Christmas Message from the Irish Spiritan Province
Christmas message from the Irish Spiritan Province
Many issues have dominated recent news headlines. These include devastating conflicts in Syria, Mosul and Yemen; the closure of the ’Jungle’ camp in Calais; Brexit and its implications; the US presidential elections; several critical issues in Ireland. The pain, injustice, confusion, changed reality and violence, suffered by others locally and worldwide, now camp on our own doorstep.
As we journey through Advent into Christmas, all of the above and more jostle for our attention. A few decades ago, we might indeed have favoured a spirituality that promoted a ‘flight from the world’; an escape that in many ways would leave us immunized from such issues. Not any more!
It is from ingredients such as the above that mission is constructed today. Alongside this changing reality, our understanding of how we mission in today’s world has also been transformed. Last October, Pope Francis, summarised well this shift in the understanding of mission when he spoke to the General Chapter of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate (OMI):
Today, every land is ‘mission land’, every dimension of the human is mission land,
which awaits the proclamation of the Gospel… the mission field seems to widen every day,
always embracing new poor, men and women of the face of Christ
who ask for help, consolation, hope in the most desperate situations of life.
Such a shift, in a real sense a journey, to engage in mission locally and in ‘mission lands’ is very much part of our Spiritan calling today. As we reflect on the original Christmas journeys, the willingness to change, having new perspectives, and undertaking new challenges are essential elements of the themes that we will prayerfully consider. Journeys taken: Joseph and his pregnant wife Mary making the difficult journey to Bethlehem and later into Egypt; the Magi’s long and sometimes perilous journey to the manger and back home; the shepherds, after an astounding revelation, made their journey also. All of these journeys demanded new understandings, new insights into faith and the world, new responses and stances … journeys not only measured in miles or kilometres but also, and probably more significantly, in human response.
All were faith-filled but difficult journeys that led to the revelation of the incarnate face of God in the manger. Luke, ending the account of how Mary engaged in the journey and in her efforts to understand and respond to its meaning, hinted at some of her challenges – “she pondered all these things in her heart” (Lk 2:19). Christmas this year is once again an invitation to make a journey in the understanding of - and responding to - our Spiritan calling in mission at home and further afield into a world and to people where complexities, pain, violence, deprivation and, above all, change are very much part of the features of each day.
May our preparation for and celebration of Christmas give us courage, direction and energy on that journey!