FOOD and GIFTS are, probably, the constant mainstays in every Christmas celebration. In fact, to many, Christmas would not be complete without them. But while to some, food and gifts provide meaning for Christmas, it is not by chance that these same things also point to the real reason for this great celebration. On the first Christmas, two thousand years ago, God, ‘madly’ in love with humanity, gave his only begotten Son as his GIFT to all of us- a gift that transformed history and renewed creation, from then on; a gift that proclaimed “good news of great joy that will be for all the people” (Lk 2, 1-14). Hence, humanity was never the same again after that first Christmas morn.The sign for this? “an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes lying in a manger” (Lk 2, 1-14).
This sign is, certainly, not just a mere dramatics. Born in a manger (the place where animals eat) in Bethlehem (which literally means House of Bread), the evangelist wanted to tell us that God’s greatest gift to humanity is food as well. Jesus is the food that nourishes “the crowd, hungry and exhausted like sheep without a shepherd” (Lk 10,2; Mt 9, 35-38), the gift of finest wheat that sustains our dreams, builds our persons and our communities, and revitalizes our spirit. This is also the same FOOD and GIFT that our beloved Father Founder, Saint Hannibal, offered and shared to the poor of Avignone; the same FOOD and GIFT that renewed and transformed them. With Jesus as the FOOD and GIFT in our midst, indeed “novum fecit Dominus” (The Lord makes all things new).
We have just encountered the Incarnate Word, up, close and personal, when we gathered recently for our historic first Provincial Chapter. Everybody is a witness how we, in our differences and weaknesses, have reached the unanimity of hearts each is longing for. God indeed made all of us new when we allowed ourselves to be a food to and a gift for our confreres. It is already a fact that each of us is a gift to our community. But we have to continue allowing the Lord to transform us into becoming a food that would nourish our confreres with genuine love, strengthen each other in our commitment and vocation, and build our confreres as Rogationists of the Heart of Jesus.
Over and above the good plans we have made, I believe it, deep in my heart, that, in this Year for Consecrated Life, this is the path that would certainly lead to our transformation as a province-when we strive to be food and gift for our confreres and the world. It is also my ardent wish and prayer that, during this Year of the Poor, fewer people would experience hunger as more Christians would learn to share their gifts to others.
May all of us and our families experience the Joy and Peace of Christmas and the Blessedness of this New Year! Fr. Herman G. Abcede, RCJ