With Christ on Mission
The congregation invites the entire Society to read and pray over this updating of our law and orientation of our mission for today. One way of doing this would be in the light of the Ignatian images of pilgrimage and labor. Like that of Ignatius, our way of proceeding is both a pilgrimage and a labor in Christ: in his compassion, in his ceaseless desire to bring men and women to the Father's reconciliation and the Spirit's love, and in his committed care for the poor, the marginalized, and the abandoned.
Section I: End and Goal of the Society of Jesus
Formula of the Institute
††††††††††† Jesus said to Simon and his brother, Andrew, “Follow me and I will make you fishers of people.”† And immediately they left their nets and followed him.† (Mk 1:17-18)
††††††††††† Formula of the Institute, from Exposcit Debitum
1††††††††††† Whoever desires to serve as a soldier of God beneath the banner of the cross in our Society, which we desire to be designated by the name of Jesus, and to serve the Lord alone and the Church, his spouse, under the Roman pontiff, the vicar of Christ on earth, should, after a solemn vow of perpetual chastity, poverty, and obedience, keep what follows in mind.† He is a member of a Society founded chiefly for this purpose: to strive especially for the defense and propagation of the faith and for the progress of souls in Christian life and doctrine, by means of public preaching, lectures, and any other ministration whatsoever of the word of God, and further by means of the Spiritual Exercises, the education of children and unlettered persons in Christianity, and the spiritual consolation of Christ’s faithful through hearing confessions and administering the other sacraments.† Moreover, he should show himself ready to reconcile the estranged, compassionately assist and serve those who are in prisons or hospitals, and indeed to perform any other works of charity, according to what will seem expedient for the glory of God and the common good.† Furthermore, he should carry out all these works altogether free of charge and without accepting any salary for the labor expended in all the aforementioned activities.† Still further, let any such person take care, as long as he lives, first of all to keep before his eyes God and then the nature of this Institute which is, so to speak, a pathway to God; and then let him strive with all his effort to achieve this end set before him by God — each one, however, according to the grace which the Holy Spirit has given to him and according to the particular grade of his own vocation.
††††††††††† Complementary Norms, Preamble
2†††††††† ß 1.† The character and charism of the Society of Jesus arise from the Spiritual Exercises which our holy father Ignatius and his companions went through.† Led by this experience, they formed an apostolic group rooted in charity, in which, after they had taken the vows of chastity and poverty and had been raised to the priesthood, they offered themselves as a holocaust to God, so that serving as soldiers of God beneath the banner of the cross and serving the Lord alone and the Church his spouse under the Roman Pontiff, the vicar of Christ on earth, they would be sent into the entire world for “the defense and propagation of the faith and for the progress of souls in Christian life and doctrine.”
††††††††††† ß 2.† The distinguishing mark of our Society, then, is that it is at one and the same time a companionship that is religious, apostolic, sacerdotal, and bound to the Roman Pontiff by a special bond of love and service.
Thursday after Ash Wednesday:
Mission of Evangelization
††††††††††† “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you.† And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”† (Mt 28, 19-20)
†††††††††††† Constitutions, Part IV
†† A.† The aim and end of this Society is, by traveling through the various parts of the world at the order of the supreme vicar of Christ our Lord or of the superior of the Society itself, to preach, hear confessions, and use all the other means it can with the grace of God to help souls.
††††††††††† GC34, Decree 1, United with Christ on Mission
7††††††††† ††††††††††† 7.† Ignatius presents a Christ who is on the move, traveling through villages and visiting synagogues to preach the Kingdom, going where people dwell and work. This contemplative identification of Jesus on mission is linked to the Election of the Exercises. In their own communal apostolic discernment, which led to the founding of the Society, Ignatius and his companions saw this as their unique call, their charism: to choose to be with Christ as servants of his mission, to be with people where they dwell and work and struggle, to bring the Gospel into their lives and labors.
