CHRISTMAS AND NEW YEAR MESSAGE FROM MOST REV. CAMILLUS ETOKUDOH
Challenges to Effective Witnessing
As Christmas is a Season of great rejoicing, set aside to commemorate the birth of Christ, I am sending this Christmas and New Year message along with my best wishes to all Christians as well as to all people of goodwill wherever they may be. The birth of Christ, which is celebrated at Christmas, has been the greatest event that ever happened in the history of humanity. The mystery of the incarnation is that at an appointed time God sent His son, born of a woman to redeem mankind. (Gal. 4:4).
For every Christian, Christmas should be a season for sober reflection on the unconditional love of God made manifest in Christ’s incarnation. The mystery of the incarnation is the good news through which we come to share in the divinity of Christ who humbled himself to share in our humanity. Therefore Christmas season is the period of thanksgiving for the gift of the Son of God who came and died to save us from our sins.
This is also a time of stocktaking and resolution to amend our ways. It is a time for spiritual renewal and rebirth. The Lord who came and died that we may have life is the same, yesterday, today and forever. He is ever present in all cheerful and sad events in our lives; in all that happens in today’s world and in the Church; in all those who preach and practice love and reconciliation, as well as in all those who strive to promote justice and peaceful co-existence among various families and groups and individuals.
This current state of insecurity in our country caused by Boko-Haram insurgency, armed robbery and political conflicts requires not only vigilance but also prayers and a life of effective witnessing to the Gospel Message of love of God and our neighbours.
We pray the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as well as the State Governors and Local Government Chairmen to take more concrete measures to curb the menace of insecurity in the country.
The challenge of the crisis in the downstream sector of the oil and gas in our Nation’s economy has left so much to be desired. The suffering and poverty in the land require that we all brace up and pray more for our country, for Nigeria in Distress, because we are still weighed down not only by uncertainties but also by moral, economic and political problems. People are living in an atmosphere of fear, tensions and uncertainties. We are all passing through a very difficult and trying time. As we know our country is blessed with rich natural resources but through acts of injustice, bribery and corruption, many Nigerians are hungry, sick, ignorant and defenseless. Effective witnessing in the midst of plenty and poverty is very difficult to come by, because where there is no justice there can be no peace and where there is no peace, there can be no progress. During Christmas, we join the angels singing “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to people of goodwill”. However due to conflicts in many States in Nigeria many lives have been lost and thousands of people have been displaced and rendered homeless. This new difficult situation poses new challenges to effective witnessing to the Gospel message of love and peace.
In spite of all these challenges, all Christians and people of goodwill are called upon to live a life of witnessing in the Church and the society. It all starts from the family which is the nucleus of the society and the domestic Church. In the midst of fake news propagated by the social media, we are called to bear witness to God’s message, in actions and in defending our Catholic faith and the social teachings of the Church.
It is pertinent to note here that as we prepare for 2019 national general elections in Nigeria, that priests do not belong to any political party and cannot afford to be partisan. Their duty is to encourage and prepare our laity and pray for them to step into the turbulent waters of politics and sanitize it. This is where we need to take our spiritual preparation seriously in view of the uncertainty of the 2019 elections.
Challenges to effective witnessing can also be traced back to marriage and family life. Today we are living in a society where parents who are expected to give their children their time, love and affection are busy at work to earn a living, while children upbringing and care are left in the hands of house maids and day-care centres. We have challenges to effective witnessing from students, teachers and even parents who are ready to cheat and bribe their way to get fake certificates and employments. How can parents bear effective witnessing to Christ in broken homes where infidelity, divorce and scandalous life styles become the order of the day?
When all is said and done, effective witnessing to Christ and the Gospel message can only be achieved through the grace of God and the guidance of the Holy Spirit. This is where we need the light of the Holy Spirit and His gifts of wisdom and understanding, gifts of right judgment and courage, gifts of perseverance and the fear of God. To bear effective witness to Christ, our love for each other must be sincere and devoid of hatred, envy, jealousy, and discrimination. As witnesses to the gospel message, we must examine the kind of lives we live in bearing witness to the Lord in the family, Church and society.
While we continue to say Prayer for Nigeria in Distress and against Bribery and Corruption, I wish you Merry Christmas and Prosperous
New Year 2019.
God bless you!