CRBC Document

Walking with People, Living for God

Pastoral Letter for 2011 of the Bishops of Taiwan
     

Becoming authentic, relevant, holy, perfect

     

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ:

       At the beginning of the new liturgical year and after the Year for Priests, we solemnly and joyfully proclaim 2011 as the ˇ§Year for the Laityˇ¨. The lay faithful are "a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of his ownˇKˇ¨(1Pt 2:9-10). They are the foundation of the Church. The loyalty, dedication and maturity of the lay faithful deeply affect the rise and fall of the Church.

       So, who are the lay faithful? In short, they are the faithful who have been incorporated in Christ through B aptism, sharing in Christ's priestly, prophetic, and royal office . Unlike the clergy, they live with their personal family in the midst of the world and of secular affairs , directly engaged in various occupations and jobs, and strive towards Christian perfection by carrying out the mission God has entrusted to the Church in the world.

Becoming authentic through the priestly office

       Christ is the high priest, who sacrificed himself in exchange for our eternal salvation by dying on the Cross. Through the baptism, each lay faithful therefore shares in the priesthood of Christ, which is called ˇ§common priesthoodˇ¨. This is a grace bestowed by Christ. This common priesthood manifests itself in the sacrament of the Church and is performed during the liturgy.

       Through the salvation of Christ brought about by the Sacrament of Baptism, the lay faithful join the Church and become the adopted sons and daughters of God and receive the Holy Spirit through the Sacrament of Confirmation who accompanies us and guides us throughout our whole lives.

       The Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist is the source and summit of Christian life. The lay faithful, while participating in the Eucharistic Celebration every week and even everyday, make out of their existence and their life an offering to God together with the bread and the wine which represent the sacrifice of Christ. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, the bread and wine are consecrated and transubstantiated into the body and blood of Christ. When we receive them, a wonderful exchange is taking place, in which each lay person, through the body and blood of Christ, is united in Christ with other lay faithful of the universal Church , forming one body.

       Through the Sacrament of Reconciliation, the people of God who have sinned obtain forgiveness, and each member gets reconciled with God, with the Church, with others, with oneself and with nature, experiencing repeatedly the great, unconditional love of the heavenly Father. The Sacrament of the Anointingof the Sick enables elderly people or those who are afflicted by sufferings to obtain comfort from Christ and to partake of Christˇ¦s Work of Redemption.

       The Sacrament of Marriage is a lifelong union be tween a man and woman who willingly spend their lives with each other. At the altar of God they promise to be faithful to each other, regardless of whatever condition, for better or for worst. Throughout their lives, they will constantly love and support each other and will never be separated, being a symbol of Christˇ¦s (bridegroom) eternal love for the Church (bride) and part of this eternal covenant of love. While raising and educating the children in married life full of joy and challenges, they mutually help each other and sanctifying themselves. There are also lay men who are specially chosen by God and receive the Sacrament of Holy Orders. They become clergymen carrying out the ˇ§ordained priesthoodˇ¨ in the service of the lay faithful and of the mission ad gentes of the Church.

       In order to penetrate more deeply the life of Christ, aside from the nourishment from different sacraments, daily scripture reading and prayer are also essential and should become a habit. The Liturgy of the Hours of the Church allows us to follow the rhythm of daily life, always praising the Lord, and sanctifying everyday life. And by following the liturgical seasons of the year and celebrating Christˇ¦s salvific plan and the lives of the saints, the whole year can also be sanctified. Day out day in, throughout the years we are continuously praising and praying, marching towards the kingdom of God.

     
 

Concrete Actions:

 
 
Adore the Holy Eucharist, receive frequently the sacrament of reconciliation, read the Sacred Scriptures and practice ˇ§Lectio Divinaˇ¨ everyday, promote the ˇ§Liturgy of the Hoursˇ¨, respond to Godˇ¦s call.
 
     

Becoming relevant through the prophetic office

       Jesus is a prophet. He announced to us the Good News and started the time of the kingdom of God. Before Jesus ascended into heaven, he instructed his disciples saying: ˇ§Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spiritˇ¨. (Mt 28:19) Therefore, the people of God also share in the prophetic mission of Christ, to proclaim, to act, to preach the Gospel to the whole world, because all people are invited to participate in the new nation of God.

       The ˇ§Pontifical Council for the Laityˇ¨ held the Congress of Asian Catholic Laity in Seoul, Korea from August 31 ˇV September 5, 2010 with the theme: ˇ§Proclaiming Jesus Christ in Asia Todayˇ¨. In any generation, Catholics are the protagonists of evangelization. The missionary work of a Catholic is to participate in the salvific mission of the Church and sanctify the world from inside like yeast in the dough. Through the practice of faith the lay faithful bring to others the life, the love and the hope of Christ making the Church grow and sanctify continuously and making the kingdom of God present on earth.

       After celebrating the ˇ§150 years of the Catholic Church in Taiwan (1859-2009), we must seriously address here and now the needs and challenges of evangelization in view of the local culture, the situation and the ethnical groups of the society, elaborate specific programs, take special actions and use multimedia, so that the task of preaching Jesus Christ in Taiwan today can be assumed effectively and that more people will come to ˇ§the knowledge of Godˇ¨ and His salvation.

