Saturday, 15th Week
National CLC Assembly 09
I believe God wants me to speak about three things: prophetic tears, prophetic love, and prophetic joy.
Has anyone cried during these days? I’ve seen a number of people cry. Babies, a young woman, a number of adults, and at least two Jesuits; one of whom is me. I confess, I have cried a lot.
When Yvonne & Dorothee, our Rwandan sisters spoke, it’s hard not to. 1,000,000 people killed at the hands of their neighbors, friends, and families in 100 days; in a country of 90% Christians, 50% of whom are Catholics. The Church did not speak up. The world governments did not intervene. There were many moments when I cried yesterday. There are a number of reasons:
Shame: as a religious I felt ashamed, some from religious orders like me killed; as a priest I felt ashamed of a church that did not stand up against such horrifying events.
Sadness: it triggered my own sufferings. I remember my own childhood pains and those of the Vietnamese people. I recalled the pains of the many people I am and have been privileged to serve these past 25 years in ministry. I experienced what Johannes Metz calls the “dangerous memory of suffering”. Such dangerous memories “force” us to acknowledge the place in history of the suffering victims, and confront our own complicity.
Embracing the pain of God. I recalled my experience of the Spiritual Exercises how God was profoundly sad when His people nailed His only on on the Cross. How God was very sad with me when my grandparents died; how God suffered with me in recent times of being misunderstood and accused. As Fr Bernie Owens preached two days ago, we experience the “pathos of God” on our way of becoming prophets.
Joseph, in the first reading, cried tears as well. This was the third time he cried. As you may remember, Joseph was the 11th and favorite son of Jacob the patriarch. Jealous that their father loved Joseph best, his brothers wanted to kill him. They sold him into slavery to Egypt instead. Years later, Jacob’s family and the Hebrew people were starving after a severe famine. Jacob sent his sons to Egypt to buy an emergency supply of grain. They came to Pharoah’s chief steward, in charge of the grain. This turned out to be Joseph. After some struggle, Joseph was able to forgive his brothers and brought the whole family to Egypt care for them. In today’s reading, Jacob, their father died. Still full of guilt, the brothers ware fearful that Joseph would “pay back in full for all the harm they did to him” now that their father has died. They came to him pleading. And Joseph cried the third time.
This is a story about a broken family that learned to forgive and love again. Joseph’s tears were prophetic. We don’t consider him a prophet but he is, because he dreams God’s dream. He is able to interpret God’s dream. Like Joseph the stepfather of Jesus, he is able to enter the pain and of God through his own tears. Although Scripture does not say it, Joseph the carpenter must have cried many tears, when he heard that Mary was pregnant not by him, when children were slaughtered as Jesus was born. Both Josephs, in the words of Fr. Nicolás’ address in Fatima, are prophetic, for they see with the Eyes of God; listen with the ears of God; feel with the Heart of God; and speak Word of God, “a word of mercy, of compassion for those who suffer… and a word of Conversion and Solidarity for those who can do something about that suffering.”
My dear friends, we will experience more prophetic tears as we move toward becoming a prophetic community. We must allow ourselves to cry tears. At times, these tears may not flow down our cheeks, but swell up in our throats and become heavy in our hearts, because they are so deep watery tears cannot contain and words cannot express. We will cry tears for our world, tears for one another, tears for our groups. Tears of sorrow that others in our own CLC groups may have caused, tears we may intentionally or unintentionally caused ourselves, perhaps through our inordinate attachments, through our fears of change, through being misunderstood, through complacency, or by pushing away the prophets among us further to the margins. (Remember that prophets often come from the margins). Like Joseph and his brothers, we will hurt one another, even if we don’t mean to.
I was moved to tears when Yvonne from Rwanda shared her deep pain that a group member who was raped and contracted HIV kept it secret until almost the end – while she made the Exercises. I cried because I have felt the pain of a number of our CLC groups in similar crucibles of trust and honesty. In the Đồng Hành family, there have been great movements toward growth. But some groups suffer “bloody” conflicts because some members want to move forward while others want to remain as is. Because we are moving toward where we have never been before, none of us really know how. So our passionate desires and deep fears clash. We may split, and we will cry. But if we embrace the pain of God through these tears, they will become prophetic tears. Recall the words of Jesus about spiritual growth: “Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit” (Jn 12:24).
Not all of Joseph’s tears are those of shame and sadness. Joseph spoke kindly to his brothers: "Have no fear … Even though you meant harm to me, God meant it for good, to achieve his present end, the survival of many people. Therefore have no fear. I will provide for you and for your children." Beyond his tears is a love that reconciles.
The moving story of CLC Rawanda testifies to a prophetic love rooted in reconciliation. My eyes swelled with tears when hearing about how the CLC Rawanda community called back a member from Kenya after he fled, fearing being tried in court. Courageously they implored; humbly he returned. The tears of the Rwanda community were tears of solidarity and hope, tears of reconciling love. So much of their efforts has and still focuses on the long hard road toward reconciling love.
The “dangerous memory of suffering” does not only confront us with the history of the suffering victims. It also brings us deeper into the narrative of God’s saving, reconciling love in Jesus. This echoes Decree 3 of the 35th General Congregation of the Jesuits written last year, which grounds our prophetic love in the ministry of reconciliation: “This reconciliation calls us to build a new world of right relationships, a new Jubilee reaching across all divisions so that God might restore his justice for all.” We are called to “bridge the division of a fragmented world” by being united by a love of Christ and through personal bonds of friendship with one another.
