"Throw open the doors of our hearts" - Prior General

SAINT JOHN OF GOD: MERCY CAN DO ALL THINGS

To all the Brothers and Co-workers, and the Members of the HospitallerFamily of Saint John of God

We shall be celebrating the Solemnity of our patron and founder, Saint John of God on March 8. I send you my best wishes for the occasion, trusting that we will all spend the day in great joy. This year we are celebrating the Jubilee Holy Year ofMercy which Pope Francis has called. I believe that this is an excellent opportunity for us to fix our eyes on Saint John of God and reflect, even briefly, on his personal experience of God’s mercy, which must be for us a source of inspiration.

I would like to begin by referring to the sermon of Saint John of Avila on that January 20, in Granada, during the celebrations of the Feast of St Sebastian and St Fabian  .It has always been a source of curiosity to me, how, and with what words was Master Avila able to transform Juan Ciudad so radically? These were the opening words of his sermon, commenting on the Beatitudes from St Luke’s Gospel,chapter 6: If our Lord had not come downf rom the mountain to the plain beneath, what would have become of us? We would have remained with our sicknesses. If our Lord had not shed the garments of his greatness, concealing it and had not tied the towel of our humanity around him to wash our feet, mankind would have been left full of misery and filth... (SalaBalust, L. Obras completas. Sermón 74)

Those word scaused John of God to lose his mind and, as we know, he finished up in hospital, sectioned as a “lunatic”, but mad with love, as we know. Those words were the Word of God, which entered like asharp knife penetrating deep down into the heart of that bookseller who had one there to listen to a famous Preacher, and there he met God, who had been waiting here for him to arrive. He reacted in a very odd manner, but with the help of John of Avila he found peace, and discovered how much God loved him, above all his poverty and wretchedness.

In that sermon, and the events which followed, our founder discovered, and put into practice, the central core of the experience of God and the Christian life: God’s mercy which fills all, heals all and saves all, and it is His mercy which best expresses the greatness of God. It brought about the conversion and change in the man who had been seeking to serve the Lord for a long time, but had not yet found the path leading to Him. But now it was God himself who had shown him the path. Mercy can do all things.

We know the dynamics of God’s love, mercy and hospitality. They spring from God, and when people know it they seek more because it fills them to the full. But it has to be embodied in others, in people who are our brothers and sisters. And that is how it happened to Saint John of God: his encounter with the God of mercy transformed him, and he could no longer resist giving himself entirely to the service of the sick, the poor and the needy, in order to reveal to them the merciful love of God which he himself had received. He lived through, and manifested this experience through Gospel-inspired hospitality, one of the expressions which best embody the mercy of God: the charism which the Holy Spirit gave him and of which we are the depositories.

In his later life, John of God grew, and lived to the full that experience which had begun by listening to John of Avila. There, God burst into his life and enthralled him. And John responded, and changed his life.  We have many examples, words and facts that demonstrate this. Let me recall one of his best-known letters on the subject of God’s mercy. If we reflected on the breadth of God's mercy, we would never cease doing good while we were able because, while for his love we give the poor what he himself gives us, he promises to reward us one hundredfold in the joy of heaven. What a happy reward and exchange! Who will not give what he possesses to this blessed merchant, seeing that he offers us such a good bargain and with open arms begs us to be con­verted, to mourn over our sins and to have charity first towards our own souls and then towards our neighbour? For, as water puts out fire, so charity wipes out sin. (1 Duchess of Sessa 13)

This was simply brilliantly expressed, and typical only of a man who had heard God’s call and who had immediately set out, overcoming every hurdle and adversity putting that call into practice by showing mercy made hospitality towards the vulnerable and the poor whom he knew, and rejoiced in. He teaches us that mercy made hospitality and charity can do all things, even by a sinner, just as the water puts out the fire.

In this Jubilee Year of Mercy, the experience of our Founder also stands out as a modelof mercy for the whole of our Hospitaller Family. I urge you to re-read th life and Letters of Saint John of God from this point of view, to help us to grow in the experience of God’s merciful love and in our commitment to bein gmerciful towards our most vulnerable brothers and sisters, by practising hospitality towards those who knock at the door of our houses, and our hearts.

Following the example of Saint John of God, in this Jubilee Year of Mercy, let us all, at the personal, communitarian and institutional levels, and of our Provinces and Houses take up the invitation to promote acts of mercy and hospitality towards the needy people around us, people in flesh and blood whose faces we know well. nfortunately,there are so many needs, and in particular those of the refugees and the excluded, who are seeking peace and a roof over their heads. As our Founder would have done, albeit in a simple manner, let us throw open the doors of our hearts, let us be merciful and show hospitality to them.

As always on these days, I would like to inform the Order of the results of the 2015campaign to support our centres in Sierra Leone and Liberia which were stricken by the Ebola epidemic, and which was a continuation of the campaign that began in the middle of 2014 for the same cause. Since 2014 we have managed to raise atotal of 3,096,102.48 euros, thanks to the generosity and solidarity of the whole Order and other institutions which have helped us, for which, once again, I wish to extend my most sincere thanks and gratitude.

At the sametime, I would like to announce that the campaign for this year, 2016, will be for the construction of a Formation Centre at Madang (Papua New Guinea). Once again, I thank you in advance for your generosity and beg you to support this cause which will strengthen the presence of our Order in that country. 

I wish the whole of a Hospitaller Family a happy Saint John of God’s Day.  May his life and his experience of God’s mercy continue to be a source of inspiration for all o fus, to enable us to continue demonstrating that, in our words and above all through our testimony of life, we will continue showing that Mercy can do all things!

United in our Lord and St John of God, I send you my fraternal best wishes.

 

 Bro. Jesús Etayo

Superior General 



 

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