By Fr. Benedict Mayaki, SJ
As the Church prepares to enter into the Season of Advent – the period of joyful anticipation of the birth of Our Lord at Christmas – the Bishops Conference of Zimbabwe (ZCBC) has called for unity and reconciliation in the country.
In their pastoral letter released on Wednesday, the Bishops, inspired by the word “Advent,” which comes from the Latin “Advenio” meaning “behold I come,” encouraged the faithful to make the cry of John the Baptist, “Prepare the way for the Lord, make His path straight” be heard in all the “socio-political, economic and religious spheres of life.”
“It is the Lord Jesus who comes to live among us in order to renew us,” the ZCBC said. “The coming of the Lord is also a coming of new things, new ideas, a renewed hope in Him and in each other and what we are capable of doing together if only we can trust, reach out and find each other across our set social and political boundaries,” the Bishops added.
“Whatever our circumstances as individuals, as families, communities, as a nation and at a global level,” the Bishops continued, “this is the time we look forward to the good news that comes with the grace of our Lord.”
Genuine social relationships
Highlighting the difficult times caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, including the upheavals in the social, economic, spiritual, and educational sectors, the Bishops stressed the need for social relationships that are a “genuine acknowledgement of the other that is made possible by love alone.”
“If we are to care truly for each other, we need to begin by looking at the relationship between people,” the Bishops said, adding that “a true human and humane community can break out of the indifference brought about by consumerism and lack of political charity.”
The ZCBC members warn that “politics without charity can never bring about the common good” and called on politicians to practice politics that is inspired “by the encounter with Christ and imbued with love and political charity.” The Bishops also seized the opportunity to encourage the government to “extend a hand of welcome to all the opposition parties so that advent hope can be rekindled among our suffering people.”
Reiterating Pope Francis’ appeal in Laudato sí for profound interior conversion in the face of the ecological crisis, the Bishops warned of the urgent necessity of taking steps against the crisis that “is not far from our doorstep” and “is inside our home fuelled by poverty, business interests and consumerism.”
They note that the season of Advent calls on Christians to look again on how to curb the destruction of Zimbabwe – the “jewel of Africa” – because “the human environment and the natural environment deteriorate together and we cannot adequately combat environmental degradation unless we attend to causes related to human and social degradation.”
Acknowledging that Zimbabwe has had a particularly “difficult journey this year,” the Bishops called on all to “put the common good at the heart of our recovery plans.”
“We need to help each other. Simply being kind is one small way to do this,” the Bishops recommended. “Returning to communal liturgical celebrations will help foster communion among us.”
“Let us use our time to talk creatively, positively and concretely about the future we dream and desire to build the Zimbabwe we want.”
Concluding their pastoral letter, the Bishops leave the faithful with two questions: Do I recognize my need for others? Do I realize and accept the fact that I am responsible for others and the natural world by virtue of being human?