       The then Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, brought up three rules for and in proclaiming the Gospel:

1. The proclamation of the Gospel is by no means a private matter because God and the Church are behind it.

2. The evangelizer should be as humble as a little mustard seed.

3. The martyr should be buried in the ground like a grain of wheat in order to bear fruit.

       This too is the spiritual goal of our todayˇ¦s evangelization. In the proclamation of the Gospel, God is the real almighty one and perfecter. Thus, as long as we trust in the Lord and follow the Church, there is nothing to fear. Therefore, we should not be self-conceited because of the fruits of evangelization. For we can only humbly say: ˇ§ We are merely servants: we have done no more than our duty.ˇ¨ (Lk 17:10). Moreover, ˇ§the blood of martyrs is the seed of faithˇ¨. We can only devote all our efforts, move forward and not to spare any sacrifice for the Gospel. Like all those who evangelized over the past two thousand years, some of them even sacrificed their lives in order to proclaim the Gospel!

     
 

Concrete Actions:

 
 

Seek every possible opportunity to witness for Jesus, make avail of multi-media to spread the Gospel.

 
     

Becoming holy through the royal office

       Christ is King, is the Prince of Peace. He loves mankind and accepted to be born into this world, enduring pain and humiliation, and even sacrificed his life! He said, ˇ§I come to serve and not to be served.ˇ¨ (cf. Mt 20:28). During the last supper, he washed the feet of his disciples and asked them to do the same. Having this kind of king, how could we not learn from him, not imitate his sacrifices, his long-sufferance for peopleˇ¦s sake and for the world? This is the vocation and mission of the lay faithful and is also the way to sanctity.

        The Pope encourages us to bear witness to the risen Lord and to the Word of life and truth that he gave to us. Jesus taught us that there is no greater love than this : to lay down oneˇ¦s life for oneˇ¦s friends. Therefore, we need to learn from Christ, to follow him, to become together with him a ˇ§b read broken for the wor ldˇ¨, walking with people and living for God.

       Nowadays, in Taiwan , there are people who, in order to look for personal interests, vain glory and fame, do not hesitate to exclude others and create divisions among different ethnic groups, lying and calumniating, without distinguishing what is right and wrong. Many are those who, shortsighted, only see immediate profits, and few are those who have visions and great plans. Amidst the confusion of the times, each lay person should stay close to the world and be a peace-maker in family, in working place, in society, caring for life from the moment of conception to its natural death , public welfare, the poor and the homeless, the migrants and the oppressed, with the meekness and the humility of Jesus and Mary sowing the seed of love, justice, truth, trust, forgiveness and unity, and desiring to build a civilization of love and to yield forth spiritual fruits (cf. Mt 3:18, John 15:8).

     
 
Concrete Actions:
 
 

Respect life, proactively promote the protection of nascent human life, advocate for the abolition of death penalty and for the implementation of appropriate supporting measures. Cultivate through prayer the spirit of forgiveness and make peace among ethnic groups, impact local community life, care for the disadvantaged.

 
     

Becoming perfect through formation

      No lay faithful will become overnight an authentic Christian, relevant to the world and holy . To attain perfection, we must have appropriate and ongoing training.

        The Church will be mature if there are mature lay people. The Church needs lay faithful who are solid in faith, well-formed, enthusiastic and committed. And it is the right and the obligation of the faithful to receive formation.

       Family as domestic church is the first place where the children are formed and loved. Parents have the responsibility to bring their children up and educate them in faith. Catholic schools of all kinds must also join in. Parish is ˇ§the training center for a true Christian lifeˇ¨, it must also organize Sunday school, pastoral and evangelization ministry for the youth, catechism for adults who are preparing themselves for the sacraments of initiation. Diocesan and religious congregations and different sodalities are to support the parishes and collaborate in the formation of the lay faithful to train catechists or even more qualified lecturers for the seminary who will be able to lead the lay faithful into a deeper liturgical life and to strengthen their sense of mission, in order that the lay faithful have a deeper awareness of their belonging to the parish and to the diocese, of the role and contribution of the women in the Church and in the society, playing actively their role in the politics and in their working place.

        The General Directory for Catechesis published by the Vatican in 1997 says that the whole life of a Christian is all about the pedagogy of the faith. The catechetical teaching on the sacraments of Christian initiation indicates the norm of Christian life, while the theological instruction shows its aim. Therefore, we strongly encourage all faithful to read more books on the Church, to understand the Churchˇ¦s teachings, to attend more formation courses on spirituality, catechism, social justice, human values, ethics and the moral life. The lay faithful should seek every opportunity to actively take part in theological studies and catechetical courses. Pope John Paul II has repeatedly emphasized that the fruits of Vatican II can be harvested mostly in the liturgical life of the lay faithful. Celebrating the Year for the Laity, the Chinese Regional Bishopsˇ¦ Conference is particularly eager to strengthen the liturgical, spiritual life of the faithful and to promote the Sacraments of Initiation in the dioceses.

     
 
Concrete Actions:
 
 

Sanctify and cherish oneˇ¦s own families, cultivate parent-child relationship, promote prayers in family, encourage children, youth and intellectuals and their friends to get involve d in the catechetical program s of the Church .

 
     

Conclusion

         Walking with people, living for God!ˇ¨ is the true meaning, happiness and perfection of being a lay faithful! The ˇ§Year for the Laityˇ¨ prompts us to head for this direction: ˇ§ Becoming authentic, relevant, holy, perfect. ˇ¨ Dear brothers and sisters, let us work together through concrete actions, sharing with Christ in his priestly, prophetic, and royal office. Let us prepare ourselves, go out and evangelize, sanctify ourselves and the whole world!

         May you have a grace-filled Christmas!

         Happy New Year and Peace to the whole family!

 

                                                                             Chinese Regional Bishopsˇ¦ Conference 

                                                                             1st Advent Sunday 2010

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