2020 Christmas Message from Archbishop Ndagoso
2020 Christmas message of Most Rev. Matthew Man-Oso NDAGOSO, Archbishop of Kaduna.
From the prophecy of Isaiah we read:
“You, O Lord, are our Father, our Redeemer from of old is your name…Return for the sake of your servants…O that you would tear the heavens and come down, that the mountains might quake at your presence…O Lord, you are our Father, we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand…we are all your people, your holy cities have become a desert, Zion has become a desert, Jerusalem a wasteland” (Isaiah 63:16, 17, 19; 64:7).
Dear brothers and sisters in the Incarnate Word,
This quotation is clearly an anguished outburst of a desperate people living under threatening and challenging situations not unlike the one our nation, especially the northern part, finds itself today. Having exhausted all possible human alternatives, given up on polite prayer to God, the Prophet Isaiah cries out to the Lord on behalf of the distressed and despondent people of Israel whose lives were in ruin seeking divine intervention. In their distress the people of Israel cried to God to “tear the heavens and come down” to their rescue.
The answer to the anguished prayer of the People of Israel of old is what we celebrate at Christmas. The Word, who in the beginning was with God and was God and through whom all things were made indeed tore the heavens, became flesh and dwelt among us (cf. Jn. 1:1-3; 14).
No one in our country today needs telling that the country is under the grip of fear, apprehension, uncertainty, helplessness and hopelessness. No one needs telling that the country is adrift like a rudderless ship drifting on the high seas with desperate migrants aboard looking for a safe and welcoming port to land. The atmosphere in the land is suffused with palpable tension and confusion. In short there is despondency everywhere in the land.
We celebrate Christmas at a time when many are not able to join their loved ones for fear of kidnappers, bandits, armed robbers, and terrorists. Many fear and rightly so that Christmas this year may not simply be the same since they cannot spend it with their loved ones.
Nevertheless, hopeless and despondent as our present situation is we are confident that God will intervene because he is Emmanuel and with him all things are possible. We are confident because we know that before God’s power overshadowed Mary, the world had no hope. Sin and violence were everywhere. We are confident because before she was overshadowed by the grace of God Mary had no hope of bearing a son for she was a virgin. More so, we are confident because before God’s power overshadowed Mary, the human race had no hope of salvation because she was held captive by Satan and; before God’s power overshadowed Elizabeth, she had no hope of giving birth to a son because she was old and sterile.
Christmas essentially gives fallen humanity hope that all is not lost after all. It give us hope that hearts which are hardened by selfishness, nepotism, greed, tribalism, religious bigotry, terrorism, sectionalism etc may be opened in generosity and concern for the needy. Christmas gives us hope that those who have more than enough will not forget those who do not have enough. It gives us hope that those who are making life difficult for others to live and work in a peaceful atmosphere will have a change of heart and give peace a chance. It gives us hope that internally displaced persons (IDPs) may find welcome in their places of refuge and be made welcome. It gives us hope that the homeless may have a fresh start in the New Year ahead. Above all, it gives us hope that our land may be secured by those charged with the constitutional responsibility to do so.
The good news for us is that even though our personal lives, our families, our communities, our state and our nation may be in bad shape, there is hope because God’s power in Jesus has entered our world. This is what we celebrate at Christmas and this is what gives us joy beyond imagining and hope beyond dreaming.
Joy is the characteristic feature of the Christian faith. In dark moments such as the one our country is passing through, the inner joy of knowing that the Lord is with us makes all the difference.
Our Christmas joy is hinged on the fact that our redemption which has taken place has continuing power in our life as Christ calls us to begin life again, to awaken to his grace, to open our eyes and ears to his presence. What has been in our life does not have to be in the future. A new life, a new way of living is available to us in Jesus Christ. And this is the source of our joy. We should therefore allow nothing to steal this joy from us. As St. Paul assures us that nothing can cut us from the love of Christ. Not hardships, distress, persecution, lack of food and clothing, or threats of violence or insecurity. Not even death. He assured us that in all these we come out triumphantly victorious through him who loved us (cf. Rom. 8: 21-39).
Dear brothers and sisters, we know also that we celebrate this Christmas during the covid-19 pandemic with its attendant consequences. If anything, the pandemic has made an already bad situation worst. The lockdown affected virtually all facets of human activities, including the pastoral and spiritual. We all know that places of worship were closed for almost three months. This extraordinary situation necessitated extraordinary measures. Creative pastoral measures were introduced by pastoral agents in our Archdiocese to care for the flock. For instance, Masses were streamed on line and many Pastors created different ways of nourishing the faithful with the word of God, especially, through the social media. I thank all the pastoral agents of our Archdiocese for rising to the occasion in providing the needed pastoral care to the faithful during the lockdown.
