Rome, November 1, 2015
Solemnity of All Saints
Prot. N.0000 253/2015
Dear Confreres, Sisters, Lay Associates and friends,
On Sunday, November 8th, in every Redemptorist community, parish, church, and chapel throughout the world, we will celebrate the first annual Day of Prayer for the Promotion of the Redemptorist Missionary Vocation.
I have been delighted and encouraged to hear from so many communities about your plans to mark this day with events for youth and young adults, hours of prayer and adoration, special prayers during the Sunday liturgies, audio visual presentations of our Missionary Vocation, and so many other creative ideas. With you, I pray that all these efforts to share the joy of our Redemptorist Missionary Vocation will bear fruit, attracting men and women to give their lives for plentiful redemption as Brothers, Priests, Sisters, Lay Associates and Lay Missionaries of the Most Holy Redeemer.
The liturgical readings for this Sunday, November 8th, invite us to reflect on what it means to give our lives for others. In the first reading and the gospel, we are presented with the witness of two widows who give not from their abundance, but from their poverty. They give all that they have to live on. And in the second reading, we encounter Jesus, the Redeemer, who offers himself – who sacrifices his very self – so that we might have life.
These readings from the Scriptures remind us of our Congregational theme (2003-2009): “Giving our lives for plentiful redemption”. The XXIII General Chapter wrote to us: “The overriding reason for our choice of this theme is faith in Jesus our Redeemer. We have been so captivated by the call of God that only by giving our lives for plentiful redemption can we respond to God’s love for us” (Message 3). This year, it seems to me that the Sunday readings invite us to ponder what it means for us to ‘give our lives for plentiful redemption’ today.
This cannot remain an abstract ideal. That is a real danger for Christians today. In a world which is so wounded by violence, poverty, and hatred, we must be concrete in living our missionary vocation. Pope Francis puts it this way: “Sometimes we are tempted to be that kind of Christian who keeps the Lord’s wounds at arm’s length. Yet Jesus wants us to touch human misery, to touch the suffering flesh of others … and enter into the reality of other people’s lives and know the power of tenderness. Whenever we do so, our lives become wonderfully complicated and we experience intensely what it is to be a people, to be part of a people” (Evangelii gaudium 270).
The Lord’s wounds are all around us. We can touch the suffering flesh of others in the refugees and migrants fleeing poverty, violence and persecution. We see human misery in the faces of the poor, the sick, the unemployed and homeless, and all those who have lost hope. We experience the presence of Jesus in the least of our brothers and sisters, in aboriginal peoples whose rights have been denied, in women and children caught up in human trafficking.
But this is not the whole story. We also know the tenderness of God in the love and care experienced in so many families. We can touch the closeness of God in the generosity of so many women and men who reach out to care for those in need. We experience the friendship of God in the joy of genuine community at the service of others, and in the missionary fidelity of our elders. Like the two widows in the Sunday liturgy, we know what it means to give our lives for plentiful redemption. We have witnessed the difference that this can make.
As we celebrate this Congregation-wide Day of Prayer for the Promotion of the Redemptorist Missionary Vocation, I pray that we might rediscover and appreciate more profoundly what it means to give our lives for plentiful redemption today – as individuals and as communities. May our joy as missionary-disciples following in the footsteps of the Redeemer attract many to share this mission to proclaim the Gospel ever anew!
May Mary, Mother of Perpetual Help, together with St. Alphonsus, and all our Redemptorist saints and martyrs, inspire and accompany us in this missionary vocation.
Your brother in the Redeemer,
Michael Brehl, C.Ss.R.