April 5, Easter Sunday
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Over the past few years, Jesuit vocation directors and promoters have stressed the vital link between religious identity and vocations. Studies show that young people contemplating religious life closely examine a religious order’s members -- searching for clear, commonly-held and joyful expressions of the order’s particular religious identity. In fact, religious identity is the single most important factor in determining vocations to a religious order.
Not only that, a healthy, vigorously-expressed religious identity is the most important factor in retaining members, particularly men between the ages of 25 and 45. Put another way, religious orders with a clear, commonly held and joyfully expressed religious identity are far more likely to attract vocations and far less likely to lose members over time.
The Provincials of Canada and the U.S. had these facts in mind when they organized this year’s Lenten program around our shared religious identity. Their hope was that a prayer-centered exchange of ideas among the 30,000+ participants in IGNITING OUR VALUES would lead not just to the deepening of our Lenten prayer, but to a broader understanding, “ownership” and celebration of the values we think of as uniquely Jesuit and/or Ignatian.
Jesuit Superior General Adolfo Nicolas has instructed us that “Every Jesuit, every Jesuit community, every Jesuit apostolate or work is or should be a promoter of vocations.” In the same letter, he challenged us to ask “How can our life together, the way we work with each other, become an invitation to Jesuit life?”
How, indeed, when all of us—Jesuits and Ignatian partners alike – are already operating at capacity?
Last year, my predecessor at the Jesuit Conference (and today’s reflection contributor) Father Tom Smolich, SJ, brought typical insight to this question by linking it to the religious identity component of vocation promotion:
"Whenever we work to enrich our identity as sons and daughters of St. Ignatius, we are also promoting vocations to the Society of Jesus."
On behalf of the Provincials of Canada and the U.S., I thank you for joining us for IGNITING OUR VALUES. Your prayerful consideration of Ignatian discipleship has enriched our understanding of our shared religious identity and contributed to the promotion of vocations to the Society of Jesus.
We wish you a joyous and holy Easter.
Rev. Timothy Kesicki, SJ
PS. Within the next week, you will receive a link to a brief follow-up survey. Your participation will help us gauge the effectiveness of IGNITING OUR VALUES. Thanks in advance!
ACTS 10:34A, 37-43
Faith Takes Hold
by Thomas Smolich, SJ
When I channel surf, I am not adventurous. I go for the familiar: “Law and Order” reruns, “The Shawshank Redemption,” “Moonstruck.” I want to get to the satisfying ending and pass over the doubts and questions it takes to get there.
So it can be with Easter. After 40 days of Lent, we are ready for rejoicing. We happily proclaim our Easter faith and move to recognize the risen Jesus alive in the world.
John’s gospel invites us to slow down and pay attention. On that first morning at the tomb, Mary Magdalene ran in fright, the other disciple believed and Peter looked in and did not understand. We all aspire to the certainty of “the other disciple.” But haven’t we all had that moment – at least once, likely more than once – when our certainty, our faith in the resurrection of Jesus wasn’t quite there?
We are in good company. Pope Francis reminds us, “If a person says that he met God with total certainty and is not touched by a margin of uncertainty, then this is not good… If one has all the answers to all questions – that is proof that God is not with him.”
So if faith cannot answer all of our questions, what can it do? It can draw us forward on our journey. The late Herbert McCabe, OP, put it this way: “Faith is the mysterious need in us to get to where we could certainly never go… It is our future laying hold on us.… It is the spirit of Christ bringing us to what we are meant for: the eternal love which is the Father.”
Faith in the resurrection does not guarantee certainty. Rather, it draws us toward the reign of God, the love of God. This Easter, armed with deeper appreciation of our Jesuit/Ignatian identity, we pray that faith will take us further on the journey. As women and men for and with others, we know this journey has its moments of doubts and confusion. So, when fear trumps belief, when doubts and questions are the stuff of the road, we are there for and with one another. Faith lays hold on us and together we find the risen Lord.
La fe se afianza
Por: Thomas Smolich, SJ
Lo mismo puede suceder con la Pascua. Después de 40 días de Cuaresma, nos sentimos listos para el regocijo. Con mucha felicidad proclamamos nuestra fe de Pascua y nos encaminamos a reconocer a Jesús resucitado y vivo, en el mundo.
