I want to use this medium to congratulate you all for the wonderful support we received marking the Golden Jubilee of our dear Diocese last week. May God the creator of heaven and earth, the one with the all-seeing eyes, let His face shine upon you now and forever, Amen (Num. 6:24, 24:4).
As we prepare to enter a new year, let us enter it with hope and joy. Yes, the next years ahead will open a new chapter for our Diocese. I want to appeal to you all to listen to the Holy Spirit so He will renew our hearts with his many gifts with which he has sustained our faith through the ages. We all need to become in very serious ways, real evangelisers, deliberately committed to witnessing to God’s love in our personal, business and public lives. Therefore, as I wish you a merry Christmas and New Year, I make the following appeals.
1: Equipping ourselves to be witnesses to Jesus:
My dear brothers and sisters, I repeat, please do not be afraid to proudly and happily witness to Jesus Christ with courage and confidence. The Lord Himself has said that if we are ashamed of Him in this life, he will also be ashamed of us (Lk. 9:26). Do not hide the light of your joy and faith as a Christian under the table for the sake of seeking favour, business or promotion (Mt. 5:15).
2: Make the Holy Family your model:
Our Cathedral is named after the Holy Family. I enjoin us all to make the Holy family our model of life. Through hard work, may the heads of each family be like St. Joseph see God in the daily work they do. May the labour of the hands of our fathers and husbands provide joy, peace, happiness and sustenance to all our families. I wish to therefore appeal to you to remember the old saying that; the family that prays together, stays together. Prayer is the greatest weapon to bring unity and peace to us. Here, I appeal to Mothers especially to ensure that family Rosary is adopted as a form of daily night prayers. Let all Mothers set aside our Lady as their model.
3: Encourage your children to join Pious Associations:
I again appeal to parents to ensure that their children receive adequate instructions on the faith first at home and then in the Church. I want to commend the Legion of Mary, Block Rosary, Altar servers and Holy Childhood and others for all the great work that they have been doing for the proper upbringing of our children. Please keep up and in this way, your children will be well armed in the Catholic faith to face challenge of the future. This is one of the best things you can do for your children. Let them learn how to pray from you. Be the first face of God that they experience.
4: Please pray for our country:
Our country is going through one of its most difficult periods in our history. But, at times like these, Jesus himself has said we should; stand erect, hold your heads high because your liberation is near at hand (Lk. 21:27).
Naturally, I share the fears and anxieties of all our members who are genuinely afraid of the future of these elections. But, the Lord is in control and He sits on His throne (Ps 47:8). Again, we will not be afraid even if the mountains should tumble into the sea (Ps. 46:2). As believers, we know that our Redeemer liveth (Job 19:25).
I notice that a lot our people are responding to these fears and are now heading home prepared for a longer stay. Ordinarily, these journeys would have been ones of joy, but I worry that too many people are moving with fear in their hearts. May God grant all who have to travel peaceful journeys. We shall be re-united in a stronger and more peaceful nation because the Lord is in total control.
5: Be armed with your Voter’s Card:
There are anxieties about the elections next year. But, these might be reduced if we follow the rules of engagement. Please go out and ensure that you get your Permanent Voter’s Card. I have received mine from Kaduna and will go through the process to regularize it. The elections will be crucial but everyone’s job will be easy if our Voter’s cards speak rather than our fists, or mouths. Armed with your card, please know that your family loves you more than the politicians. Only the living can enjoy the benefits of Democracy. It will be tragic to vote and then waste your life, or end up in prison for breaking the law. Obey the law and vote according to your conscience.
6: Do not be robbed of the joy of Life:
In the Apostolic Exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium, the Holy Father, Pope Francis called our attention to the fact that we must never allow ourselves to be robbed of the many joyful expressions of the Gospel of Jesus in its fullness in our lives. In his Day of Peace Message, title, No Longer Slaves, But Brothers and Sisters, our Holy Father Pope Francis has warned a troubled world that: The growing scourge of man’s exploitation by man gravely damages the life of communion and our calling to forge interpersonal relations marked by respect, justice and love.
We pray the tragic ill wind of the Boko Haram scourge will soon blow over and we can smile again as a people. The worst is over and we hope that our soldiers will continue this battle to the end. They must remain in our prayers always.
Do not forget that the joy that Jesus has offered to us is not a favour anyone can give or take away. It is a free gift of God and it is available to us all at no price. It is what guides us through the occasional dark days of sorrow in our daily lives. This is why, on Christmas night all over the world, our song shall be as it has always been for over two thousand years, Joy to the world, the Lord has come. Let nothing in the world rob you of that wonderful and precious gift. Merry Christmas and Joy to Nigeria and the world.
Most Rev. Dr Matthew Hassan KUKAH,
Bishop, Diocese of Sokoto
December 22nd, 2014