The birth of Christ is depicted in stained glass at St. Michael’s Cathedral in Toronto. The Dec. 25 Christmas feast commemorates the birth of Christ. The Christmas season begins with the Dec. 24 evening vigil and ends on the feast of the Baptism of the Lord, Jan. 13 in 2008. (CNS photo/Nancy Wiechec) (Nov. 27, 2007)

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

“For a child is born to us, a son is given us; upon his shoulder dominion rests. They name him Wonder-Counselor, God-Hero, Father-Forever, Prince of Peace.”

In his Christmas homily a year ago, Pope Francis reflected upon this familiar passage from the prophet Isaiah: “To us a son is given.”

Pope Francis began, “We often hear it said that the greatest joy in life is the birth of a child. It is something extraordinary and it changes everything … That is what Christmas is: the birth of Jesus is the ‘newness’ that enables us to be reborn each year and to find, in him, the strength needed to face every trial. Why? Because his birth is for us – for me, for you, for all of us, for everyone … Yet what do those words – for us – really mean? They mean that God came into the world as a child to make us children of God. What a magnificent gift! This day, God amazes us and says to each of us: Are you tempted to feel you were a mistake? God tells you, ‘No, you are my child!’ Do you have a feeling of failure or inadequacy, the fear that you will never emerge from the dark tunnel of trial? God says to you, ‘Have courage, I am with you.’ This is the starting point for any rebirth. This is the undying heart of our hope, the incandescent core that gives warmth and meaning to our life.”

The Holy Father continued: “Jesus, you are the Child who makes me a child. You love me as I am, not as I imagine myself to be; this I know! In embracing you, the Child of the manger, I once more embrace my life. In welcoming you, the Bread of life, I too desire to give my life. You, my Savior, teach me to serve. You, who did not leave me alone, help me to comfort your brothers and sisters, for you know that, from this night forward, all are my brothers and sisters.”

Pope Francis’ words capture so beautifully both the sublime gift that we have been given in the birth of Jesus and the responsibility that is ours to give the same gift of his life to others.

Through the Incarnation, God has immersed himself in our human condition – not because of our righteousness – but because of his grace and mercy. This fundamental belief in the limitless love of God, given human shape and form in Jesus’ birth, confronts the brokenness of our lives with hope. It beckons us to move beyond the division and fear that have engulfed our world, our Church and our lives to recognize an essential reality of humankind: we are all far more similar than we are different. As such, we are all brothers and sisters who, on our own, are powerless to save ourselves. And we are all in need of the heart of Christmas and the power and presence of Jesus – born to save us, to give us life and to enfold us in his peace.

The surest way for us to encounter the saving power and presence of Jesus – particularly in the midst of these unsettling times – is to seek him out in those places where he has told us he will be found. Recognize and embrace Jesus as we feed the hungry, care for the sick, embrace the outcast, forgive generously, love unconditionally and welcome into our hearts his living presence in the Holy Eucharist, the source and summit of our lives.

Brothers and sisters, we have been told where to look to find acceptance, forgiveness and mercy and we have learned what is necessary in order for us to give life to Jesus in a world that so desperately needs to experience his saving grace. During these days that continue to challenge our peace, may we pray for the wisdom and humility to open our lives to this great mystery of faith that we celebrate through the Incarnation of Christ. Therein alone, we will find the true and lasting reason for our hope!

With gratitude for the privilege of serving as your Bishop and with prayers for a holy and blessed Christmas for you, your family and all you hold dear, I am,

Faithfully yours in Christ,

Most Reverend Joseph C. Bambera, D.D., J.C.L.
Bishop of Scranton

 

Bishop Bambera’s Letter for World Mission Sunday

October 21, 2021

My Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Just a few days ago on October 3, we celebrated the feast day of St. Thérèse of Lisieux. Affectionately known to many as the “Little Flower,” St. Thérèse is the patroness of the Missions. Perhaps the great paradox of her patronage is that Thérèse never left her cloister. Her entire religious life was lived out in her humble convent in Lisieux, France. Though she desired so deeply to be a missionary, she was compelled to live a life of relative obscurity, to become a missionary through her prayer, her sacrifice and the “little way” that defined her life and has inspired the lives of many.

