Message by Archbishop Charles Jude Scicluna
Dear Maltese and Gozitans,
It is with great pleasure that I greet each and every one of you dear Maltese and Gozitans on the holy night of Christmas. I greet you with the greeting of the angel on this holy night: Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom he is pleased. For to you is born this day in the city of David, a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord (cf. Lk 2:11-14). We may question what these words mean in view of this past year which has proven to be so complex, marked by the COVID-19 pandemic.
This year, during this Christmas, let us invite Jesus to be with us and among us as He is, God’s love who became man. This is what Jesus’ name means, ‘God the Saviour’. But another name given to Jesus by the Prophet Isaiah is Emmanuel, ‘God with us’.
Where is God in all this?
Who knows how many times during the past few months we asked ourselves: where is God in all this? Today we gaze at the baby in the manger of Bethlehem and his reply through a sad cry tells us: “I am here with you and for you. I am God made man. I am God with you, Emmanuel”.
This year we experienced the great witness of love by so many frontliners who gave a beautiful, generous and heroic response to the pandemic that struck us without warning, a rough setback that will not easily be forgotten. I would like to greet them and impart on them the Lord’s blessing, and, on behalf of every one of us, show them our appreciation.
On one occasion, Jesus used the image of himself as a physician; it is the sick who require and ask for the doctor (cf. Mt 9:12). During these months we drew nearer to doctors and nurses, the health authorities, medical staff and others in elderly residential homes and other realities that were all faced with difficult trials. We express our gratitude gratitude and admiration towards them.
Besides bringing physical healing that we wish everyone, Christmas should also bring spiritual healing. To heal us the Lord does not send a physician but a baby. Physicians are essential, and the Lord continues to endow them with wisdom and health. But when this baby from Bethlehem grows to become the Lord Jesus, he tells us that whatever we do to the least of our brothers, we do it to him (cf Mt 25:40). He is so close to us that he is also one of us.
This coming year
This coming year — a year that we are all anticipating with great hope — we are called to be witnesses, as we have been doing throughout these past months, and to cherish each other. We need to co-operate with the health authorities as this is a concrete expression of love. Whoever can take the vaccine should do so, as in this way we will be protecting not only ourselves but also our brethren who due to various circumstances may not be able to take the vaccine.
It is so important to learn from the experience of the past few months; by denying ourselves of so many things we cherish, we have understood their true value, such as a hug between loved ones and between friends that social distancing has deprived us of, but also the possibility of visiting our loved ones, especially the elderly.
I wish to also greet those families who lost a loved one as a result of the pandemic and who had to go through the harsh experience of not being able to be close to their loved ones at the last moments of their life. One may say ‘are you also going to mention this on Christmas Eve?’ It is important to remember that Christmas was not only a moment of joy for the shepherds, the magi, Mary and Joseph, but it was also a challenging moment. The magi had to make a long journey; the shepherds heard the voice of the angel inviting them, the marginalised in society, to proclaim that they had found their Saviour; Joseph and Mary had to make a long journey to Bethlehem, the land and city of David, to obey the census ordered by the emperor. When they arrived in the city of Bethlehem, they did not find any place in the inn. Joseph places his dear Mary in a stable, in a cave for animals and there our Saviour is born.
Throughout these days, as we gaze at the crib, we need to understand that even for Mary and Joseph, as Pope Francis tells us, life was not always rosy but it also offered its challenges as it does to many of us.
Hope for our people
These are words of hope for our people, words of encouragement that we may continue to work together for the common good. My thoughts also go to so many people who can only follow mass through the daily transmissions that we had throughout this year. I thank so many people who supported us Bishops, who gave us a word of encouragement and who possibly met us for the first time as bishops, spreading the word of God and proclaiming the Good News of the Saviour who was born for us.
My thoughts also go to Maltese emigrants who are not in Malta and Gozo and yet follow us and love us. We not only greet them but wish them, as we wish each other and the Maltese people, a blessed Christmas and a prosperous New Year filled with peace and health.
Peace be with you!
✠ Charles Jude Scicluna
Archbishop of Malta