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Reconcile and Celebrate

 

Reconcile and Celebrate
 
A Pastoral Letter to all Catholics from the Bishops of Zambia for the Jubilee Year 2000
 
25 January 2000
 
 

To mark the Great Jubilee year 2000, when Christians celebrated 2000 years since the birth of Jesus Christ and the beginning of the third millennium, the Bishops issued this pastoral letter.

This Pastoral Letter looks back to the biblical jubilee which was ‘an expression of Israel's faith. God's people were convinced that God alone is the Lord of creation - a God who cares, heals and forgives’. This is why the title of this Pastoral Letter is ‘Reconcile and Celebrate’. It is a special time for renewal and the rebuilding of all relationship, with God and our fellow human beings.

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

At the beginning of this Great Jubilee Year 2000 we greet you all in the name of Our Lord Jesus Christ, 'the same today as he was yesterday and as he will be forever" (Hebrew 13:8). May it be for all of you a year of abundant graces.

'The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us' (John 1,14).

    Two thousand years have passed since the birth of Christ, and this is a great event for Christians all over the world. On the 24th December 1999, Christmas Eve, the Holy Father John Paul II opened the holy door and, together with the people of God, entered Saint Peter's Basilica to begin the Great jubilee of the Year 2000, the celebration of the central mystery of our Christian faith.
  1. The term "jubilee" speaks of joy: the whole Church rejoices remembering the birth of Jesus. As Christian believers we are filled with joy and thanksgiving for the love shown us by the Father in giving us his Beloved Son: 'God so loved the world that he gave his only Son that whosoever believes in him should have eternal life'. (10. 3, 16).

    "The Joy of every Jubilee is above all a Joy based on the forgiveness of sins, the joy of conversion and reconciliation" (John Paul II, TMA)

    With this letter, we your pastors would like to offer you some reflections to help you experience this jubilee Year as a journey of reconciliation, spiritual renewal and solidarity.

    The Jubilee Year: A Favourable Time

  2. Jubilee or Holy Years have always been special times the life of the Church when we are called to look back, to re-examine our lives, and to renew our faith, so that we may grow towards a deeper Christian life and a more generous service of others. This is why the Holy Father invites us to look back to some providential events of these past centuries.
  3. Let us look back with gratitude at the first hundred years of evangelisation in Zambia. Let us thank God for the selfless dedication of the first missionaries who answered the call of Christ to go and share the Good News even at the peril of their lives.

    Let us give thanks to God for having prepared us for their coming in such a way that many Zambians accepted the message of Jesus Christ with joy and great generosity. This is a sign that many elements of our Zambian culture prepared us for the coming of Jesus our Saviour.
  4. For us in Africa the culmination of the providential events of the last century was the African Synod, which ushered m the beginning of a new stage in the evangelisation of our continent. It offers our local Churches a pastoral plan of action to enable us to carry out our evangelising mission as effectively as possible, ready to carry the fire of Jesus Christ into the Year 2000. Yes indeed, the African Synod was a favourable time for all of us.
  5. An important fruit of the African Synod was the invitation to look at the Church as the Family of God. Not any longer a family within the limits of one clan, one tribe or one village, but a family that reaches out to all, includes all, and cares for all, especially the needy and the suffering.

    In our Small Christian communities we have learned to reach out to everybody through the family support we give to one another. We encourage you to continue to develop and strengthen different lay ministries in your Christian communities: the ministry of the Word, the ministry of catechesis, the ministry to marriages, to the poor and sick, the ministry of healing, the ministry of ustice and peace, etc. This will enable us to become more effective witnesses in our society.
  6. Yes indeed, we have a lot to be grateful for. We know we are not perfect, but we go into the new century as a committed and caring family, aware that 'the voice of many is heard by God'. Thanks to God's abundant grace working in us we may say that in this respect we give a humble example of Christian discipleship to the world at large.
  7. We are however aware that the implementation of the vision of the African Synod is not over with the celebration of the jubilee 2000. This is why we urge you all to take seriously the words of the Holy Father: 'For all the peoples of Africa the best preparation fir the new Millennium consists in a firm commitment to implement with great fidelity the decisions and orientations of the African Synod." (E.A. 141)

    Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ, let us make use of this favourable- time to express our gratitude for the past by continuing to witness to Jesus and his Gospel with renewed commitment and zeal.
    • What particular event in our recent Zambian history do I/we want to be thankful for, or wish especially to celebrate?
    • Do I/we really know much about the African Synod, and what could I/we do in order to know more about it?

    The Jubilee Year… A Time of New Beginnings

  8. Long before Jesus Christ was born, the Jewish people were keeping Jubilees or Holy year. Every 50th year was known as a time dedicated in a special way to God. We read in Leviticus 25 that the Jubilee started with the sound of the horn on the Day of Expiation; it was a very solemn celebration, a day of rest, penance and fasting and an invitation to become aware of oneself as a sinner, to repent and be forgiven.
  9. It was also a time of new beginnings, especially for the poor and oppressed: during that year slaves became free again, debts were forgiven, land was redistributed. Families and individuals that had lost their property and even their personal freedom were given the possibility to start a new life. The jubilee was a proclamation of hope, and a true experience of Cod's liberating grace.

    "You will declare this year to be sacred and proclaim the liberation of all the Country's inhabitants"
    (Leviticus 25, 10).
  10. The Jubilee legislation showed a particular concern for the extended family: "In this year of Jubilee each of you should go back to your own family, and regain possession of your ancestral property" (see Leviticus 25, 13). The idea was, to protect families economically, securing their ownership of the piece of land assigned to them. It was a safeguard against the moral and spiritual degradation that is often the consequence of too much poverty. Indeed, what good is to preach 'family values' if family are being destroyed and human beings degraded by economic hardships?

    This Biblical concern for the poor was also present in our own African traditions. In many places on the day of the new moon there was special concern shown to children, to the poor, the crippled the slaves. The community would try to repay those unjustly treated with food, gifts and clothing. It was believed dot on that evening the ancestors of the households would speak through the 'unlucky' ones that felt rejected by the lucky, healthy ones.
  11. Today we seem to have forgotten some of our precious traditional values. We live in a world geared above all to profit and money making in a world where greed and selfishness are becoming an accepted attitude. Therefore the jubilee values of social justice for all, of practical concern for the family, of respect for the land, and a just distribution of the gifts that God has given us, remain a big challenge to all of us.

    In our Country where over 80% of the people live below the poverty line, where our health system and our educational institutions are breaking down, we are an challenged to take very seriously the words of our Holy Father: "A commitment to justice and peace in a world like ours, marked by so many conflicts and intolerable social and economic inequalities, is a necessary condition for the celebration of the jubilee” (John Paul II, TMA 51).

    In this Country which claims to be a 'Christian Nation" new beginnings would be a national budget that reflects a firm commitment by decision makers to alleviate poverty by ensuring food security, easy access to health care, and quality education for all. Only if we give back to all our brothers and sisters the dignity that is theirs by right can we make of the celebration of the Jubilee Year a time of new beginnings.
    • What is the biggest threat to peace and harmony in our families and society, and how can our Church help to overcome it?
    • Who around me/us is particularly 'unlucky', and how can I/we reach out to them during this jubilee Year?

