The Epiphany and the Restoration of the Society of Jesus

[ADDU University Mass, Martinez Center, Matina: January 8, 2015]

 

1. Epiphany: Manifestation of God’s Love for all

We come together as a university community within the week of the great feast of the Epiphany – the feast of the manifestation of the Lord to all nations, including our own, the Philippines. Sometimes the Epiphany is referred to as the Feast of the Three Kings, because of the appearance in our Gospel (Lk 4:14-22) of three “wise men,” “magi,” or “kings” who came from afar to pay homage to the Child. They came bringing gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. But these three kings only symbolize the diversity of peoples, faiths and cultures throughout world. The Good News of the Epiphany is that no one people has exclusive exclusionary monopoly over the love, compassion and saving power of God. No one people, no one person manipulates the power of God. In Jesus the Father’s will is manifest: his love is directed at all peoples, inviting all, including ourselves, to “come and see” (Jn 1:46), to worship and live – live “life to the full” (Jn 10:10) – in responding to the Father’s initiative in love. “We love him, because he loved us first,” John says (1 Jn 4:19). “God is love. In this way, the love of God is revealed [manifested] to us: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might have life through him” (1 Jn. 8b-9) This is the Good News of the Epiphany: “It had not been made known to people in earlier generations as it has now been revealed…by the Spirit,” Paul proclaims, “that the Gentiles are coheirs, members of the same body, and copartners in the promise in Christ Jesus through the Gospel” (Eph. 3:5-6). To the Gentiles as well as the Jews, to you and me as well, belong the promise, treasure and hope of “the inscrutable riches of Christ” (Eph 3:8).

Even if in the darkness of this confused world, this Christ was rejected! When Jesus made his mission in the synagogue of Nazareth clear, as we hear in our Gospel reading for today, that his Father’s love was not just for the Jews but for all, they ran him out of Nazareth and attempted to murder him (cf. Lk 4: 16-30). But because he remained faithful to his Father’s love for all, for each person and all persons, because his love could not be manipulated towards the selfish interests of some, they crucified him. On his Cross, the Epiphany comes to its climax. On his Cross, the Father’s Love for us all is most profoundly manifest. On his Cross, in the twinkling eyes of this unlikely King, the rejection is rejected, the affirmation is affirmed. Love affirms. Love triumphs. Love sanctifies. In his penetrating eyes, this Savior draws all peoples to the Father’s love. To all who respond in faith, in love, and in service, the world and sin are conquered (cf 1 Jn 5:4).

All this is reflected in the profound texts of the first letter of St. John being read in the liturgies during this Epiphany week. “Beloved, we love God because he first love us.” Because we love in God’s love for all, we must love our sisters and brothers. “If anyone says he loves God but hates his brother [or sister], he [or she] is a liar; for whoever does not love a brother [or sister] who is seen cannot love God whom he [or she] has not seen” (1 Jn 19-20).

 

2.  The Restoration of the Society of Jesus, 1814

It is in this context of the Epiphany that we recall today the restoration of the Society of Jesus two hundred years ago. The Society of Jesus was itself a manifestation of God’s love for the world. It was founded by St. Ignatius and his companions 274 years earlier “especially for the defense and propagation of the faith and for the progress of souls in Christian life and doctrine, by means of public preaching, lectures and any other ministrations whatsoever of the Word of God, and further by means of retreats, the education of children and unlettered persons in Christianity, and the spiritual consolation of the Church’s faithful in hearing confessions and administering the other sacraments…”to reconcile the estranged, compassionately assist and serve those who are in prisons or hospitals, and indeed, to perform any other works of charity, according to what will seem expedient for the glory of God and the common good” (Formula of the Institute). Out of this mission, the Society of Jesus evolved its great missionary works and its worldwide educational apostolate. At the side of Jesus, Jesuits labored for the Kingdom of God in remote lands, in university classrooms, in retreat houses, in royal courts, in rural chapels, in urban cathedrals.   They labored with great passion and energy – like wild horses tamed by the love of the Father. Their successes were remarkable, and their numbers were many. They gained powerful friends and supporters. They were very influential.

