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Christmas Letter of the Minister General 2017

Posted on 11. Dec, 2017 by .

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God becomes human so that humans can become god

Lets go to Bethlehem to see what happened

This year the Holy Land Custody celebrated 800 years of its foundation. The Order of the Friars Minor could not ignore this event that moved it to mission. I wanted to be present, I and the Vicar general, amid the friars, because the message of the Holy Land challenges every Friar Minor today. The word of God pitched his tent among us and became the Son of Man to help human beings understand God and to help God make his dwelling among humankind according to the will of the Father. In Bethlehem God took a human face.

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Verbum abbreviatum

Saint Francis asked the Friars preachers to use few words (Rb 9,4). His reasoning is this: quia verbum abbreviatum fecit Dominus. In the past, God spoke in many times and in varied ways through the prophets. His word has reached out for centuries. Now instead God speaks through the Son, who is a brief Word. This Word becomes flesh in Jesus and sums up all revelation in itself: God is love. Guerric of Igny, a Cistercian monk, writes: “He is the abridged word, in such a way that the fulfilment of every word of salvation is found in it, for he is the Word which itself accomplishes and sums up God’s plan. We must not be surprised if the Word has summed up all the prophetic words for us, seeing that the Word wanted to ‘abbreviate the message’ and in a way make itself small.” Even for St. Francis the Friars Minor must proclaim the word of God incarnate, the Verbum abbreviatum. Shrinking God’s Word corresponds to Francis and his brothers making themselves small: the style of the Franciscan Proclamation will be that of making ourselves minors, that is, the least, as did the Verbum abbreviatum.

The Incarnation of Christ even if Adam had not sinned

Duns Scotus, a disciple of Francis, unlike many Christian thinkers of his time, defended the idea that God’s Son would have become human even if humankind had not sinned. “To think that God would renounce this work if Adam had not sinned,” Duns Scotus writes, “would be completely unreasonable! Consequently, I affirm that the fall was not the cause of the predestination of Christ, and that-even if no one, neither the angel nor human, had fallen, -in this hypothesis Christ would still have been predestined in the same way” (Reportata Parisiensia, in III Sent., d. 7, 4). For Duns Scotus, an optimistic theologian, the incarnation of the Son of God is the fulfilment of creation.  This concept changes the way we look at all creation, which God elevates to His own level. Consider the consequences of this vision regarding ecologically and the environment. It changes the way we look at the world and social relations, in a perspective that our Pope Francis calls “integral ecology”.

Born in Bethlehem, land of paradoxes

Bethlehem was the land of Ruth. She would go collect the ears dropped from the reapers in the Booz’s fields. This caught the landowner’s attention who came to like her and eventually married her, even though she was a Moab, a foreigner. Their love gave birth to Obed, who was the father of Jesse, who in turn became the father of King David. In the genealogy of King David and the son of David there is a foreigner, Rut the Moab.

The Prophet Micah had predicted that the Messiah would come out of the humble village of Bethlehem and the prophet Isaiah claimed he who would be born of a virgin (in the LXX Parthenos version) of the lineage of David and she would call him Emmanuel, “God with us.”

The prophet Samuel came to consecrate the king of Israel in Booz’s fields where Ruth gleaned, where David grazed his flock. There the shepherds of Bethlehem who spent the night in the open to guard their flock, received the joyful proclamation of the birth of Christ: “Today a Savior is born for You”.

The Emperor Augustus commanded the world with all his power, and ordered a census, while God’s Son of God was being born in fragility and weakness, like all other human beings. He was born as an anonymous child, in the poverty of a grotto in Bethlehem. The angel who brought the Good News did not appear in the palaces of the Herodium to the influential people of this world, but rather to shepherds, to those despised by the rich and powerful.

The scandal of God’s incarnation 

The prophecies had foretold and acclaimed the Messiah, precisely at his birth, as the “child on whose shoulders is power, whose name is admirable Counsellor, powerful God, Father forever, Prince of Peace.” But, instead this child appeared weak, born incognito.  In a cave, a pregnant woman birthed a child. No one noticed, none of those who counted paid attention.  Mary, the mother, after childbirth wrapped him in swaddling cloth and laid him in a manger.