†††††††††††† Complementary Norms, Part VII
245†††† ß 1.† The mission of the Society today is participation in the total evangelizing mission of the Church, which aims at the realization of the Kingdom of God in the whole of human society, not only in the life to come but also in this life.† This mission is “a single but complex reality, which is expressed in a variety of ways”; namely, through the interrelated dimensions of the witness of one’s life; of proclamation, conversion, inculturation, and of the establishment of local churches; and also through dialogue and the promotion of the justice desired by God.
†††††† †††† ß 2.† Within this framework and in accordance with our original charism approved by the Church, the contemporary mission of the Society is the service of faith and the promotion in society of that justice of the Gospel that is the embodiment of God’s love and saving mercy.
†††††† †††† ß 3.† In this mission, its aim (the service of faith) and its integrating principle (faith directed toward the justice of the Kingdom) are dynamically related to the inculturated proclamation of the Gospel and to dialogue with other religious traditions as integral dimensions of evangelization.†
Friday after Ash Wednesday:
Service of Faith and Promotion of Justice
††††††††††† “I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.” (Mt 25:35-36)
††††††††††† GC34: Decree 2, Servants of Christ’s Mission
35††††††† ††††††††††† 10.††††††††††† Pope John Paul II speaks of the pervading “structures of sin,” particularly characterized by “the all-consuming desire for profit and the thirst for power” in all cultures. Because the life of the spirit is inseparable from social relations, he calls on people of all faiths and none to become aware of “the urgent need to change the spiritual attitudes which define each individual’s relationship with self, with neighbor, with even the remotest human communities, and with nature itself.”† It is a summons which we, as Jesuits committed to the action of the Holy Spirit both in the human heart and in the world, cannot refuse; consequently, in the conduct of our personal and community lives and in whatever ministries we undertake — whether works of pastoral service, academic scholarship, spiritual ministry, or education — we will live in ways which look to the fullness of the Kingdom in which justice, and not human sin, will hold sway. In the words of Pope John Paul II,
††††††††††† Working for the Kingdom means acknowledging and promoting God’s activity, which is present in human history and transforms it. Building the Kingdom means working for liberation from evil in all its forms. In a word, the Kingdom of God is the manifestation and realization of God’s plan of salvation in all its fullness.
††††††††††† Complementary Norms, Preamble
4††††††††† ß 1.† According to these documents, explained by later general congregations, the mission of the Society consists in this, that as servants of Christ’s universal mission in the Church and in the world of today, we may procure that integral salvation in Jesus Christ which is begun in this life and will be brought to its fulfillment in the life to come.† Therefore the mission of the Society today is defined as the service of faith, of which the promotion of justice is an absolute requirement.
††††††††††† ß 2.† The service of faith and the promotion of justice constitute one and the same mission of the Society.† They cannot, therefore, be separated one from the other in our purpose, our action, our life; nor can they be considered simply as one ministry among others, but rather as that ministry whereby all our ministries are brought together in a unified whole.
††††††††††† ß 3.† This mission also includes, as integral dimensions of evangelization, the inculturated proclamation of the Gospel and dialogue with members of other religions.† Hence, in our mission, the faith that seeks justice is a faith that inseparably engages other traditions in dialogue and evangelizes cultures.
††††††††††† GC34: Decree 26, Characteristics of Our Way of Proceeding
548††††† ††††††††††† 14.† Today, whatever our ministry, we Jesuits enter into solidarity with the poor, the marginalized, and the voiceless, in order to enable their participation in the processes that shape the society in which we all live and work. They, in their turn, teach us about our own poverty as no document can. They help us to understand the meaning of the gratuity of our ministries, giving freely what we have freely received, giving our very lives. They show us the way to inculturate gospel values in situations where God is forgotten. Through such solidarity we become “agents of inculturation.”
