domingo, 13 de janeiro de 2008

Why We Are Jesuits?

We are Jesuits (and we stay as Jesuits) for at least two reasons: We are Jesuits because of one another; we are Jesuits because of Jesus Christ.We are Jesuits because of one another. In spite of each other, and because of each other, we know that the Society is still a place where we can be most ourselves, where we are and will be most ourselves. The truth of who we are is revealed in manifold ways, one of which is in companionship, in friendship with each other. Mysteriously, sacramentally, we are able to mediate our vocation to each other. We discover who we are through each other; we need each other to see and hear the Lord who invites us never ultimately as solitary apostles but as a companionship, a company of brothers who are “friends in the Lord.”Wherever we are in the world, whatever our temperament or our apostolic assignments, we know this living friendship to be integral to our Jesuitness. This Jesuit friendship however is a grace which cannot be engineered, which more than depends on chemistry or proximity. I think of the time (1994) Pedro, Bobby, and I were in Padua for a conference of European Jesuit scientists. With Paul Wirjono (of Indonesia), we were the only non-Europeans in that meeting. I remember Tony coming all the way from Rome to meet us. He didn't have to. Tony took us to Venice briefly for an afternoon tour of the place, after which the four of us took the late evening train back to Rome. I remember Pedro waking us up early morning, in his high pitched “gising, gising na” voice, all worried that the train would leave before we could disembark. It was just a simple scene really: tired, groggy men, who converged in this small train compartment from several points of the world, and who were still half-awake when they came upon the Eternal City. Twenty six years ago, when we were novices, we never could have predicted our coming together in Rome (even celebrating the Eucharist together in the small room where Ignatius lived). When we were novices, Pedro led us to plant trees, while Tony led us to read books (beyond our required book reading and yes, beyond Balthasar). Today, 26 years later, Pedro is still planting trees and Tony is still reading books and God, we believe, is still reaping the glory from trees and books and the gift of their persons. We are Jesuits because of one another, because mysteriously and sacramentally (many times unintentionally), we are able to mediate our vocation to each other.Many other Jesuits have given face to our vocation in the Society. I remember Fr. Alingal in Malaybalay inviting me one evening to Kibawe. Nothing on the kind priest's face showed me the interior courage that eventually led him to his execution a few months later. I will never forget this image of a drenched and shivering and young Provincial Bernas riding with me at the back of a logging truck in 1980 on the way to Maramag from Kalilangan, Bukidnon. In Cagayan de Oro now, I am happy to see Manong Dar who comes to Xavier University every so often to run various errands for his beloved mountain parish in Miarayon. He is always looking for scrap wood or metal with which to build various things for the Talaandig people of Miarayon. Of course there is Fr Mat Sanchez (our beloved novice master) whom I cannot tempt to a more sedentary academic life in the College of Agriculture because his mission now is to the beloved poor of Cabanglasan.I think of Bobby Yap who must navigate through the jungle of interest rates and financial instruments. He now lives with our brothers in the Curia who perhaps would rather be in the thick of consoling pastoral work but must remain fastened to their desks as they run the affairs of our Province.I wonder about our brother Presidents who are lionized by the power they wield and who must struggle daily to deflect power from getting to their heads; powerful men who must wrestle with the very meaning of the third degree of humility in the midst of countless decisions they are asked to make constantly.I see Bob Suchan and Leo Pabayo who must shuttle between two grade school campuses ministering to children who are 1/10th their ages. I am grateful to Cal Poulin who after retiring officially from the University was given a wristwatch and two jobs to go with it.In this chapel tonight, there is Tom O'Gorman who admits to a “shitty” life in Myanmar or Sammy Dizon somewhere at the back, who I first met in Buug 25 years ago, and who is now missioned to East Timor. The mobility of our senior brothers always mystifies me.Then of course there are our young Jesuit scholastics, men full of promise, who I gather must learn to mean the choice they have made, in a world of plentiful choice and possibility, a world certainly of greater complexity