A birth like many others, yet it was the birth of a person only God could give us, an individual who was the very form of God (Phil 2.6), a human being who was God’s Word made flesh. From that moment God was not only present among us, he was one of us, human in our humanity, in fellowship with every human being.

This is the mystery we celebrate at Christmas: The Most High lowered himself for us; the Eternal One became mortal, the Almighty made himself weak, the Holy One joined in solidarity with sinners, the invisible became visible. God has made himself human in Jesus, the son of Mary. This event brought into question (crisis) every relationship in which God is God and a human is human, because they were separated by transcendence. With the Christmas Birth humanity is in God and God is in humanity, and it is no longer possible to speak and think of God without speaking and thinking humanity. That child from birth to death would speak of God with his life, his words, his actions, with his body offered and handed over to evil doers.

After Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, no one insisted more on the humanity of Jesus and his incarnation than Francis of Assisi. This is an indispensable element of the Franciscan charism. After the birth of the God-human, humanity is more important than the Sabbath, the person is greater than the Law, rather than worshipping in Jerusalem, God is to be worshipped in spirit and truth.

Angels are the ministers of this revelation, first the angel who appeared to the shepherds, then the hosts of the Angels – the 70 angels of the Nations, according to Origen – who praise God and recognize His glory. They announced it to precisely to those shepherds, considered “the least” in Israel, because they did not observe the laws of purity in the wilderness. They were the first recipients of the Gospel. It was to them, the angel of the Lord announces the Good News of God’s today.

God becomes human so that humans can become god

Humans are called to be divinized, to be transfigured, to be clothed in light. To discover God’s Son in the simplicity of a newborn wrapped in swaddling cloth is a humble reality that should open our eyes.

This is our very human faith: life has manifested itself in the poverty of Bethlehem and the poor were the ones to welcome it. A word attributed to the patristic writers of the Church said: “You have seen your brother (or your sister), you have seen your God.” Because God is now seen, met, recognized, loved, adored in the man and in the woman that we meet every day. Divinization becomes possible when all Christians approach the table of the Eucharistic Bread and Bethlehem becomes for them the “House of Bread” (Hebrew etymology of Bethlehem “).

The earth has born its fruit

Christmas means that Christ wants to be born in the hearts of believers. Angelo Silesio, a mystic from the Netherlands, observed: “Even if Christ were to be born a thousand times in Bethlehem, if he is not born in you, you are lost forever.” A medieval Cistercian adds: “Christ is not yet born. He is born every time someone becomes a Christian.”

Francis of Assisi comments in his first admonition: “Every day he humbles himself (Phil 2.8), as when from the royal throne (Sap 18.15) he descended into the Virgin’s womb; daily he comes to us in humble appearances; daily he descends from the Father’s bosom (Jn 1.18; 6.38) in the hands of the priest at the altar.” Christ is born on the altar every time the priest presides over the celebration of the Eucharist.

Francis parallels the Birth of Christ (Christmas) and the Eucharist, so much so that in Greccio, where he recreates the grotto of Bethlehem, he does not want statues, but the celebration of the Eucharist on the manger, because there the Lord “comes to us in humble appearances.” Remember that, brothers and sisters, when we attend Mass on Christmas Eve, and let us recognize the coming of the Lord.

Light Shines in our darkness

Ignatius of Antioch explains to the Christians of Ephesus the symbol of the light shining in our darkness: “A star shone in the sky more bright than all the others, its splendor was indescribable and its novelty astonishing. And there was a great disturbance: what is the origin of this new star so different from the others. From this day forward all magic is dissolved, every constraint of perversity is broken, ignorance is dissipated. Satan’s ancient reign collapses because God has appeared in human form, to accomplish the new order that is eternal life.”

Today, in the globalized world in which we live, being a child of light demands great courage and sometimes we are tempted by discouragement.  But his light continues to shine, humble and silent.