Thérèse’s simple life reminds me of a quotation from another saintly missionary, Mother Teresa of Calcutta, “do small things with great love.” Each of us has been compelled to encounter how to carry out the Christian way of life in our own “cloisters” as pandemic restrictions had us holed up in our homes in the early months of COVID-19. Somehow, our lives as people of faith and as disciples of Jesus Christ had to carry on. Admittedly, to do so we had to find creative ways to be faithful to our worship and acts of prayer as our public worship was curtailed. We found ways to reach out to family and neighbors even as we were limited in our physical contact with them and discovered opportunities to support the poor and vulnerable as so many religious and social service agencies found it challenging to meet their needs.

This is the crux of missionary discipleship. Certainly, many have and will continue to travel to places throughout the world to serve as missionaries. Indeed, in our own country, missionaries will continue to serve the needs of the poor and marginalized as they seek to alleviate their burdens. And, yes, many will continue to serve with a missionary zeal in a spirit of servant leadership from their homes. Not everyone—whether it’s because of illness, age, or other circumstances—can leave their homes to engage the mission entrusted to them. Much can be learned from the example of St. Thérèse who, despite never leaving her cloister, is among the most notable missionaries in our Church.

In his message for World Mission Sunday, Pope Francis spoke of “a temptation to disguise and justify indifference and apathy in the name of healthy social distancing…” However, he went on to highlight that there is an “urgent need for the mission of compassion, which can make that necessary distancing an opportunity for encounter, care and promotion.” Surely, even from a distance we can serve and can encounter. Let us endeavor to do so spurred on by the life of St. Thérèse and the Gospel mandate to “make disciples of all nations” (Mt. 28:19).

Faithfully yours in Christ,

The Most Reverend Joseph C. Bambera, D.D., J.C.L.
Bishop of Scranton

 

October 1, 2021

Dear Friends,

This year, as we traditionally set aside the month of October to reflect upon the sublime treasure that is ours in the gift of human life, we are invited to focus upon Saint Joseph and his place within the Holy Family. As the great defender of the life of our Savior, Jesus, and of Mary, his mother, we implore his intercession as we seek to live as disciples of Jesus who treasure God’s gift of life.

In the gospel of Saint Matthew, Saint Joseph is described as a man of deep faith, who, despite his uncertainty about the events surrounding the birth of Jesus, is willing to set aside his own judgments and instead place his trust unwaveringly in the power of God. For Saint Joseph, God was in control and that was all that mattered.

During the course of the past year and a half, our world has battled the coronavirus that has taken the lives of over 4.5 million people throughout the world, including over 650-thousand Americans. For all of the different perspectives that have been brought to bear upon this pandemic, one thing is clear. Despite our creativity, our ingenuity and our resolve to care for our world and to determine our future according to our own plan, we are not in control!

That power, as Saint Joseph reminds us, belongs to God.

Sadly, however, we haven’t yet learned this valuable lesson as we continually fail to fully appreciate the treasure that we have been given in the gift of life. It is rather paradoxical that in reflecting upon all of the efforts being engaged to confront a virus that has the potential to destroy life, we’re often conflicted in our perspective upon this unique and singular gift of God. In the midst of the current health crisis, we continually set aside convenience and personal comfort and go to great lengths to protect our children, our families and our neighbors. And so we should! Yet, at the same time, many of us fail to acknowledge or care that the very foundational building blocks of a just world for all forms of human life are being undermined at an alarming rate.

Threats to human life increasingly abound in our world today, most notably the taking of innocent life through the scourge of abortion.

Yet, we’re also confronted with proposals and policies that favor assisted suicide, euthanasia, infanticide and human cloning. These too are dire threats to our belief in the dignity and value of the human person – as are the death penalty, human trafficking, unjust immigration laws and the dire consequences of war.

Sadly, while many of us as Catholics and people of good will are deeply committed to the protection of life in its earliest moments at conception, we can often be somewhat arbitrary in our assessment of other lives and their value and worth.

Unfortunately, brothers and sisters, such an approach towards the sanctity of human life has consequences. We’ve experienced the slippery slope that ensued following the legalization of abortion almost 50 years ago. When we rationalize why the taking of one life should be allowed, every life is in jeopardy.

Several months ago, in reflecting upon the growing lack of respect for our global environment, Pope Francis linked his concerns for our common home to an ever-diminishing sense of respect for the gift of human life.

