Education with a Social Conscience

[Mass of the Holy Spirit for Assumption College of Davao, Sunday, June 28, 2015]

We are at the outset of the new academic year at Assumption College of Davao. As is customary in Catholic schools, we begin this year with a celebration of the Mass of the Holy Spirit. It is that Spirit that brings us together this morning, first, as a Christian community in shared faith, acknowledging the awesomeness of God our Father in all he has created, acknowledging our redemption and hope through his Son, Jesus Christ.   Every Sunday, we are privileged to celebrate our shared community as Christians through the power of the Holy Spirit.

The Spirit Brings the ACD Community Together

But this morning we come together in added Christian celebration of our community that is the Assumption College of Davao. This is not just the community of Missionaries of the Assumption who founded this school in response to the great need for quality education in Davao. It is not just a gathering of teachers and instructors of various disciplines and competencies who have happily found employment at Assumption College of Davao. Nor is it just students who need to be prepared for fruitful participation in Philippine and global society and study here in the hope of one day being happy and fulfilled. But it is the Holy Spirit who brings the sisters, teachers, administrators, students and staff members from working isolated, juxtaposed or even against one another into an integrated functioning whole around a shared purpose. At ACD, that shared purpose is the promotion of “education with a social conscience” ACD webpage) or otherwise expressed, “quality transformative education characterized by active social involvement towards a society that is just, humane, nationalistic, democratic, peaceful, faith motivated, and interconnected with the whole of creation” (ACD V-M Statement). It is the Holy Spirit that inspires this common purpose, rallies people around its shared pursuit, and guides all in its difficult implementation.

The Holy Spirit is Social Conscience

“Education with a social conscience:” that means not just an array of offerings in business, accounting, management, social work, social sciences, information technology, engineering and the like, but making that education available to those on the margins of society, including the indigenous peoples, the poor, and the excluded. Education with a social conscience means delivering quality education to those who need it urgently with very meager resources, because the people it normally serves are unable to pay large tuition expenses and fees. Education with a social conscience means making sure that each and every person who studies here, and each and every academician who teaches here, is in touch personally with his or her social conscience – the conscience that is impelled to regard society from the viewpoint not of the economy nor of the free market but of social justice, the conscience that demands that for each and every person in society the fullness of life – the fullness of life that Jesus came to bring – be pursued in the common good. The social conscience that is not driven by the interests of big business and capital but by the least of the Lord’s brothers and sisters in society is formed and impelled by the Holy Spirit. The social conscience that beats in the heart of Assumption College of Davao is the Holy Spirit. That Holy Spirit does not allow the teacher just to teach his or her subject, but impels the teacher to draw out its implications for the free consideration of the student in social justice. That Holy Spirit does not allow the student to study history or political science or business theory just to pass courses with respectable grades; it impels the student through his or her study of various her disciplines to commit himself to the cause of social justice. That is a compulsion that is not imposed from without, but is impelled from within through insight into the truth  and love in the Spirit. It is the Spirit that moves in the student to free commitment from within, recalling the memory and meaning of Jesus’ words, “Whatever you do or not do for one of these the least of my sisters and brothers, that you do or not do for me” (cf. Mt. 25: 40, 45). It is the Holy Spirit that disturbs us from within with the words of James: “If a brother or sister has nothing to wear and has no food for the day, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, keep warm, and eat well,’ but you do not give them the necessities of life, what good is it? So also faith of itself, if it does not have works, is dead” (James 2: 15-17).

God, Nature, and Human Community

The Holy Spirit inspires the transformative education that that Assumption College of Davao offers. It educates to transform persons and institutions into a society that is just not corrupt, humane not cruel, nationalistic not foreign-dominated, democratic not dictatorial, peaceful not warring, faith-motivated not profit-obsessed, and interconnected with the whole of creation. “Interconnected with the whole of creation” is a major theme of Pope Francis’ most recent encyclical, Laudato Si, “On Care for our Common Home.” The Holy Spirit moves us today in the face of unprecedented pollution and climate change on our planet, the awesome threats to the supply of fresh water for the human community, the sad loss of biodiversity, the decline in the quality of human life, and the breakdown of human society, to rediscover the essential connectedness between the Creator, creation and human society, the essential interconnection between worship, care for the environment, and care for the least and excluded in human society. The Holy Spirit convinces us that it is our denial of the Creator in our secular society that allows us so dangerously to usurp his power in our unbridled technocracy, and so to horribly abuse nature, as we have abused it to almost breaking point in the last 200 years, bringing the most intense suffering on the marginalized, the poor and the excluded. See what this madness has done to our forests in Mindanao, to our rivers and aquifers, to our mountains and coastlands, to the once beautiful coastal areas of Surigao del Norte and Surigao del Sur, to the homelands of our indigenous peoples!  See the conflict and suffering it instigates among us, but especially on the poorest of our poor!

On this Sunday we say together, “Come Holy Spirit, come!” Come fill our hearts with your wisdom, your love, your courage, your hope. Strengthen us in our community, confirm us in our mission, fill us with the joy of your Gospel – as we work specially this year to care for “our common home,” but know that that care is impossible without renewed care for our relationship with God and renewed care for our relationships with one another. Come Holy Spirit, Spirit of love and courage, come!

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About Joel Tabora, S.J.

Jesuit. Educator
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