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Divine Hope

 
in the Midst
of Human
Suffering
Christmas Message
2008

Bishop George Jonathan Dodo


Catholic Bishop of Zaria -
Nigeria
Bishop GJ Dodo Christmas Message 2008



Divine Hope in the Midst of Human Suffering


*
“Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace for those he favours” [Lk. 2: 13]
**
“Today in him a new light has dawned upon the world: God has become one with man, and man has become
one again with GOD. Your eternal Word has taken upon himself our human weakness, giving our mortal
nature immortal value. So marvellous is this oneness between God and man that in Christ man restores to
man the gift of everlasting life.”[Preface of Christmas No. III]

Introduction:
This year again we celebrate Christmas with renewed hope and vigour ready to enter the New Year
2009. We must begin this celebration by appreciating the wonderful things the Lord has done for
us in 2008 such as: the bumper harvest we recorded this year, our personal health, peace of mind
and many uncountable blessings.

Like every Christmas, I send greetings of joy and happiness to all of you the Priests, Religious and
Laity of the Diocese of Zaria and to all men and women of goodwill all over the world. At Christmas
we commemorate the Incarnation of God through the Virgin Birth of Jesus at Bethlehem. This
happened because of the love of God for us. “For God so love the world, that he sent his only
begotten Son. That whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” [Jn.
3.16]. God’s purpose of sending his only begotten Son was to redeem and offer hope to mankind.

Every Christian must therefore appreciate the saving power of God by celebrating Christmas with
hope and happiness. We cannot afford to live in hopelessness and despair as if we are not people
redeemed by God through the Incarnation of Jesus. The materialistic and self-fulfilling standards of
the world have the tendency to cause disbelief and disregard for the things of God, especially in
our modern times that the value system is changing. The coming of Christ the Son of God in the
small lonely town of Bethlehem of Judea ushered in the dawn of hope challenging humanity to a new
set of values: values of the gospel of truth, justice, peace and love even of our enemies, etc.
Although Bethlehem is a small town, his message of hope has reverberated all over the world. And
all of us are beneficiaries to this wonderful manifestation of God. To him be all the thanks, the
praises and the glory now and forever more. Amen!

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Bishop GJ Dodo Christmas Message 2008

Jesus Our Hope


Mankind has experienced suffering and pain down through the ages sometimes caused by natural
disasters and at many other times caused by us humans through disobedience to divine injunctions.
The people of Israel were no exception.

From the slavery in Egypt to the exile in Babylon, they had the Judges and Prophets to remind
them of the need for obedience to God and to trust His mercy and love. “Yahweh sent a prophet
to the Israelites. He said to them, ‘This is what Yahweh, God of Israel, says, ‘It was I who
brought you out of Egypt, and led you out of the place of slave-labour. I rescued you from the
power of the Egyptians and from the power of all who oppressed you’” [Jdgs. 6: 7, 8].

The book of Judges tells us that each time they turned their backs on God they suffered greatly;
and each time they cried to God he sent them a liberator called judge to free them and remind
them of the need for obedience. God called them to continued hope of liberation through the
prophets like Isaiah. Through the stock of Jesse a prophet will arise to liberate his people. “On
him will rest the spirit of Yahweh, a spirit of wisdom and insight, the spirit of counsel and power,
the spirit of knowledge and fear of Yahweh: his inspiration will lie in fearing Yahweh. His judgement
will not be by appearances, his verdict not given as hearsay” [Is. 11. 1 – 3].

They prophesied the birth of a Saviour who would save his people from sin and death through a
woman. “The Lord will give you a sign in any case: It is this: the young woman is with child and
will give birth to a son whom she will call Immanuel” [Is. 7: 14]. God’s plan of salvation for
humanity was near actualization. That became a reality with the birth of Jesus. He came more than
2 000 years ago to offer us hope and determination to continue to serve the living God even in the
midst of suffering. His coming amongst us is a sign of the presence of God in our lives and in our
midst as his name Emmanuel shows “God-with-us.” Even in the midst of pain and suffering, may
we continue to rely on the power which comes from on high.

