MY JESUIT VOCATION – A CALL TO UNIVERSALITY
In the Spiritual Exercises, the contemplation on the Incarnation shows the three Divine Persons gazing upon the beautiful yet conceited earth. The lovely earth is full of demoralizing wickedness and overwhelming misery. Considering the grim situation, the Second Person becomes a human being, to save the human race. The unfathomable plan manifests the extraordinary vocation of Jesus Christ, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity. God, the Father, entrusts to Jesus, a mission: to proclaim the Good News to fragile human beings, and save their souls by dying a cruel death on the Cross, for universal good.
Becoming fully human, like Jesus Christ, who became a human being, makes my call universal. Jesus came to the earth with a universal mission: to establish the kingdom of love and righteousness. Like Jesus Christ, St. Francis Xavier too, realized his worth and spent his life for the sake of the mission entrusted to him. Before setting out for the mission, Francis Xavier told the Portuguese Governor,
“If you do not provide me with a ship to go to this island, I will go swimming. Remember, I am the ambassador of Jesus Christ.”
I personally came to know about the Jesuits only when I joined a Jesuit-run school at Ranchi. There I got an opportunity to come into contact with Jesuit priests and scholastics. That was the time when I started to admire the Jesuits. The Principal of the school, being an intellectual, and an enthusiastic personality, caught my attention. Even my hostel Prefect and Scholastic regents were inspirational figures. Their all-round characters and their efficiency, be it in preaching the Good News, education, music, sports and companionship, instantly attracted me. That unprocessed influence planted in me a tiny seed of a desire to become a Jesuit. Constant brushing up of my own hodgepodge of thoughts purified my unrefined desire. Later on, my feeble condition grew bolder and firmer like Matthew of the Gospels.
“As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth; and he said to him, ‘Follow me.’ And he got up and followed him.”
I, too, heard the Master say, “Follow me”, and I got up and followed him. The never-ending journey continues with His compelling eyes gazing upon me till date. Meanwhile, the charism of the Society of Jesus, ‘to be placed with the Son,’ energizes me to reach my goal.
The Society of Jesus is a universal Society of religious men. God’s loving invitation to join this Society and my response to this invitation is, thus, my universal vocation. I have opted to labour in Our Lord’s universal vineyard, “For the Greater Glory of God.” I belong to a universal community of “Friends in the Lord”. The union of minds and hearts and a community life of active collaboration define its universality. The community life itself is a mission that develops into a massive evangelical mission: the defence and propagation of faith with special reference to justice for peoples.
In the history of the Society of Jesus, I have witnessed many exemplary models who offered themselves for the sake of God’s plan. Francis Xavier, Roberto De Nobili, John De Britto and Constant Lievens were zealous missionaries in different parts of India. Matteo Ricci did magic in the land of the Dragons. They possessed not only the virtue of availability, but also a ready acceptance for the mission. These stalwarts of our beloved Society are, indeed, a great inspiration for me. Since I am following and imitating Jesus Christ, the Master, I have the indispensable mission of Jesus himself. I grow in connaturality with Jesus Christ, assimilating St. Paul’s words,
“It is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me.” (Galatians 2:20)
In the formative years as a Jesuit I am tested and trained to be a torchbearer of Jesus, to bring light to mankind. To begin with, the two years of “novitiate” life give me an opportunity to build a solid foundation to face several challenges in the world outside. The influential inputs by my novice master on various issues including spiritual, social, emotional and so on, have helped me understand and respond to the realities, both spiritual and physical. The enriching experiences of the Ignatian “Long Retreat” as well as various apostolates and activities in the novitiate have indeed strengthened me. As a learner in the “juniorate”, I come across ample sources which help me prepare myself for the universal mission. Besides, the study of several articles on mission, vision, our way of proceeding, etc., work as energy pills for my growing universal vocation. Coming from different provinces and backgrounds to a common house such as this, provides me with an opportunity to know and learn various cultures and traditions. Meanwhile, this challenge invites me to act as one with a universal mission attempting to realize the radical diversity of local as well as global situations.
Considering the local language of the people, learning a new language altogether, ‘Gujarati’ for me, provides me, a North Indian, with a practical opportunity to work anywhere in the province of Gujarat and thus progress in my universal call. Still further, learning a language such as Spanish, will give me another facility to go to different places in the world. The academic years in college will further equip me with the necessary knowledge of literature, history, communications and culture and so on. Later, the study of Philosophy will enrich my mind with regard to ideas and critical thinking. Finally, four years of Theology will give me a wide range of religious knowledge and understanding to have a realistic and effective approach to people of other religions. During all these years, I will pursue too, the Gujarati and Spanish languages.
Furthermore, the perpetual vows of poverty, chastity and obedience are the driving forces that enable me to employ all my energies in various missions of the Society. As I grow stronger in my vocation, I am asked to pronounce the fourth vow of obedience to the Sovereign Pontiff regarding the missions. Since the Society of Jesus is concerned with humanity at the global level, all its members become one, despite the world’s physical boundaries. The Constitutions, concerning the fourth vow of obedience to the Pope with regard to mission, exhorts us to,
“Go anywhere in the world that he might send us, even beyond the boundaries of Christendom, for the greater glory of God and help to his people.”
[No.603, The Constitutions of the Society of Jesus]
My Jesuit way of proceeding is identified by my deep personal love for Jesus Christ. I am a servant of the Lord sent on a mission. In fact, I join the Society for a mission, become the mission and die on the mission. I have the heart and mind that contain the motivation of ever searching for the Ignatian MAGIS, that is, ‘doing ever more’. This Jesuit spirit is described appropriately by the following phrase, ‘a fire that enkindles other fires.’
After the Second Vatican Council, the Society of Jesus has grown stronger in the conviction that our mission received from Jesus Christ, is the propagation of faith and promotion of justice. The inseparable link between faith and justice is the integrating principle of our Society. This is what the Holy Father said regarding our mission:
“As my predecessors have often told you, the church needs you, counts on you, continues to turn to you with confidence, particularly to reach the geographical and spiritual places where others do not reach or find it difficult to reach.”
[Benedict the Sixteenth, Allocution to GC 35 of the Society of Jesus]
Hence, I belong to a Society that is engaged in the challenging mission of bringing about the Kingdom of God in the world.
The universality of my vocation becomes more visible through the virtue of ‘availability’. It is a ‘going out readily’ not only beyond the physical frontiers, but also beyond the barriers of discrimination among peoples worldwide. Availability is born from obedience and the intense desire to serve God and His people. That is the hallmark of the Jesuits.
In a nutshell, my Jesuit vocation is a call to universality, to be free from all else so as to be free for God, for the greater glory of God and for the sake of His people. My service to the universal church is rooted in my ‘undaunted loyalty’ to Jesus Christ. Since our mission today is a sharing in the ‘global mission’ of the church, I must empower myself with God through the Spiritual Exercises. I need an ‘unflinching solidarity’ with the poor and marginalized. I must undergo an ongoing ‘personal conversion’ and I must persevere in my vocation – a call to serve God anywhere and amongst any people in the world, wherever I may be sent to. For this I am determined to make the best use of my years in formation.
Sch. Sanjay D. Aind, s.j.