18 December 2019
Homily of Father General
Coming together to celebrate Christmas is an occasion replete with many feelings and flavors.
- We meet together to make the statement that we are not just a chance gathering; we are more than the offices in which we work—much more.
- We are united by sentiments of companionship, solidarity, friendship, and affection, and we seek to give them expression.
- We come together because we believe that the Lord has set up his tent among us; he is part of our history and the source of our Hope; he bestows on us the strength to bear witness to that Hope by acting in ways to that make it a reality.
Ours is a meeting with many tastes and many flavors.
- It tastes of tradition: that which connects us with our cultural and familial roots. We enjoy once again preparing the meals that we associate with the season, singing the carols that we learned as children but somehow sound new to us each time we hear them, greeting those we haven’t seen for a long while and cherishing those close to us in ways that make it clear this is different from other moments.
- It also tastes of the harsh reality in which we currently live. Celebrating Christmas does not mean hiding the in-humanity that seems to invade more and more of our lives at this moment of human history. We live at a time when it seems to be easier to close our eyes to the consequences of climate change than to begin changing our ways of producing and consuming the goods we need. We live at a time when it is easier to retreat into nationalist or tribal sentiments and shut tight the doors of our houses and nations, than to rejoice at the arrival of those who want to build, together with us, a pluralist society in which everyone without exception enjoys a dignified life and participates actively in a democratic society. We live at a time when it seems to be easier to tell young people what life is about, than to hear from them how they experience the new age in which they live and move, so that we can decide together how to open the pathway to a better future. We live in an age when it seems easier to see churches as museums of the past than to discern the human dimension that lifts us toward transcendence.
- Christmas also has the taste of Hope. That was what Mary of Nazareth sensed when she heard the words of the archangel Gabriel. She was convinced that, for God, nothing was impossible, and she chose to open herself to the will of the Father. Joseph had much the same taste when he woke from the dream that helped him discern: he received Mary into his house and he named the child Jesus, the work of the Holy Spirit.
Our meeting together is an occasion for us to express our mutual affection and to lose our fear of getting to know much better those whom we meet daily or occasionally in the corridors or offices of the Curia. Our coming together today is an opportunity to express to one another the bonds of caring that unite us. Let us therefore make the best of this moment of grace.
The Christmas gathering in the Curia also tastes of tradition.
- It is an indelible commitment in our calendar, and we await its arrival with a sincere interior smile.
- The activities might vary from year to year, but we know that we are connected with the tradition of this house in keeping with our Christian and familial traditions of celebrating Christmas.
This Christmas gathering is not a time for evading or forgetting the reality in which we live, nor is it a time to let ourselves be overwhelmed by it.
- It is a gathering that revives our desire to contribute, along with many other persons and institutions, to changing this world and making it a common home that welcomes all in a spirit of fraternity.
- It is a gathering that nourishes in us the Hope that is announced to us with the birth of the child Jesus,
- and that invites us once again to confirm our desire to be messengers of the Hope that is founded on the life and work of Jesus of Nazareth.
As the Society of Jesus in 2019, we have abundant signs that give us reason for Hope.
- On February 5th, twenty-eight years after his departure for the House of the Father, the Cause for the Beatification of the Servant of God, Pedro Arrupe, S.I., was officially opened. It has advanced steadily in the course of the year through one of the most complex phases of the project: collecting testimonies and investigating his personal history in depth. We give heartfelt thanks to those who have dedicated themselves with such passion and competence to this cause, which will surely help us to grow in the virtue of Hope and make us God’s messengers, as was Pedro Arrupe.
- Between January and February we concluded the discernment in common of the Universal Apostolic Preferences of the Society of Jesus for 2019-2029. On February 6th the Holy Father Francis wrote to us: “The process that the Society went through to reach the universal apostolic preferences was a path of discernment in common. … Thank you for this work that I approve and confirm as your mission.”
- The Apostolic Preferences, mission received from the Church, through the Holy Father, as was the wish of the Founding Fathers of the Society of Jesus and tradition in it, are a source of Hope for the immediate future.
- Also in January, World Youth Day was celebrated in Panama, preceded by the MAGIS experience which brought together, from all parts of the world, young people inspired by Ignatian spirituality.
- The Curia has hosted many assemblies, meetings, and seminars over the course of the year. Some of these are held annually, other are held every few years, and a few occur only once. Seeing the faces of so many persons devoted to the mission in so many places and cultures, and witnessing them share their experiences at table or in the corridors, was a great boost to our Hope.
- The Curia community very generously receives many guests every year. Both those responsible for hospitality, and the community members as a whole, do their best to make our guests feel at home. In this way our Hope increases.
- We have commemorated some of our martyrs: Franz Van der Lugt (Homs, April 5th), the Jesuits and collaborators at the UCA of San Salvador (November 16th), and the fifty-seven Jesuits killed for their commitment to social justice over the the last fifty years.
- Since September 1st, Father James Hanvey has been working as the Secretary for the Service of the Faith. His mission includes the deepening of the dimension of faith in all our ministries, promoting new forms of presenting the Good News in the diverse situations of today’s world, promoting Ignatian spirituality, and coordinating the Commission for Ecumenism and Inter-religious Relations.
- On September 27th, the anniversary of the founding of the Society, we announced the Ignatian Year that will begin on May 20, 2021, the day when Ignatius was wounded at Pamplona, and will end on July 31, 2022. We nourish our Hope by letting the Lord work our conversion as we draw inspiration from the personal experience of Ignatius Loyola.
- During the entire month of October we took part in the hope-filled experience of the Amazon Synod.
- In May and October, we hosted sessions of the course on “Discerning Leadership,” which seeks to share the Hope that moves us to put spiritual discernment at the center of our efforts to be creatively faithful to the Church’s mission.
- In November more than two hundred persons, including Jesuits and our companions in mission, met here in the Curia to commemorate and give thanks for the fifty years of constant labor of the Secretariat for Social Justice and Ecology. The fruit of long and careful preparation, the assembly was an occasion to renew our Hope and to confirm our commitment to bear witness to Hope in the struggle for justice and care for our common home.
- November also saw the publication of an important document that captures the hopes of the educational work inspired by the Society’s tradition: Jesuit Schools: A Living Tradition in the 21st Century – An Ongoing Exercise of Discernment will delineate the hopeful horizon of our commitment to young people through the Society’s educational centers around the world.
- On the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood, Pope Francis came to the Curia to present to us the Writings of Father Miguel Ángel Fiorito. The Holy Father gave us a personal testimony that greatly nourished our Hope, and with this publication he made available to us a source of inspiration.
Thus, in the course of this year there have been many occasions that have nurtured our Hope and borne witness to it. Above all, like Mary and Joseph, we have had the experience of being guided by the Holy Spirit, knowing that, when we let ourselves be so guided, abundant fruits are produced, even some we thought impossible.
Let us ask the Holy Spirit for the grace to be grounded in the Hope that makes us place all our confidence in God, so that we may allow ourselves to be led by Him as he opens new pathways for announcing the Good News to the poor, the oppressed, and to all persons of good will who are ready to receive the gift of God: our liberation from sin, injustice, and violence as we move toward the reconciliation of all things in Christ.