and fluidity.I can name many more faces to you. A hundredfold of names, a cast of colorful and discolored characters, a hundredfold of reasons why we stay in this least Society that bears the name of our Lord.Contemplate this biodiversity long enough and you might wonder how this Society can yield and contain such a menagerie of apostles. Then perhaps you will realize Loyola's genius in putting a premium on obedience in the Society. (The 4th vow that distinguishes us in the service of the Kingdom is not more love or more chastity, not more simplicity or more poverty.) The Ignatian insight is to make obedience the linchpin of our apostolic life. Obedience after all is what the Son suffers to glorify the Father, the apostle Paul proclaims in the second reading today. “He humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross.” This Ignatian premium on obedience is not for the sake of military order or administrative efficiency. Jesuit obedience is what it is because it leads to greater apostolic motion. Mobility (as ritualized in the mutaciones of our lives) helps us assume the stance of those who are always in flight, buoyant and free. Mobility reconfigures our options and choices, helping us deepen the poverty and chastity we profess. Mobility demands that we be light and ready in faith to serve others and go wherever whenever the need is greater, the impact more lasting (or the poison more lethal). If the Society is diverse in its ministries, it is not only because of the manifold demands of the apostolic harvest or the variable personalities (and eccentricities) of Jesuits. Such diversity is also possible because of our mobility.Pleasantly enough, while obedience ensures mobility, it is this same apostolic motion that exercises our interior versatility and spiritual freedom. If mobility is trained by obedience, it is apostolic motion as well which trains the Jesuit heart into obedience, exercising our “memory, understanding, and entire will” toward greater interior freedom and docility, gifts we have often prayed for in our shared encounters with the Lord in the Spiritual Exercises.We are Jesuits because of one another, because mysteriously and sacramentally (many times unintentionally), we are able to mediate our vocation to each other, continually mystifying one another by our humanity and diversity and mobility.The other reason we are Jesuits is Jesus Christ, after whom we name ourselves in the Society. We are Jesuits because it is the Lord who moves us, the same Lord who has taken hold of our lives.Vow occasions like this always remind me that it is never from a position of strength that we make these professions. Only by the grace of God are we given the strength of the crucified Christ so that we are strong enough to let go of that strength, to surrender our very lives in self-emptying love. Only by the grace of God are we ordained friends of our Lord, his companions, so that we are free enough to let go of our freedom, free enough to decide to collapse all the possible trajectories of our lives into this one pathway that is the Society of Jesus.By the grace of God, we have hearts that expand and embrace what Christ has embraced; a Jesuit heart big enough (magnanimity is the Ignatian word), love that is large enough to let go of conjugal love whose intimacy and mutuality can be one of the most thrilling gifts in this life. From God's love and grace, we have already received what we have always needed, so that we are full enough to let go of the fullness of wealth and comfort and stability, things that are never only peripheral to human welfare and well-being. Here but for the grace of God we stay, in the Society of Jesus, anchored enough in the love of Christ so we can let go of anchors, those certainties and securities sought vainly by many in the self-made maps and charts of their lives. There but for the grace of God go we, to wherever Christ sends us, bearing the lightness of him who has always been buoyant enough to walk on waves. We are Jesuits because of Jesus Christ who calls us his companions. Only companions are invited to push finally for deep water.
In the gospel, Jesus tells us to ask whatever in his name, and he will do it, so that the Father may be glorified. Let us then ask him to bless the oblation that Pedro and Tony have made and are making of their lives tonight. And let us believe that he has done it and will continue to do it. Let us ask to believe that the Lord who is moving these two brothers of ours tonight is the same Lord who has moved us, and who desires to move our lives even further. Let ask all this in His name and let us believe that He has already done it, ad majorem Dei gloriam.

Jose Ramon T. Villarin SJ
Loyola House of Studies

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