Pastoral Letter from His Lordship the Bishop Mgr. Carmel Zammit
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
The Lord Jesus comes to give us hope!
As we begin a new Church year on this First Sunday of Advent, since this is my first pastoral letter as your bishop, may I say how grateful I feel for the support and care that you have shown to me during the short time that I have been honoured to serve as your Bishop. For years, Gibraltar has been my home – a community that welcomed me as a priest forty years ago, where I served for twenty years, and now after another twenty years serving in Malta, embraced me again as your Bishop. Throughout this time, your deep faith and spirit of generosity have given me much hope. I know that we will continue to accomplish great things together as we open our lives to the power and presence of God in our midst.
I take this occasion to thank you for all your prayers, good wishes and generous gifts together with offers of help. Please keep me and our priests in your prayers so that God’s grace will continue to support us in our mission here in Gibraltar.
We are approaching the popular and great feast of Christmas, celebrating the birth of our Lord, and the Church presents us with a period of time during which we are invited to prepare ourselves for this great Mystery of our faith, the birth of the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, the Son of God, in the form or a human person. God becomes Man. “The Word of God became flesh and dwelt among us” as St John puts it in his Gospel. God took on our human nature in order to show His compassion, mercy and love towards us. This infinite love for humankind leads God to take on our frail human nature in order to save and redeem us. He took upon Himself all our failures and sins, offering Himself as a sacrifice through his passion and death for the forgiveness of our sins.
The Season of Advent is a time of preparation, a period of four weeks, during which time the Church urges us to prepare ourselves in a spirit of prayer and wonder for the coming of God’s Son among us. Advent is a special time of grace, a time of waiting and hoping in God’s promise of a Messiah.
During Advent, the Church in her liturgy presents us with readings from the Bible which point to the promises made by God to his people, promises which were fulfilled by the birth of Jesus Christ. This is what we mean by the word Gospel, that is the Good News. The Father wants to be close to us, to walk alongside each one of us in our journey here on earth, through the presence of His Son, Emmanuel, a name which means ‘God is with us’.
On this first Sunday of Advent the Church tells us that Advent is a “wake up” call, expressed very well by St. Paul in his Letter to the Romans: “You know the time has come: you must wake up now: our salvation is even nearer now than it was when we were converted...– let us give up all the things we prefer to do under cover of