Christmas Message from the Bishop for the year 2021
Adoring the Source of Love and Happiness: The Family Model
Video filmed and produced by the Centro Diocesano dos Meios de Comunicação Social.
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
Christmas, celebrated all over, brings to the world the true light that shines in the world. There is no doubt that “the true light that enlightens every man was coming into the world. He was in the world….” (1)
In 2021, the Universal Church launched a series of consultations for the upcoming Synod of Bishops with the theme of “Listening and Dialogue,” a journey of spiritual discernment for the renewal of the Church, a journey of ecclesial discernment of the faithful, realized in pilgrimage to God and prayer, and in close connection with the Word of God. At the same time, on the occasion of the fifth anniversary of the Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia, Pope Francis has asked us to revisit this Apostolic Exhortation to the Family which refers to our present situation and reflects on the very challenges we face every day.
“The well-being of the family determines the future of the world and of the Church” (2). Our society is facing unprecedented challenges. The crisis brought about by extreme individualism, which makes family members feel like islands separate from one another, together with today’s rapid pace of life, stress, social and labor structures, narcissism, addiction to free time, financial insecurity, challenges to the dignity of life, etc., are “cultural factors that prevent people from making lasting choices” (3).
In his exhortation, the Pope suggests that we and the family progress gradually with the goal of reconciliation and communion. “Love should grow, and in order to preserve marital love, the first thing is not to repeat doctrine, but to grow and strengthen the marriage relationship through the promotion of grace” (4). To this end, the Pope offers a sincere three-word advice: to know how to say “please,” “thank you” and “I’m sorry” in the family (5). Love has the power to transform, and we rely on this transcendent virtue to bring grace to marriage and family and to grow in it, walking with Jesus Christ. This is what the Pope invites us to do in the “charism of love”: “In marriage, the couple expresses their faithfulness to God by belonging completely to each other, by taking on the challenge and expectation of supporting each other, and by aspiring to grow old together” (6).
Pope Francis has recommended to local dioceses to prepare for the World Meeting of Families in Rome from 22 to 26 June 2022 and to promote the participation of families in family ministry and in diocesan gatherings of couples or families. In response to the Pope’s invitation, I appeal to all to organize or participate this coming year in the pastoral work of the family in parishes and families, including:
1. Regularly gather prayers for the family in parishes and in marriage and family organizations;
2. Promotion of Pope Francis’ book The Family – Wednesday Audiences;
3. Implementation of a “Family Care Groups” in parishes and organizations that aim to strengthen marital relationships through faith, mutual sharing, support, learning and reflection, and to bear witness to the love of God.
In this Christmas season, I wish to invite you to meditate particularly on the family of the Little Jesus who lived in Nazareth. Although the Holy Family is a small, poor and quiet family, the light of goodness and peace and joy that radiates from there shines in every corner of the world, to the amazement and envy of all. May your hearts rejoice as you seek the Lord in your family, for it is He who first meets us with His love when He comes to the Holy Family.
+D. Stephen Lee Bun Sang
Catholic Diocese of Macau
(1) John 1:9-10
(5) Address of Pope Francis to the Participants in the Pilgrimage of Families during the Year of Faith, 26 October 2013 (AAS 103 (2013), 980)