau, aside from the colorful Christmas lights, we can also observe meticulously decorated Nativity scenes or Christmas cribs. Even if these have become just one more Christmas decoration, nonetheless for us Christians, they carry a special meaning. I am so glad to learn that some organizations in our Diocese have promoted the setting up of the cribs in homes or visiting the Nativity scenes in the different churches, in order to present once more the great mystery of Christ’s Incarnation. It enkindles our hope and prepares our hearts as we approach an incomparably joyful Christmas and the beginning of the New Year.

I believe you already know that His Holiness Pope Francis announced at the beginning of this year that in October 2018 he will convoke the Synod of Bishops with the theme “Young People, the Faith and Vocational Discernment.” The Holy Father’s heart is on the wellbeing of the youth, and in the name of God who is abundant in mercy, he invites young people to walk the path that Jesus Christ has prepared which is full of goodness.

Everyone also remembers the abundant graces that the Year of Mercy has brought to the Church, and this year I made an appeal for our Diocese to promote the “Culture of Mercy” that Pope Francis has spoken of (cf “Mercy” 20), in particular stressing the recognition and practice of the Sacrament of Reconciliation. I hope that in the coming year we can continue to deepen this “Culture of Mercy,” and spread this concern to young people. We need to promote the renewal of the family and strive to address the diverse concerns, needs, problems and hurts of the youth. Today’s world is seeing many changes and problems that are not easy to solve. As the Holy Father says, “As adults, we find it hard to listen patiently to them, to appreciate their concerns and demands, and to speak to them in a language they can understand” (Evangelii Gaudium, 105).

Indeed, last year, in Amoris laetitia, Pope Francis had already reiterated the need to protect the integrity of the family, taking gradual steps through reconciliation and communion: accepting the elderly, and listening to the young. “The lack of historical memory is a serious shortcoming in our society. … Knowing and judging past events is the only way to build a meaningful future. Memory is necessary for growth…. Listening to the elderly tell their stories is good for children and young people; it makes them feel connected to the living history of their families, their neighborhoods and their country. … a family that remembers has a future” (193).

Looking at young people, the Holy Father tells us that avoiding excessive obsession means listening to the spiritual needs of the children which could also teach the children to discern. The Pope says,  “If parents are obsessed with always knowing where their children are and controlling all their movements, they will seek only to dominate space. But this is no way to educate, strengthen and prepare their children to face challenges. What is most important is the loving ability to help them grow in freedom, maturity, overall discipline and real autonomy. Only in this way will children come to possess the wherewithal needed to fend for themselves and to act intelligently and prudently whenever they meet with difficulties. The real question, then, is not where our children are physically, or whom they are with at any given time, but rather where they are existentially, where they stand in terms of their convictions, goals, desires and dreams. The questions I would put to parents are these: “Do we seek to understand ‘where’ our children really are in their journey? Where is their soul, do we really know? And above all, do we want to know?.’” (Amoris Laetitia 261)

My dear young people, “A better world can be built also as a result of your efforts, your desire to change and your generosity” (Letter  to Young People, 2017) If you want to change the world, you have to start from your own life, your own family. Have you, as the Pope advises, taken time to visit your grandparents? Do you care if your family members are happy today? Do you take time to be with them? Likewise, parents need to invest time on their children out of love in spite of their heavy work schedule. I believe that giving good example helps young people change their values into sound and stable behavior.

Based on the above observation, in the pastoral work for this year, I call on all pastoral groups and institutions in the Diocese, including parishes, commissions, associations, pastoral centers, religious orders and congregations to work towards “a culture of mercy: reconciliation and communion of youth and family.” I invite young people and their families to organize and discuss activities related to this topic, joining our hands together to promote a culture of mercy, charity and joy.

I ardently ask the intercession of our Mother Mary of Nazareth whom God dearly loved, and pray that the joy, the peace and the blessing of our Lord Jesus Christ may descend on you this Christmas and in the New Year of 2018.

+ Bishop Stephen LEE

Catholic Diocese of Macau

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