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Lunar New Year Message: Mercy builds a family of faith and happiness

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Spring brings joy and fills the earth with hope!

At this turn of the season, people are generally preoccupied with planning. What is your plan? I hope that your plan will include building a family of faith and happiness.

It has been an important and a long-practiced tradition for generations of Chinese to have their families gather around the dinner table on the eve of Chinese New Year. Despite the long distance and minimal availability of transportation system during the agricultural era, reunion dinner was a day not to be missed but to be greatly treasured.

However, with modernisation and advancement in technology, our values, especially in terms of the significance of family and its values, have changed. There is a growing phenomenon where people do not know how to treasure the gift of their families as they ought. With secularisation, material wealth becomes top priority, and more time is expended at work to build a career and accumulate wealth. This has come at the expense of time spent in nourishing their marriages and nurturing their children.

Family is the basic foundation of society. When family units are broken, the order of society and the world will be in chaos. We read in Genesis that God created man and woman and hence, instituted marriage. This was the first family He has created. Married couples are called to continue God’s work through procreation. With children as the fruits of love between husband and wife, it is the primary mission of parents to share and help children experience the love of God.

Parents are the first two individuals children encounter and they play the most influential role in the lives of their children. Parents are also the children’s first teachers, where their words, thoughts and deeds have great influence in the character formation of their children. They are the pillars of each family unit and they are the messengers of love. The love between husband and wife serves as the foundation in building a happy family. Children learn about love and how to love from the love their parents share as husband and wife.

Love is the key to create a warm and intimate family. When love, care and conversation are absent, children and parents alike will feel distant from each other. The house will turn ‘cold’ and will remain a building instead of a home and a place children would want to avoid, while at the same time deep within their hearts, they desire and search for a place to belong to. We know that the deepest desires of children are love, forgiveness, accompaniment, justice and sincere care. It is not the latest video games or i-Pad that they want. These are the fundamental values in building a happy family. These values are in the core of our being and will never change.

As Catholics, are our homes filled with the Presence of God? Do we have a place at home for the Sacred Scripture, the Crucifix and holy items? Do we pray and read the Bible together? If not, let us make this New Year a new beginning to grow together in Christ as a family.

The Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph is the model family for us all. Pope Paul VI in one of his addresses said that Nazareth is a kind of school. It is here that we can learn who Christ really is, and take account of the conditions and circumstances that surrounded and affected his life on earth.

Indeed, when we know the life of the Holy Family, our values towards family will change accordingly. No longer will we build our families on material wealth, but on our faith and the teachings of Christ.

In celebrating this Lunar New Year, there are two important reasons in my emphasis on the importance of ‘Family’: first, according to the tradition and customs of the Chinese, the emphasis of the Lunar New Year revolves around family reunion and its unity; and second, last October in Rome, Pope Francis in calling forth the Synod of Bishops has set its theme on the Family “The Vocation and Mission of the Family in the Church and Contemporary World”, in which I was present. In the Synod, as in our present time, we could easily identify the risks families are exposed to. People do not give priority to their families. The divorce rate is on the rise. The vow of everlasting love that was taken on their wedding day fades away all too soon. They emphasise the fulfillment of their personal happiness instead of those of their spouses. They become selfish and are reluctant to forgive and accept each other as they are.

Pope Francis has also announced the Year of Mercy, which has commenced on 8 Dec 2015 and will end on 20 Nov 2016. I urge that we are to first bring the mercy of the Father into our homes to allow our family members the experience of God’s Mercy, in being merciful to and in acceptance of each other. Let us treat our family members with such mercy in order to build an intimate family.

Finally, love is the key to build a family. In this Lunar New Year, I would like to encourage us with this Scripture from 1 Corinthians 13: 4-7 “Love is always patient and kind; love is never jealous; love is not boastful or conceited, it is never rude and never seeks its own advantage, it does not take offence or store up grievances. Love does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but finds its joy in the truth. It is always ready to make allowances, to trust, to hope and to endure whatever comes.” These are the essential elements in the relationship between husband and wife and those among family members. How much have you lived them out?

I pray that every family will grow in love and passion for prayer, the Word of God and the Eucharist, as the way to grow more intimate with the Merciful Father.

Wishing you all peace in this New Year and may your days be filled with God’s Mercy.

+ Archbishop John Wong

 

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