Commemorating the 150th Jubilee Year of Evangelization in Taiwan,
imitate St. Paul in committing wholly to the work of evangelization
Brother priests, seminarians, Sisters, brothers and sisters in Christ:
I. Griefs and anxieties, joys and hopes of the people of Taiwan
¡§The joys and the hopes, the griefs and the anxieties of the men of this age, especially those who are poor or in any way afflicted, these are the joys and hopes, the griefs and anxieties of the followers of Christ. Indeed, nothing genuinely human fails to raise an echo in their hearts. For theirs is a community composed of men. United in Christ, they are led by the Holy Spirit in their journey to the Kingdom of their Father and they have welcomed the news of salvation which is meant for every man. That is why this community realizes that it is truly linked with mankind and its history by the deepest of bonds.¡¨ (Vatican II: Gaudium Et Spes, #1)
The year 2008 was a year with abrupt changes. The central government in Taiwan changed political party the second time, achieving the course of democratization. But social unrest caused by political fights and different kinds of corruption deepen the miseries and disappointments of people. Facing an overwhelming global economic crisis, the new government has difficulty coping up. Taiwan takes pride in its big companies and medium-sized enterprises but one after another, they lay off employees or they give leave of absence without pay. This is like adding frost to snow to the many years of successive unemployment and miserable conditions.
With the downfall of communism at the end of 20th century, the world made a full swing towards market-oriented economy and capitalism. However, last year, the United States of America triggered a global finance and economic crisis, which is becoming worst and uncontrollable. This makes people see clearly that capitalism is equally a disaster for humanity. Both ideologies are centered on material things. Both entice boundless cravings for power, money and pleasure resulting in the distortion of proper good relationship between man and man, between man and nature, above all between man and the Creator.
Fortunately, the world is loved and preserved by God as Creator. Moreover, man has been created in the image and likeness of God, blessed by God. Although it is unfortunate that sin has corrupted and enslaved man, he is saved by the unconditional love of Christ, who suffered, died and rose from the dead. When man experiences disappointment towards material world, going back to the gospel of Christ, obeying the teachings of Christ is the best way out. In this way, the world is transformed and will reach a more perfect level by accomplishing the plan of God.
The biggest revelations that the global financial tsunami and economic storm give are: that the global village is already taking shape; humanity is a collective body; there is a close relationship between man and man, between country and country; no one can close himself from this world. St. Paul clearly tells us: ¡§There is no room for distinction between Greek and Jew, between the circumcised or the uncircumcised, or between barbarian and Scythian, slave and free man. There is only Christ: he is everything and he is in everything.¡¨ (Col. 3:11) To separate man from man is inhuman. To unite only with those who agree and fight those who differ, is encroaching on the sovereign rights of God, it is also a den for evil. Before the end of the year 2008, the U.S.A. has chosen the first black president, breaking the barrier between racial groups. This is the best proof of the realization of St. Paul¡¦s teaching.
Jesus firmly asserts that the greatest and the first commandment is to love God and to love one another. All the commandments are summed up in this single commandment. Love is the fulfillment of the law. (ref.: Mt. 22:37, Rom. 13:9-10) For Jesus, to love one¡¦s enemies is the most thorough way of loving. (Mt. 5:44; Lk 6:27). He himself was nailed on the cross. While in extreme pain on the verge of death, he forgave those who inflicted upon him, and even prayed for them: ¡§Father, forgive them! For they do not know what they are doing.¡¨ (Lk 23:34)
This unconditional great love demands that we become poor, that we grieve, to be meek, to hunger and thirst for justice, to be pure at heart, to be compassionate, to be peacemakers, and mostly, to endure all persecutions for the sake of justice. Today¡¦s world needs these moral strength and discipline. Unless we possess a kind and gentle heart, tolerant with those different from us, forgive those who offend us intentionally or unaware; wholeheartedly care for others, especially those who are small and weak, striving to improve their unfavorable condition, this world will not have lasting peace and stability. To reconcile with God, reconcile with nature, and reconcile with one another is the path we must walk.
II. The Year of St. Paul and the 150 th Jubilee Year of Evangelization of the Church in Taiwan
At present, the Universal Church is enthusiastically celebrating the Pauline Year, commemorating the birth of St. Paul 2000 years ago. The Church calls St. Paul ¡§The Teacher of All Peoples¡¨ (Preface: Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul). Because he puts his whole heart and strength to cooperate with grace to devote to his mission of evangelization and unity, the Christian Church went out the limits for the Jews, becoming a universal Church of all peoples. The Pauline Year precisely makes us know St. Paul more deeply, imitate his spirit, learn from his ways, and bring the Christian message to the world corrupted by capitalism and secularism.
