Legazpi – The Harong Kan Sagrada Familia community welcomed Fr. Charlton Viray for a visit November 6th–8th. During his visit, he offered a class for all the novices entitled, “Prayer with the Bible” teaching them to use this kind of prayer in their own spiritual life. He said, “once, one gets to know and apply this prayer in their spiritual life, one may discover their own self and may realize their own self with the painfulness of spirit which self needs to accept it in order to grow.” With this type of prayer, we no longer pray alone, but we listen, understand and meet Jesus in our hearts. Prayer becomes a personal dialogue with Jesus and we discover “who is Jesus in my life?” In seeking him in others: neighbors, poor, needy, we also see him in our own hearts, for He is waiting for us there. Getting to know Him is getting to know ourselves.
Lent is the time of intense prayer and reflection through which we are bound with the mystery of Jesus’ suffering which brought redemption to the world. There are several models of salvation in the Old Testament which were preserved in the Judaism of Jesus’ day. But it was the suffering servant model that impressed the person of Jesus and he designed His program of life according to this model of suffering servant, a model given in Deutero Isaiah chapter 52:13-53:12. It is inspiring that Jesus was strengthened to uphold and live by this model in His last moments of prayer in Gethsemane.
The most crucial moment in the life of Jesus was His moment of prayer and agony in the garden of Gethsemane where confrontation, agony and prayer were intermingled. In the Letter to the Hebrews 5:7, it says that Jesus prayed with loud cries and tears. We can roughly assume that Jesus would have spent two long hours in this tearful, crying prayer at Gethsemane. His emotional position is described as, “deeply distressed and agitated.” But we have only two sentences of prayer: “Let this cup pass away from Me. Not My will but Thy will be done”. It is inspiring if we assume that the long prayer of Jesus was centered on the first: the removal of the cup. Though there are different interpretations for the cup, it would be meaningful to take it as the ‘humanity’ which was based on the humanity of humankind. If Jesus were to pray for the removal of only His suffering, while the majority of humankind was experiencing the same, His prayer would be a ‘selfish’ prayer. His humanity and agony are inseparable from the humanity and agony of humankind. Though ‘evil powers’ stood against Him like a huge, threatening monster, He stood alone bearing in mind and heart the agony of humankind. He was firm on this identification even if it were to result in His death. Such a ‘prayerful’ identification made Him reformulate His prayer, “Not my will, but Thy Will be done.” It is this prayer that convinced Him of His vocation to be the Suffering Servant and strengthened Him to pursue the path of this model to save humankind.
What is the ‘Salvation Model’ that I have opted for in my religious vocation? Do I visualize prayer as a way of confirming the religious model that I chose when I dedicated myself? Does my prayer change me again and again and place me on the track of identifying myself with Jesus, still suffering and agonizing among the uncaring crowds afflicted with wounds, deformities, poverty, stigma, unjust persecution, oppression and violence? Let prayer change us!
As the Lenten season prepares us for the celebration of the Resurrection of Our Lord through participation in the life of the Suffering Servant, please know of my gratitude to all of you and my sincere Easter greetings to you! May the grace, peace and love of the Risen Lord be with you always!
February 2nd is the 17th World Day of Consecrated Life and it will be celebrated on the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord, also known as Candlemas Day, which symbolizes Christ who is the light of the world and consecrated person par excellence. The fundamental call of religious life is always the search for God and the deepening of one’s relationship with God. “Religious life is about keeping the dangerous ‘memory of Jesus’ alive, dangerous because “love of God and of neighbor constitutes, costly grace,” as Bonheoffer says.
We recently had our traditional learning meeting in the Generalate with all the Provincials. In Europe, we cannot avoid putting a lot of time and energy discussing and planning its future in Religious Life with the phenomenon of the ‘inverted pyramid’ because the number of older and retiring members are increasing while new members are decreasing. Therefore, restructuring and closer collaboration with the laity in the Service of Charity and also bringing new energy to revitalize our religious life and mission is indispensable in the Congregation. Whereas on the other side of the globe, such as Asia and Africa, we have to take a fresh look at the increasing vocations and thank God for the gift and blessing of the large number of candidates in the various stages of initial formation and the need to prudently develop current mission centers .
Today, Consecrated life is like a sailboat pushed by the wind of the Spirit. In many places, she has no tailwind- she is slowed and finds a lot of obstacles in her path. The conversation of Pope Francis with the Superior Generals of religious men at the end of their 82nd General Assembly on November 29, 2013 gave an open invitation to the religious, “Wake the World Up.” The priority that consecrated life, “is the prophesy of the kingdom,” is not negotiable. We are bound to follow the Lord in a prophetic way, with generosity, detachment, sacrifice, and self-forgetfulness which is the witness, the “martyrdom of religious life.”
Let us praise the Lord more enthusiastically for the great gift of consecrated life. The presentation of Jesus in the Temple is an eloquent icon of the total offering of each one of us and thus helping us to grow in prophetic relevance of our consecration by reproducing Jesus in a more visible and viable way.