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Publish Date: 29 February 2020
 

The Archbishop's Lenten Message 2020

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

May the peace of the Lord be always with you!

I have recently discovered two book titles that remind me of the meaning of Lent. Both titles contain the word “love”. One of them is The Power of Love written by Bishop Michael Curry, Presiding Bishop and Primate of the Episcopal Church. During his visit to Hong Kong last year he gave me this book, the name of which comes from the theme of his sermon at the royal wedding in 2018. The second book, Only Love Is Believable, is one I have not yet read, but I have heard that it is written in German by a Swiss theologian. I think both titles fully express who Christ is, the influence of Christianity, the power of Christians, and the most significant meaning behind Lent. These titles also help us as we face the COVID-19 epidemic.

(1) The power of love and only love is believable. First, we need to understand that only love is believable. Love alone gives meaning to the forty days of Lent. During Holy Week, we commemorate the Passion of Christ: the priests schemed against him, Judas kissed him, Herod laughed at him, Pontius Pilate ordered him to be crucified, the guards beat him, soldiers nailed him to the cross, passers-by jeered at him, and the bandits cursed him. What about Jesus? He died.

Everything Jesus Christ did and experienced on earth was based on one single thing, and that is love. The author of the Gospel of John pointed this out clearly: “Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart from this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end” (John 13:1). Jesus Christ loved his people wholeheartedly, loved them to the end, and loved them unreservedly. The Lord’s Passion and everything he did was for love, as St Paul recounts: “the Son of God … loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20).

Love makes the Passion of Christ a believable fact; it is also because of love that Jesus Christ has gained the respect of others. An ordinary person hanging from a cross may arouse pity, but a person nailed to a cross because of love evokes faith in that person and inspires others to respond to love with love and selfless sacrifice.

This is the lesson Lent and Holy Week teach us. Love is the motivation: the Lord’s love elicits love from me, and his love drives me to love as he did. During Lent, the liturgies of the Church and the story of Christ’s Passion weave together to bring the scene of Calvary before our eyes. We can hear the Lord say, “This is my body, which is given for you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many.”

(2) The power of love and only love is believable. If we think that “only love makes Jesus Christ believable”, then we can also say that “only love makes Christianity believable”. However, I think some people may not agree with this view.

Looking back on the history of the Church, we often see how people lose their respect for the Church and their faith because the Church was wanting in love. This was most commonplace when internal strife and mutual attack appeared within the Church; when outward form had become the Church’s sole concern so that people found the Church indifferent, rigid, and machine-like; or when the Church turned Christianity into a complacent, self-entertaining, cynical, and greedy religion. In each of these scenarios, the Church no longer deserved trust. Pope Francis has said that he would “prefer a Church which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets, rather than a Church which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security.”

The Church is a place that attracts people because she is filled with love, especially when she follows Lord Jesus’ example and show the world that she is the suffering servant. When the Church is filled with love, a suffering kind of love, she inspires faith in her.

(3) The power of love and only love is believable. If love makes Christianity believable, then love also makes Christians believable. It is because the core of Christianity is not an empty theory or philosophy but is closely connected to living people. These living people are the “people of God”.

When we confess that Jesus loves us “to the end” and to the extreme, we will be willing to follow his example and love others “to the end” without any reservation. In addition, love makes us realize that we are not only the Lord’s servants but also the suffering servants who share in the pain of Lord Jesus and others.

Therefore, love makes us as Christians believable. It also makes Christ and Christianity believable because everybody we encounter can share in the love of Lord Jesus from us.

The power of love and that only love is believable are important issues we should ponder during Lent and during our fight against COVID-19. We firmly believe that God loves us and hopes that we love one another, so as we love and protect ourselves, we must remember to show our care for others, especially healthcare professionals and all who assist in fighting this disease. We need to combat this disease with love, because, as a line of lyrics in a song sung by performers from Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan to lend cheer during this period goes, “we believe that love will prevail”.

Bishop Michael Curry has taught us: “I hope you recognize love as the most powerful force for personal change and for changing the world around us. … The way of love—the love and power of God—is the key to our hope and to our future.” As Christians, we need to spread the love of the Suffering Servant to others. Lord Jesus’ love renews and transforms our love so that people can see in us the image of Christ, who is Lord Jesus who loves us to the end.

Lastly, my hope is that all brothers and sisters can be filled with God’s love and experience its power during this Lenten season and can face this epidemic with love and faith.

+ Paul Kwong

 

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