St. Paul was born in Cilicia, Tarsus, a Roman citizen living abroad. He was a Jew belonging to the tribe of Benjamin. Since childhood he received a very good Greek and Jewish education. He knew the Old Testament by heart. When he grew up, he went to Jerusalem for further education. He studied under a very famous Scribe named Gamaliel and was taught the exact observance of the Law of our ancestors (Acts 22:2-3). It made him become an extremely ardent Pharisee, having a profound scholastic attainment in the Jewish law and theology.
With this background, Paul opposed the newly developing Christian Church, fiercely persecuting the Christians. But on the way to Damascus to destroy the Church, there came a light from heaven all round him, he was blinded and fell to the ground. He was converted immediately to Christ and without the least hesitation followed the crucified Christ. From then on, his life, his work, his hardships, and sacrifices were all for Christ. With deep emotion, he sighs: ¡§I live now not with my own life but with the life of Christ who lives in me.¡¨ (Gal. 2:20)
The dramatic change of St. Paul is arranged by the Wisdom of God. Having ¡§persecuted the Church of God¡¨, St. Paul always bears this in his heart. But he believes that this is the will of God: ¡§By God¡¦s grace that is what I am¡K the Lord has chosen me even from my mother¡¦s womb.¡¨ (1Cor 15:9;15)
Seeing the unrest in the world, disputes, indifference towards God, even our own miseries, our falls, and sins, we should acknowledge that God has allowed these things to happen, has arranged these things, so that when we go back to Him, we may have greater incentive and enthusiasm to render Him service. Therefore, how to make people become closer to Christ, how to enable them to meet God, is the urgent and uncompromising mission of the present Church.
This New Year, the Catholic Church in Taiwan celebrates with enthusiasm the 150 th anniversary of its evangelization. It is a year of great jubilation. The Church cherishes the memories of our ancient saints and sages, their hard life as pioneers, their travel through thick bushes and dense jungles, and the difficulties they had to undergo so that today, the Catholic Church is generally accepted, known and appreciated by the society especially in the fields of culture, education and works of charity. Those who contributed considerably are the missionaries from various countries, especially the Dominican Spanish Missionaries who came first, and fifty years ago, a great number of missionaries came from Mainland China. But now when the heroes are no longer there, when there is deficiency of vocations, when knowledge has become popularized, perhaps, it is time to give more attention to the numerous laity who are doing work of evangelization or who are able to contribute to it. Models like Lee Bu Lei and others are already in the past. But 50 years ago, many catechists and consecrated virgins served as pioneers. The older generations have personally witnessed them, the common people also always heard about them. Brother Liu Ying Fang Luke can be considered a model in our present generation. He first established Liu Luke Culture and Education Foundation, providing the Church with a school and scholarships for children of poor Christian families. Before his death, he invested NTS 100 million and put it in Trust Funds for the formation and support of professional catechists. At present, several dioceses have benefited and have already produced positive results especially in Hualien diocese.
Today, Tzu Chi Buddhist Foundation has great influence on Taiwan society. They do not depend on monks, but on a well-organized organization, on a vast number of professional volunteers. We admire the ardor and active involvement of our Christian brothers and sisters. The Catholic Church in Taiwan is relatively conservative. It tends to have an excessive dependence upon the hierarchy, upon priests and Sisters. Now is the time for lay people to come out, to offer their personal competence to serve the Church. During this age of pluralism, if there are no people from various trades and occupations serving the Church, the Church will be incomplete. Paul Cardinal Shan says: ¡§As long as it is good for pastoral evangelization, as long as it does not violate our belief and ethics, be confident, go and boldly do it.¡¨
During the most prosperous time of the Church forty to fifty years ago, the churchgoers and those who joined activities of the Church belonged to the postwar baby boomers generation. Now that they have already reached retirement age, perhaps their vitality is gone, but they are spiritually matured and have solid foundation of faith. They can still wholeheartedly dedicate their services to the Church.
III. Recommendations for the Jubilee Year of Evangelization
In this time of social unrest, of economic bleakness, of human depression, it is the moment when people urgently need consolation. This is also the best opportunity for the Church to offer an experience of redemption. In order to celebrate the Pauline Year and the auspicious year of the 150 th anniversary of Taiwan Evangelization, we should have the following points of endeavor:
1. Engage actively in further studies
St. Paul is a doctor of sacred scriptures. He has received a profound and complete education which later became a strong foundation for his work of evangelization. In this knowledge explosion generation, we need more experts on the sacred science. Otherwise, it will be difficult to deal with the challenges of the secular society. It is impossible to go back to the past, but we can enter into the world of today, be familiar with the joys and hopes of the present generation, their anxieties and worries. With them, together we can search for God, accept their way of thinking, their way of doing, and then introduce them to baptism of the Gospel. This inculturation is indispensable in the world of today. Clergymen or lay persons, all need to continuously pursue further studies. Give up the mediocre and contradictory way of thinking. Using the international characteristic of the Universal Church, do not hesitate to promote national and international further learning opportunities even at the cost of heavy expenses. Learn from St. Paul who lived his missionary life by going to the whole world.
