Row into the deep, evangelize with enthusiasm!
Pastoral Letter for 2010 of the Bishops of Taiwan
Dear priests, consecrated persons belonging to religious communities and secular institutes, and faithful in Christ,
May the loving God grant you during this New Year peace, good health and joy!
I. CONTINUE THE SPIRIT OF THE CELEBRATION OF THE 150th ANNIVERSARY
The Church in Taiwan successfully celebrated the 150 th anniversary of evangelization of Taiwan at the thanksgiving ceremony held in the National Taiwan Sport Stadium, Linkou. Those who attended were all in high spirit and until now they still kept a very ardent enthusiasm. This great event that covers such amplitude is a rare scene recently experienced by the Catholic Church. It not only enhanced the nearness of the faithful towards the Church, but also sparked the missionary zeal for evangelization.
THE REAL TREASURES OF THE CHURCH
The real treasures of the Church are not the properties that the Church possesses, nor the towering majestic churches, nor the beautiful religious arts, the impressive liturgy¡K the real treasure is Jesus Christ who founded the Church and to whom she belongs. Moreover, it is the Lord Jesus Christ whom the world needs. Thus, all the activities of the Church have the ultimate goal to bring Christ to others: ¡§to preach to the Gentiles the inscrutable riches of Christ¡K¡¨ (Eph. 3:8). Only Jesus Christ is the hope and Savior of mankind, the message and content of evangelization.
INVOLVEMENT AND COMMITMENT OF THE PEOPLE OF GOD
The reason why the Church exists is to preach the Gospel (cf. Vatican II: Lumen Gentium #16-17). Therefore, every member of the Church has a mission and a responsibility to evangelize. The bishop is the pillar who bears the responsibility of the entire work of evangelization. However, priests and religious should arouse the missionary zeal of the people of God, especially the lay people, because the latter are in direct contact with the society and culture. They have even a more important, practical and concrete missionary task.
A MORE VIRTUOUS SPIRITUAL LIFE
The source of all missionary work of the Church is Jesus Christ who was sent by the Father. The effectiveness of evangelization by the Church depends on the union between each Church member and Christ in daily life. ¡§ Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing .¡¨ (Jn 15:5) This kind of spiritual life, which is union with Christ, draws its nourishment through an active participation in the sacraments and liturgies of the Church. Every Christian cannot let his life and his union with Christ be dissociated. He should accomplish the duty which is inherent to his state according to the will of God, doing ordinary or extraordinary things with a heart full love for God and neighbor, as St. Paul says: ¡§ Whatever you do, in word or in deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him .¡¨ (Col 3:17). This kind of life needs to frequently practice the three supernatural virtues of faith, hope and charity. The work of evangelization needs holy people (cf. John Paul II, ¡§Redemptoris Missio¡¨ # 90). Therefore, every Christian should make a regular examination of conscience, cultivate virtues and do works of charity. The Christian should put an end to the seven venial sins of pride, envy, gluttony, sloth, lust, wrath, and avarice and replace them with the three supernatural virtues of faith, hope and charity, and the four cardinal virtues of courage, prudence, justice and temperance. Without these virtues, one cannot live an authentic Christian life nor can one glorify God. There will not be any result and fruit of evangelization.
In today¡¦s cultural environment imbued with various ways of thinking and ideologies, in order to effectively explain to non-Christians the reason of one¡¦s hope (see 1 Pt. 3:15), every Christian needs to increase his knowledge regarding the different aspects of the Church¡¦s doctrine, the Holy Scriptures and theology, so as to have a better understanding of the riches of one¡¦s faith. Our Lord Jesus Christ asked his disciples: ¡§Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations¡K teach them to observe all that I have commanded you.¡¨ (Mt. 28:19-20) Therefore, before we go and spread the Good News, we first need to understand what Jesus ¡§has taught us¡¨. For this reason, the faithful should try to choose courses, lectures, books, magazines, websites and related materials that are suitable to one¡¦s needs to deepen one¡¦s understanding of the doctrines of the Church and sacred scriptures so that one become more confident and courageous to preach and proclaim.
INTERRELIGIOUS DIALOGUES CANNOT REPLACE THE KERYGMA
Taiwan is a society with pluralistic beliefs. We should have a cordial dialogue and communication with our brothers and sisters of other religions. But religious dialogue cannot replace the kerygma. One should not avoid speaking of Jesus Christ in our interreligious dialogues. Jesus Christ was born for each one of us. He sacrificed his life for every single one of us. He is the only ¡§way, truth and life¡¨ (Jn 14:6) of mankind. Other people have no Christian faith because they have never heard of Jesus Christ. Although we have to respect the beliefs of others, we cannot compromise the truth that Jesus Christ is the only Mediator, the only Redeemer. Therefore, sharing the Christian faith with the person with whom we dialogue, bringing God to them and bringing them to God, means keeping the commandment to love God and to love others at the same time and is a way of evangelization.
