Dear Beloved People of God
On the 2nd of February this year (2017) I realised that it was the 3rd anniversary of my appointrnent as Bishop of Port Elizabeth.
I would like to express my sincere gratitude to God for his abundant goodness to me, to all our dedicated priests, zealous missionaries, committed religious and to all the faithful who are busy evangelising all the strata of society in the Eastern Cape through Christian prayer, liturgical celebration, ordinary work (labour), different professions and creative arts.
On the 26th of February 2017, the 8th Sunday ot Ordinary time Year A, just before we begin Lent, it is most appropriate that we celebrate Stewardship Sunday.
The Stewardship spirituality reminds us that “what we are is God’s gift, what we become is our gift to God” (Hans Urs von Balthasar). Our life as human beings is sacred from the moment of its beginning throughout its stages of growth and development, in sickness and health, richer or poorer, in infirmity and old age, until the God of Mercy calls us to himself. Human life and dignity matters in God because he created us in his own image and likeness. There is therefore stewardship of human life which obliges us to put after God the “person” and care about our life and that of others, especially those who are marginalised and vulnerable. The question that
God once asked Cain will one day be directed to each one of us: “Where is your brother/sister?” (Gen 4:9). Cain’s response was: “Am I my brother’s keeper”? It was as good as saying “Do I care”?
Racial prejudice still prevents many of us to "rediscover" and see the image of God in tie faces of our brothers and sisters. I thank all the Catholic faith-based organisations, movements, all sodalities and the faithful who are involved in the spiritual and corporal works of mercy. Pope Francis tells us that, “Jesus keeps knocking on our door in the faces of our brothers and sisters, in the faces of our neighbours, in the faces of those at our side” (Comboni Missionaries Calendar; May). When he closed the Door of Mercy to mark the conclusion of the Jubilee Year, he assured all of us that the Door of God’s Mercy remains always wide open for everyone.
My brothers and sisters, before we begin Lent I invite all of you to take a moment of silence, reflect and in gratitude recall the Jubilee Year of Mercy and ask yourself: What did I do to celebrate the Jubilee Year? In which way have I personally experienced God’s Mercy?’ How have I shown and shared God’s Mercy in my family, church, work place and neighbourhood? What spiritual gifts, graces, blessings or fruits have I received in the course of the Jubilee Year? Finally, in the depth of your heart, that inner sanctuary where you can be alone with God, say the prayer of thanksgiving.
On the 15th of August 2005, the SACBC issued a pastoral letter entitled, “Get up! Walk without crutches”. The Bishops wrote: “This is our message, dear People of God: Our parishes and dioceses in South Africa, Botswana and Swaziland have to become financially self-supporting, This means we raise enough money In our own parishes and dioceses to keep the fire of God’s message and love burning in our midst. We need to raise enough money to allow the work of God to continue in our parishes and dioceses.”
The Catholic Church, in particular our Diocese, has historically relied heavily on funding from overseas to refurbish our Retreat Centres, to build our beautiful churches, our Catholic Schools, church halls, health centers and other facilities. Christ’s mandate to the Church to “go, make disciples of all nations, to teach and to baptise those who believe, in the name of the Father and of the Son and Of the Holy Spirit” (Mt 28:19) was fulfilled through the resources and the generosity of our ‘Mother-Churches’ from mainly North America, Canada and Europe. It must be said that in all honesty the overseas funding has diminished drastically. We need to explore, discover, develop and drink from our own wells. We are called more than ever to become a self-sustaining Church in terms of personnel — we need home-grown vocations to the priesthood and religious life, well-trained lay leaders, educators, catechists etc. We also need resources that are generated from within our Diocese here in the Eastern Cape, The mandate of Christ for which our Church was founded and continues to exist has been renewed by our Holy Father, Pope Francis in his Apostolic Exhortation, “The Joy of the Gospel”.
On behalf of our Bishops Conference, in my personal capacity and on behalf of all our Clergy and Religious Brothers and Sisters I express sincere and heartfelt gratitude to all of you for your generous contributions in the past years, especially 2016. You have given of yourselves, your precious time, energy, talents, skills. and like the magi opened your treasures to God. The majority of you find themselves in a similar position to the ‘poor widow’ of St Luke who became Jesus model and hero because you have given out of your poverty (Lk 21:24). I thank you for your sacrifices. I am sure that the God of providence will reward you a hundred fold.
I would like to conclude with words of faith and wisdom from Pope Francis: “Once we come to realise how much God has given us, a life of self-sacrifice, of working for Him and for others, becomes a privileged way of responding to His great love” (Comboni Missionaries Calendar; July).
Yours Falthfully in Christ
+Bishop Vincent Mduduzi Zungu OFM
The Holy Season of Advent is captured perfectly in one of the popular hymns: “O come, O come, Emmanuel, and ransom captive Israel, that mourns in lonely exile here until the Son of God appears. Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel”.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church describes for us the Advent spiritually beautifully: “When the Church celebrates the liturgy of Advent each year, she makes present this ancient expectancy of the Messiah, for by sharing in the long preparation for the Saviour’s first coming, the faithful renew their ardent desire for his second coming. By celebrating the precursor’s birth and martyrdom, the Church unites herself to his desire: “He must increase, but I must decrease”.
If the Son of God, the second person of the Holy Trinity, humbled himself so much as to assume fully our human nature, do we realize what it means to be human? Do we realize and truly believe that all of us were created in God’s image and likeness? When you and I look at the face of any human being – regardless of his race, gender, age, colour, religion, health, education, social or economic status et cetera – do we see the face of our brother and sister?
In a country that is still marred by the scourge of inequality, discrimination, rape, xenophobia, unemployment, poverty, corruption, crime, violence and lack of meaningful transformation in all sectors of society, it is good for us to be honest with God and ourselves as Catholics and a local Church.
In what way have I celebrated the Jubilee Year of Mercy?
Am I reconciled with God and others?
What graces have I received from God?
What were my resolutions for the past Liturgical Year?
Have I fulfilled anyone of them?
Advent and Christmas in this Liturgical Year A dedicated to the Gospel of St Mark calls for introspection, thorough examination of conscience as individuals and as a community followed by inner conversion of mind and heart to God and to the values of his Kingdom.
With those words, I wish all of you a joyful and fruitful celebration of Advent and Christmas season!
Bishop Vincent Mduduzi Zungu OFM
Mary is honoured as the Chief Patron of our Diocese of Port Elizabeth. In accordance with the official liturgical Pastoral Guide it is therefore elevated to a solemnity (big feast) for the local church and celebrated on the Sunday that occurs on 4th February or between the 4th and 10th February each year.