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For whom do the bells toll?



Christmas Message 2010 of Br. Superior General

16/12/2010: General House

In these days as we celebrate the birth of Jesus, it seems to me important to ask ourselves about the meaning of this feast. Saint Athanasius of Alexandria, a 4th century Father of the Eastern Church, helps us when he boldly affirms that “the Word of God became man that we might become God”. Saint Athanasius transmits to us a Christian vision of God, but also a specific way of seeing the human person. God became man so that man might become God. What a sublime dignity for the human person, called to such an exalted vocation! We recognize ourselves as pilgrims on the way to God, together with all the men and women of the planet. We are brothers and sisters, sharing not only our common humanity, but also our future. When we meditate on the marvellous dignity of the human person, however, we are immediately reminded of the reality of our societies. It is difficult to talk about dignity when 1,400 million people have to live on less than one dollar per day. Or when people’s rights are being continually violated. Or when violence drags down innocent people in its spiral of hate… As believers in Jesus Christ, we feel ourselves not only challenged, but compromised in the face of another’s suffering. As John Donne, the 16th century English poet, noted: “No man is an island; …any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind. And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee”. The message of Christmas is that there is a place for hope, despite all the signs to the contrary. The data available to us on the social situation overwhelms us, but a deeper look opens us to hope. On all sides, signs of universal brotherhood can be seen sprouting: individual persons, often enough in an anonymous way, who are committed to making it possible for others not only to recognize but also to enjoy their dignity as sons and daughters of God. FMSEven in the midst of the harshest and most terrible situations, there is room for hope. Etty Hillesum, a young Dutch Jewish woman, a year before being deported to an extermination camp and execution, wrote in her diary: “Dear God, these are anxious times. Tonight, for the first time, I lay in the dark, with burning eyes, as scene after scene of human suffering passed before me. I shall promise you one thing, God, just one very small thing: I shall never burden my today with cares about my tomorrow… I shall try to help you, God, to stop my strength ebbing away, though I cannot vouch for it in advance. But one thing is becoming increasingly clear to me: that you cannot help us, but we must help you to help ourselves”. Etty’s testimony reminds us of the thousands of people who, on the five continents, have decided to “help God”, conscious that the bells are tolling for them. I know that there are many ‘Marists of Champagnat’ who are doing this day after day, full of hope and joy. I was able to see for myself a few months ago, during my visit to Haiti, where they are struggling against all kinds of adversity to secure a better future for the children and young people of this marvellous country. I see it too in what is being done in Ciudad Juárez, a Mexican city on the border with the United States, considered one of the most violent cities in the world. Our brothers and sisters there are not only carrying out magnificent educational work, but also setting up bridges of reconciliation between rival gangs. These are only two examples among the many that could be mentioned. Thank you, Marists of Champagnat, for your indomitable commitment to the dignity of the human person. More than a year ago, the members of the 21st General Chapter invited us to go in haste, with Mary, to a new land. And, in the form of a prayer, they said to her: “Your openness, faith and spontaneity touch our hearts to be open in our turn to the Spirit, the gift of your Son Jesus”. Will we continue to let ourselves be challenged by Mary of the visitation during the coming year? Will we be capable of going fearlessly towards new lands?With the response of our lives, let us go to “help God” to take flesh and to build the Kingdom. And let us strive to ensure that the Nativity is not limited to a single day, and that it is a truly happy one. Happy Christmas._______________Br. Emili Turú, Superior General

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