A message from the Catholic Church Lenten Campaign – Fifth Week

Embrace faith and long for
the first light

It is now the fifth week of Lent and the theme of the Lenten Campaign of this Sunday is Embrace faith and long for the first light, echoing what Jesus says to Martha in the gospel today, “Did I not tell you if you believed, you would see the glory of God?” Our common inclination is that we see, therefore we believe, so it sounds strange that we should believe before we see. On another occasion Jesus quotes the prophet, Isaiah: “They may indeed see but not perceive, and may indeed hear but not understand.” (Mark 4:12; Isaiah 6:9) Many people may wonder what Jesus truly means.

Why do we see but not perceive? You might have the experience of somebody asking you to look for an object in his room, but you fail find it even though the object is actually there. Why? One of the reasons is that you have no concept of the object you are looking for, such as its shape, colour and other features. Consequently, even if you came across it, you would not recognise it. Another reason is that the object is kept in a somewhat hidden location, so you would not uncover it unless you painstakingly remove all the obstacles blocking your sight. Or else the object is mingled with heaps of items which distract your attention, so that even you might see it, you are not aware of its existence. 

Employing the above paradigm to our faith, we cannot see the glory of God perhaps because we do not know the nature of his glory, or because we are blocked by other things. The Bible tells us that everything God does and everything he creates, manifests his glory (Psalm 8:2; 19:2; Romans 1:20-21) and, in particular, humankind is created in the image of God so that human life is a reflection of His glory (Genesis 1:27a).

However, the mystery of life is so natural that we take it for granted and fail to recognise it as a miraculous act of God and perceive his glory. As narrated in the gospel, it is only when Lazarus died and is later resurrected by Jesus, that people realise the glory of God (John 11:4). Jesus also says, “My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples” (John 15:8) and “If you love each other, the world will recognise you as my disciples” (John 13:35). 

It turns out that God is glorified when we, as Jesus’ disciples love each other. To the contrary, our lack of charity is an obstacle to the glorification of God. 

Over the past eight months, Hong Kong has experienced two disturbing incidents. The extradition bill issue has brought rift and discord in the, workplace, circles of friends and even within the Church. The recent coronavirus outbreak has even worsened the situation. 

We perceive God’s silence rather than his presence, not to mention his glory. In these days, what prevails in the social media and apps are the furious attacks on those who have differing views. We are blind to their worth and merits; focusing only on their shortcomings. 

Nevertheless today’s gospel aptly urges us to reflect on whether we have lost our faith in God as we are reluctant to see that everyone is our brother or sister whom God loves. Are our eyes so obscured by prejudice and hatred that we cannot see the face of Christ on our brothers and sisters and thus undermine the glory of God?

As the Lent is about to come to a close, we should step up our preparation for the passion and resurrection of our Lord. Let us cleanse our eyes with faith in Jesus our Lord and his forgiveness, to restore our sight of God’s love and glory which should be reflected even in those who are the least lovable.

Lenten Campaign Organising Committee, 2020

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