You Shall Renew the Face of the Earth

[Mass of the Holy Spirit, Assumption Chapel.  July 20, 2022.]

Recently we celebrated the commencement of the 75th anniversary of ADDU with the celebration of Christ the King as the center of our University.

We Pray that the Holy Spirit Come

Today, as the new SY 2022-23 commences, we celebrate the Mass of the Holy Spirit in the presence of representative groups from all of our units – the Grade School, the Junior High School, the Senior High School, the Higher Education Undergraduate and Graduate Schools, and the Law School – administrators, faculty members, staff, students and learners.   We pray that the Holy Spirit come.  For we are all aware that our recognition of Christ as our King is not possible without the Holy Spirit.  Our recognition of Jesus as our Messiah is not possible without the Holy Spirit.  Even our most fundamental recognition of Jesus as having a part in my life needs the Holy Spirit.

Faith

At Ateneo de Davao, we like to say we are strong in the faith – fortes in fide.  That is our motto.  But we do not give ourselves faith, nor become strong in it on our own.  Faith is a gift of the Spirit, a relationship with Jesus, even when it is only initial fascination by his personality, his healing powers, his teachings, his proclamation of the Kingdom of God, and his consequent conflicts with the religious leaders of Judaism in his time.  It is a greater gift of the Spirit when in life faith is matured by union with Jesus suffering for us on the Cross.  Or by our being lifted up by Him in his resurrection.

Hope

Hope too is the gift of the Spirit, the conviction that our future is not in inevitable aging, diminishment, and death, but in a graced state won for us by Jesus’ Death and Resurrection:  that in the absolute joy of heaven we shall one day be presented whole and redeemed by Jesus to our Father unto his praise and glory. 

In this hope, it is the Spirit that now transforms our daily trials and tribulations into endurance, and endurance into proven character, and proven character into strengthened hope, hope which does not disappoint because, as Paul said, “the love of God … has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit” (Rom. 5:5).

Love

We invoke the Spirit to refresh in us this image of “the love of God”:  his image on the Cross, the image of Christ the King.  This image of the Crucified Lord, the Spirit convinces us, is the image of the love of God the Father for us, the expression of the Father’s love for us.   Paul says, “God proves his love for us in that [even] while we were still sinners Christ died for us.” In his dying we were “justified by his blood.”  

It is the Spirit that helps us recall our personal experience of being loved by him from his Cross, even in our unworthiness and sinfulness.  We invoke the Spirit to guide our response as we ask, “If you have done this for me in love, Jesus, what have I done for you? What am I doing for you?  What ought I do for you?”

The Spirit in Our University Experience

If we dare to ask this question, the Spirit may help us find pleasure in resumed face-to-face encounters in the University that are safe, excitement in the rosters of old and new students and learners coming to us to help them face a vuca world, satisfaction in the creation of programs that respond to their needs, exhilaration in designing courseware that students find truly helpful, delight in the progress of spiritual directees seeking a more intimate knowledge of God, stimulation in the insights my research in my discipline has been able to contribute to an inter-disciplinary study on such as Lumad religious beliefs, pride in the former drug users we have helped find liberation from addictive habits, satisfaction in the peace wrought in a once-warring community through painstakingly won agreements.

The Spirit helps us with a greater personal appropriation of our shared  mission: a deeper participation in the Father’s work of reconciliation in our world alienated from him by our sin, where we ourselves sometimes no longer recognize him as relevant in our academic or professional pursuits, or when we sometimes share of him with colleagues and experience coldness and indifference, if not rejection,  or when colleagues speak to us of their religious experiences and we find ourselves turned off.   The Spirit helps us participate in the Father’s work of reconciling human beings with other human beings when we find it exasperating to have to work with certain fellow teachers, or find it difficult working with fellow learners on the lessons I must study and on competencies I must acquire, or feel myself angered by the constant suffering some people must undergo because of the insensitive selfishness of others.  The Spirit sometimes even allows me to shudder in shame, because the selfishness is mine.  The Spirit helps us participate in the Father’s work of reconciling humanity with creation when we study hard to understand why the globe appears to be warming inexorably, why the forests are burning, the glaciers are melting, the sea levels rising, the fresh water supplies diminishing, and what their effects on our lives in Mindanao shall be, and what we must do to prepare ourselves and others to survive.

The Spirit and the Christian University Community

It is the Spirit that is sent down on us to transform us from fearsome individuals hiding in an upper room too scared, or too shy, or too weak to talk about our faith into women and men of courage, witnesses to the power of the Resurrected Lord still calling us to come together in a Christian university community to work with him in proclaiming the Good News of salvation in him to the ends of the earth, but first, to the ends of Mindanao, even as we accept the diversity of faiths in Mindanao.  That is what makes our Catholic University community different from the communities of non-Catholic universities and schools.  In the Spirit, our instruction and formation include the proclamation of Jesus as Messiah and King, our research drives ultimately to a unity of all disciplinal truths in God, who is the source of Truth, and our service to the community serves Him in the hunger, the thirst, the homelessness, the nakedness and the ignorance of the least of His brothers and sisters in our world.

The Freedom of the Spirit

The University is not just our work in academic freedom.  It is the work of the Spirit freely entering into our lives.  We do not control him.  We do not direct him.  We cannot subject him to our manipulation.  Today, as the Catholic university community he gratuitously brings together for his purposes, we can only pray:

Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful people.  Kindle in them the fire of your divine love.  Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created.  And you shall renew the face of the earth. 

About Joel Tabora, S.J.

Jesuit. Educator
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