    The Jubilee Year: A Time To Renew Our Faith

  12. The biblical jubilee was not merely an economic institution; it was above all an expression of Israel's faith. God's people were convinced that God alone is the Lord of creation - a God who cares, heals and forgives. This is why the meditative reading of the Word of God occupied a special place during this year. It was a "year of favour" which God granted his people, so that they could turn in themselves, repent and renew their faith.
  13. It was in this Jubilee atmosphere that Jesus began his mission. One day he went to the synagogue of Nazareth on a Sabbath day, and looked for a text that would serve to explain what his mission would be all about. He read the passage of the prophet Isaiah 61:

    "Spirit of the Lord is on me, for he has anointed me to bring the Good News to the poor… to proclaim a year of favour from the Lord. (See Luke 4,18-21)

    Jesus sat down and declared that with his coming, this scripture text was fumed. God's own Son came to bring the great Jubilee of salvation for everyone. Jesus is the one sent by the Father to proclaim the Good News to the poor and to tell us that the lowly would be lifted up, and that the last will be first.

    As disciples of Jesus of Nazareth we are called to do the same. We urge all Catholics, in families, in Small Christian Communities and lay movements, we call upon Catholic professionals, those in public office and decision making bodies, to dissociate themselves from the conspiracy of silence and apathy in the face of injustice, violation of human rights, and rampant corruption which have reached epidemic proportions and endanger the very fabric of our society. This Jubilee year offers a unique opportunity to say like Zacchaeus: 'if I have cheated anybody, I will pay back...' (Luke 19,8).
  14. In our different dioceses and parishes a jubilee Calendar has been drawn up, committees have been formed, and various events are being prepared. Whatever we plan and - organise, let us remember that we are called to act as Jesus acted and to proclaim a Year of God's favour in words and in deeds. Let us remember that the first aim of our celebrations is to strengthen our faith so that we can go and share it with others.

    The custom of pilgrimages has always been linked to Holy Years. The popular places of Catholic pilgrimages are the Holy Land, where Jesus lived, died and rose, Rome, the city of Peter and Paul, and different shrines dedicated to the Virgin Mary. But these places are far away, and not many of us can afford to travel there. This is why we have chosen local places in our different Dioceses where we encourage you to go on pilgrimage and experience the graces of conversion and healing offered during this Great Jubilee.
  15. All Baptised share the same faith in Jesus. Christ and this jubilee Year is a call to grow in mutual understanding and respect. It is therefore important to give our celebrations an ecumenical dimension, "so that the different Christians can celebrate the Great Jubilee, if not completely united, at least much closer to overcoming historical division.” (John Paul II, TMA 34).

    It is also our wish that this Great Jubilee may be an occasion to enter into an open dialogue and fruitful cooperation with representatives of other religions, uniting our efforts to build together a better and more just society.
    • What do I/we need most in order to deepen and strengthen our faith during this jubilee Year?
    • How can we strengthen the ecumenical dimension of our jubilee celebrations?

    The Jubilee Year: A Time To Reconcile And Celebrate

  16. The Jubilee Year 2000 is above all a call to conversion of heart through a change of fife. It is a time for each one of us to look honestly at our own life, "so that the 2000'h anniversary of the central mystery of our Christian faith may be experienced as a journey of reconciliation and a sign of true hope”. (John Paul II: Journeying towards the Third Millennium)
  17. Reconciliation was an important human and religious value in our African traditional societies, answering our deep desire for peace and social harmony. Peace was the fruit of honesty, truth and solidarity. Conflicts in the community were often redressed through reconciliation rituals. During these rituals feelings of anger and hatred were brought into the open, conflict was acknowledged, and social harmony was reestablished. This was often done in the form of a cleansing ceremony, a washing or a burning rite. When an agreement was reached, reconciliation was then celebrated by a shared meal.
  18. As Christians we know that reconciliation is above all the work of God within us:

    "It is all God's work, he reconciled us to himself through Christ.. God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself, not holding anyone's fault against them but entrusting to us the message of reconciliation" (II Co.5, 18-19).