But precisely because of their successes, their influence, and their power, they also gained many enemies. Just as Jesus had been rejected, so too were they rejected. On July 21, 1773, Clement XIV, yielding to the pressures of those who hated the Jesuits, suppressed the Society of Jesus worldwide. The result was a shut down of all Jesuit apostolic activities except for Russia and Prussia, including Jesuit labors in the Philippines. The Ateneo in Manila closed. San Jose Seminary closed. Jesuit parishes were turned over to other priests or religious, extensive Jesuit mission activities in Mindanao ceased. It was only 41years later, in 1814, through a bull of Pope Pius VII that the Society of Jesus was restored. That is what we are commemorating at this Mass. We commemorate it not as a restoration of institutional power, prestige and influence to the order that Ignatius had founded, but as a fresh encounter in history with the love of the Father for all peoples, despite chronic opposition from the world, manifesting itself particularly in the restoration of the SJ.

This is at least our prayer. We pray in thanksgiving because God in restoring the Society of Jesus deigns to manifest his love for all peoples, rich or poor, Filipino or foreigner, believer or non-believer, in an ongoing epiphany, through Jesuits such as Fr. Kiko Glover, Fr. Ning Puentevella, Fr. Dan McNamara, Fr. Rene Ocampo, Fr. Bill Malley, Fr. Kim Lachica, Fr. Manny Perez, Fr. Gaby Gonzales, Fr. Denny Toledo, Fr. Charlie Cenzon, Fr. DJ de los Reyes, Br. Anthony Dass, Br. Jeff Pioquinto, and even through such Jesuits as Fr. Koko Parilla, Fr. Ernald Andal, Fr. Manoling Francisco, Fr. Tony Moreno, Fr. Adolfo Nicolas, and the smiling Jesuit from Argentina, Pope Francis. It is God’s love manifested in the same mission of old, “the defense and propagation of the faith,” just unpacked for today: “the service of the faith, the promotion of justice, sensitivity to cultures, inter-religious dialogue, and the defense and preservation of the environment.” It is love that is today manifested through such Jesuit works as the Center for Family Ministry, the Center for Ignatian Spirituality, the Philippine Jesuit Prison Service, the Jesuit Music Ministry, the Manila Observatory, the parishes of Bukidnon, San Jose Seminary, St. John Marie Vianney Theological Seminary, Loyola School of Theology, the Ateneos of Manila, Naga, Zamboanga, Cagayan de Oro and of Davao[1]not by Jesuits alone but also and essentially by their co workers, many laypersons in committed service to Jesus Christ, many friends in service of the one God, many partners in the service of a shared humanity. It is love manifested, thanks to you, to the teachers of Taungyi, Myanmar, the B’laans of Tampacan, the T’Bolis of Lake Sebu, the Kagans of Mandug, the Bangsamoro of Mindanao, but also, most immediately, to our students, families and stakeholders here at the Ateneo de Davao through our instruction, research and service to the community for the common good.

 

3.  We are The Society of Jesus’ ongoing restoration, its unending epiphany.

In the words of our Fr. General Nicolas, let us “thank God that our least Society continues to exist today; that in the Society we continue to find a path to God in the spirituality of St. Ignatius; … and that we continue to experience the privilege and joy of serving the Church and the world, especially those most in need through our ministries.”[2] We thank God that we Jesuits do not do this alone, but are blessed with co-laborers and friends in the Lord who share our mission with passion and commitment. In the joy of the Epiphany we pray that God continue to manifest his love to all peoples even though our Society of Jesus. We commemorate its restoration gratefully.

We are its ongoing restoration, its unending epiphany of God’s love for all in our shared love and service.

 

__________

[1] Cf: “200: Celebrating the Restoration of the Society of Jesus” DVD produced by Fr. Antonio Moreno SJ and Fr. Emmanuel Alfonso of the Philippine Province, S.J. through Jesuit Communications Foundation, 2014

[2] Jesuit Superior General Fr. Adolfo Nicolas to the whole Society of Jesus and Friends. Rome, 14 November 2013.

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About Joel Tabora, S.J.

Jesuit. Educator
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