Our daily newspapers for the past weeks have been filled with calamities of Burma’s Nargis cyclone that so far has a death toll of about 78,000 lives with about 56,000 still missing and about 2 millions homeless.To add to such a disaster, in the past week, the great China earthquake too have shaken the world by killing about 29,000 people; with about 200,000 still missing and by now most would be dead under rubbles of buildings, and leaving 4.8 million homeless.
These and other calamities like the recent Tsunamis that have claimed hundreds of thousands of lives, highlight the fact that our lives here on earth are very fragile and weak. As human beings we live a life that is uncertain, insecure and limited. Our reality is one of human finiteness.
If we reflect on our human life and if we open our eyes wider and look more consciously at our ecological and globalised world, our own Church and our own homes and the many people we know, we will realise that there is much restlessness everywhere. Beneath the many blessings of the progress that we claim to have chalked up, beneath the wealth that we have accumulated, beneath the smiles of the many faces we meet daily and the very people with whom we live, and for some of us, perhaps, in the depth of our very own hearts, we will find a restlessness that is crying out for a deeper peace and a more solid foundation in our lives, for we sense that the ground on which we have built our lives is but on sand and not on rock. Our human lives and existence is hanging on a thread and Our Lord, in today’s Gospel is challenging each of us to do something about this restlessness that is eating at our hearts and pervading the world.
In today’s Gospel, when Jesus came down from the mountain where he experienced His Transfiguration, he found much restlessness and anxieties amongst the crowd at the foot of the mountain. Even His apostles were not able to calm the restlessness of the people, including the epileptic boy. Jesus was not upset or angry with His apostles. Instead, He was deeply concerned at what was happening. Jesus must have been asking Himself, “What is happening to my apostles? How long must I be with you? “I have handpicked you, shown you many miracles and given you much blessings and yet, you are still not able to calm the restlessness of the people who needed help?”
In all of these restlessness and hopelessness that is around us, what Jesus does not want happen to us believers is to sink into a paralyzing fear of what life is about. That is why in today’s Gospel, Jesus assured His apostles and the crowd, “Everything is possible if only you have faith.” In other words, Jesus is telling us, “In your experience of restlessness we must dare to trust Him.” And if we do, then our restlessness will be transformed into a real hope that is founded on rock.
Yes, our human existence that is hanging on a thread will only be secured with true hope and peace, if we turn back to God to save us and only if we return to the basics of our human reality to acknowledge that God is in-charge of the world; not human beings. We human beings are merely instruments of God; mouth pieces of God and ambassadors of God’s Truth, Love and Peace
If we dare to allow God to take charge of our lives more fully, if we dare to believe in Jesus more wholeheartedly, then God will be able to take root in our hearts more deeply. And when God takes root in our hearts, our restlessness will dissipate and we will become stronger and more effective instruments of God’s peace in today’s restless world.
And how is this possible? Jesus in today’s Gospel says, “We need prayers.” We need meaningful prayers and through our prayers be more fully connected to God, and then be able to find the strength and inspiration to serve the needs of others more selflessly.
Our East Timorese novices had shared with me several times how a young Filipino Jesuit priest who is serving the rural villages of East Timor. On a regular Sunday he would have to say 6 Masses. Leaving the house by 5.30 am and then only returning after midnight. He would have to rush from villages to villages which are far apart, to say his 6 Masses. One Sunday, his truck skidded and overturned on his way to a Mass. He climbed out of the truck and walked to the village so that he would be in time for the Mass. It was only after the Mass that the villages helped him to turn his truck back on to the road. When I hear of heartening true stories of a young Jesuit with such great zeal and selfless service, I am inevitably deeply moved to sense the power of faith and God’s infinite Love at work. Over the past 25 years as a Jesuit, I have come across many very good Jesuits who have never failed to inspire me and to keep me going.
There are more inspiring true stories, but I will only add one more. Today, we celebrate the Feast of Blessed Peter Wright,S.J. a martyr of the English persecution of the Roman Catholic Church. Before a crowd of about 20,000, Fr Wright said, “Gentlemen, this is a short passage to eternity. I was charged with no crime, but being a priest. I willingly confess that I am a priest; a Catholic and a religious man of the Society of Jesus. And the cause of my death is propagating the Catholic faith. Thus, I most willingly sacrifice my life, and would die a thousand times for the same, if it were necessary.” After asking the crowd to join him in prayer he added, “When I shall come to heaven I will do as much for you.” After Fr Wright was hanged until death, they cut him down and beheaded, disemboweled and quartered him. He was then taken to the Jesuit college in Liege to be buried. Fr Wright was 48 years of age and spent 25 years as a Jesuit and fulfilled the truth of what Jesus said in today’s Gospel, “Everything is possible if you have faith.”
And so, to conclude, I would like to add that, as we celebrate with great joy the profession of our two brother novices, Joaquim and Toeun today, we are reminded that their profession is telling us that even though we are weak, finite and sinful, we believe in Jesus’ words that “Everything is possible if we have faith.” We can be sure that there will be trials ahead of us, yet like all other Jesuits, we believe that God will surely provide for all our needs and at all times. Even a great martyr like Blessed Peter Wright started in the same way. So, today, we too believe that the God who stood by them at all times, will also stand by us at all times
Yes, there is much hope for the restlessness of the world, if we all, whether we are religious or laypersons, allow God to use us as His instruments of Peace, and we each dare to make the difference in this world to reach beyond our personal needs, to the needs of others who are restless because we truly dare to trust in the Lord.
Fr Philip Heng, S.J.
Jesuit Scholastics Joaquim Pires, SJ and Ham Touen, SJ
will proceed to Ateneo University in Philipines for further formation