Jesus has the power to save us from all the troubles of our world if only we acknowledge him as the
‘God-with-us’ sent by God to redeem us and if only we do his will. “The people that walked in

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Bishop GJ Dodo Christmas Message 2008

darkness have seen a great light; on the inhabitants of a country in shadow dark as death light has
blazed forth” [Is. 9. 1].

Mankind today needs Jesus to build bridges across the divides of our world. The birth of Jesus
which is commemorated at Christmas is our assurance that God has not forgotten us. Human
suffering has meaning only when we associate it with the suffering of Christ through the heroic act
of the Blessed Virgin Mary when she accepted to bring forth her Son. “When the completion of
time came, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born subject of the Law, to redeem the subjects of
the Law, so that we could receive adoption as sons” [Gal. 4. 4].

Mary’s role in accepting the birth of Jesus completed the plan of God intended to end human
desperation and squalor. When Adam and Eve sinned against God by disobeying the voice of God,
they set the world delving into misery and darkness. But we see in Genesis 1, the beauty of
creation and the purpose of created things by God Himself. God designed everything in this world
with splendour and grandeur purposely for man’s welfare. But in Genesis 3 we begin to see a
devastating initiation of suffering through the disobedience of ‘our first parents’. Despite this
primordial negation of God’s intention, God still remained faithful and loving.

Human Suffering
Against the backdrop of deadly natural disasters, world economic crises and global terrorism, the
tendency amongst people is to ask: “Where is God in the midst of these human suffering?”[cf. Col.
1: 24]. Many families are suffering poverty and hardly can they feed on three-square meals per
day. Another percentage is suffering diseases and health complications with no end in sight. We
call on government to pay more attention to creating job opportunities for our growing unemployed
youths, equip and raise our health institutions to international standards, with the required
experienced manpower to manage them well.

The gap between the rich and the poor of the world is too wide and needs to be closed up. This
calls for action and collaboration amongst the nations of the world to reduce misery and squalor
among the indigent poor inhabitants of the world. The United Nations Millennium Development
Goals call for security in our world, eradication of poverty and diseases and the empowerment of
women in our families. Nigeria must not be an exception in responding to this call. Government is

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Bishop GJ Dodo Christmas Message 2008

called upon to intensify efforts to actualize the goals. Through these processes, we can gradually
eliminate human misery and empower people to fight against the injustices and abuse of human
rights within their nations. The world cannot undertake this gargantuan journey unless we implore
divine support especially a holy season like this, to go along with us to accomplish our goals.

Above all, we must recognize the value and dignity of every member of the human family yearning
for respect, attention and sustenance according to the plan of God who made every human being in
his image and likeness. Terrorist activities and crises leading to the destruction of lives and
properties in our society and all over the world and which have brought pain and suffering to
millions must be condemned now and always. Nigeria has had its own share through communal
clashes, religious crises and politically motivated killings. It is a shame and this calls for a change
of heart and the only way to achieve this is to embrace the peace and love that Jesus brought into
the world by his birth.

Jos North Local Government Crisis


We recall the ugly scenario witnessed in September 2001 in Jos when a religious crisis erupted,
and our memories are still fresh with this kind of scene which has repeated itself in November 2008
during which, many lives were lost and property worth millions of naira destroyed. This calls for
serious reflection especially at Christmas on why this ugly recurrence in our national history. It
inflicts serious injury on our image as a nation. It is important for government to realize that to
attract investors to improve the Nigerian economy and life, the wanton destruction of lives and
property must come to an end. No investor will invest where there is no peace where there is no
stability.

Although speculations abound as to the origin of the crisis bordering on Jos North Local
Government elections, many are worried that it led to the burning of religious places of worship
and the killing of innocent people. We totally condemn this sad and shameful development and
equally condemn whosoever are the perpetrators of this shameful act and express our solidarity
with the families that lost their dear ones. We call on the government to as a matter of urgency
address issues of “who is a settler” and “who is an indigene” in any part of Nigeria. Nigerians must
see themselves as Nigerians, welcome, accept and treat themselves as Nigerians as this is the only
country we are proud to call our own.

