Congregational Letter Vol. 6, No. 5
As Holy Week begins, I pray that as a Community we grow in our intimacy with God as we accompany His Son, Jesus, through his passion, death and resurrection. May our reflections, prayers and conversations with Jesus this week renew our commitment ‘to live a life of love as disciples of Jesus’ as Brothers, Associates, Colleagues, and Friends in the Xaverian Congregation. As we prepare for Easter, I want to share a few reflections.
I have a story that I feel bears on the underlying meaning not only of Holy Week, but also of our being Jesus’ followers. As Principal of Saint Xavier, I used to volunteer to meet with some juniors to help them reflect on their experience of Christian service. I met with a student named Jeremy after his first service visit at a nearby Catholic nursing home. The conference was difficult because Jeremy was not comfortable with the old man whom he was to visit. The old man’s name was Roy.
I asked Jeremy what was making him uncomfortable? Jeremy experienced some fear and nervousness. He was not used to talking to old people. He never knew his own grandfather. He did not know what to say or what to do during the visit. He was not sure he could continue. Then I asked Jeremy to put himself in the place of Roy. How did Roy react to him? Was Roy glad to have a visitor? What do you think your visit meant to Roy? What did he want to talk about? I think the questions made a difference.
By the third reflection session, Jeremy had become friends with Roy. In fact, after the service program finished, Jeremy continued to visit Roy weekly. I ran into Jeremy as a senior and asked him how Roy was doing. His eyes welled up. He told me Roy had passed away and that he really missed him.
It is a simple story. It points, however, to what some theologians consider the very basis of Christian spirituality—kenosis, the emptying of self so we can be open to God and others. As Jeremy emptied himself of fear, nervousness, lack of knowledge and a sense of inadequacy, he became more open to Roy. He could put himself in Roy’s place. Jeremy formed a deep relationship with Roy.
The meaning of the events of Holy Week lie in what Paul describes as Jesus’ emptying Himself.
Guided by the Holy Spirit, Jesus, who being of the very nature of God did not consider equality with God something to be grasped. Rather, He emptied Himself, taking the form of a slave. He humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross.Phil 2:5-7
During Holy Week, we remember Jesus’ own kenosis – His emptying of self. May we become closer to Jesus as we contemplate how He emptied Himself in the course of His Passion and Death: the sadness he felt saying good-bye to his disciples; the intimacy of his farewell; the anguish He experienced in accepting the Father’s will not His own; being let down by his disciples who could not pray and keep watch with Him; the betrayal of Judas and Peter; the pain He felt seeing his mother at the cross; the abandonment He felt as death was approaching and finally His resignation to the Father’s love. Jesus’ emptying of Himself led him to deep communion with the Father, with His disciples and with all who would know Him due to the belief of His disciples.
I pray not only for them, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, so that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us, that the world may believe that you sent me.Jn 17:20-21
Saint Paul’s Letter to the Philippians touches the very heart of our discipleship.
Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, any solace in love, any participation in the Spirit, any compassion and mercy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, with the same love, united in heart, thinking one thing.Phil 2:1-2
When I read this exhortation at the beginning of the second chapter, I imagine our Founder talking to us.
Experience tells me that ‘being of the same mind, with the same love, united in heart, thinking one thing,’ is, indeed, a challenge. It requires my being willing to ‘empty myself’ of my prized beliefs, values, opinions, feelings, preferences, prejudices, fears and penchants. All of us have them. Paul talks about what we need to do as Brothers, Associates, and Colleagues to experience the communion Jeremy felt with Roy, and that Jesus offers us each day.
Do nothing out of selfishness or out of vainglory; rather, humbly regard others as more important than yourselves, each looking out not for his own interests, but [also] everyone for those of others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ-Jesus.Phil 2:3-4
We believe that Jesus’ emptying himself led Him to the glory of the resurrection as Jeremy’s emptying himself led him to communion with Roy.
Jesus humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross. Because of this, God greatly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.Phil 2:8-11
Humility is essential to communion with God through Jesus, communion with each other and communion with the world we serve. Am I willing to be humble enough to empty myself of ‘me’ in order to look out for others, in order to respect, care and love them? Are we willing as a Congregation to do the same? These may be good questions to share with Jesus this week.
It is my prayer that you experience great hope and new life in Christ as we celebrate Easter. I pray also that you realize that God is the one who, for his good purpose, works in you and works in our Community of Brothers, Associates and Colleagues. My warmest wishes for a Happy Easter!
Brother Edward Driscoll, CFX | General Superior