    It is God who forgives and saves. When we were still sinners, God reconciled us to himself through Jesus Christ. But God sends us to become agents of reconciliation: reconciliation among married couples, between parents and children, between families; reconciliation between the hierarchy and the people of God, reconciliation among and between the clergy, the religious and the laity, between the leaders and those they wish to serve.
  19. For us Catholics the sacrament of reconciliation is a privileged time to reconcile with God. During this Jubilee Year we invite you to rediscover the importance and deep meaning of this sacrament of God's mercy, and the richness and variety of ways it can be celebrated.

    Community rites of reconciliation are particularly important during the liturgical times of Advent and Lent We encourage the priests to carefully prepare them, giving due importance to the Word of God and to inculturated symbolic actions, so that the faithful may truly experience the joy of being forgiven and reconciled with God. This will help to give new life and meaning to the practice of this sacrament.
  20. Reconcile and Celebrate. If as a Church-as-Family we want to be agents of reconciliation in our society, let us first honestly examine ourselves, and accept what in our Christian communities needs reconciliation and forgiveness. In our family prayer, the Our Father, we hope to be forgiven in the measure that we forgive others. In spite of praying it often, we sometimes believe that certain persons cannot be forgiven especially those who have harmed us through their actions. Forgiveness is not easy, but let us pray for the strength to take some positive steps during this year.

    True reconciliation is first of all to honestly accept that something was wrong and that I have hurt others'. True reconciliation is to seek and accept forgiveness: “when you stand in prayer, forgive whatever you have against anybody, so that your Father in heaven may forgive your failings too” (Mark 11,25).
  21. Reconcile and celebrate. In the Church-as-Family we are all inter-dependent, journeying side by side towards the new Millennium - bishops, priests, religious, lay men and women, the youth and children. Respectful of the role of each one in the family of God let us sit down together and talk about our mutual needs and concerns. Let us humbly accept our wrongdoings and ask for forgiveness for the times we may have dominated others because of our office, or failed to stand up courageously for justice in our Church.
  22. Reconcile and celebrate. At peace with one another in our Church-as-Family let us go out and be agents of reconciliation to our broken society. Let us make of this jubilee Year a reminder of the dignity of every human person created in the image of God and of our inter-dependence in the one human family.
    • 'If your brother or sister wrongs you seven times a day and seven times comes back to you and says 'I am sorry' you must forgive...'(Luke 17,4). How does this word of Jesus challenge you?
    • What are the specific areas where I/we need to seek reconciliation, or the specific persons whom I/we need to be reconciled with?
    • What would help to make the Sacrament of Reconciliation more meaningful to me/us in an inculturated sense?

With this letter we launch the celebrations of the jubilee Year 2000 in Zambia. We urge all of you, lay men and women, religious and priests, to make your own the challenging words of our Holy Father:

“Everyone is asked to do as much as possible to ensure that the great challenge of the Year 2000 is not overlooked, for this challenge involves a special grace of the Lord for the Church and for the whole of humanity." (John Paul 11, TMA 55)

We entrust our jubilee celebrations to Mary, the Mother of mercy. May she be the star guiding our steps into the new Millennium. With Mary, let us give praise to God the Father, in the Holy Spirit, for the gift of Jesus Christ, who is the same yesterday, today and forever.

25th January 2000
The Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul

The Catholic Bishops of Zambia

  Archbishop M. Mazombwe,   Bishop Chairman ZEC   Archbishop J. Spaita,   Archbishop of Kasama   Cardinal A. Kozlowiecki, SJ,   Archbishop Emeritus, Lusaka   Archbishop A. Mung'andu,   Archbishop Emeritus, Lusaka   Bishop T-G Mpundu,   Bishop of Mpika   Bishop D. de Jong,   Bishop of Ndola   Bishop A. Chisha,   Bishop of Mansa   Bishop R. Mpezele,   Bishop of Livingstone   Bishop N. O'Regan, S.M.A.,   Bishop of Solwezi   Bishop E. Patriarca   Bishop of Monze   Bishop P. Duffy, OMI   Bishop of Mongu   Mgr. G. Lungu   Apostolic Administrator, Chipata