Friday, July 31, 2009

Jesus is Everything!

Today is the feast day of St. Ignatius Loyola, the founder of my religious order, the Jesuits. Every year I find myself reflecting on the life of this man and the order he founded--our history, spirit, and charism. When St. Ignatius and the first Jesuits began their work people asked them who they were. St. Ignatius was very clear: they were not to be known as the followers of Ignatius or "Ignatians." They were followers and companions of Jesus. He, not Ignatius, was to be their model. Thus came the name, which at the time was quite radical, "Company of Jesus," or, as it was translated from the Latin, "Society of Jesus." Jesus was to be the center of their lives. He was everything to them.

I thought of this today in conjunction with a story about Fr. Pedro Arrupe, the 28th General Superior of the Jesuits. In a series of autobiographical interviews early in 1981, before he was struck by a debilitating stroke, Fr. Arrupe answered the question: "For you, who is Jesus Christ?" His response would, I think, make St. Ignatius proud:

That same question was asked me, unexpectedly, during an interview which I gave on Italian television about five years ago. The question took me by surprise, and I answered it in a completely spontaneous way: "For me Jesus Christ is everything." And today I am giving you the same answer with still more strength and clarity, "For me Jesus Christ is everything." So, I would define what Jesus Christ represents in my life as "everything."

He was and is my ideal from the moment of my entrance into the Society. He was and he continues to be my way; he was and he still is my strength. I don't think it is necessary to explain very much what that means. Take Jesus Christ from my life and everything would collapse--like a human body from which someone removed the skeleton, heart, and head.

I think this is true for everyone. All are not Jesuits--companions or followers of Jesus in the Society that bears His name. But all the baptized are Christians--"other Christs," members of His Body, the Church. For every Christian, Jesus Christ is "the way and the truth and the life" (see John 14: 6). For all of us, Jesus is everything!

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