While we are looking and contemplating the face of the Baby Jesus who lies in the manger — that God, who is omnipotent, who is King, now became man, in the form of a defenseless baby — we are personally and collectively as humankind, experiencing and witnessing the mercy of God. There is nothing that mankind needs more than Divine Mercy, that love which is benevolent, which is compassionate, which raises man above his weakness to the infinite heights of the holiness of God.
I quote here some words and ideas of Pope Francis from his Apostolic letter “Misericordia et Misera” (MM). “We have just celebrated an intense Jubilee Year in which we have received the grace of mercy in abundance…” Even though the Jubilee Year has now ended and the Holy Door has been closed, the Church has nevertheless started a new era of mercy, a new time of mercy and a new path of mercy. All of us are reminded that our hearts are renewed so that the door of mercy of our heart continues to remain wide open with more fervor. It is the result of “an encounter between two hearts: the heart of God who comes to meet us and a human heart… Our hearts of stone become hearts of flesh capable of love despite our sinfulness. I come to realize that I am truly a ‘new creation’: I am loved, therefore I exist; I am forgiven, therefore I am reborn; I have been shown mercy, therefore I have become a vessel of mercy” (16).
I would like our Diocese to echo the call of Pope Francis to promote a “culture of mercy” (MM 20) in the coming months, at least until Christmas next year. In a very particular way, I would like to put emphasis on the celebration of mercy in the Sacrament of Confession. It is in this Sacrament that “we feel the embrace of the Father, who comes forth to meet us and grant us the grace of being once more his sons and daughters” (8). We keep on sinning against God and against our neighbors, and yet “grace always precedes us and takes on the face of the mercy that effects our reconciliation and pardon.” It is in this Sacrament when we admit our sins that we see, recognize, feel and embrace God’s great love.
Concretely, I would like the parish priests and all priests who are involved in pastoral care of souls in this Diocese to preach and teach more on the need and beauty of this Sacrament of mercy to the faithful. They should make themselves more available to hear confessions. In order to facilitate all faithful to have easy access to the sacrament, I would encourage all parishes to set up a fixed schedule of confession during the week and make it known to the parishioners. I have also asked two parishes, namely, the Cathedral and the Church of Fatima, to have more and longer time for confessions as well as penitential services organized in preparation for the centenary of the apparition of Our Lady of Fatima (MM 10).
Please encourage all your parishioners to bring friends, especially those who have been away from the Church, from the Sacraments, no matter for how long already, to meet with Christ personally in this Sacrament of Mercy and obtain from Him his redemptive grace. ”Let us help light up the space of personal conscience with God’s infinite love” (MM 11).
Similarly, I invite all the catechists of Sunday Schools and of the catechism for adults to teach in a deeper way the doctrine of this sacrament, to organize revision sessions on it and to prepare them well to receive it regularly especially in Advent and Lent.
In a personal level of reconciliation, Pope Francis mentioned also in the same Letter that the forgiveness of God “can be obtained by beginning, first of all, to live in charity… Love covers a multitude of sins (I Pet 4:8). Only God forgives sins, but he asks that we be ready to forgive others as he has forgiven us.” How much we suffer if we are not able to open our heart to forgive. “Resentment, anger and revenge gain the upper hand, making our lives miserable and blocking a joyful commitment to mercy” (MM 8). In order to promote the culture of mercy, I invite all the faithful in the coming months to beg our Merciful Lord to help us to overcome all the personal grudges, resentments, and to make a special effort to reconcile with them, one by one, whether they be your family members, relatives, colleagues or friends. If you want, you can write down and send me all these personal stories of reconciliation, and hopefully by the end of next year, I will publish them under the title Encounter with the Merciful Lord – Love and Reconciliation as a Christmas present for all of you.
I ask, through the maternal help of Holy Mary, Mother of Mercy, that the joy, peace and blessing of her Merciful Son reach all of you in the coming Christmas and in the New Year of 2017.
+ Bishop Stephen LEE
Diocese of Macau