CRA PRESIDENT’S CHRISTMAS MESSAGE: Called to become 'Emmanuel' wherever humanity is diminished

Monica Cavanagh RSJ President, Catholic Religious Australia

Monica Cavanagh RSJ
President, Catholic Religious Australia

A shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse and from his roots a bud shall blossom” (Isaiah 11:1).

Where in my lived experience am I yearning for the sprout of hope to be born and nurtured?

In the beginning God’s spirit breathed life into the cosmos.  At the appointed time ‘God’s spirit stirred and caused something deeply new in the world.  The newness that God wrought at Christmas was sending into the world this Jesus who is beyond imagination, who brought healing and grace everywhere he went, who forgave and transformed and called people out beyond themselves to a newness they could not have imagined’. (Walter Brueggemann) This moment of the Incarnation has shaped our world ever since.

In the Christmas story, the message of hope emerges among the least significant people and places.  The shepherds in the fields would never have imagined that they would be the first to whom the good news is revealed and that they would be remembered forever in human history. The little town of Bethlehem was to become the place where the newness of God would break forth.

As missionary disciples we Religious women and men know that the celebration of Christmas challenges us to continue the work of Christmas beyond this day of celebration. Our daily presence is to become a source of healing the broken, feeding the hungry, releasing the prisoner and finding the lost.  This calls us to those places and people where humanity is diminished, it calls us to become ‘Emmanuel’.

Oscar Romero, whose canonisation we celebrated this year, challenges us to find Christ living in and among those suffering in our world.  He reminds us, ‘We must not seek the child Jesus in the pretty figures of our Christmas cribs. We must seek him among the undernourished children who have gone to bed at night with nothing to eat, among the poor newsboys who will sleep covered with newspapers in a doorway’.  Where are you being challenged to find Christ this Christmas?

As we move towards the end of another year here at CRA, we are mindful of the women and men Religious who have gone before us into the great mystery of life eternal.  As John Phillip Newell reflects ‘Christmas is a time to remember all those through whom the sacred river of life has flowed to us.   We honour their preciousness, their sacredness, and the deep wellsprings of life and healing that are in them for the world’.  This year has seen the death of some significant Religious in our country.  We express our gratitude for all that they gave to religious life in Australia and for the thousands of lives that have been influenced through their goodness.

This year has also seen Religious standing with people who are oppressed, who have nowhere to call home, and who struggle through drought, fire and storm.  In particular we think of Sr Patricia Fox with love at this time, as her heart continues to ache for her beloved people in the Philippines.  For the courage and resilience of so many we give thanks, as you continue to stand at the door of the inn and welcome the stranger, the survivor of abuse, hear the cries of the children languishing in refugee camps and raise the powers of love upwards through the many small daily actions that give hope, peace and joy, gathering them around the manger of your heart.

On this Christmas day the members of CRA express their gratitude to those who have supported us during 2018 and worked alongside us to bring healing, justice and compassion to our sometimes chaotic world.   May you go to the Bethlehem of your heart and be enriched by the peace of the Christ-Child. May you bring this peace into our world.

By Monica Cavanagh RSJ