Santiago Rodriguez, S.J.
Since I entered the Society of Jesus in the fall of 2008, I have grown in the awareness that as a church, as the body of Christ, we have a mandate from Christ, our head, to witness to the Gospel. We live out this witness by ministering to God’s people in many ways including education, health care, and social service. We have the responsibility of educating people on matters of Catholic doctrine, including its social teaching, shedding light on the moral dimensions of public policy initiatives and calling forth works of charity and justice. This is what some people call ‘faithful citizenship’; active participation in servicing all people of God, specially in issues of justice, life, human dignity, protection of marriage and family, and the common good.
In a special way, this awareness grew out of two contemplations in the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola. The first contemplation takes place during the second week of the Exercises when Ignatius invites us to ponder the Incarnation. In this contemplation, we are presented with the Holy Trinity looking down on earth and seeing the suffering, confusion and blindness of its people. With great concern and moved by love, the Three Persons desire to work the redemption of the human race. In their Eternity, they decree the the Second Person of the Trinity should become man to save us. The awareness that God works our redemption out of such love and care constantly calls me to cooperate with God’s work. This invitation is rooted in my contemplation of God and of the world. As I contemplate the love that God has for each and every one of us, and I ponder about our humanity – with its many joys and sorrows – I am thrusted into action to faithfully and creatively care and serve all peoples.
The second contemplation is the Two Standards, also in the second week of the Exercises. In this exercise, Ignatius asks us to imagine the armies of Christ and of Lucifer on a big field. Each group has a standard or flag, which helps everyone know his or her position in the field. Ignatius invites us to consider the words of Christ who instructs his followers to go into the world and lead everyone to freedom. In this contemplation, I am moved by Christ to lead people to freedom in order for them to ponder the good of serving under his standard. In returning to the graces of this prayer experience, I assent to the heartfelt understanding that in all aspects of my life – in my ministry and studies, in prayer and in action –I am called to labour under the standard of Christ for the greater glory of God and the greater good of humankind.
This is my witness to the Gospel. By living out my election – my choice – to follow and labour under Christ’s standard, I witness to his love, care and justice. And we are all called to live this witness in actions more than in words. As St. Francis of Assisi said, “Preach the Gospel at all times, and only when necessary use words.” This witness is a call for catholics, christians and all men and women of good will to recognize how God labours in all of us, and in all things, and to respond by cooperating with his work. This awareness – that God dwells and labours in all things and that he calls us to cooperate with his work – is a the core of our call to care for the sick and elderly, educate the young, protect all life, foster families, welcome immigrants, and provide support for the marginalized. And just as my conscience and my awareness were formed by these experiences of the Spiritual Exercises, I hope that by inviting others to contemplate God’s work and the state of our world, we find the depth and creativity to meet the challenges of our time and witness to the Beauty of the Trinity lovingly concerned with our cares.