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Bishop GJ Dodo Christmas Message 2008

While we commiserate with the Government and People of Plateau State, we equally request that
all those who camouflaged behind the said Jos North Local Government election to cause pain to
people, be fished out and brought to book. This is the only way to assuage the innocent blood shed
unjustly in Jos North. When this is done, then we can say with all certainty that Nigeria is living by
the rule of law and that there are no sacred cows. Let us learn how to live together as brothers
keepers without bitterness or rancour. The coming of Jesus Christ at Christmas is meant to
reconcile all peoples under one umbrella of God. “The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the
leopard shall lie down with the young goat, and the calf and the lion and the fattened calf together;
and a little child shall lead them” [Is. 11: 6].

Nigeria’s Educational System


We thank God and thank the Federal Government of Nigeria for opening the doors for the private
sector to contribute to the educational development of our nation through the issuance of licenses
for new and private universities. It means the government is serious and admits she cannot provide
education all alone. This is a welcome development because of the quality education the private
sector is known for.

The existing institutions of learning and the quality of graduating students have come under
serious public scrutiny indicating that they leave much to be desired. What we read on pages of
our dailies, if that correct, is worrying. Most recent reporting is the concern of Mr. President,
Alhaji Umaru Musa Yar’Adua on THISDAY of Sunday 20th December 2008 page 6 captioned
“Corruption Pervasive in Our Universities.”

Highlights of the President’s concerns show the need for sanitizing the educational system for
better results without the Nigerian-syndrome of paying for their marks all through their studies. It
has become public knowledge now that some students bribe their lecturers with money in order to
graduate. The long time effect will be that these graduates cannot defend their qualifications when
they are given opportunities to prove themselves in the public domain. Government and education
stakeholders must do something to rehabilitate the educational system from total collapse through
laudable policies to curb truancy and laziness among our students.

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Bishop GJ Dodo Christmas Message 2008

Diocesan Projects
While we celebrate Christmas, let us be fully aware my dear people of the Diocese of Zaria, that we
have a duty towards completing the ongoing projects in our diocese. By the grace of God, we hope
to complete the first accommodation block of our pastoral centre before the next retreat of priest
in August 2009. But before then, we must continue to contribute our best towards the realization
of our dream. I take this opportunity of the birth of Jesus at Christmas to thank every individual
and parishes who have made enormous contribution towards the projects we have at hand. My
prayer is that Jesus will continue to bless you, your families and your different endeavours.

Prayer for Priests, Religious and Laity


My work as Chief Shepherd of the diocese cannot be possible without the support of the priests,
the religious and the laity. We are all working for Jesus and Jesus is the only one who can reward
each one accordingly. While I thank you all, I invoke divine favour to visit each and every person
in this diocese. May the Infant Jesus who came at Christmas, bless and reward you abundantly.
Please pray always and unceasingly for the growth of this Diocese of Zaria and for an increase in
vocations to the priesthood and the religious life. May God bless and prosper you.

As we look forward to the New Year 2009, may it bring us blessings and happiness in our lives.
The only gift I can offer to you is the gift of Jesus himself who came to not to be served, but to
serve and give his life as a ransom for many. May he enrich you with abundant joy and fulfil your
every wish. We pray for all men and women of goodwill that the infant Jesus will shine in their lives
in the New Year 2009.

Conclusion
Under the banner of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Queen Mother of our Diocese, we rest all our
prayers and petitions asking her to intercede for us and all our people. Merry Christmas and a
Happy New Year 2009 to all of you.
God bless you. . .

Bishop George J. Dodo


Bishop of the Diocese of Zaria

Given on this day, 8th December 2008, the Solemnity of Immaculate Conception, at Catholic Secretariat
Wusasa – Zaria Kaduna State, NIGERIA

(c) Copyright Rights Reserved, Diocesan Secretariat Wusasa - December 2008

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