A Jesuit, Filipino, and Asian Ecclesiastical Faculty of Theology

Sunday, December 17, 2017
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All we really need to know, we learned at LST
 

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LST Alumni Homecoming
Oratory of St Ignatius Loyola, 15th November 2017
Roberto C Yap, SJ
 

My brothers and sisters, today we come home to LST. We return home to our school. The etymology of the word, ‘school,’ from the Latin schola has various meanings: “intermission of work; leisure for learning; learned conversation; erudite debate; meeting place for teachers and students; disciples of a teacher …” Does coming home to LST bring back memories of: intermission of work? leisure for learning? learned conversation? erudite debate?

Whatever our memories, surely we remember LST as a schola in the sense of ‘meeting place for teachers and students, disciples of teachers.’ Hence, it is proper and fitting that during this homecoming, we remember our LST teachers who taught us 15, 25, 30 years ago. Some of them are with us this evening. But allow me especially to mention some of those who have already gone home to the Lord: Fr Joe Smith, Fr Pete Sevilla, Fr Ed Hontiveros, Fr Carlos Abesamis, Fr Nil Guillemette, Fr Phil Calderone, Fr Jim Meehan, Fr Jack Schumacher, Fr Pedro de Achutegui, Fr Ralph Gehring, Fr Tom Green, Fr Gerry Healy, Fr Cal Poulin, Fr Archie Intengan. I invite you for a few moments now, silently to remember them and in the quiet of our hearts, murmur words of gratitude for them. Sa lahat ng aming mga propesor sa LST, maraming maraming salamat pò. Daghan kaayong salamat.

In 1986, a book was published which became a best seller, selling 7 million copies, titled “All I really need to know, I learned in Kindergarten” by Robert Fulghum. As the theme of my homecoming reflection, I would like to borrow and paraphrase Fulghum’s title, “All I really need to know as a minister of the Gospel, I learned in LST.” LST schooled us to become ministers of the Gospel, serving Christ and his Church. I would like to evoke three images that LST espoused for her students: to be persons for others, persons of prayer, persons of joy. Hardly new images; still, images that need revitalizing with the help of Pope Francis, because they are frightfully important for the spirituality of our people during these trying times, the success of our ministry, a resurgence of vocations, and our deep happiness.

The first image: LST taught us to be persons for others. We aspire always to be for others. As with Jesus, we strive that this be the motivating force of our entire existence. You may remember the famed German Lutheran Dietrich Bonhoeffer, hanged in 1945 in a concentration camp for conspiring to overthrow Hitler. In his letters from prison, Bonhoeffer spoke of Jesus as ‘the man for others.’ And in parallel fashion he wrote that the Church is truly the Church only when it exists for others. Just as Jesus lived his life completely for others (even unto death on the cross), so the Church is to serve God by serving the world of need.

We are called to be for ‘others’ in the widest sense possible – in our relationships not only to humans but also to all of creation. Love every human person as an image of God, a child of God, like another self, especially the poor and the downtrodden. Touch each created ‘thing,’ each reality that is not God or the human person, with respect, with reverence, even with awe, as a gift of God not to be clutched possessively but shared generously. In Laudato Si’, Pope Francis teaches “how

inseparable the bond is between concern for nature, justice for the poor, commitment to society and interior peace (LS#10).” And Papa Francisco challenges us to hear “both the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor (LS#49).”

The second image: LST taught us to be persons of prayer. Of course, we all are or try to be persons of prayer. I do not simply mean a mediator between God and God’s images, indispensable as this is – one who, in the age-old saying, “brings God down to men, men up to God.” I do not even mean the symbolism for priests in the words of consecration: Jesus took us, blessed us, broke us, and gave us. I am much more concerned for a personal relationship, a relationship of love, a relationship that is a living experience, a relationship of ceaseless living in God’s presence. So rich an experience of the living God that it cannot be imprisoned, must burst the bonds of my individual self, tells others mutely or eloquently that I love God with all my soul and strength, love the crucified images of Christ as he himself loves them.

Persons who pray or more accurately, persons who try to pray … who struggle to pray. Because genuine discipleship is expecting the unexpected, responding to the unexpected in total openness to a Spirit who like Augustine’s Beauty is ever ancient, ever new. Our God is a God of surprises. Mary, our Blessed Mother lived her life as an open-ended yes to life as it unfolds. The mother of Jesus reveals to us that our spirituality, our life with God is a fascinating adventure in which we can predict only two things with certainty: one, the Holy Spirit will ceaselessly surprise us, and two, however unexpected or even crucifying the event, God will always be there.

The third image: LST taught us to be persons of joy. In his talk to his brother Jesuits at the 36th General Congregation last October 2016, Pope Francis’ first counsel was, “to ask intensely for consolation.” Jorge Mario Bergoglio said, “In the Exercises, Ignatius asks his companions to contemplate ‘the task of consolation’ as something specific to the Resurrected Christ (SpEx 224) … (the task) to console the Christian faithful and to help them in their discernment so that the enemy of human nature does not distract us from joy: the joy of evangelizing, the joy of the family, the joy of the Church, the joy of creation … Let us never be robbed of that joy, neither through discouragement when faced with the great measure of evil in the world and misunderstandings among those who intend to do good, nor by letting it be replaced with vain joys that are easily bought and sold in any shop. … Asking and begging for consolation is our main service of joy.” Pope Francis exhorts us that in the midst of difficulties, discouragement, misunderstandings, and adversity, we should ask intensely for consolation.

Saint Ignatius describes consolation as “every increase of hope, faith, and charity and all interior joy. (SpEx #316)” Bergoglio elucidates, “From this interior place comes the strength of the Spirit that guides, frees, and renews. We are called to be servants of the joy of the Gospel. And this joy of an explicit proclamation of the Gospel – by means of the preaching of the faith and the practice of justice and mercy – is what moves us to go the peripheries.”

As lifelong learners trained by LST, slowly but surely we are learning that joy is different from pleasure or fun which depend on many conditions – good health, a good job, a happy family, lots of possessions, power and prestige. The only condition for joy is the presence of God. Joy is an inner sense of God’s presence

 

and God’s abiding love for us. It is a profound belief that God will have the last word; it is a still point in the storm of life.Joy depends on the confidence that God is present even in pain and deprivation. As Pope Francis beautifully wrote in Evangelii Gaudium, “Joy adapts and changes but it always endures, even as a flicker of light born of our personal certainty that, when everything is said and done, we are infinitely loved. (EG #6)”

Persons for others, persons of prayer, persons of joy – such is our privilege and our responsibility as ministers of the Gospel educated by Loyola School of Theology. Indeed, “all we really need to know, we learned at LST.” To LST, thank you. For LST, thanks be to God.