I ask for the grace to imagine a future that excites me and draws me toward it.
Reading via the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops website.
Reading 1: Isaiah 58:5-9a
Do you call this a fast,
a day acceptable to the LORD?
This, rather, is the fasting that I wish:
releasing those bound unjustly,
untying the thongs of the yoke;
Setting free the oppressed,
breaking every yoke;
Sharing your bread with the hungry,
sheltering the oppressed and the homeless;
Clothing the naked when you see them,
and not turning your back on your own.
Then your light shall break forth like the dawn,
and your wound shall quickly be healed;
Your vindication shall go before you,
and the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard.
Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer,
you shall cry for help, and he will say: Here I am!
As you pray over this conclusion to Jesuit Father General Adolfo Nicolás’ Mexico City talk on higher education, imagine how these words might challenge your view of your own work.
I think one of the most, perhaps the most, fundamental ways of dealing with this is to place ourselves in the spiritual space of Ignatius and the first companions and — with their energy, creativity, and freedom — ask their basic question afresh: What are the needs of the Church and our world, where are we needed most, and where and how can we serve best? We are in this together, and that is what we must remember rather than worrying about Jesuit survival. I would invite you, for a few moments, to think of yourselves … as co-founders of a new religious group, discerning God’s call to you as an apostolic body in the Church. In this globalized world, with all its lights and shadows, would — or how would — running all these [institutions] still be the best way we can respond to the mission of the Church and the needs of the world? Or perhaps, the question should be: What kind of [institutions], with what emphases and what directions, would we run, if we were founding the Society of Jesus in today’s world? I am inviting, in all my visits, all Jesuits to re-create the Society of Jesus, because I think every generation has to re-create the faith, they have to re-create the journey, they have to re-create the institutions. This is not only a good desire. If we lose the ability to re-create, we have lost the spirit.
In the Gospels, we often find “unfinished endings”: the original ending of the Gospel of Mark, with the women not saying a word about the message of the angel at the tomb; the ending of the parable of the prodigal Son, which ends with an unanswered question from the Father to the older brother. These ambiguous endings may be unsettling, and precisely meant to provoke deeper, and more fundamental questioning and responses. I therefore have good precedents to conclude my talk in the open-ended way. I hope I leave you reflecting to what extent the challenges I have offered this morning are about improving our institutions and the mission and ministry to help shape a more humane, just, faith-filled, sustainable world or are calls to, in some sense, re-found what Ignatius called “the universities of the Society.” (From Jesuit Father General Adolfo Nicolás’ talk on “Networking Jesuit Higher Education: Shaping the Future for a Humane, Just, Sustainable Globe” given in Mexico City on April 23, 2010.)
Image via http://events.depaul.edu.
View the daily readings at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops website.
Last Supper icon by Simon Fyodorovich Ushakov.