Dear brothers and sisters,
A Blessed Christmas and Happy New Year to all!
Christmas is the feast of the family and my thoughts go out especially to those in our Vicariate who are alone here without their families. I would like to invite the families of our Vicariate to reach out to someone who is alone this Christmas; to invite them to celebrate Christmas in a family atmosphere. God will bestow special blessings upon such families who reach out to the lonely in a true spirit of sharing and caring. Our Lord Jesus Himself had to suffer loneliness and the abandonment of people, who "no longer walked with him" (Jn 6:67), and therefore He is always close to such families, who in return, experience in a deeper way His boundless love and mercy!
Brothers and sisters, every year we listen to the words of the prophet Isaiah at the Christmas Midnight Mass, "The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light. A light has risen for the inhabitants of the region of the shadow of death" (Is 9:2).
What is this darkness that the prophet is speaking about?
It is first of all our personal and spiritual darkness. We have to admit that many times we prefer darkness to light. When we commit sin, we prefer darkness to light. Are we aware of such areas of darkness in our lives? What is the sin that I commit most often and easily? Is it jealousy, envy, gossip, slander, anger, vengeance, irregular sex, dishonesty at work, negligence of the family, injustice towards those in my care, greed for power, wealth and success?
During Advent we are called to conversion, which first and foremost requires getting to know all our personal areas of spiritual darkness. It is only through prayer that we can overcome this darkness; only prayer can give us victory and joy. The intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary for us is particularly efficacious in helping us to overcome sin. Jesus, whom we celebrate at Christmas, was born of the Virgin Mary, so the season of Advent and Christmas (besides the months of May and October traditionally dedicated to the Virgin Mary) is the most suitable time to deepen our devotion to our Blessed Mother. The daily Rosary that I recommend to all of you is a strong weapon to fight against Satan and all his evil plans to destroy the world. However, do not be afraid, for our hope is in Christ’s coming among us, as the verse of Isaiah says: "The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light". With such assurance, our hearts can only be filled with light and joy!
Besides personal spiritual darkness, some of you might experience another kind of darkness, which is the big uncertainty for the future. Many people have had to leave their jobs and return to their countries, and in the course of this year many more might have to leave. I understand your anxiety: will you find a job in your native countries after you have been away for so many years!? I do not have an answer to your question, but I can assure you with the words of Jesus: "Do not be anxious about your life, as to what you will eat, nor about your body, as to what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Consider the birds of the air, how they neither sow, nor reap, nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of much greater value than they are? Therefore, do not choose to be anxious, saying: ‘What shall we eat, and what shall we drink, and with what shall we be clothed?’ For the Gentiles seek all these things. Yet your Father knows that you need all these things. Therefore, seek first the kingdom of God and his justice, and all these things shall be added to you as well" (Mt 6:25-33).
Only prayer can give us this faith, to believe that God is "My Father" and He will help me in every situation. Courage, I say to you, for as a light has risen for the inhabitants of the region of the shadow of death, a light will come upon you and your family and you will see the power and glory of God! God will never abandon you! I assure you of my prayers for all your intentions. Above all, I pray that your faith will remain strong and steadfast, built on God, our loving Father.
I joyfully impart my blessing to you and to all your loved ones this Christmas. Courage!
+ Camillo Ballin, mccj
Apostolic Vicar of Northern Arabia (Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar and Saudi Arabia)