By Vatican News English Section
Celebrating the birth of the Child Jesus, who brings the light of hope and salvation into the world, Bishop Sithembele Anton Sipuka of Mthatha and President of the Southern African Catholic Bishops Conference, reflects on how God has given us the intelligence to “outsmart” the covid-19 virus and on how we are called to solidarity as ”Through this crisis God is making us realize that regardless of nationality, wealth, class, race and age, we are all brothers and sisters and invited to care for each other.
Christmas message of Bishop Sithembele Sipuka
Greetings to everyone in the name of the Lord as we celebrate His birth.
We always look forward to Christmas because it is a culmination of the hope of humanity to live and work with God again, after having been separated from him by sin.
This hope of walking with God is a source of joy because, as St Augustin famously stated, “our hearts are restless until they find rest in God.”
God is our life, God is our fulfilment, in Christ God comes to give us life and life to the full. Yet as we look forward to Christmas of 2020 we are not that hopeful because the coronavirus dragon is waiting to make use of our Christmas celebration to swallow-up that joy.
Covid-19 has wreaked havoc in the whole world leaving a trail of pain and suffering, completely disrupting our way of life, bringing about isolation and loneliness, making the situation of the poor and the destitute worse, and prematurely ending hundreds of thousands of lives. As it has made our lives miserable in the last nine months, it is waiting to make our joyful feast of Christmas an occasion of sorrow.
This coronavirus is symbolised by Herod who tried to change the joyful mood of the birth of Christ, expressed in the song of Angels and shepherds, by seeking to kill the child Jesus. Similarly, the coronavirus is bent on making this season of joy a sorrowful season by destroying lives and making it hard for people to earn a living.
Yet, as the God of life did not allow Herod to destroy Jesus, He will not allow covid-19 to snatch away our joy of Christmas. As he directed the wise men to elude Herod in his plan of killing Jesus, and in a dream instructed Joseph and Mary to escape to Egypt to save the child Jesus, God is guiding us and making provision for us to celebrate this Christmas in a life-giving manner.
As heaven and earth united when Jesus was born, more than ever in this covid-19 period, God is calling us to solidarity. Through this crisis God is making us realize that regardless of nationality, wealth, class, race and age, we are all brothers and sisters and invited to care for each other. In this Christmas of 2020 we are invited to shed off our Herod syndrome of selfishness that seems to take advantage of this painful period to make profit by committing fraud and corruption around the funds that are meant to bring relief against the onslaught of coronavirus.
As hopes to discover a vaccine against coronavirus rise, in the spirit of Christmas it must be made available to all in an equitable and affordable manner. Profit consideration must not be the main priority about the drug, but the common good. In the spirit of human solidarity, whatever nation or continent discovers the drug first must be generous to share with other nations and continents.
Covid-19 has laid bare the huge economic inequalities in our societies and in the world at large. As we celebrate the birth of Christ through which God decisively united himself with humanity, we human beings are also called to strive for unity and equality among ourselves. Such unity and equality will find expression in an economy that is inclusive instead of the present form of economy where only a few benefit.
As the wise men outsmarted Herod and went back home on different route, God has given us the intelligence to outsmart this virus in three simple ways: wearing the mask, washing our hands and keeping safe distance. Let us practice these simple requirements to save lives and secure livelihood.
Christ is present among us even as we celebrate his birth in smaller circles of families and friends rather than in huge crowds and in less extravagant ways that we usually do.
May the magnanimity, love and generosity expressed by the Christmas season permeate us and influence our inductions during this trying time of covid. Merry Christmas.