July 25, 2024
News Nigeria

GROWING IN THE KNOWLEDGE OF CHRIST

**

*Christmas Message 2023 by*
*Most Reverend Gerald Musa*
*Catholic Bishop of Katsina Diocese*

To the Clergy, Religious, and the Entire People of God in Katsina Diocese,

Peace be with you!
With a joyous heart and boundless gratitude, I extend my warmest greetings to each one of you on this sacred occasion of Christmas. This Christmas message is coming barely two weeks after the joyful occasion of the erection of the Diocese of Katsina and my episcopal ordination on the 12th of December. As I thank God for his goodness and mercy upon us, I thank you all for your generous hearts in embracing the new diocese and participating actively in the ordination ceremony. I believe that we will all continue to cooperate with the grace of God in building the diocese.

As we celebrate Christmas, let us reflect deeply about Jesus Christ, who is at the centre of the celebration. I chose the theme of “Growing in the Knowledge of Christ” for this year’s Christmas message to invite us to seek profound growth, as we seek to know Him more intimately, love Him more deeply, and reflect His light more brightly in our lives. What is the greatest disease in the world today? The worst disease today is not cancer, tuberculosis, or hepatitis, but the arrogance of ignorance. Anyone who lacks the knowledge of God and Jesus Christ the Saviour suffers from a deadly spiritual disease. According to St. Jose Maria Escriva, โ€œSince we can love God only after knowing Him, it can rightly be said that the biggest enemy of God is ignorance. This is the origin of so many evils and a great enemy to the salvation of souls.โ€ Consider the time we spend in acquiring what we may call functional education to be professionals in different fields such as medicine, law, pharmacy, engineering, and architecture. Compare that with the number of times and years we spend gaining more knowledge about God. No wonder John the Evangelist says, โ€œHe was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world knew him notโ€ (John 1:10).

Many of us today are languishing in the darkness of ignorance and have little or no knowledge about Jesus Christ whom we celebrate at Christmas. The Prophet Hosea says, โ€œMy people are destroyed for lack of knowledgeโ€ (4:6). Ignorance about Jesus has led many into suffering and pain. The people of Athens wallowed in ignorance as they served an unknown God (Acts of the Apostles 17:15, 22-18:1). Nicodemus was a knowledgeable man, but one thing was lacking, he had little knowledge about the things of God and the Holy Spirit (John 3:3, 5). We can describe Nicodemus as a โ€˜Spiritual Mediocreโ€™ who knew only half-truths about God and spiritual matters. Many of us have a similar challenge to Nicodemus.

Many people today are hungry and thirsty for more knowledge about God. Remember the letter written by the missionary priest, St. Francis Xavier about his missionary experience. He wrote about his visit to poor villages where converts had just accepted Christianity. They had no priest and no knowledge of basic prayers such as the Lordโ€™s prayers and the Hail Mary and Creed. What is more, they had no idea of the Ten Commandments. Many of the villagers were baptized, and the children were all over him and pressing on him to teach them how to pray. The missionary regretted that many people today are shut out of heaven and thrown into hell simply because no one preached to them and taught them about the faith and how to pray. He concluded that all educated people (not just priests and religious) should submit themselves to God, go out and preach and teach, and save those who are wallowing in spiritual ignorance.

In our country, Nigeria, and especially in Northern Nigeria, Christian Religious Knowledge is suppressed in many public schools, and so our children grow in ignorance of their faith. The Church remains their only hope for growth in the knowledge of God. The question is how can Godโ€™s people grow in the knowledge of God when they come to Church only on Sundays and do not come for other activitie during the week where they can learn more about God? People today are more interested in going to where they are deceived with signs and wonders than joining organisations and participating in church activities where they can grow in the knowledge of the faith.

At the birth of Christ, God makes himself known to the world. The letter to the Hebrews says in different ways God made himself known in the past, but in our own days, he makes himself known and speaks to us through Jesus Christ (Hebrew 1:1). There is no better way of knowing God than knowing Jesus Christ, who is the visible image of the invisible God (Colossians 1:5). In Jesus, we see a God who is near, humble, loving, merciful, approachable, and compassionate. He is a God whom Nigerians would describe as โ€œMy personal person,โ€ which means a dear and faithful friend. John the Evangelist, a man filled with supernatural knowledge, reveals to us that Christ is the light who shines in darkness and that no darkness can overpower this light.

We can solve the problem of our spiritual ignorance by reading the scriptures more deeply. St. Jerome tells us โ€œFor if as St. Paul says, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God, and if the man who does not know scripture does not know the power and wisdom of God, then ignorance of Scriptures is ignorance of Christ.โ€ St. Augustine adds, โ€œWhenever Scripture is read, it is Christ that speaks to us.โ€ Let us reflectively and constantly read the word of God to know Jesus Christ all the more and cure ourselves of spiritual ignorance. Let us never let a day pass by without reading at least one verse of the Bible. In addition, we can eradicate spiritual ignorance by seeking the help of the Holy Spirit, who is the giver of supernatural knowledge. Furthermore, we can fight ignorance by allowing Jesus to open our minds as he did to the two disciples travelling to Emmaus. He opened their minds through breaking the word and through breaking the bread as we do at the Eucharist (Luke 24:13-35). Besides, we grow in knowledge through contemplation. In prayer, we speak to God, and we listen to him through meditation. Often, we fall into the mistake of speaking to God and not taking time to be silent and allow him to speak to us. As we celebrate the birth of Jesus at Christmas, let us especially ask him to make us know him and love him more and more. All our struggles in life should be to know God and love him more and more. For God โ€œDesires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truthโ€ (1 Timothy 2:4).

As we celebrate the profound truth of “Immanuel โ€“ God is with us” during this sacred season, our hearts cannot remain indifferent to the pressing realities of insecurity that loom over Katsina, Zamfara States, and many parts of Nigeria. In as much as God is with us, we are also called to cooperate with him by addressing insecurity collectively. This often involves a combination of efforts from local communities, law enforcement agencies, and government authorities. This may include implementing security measures, community engagement, dialogue, and addressing underlying socio-economic issues contributing to insecurity. In the face of mounting challenges and uncertainties, we must draw strength from the eternal promise that God is indeed with us. To know Jesus is to understand the power of His presence among us. Immanuel, God is with us, not as a distant observer but as a constant source of guidance, comfort, and strength in our journey.

Let us pray to God in this season of Christmas to surround us with a comforting presence and be a shield around us, guarding us from the snares of the enemy and providing refuge in times of trouble. May the knowledge of Jesus be a source of strength, peace, and resilience in our lives.

Amen.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *