General Congregation 36 (GC 36) dominated Jesuit life during 2016. The theme, “Row into the deep”, was derived from a message of Pope Francis to the Society of Jesus in 2014, echoing Jesus’ call to his disciples to “put out into the deep”. In the Congregation logo, the IHS represents the Society’s boat in the Church; the waves are the troubled seas of our times into which Jesuits are invited to row with faith.
From Good Friday to Easter: what contrasts! From darkness to light, death to life, loss to discovery, despair to hope, defeat to victory, fasting to feasting. At Easter we “pass over”; we let go of the old and strive to embrace the new. During Lent we tried to become free from self-centredness and false hopes.
“The Society of Jesus can develop only in collaboration with others: only if it becomes the least Society that collaborates. We want to collaborate generously with others, inside and outside of the Church, in the awareness, which comes from the experience of God, of being called to the mission of Christ Jesus.”
We celebrate on July 31 the feast of Ignatius Loyola, the founder and first Superior General of the Society of Jesus. His successor was elected at the first General Congregation that, delayed by a war, was held two years after his death, in 1558. In October this year, 220 electors will assemble in Rome for the 36th General Congregation, called to elect the 31st Superior General who will replace Fr General Adolfo Nicolás who, at 80 years of age, is seeking to resign.
There are “the cracks in the planet”. As we mark Earth Day today, I am reminded of the startlingly fresh and visionary way Pope Francis called on all – not just Catholics – to be aware of the acute distress of our planet, our “common home” last year. In his encyclical letter Laudato si’, Francis calls us to appreciate our moral responsibility to care for this wounded world even as we rejoice in the marvels of creation, the wonder of human life, the beauty of the stars, the forests and the macro- and the micro systems of our universe.
“If I do not see him, I will not believe, said Thomas.” (John 20,25). Well said, Thomas. Seeing is believing. We can identify with Thomas.
Yet how is it that on entering an empty tomb, Peter and the disciple with him, the one Jesus loved, saw and believed? How can a tomb that is empty be a cause of belief? Can the absence of Jesus be a source of energy, joy and love?
Advent and the approach of Christmas bring a message of hope. As the sun will surely rise, so will the Son of Justice. The downtrodden will be saved and peace established. Justice shall flourish in his time, and fullness of peace forever. The Lord, our best teacher, will come, Isaiah the prophet assures us: “He who is your teacher will hide no longer, and you will see your teacher with your own eyes. Whether you turn to right or to left you will hear this voice behind you saying ‘This is the way, follow it’” (Isaiah 30:21).
A Jesuit General Congregation is a rare event. This month, the 36th General Congregation to be held since the Society of Jesus was founded 475 years ago begins with the first meeting of Electors in the six Jesuit Conferences across the world. For the Jesuits in Asia Pacific, this meeting was held in Manila from October 19 to 22.