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Archbishop John Wong’s Christmas Message 2018

THEREFORE the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Emmanuel.” (Isaiah 7:14)  How humbling it is for us each time when we contemplate on the mystery of Emmanuel – God is with us, and on the reality of how God chose to reach out to us by becoming one of us!

If we just take a moment to look at how fallen our world is, we will realize that we are living in a culture that has lost touch of what faith and the meaning of love truly mean; a culture that flows with the current of secularism and relativism. God’s design for every human person to be dignified is slowly being washed away by this current. We see a trend where every individual is now allowed to determine what they want to believe. The truth is no longer objective, but subjective to one’s right in deciding what is truth for themselves.

My dearest brothers and sisters, we truly have fallen behind; and the world needs a saviour! God is relentless when it comes to reaching out in love to His people. God had each of us in His mind when He planned to send His Son, Jesus Christ. God planned, God prepared, God brought to fulfillment, and God became. That is what Christmas is all about. God’s love is manifested because He chose to become one of us; taking upon himself every aspect that a human being can ever possibly experience or go through.

No matter what our circumstance may be at this present time – be it a personal struggle, a family problem, a financial burden, a work issue, or dealing with the loss of a loved and dear one, or just the pain of feeling and suffering alone, may we all find comfort and joy, knowing that this Christmas, He is coming to us and He is with us. He is not just with us, in a vague and general sense, but He comes to meet each of us exactly where we are at in our individual lives. In our joy, in our pain, in our suffering, in our incapability of making sense of what is going on in our own lives, in our brokenness, in every possible circumstance we are going through – God is right here, with us, and He truly understands.

Sick, our nature demanded to be healed; fallen, to be raised up; dead, to rise again. We had lost the possession of the good; it was necessary for it to be given back to us. Closed in the darkness, it was necessary to bring us the light; captives, we awaited a Saviour; prisoners, help; slaves, a liberator. Are these things minor or insignificant? Did they not move God to descend to human nature and visit it, since humanity was in so miserable and unhappy a state? (Catechism of the Catholic Church 457).

No one can put it more beautifully than what is stated in our Catechism. God is moved when He sees His children suffering, and He draws near to them at once, and at all costs, even if it meant descending to human nature. This is TRUE LOVE.  This Christmas, True Love comes down once again and wants to dwell in our hearts.

But are we prepared to welcome this Love into our hearts at this Christmas? Will Love find any room in our hearts when He comes this Christmas? How can I prepare my heart for Christmas? It is too easy to get carried away with the hustle, bustle and busyness as we draw nearer to Christmas, especially in our world today, where Christmas is extremely secularized and commercialized. While there is nothing wrong to celebrate Christmas in festivity and merriment, let us take a moment this Christmas to truly reflect on the true meaning of what we are celebrating, which is found in Christ, the “Word made flesh” in the most vulnerable form – a baby, born in a stable, on a still night.

Therefore, we may say that making room for Love to enter our hearts, means taking time to be silent in our hearts. Let us not miss the sound of the Baby Jesus’ cry when He arrives. May He find room in each of our hearts when He comes.

The great Venerable Fulton Sheen once said, “How to find Christmas peace in a world of unrest? You cannot find peace on the outside, but you can find peace on the inside, by letting God do to your soul what Mary let Him do to her body, namely, let Christ be formed in you.”

Let us not be afraid to respond to the mystery of God’s great love this Christmas. Let us be unafraid to come as we are and surrender to Him our sins, our brokenness, our weaknesses, our lacking, and all our struggles. Let us not be afraid to let Christ form our being! In the words of one of the greatest saints, St Therese of the Child Jesus, “A God who became so small could only be mercy and love.” God chose to come as a helpless infant to us. May we too, come to Him in our most vulnerable state and surrender to His love this Christmas.

I would like to end with the words of St Teresa of Calcutta as an invitation to all of us: “At this Christmas when Christ comes, will He find a warm heart? Mark this season of Christmas by loving and serving others with God’s love and concern.”

Wishing you a very Blessed Christmas!

