38th Assembly of the CPAL, 12 November 2019, Asunción, Paraguay

“Trust in the Lord, and do what is good,” we repeated with the Psalmist.

This biblical verse reminds us of a famous phrase attributed to Saint Ignatius. It has come down to us in two versions that appear contradictory, but if we understand them in depth, they are saying the same thing.

One version of the phrase goes like this: “Trust as if everything depended only on God, and work as if everything depended only on yourself.”

The other version reads thus: “Trust as if everything depended only on yourself, and work as if everything depended only on God.”

In Spanish we say, “A Dios rogando y con el mazo dando (God helps those who help themselves),” and the Portuguese say that “Deus ajuda a quem cedo madruga.”

These expressions speak to us about the profound intuition that brought the CPAL to birth: the desire to collaborate.

Twenty years ago, the Provincials of Latin America and the Caribbean, responding to what the Spirit had already been telling the Society for a long time, took an important step in improving collaboration among the many Provinces. There was already some collaboration, but the Provincials decided to make it more structured, better planned, and more earnestly practiced. Since working together gives us a better perspective and a broader vision of our continent, we are able to make better use of our resources in particular apostolic endeavors, and we can also respond in a united way to the challenges that affect all of us.

During the 20 years of its existence, the CPAL has let itself be led by the Spirit. A clear sign of that can be seen in the changes that have occurred in its manner of working. Another sign of attentiveness to the Spirit was the elaboration of the Common Apostolic Project, which was assumed by all the Provinces as their orientation for interprovincial collaboration in Latin America and the Caribbean. Networks of homologues have been created, and collaboration has also grown among those working in different areas. All this is a clear sign of vitality, discernment, and generosity. There are many reasons, therefore, for giving heartfelt thanks to God and to all the useless servants who have labored so that we might celebrate 20 years with a Society of Jesus in Latin America and the Caribbean that has collaboration as one of its most notable features. We feel that we are ever more truly a genuine apostolic body, a “holy people, pursuing good works,” as we heard in the first reading. Our gratitude for that reality fills us with joy and consolation.

Nevertheless, we are still useless servants. That is to say, we recognize that without God’s grace, which has aided us in this whole process, nothing would have been possible. We have most definitely been called by God himself to collaborate in his Reign, which is precisely his service to the world, as we are taught by Jesus, God’s face for humanity, who washes the feet of his companions.

Everything we are celebrating today is without a doubt the fruit of much work on our part, but as Psalm 127 says, “If the Lord does not build the house, then the builders labor in vain.” We therefore rejoice that we have always received help from the Spirit, who has encouraged us in the face of challenges, who has enlightened us in the midst of difficulties, who has corrected us when we were wrong, and who has opened our eyes to new realities. The Spirit promised by Jesus recalls for us everything that Jesus said and did, revealing it to us and in us so that we receive new and abundant life that we can share with others.

Like the servants in the parable, we can today gratefully and humbly look back and say, with peace of spirit: “We have done what it was our duty to do.”

But the celebration of these first 20 years also gives us the opportunity to think about the next 20. Grateful memories are fuel for great hopes. New horizons are opening up for us: the Universal Apostolic Preferences, which the Holy Father has entrusted to us, call us to conversion and commitment at the level of persons, communities and institutions. We have before us four great challenges: show the way to God through the Spiritual Exercises and discernment; walk with the poor, the outcasts of the world, those whose dignity has been violated, in a mission of reconciliation and justice; accompany young people in the creation of a hope-filled future; and collaborating in the care of our Common Home.

We have also just celebrated the Extraordinary Synod for the Amazon, a powerful ecclesial encounter that was a profound experience of discernment in common. We must embrace its proposals with enthusiasm and hope.

Also, your Common Apostolic Project for 2011-20 is coming to its conclusion. Soon you will need to begin the process of apostolic discernment in common to prepare the new CAP for 2021-30.

Finally, we must consider the complex realities that our peoples and our countries are facing in these most recent times, with so many challenges in the economic, political, social, and ecclesial spheres. We must discern these signs of the time in the light of the Spirit who labors tirelessly within the sinews of human history.

So there is no lack of work, but neither is there a shortage of grace from the Spirit who strengthens us and sustains us in our collaboration with Jesus in the mission he has received from the Father.

Looking hopefully toward the future, then, let us be confident, as if everything depended only on God, and let us also labor generously and zealously on our mission, as if everything depended only on ourselves.