Today, in the liquid world that is ours, we are invited to rediscover the rock of God Word, incarnated in Jesus. He offers us a firm and secure support that strengthens us and brings peace to our lives.

Arabic Spring had lit a bit of hope in the east, a hope that all too quickly disappointed. Christmas that speaks to us of a light that rises, of a star shining in the sky, allows us to begin to hope once again. Christmas birth, in a consumer society, speaks to us of the Word that is made minor, which chooses for itself moderation and lowliness, and reminds us that happiness is not in owning or increasing, but in decreasing oneself to serve our sisters and brothers. Christ’s birth revives Christian Hope and removes our fear of the future.

Leo the Great wrote: “We give thanks to God the Father through his Son in the Holy Spirit, because in his mercy God has had mercy on us, and while we were dead in our sins, God revived us with Christ so that we might be new creatures in him, new works of his hands”

Merry Christmas. May the Virgin Mary’s Son fill your hearts with joy.

 

Rome, 29 November 2017
Solemnity of All Franciscan Saints

Br. Michael A. Perry, OFM
General Minister and Servant

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Advent 2017 Reflection

Posted on 11. Dec, 2017 by .

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FRANCISCANS INTERNATIONAL
ADVENT 2017 REFLECTION

Reflections on Human Rights and Women
ENGLISH
Franciscans International’s Advent 2017 Reflection focuses on the four women mentioned in the genealogy of Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew. These four women will serve as an inspiration to identify and reflect on contemporary human rights issues that disproportionately affect women today.
ESPAÑOL
La Reflexión de Adviento 2017 de Franciscans International se centra en las cuatro mujeres mencionadas en la genealogía de Jesús en el Evangelio de Mateo. Estas cuatro mujeres servirán de inspiración para identificar y reflexionar sobre temas contemporáneos de derechos humanos que afectan de modo desproporcionado a las mujeres hoy.

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Update: Build peace by welcoming migrants, refugees, pope says in message

Posted on 11. Dec, 2017 by .

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Taken from catholicnews.com –

Exploiting a fear of migrants and refugees for political gain increases the possibility of violence and discrimination and does nothing to build a culture of peace, Pope Francis said in his message for World Peace Day 2018.

“Those who, for what may be political reasons, foment fear of migrants instead of building peace are sowing violence, racial discrimination and xenophobia, which are matters of great concern for all those concerned for the safety of every human being,” the pope said in the message, which was released by the Vatican Nov. 24.

The pope chose “Migrants and refugees: Men and women in search of peace” as the theme for the celebration Jan. 1, 2018. The message is delivered by Vatican nuncios to heads of state and government around the world.

Presenting the message to the media, Father Bruno Marie Duffe, secretary of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, said, “It is clear peace begins with saving lives and taking care of people who are trying to escape wars, discrimination, persecution, poverty and climate disasters.”

As work continues on the U.N. Global Compact on Refugees and the Global Compact on Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration, Pope Francis urged the international community not to surrender “to cynicism and to the globalization of indifference.”

Countries at the U.N. General Assembly voted in September 2016 to develop the compacts; after meetings around the world, a draft of each compact is scheduled to be released in February and a final vote is scheduled for September 2018.

In his message, which was signed Nov. 13, the feast of St. Frances Cabrini, patron of migrants, Pope Francis said thinking about peace naturally meant thinking about “those who most keenly suffer its absence.”

International organizations estimate there are some 250 million international migrants around the globe and that about 22.5 million of them are refugees, who have fled war, violence or persecution.

In their search for a place where they can live in peace, the pope said, many are “willing to risk their lives on a journey that is often long and perilous, to endure hardships and suffering, and to encounter fences and walls built to keep them far from their goal.”

Pope Francis acknowledged the right and obligation of countries to protect their borders and wisely allocate their resources, including those dedicated to resettling migrants and refugees. But the pope also insisted that basic human decency requires sheltering those whose dignity is at risk.

