Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

This month the Pope asks us to pray for refugees (“Migrants”) that they may receive a warm welcome in the countries to which they go.

This Christmas as we reflect on the birth of our saviour in Bethlehem and the subsequent flight of the Holy Family to Egypt we pray that the Lord will continue to gift us with the spirit of generosity in relation to refugees.

Wishing you all the blessings of Christmas,

Charles Searson SJ
National Secretary for AP for Zambia and Malawi

The Morning Offering: God, our Father, we offer you our day. We offer you our prayers, thoughts, words, actions, joys and sufferings in union with the heart of your Son, Jesus Christ, who continues to offer Himself in the Eucharist for the salvation of the world.

May the Holy Spirit, who guided Jesus, be our guide and strength today so that we may witness to your love.

With Mary, the Mother of the Lord and of the Church, we pray especially for this month’s intentions as proposed by the Holy Father…

General Intention: For Migrants:That migrants throughout the world may be welcomed with generosity and authentic love, especially by Christian communities. Lord, hear us!

The Catholic Bishops of Zimbabwe recently wrote a pastoral letter to Zimbabweans in economic and political exile. They addressed the Zimbabwean diaspora scattered throughout the world, the majority of which lives in South Africa. This moving document expresses the bishops’ concern for those who have left their homes in an often desperate and dangerous search for some way of supporting their struggling families. The Bishops express their understanding of why they have left but they also hope that one day they will be able to return.

To get into South Africa many Zimbabwean migrants risk crossing the border illegally by wading the crocodile-infested Limpopo River. Once across, their problems have only just begun. They then have to run the gauntlet of some of the more ruthless of South Africa’s criminals lying in wait to rape, rob and even kill them.

Even if they manage to find a job and somewhere to stay, the migrants’ troubles are not necessarily at an end. There have been sporadic outbreaks of xenophobic violence against amakwerekwere (a derogatory term for African foreigners) over the past few years and they have been attacked and killed, being regarded as competitors for scarce employment. In one horrible case caught on camera, a Mozambican man was burned to death.

We pray for refugees and economic migrants and for the organizations who serve them. We pray for policy-makers in host countries and for the governments of countries which cause their citizens to emigrate. We remember the Lord’s word, ‘I was a stranger and you welcomed me.’

Missionary Intention: For Christ the Light of the World:That Christ may reveal himself to all humanity with the light that shines forth from Bethlehem and is reflected in the face of his Church. Lord, hear us!

The intention’s metaphor of light picks up themes from the document on the ‘new evangelisation.’ Its full title is ‘The New Evangelisation for the Transmission of the Christian Faith.’ A central theme is that the new evangelisation ‘consists in presenting once more the beauty and perennial newness of the encounter with Christ.’ In other words, there will be no finding of faith unless the seeker finds Christ. Indeed, without faith in a divine person, faith in an institution makes little sense.

Some might ask: Is it true that the light of Christ is reflected in the face of his Church at a time when the institutional Church is beset by scandals? It is certainly not an easy task to give witness to people who have grown cynical of the institutional Church.

However, we, the People of God, acknowledge that we are sinners but we believe that Jesus paid for our sins by his death and resurrection and that God works within us and through us, as his Church. We recall the Lord’s promise that what is impossible for sinful humanity remains possible for God. I imagine this is why the document on the new evangelisation opens with a meditation on the encounter between Jesus and the woman at the well.

The Synod document states that in the same way that the Lord sat down beside the woman at the well, ‘The Church…sits beside today’s men and women.’ To sit beside someone is to position oneself at their level; it is the body-language of dialogue. The Gospel account relates that dialogue is precisely what took place between Jesus and the woman.

Finally, faith in Jesus Christ has to be lived out in a community. This community is the Church, the gathering of a very imperfect People of God in prayer and the love of Christ. The Church with all her shortcomings, to which we all contribute, is both the instrument of the proclamation and that to which the proclamation points. A church-less Christianity is a contradiction in terms. Let us, therefore, pray for ourselves that we, the People of God, may truly reflect the light of Christ by proclaiming the Good News we bear by word and deed.