Pope Francis stated, “Everything is connected. It is the same indifference, the same selfishness, the same greed, the same pride, the same claim to be the master and despot of the world that lead human beings, on the one hand, to destroy species and plunder natural resources, and on the other, to exploit misery, to abuse the work of women and children, to overturn the laws of the family cell, to no longer respect the right to human life from conception to natural end.”

Brothers and sisters, as Pope Francis has noted so well, we are all “connected” and we are all a part of one – and the same – human family. As such, may we be humble enough to set aside the divisions that separate us and to embrace the lessons that we have learned during the course of the global pandemic that continues to ravage our world.

Though well beyond our ability to determine or control, life, from the moment of conception to natural end, is a gift to treasure and respect. We do so, however, not solely through the words we speak or by our self-righteous criticisms of those whose beliefs may appear to be different from our own. We treasure and respect life best when we set aside our differences and, within the lived experiences that we’ve been given, begin to treat one another with reverence and dignity as children of one and the same God.

Saint Joseph, defender of life, pray for us!

Faithfully yours in Christ,

Most Rev. Joseph C. Bambera, D.D., J.C.L.
Bishop of Scranton

 

SEPTEMBER 10, 2021

Statement of the Most Rev. Joseph C. Bambera, Bishop of Scranton, on the 20th Anniversary of the September 11th Terror Attacks

“As we mark the twentieth anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terror attacks, we remember and pray for all those who lost their lives, as well as their family and friends, and those individuals who continue to carry the physical and emotional burdens of that terrible day.

“Over the last two decades, the people of our great nation have shared so many feelings – ranging from anger and shock – to loss and pain – to a determination to never forget. On this somber anniversary, we must continue to honor the selflessness of our first responders – including our brave firefighters, police, emergency workers and port authority personnel — as well as the heroism of ordinary citizens who were willing to sacrifice their own lives for others.

“In the immediate aftermath of that terrible day, our faith lifted us up and sustained us. Our nation turned to God in prayer and in faith with a new intensity. Let us continue to turn to God as our source of strength, comfort and peace in challenging times.

“In the words that Pope Francis and Pope Benedict XVI both used while visiting Ground Zero,

‘O Lord, comfort and console us, strengthen us in hope, and give us the wisdom and courage to work tirelessly for a world where true peace and love reign among nations and in the hearts of all.’”

 

Previous Letters

 

Bishop Bambera’s Letter to the Faithful regarding Delta Variant August 6, 2021

Dispensation of Mass Obligation to End August 15 in Diocese of Scranton July 15, 2021

Bishop Bambera’s Letter to the faithful, welcoming them back to Mass May 27, 2021

Statement of the Most Reverend Joseph C. Bambera on Verdict in Trial of Derek Chauvin April 20, 2021

Bishop Bambera’s 2021 Easter Message April 1, 2021

Bishop Joseph C. Bambera’s Letter to the Jewish Community for Passover March 26, 2021

Statement of Bishop Joseph C. Bambera Regarding COVID-19 Vaccines

Bishop Bambera’s 2021 Lenten Message March 4, 2021

Bishop Bambera’s Statement on the appointment of Rev. Joseph G. Marina, S.J., Ph.D., as President of The University of Scranton

Bishop Bambera’s Statement on the Inauguration of President Joseph R. Biden, Jr. January 20, 2021

March for Life 2021 Letter January 13, 2021

Bishop’s Statement on appointment of Rev. Thomas P. Looney as President of King’s College January 9, 2021

Bishop Bambera’s Statement on Appointment of Larry J. Kulick as Bishop-elect of Greensburg December 18, 2020

Statement Of Bishop Bambera On McCarrick Report November 16, 2020

World Mission Sunday October 15, 2021

Respect Life Sunday October 4, 2020

A VOTE FOR LIFE: A message from the Most Rev. Joseph C. Bambera September 17. 2020

Bishop Joseph C. Bambera’s Reflection on George Floyd’s Death June 5, 2020

Planning for the Future: What to Expect When Public Masses Resume

Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord March 25, 2020

Diocese of Scranton Coronavirus Update March 16, 2020

Statement of Bishop Joseph Bambera on Current Immigration Situation July 18, 2019

Bishop Bambera’s Statement on USCCB’s New Polices on Child Protection June 27, 2019

Bishop’s Statement on Shooting at Congregation Chabad Synagogue April 29, 2019

Bishop Bambera’s 2019 Easter Message