Bishop Gabriel Malzaire
Bishop Gabriel Malzaire

I am always intrigued by the words of the song of the Late Great Jim Reeves that "man will live forevermore because of Christmas Day." It naturally invites reflection on the significance of the feast which we are about to celebrate-Christmas. It tells of the absolute giftedness of God towards us in the person of Jesus Christ. Indeed, "man will live forevermore because of Christmas Day!"

The appeal of this holy season is simply a call to renew, in each one of us, the challenge to be like unto God in His expression of unconditional love through the gift of His Son, Jesus. When we think of the fact that none of us brought anything into this world and will take absolutely nothing out of it, we realise that anything we can ever 'possess' is a gift given in trust for our benefit and the benefit of others here on earth, and to prepare us for eternity. We can only achieve this by learning to appreciate our own giftedness, that is, the ability to use our time, talent and treasure for the advancement of the kingdom of God here on earth.

Truthfully, the message of Christmas has more to do with giving than receiving. This does not mean that as Christians we cannot to be at the receiving end of generosity. In fact, wherever there is a gift given, there must be a recipient. However, I am here referring to the 'giving' disposition that is absolutely required of the followers of Christ. It is not without reason that St. Paul in the Acts of the Apostles reminds us that: "There is more happiness in giving than in receiving" (Acts 20:35).

All the sacraments of the Church reflect in some way that generous nature of God, whether through our Baptism, Confirmation, Holy Eucharist, Penance, the Sacrament of the Sick, Holy Orders and Matrimony. However, the Eucharist, for obvious reasons, ranks the highest in demonstrating that truth. Through it, God in Jesus Christ gives to humanity the ultimate gift for its salvation.

For this reason, a good steward of God's gifts lives with a permanent attitude of gratitude. The meaning of Eucharist is thanksgiving, in that, Jesus, on the night before he died, took bread and wine and gave thanks, saying "this is my Body, this is my Blood offered for you for the forgiveness of sins." Therefore, Christmas represents the first giving of God to us and it culminates in His ultimate giving which is the Eucharist.

By adopting Stewardship: A Way of Life as our Diocesan Pastoral Theme for the coming year, we endeavour to challenge ourselves as Christian to re-examine our attitude, disposition, and the practice of giving our time, talent and treasure for the advancement of God's Kingdom here on earth. Each of us, therefore, as stewards of the manifold gifts of God is duty-bound to contribute something towards God's reign on earth; be it giving something to the poor and less fortunate, paying a visit to the sick in hospital or nursing home, volunteering at homes for the aged and the homeless, bringing good cheer to the lonely, sharing joy with the little ones, and helping in some area of Church ministry or some social service.

Our stewardship can only be patterned on that of God, the steward par excellence, who, besides creating everything for our good, did not reserve his own Son. He gave Him up even to the point of death, for the sake of our salvation. Ours, therefore, is a call to imitate His manner of being and His way of relating.

Therefore, in this season of giving, it is fitting for us to recognize the persons in our society who by virtue of their office serve the good of our community. They deserve our thanks and commendation for their stewardship. I refer to all those who are in the position of leadership of one kind or another and those in service ministries of both Church and State.

May this Christmas be for us one with a difference; one in which we will discover one or more ways to serve our church and country. In so doing, we can look forward to a productive 2019.

On behalf of the Clergy and Religious working in the Diocese I wish a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you and your family!