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Bishop Julius Gitom’s Advent Message: Total openness to serve others is our hallmark

adventTo everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven. As we enter into the liturgical season of Advent, we begin a new liturgical cycle. The four weeks of the season will lead us to be more aware of ourselves, our sinful state and our will to repent. The cycle will also fill us with joyful hope, the birth of Jesus Christ.

Advent reminds us to be alert and ready at all times to meet God. We recognize that He is present in several ways – in the community, in the Scriptures and in a most remarkable way in the Eucharist, becoming the very person and presence of Christ. The coming of Jesus is beautifully linked with every Mass, for Christ comes again when we gather for Eucharist.

We must be intentionally aware, no matter how busy we may be and the heavy burdens we bear that God is always near us. He shows us his love in ways that we may not see. He showers his blessings in abundance upon us through various means. Freely he has given us and freely he asks us to give.

What is the perfect gift? It is the gift of God’s only Son whose birth we prepare to celebrate. May we show our gratitude by sharing our gifts with others, allowing God’s light to shine through us to those most in need. Our Holy Father, Pope Francis has been most vocal in urging the people of faith to always extend a hand to the lost, least, last and the lonely.

I cite the gist of Pope Francis’ sermon 15 Feb 2015 that the Roman Catholic Church must be open and welcoming, whatever the cost. He urged the cardinals to move more towards reaching out to the poor and the social outcasts. ‘We will not find the Lord unless we truly accept the marginalised. We should see the ‘crucified Lord’ in the hungry, the displaced, those in prison or even those who have lost their faith. A total openness to serving others is our hallmark.’

Let us remind ourselves that as followers of Christ, we should always be ‘reaching out’ to other people regardless of their faith. We have to live by example, good deeds and charity when relating to people.

In the early part of the year, the plight of thousands of Rohingya and Bangladeshi boat people stranded at the open sea of Malaysia hoping to seek refuge in our nation, Thailand and Indonesia, initially rejected were eventually given temporary shelter. Mass graves of migrants and suspected human trafficking detention camps were discovered at the northern tip of West Malaysia bordering Thailand is a cause of concern for all people. It’s simply unimaginable how such inhumane harm could be inflicted on other fellow beings.

In April, a 7.8 magnitude earthquake hit the Himalayan nation killing thousands of people and destroying thousands of houses. The tragedy drew the attention of the international community. Relief work and aids came pouring in to help the devastated nation.

The 5.9 magnitude earthquake that shook Mount Kinabalu and its surrounding areas in early June of the year claimed the lives of 18 victims, left so many people in pain, hurt and despair. The aftermath with muddy flash floods hitting riverside villages in and around Ranau had caused undue hardship to the kampong folks. It was indeed a dark chapter in the history of Sabah.

Looking at the brighter side, the calamities moved many quarters coming forward to extend a helping hand to alleviate their plights. The loving concern of the people is a sign of Hope, hope of the coming of Christ. Charity is at the center of our Church’s mission. Our charitable work reminds those who suffer that they are never alone.

The Pope’s discourse at the Close of the Synod on Family called on all to proclaim the Gospel to the men and women of today. We are to defend the family from ideological and individualistic assaults amidst the challenge of the richness of our diversity, seeking always to embrace the goodness and mercy of God.

We continue to gaze at the image of the Holy Family as we await the coming of our Lord Jesus so as to prepare ourselves and our family spiritually for the event. This way, we will build up our family, an integral component of our Christian community. By this, we may proclaim the mystery of family love as authentic witnesses.

The Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy, to be launched on 8 December 2015 is a timely event for all us to turn our eyes to the centre, the Mercy of God. Let us be bearer of the Word of the Lord: ‘Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful’ (Lk 6:36) and bring others into contact with the compassionate Mercy that saves. In this moment of Mercy, let us manifest the Mercy of God for all mankind in words and deeds.

Like Blessed Mother Teresa said, ‘we shall need the hands of Christ to touch these bodies wounded by pain and suffering. Intense love does not measure – it just gives. Let us move forth to give and share our treasure, not merely during this season but throughout our life. That way, we will have a blessed, meaningful and fruitful Advent and certainly will enable us to celebrate the glorious birth of our Saviour.

May this time of Advent be an opportunity for us to pause and spend time with Jesus, who is, who was, and who will be.

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