Christmas message of Provincial of Herzegovina Franciscan Province and President of Union of Friars Minor of Europe (UFME) 2020

date: 23.12.2020.

I have called you friends, because I have told you everything
I have heard from my Father.

(Jn 15, 15)


May the Lord bestow His peace on you!

We come to the end of very hard and dramatic 2020, the year that wounded us and deprived us in many ways. Sudden and unpredictable illness was a cause to many unexpected and early departures from this world, without farewell to their families. We witnessed and we still do, how there is present fear of becoming ill and of meeting with others. The liturgy and the life of the Church, however, do not recall such restrictions as of now. Holy Masses are celebrated without people or with just a few of them, despite distances, masks, no human touch and gesture of peace during the Eucharist. We, people, customed to predict all, especially in these days, thanks to all inventions, do not know how long we would live fearing from those figures we are told on daily basis.  

Despite all, we ought to remember whom we are and where do we go to!

On one occasion, holy Pope John Paul II said that in the words of Jesus: You are my friends, if you do all I told you, the entire mystery of charity of our calling is contained (mysterium caritatis). The juice that feeds every calling is in those words. Our Lord Jesus wishes to be a friend to every man, for he gave his life for each one of them. In those words, we find the most important, the most precious and the holiest – love of God, the Father, love of Son of God and love of the Holy Spirit. Those words contain the purpose and the goal of our calling and our mission. We are called to go and to bear the fruit that would remain and that the Father may give us all we ask of Him in Jesus name (cf. Jn 15, 16). Therefore, it is crucial for us to be and to remain Jesus’ friend – in the convenient and less convenient time, in joys and sorrows, in sickness and in health, in suffering and in fulness of life – at all times! Love does not know tepidity, compromises, adjournments, hesitation, fear…In suffering, love is not broken, but it is fortified. In joy, it does not boost, but it rejoices humbly. In temptation, it is persevering, does not give in, does not fall.

This year, as I have mentioned, we all were affected with pandemic of Covid-19. Completely unknown illness, unpredictable and dangerous. We can take this as a trial or as Lord’s invitation to something. St. Paul writes to Colossians: Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ on behalf of his body, which is the Church. (Col 1, 24) No suffering is just the suffering. Every suffering is, at the same time, a promise of salvation and joy. This type we have now still prevents us from meeting one another, travelling and acting. Instead, let us understand this as the promise of future greater joy and fuller life to come. While being “isolated”, let us work more on intensifying our spiritual lives, for these strange times have been given to us as our “fullness of time”. Let us invoke intercession of Mary and aid in prayer, for She is a woman of pain and she waits for the mystery in vigil, the mystery just about to take place. (Gaudete, Apostolic exhortation). One day, when this pandemic is over and when we again become a part of our old routine, let us recall how much we longed for what is the simplest of all – just one encounter. May this encounter now take place with newly born Jesus on this Christmas.

Merry Christmas! Happy and blessed new 2021, in friendship with Jesus!

Fr. Miljenko Šteko, OFM