The closing Mass of the 15th General Chapter, presided over by Father Budi Kleden, SVD Superior General, was an expression of gratitude for the experiences lived, of intercultural communion represented in the colorful costumes, gestures and processions, and also of sending forth with the blessing of the current CLT and the new team that will soon take on the new mission.
In his homily, Father Budi reflected on the second part of the Chapter theme, which is the mission that the Chapter members and all SSpS are called to live based on the decisions made during the Chapter and the approved Congregational Directions – to transform the world with compassion. The Mass was broadcast live and can be accessed through the link: https://youtu.be/ja2LEfzUby8
Here we publish the text of the homily in full.
Homily for the Closing Eucharist of the 15th GC of SSpS
Immersed in the Life of the Trinity – Transforming the World with Compassion
On Sunday, January 16, during the Arnoldus Family Day, Mother Maria Magdalena, the Superior General of the SSpSAP, shared that one of the lowest points of their last General Chapter in 2019 was the closing of the Chapter especially when the Capitulars started to say goodbye to each other. You might have the same experience. After 17 days of immersing in the spirit and process of the Chapter and having the experience of personal transformation, it is difficult to leave this place. And yet, this Chapter is about inspiring you and the whole Congregation to continue immersing in the Life of Trinity and to make efforts to be God’s collaborators in transforming the world with compassion
Inspired by today’s readings, I want to concentrate on the second part of the Chapter’s theme: Transforming the world with compassion.
The first is regarding the concrete act of transforming. Transforming implies forming and informing, formation and information. Jesus in the Gospel provokes the people by saying: “Surely you will quote me this proverb: “Physician, cure yourself.” The world, the people of the world, might say to you: “Sisters, transform first yourself before you want to transform us.” Of course, we do not have to wait until we are fully transformed to start collaborating in the transformation of the world. And yet, our earnest efforts to work on ourselves determine very much the credibility of our mission of transforming the world.
For this, formation is a crucial element. In the first reading, God is presented as the formator who shaped Jeremiah in his mother’s womb and continues to form him, strengthening him to face the challenges. In the second reading, Saint Paul uses the image of the progress of a human being: “When I was a child, I used to talk as a child, think as a child, reason as a child, when I became an adult, I put aside childish things.”
Formation helps us grow as human beings, go deeper into the spirituality and charism of the Congregation, and be trained to respond to the challenges of the mission. Formation assists us to be responsible for ourselves and for the Congregation, assuming responsibility as needed for the life and mission of the Congregation. Yes, we need people ready and willing to take up the burden if we are serious about our collaboration in transforming the world with compassion.
Transformation is also related to the flow of information, to communication. Good communication makes a difference in our communities’ lives. Communication creates, sustains, and nurtures the community. Finding the right way to share the richness of our faith and the depth of our spiritual heritage is essential. In this digital era of communication, how we present ourselves to the world matters. Amid the fake news, we need to promote the truth. When so many prophets spread discouraging messages, we are called to spread the word of hope. When hatred and aggression are propagated by many, we have to speak of peace and reconciliation.
The second is about compassion. Changes in a person’s life or in a group can be introduced by instructions or violence. But the real transformation can only be achieved with kindness, or, in the word of Saint Paul today, with love. Love is patience, ready to spend time with others, does not seek one own’s interest but focuses on the good of others. Compassion does not fix its attention to the dark side of a person but tries to see and promote what is good in the person.
Arnold Janssen once wrote to a mission Superior: “A Superior has to have much patience, kindness, wisdom, and courage. Patience, to remain gentle even when insulted and troubled by others. Kindness, to think well of others in all circumstances and do your best to love your detractor and win him to your side again. Wisdom to speak out or hold your tongue according to the circumstances. Courage, to maintain and defend the moral principles.” Prudence combined with modesty can produce good results. The lack of them annoys people and blocks the roads for the future.
Such compassion needs passion. There is no compassion without passion, without being passionate. Passion is necessary because the reality of the world confronts us with situations of objection and hatred, as Jesus experienced in his hometown, as described in the Gospel today. If we are passionate about transforming the world, we are ready to face the challenges. We will persevere, be prepared to make sacrifices, not easily give up. Nelson Mandela says: “There is no passion for being found playing small–in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.” The founding generation of our congregations were passionate people, who were not playing small. Instead, they lived out their missionary dream and tried to make the best out of what God had given them.
The third is concerning collaboration. Only in cooperation with others we can contribute to the transformation of the world. Genuine collaboration is based on respect, trust, and humility. Respect refers to acknowledging the dignity, talents, and gifts of others. Trust means consistency in confidence put in others. Humility reminds us that nobody has everything, and nobody has nothing.
Saint Paul speaks of love that is not jealous and does not rejoice in the wrongdoings. Collaboration is often endangered by jealousy, which is frequently a virus among us, the religious. Jealousy will make us triumph over the wrongdoings and failures of others. It will turn us into people who are experts in spreading the gossip instead of promoting the truth. Jealousy causes separation instead of unity, while only the spirit of communion we can collaborate in the transformation of the world.
We are immersed in the Life of the Trinity, transforming the world with compassion. Immersed in the Life of the Trinity, we are enabled to be formed and transformed, passionate in our mission in collaboration with others. May the Triune God continue to bless you with the intercessions of our Saints Arnold and Joseph, Blessed Maria Helena and Josepha, and all our missionaries who have dedicated their lives to transforming the world with compassion.