From The Archbishop's Desk

CHRISTMAS MESSAGE 2016 – from Archbishop John Ha

(CNS photo/Paul Haring)

In May this year, we marked the fortieth anniversary of the institution of the Archdiocese of Kuching with the theme: “Celebrating God’s Steadfast Love And Mercy”. Then in November, we closed the Extraordinary Year of Jubilee which bore the theme: “Merciful Like The Father.” With our experience of God’s mercy, we were called to be like Him by reflecting His mercy in our lives as individuals and as Church.

I hope and pray that both events have immersed us in the ocean of God’s love and mercy and fired us up to be a “sign and instrument” of His grace to whomever we meet. A genuine experience of God’s grace necessarily propels a person to share it with others. That was the case with the Blessed Virgin Mary. On receiving the news from Angel Gabriel that she had been chosen to be the mother of the Son of God made man, she hastened to visit and help her old relative, Elizabeth, who was in her sixth month of pregnancy (cf. Lk. 1:26-45). The shepherds too hastened to see the infant Jesus whose birth an angel had announced to them. When they had reached the manger and seen Him, “they made known what had been told them about this child” (Lk. 2:17).

A genuine experience of God’s grace unfailingly fills us with joy. In that joy we feel the urge to share it with our friends. Genuine friends will be delighted to hear our story and share in our joy. But something more may happen: they may be so drawn by our experience that they will want to have it too. This desire opens them to the working of God’s grace in their own lives. Mary hastened to visit Elizabeth to share her own joy with her relative as well as also share in the joy of the latter. The shepherds watching their flock in the fields by night were told by the angel: “Do not be afraid; behold, I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people” (Lk. 2:10). They were drawn by their desire to have this joy; so they hastened to the manger. Those who heard their story “were amazed” (Lk. 2:18). It was natural for this “amazement” fo include an element of joy.

Looking back at the double event – the fortieth anniversary of the Archdiocese of Kuching and the Jubilee Year of Mercy – we are led to honestly evaluate their impact on us. Have we been fired up to share with others our experience of God’s love and mercy for us? Have we felt joy in this experience and has our joy led us to share it with others?

If there has been no impact, then Christmas is another occasion of grace for us. For indeed, Christmas celebrates the Incarnation – the Son of God made Man and born of the Virgin Mary. The Incarnation is truly the mystery of God’s love and mercy for us. Indeed, it was because He loved us and was merciful to us that the Son of God chose to empty Himself of His divinity to become like one of us (cf. Phil. 2:6-11) to give us life (cf. Jn. 3:16-17). Let us open our hearts to hear the angel tell us: “I am bringing you good news of great joy: to you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is the Messiah, the Lord” (Lk. 2:10-11).

If we have experienced joy and been fired up in this double occasion, let this Christmas be an added occasion of grace and further charge us to be a “sign and instrument” of the Lord’s love and mercy for others.

In the love and joy of Christmas, I wish all readers: “A blessed Christmas filled with the Lord’s love and mercy, peace and joy.”

Archbishop John Ha