Archbishop John Wong, Archdiocese of Kota Kinabalu 


  

Keningau prelate says Christmas is God’s love expression to humanity

In his Christmas message published in Catholic Sabah (17.12.2017), Keningau prelate Bishop Cornelius Piong says that Christmas is God’s love expression to humanity.  Below is the full text:

The mood of Christmas celebration is always felt at the end of each year. There are always Christmas songs, Christmas sales, Christmas feasting and many others. However, what actually is Christmas?  We, the faithful, are easily attracted and influenced by external signs of Christmas until we forget about the spirit and true purpose of Christmas.

The birth of Jesus, God’s only Son, that we celebrate on Christmas is, in fact, God’s love expression to us, human beings. God who is always communicating with us has finally sent His Son Jesus as a channel of communication and of His love with us (Heb 1:1-2, John 3:16).

Since the birth of Jesus in this world, we are able to experience God’s presence, communication and love relationship; and this brings hope and meaning to our lives. Celebrating Christmas based on worldly influences and parties (semangat ramai-ramai), surely will not bring in or leave any good and useful impact when we take up our daily life challenges.

The Church hopes that during Advent, we will be in silence and use it for reflection so that we will be able to celebrate Christmas with the true purpose as intended by God, that is to develop His communication and relationship with humanity for eternity.

While facing our daily life challenges, we are grateful because Jesus Himself has promised to be with us until the end of time (Mat 28:20). In facing life challenges as an individual, which involves family, community and the society, Jesus always invites us to go to Him, to listen and to do His words. (Mt 11:28, Lk 6:47-48).

As members of the Church, we need to be alert and careful while facing challenges within our family, community and society as a whole.

  • Nowadays, are the heavy and many challenges faced by our families the determinants of our future, world, country and the church?
  • With strong and attractive influence of mass media and electronic media nowadays, as faithful, can we (parents, youth, children) own the gadgets without being a slave to it?
  • What about God’s creation which is dwindling down in quality for the sake of development and success? We can see happening nowadays, apathy and disrespect of God’s creation, which cause floods, landslides, and numerous other natural disasters.
  • In carrying out leadership duties and service, are we able to lead and serve in accordance with Jesus’ ways and teaching? (Mt 20:28). In the coming GE14, as citizens and politicians, are we able to fight for love, justice and peace for the well being and prosperity of our multi-cultural society? Or is it merely leadership and service for self, for own race and own religion only?

Brothers and sisters, Christmas is an opportunity for us to realise that Jesus is ‘Emmanuel,’ God is with us (Mt 1:23). Jesus came to the world to enlighten humanity (John 1:9). Jesus who came is the source of wisdom (Mt.13:54; Lk. 2:52), which is needed by human beings to live together in truth, prosperity, and joy (Rom 14:17).

May Christmas 2017 be an opportunity for us to improve our knowledge of, love of and service to Jesus, because He is our only source of hope, peace and mercy in this challenging journey of life.

Blessed Christmas 2017 and a Happy New Year 2018.

Bishop Julius calls on the faithful to allow their hearts to be warmed by God’s tenderness

BISHOP Julius Gitom of the Diocese of Sandakan, in his Christmas message, calls on all God’s people to allow their hearts to be warmed by God’s tenderness.

In his message released in early December, the prelate urged the faithful to “allow our hearts to be touched, to be warmed by the tenderness of God, for we need His caress,” in spite of living in a “world filled with global problems and issues, with too much cruelty, violence, hatred, hurts, killings, injustice, and children, women and men becoming objects of trade and trafficking.”

He continued, “Let us ask Him to help us to be peacemakers each day, in our life, in our families, in our cities and nations, in the whole world. Let us allow ourselves to be moved by His goodness, for God is peace!”

Referring to the just concluded Extraordinary Year of Mercy when all had the opportunity to deepen their faith, to experience God’s merciful and endless forgiveness, to know Him as the Father who never gives up on them nor fails to wait for them to come “home” and to start over again, the prelate reiterated that the experiences and activities were not an end to themselves, but that the faithful are to continue to be “merciful like the Father.”

“Do not be afraid to ‘dirty’ ourselves to reach out to the wounded, the sick, the oppressed, the alienated, and be the face of Jesus to those who thirst of His love!” the bishop said.

He concluded his message with a wish that Christmas would be for everyone “a celebration of life-giving to each other, and to let Jesus be the reason for the season!”

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