From the Regional Minister - December 2018

Dear brothers and sisters, may the Lord fill you with peace!

It is that time of year when I should be writing about peace on earth and good will to men. Come to think of it, I am going to write about good will to men…or the lack of it.  The last few things I have written have been on this topic but I am not getting through to the ones who need to embrace it.  Frankly, I’m at a loss as to what to say now that will make a difference.  I might be at a loss, so I’m turning this over to the Holy Spirit.

Our Franciscan charism includes following the footsteps of St. Francis as they lead to Christ.  St. Francis never made snide remarks about people not learning English or started a sentence with the words “those people”. Our Lord chose to be born poor, to live a humble life. At a very tender age, he fled death threats and took refuge in a foreign land with his parents.  Imagine how frightened they were!  How could you face God Himself if you weren’t able to keep His son safe?  Would Joseph stand at the gates of Heaven and say, “I’m sorry, the Egyptians wouldn’t let us cross the border. After traveling in the dark of night with the demons of hell at our heels, we got to safety only to be turned back.” If that had happened, our salvation story would have a decidedly different ending.

The world’s attitude has taken a giant step backward in the last few years.  Being prejudiced, a bigot, or condemning someone else’s beliefs has become a treasured virtue to wear proudly and to be taken out and used at every and all opportunities. But, do you remember that little phrase we live by….we are in this world but not of this world. That is what sets us apart. Our eyes, our hearts, our feet and our actions should all point to Our Lord.

There is a beautiful prayer called the Litany of Humility by Rafael Cardinal Merry del Val (1865-1930) which ends with “That others may become holier than I, provided that I may become as holy as I should…”  A beautiful sentiment to embrace and make our own.

In February of 2015, in Pope Francis’ address to the Cardinals, he wrote “The Gospel of the Marginalized is Where our Credibility is Found and Revealed.”  There is a lot to chew on just in that title!  The pope highlighted the fact that “for Jesus, what matters above all is reaching out to save those far off, healing the wounds of the sick, restoring everyone to God’s family! And this is scandalous to some people!”  In fact, “Jesus is not afraid of this kind of scandal!  He does not think of the closed-minded who are scandalized even by a work of healing, scandalized before any kind of openness, by any action outside of their mental and spiritual boxes, by any caress or sign of tenderness which does not fit into their usual thinking and their ritual purity. He wanted to reinstate the outcast, to save those outside the camp “.“In healing the leper, Jesus does not harm the healthy”, Francis stated. “Rather, he frees them from fear. He does not endanger them, but gives them a brother. He does not devalue the law but instead values those for whom God gave the law.”

I sat in awe yesterday as three new souls made their profession to our way of life.  This is what I want.  This is what I want.  Those words ringing out in the church brought joy and smiles to the Franciscan brothers and sisters who were witnessing their commitment. There is hope for all of us in each new Profession. May all those coming into our Order keep us on the path we subscribed to on our day of Profession. I’m also seeing a slow turn to embracing JPIC and actively stretching out God’s hand to those who need it.  Praise God, may it continue! God cannot be present to those He holds dear if we are not willing to be His instrument.  However we cannot be employed by God while harboring hatred and prejudice in our hearts.

As a Christmas gift to yourself and those around you, take a long hard look at your own behavior.  Who is your leper?  You might just find out it is you.

May you take a step closer to the manger this Christmas and embrace the family gathered there who are not your race, speak your language and have virtually no place to call home.

Praying for your Blessed Christmas Season,


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