Jesuit Father Michael Czerny, undersecretary of the Migrants and Refugee Section of the Vatican Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, told reporters the “prudence” Pope Francis is calling for involves discernment and wise direction. He compared it to the responsibility parents exercise in running a household.

“Prudent parents respond and allocate resources wisely,” he told reporters. “If resources are inadequate, they adjust goals. They obviously do not expel members who seem overly needy. What kind of family would do that? And yet that is what the human family sometimes seems to do to asylum seekers and refugees.”

In the message, the pope also said that welcoming migrants and refugees actually contributes to peace and benefits host countries.

Migrants and refugees “do not arrive empty-handed. They bring their courage, skills, energy and aspirations, as well as the treasures of their own cultures; and in this way, they enrich the lives of the nations that receive them,” he said.

When people in need are welcomed and valued, “seeds of peace” begin to sprout, the pope said. “Our cities, often divided and polarized by conflicts regarding the presence of migrants and refugees, will thus turn into workshops of peace.”

As he said in a message released earlier for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees 2018, coordinated plans for “welcoming, protecting, promoting and integrating” newcomers are essential for helping asylum seekers, refugees, migrants and victims of human trafficking find the peace they seek.

“‘Welcoming’ calls for expanding legal pathways for entry and no longer pushing migrants and displaced people toward countries where they face persecution and violence. It also demands balancing our concerns about national security with concern for fundamental human rights,” Pope Francis said in the peace day message.

Countries have a moral obligation as well as a legal obligation under international law to protect those fleeing from real danger, he said. And no one should forget the very high and very real risk of exploitation faced by migrating women and children.

Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, a Vatican diplomat, told reporters that to reach the goal of peaceful coexistence “relations among nations must change and be based on: solidarity; dialogue instead of force, which explodes in conflict; policies of collaboration; and the participation of everyone in the benefits of technology, access to markets” and other factors that allow them to live a dignified life.

“Peace flourishes where there is less inequality and injustice,” the archbishop said. “And when there is less inequality and injustice, there is also less migration and people can exercise their right of not having to migrate.”

Pope Francis prayed that the global compacts would be “inspired by compassion, foresight and courage, so as to take advantage of every opportunity to advance the peace-building process. Only in this way can the realism required of international politics avoid surrendering to cynicism and to the globalization of indifference.”

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Latest Keystone victory in Nebraska faces multitude of challenges

Posted on 11. Dec, 2017 by .

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From franciscanction.org:

The Nebraska Public Service Commission this week approved the Keystone XL Pipeline project, with an order that an alternate route must be used. This alternate route could result in further delays and lawsuits which could stop Keystone XL from ever being utilized and fully built. This comes just days after a section of its sister pipeline in South Dakota leaked over 200,000 barrels of oil causing concerns of seepage into the aquifer and proving that once again oil pipelines put our health and safety at risk, as well as the future of our planet.

Since its inception, there have been major concerns over the structural integrity of these pipelines. Drinking water sources have been contaminated for more than five years from past spills as pipeline accidents have increased by 60 percent nationwide since 2009.

The Trump administration has been arbitrarily rejecting a years-long decision-making regulatory process, relying instead on outdated environmental and health review information to keep campaign promises.

“These pipelines should never have been built; we will continue to oppose their use,” said Patrick Carolan, Executive Director of the Franciscan Action Network. He also states that “as a global leader, we should instead be investing in green, sustainable energy that creates good paying jobs and an infrastructure that will last 50-100 years.”

Pope Francis states in his encyclical on the environment, Laudato Si, that “concern for the environment thus needs to be joined to a sincere love for our fellow human beings and an unwavering commitment to resolving the problems of society (#91).” Based on these decisions, the Trump administration is not demonstrating any concern for the environment or for society as a whole.

The Franciscan Action Network will continue to pray for this administration to have a change of heart and we will fight for the betterment of all of God’s creation.

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51st World Day of Peace 2018

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51st World Day of Peace 2018 Migrants and Refugees

Men and Women in search of peace

Click for the two versions of this message from Pope Francis: English  – Spanish

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