El Evangelio de Juan nos invita a ir despacio y a prestar atención. Esa primera mañana en la tumba, María Magdalena corrió de miedo, el otro discípulo creyó y Pedro miró adentro y no entendió. Todos aspiramos a la certeza del “otro discípulo.” Pero, ¿no hemos tenido todos un momento – al menos uno, probablemente más de uno – cuando nuestra certeza, nuestra fe en la resurrección de Jesús no estaban precisamente allí?
Estamos bien acompañados. Papa Francisco nos recuerda, “Si una persona dice que conoce a Dios con una certeza total y no es tocado por un margen de incertidumbre, entonces esto no es bueno… Si uno tiene todas las respuestas a todos los interrogantes – esto es prueba de que Dios no está con uno.”
Entonces, si la fe no puede responder a todas nuestras preguntas, ¿Qué es lo que puede hacer? Nos puede llevar hacia adelante en nuestro camino. Herbert McCabe, OP, lo presenta de esta forma: “Fe es la misteriosa necesidad que tenemos de llegar a donde nosotros ciertamente nunca podríamos ir…Es nuestro futuro que se apodera de nosotros…Es el espíritu de Cristo llevándonos hacia donde estamos destinados: al amor eterno que es el Padre.”
La fe en la resurrección no garantiza la certeza. Más bien, nos acerca al reino de Dios, al amor de Dios. Esta Pascua, armados con una profunda apreciación de nuestra identidad Jesuita/Ignaciana, recemos para que la fe nos lleve más lejos en nuestro camino. Como hombres y mujeres para y con los demás, sabemos que este camino posee momentos de dudas y confusión. Entonces, cuando el miedo supere a la creencia, cuando las dudas y los interrogantes nos invadan, allí estaremos, acompañándonos unos a otros. La fe se afianzará en nosotros y juntos encontraremos al Señor resucitado.
California Province Jesuit Tom Smolich, SJ, served as President of the Jesuit Conference USA from 2006-2014. He works with Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) in Masisi, Democratic Republic of Congo. Fr. Smolich will become the International Director of JRS later this year.
Draw us forth, God of all creation.
Draw us forward and away from limited certainty
into the immense world of your love.
Give us the capacity to even for a moment
taste the richness of the feast you give us.
Give us the peace to live with uncertainty,
Help us to experience the resurrection anew
with open wonder
and an increasing ability
to see you in the people of Easter.
O world, I cannot hold thee close enough!
Thy winds, thy wide grey skies!
Thy mists, that roll and rise!
Thy woods, this autumn day, that ache and sag
And all but cry with colour! That gaunt crag
To crush! To lift the lean of that black bluff!
World, World, I cannot get thee close enough!
Long have I known a glory in it all,
But never knew I this;
Here such a passion is
As stretcheth me apart, — Lord, I do fear
Thou’st made the world too beautiful this year;
My soul is all but out of me, — let fall
No burning leaf; prithee, let no bird call.
: Edna St. Vincent Millay
the green of Jesus
is breaking the ground
and the sweet
smell of delicious Jesus
is opening the house and
the dance of Jesus music
has hold of the air and
the world is turning
in the body of Jesus and
the future is possible
: Lucille Clifton
Christ is the breathing forth of the heart, life and spirit of God into all the dead race of Adam. He is the seeker, the finder, the restorer of all that, from Cain to the end of time, was lost and dead to the life of God. He is the love that prays for all its murderers; the love that willingly suffers and dies among thieves, that thieves may have a life with him in Paradise; the love that visits publicans, harlots and sinners, and wants and seeks to forgive where most is to be forgiven.
: William Law
Christ walks the world again, his lute upon his back,
His red robe worn to tatters, his riches gone to rack.
The wind that wakes the morning blows his hair about his face,
And his arms and legs are ragged with the thorny briar’s embrace,
For the hunt is up behind him, and his sword is at his side.
Christ the bonny outlaw walks the whole world wide.
: Dorothy L. Sayers
He’s Alive (Francisco/Parton)
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