The Holy Spirit of Christ is the one who makes the work of evangelization effective. This is why after the coming of the Holy Spirit on the feast of Pentecost, the apostles started to evangelize without fear and reaped bountiful fruits. Without the help of the Holy Spirit, we have no force to evangelize. We may toil in evangelizing for a long time, but get no obvious results, like Peter who said to Jesus: ¡§Master, we have worked hard all night and have caught nothing.¡¨ (Lk 5:5) Nevertheless, precisely at this very moment, we must be like St. Peter and say to Jesus Christ, the Master of evangelization: ¡§but at your command I will lower the nets." (Lk 5:6) Yes, we must constantly pray, believing deeply that when the time comes, the Lord Jesus will enable us to bear fruit far beyond our hard toil. (Lk 5:6-7)
II. THE YEAR FOR PRIESTS
Priests are the most important cooperators of the bishops. They are the clergy of God¡¦s mercy in the Sacraments of the Holy Eucharist and Reconciliation. In this Year for Priests, let us give the clergy our warmest support and encouragement. Today when the entire people of God are to participate in the work of evangelization, the zeal and enthusiasm of priests to evangelize are more than necessary. There is a shortage of priestly vocations in the Church today. Priests and lay people should make a personal reflection and make improvements. When priests and lay people have different opinion at work, or their ways of doing things are different, this is not something surprising but can test the depths of our Christian spirit. Christ-centered communities make the truth of Christ prevail.
Being the ¡§elder¡¨ of a parish and a community, the priest should be a figure of unity and let the spirit of cooperation among lay people integrate into the community. The priest should not have outbursts of emotion towards the personnel, nor should he be an ¡§opportunist¡¨ or judge people by appearance. In our present society where there is a growing disparity between the rich and the poor, where many people in the world are suffering from hunger and starvation, the ascetic spirit of cloistered priests and religious who live a life without worldly desires is ever more meaningful. Let us ¡§endure and enjoy, enjoy and endure¡¨, encouraging mutually to be strong witnesses of the Gospel.
For many faithful who lead busy lives, the Sunday homily is the only moment where they find spiritual nourishment from the Word of God. Carefully prepared homilies of priests have deep impact on the spiritual life of the faithful and even on the spiritual life of the whole parish community. Aside from this, priests should continue to learn, make further studies, acquire knowledge on theology and the Sacred Scriptures, and learn some methodologies on how to give homily. Moreover, the priests, aside from preparing well the Sunday homily, should also celebrate the entire Mass with his whole heart and soul to convey its sacredness. The celebration of Mass should not be taken lightly.
We hold this treasure, Christ, in earthen vessels (2 Cor 4:7). Without the help of the daily Bread, we are weak and we succumb easily to temptations. Priests should strengthen their prayer life (Mass, Office of Readings, Sacred Scriptures, Holy Rosary etc.) The faithful should also pray more for their shepherds, give them moral support so that they grow each day in holiness and serve God¡¦s flock with joy. Through their joy, they may attract more young people to follow their examples to live the vocation of consecrated life. We hope that during this New Year, Catholic parents and different organizations in the Church will encourage young people who have the spirit of prayer and service to consider following the priestly vocation, to address the shortage of vocations in Taiwan.
III. ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION
The theme of Pope Benedict XVI¡¦s World Day of Peace Message this year is ¡§ If you want to cultivate peace, protect creation¡¨. Environmental protection is an urgent issue of global concern today. The Pope pointed out: ¡§Consequently, ¡§when ¡¥human ecology¡¦ is respected within society, environmental ecology also benefits¡¨. Because the multiple crises mankind is facing, such as climate change, desertification, reduced productivity of agricultural land, pollution of rivers and underwater sources, loss of biodiversity, deforestations and others, these ecological crises bring about economic crisis, food crisis, and social crisis. In fact, all are related to the moral crisis of mankind.
The problem lies in the heart of the people: when human beings lose the sense of responsibility of the mission God has entrusted to them, they become the exploiters of the creation, they become the authoritarian rulers of the earth. Today, many people forget that the whole creation constitutes a heritage for all mankind. If we over-exploit the natural resources of the world today, we will let the present generation, and more so, the generations to come fall into the crisis of not having anything left for them.
We implore the entire people of God in Taiwan to respond to the appeal of the Pope, to turn the tide of moral crisis before it gets worst, to keep away from greed, to be loving and fervent in sharing, and to make efforts to live a frugal life. Environmental protection should start from oneself, from one¡¦s own family. We also make an appeal to all our faithful to start with good examples and to be a model in the movements promoted by the Taiwan government to save energy and reduce carbon emissions.
There are still many people in our society who need the Gospel of Christ. As Christians in Taiwan, we should become bearers of the Gospel. As we start a new year, we should be more active in preaching and proclaiming Jesus Christ as Savior. We should be more creative in organizing activities to promote evangelization. We should all the more intensify our spiritual life and take the initiative to have further studies, do research, know the doctrines of the Church, study the Sacred Scriptures, and theology. Only then can we be confident in spreading the Good News. We hope that priests as pastors grow deeper in virtues and in wisdom. May they lead the faithful of Taiwan to spread the light and love of Christ Jesus, so that the world in the midst of crisis and anxieties may have HOPE.
Let us entrust this new year, a year of commitment and revival, with all our spiritual needs to the intercession of our Merciful Mother Mary.
Happy New Year! May the Lord¡¦s blessings descend abundantly over!
Chinese Regional Bishops¡¦ Conference
Chinese New Year 2010