Lenten Pastoral Letter 2022 from the House of Bishops
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
‘Do not fear, for I am with you, do not be afraid, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my victorious right hand.’(Isiah 44:10)
As the pandemic rages on, and as Russia and Ukraine plunge ever deeper into conflict, it is all the more important for us to stay true to our Father’s promise. For he is with us, and he has not abandoned us. When we can look up to him with steadfast faith, and we the faithful can brave the waves together, the time will come when we shall finally reach the shores under the protection of our Lord. Be not afraid, for our Lord Jesus walks with us, and the church is a constant companion in our times of fear and doubt. Whenever you are in need, please contact your clergy who are here for you.
Lent is here, and for forty days it is customary for the church to ask the faithful to undergo a period of simplicity, discipline, and self-denial, such that we can place our lives entirely in the hands of God, and be closer to him. In these forty days, let us dedicate more time to bible reading, praying, meditation, self-reflection, and reading devotional books. Let us allow ourselves to be guided by the Holy Spirit, and be renewed and transformed. Let us turn away from sin, and return to the way of holiness.
Lent is a time we examine the darkness and weaknesses in our lives. The love of God will guide us through the death and resurrection of Christ that we may also overcome darkness and enter the life of light.
There are three main things that we should all take heed of during Lent:
(1) Fasting is a tradition common amongst many Christians during Lent. In modern times, this would mean cutting off certain pleasures from our daily lives as a form of self-denial, perhaps reducing the hours we spend on the Internet, on video games, online shopping, or how much chocolate we eat. On top of these, it is important that we try to put away the negativity and pessimism that arose from this ongoing pandemic. The virus has been with us for more than two years now, and many feel desperate, lost, and hopeless at the situation. Some find themselves trapped in a dark and dismal state. In this Lent, we need to say ‘No’ to such hopelessness, and let the faithfulness of God and his loving protection be the transforming agent to our negativity and stress. The purpose of Lenten fasting is to teach people not to focus on our weakness, but to understand the greatness and truth of our heavenly father. Let us not be pulled down by the pandemic this year, but rather, raise our eyes to meet the face of God above, and let his tender mercy come upon us. For he is our sure refuge, and with him, we can find the strength and faith to face everything.
(2) During Lent, as we try to stay away from sins, we should also seek to make our lives well-pleasing to God. As we face rising unemployment, decreasing income, and the prospect of being kept in quarantine or COVID testing, what can we do to glorify God and to help others? We can help those who are in need. For example, teaching the elderly who may not know how to operate all sorts of pandemic-related mobile applications, and who do not know how to find the latest information about the pandemic. We should help those who come from low-income households, that they may live a stable life amidst these uncertainties. We should also check on our brothers and sisters in Christ frequently via phone calls and messages. As we are stuck at home, we should take the opportunity to spend the time understanding our family members better, that our bonds and love may grow deeper. In these difficult times, we are to look after each other, to help one another, and to dedicate even more love and care to those around us. These are the times when we learn to love one another.
(3) As we pray and meditate throughout this Lent, it is also a great opportunity for us to learn to ‘wait’. Though we cannot fully understand God’s plans for this pandemic, and while we pray for worldwide recovery, we hold firm the belief that our God is the God of history. As we seek peace in our prayers, we must not forget the infected and their families, and pray that God may heal and protect them. We pray as well for all the front end and support staff who worked tirelessly against the pandemic, especially our medical workers, COVID testers, and government officials. May God grant them wisdom and strength. We pray for those who are waiting to be admitted into hospitals and those who are quarantined at home, that they may find peace and health. May God look with favour upon those who have fallen into economic difficulties, and may God grant us all peace and faith, that we may march on in these pandemic times, and persevere against all odds. May we turn to the example of St Paul, that we could ‘Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, and persevere in prayer’. May we find true communion in God through prayers.
The Lenten season is a time for reshaping our lives. With this ongoing pandemic, let us rediscover the truth that our very existence is in the loving care of God. With faith, we may walk each day with God, and with his power we can each day drive back darkness. May God guide us through a meaningful Lent, and may God protect us, that the pandemic may come to an end soon. May his peace prevail, and may God bless each of us.
++ Andrew Chan + Timothy Kwok + Matthias Der