2. Be creative in the work of evangelization
In a pluralistic society, ways of being touched by the Gospel can also be varied and diversified. Some people find God in their knowledge after deep reflection, some people are inspired after reading touching stories, some people find comfort in sacred liturgical atmosphere, some persons are visibly moved in the midst of lively and joyful atmosphere¡K We need various strategies in evangelization, to enable all people to find what they need particularly. Church leaders should not look down from above but accept suggestions from lay people, using their respective talents to participate in decision-makings in the Church. It is only when the laity realize that the Church is an indispensable factor in their lives that there can be other ¡¥St. Pauls¡¦ today, enthusiastically joining in the task of evangelization and pastoral work. In order to realize the ¡§15,000 baptisms movement¡¨ to celebrate the 150th anniversary of evangelization, the zeal of numerous lay people are awakened for missionary work. Catechumen classes are set up everywhere with the hope to harvest abundant fruits for the Gospel through various efforts.
3. Deepen community involvement
Following self-awareness development, giving importance to society and one¡¦s environment, especially towards the demands of ecological and spiritual environmental protection, Taiwan already offers a luxuriant climate, a good field for the work of evangelization. Faced with various natural and man-made disasters, people are more earnest in pursuing the meaning of life. We have to participate actively in spreading the Gospel spirit. Being in an aging, lesser children and rapid change generation, special attention should be given to the disadvantaged minorities. They are often the first ones to receive the Gospel. In terms of charitable works, the Church in Taiwan has considerable achievements but should further make use of the social strength and attract many more non-Christians to join or support the charitable works of the Church especially for service of the new residents, migrant workers, senior citizens, the handicapped, and marginalized.
4. Show concern to Mainland China
During the Ad Limina Visit of the Chinese Regional Bishops¡¦ Conference in Rome in December 2008, the Pope said that he constantly prays for the Church in China. He also asked the bishops of Taiwan to show loving concern for the Church in Mainland China, to be a living witness of the unity of faith and good citizenship, and of a new orderly society of justice. China is already walking on the road of reformed and open policies, of significant economy growth. However, having been for a long period of time under the fetters of atheistic and communist ideology, the pursuit for spiritual growth, for the meaning of life become more urgent. God could not abandon such numerous people. We should encourage the multitude of laity in Mainland China by our own experiences. Moreover, through the convenience offered by ¡¥Three-links¡¦ between the cross-Straits, we should support the formation of consecrated people in China and the numerous laity so that their relationship with the Universal Church will be properly enhanced. The spirit of the Gospel can really liberate Mainland China. The Christianization of China will be the greatest blessing for the people of the whole world.
5. Pray fervently
Evangelization is the work of God. We need the help and blessing of God which come from prayer. Jesus usually goes to a remote place to pray after a hard day spreading the Gospel. ¡§In the morning, long before dawn, he got up and left the house, and went off to a lonely place and prayed there.¡¨ (Mk 1:35) Jesus also wants us to: ¡§Ask the Lord of the harvest to send laborers to his harvest.¡¨ (Lk 10:2) These laborers do not only refer to the clergy but they also include Sisters and the laity. In the early Church, the faithful ¡§remained faithful to the teaching of the apostles, to the brotherhood, to the breaking of bread and to the prayers¡K They all lived together and owned everything in common¡K they shared their food gladly and generously. They praised God and were looked p to by everyone. Day by day the Lord added to their community those destined to be saved.¡¨ (Acts 2:42-47)
The New Year brings us new hope. St. Paul once again emphasizes that those who believe in Christ is a completely new person. He is asking us to ¡§put aside your old self, which gets corrupted by following illusory desires. Your mind must be renewed by a spiritual revolution so that you can put on the new self that has been created in God¡¦s way, in the goodness and holiness of the truth.¡¨ (Eph 4:21-24) ¡§Christ is the peace between us, and has made the two into one and broken down the barrier which used to keep them apart, actually destroying in his own person the hostility caused by the rules and decrees of the Law. This was to create one single New Man in himself out of the two of them and by restoring peace. (Eph 2:14-15) Let us leave the shore where we peacefully bait for fish, let us courageously row the boat towards the unpredictable big waves, into the deep, and cast our nets to catch fish.
Finally, we also ask the help of ¡§ Mary, help of Christians¡¨; She is the ¡§model of all disciples and bright Star of Evangelization¡¨ (Eccelesia in Asia # 51). Through her intercession and our efforts, may the fruits of evangelization in Taiwan flourish in abundance.
On the eve of Chinese New Year, we offer our respectable wishes for a Happy New Year and an overflowing of God¡¦s grace!
All the bishops of the Chinese Regional Bishops¡¦ Conference
Feast of the Lord¡¦s Baptism, 2009