I wish you all a spiritually fruitful Christmas Novena. These days of more intense spiritual preparation for the Nativity of Our Lord help us realize how Jesus fulfilled the prophecies of old and usually in an unexpected, surprising way. The desires of the People of God for the long-awaited Messiah were expressed in various titles: Wisdom, Lord, King, Emmanuel, etc. I invite you to consider another title of Jesus that we find in the Constitutions—the Apostle of the Father. “The Salesian spirit finds its model and source in the heart of Christ, apostle of the Father” (Const. 11).
We don’t usually call Jesus the Apostle of the Father at Christmas, but we do reflect on how Jesus was given or sent by God. He was born of the Virgin to accomplish a mission, for which he was humble and obedient. “He emptied himself…coming in human likeness…” (Phil. 2:7).
I make reference to Jesus as the Apostle of the Father because, on December 8, the Rector Major sent out his 2021 Appeal for Missionaries. He wrote, “I encourage you, dear confreres, to make careful discernment if the Lord is calling you to place yourselves at the disposal of the Rector Major for mission ad gentes, ad exteros, ad vitam anywhere in the world. Let us keep in mind that God does not allow himself to be outdone in generosity.”
We have all been beneficiaries and witnesses of courageous Salesians who heard the voice of Jesus, Apostle of the Father, and invite them to share in His mission. I think of Bishop Emilio Allué and Fr. Joseph Santa Bibiana, who completed their mission on this earth in 2020. They came to the SUE province, ready to make great sacrifices so that others, especially the young, would come to experience God’s love. They, and so many others like them, inspire us to live generously in our current Salesian mission. They help our confreres discern in their hearts if God the Father is inviting them to make themselves available for the missionary needs of our Congregation beyond our province.
The Rector Major has identified some urgent missionary needs in the Congregation, where he would like to send a significant number of confreres in 2021: The Amazon; some new frontiers in Latin America; refugee services in Africa, Lithuania, Bulgaria, Azerbaijan, Laos, Nepal, Mongolia, and Yakutsk; and the islands of Oceania. It’s such a broad and diverse territory with a single mission: to be witnesses and signs of God’s saving love for the poor and marginalized youth.
There is no doubt that Canada and the USA are missionary territories; we need more help to continue our works. At the same time, the Rector Major is clear that this is a time of generosity for the Congregation and for all provinces. “Indeed, we are all co-responsible for the evangelizing and missionary work of the Salesians of Don Bosco throughout the world.”
So, as we sing the “O Antiphons” during the Christmas Novena, and meditate on the various ways Christ has fulfilled the prophecies of old, we also remember the many people still waiting to hear the Good News. With Jesus, the Apostle of the Father, we renew our missionary vocation, our willingness to be sent to bear witness to this—God’s love.
May our Christmas hymns and prayers move us to share more fully the love we have received.
“Of the Father’s Love Begotten” by Aurelius Clemens Prudentius
Of the Father’s love begotten,
Ere the worlds began to be,
He is Alpha and Omega,
He the source, the ending He,
Of the things that are, that have been,
And that future years shall see,
Evermore and evermore!
In Jesus, Emmanuel,
Fr. Tim Zak