Once upon a time “a wise and learned Rabbi turned to his three pupils and asked: ‘How can you tell when the night is passed, the new dawn has come and the day is on its way back again?
‘When you see an animal in the distance, and you can tell whether it is a sheep or a goat,’ one replied.
‘When you see a tree in the distance, and you can tell whether it is a fig tree or a peach tree,’ another replied. ‘When you can see a person in the distance, and you can tell whether a friend or an enemy,’ yet another replied.
There was a number of other answers. But the Rabbi was not impressed. Then his pupils pleaded with him, ‘Tell us what your answer is, Rabbi.’
The Rabbi replied as follows: ‘It is when you can look at the face of any human being, and see there the face of a brother or sister who has been created in the image and likeness of God, because if you cannot do this, then no matter what time it is, for you it is still night’”
Dear Priests, Deacons, Religious, Benefactors, Brothers and Sisters in the Lord and all people of goodwill: this holy season of four weeks of Advent invites us to remember with gratitude the unfolding mystery of the incarnation which culminates in the Birth of our Lord Jesus Christ, more than two thousand years ago, as a little child in a manger in the little town of Bethlehem. It is awesome, extraordinary and unique that the Son of God, the Second Person of the Most Holy Trinity took our human flesh (nature) and became ‘One like us in all things except sin’ so that we may all come into full communion with God: the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
In the words of the beloved apostle and an evangelist St John, “The Word was made flesh, he lived among us and we saw his glory” (Jn 1: 14) And again, “God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life” (Jn 3:16)
By his incarnation, word and deed, Jesus taught us to call God our Father because through his birth he became our eldest brother, as a consequence we have become brothers and sisters to one another. But the question is, do we just realize and truly believe what it means for all of us to have been created in the image and likeness of God? When you and I look at the face of any human being – regardless of race, gender, age, colour, religion, health, education, social or economic status et cetera – do we see the face of our brother and sister?
In a country that is still marred by the scourge of abuse of women and children, inequality, discrimination, xenophobia, unemployment, poverty, corruption, crime, violence and lack of meaningful transformation in all sectors of society, it is good for us to be honest with God and ourselves as Catholics and a local Church. During advent and the festive season, God wants us to take a good look at ourselves, examine our attitudes, lifestyle and return back to the values of the Gospel: the universal call to human fraternity – that is – ubuntu , love, justice, peace and care of all creation in the spirit of Laudato Si.
In his document, ‘Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living together’ our Holy Father Pope Francis invites all of us in our different vocations and professions “to rediscover the values of peace, justice, goodness, beauty, human fraternity and coexistence in order to confirm the importance of these values as anchors of salvation for all, and to promote them everywhere”.
With those words I wish all of you a meaningful, joyful, fulfilling and fruitful celebration of this Christmas Season which ushers us into the New Year 2020.
Yours in Christ Jesus, our Brother, Saviour and Lord!
Bishop Vincent Mduduzi Zungu OFM