Dear sisters and brothers in Christ,
The new year begins with great uncertainty. In addition to the chronic problems facing the world and the great injustices that we experience daily, which sometimes do not even seem to scandalize us anymore, because we have been anesthetized by the throwaway culture and the superficiality surrounding us, especially in mass media and social networks; we are facing difficulties that are proper to our times.
Yet, we Christians do not lose hope. It is not about having an optimistic outlook or escaping from reality. Our faith in Christ, true God to whom belong time and eternity, risen from the dead, present in our midst, dispels the darkness of sin and death. That is why even in the face of any dark clouds in the horizon we are not gloomy and remain confident and unmoved in our efforts to cooperate with the progress of the Kingdom of God in our midst. We may experience difficulties and even apparent defeat as we strive to build the civilization of truth and love, yet we know that final victory belongs to the Lord.
We experience great sadness and indignation, for example when we witness the way in which the heirs and imitators of Herod and those who promote the culture of death, pounce on my country of my birth. In the face of temptations to despair and cynicism we must always remember that Herod’s power is ephemeral and commit ourselves to build a world where every person is welcomed, and their incomparable dignity is upheld. The encounter with grace transforms persons. The victory of Christ is permanent.
Pope Francis reminds us in his message for World Day of Peace that “Jesus’ life and ministry represent the supreme revelation of the Father’s love for humanity. In the synagogue at Nazareth, Jesus showed himself to be the one consecrated by the Lord and “sent to preach good news to the poor, to proclaim release to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed”. These messianic actions, associated with the Jubilee year, bear eloquent witness to the mission he received from the Father. In his compassion, Christ drew near to the sick in body and spirit, and brought them healing; he pardoned sinners and gave them new life. Jesus is the Good Shepherd who cares for his sheep. He is the Good Samaritan who stoops to help the injured man, binds his wounds and cares for him.
At the culmination of his mission, Jesus gave the ultimate proof of his care for us by offering himself on the cross to set us free from the slavery of sin and death. By the sacrificial gift of his life, he opened for us the path of love. To each of us he says, “Follow me; go and do likewise.”
The spiritual and corporal works of mercy were at the heart of charity as practiced by the early Church. The first generation of Christians shared what they had, so that no one among them would be in need. They strove to make their community a welcoming home, concerned for every human need and ready to care for those most in need. It became customary to make voluntary offerings in order to feed the poor, bury the dead and care for orphans, the elderly and victims of disasters like shipwrecks. In later times, when the generosity of Christians had lost its initial fervor, some Fathers of the Church insisted that property was meant by God for the common good. For Saint Ambrose, “nature poured out all things for the common use of all… and thus, produced a common right for all, but greed has made it a right for only a few”. After the persecutions of the first centuries, the Church used her newfound freedom to inspire society and its culture. “The needs of the times called forth new efforts in the service of Christian charity. History records innumerable examples of practical works of mercy… The Church’s work among the poor was to a great extent highly organized. There arose many institutions for the relief of every human need: hospitals, poor houses, orphanages, foundling homes, shelters for travelers …”
“The very concept of the person, which originated and developed in Christianity, fosters the pursuit of a fully human development. Person always signifies relationship, not individualism; it affirms inclusion, not exclusion, unique and inviolable dignity, not exploitation”. Each human person is an end in himself or herself, and never simply a means to be valued only for his or her usefulness. Persons are created to live together in families, communities and societies, where all are equal in dignity. Human rights derive from this dignity, as do human duties, like the responsibility to welcome and assist the poor, the sick, the excluded, every one of our “neighbors, near or far in space and time” …
Solidarity concretely expresses our love for others, not as a vague sentiment but as a “firm and persevering determination to commit oneself to the common good; that is to say to the good of all and of each individual, because we are all really responsible for all”. Solidarity helps us to regard others – whether as individuals or, more broadly, as peoples or nations – as more than mere statistics, or as a means to be used and then discarded once no longer useful, but as our neighbors, companions on our journey, called like ourselves to partake of the banquet of life to which all are equally invited by God…
The culture of care thus calls for a common, supportive and inclusive commitment to protecting and promoting the dignity and good of all, a willingness to show care and compassion, to work for reconciliation and healing, and to advance mutual respect and acceptance. As such, it represents a privileged path to peace. “In many parts of the world, there is a need for paths of peace to heal open wounds. There is also a need for peacemakers, men and women prepared to work boldly and creatively to initiate processes of healing and renewed encounter”.
At a time like this, when the barque of humanity, tossed by the storm of the current crisis, struggles to advance towards a calmer and more serene horizon, the “rudder” of human dignity and the “compass” of fundamental social principles can enable us together to steer a sure course. As Christians, we should always look to Our Lady, Star of the Sea and Mother of Hope. May we work together to advance towards a new horizon of love and peace, of fraternity and solidarity, of mutual support and acceptance. May we never yield to the temptation to disregard others, especially those in greatest need, and to look the other way; instead, may we strive daily, in concrete and practical ways, “to form a community composed of brothers and sisters who accept and care for one another”.”
Fr. Roberto M. Cid