Recently, a radio programme reported that the Year of the Rabbit seemed to be especially liked by young children in Hong Kong. They were excited and wore sweet smiles when informed about the Year of the Rabbit.
I do not suppose it is because of what the zodiac masters and fortune tellers may have said about the rabbit. Instead, their reactions are probably due to the cuteness of the small bunny rabbits that may have popped up in their minds. The cute images of bunny rabbits usually evoke an unmistakable sense of warmth in our hearts, which I believe, is most endearing.
Are we aware that rabbits are members of the rodent family? Their relatives, rats, evoke quite the opposite feelings in us. Some of us would even scream while running away from a rat appearing in the distance. Why the discrimination? Are we being unfair to rats?
Well, it was probably about the images that were created for us as we were growing up. If we were growing up on farms, we would not have such positive images of rabbits as they made burrows and chewed up plants. Remember Bugs Bunny, who loved chewing on carrots?
How about ourselves? What images have we created for ourselves in others? And what images have others created for us? When we talk about evangelization for our good Lord, we cannot but be mindful of the images we create for Him and for ourselves, consciously or subconsciously.
Here I am not referring to unauthentic marketing but rather the opposite. Once others can see through our inauthenticity, that will be the end of our witnessing. It will, in fact, be counter-witnessing for our Lord, our Christian faith and even for ourselves.
Then what does authentic mean? I would say it is very much connected to being humble. A truly humble person is neither pretensive nor self-abasing but is able to accept his/her strengths and shortcomings as they are. It is when we are able to accept who we are that we will be able to grow into the authentic self that God has intended for us, as He created us in His love.
A deep sense of being loved together with a clear understanding of being accepted will provide us with the confidence we need to grow into better and more endearing people. Continuous criticism and fear would rob us of the confidence we need to acknowledge our needs and improve ourselves.
Hence, what does justice mean for us as a people created, called and loved by God? Remember the parable of a rich owner of a large vineyard who hired workers at different times of the day yet paid them the same wages? Those brought in late were likely leftovers who were too old or weak for the other owners. [Matthew 20:1-15]. Hence, justice is manifested in God’s merciful love rather than through the so-called fair trade of capitalism, favouring the strong and resourceful.
When we look ahead in this new year, how do we want ourselves and our faith community to be perceived by others? How will we live out our faith and beliefs authentically? How would we want ourselves and others to grow into better persons with a helpful sense of justice based on merciful and empathic love?
Our beloved Hong Kong can benefit from this sense of justice for its healing and reconciliation. Merciful and empathic love will give each other the space and confidence to ask for forgiveness and the needed support for self-betterment. May this Year of the Bunny Rabbit be a time of warmth and recovery for different parties injured in the social movement and the pandemic.
Bishop Stephen Chow Sau-yan is prelate of the Catholic Church in Hong Kong since 2021. He used to be provincial superior of the Chinese Province of the Society of Jesus.