Jesus the Model Companion
During the past two days we were privileged to journey with Fr. Lukas Jua SVD, provincial superior of the province of Flores-Ende. Fr. Lukas, a bible expert, generously shared with us his rich knowledge of and love for the Scriptures, as we explored together the theme of “formation as companionship” in the Bible. We experienced that the meaning of the scriptures is rich, but that it also depends on the reader and his/her context. Fr. Lukas taught us to read the Scriptures from the perspective of faith. While doing so he connected different passages with each other, thereby broadening and deepening their meaning.
Together with Fr. Lukas we first looked at the Old Testament as the story of how God accompanies his chosen people. Our particular focus was on Moses, to whom God revealed himself as the faithful companion. Being his companion, he was also his formator. It was only gradually that God revealed himself and his plans to Moses. Often times God acted through the women in Moses’ life, who took on the role of an “agent of life”, thus revealing the compassionate and merciful face of God. As Moses fled from Egypt and found a home in Midian, he also went through an inner journey, which culminated in the experience of the burning bush, the revelation of God as the “I am who I am”. It is here where God’s basic formation of Moses ended. Everything that Moses had gone through thus far was just a preparation for this moment to come, in which he would have reached the readiness to take on his responsibility as a leader/formator himself. At this point, Fr. Jacob sent us to reflect upon and share in basic groups about our own experience of being led by God to become a formator.
God revealed himself in the Old Testament as the “I am who I am”, i.e. as the companion who is always there. Companionship, from the perspective of faith, thus, means being present. “There is nothing more important than being present”, assured Fr. Lukas. And he further added, “then, this also needs to be our option as a companion/formator”.
In the New Testament we find the assurance of God’s presence confirmed in His son Jesus, the “Emmanuel”, God-with-us. In his sharing on Jesus, Fr. Lukas put special emphasis on Jesus’ presence as rabbi and friend. Jesus is a rabbi different from any other rabbi, since he owns certain qualities unique to him: he chooses his disciples instead of being chosen by them, and he also has women among his disciples. A rabbi is someone who leads and shows the direction. We find these characteristics also in the Good Shepherd, who caringly and lovingly leads his sheep out to the pasture – something that we can apply to a formator as well. However, regarding the expression of a “friend”, questions arose whether a formator can or should be a friend. Fr. Lukas explained to us, that the term is to be understood within its context. Jesus called his disciples friends, because they share everything, and because he loves them. As a good friend he also suffers with them and for them.
After a short time of personal reflection we discussed in our basic groups, what Jesus as our friend expects from us formators. We then shared our insights in the plenum. Many of the qualities were mentioned several times, such as acceptance, witness of values, firm identity, responsibility, patience. Fr. Lukas further stressed the aspects of self-denial, taking up one’s cross, and following Jesus. As he shared from his own experience, talking to formandee about the cross has become more and more difficult. Yet, it is essential to Christianity that it is only through the cross that we gain life.
Who then are the young people of today, to whom God continues to assure his presence, also through our companionship in formation? We are going to have a closer look at it tomorrow…