Circular Letter of the Prior General
“The Lord comforts his people” (Is 52,9)
To all the Members of the Hospitaller Family of St John of God
My Dear Brothers, Co-workers, Volunteers and Friends,
With Christmas almost upon us, I extend my very best wishes of good health and peace to all of you, as we celebrate the Feast on which God became Man in order to shed light on the shadows in our world, comfort the weak, and restore the dignity of all men and women. This is the best possible news! Happy Christmas! In the lesson we read at the Christmas Day Mass, the Prophet Isaiah tells us, “Break out together in song, O ruins of Jerusalem! For the Lord comforts his people, he redeems Jerusalem”. This is a song of joy and hope for all, for the whole people of Israel, who had been exiled, humiliated and reduced almost to nothing, but who felt that God had not abandoned them. Quite the opposite! He was by their side, comforting them, accompanying them, and redeeming them. It is this experience of the Children of Israel that enables us to explain Christmas, the mystery of God’s incarnation, His taking of human flesh in the Baby born in the stable in Bethlehem and cradled in a manger. Mary, His Mother, gave birth to Him there because they were unable to find 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 and is coming to comfort, accompany, redeem and give life to His people, to the whole of humanity. Let us welcome Him with jubilation!
The Lord comforts his people! This is a beautiful way of expressing God’s love for all men and women. It is a wonderful way of explaining the mission of Jesus Christ, the Child of Bethlehem. He did not perform His mission only though words and ideas of course, but through deeds based on his own personal experience. He was not born in a palace, and not even house to call a home. The Evangelist Saint Luke tells us, “And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger”. No differently from so many children born today in every part 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, but especially for them, for the children continuing to be born under these conditions and those living beset all manner of sufferings and, being exploited, marginalised and excluded for whatever reason, God became Man in Jesus Christ to comfort them, recognising their dignity, and defending their rights which are being vilely trodden underfoot by the selfishness of so many other people, who could easily be any one of us if we are not careful. For them, the Child born in Bethlehem is their Comforter, Defender, Light and Life.
We are delighted to see how our Order is continuing to expand its facilities and social services devoted to caring for and comforting marginalised and homeless people and refugees, living on the sidelines of society, and excluded from it. All of them are the living expression of Christmas and manifest the humanity of God through hospitality. I am thinking today of the London-based Olallo Centre which has just celebrated its tenth birthday, the “Comida Solidaria Compartida” programme run by our Centres in Venezuela, and the refugees’ Centres that we have opened in Spain and Italy and elsewhere.
Our Lord was also born at Christmas for all those who are suffering from any kind of sickness, and from loneliness, and for victims of war and abuse of all kinds. Faithful to His mission, Jesus Christ always found time for them. He healed many of them, and listened to and comforted all of them. To all, He offered light and hope. Sadly, all these situations and many others still persist in our world today, and Christmas continues to bring light and comfort to all those who are suffering. That is the mission entrusted to our Order: to offer comfort and hope to those who suffer through the gift of Hospitality according to the spirit of St John of God. I would like to thank all the members of the Hospitaller Family of St John of God for giving the best of themselves every single day to serve and comfort the sick, the poor and the needy wherever in the world the Order is present.
It is Christmas! A time of light and comfort which will make our world new again. For our Order, this year new is also the gateway which will take us to the celebration of the 69th General Chapter, under the title “Shaping the Future of Hospitality”. This will be a valuable opportunity for us to renew the life of the Order and to project the mission that the Lord and the Church have committed to us into the future, and the mission of Hospitality, to be able to continue bringing comfort and hope to the sick, the poor and the needy in every age and in every place, for whom the Child of Bethlehem was born at Christmas. I ask you all to pray for the General Chapter, that it may be a time of discernment and listening to the Holy Spirit, which will help us to remain faithful to our Lord and to the spirit of our Founder.
I wish you all – Brothers, Co-workers, Volunteers, Benefactors and friends of the Order, the sick and all the guests in our Centres – a very Happy Christmas and a prosperous New Year 2019, and I extend these sincere good wishes to all your loved ones. And to all the Brothers and Co-workers who will be on duty, serving the guests in our Centres, particularly on Christmas Day, please accept my sincere thanks and gratitude, for over the coming days you will be the visible face of the Hospitality of St John of God and of the comfort which the birth of the Son of God will bring to all.
Speaking personally, and on behalf of all the Brothers and Co-workers of the Hospitaller Family of St John of God at the General Curia, I wish you all a very happy Christmas full of peace and hope!
Brother Jesús Etayo