" That chosen 'Ark' of salvation, free from the common shipwreck of sin. "
St. Alphonsus Liguori
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A CHRISTMAS MESSAGE FROM OUR SUPERIOR GENERAL

MICHAEL BREHL, C.Ss.R.

 

maryjosephjesus

 

ROME, Christmas 2010

 

Dear Confreres, Sisters, Associates and Friends,

Advent, the great season of longing and hope, is almost over. We are approaching the final days of preparation for the Feast of Christmas. For the past four weeks, the Scripture readings we have proclaimed in the liturgy have spoken to us of God’s vision for a world renewed. The desert blooms, the poor are fed in body and spirit, the blind see and the lame walk. We hear of light shining in the darkness, swords beaten into ploughs, and spears become tools for the harvest.

More than this, God dreams of a world in which no one prepares for war, but all are disarmed. God longs for a world in which people sit at table together and every tear is wiped away. God promises a world in which justice reigns and love unites people of every race, language, creed and way of life. The lion and the lamb will lie down together, with a little child to lead them. God speaks to the world in images and language and hope that moves the human heart.

Christmas celebrates the Incarnation, Emmanuel, “God-with-us”. God’s Word becomes flesh, becomes human. As Pope Benedict XVI reminds us in Verbum Domini: “The Word was ‘abbreviated’...the eternal word became small – small enough to fit into a manger. He became a child, so that the word could be grasped by us. Now the word is not simply audible; not only does it have a voice, now the word has a face, one which we can see: that of Jesus of Nazareth” (n. 12). These words of the Holy Father echo the meditations of St. Alphonsus on the mystery that we celebrate at Christmas.

 

When we contemplate the child of Bethlehem, we are invited to see the world as God sees the world, and to hope that God’s dream, longing and promise will be fulfilled. The birth of this child, like the birth of every child, is a powerful sign that God continues to hope, to dream, and to keep his promise of a world made new.

 

When we celebrate the birth of the child of Bethlehem, we begin to recognize that in Jesus, God experiences the world as we do. Jesus experienced hunger and cold, joy and family, pain and sorrow, success and failure. Jesus is moved with compassion for the abandoned and the poor because he has entered into their human experience in his own flesh. Compassion demands closeness. As Emmanuel, “God-with-us”, Jesus truly is the compassion of God made flesh.

The Incarnation we celebrate at Christmas is not just that the Word became flesh in the womb of Mary and entered human history in the person of Jesus Christ. We celebrate that this same Word of God becomes flesh today – in us and in the community. The Incarnate Word continues to act in human history here and now. By becoming our brother, Jesus bound us more intimately to the family of God – and so to one another. As the Word continues to take flesh in us, we recognize one another as brothers and sisters. This recognition changes everything!

For St. Alphonsus, it was this recognition that the abandoned and the poor are his brothers and sisters, which led to his dramatic conversion. Seeing the shepherds and goatherds in the hills above Scala, he was moved with compassion. Alphonsus responded, left Naples, and gave his life to bring plentiful redemption to the abandoned poor whom he embraced as sisters and brothers.

The mystery of Christmas teaches us that compassion is not pity that looks down on those in need from a position of strength and superiority. Rather, compassion is the recognition of our mutual vulnerability that responds through love in concrete situations. God responds through the Incarnation: Jesus embraces our humanity and mutual vulnerability and brings Good News to the poor. I believe that this is why devotion to the Infant Jesus was so important for Alphonsus. In the Babe of Bethlehem, he recognized the vulnerability of God who shares our humanity in order to redeem us. Following Jesus, and embracing our shared vulnerability with him, we are also called “to evangelize and be evangelized by the poor”. As Constitution 19 reminds us, “whoever follows Christ, the perfect human being, becomes more human”. In this spirit, we will seek and find new ways to bring Good News to the abandoned and the poor.

Every Christmas, God invites us to dream, to hope, and to see the world through the eyes of the Redeemer. Through this celebration of Christmas, may God renew our hope and our hearts, and fill us with joy so that we may preach the Gospel ever anew!

 

Wishing you a Joyful Christmas and every blessing in the New Year,

 

Michael Brehl, C.Ss.R.

Superior General