Worthy of note during the period of the lockdown was the highlighted role of the domestic church in the life and mission of the church. Parents and heads of families were encouraged and enabled to exercise their common priesthood as leaders of the domestic church during the lockdown. I am happy to note that many “priests” of the domestic church did a very good job of ministering to their flock during the lockdown. Small Christian Communities and zones played key roles especially in giving Holy Communion to the sick and in the distribution of palliatives to the most vulnerable and needy. Church societies and organizations like St. Vincent de Paul and the like became handy especially in identifying those most in need for assistance.
I wish at this juncture to appreciate and thank leaders of the domestic church, namely, parents and guardians for their active and effective roles in sustaining the faith in the domestic church during the lockdown. It will be helpful if families share how they managed their spiritual life during the lockdown. The Cross News will be happy to publish such family experiences.
I am sure that the pandemic has not only taught us enduring lessons as a nation, institutions, communities and individuals but has even more so exposed our false sense of security, structural and systemic, individual and personal weaknesses. Pope Francis made this point clearer when he said: “The storm has exposed our vulnerability and uncovered those false and superfluous certainties around which we have constructed our daily schedules, our projects, our habits and priorities. Amid this storm the façade of those stereotypes with which we camouflaged our egos, always worrying about appearances, has fallen away, revealing once more the ineluctable and blessed awareness that we are part of one another, that we are brothers and sisters of one another” (Quoted in Fratelli Tutti, 32). In other words, the pandemic has reminded us that no one is an island and highlighted one of our cherished principles of Catholic Social Teaching, namely, the principle of subsidiarity and solidarity - the need to support one another either as nations, communities and individuals.
Dear brothers and sister, we all know that as far as the pandemic is concerned we are not yet out of the woods. If anything, the pandemic is silently wreaking more havoc in the country. There is therefore the urgent need to continue to strictly observe the protocols put in place by the authorities for the common good. We should keep to social distancing, wearing of face mask, hand-washing with soap and running water and sanitizing our hands with recommended hand sanitizers. The World Health Organization (WHO), constantly reminds us that this war is not over anywhere until it is over everywhere. As we thank God for the available vaccines we urge our government to do all within its powers and resources to verify the safety of the vaccines for our people and make them available and affordable.
Christmas season evokes strong hopes and dreams in our lives such as thoughts of families, friendship and fellowship. We look to a world where people care about each other or at least respect each other and live in dignity as people of God.
We know that “the purpose of the incarnation is for the God that was thought by many to be far away from humans and invisible to draw near to fallen humanity and in his flesh to embrace our flesh, in his weakness to embrace our weakness, in his littleness to envelop our littleness and shared completely in our human condition. In the incarnation God wanted to be close to all those who feel lost, demeaned, hurt, discouraged, inconsolable and frightened. He wants to be closed to all those who in their bodies carry the burden of separation and loneliness, so that neither sin, shame, hurt, despair nor exclusion of any sort would have the final word in our lives. God became man in order to shatter the chains of privilege that always cause exclusion and to introduce the caress of compassion that brings inclusion, that makes the dignity of each person shine forth, the dignity for which all human beings were created” (2019 Christmas message).
As Pope Francis tells us, where God is born, peace is born; and where peace is born, there is no longer room for hatred and war. Where God is born, hope is born; and where hope is born, persons regain their dignity. Yet even today great numbers of men and women are deprived of their human dignity, and, like the child Jesus, they suffer cold, poverty, and rejection. We pray that our closeness to the Word incarnate may be felt by those who are most vulnerable such as the internally displaced persons, the prisoners, those in captivity, the sick and homebound.
The hope and joy of Christmas inspire us to reach out to those in greatest need at this time. Let us endeavour to keep Christ at the centre of this Christmas by bringing the hope and joy of his birth to people who are sick, isolated, lonely, or poor. A simple act of kindness can make such a difference. We are particularly concerned about those whose livelihoods have been seriously threatened and in some cases completely destroyed by the pandemic. We pray God to provide for their needs. Let us also not forget those for whom Christmas time may bring feelings of sadness such as those coping with bereavement, families that cannot be together, those in care homes and have no one to visit them.
Finally, we are already aware of the glorious exit of our dear Archbishop Emeritus, Most Rev. Peter Yariock Jatau. He died on Wednesday, December 16, 2020. May his gentle soul rest in perfect peace. Amen.
By the grace of God he will be buried in the Cathedral on January 6, 2021 after the funeral Mass in Ahmadu Bello Stadium, Kaduna at 10 am, all things being equal. The Wake-keep Mass will be in St. Joseph’s Cathedral on January 5, 2021 at 4pm. It should be noted that we shall be celebrating the life of Archbishop Peter Yariock Jatau and not mourning him. We shall essentially be thanking God for a life well spent in the service of God and humanity. In short, we shall be celebrating a fulfilled life. Please be part of this celebration. Appeals will be made towards this celebration in all churches in the Archdiocese of Kaduna next Sunday, December 27, 2020.
With every good wish for a peaceful and joyful Christmas celebration and a prosperous New Year, I remain,
Yours devotedly in the Incarnate Word,
Most Rev. Matthew Man-Oso NDAGOSO
Archbishop of Kaduna