[Christmas message to the members of the Association of Religious Men and Women in the Diocese of Digos (ARMWIDD) by Fr. Joey Ganio Evangelista, MJ,
Dear fellow religious and friends in the apostolic societies serving in the Diocese of Digos,
I would like to greet each and every one of you and your communities a joyful and meaningful celebration of the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ!
We live in a time when the global community faces great challenges: a global economic system that has divinized market forces and has reduced humanity and the environment to mere minions of this “deity”; the demonization of immigrants and drug abusers to legitimize the violence against them; the treatment of Indigenous Peoples as objects, mere recipients of charity, and not as subjects capable of forging a future for themselves; the conduct toward members of the LGBT community as second class citizens; the use of high-tech gadgets and social media that has steadily isolated people from friends and family; and the persecution of the Church, human rights advocates, and mainstream media by state forces just to name a few.
It is in this context that we, consecrated persons and members of apostolic societies, in union with the Church, are exhorted, especially this Christmas, to seek Jesus who is Emmanuel, God who is with us (Mat 1:23), at the fringes. Pope Francis points out to us that Jesus is already at the fringes: “Jesus is already there, in the hearts of our brothers and sisters, in their wounded flesh, in their troubles and in their profound desolation. He is already there” (Gaudete et exsultate #135). Let us not forget that the King of kings was born in a small town called Bethlehem, not in Jerusalem, the seat of power at the time (Mat 2:1; Luk 2:4-7). His birth was made known first to heathens (Mat 2:1, 11) and sheep herders living out in the fields (Luk 2:8-17), not to temple priests and pious believers, not to the wealthy and powerful of Jewish society. Even in death he was at the periphery: he died outside the walls of Jerusalem accused of being a subversive (Mat 27:11; Mk 15:2; Luk 23:2, 3; Jn 19:12, 15) and crucified among bandits (Mat 27:38; Mk 15:27; Luk 23:33); he was even buried in a tomb not his own (Mat 27:59-60). And when he rose from the dead, he showed himself first to his women disciples (Mat 28:1-6; Mk 16:9; Luk 24:1-10; Jn 20:14-16), not to Peter, not even to his beloved disciple.
Christmas is not a time for us to wait for Jesus for the time of advent has passed. Rather, it is a time for us to look for him at the margins: in our maimed environment, in immigrants and drug abusers, in our poverty-stricken sisters and brothers, in the Indigenous Peoples, in the members of the LGBT community, in families whose members have become estranged from one another, and in those who dare to speak out against repressive regimes like our own on behalf of the persecuted and those who have no voice. When we do this, when we go to the outer edge of society to try to find Jesus, both in our personal life and in our ministry, we celebrate the true meaning of Christmas: Emmanuel, God with us!
A joyful and meaningful Christmas to one and all!
(MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. Fr. Joey Gánio Evangelista, MJ, heads the Malita Tagakaulo Mission of the Diocese of Digos. The mission is based in Malita, Davao Occidental)