SALVADOR, Brazil (CNS) — Using the example of a big-hearted giraffe, the superior general of the Society of Jesus, Jesuit Father General Adolfo Nicolás, told 2,000 MAGIS pilgrims: “Keep your eyes and your hearts open.”
The young people from around the world — mostly students from Jesuit universities — gathered in Salvador for MAGIS, a 10-day, pre-World Youth Day program, designed for the young people to examine their lives to see how they can do more for Christ and for others.
Before they set off for prayer and service activities in dozens of locations throughout Brazil, they attended a Mass July 15 with Fr. Nicolás.
In his homily — in both Spanish and English — Fr. Nicolás told the pilgrims about a Cambodian bishop who chose the giraffe as his diocesan symbol because it has one of the biggest hearts in the animal kingdom — it has to have a big heart to pump blood all the way up to its brain. Because it is so tall, it has “a very high point of view,” he said.
“Humanity is more than any one of us has experienced in our own countries,” the Jesuit general told the young people. Approaching the people of Brazil and their fellow pilgrims with a big heart and a broad view can change their lives.
The Gospel story of the good Samaritan “contains one of the secrets our faith,” which is that “faith is mostly in the heart. It is not far,” he said. “We don’t have to go up to heavens,” but one must listen to the voice of God in his or her heart.
Some people, he said, want to hold on to ancient traditions “which say nothing to you young people. And many young people don’t come to church and the older people say, ‘They have no faith.’ But I say, ‘Yes, they have faith. Look at their hearts. There you will find it.’”
“God says to us that there is nothing complicated about the faith, but you must listen to your heart,” he said.
Fr. Nicolás told the pilgrims about being with a group of young Jesuits in Japan. They watched a program about 50 young, non-Christian Japanese who lived and worked abroad for two years, mostly in programs similar to the Peace Corps. He said they all admitted they went out of curiosity, but were changed by their contact the poor, “people who were suffering, people who had great difficulties, and yet, they had hope, they had joy.”
“What I thought at the time was, ‘This is the kind of people I would like to join the Society of Jesus,’” he said, “people with a heart, and therefore they have a capacity to grow into Christ. They have one of the secrets of our faith — that faith is in the heart.
“Jesus is the summary of our faith. He showed in his words — which were very simple — in his preaching and his life he told us what God is. He told us God is mercy and compassion. We don’t need to complicate that, we don’t need thick books of theology to prove that; we need a heart, a heart that can reach in the line of the compassion of God.”
“The secret of secrets” in Christianity is love, “love of God that turns into love of neighbor,” he said.
“It’s not whom we love, but whether we love or not, that’s the question,” Fr. Nicolás told the students. [Catholic News Service]