During the opening mass of the 15th General Chapter, the Superior General of the Society of the Divine Word Fr. Budi Kleden shared his reflection about the theme of the General Chapter. Here we publish the homily in full.
Dear Capitulars, Sisters, and brothers,
“Immersed in the life of the Trinity, transforming the world with compassion.” This theme was chosen before the COVID-19 Pandemic. But it has become more actual and relevant in this crisis we are living in. This crisis reveals the brokenness and fragility of our human works and systems. Yet, at the same time, it opens our eyes to see the urgent need for transformation and calls us to do our part responsibly.
We are immersed in the life of Trinity if we let the Trinity immerse in us, form and transform us. In this way, we can participate in transforming the world with compassion. The General Chapter is a particular time to immerse in the life of the Trinity, as individuals and as a chapter community. Together, you search the will of God for the Congregation. It is also a unique opportunity to immerse deeply into the reality of the Congregation, which is much more prosperous, comprehensive, and colorful than the reality of your province or region. It also provides a privileged opportunity to immerse into the reality of our world today.
Before our being immersed in the life of the Trinity, the Trinity is immersing itself in our world to transform it with compassion. And God calls, empowers, and takes us along to be engaged in the creation, history, and reality of the oppressed and the poor. I want to underline these three immersions and three related conversions.
Immersion in History
God is the Lord of history. The Triune God is present in history, namely our personal history, our Congregation and the Church, the history of our people and of the humanity. In the first reading God is presented as the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God of the ancestors of Israel. The Triune God is the God of Arnold, Helena, Hendrina, and the founding generation. If we trace how God has been present in our journey as religious missionaries, look back at how God has guided our congregations through different periods, and recall how the Triune God has been faithful to the Church despite all the scandals, we will be led to a spiritual conversion, the conversion of the Spirit, the conversion to the freedom of the Spirit.
History tells us that faithfulness to the original vision requires readiness to change. However, holding on to certain practices, ways of thinking and doing things, structures and positions is a temptation in the religious missionary life. We need structures, houses, and systems. However, it is essential always to leave the Spirit be the Spirit, being the principle of freedom and creativity. Our structures can become impure spirits when they keep us imprisoned in our concerns and habits. If we become unmovable in the Spirit, we will turn to hinder people from coming to the joy of religious life and missionary vocation. We hinder people from encountering the healing God, like the apostles who said: “Send her away, for she keeps calling out after us!”
Spiritual conversion helps us to rediscover the radiance of creative faithfulness. Creative faithfulness enables us to live the charism of the founding generation into something always new, fresh, and actual. It becomes a resounding yes and a truly Good News for our world today. It inspires us to create life-giving relationships. The woman in the Gospel went back to her house and found her daughter in good health. Spiritual conversion enables us to collaborate with others to make our communities wholly and healthier to transform the world with compassion.
Immersion in the reality of the oppressed and the poor
The readings present to us how the heart of God beats for the oppressed and the poor. In the first reading, God sees the suffering of the people. God listens to their cry, chooses and empowers Moses to start transforming the oppressive reality of the Israelites. The responsorial Psalm invites us to praise God for God’s intervention to liberate the oppressed. In the Gospel, Jesus enters into dialogue with a Syrophoenician woman and listens to her cry. Jesus does not separate people according to religion, level of faithfulness, or gender. Anyone immersed in the reality of the oppressed and the poor formidably changes the usual categories of judging people. In front of the suffering of the oppressed and the poor, we are reminded of the common dignity that we share with others. Listening to the cry of the poor and the oppressed means getting attuned to the voice of the Lord who is with them. This immersion leads to missionary conversion.
The missionary conversion reminds us that we are not only evangelizing, but we are also being evangelized. The poor and oppressed are the most privileged in the eyes of God. They are our principal evangelizers. They remind us that religious missionary life is about service, not about power. We know where the temptation of power could lead us: accumulation of wealth, separation from others, exclusive relationships, unhealthy connections with the powerful, among others. Jesus of the Gospel today asks us to facilitate rather than block the ongoing dialogue between God and God’s people. Missionary conversion makes us humble because we know that mission is God’s and not ours.
Immersion in the creation
The responsorial Psalm invites us to praise the Lord for what God has done. Although the Psalm talks more about the liberation of the oppressed, we can follow this invitation to reflect on the creation. The Triune God is the God of creation. God is present in the creation. The creation bears God’s signature. Immersing in God, therefore, also means engaging in the creation. In his letter from Saint Rupert in July 1908, six months before his death, Saint Arnold writes: “Here surrounded by the beauty of the nature … I am moved to write some verses in honor of the three divine persons….”
Immersion in the creation will lead to ecological conversion. Immersion in the creation opens our eyes to see the beauty of nature and invites us to praise God. It also means realizing the damage caused to nature by human greed and egoism. Immersion in the creation opens our ears to listen to the cry of the earth, our only and common home. Pope Francis reminds us that listening to the cry of earth is listening to the cry of the poor. The poor are the most endangered by natural calamities. Ecological conversion is the consequence of our commitment to being on the side of the poor. Mind you. It is not just an option but an unnegotiable mission.
Dear Capitulars, Sisters, and brothers,
By Immersing in the life of Trinity, we are empowered. Letting the Trinity sink in our religious missionary calling helps us overcome our fears and encourage us to cross the borders of our own culture, nationality, and religion. Immersing in the life of Trinity will make us part of the immersion of God in history, the reality of the poor, and the creation. And with God, we will be able to transform the world with compassion. With Saint Arnold, Blessed Maria Helena and Josepha and the founding generation we pray, especially during this chapter: May the Holy Triune God live in our hearts and in the hearts of all people.
Paulus Budi Kleden, SVD