I am reminded of the story of Blessed Andrew Phú Yên, the first martyr of Vietnam in the 17th Century. He was a 19 year-old catechist who refused to abandon his faith. When he was executed, Jesuit Father Alexandre de Rhodes wanted to put a new bamboo mat beneath him to honor the young man’s death. But young Andrew replied, “Thank you Father, but let my blood seep into the ground of my homeland.” Before he was beheaded, he said in Vietnamese: “Lấy tình yêu đáp trà tình yêu. Lấy mạng sống đáp trả mạng sống” which means in English “Love is repaid by love alone. Life is repaid by life alone.” Because Jesus has given his life for him, he wanted to make a similar return of his life. A moving martyrdom: his blood enlivened the soil of the Vietnamese faith. There are many stories like his. For isn’t true that the churches of Asia is build on the blood of the martyrs of Korea, the Philippines, Vietnam, Japan, China?
Andrew Phú Yên’s radical attachment to the person of Jesus teaches us much about prophetic love which reconciles. Although many of us may not be called to a martyrdom of death, all of us are called to a life of witness – to live radically attached to Jesus and his reconciling love. Only then, can we love deeply, serve out of gratitude, and not just engage in political activism. Only then can we be Prophetic not in what we do, but in how we treat one another – for people will know that we are Jesus’ disciples if we love one another. Yes, we need to show a preferential love for the poor, but we are only credible if we love one another in our local and regional CLC’s.
Radical attachment to Jesus does not just mean working to change unjust structures outside of ourselves. It is not enough to denounce what is wrong in the world. We also need to build right relationships, to cultivate communities rooted in love and grounded in justice. We are not the only people striving to do this. Many are trying. Yet, in order to be true to our Ignatian calling, let us truly wed faith and justice. The world needs to see peoples and communities who embody an integration of social justice and contemplation. While we speak out against unjust structures, we also need to form just faith communities.
Fr. Nicolás urges us to do likewise: “Our greatest priority as CLC has to be the Formation of our members. This is the priority of priorities. But, mainly, the formation has to be in the Life of the Spirit, so that we all master the tools to become interiorly free, for real discernment of God’s will, for docile and joyful familiarity with the ways of the Spirit.” Fr Nicolás calls us to focus on formation, so that we are rooted in radical love of Jesus, reading the signs of the time, and responsive to the Spirit.
What if our CLC communities become schools of love, where we are committed to living out reconciling love? Our Rwanda brothers and sisters are taking a lead in this prophetic love which arises out of their prophetic tears.
From tears. To love. To joy. This dynamism echoes the movement of the four weeks of the Spiritual Exercises. For Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection reveals God’s self-giving and laboring love, which bridges tears and joy. Reconciling love turns tears into joy.
My tears these days have also been tears of joy. I have been so blessed to witness the growth of many people in CLC these past three years and more. People embracing God’s love for them as beloved sinners, people captivated by Christ, people impelled by the Spirit on mission. Without minimizing our struggles, I am seeing more committed communities that seek to empower growth in its members, helping one another discover and live out their personal vocations and common mission. Thanks to the Diversity and Organizing Committee, we are shifting to a focus on relationship. I am moved to tears when I catch glimpses of people becoming whole and integrated, to see them so excited and convinced that CLC is the best way of living out Ignatian spirituality among lay people. During these days, I have been moved to tears when I see young adults through the Cura Personalis Formation encountering God for the first time, when an older Jesuit shed tears of joy as he talked about the presence of Carmen and Angelique’s children, when young children stand up here and talk about being God’s masterpiece, when adults stretch beyond their cultural comfort zones. I especially tear up with joy when one of the longest Caucasian member of our community speak publicly that she is humbled by what she is learning about formation from newer ethnic communities.
Fr Nicolás observed that “this is the time for prophetic communities … and I feel that you are decidedly moving in this direction.” Yes, we are moving. Five years ago in Miami the face, age, age, and race of our Assembly is significantly different. And we are richer for it. It is the signs of the time in our CLC Community, the movement of the Spirit.
Yes, we need to move. Let me suggest a few ways.
Our unique and relevant contribution to the Church is the gift of the Exercises. Have you thought about making the Spiritual Exercises? If you have been in CLC for more than 3 years, would you consider doing so within 2-3 years? Have you gone through Lightworks or other prayer programs? Do you make the Awareness Examen everyday? So you can engage life through God’s eyes, ears, hearts, etc? So you can ask, “Lord, today, where is my heart, my eyes, my ears?
What might “moving” mean for those of us who are older? Can you model for those younger the beauty of aging gracefully? Would you be open to catch the contagious energy of the young?
What might “moving” mean for those of us who are younger? Would you listen to the wisdom of those older in order to better channel your energy? Later tonight at the “CLC by Night” event, can we sit with those who are more diverse in age and skin color? So we can enjoy one another more than just watch the entertainment?
Yes, where we are going, we have never gone before. And its horizon is even beyond our imagination.
But let us go forward with prophetic tears, prophetic love, and prophetic joy. Let us go with God!!!