Circular Letter of the Prior General
“The Lord comforts his people” (Is 52,9)
To all the Members of the Hospitaller Family of StJohn of God
My Dear Brothers, Co-workers, Volunteers and Friends,
With Christmas almost upon us, I extend my very best wishes of goodhealth and peace to all of you, as we celebrate the Feast on which God becameMan in order to shed light on the shadows in our world, comfort the weak, andrestore the dignity of all men and women. This is the best possible news! HappyChristmas! In the lesson we read at the Christmas Day Mass, the Prophet Isaiah tellsus, “Break out together in song, O ruinsof Jerusalem! For the Lord comforts his people, he redeems Jerusalem”. Thisis a song of joy and hope for all, for the whole people of Israel, who had beenexiled, humiliated and reduced almost to nothing, but who felt that God had notabandoned them. Quite the opposite! He was by their side, comforting them,accompanying them, and redeeming them. It is this experience of the Children ofIsrael that enables us to explain Christmas, the mystery of God’s incarnation, Histaking of human flesh in the Baby born in the stable in Bethlehem and cradled ina manger. Mary, His Mother, gave birth to Him there because they were unable tofind hospitality anywhere else. His birth, which filled His parents with joy,is also the great news for today’s world. Our Lord is born as the God-Child andis coming to comfort, accompany, redeem and give life to His people, to thewhole of humanity. Let us welcome Him with jubilation!
The Lord comforts his people! This is a beautiful way of expressingGod’s love for all men and women. It is a wonderful way of explaining themission of Jesus Christ, the Child of Bethlehem. He did not perform His missiononly though words and ideas of course, but through deeds based on his ownpersonal experience. He was not born in a palace, and not even house to call ahome. The Evangelist Saint Luke tells us, “Andshe gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laidhim in a manger”. No differently fromso many children born today in everypart of the world, many of them also born in exile because of poverty, destitution,sickness, war and the interests of the world’s powerful. For all of them, butespecially for them, for the children continuing to be born under theseconditions and those living beset allmanner of sufferings and, being exploited, marginalised and excluded forwhatever reason, God became Man in Jesus Christ to comfort them, recognisingtheir dignity, and defending their rights which are being vilely troddenunderfoot by the selfishness of so many other people, who could easily be anyone of us if we are not careful. For them, the Child born in Bethlehem is theirComforter, Defender, Light and Life.
We are delighted to see how our Order is continuing to expand its facilitiesand social services devoted to caring for and comforting marginalised andhomeless people and refugees, living on the sidelines of society, and excludedfrom it. All of them are the living expression of Christmas and manifest thehumanity of God through hospitality. I am thinking today of the London-basedOlallo Centre which has just celebrated its tenth birthday, the “ComidaSolidaria Compartida” programme run by our Centres in Venezuela, and therefugees’ Centres that we have opened in Spain and Italy and elsewhere.
Our Lord was also born at Christmas for all those who are suffering fromany kind of sickness, and from loneliness, and for victims of war and abuse ofall kinds. Faithful to His mission, Jesus Christ always found time for them. Hehealed many of them, and listened to and comforted all of them. To all, Heoffered light and hope. Sadly, all these situations and many others still persistin our world today, and Christmas continues to bring light and comfort to allthose who are suffering. That is the mission entrusted to our Order: to offercomfort and hope to those who suffer through the gift of Hospitality accordingto the spirit of St John of God. I would like to thank all the members of the HospitallerFamily of St John of God for giving the best of themselves every single day toserve and comfort the sick, the poor and the needy wherever in the world theOrder is present.
It is Christmas! A time of light and comfort which will make our worldnew again. For our Order, this year new is also the gateway which will take usto the celebration of the 69th General Chapter, under the title “Shaping the Future of Hospitality”. Thiswill be a valuable opportunity for us to renew the life of the Order and toproject the mission that the Lord and the Church have committed to us into thefuture, and the mission of Hospitality, to be able to continue bringing comfortand hope to the sick, the poor and the needy in every age and in every place, forwhom the Child of Bethlehem was born at Christmas. I ask you all to pray forthe General Chapter, that it may be a time of discernment and listening to theHoly Spirit, which will help us to remain faithful to our Lord and to thespirit of our Founder.
I wish you all – Brothers, Co-workers, Volunteers, Benefactors andfriends of the Order, the sick and all the guests in our Centres – a very HappyChristmas and a prosperous New Year 2019, and I extend these sincere goodwishes to all your loved ones. And to all the Brothers and Co-workers who willbe on duty, serving the guests in our Centres, particularly on Christmas Day, pleaseaccept my sincere thanks and gratitude, for over the coming days you will bethe visible face of the Hospitality of St John of God and of the comfort whichthe birth of the Son of God will bring to all.
Speaking personally, and on behalf of all the Brothers and Co-workers ofthe Hospitaller Family of St John of God at the General Curia, I wish you all avery happy Christmas full of peace and hope!
Brother Jesús Etayo
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