Dear Salesian Family,
Just after the New Year, Fr. Ángel wrote a message about a shepherd who visited the new-born Jesus*. The shepherd had nothing to offer but empty hands and a heart full of love. Seeing his humility and availability, Mary asked the poor shepherd to hold baby Jesus while she received the gifts from the other shepherds who came to the manger after hearing the Good News announced by the angel. The rector major presents the poor shepherd, with Jesus in his arms, as an encouragement for members of the Salesian Family to be humble and available enough to receive Jesus in our brothers and sisters today.
This was a beautiful message during the Christmas season. Now we are in Lent, preparing for the Paschal triduum. We find ourselves, not at the manger, but in the upper room for the Last Supper, in the Garden of Gethsemane, on the streets of Jerusalem as Jesus carries the cross, at Calvary and near the tomb. Members of the Salesian Family are not wanting in the humility, availability and poverty of spirit needed to encounter our Lord in our brothers and sisters who are alone, suffering and carrying their crosses. We minister to Jesus through the good works in our Salesian presences, but even more through the respect and dignity we share with those in need.
I think of the many extraordinary ministers of Communion in our Salesian parishes who visit to the sick who cannot leave their homes or are in hospitals and nursing homes. Members of the living Body of Christ who cannot come to the Eucharistic banquet are not forgotten. With the Salesian loving kindness, the ministers of Communion stay for a little while with Jesus in their brothers and sisters who are alone, in anguish, facing their mortality. Holy Communion and the minister’s presence bring consolation.
I think of the group “Caridades de Cristo Resucitado” at St. John Bosco Parish, Chicago. Volunteers, young and old, come together every Saturday, one week to make sandwiches and go out into the streets of Chicago to serve the homeless, the next week to provide bags of food out of their small pantry in the youth center. With eyes of faith, the volunteers attend to Jesus in the hungry and the homeless, broken, rejected, often times discouraged. The volunteers bring to those on the street not only food, but the Good News that someone cares. They are seeking to involve more and more young people in these activities, forming them to be missionary disciples who share the joy of serving the Lord.
I think of those involved in the Don Bosco Worker program in Port Chester. They are small group helping men and women find employment, and at the same time, advocating for the rights of
workers. They take the side of the exploited, those who have no voice, as they seek to recover unpaid wages. They organize seminars that promote safe working conditions. They are not always so popular with the unjust employers or politicians. Neither was Jesus. He was mocked and ridiculed even as he was dying on the cross.
As we get closer to the holy days of the Paschal Triduum, I invite you to reflect on your ministry, finding in the ordinary events of the day the extraordinary experience of encountering the Lord. With humility, availability and poverty of spirit, we can serve Him in our brothers and sisters, especially the young.
Fr. Tim Zak