Saturday after Ash Wednesday:
Mission to Find God in a World Scarred by Sin
††††††††††† Be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his power.† For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. (Eph 6:10,12)
††††††††††† GC34: Decree 2, Servants of Christ’s Mission
31††††††† ††††††††††† 6.† The mission of the Society derives from our continuing experience of the Crucified and Risen Christ who invites us to join him in preparing the world to become the completed Kingdom of God. The focus of Christ’s mission is the prophetic proclamation of the Gospel that challenges people in the name of the Kingdom of his Father; we are to preach that Kingdom in poverty. He calls us to be at the very heart of the world’s experience as it receives this promise of the Kingdom and is brought to receive God’s gift in its fullness. It is still an experience of the Cross, in all its anguish and with all its power, because the enigmas of sin and death are still part of the reality of the world. He calls us “to help men and women disengage themselves from the tarnished and confused image that they have of themselves in order to discover that they are, in God’s light, completely like Christ.”† And so we undertake all our ministries with a confidence that the Lord takes us, as he did Ignatius, as his servants — not because we are strong, but because he says to us, as he said to St. Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor. 12:9).
36††††††† ††††††††††† 11.† Ours is a service of faith and of the radical implications of faith in a world where it is becoming easier to settle for something less than faith and less than justice. We recognize, along with many of our contemporaries, that without faith, without the eye of love, the human world seems too evil for God to be good, for a good God to exist. But faith recognizes that God is acting, through Christ’s love and the power of the Holy Spirit, to destroy the structures of sin which afflict the bodies and hearts of his children. Our Jesuit mission touches something fundamental in the human heart: the desire to find God in a world scarred by sin, and then to live by his Gospel in all its implications. This, the instinct to live fully in God’s love and thereby to promote a shared, lasting human good, is what we address by our vocation to serve faith and promote the justice of God’s Kingdom. Jesus Christ invites us, and through us the people we serve, to move, in conversion of heart, “from solidarity with sin to solidarity with him for humanity,” and to promote the Kingdom in all its aspects.
††††††††††† GC34: Decree 4, Our Mission and Culture
108††††† ††††††††††† 24.† We need to recognize that the Gospel of Christ will always provoke resistance; it challenges men and women and requires of them a conversion of mind, heart, and behavior. It is not difficult to see that a modernist, scientific-technological culture, too often one-sidedly rationalistic and secular in tone, can be destructive of human and spiritual values. As Ignatius makes clear in the Meditation on Two Standards, the call of Christ is always radically opposed to values which refuse spiritual transcendence and promote a pattern of selfish life. Sin is social in its expression, as is the counterwitness offered by grace: unless a Christian life distinctly differs from the values of secular modernity, it will have nothing special to offer. One of the most important contributions we can make to critical contemporary culture is to show that the structural injustice in the world is rooted in value systems promoted by a powerful modern culture which is becoming global in its impact.
First Sunday of Lent:
Jesuit Mission and Culture
††††††††††† All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.† (Acts 2:4)
††††††††††† GC34: Decree 4, “Our Mission and Culture”
87††††††† ††††††††††† 8.† The mission of the Society, in service to the Crucified and Risen Christ, is directed to the ways in which he makes his presence felt in the diversity of human cultural experiences, in order that we may present the Gospel as Christ’s explicitly liberating presence. Ours must be a dialogue, born of respect for people, especially the poor, in which we share their cultural and spiritual values and offer our own cultural and spiritual treasures, in order to build up a communion of peoples instructed by God’s Word and enlivened by the Spirit as at Pentecost. Our service of the Christian faith must never disrupt the best impulses of the culture in which we work, nor can it be an alien imposition from outside. It is directed towards working in such a way that the line of development springing from the heart of a culture leads it to the Kingdom.
88††††††† ††††††††††† 9.† In the exercise of our mission, we bring a simple criterion from our Ignatian tradition: in our personal lives of faith, we learn that we are in consolation when we are fully in touch with what God is doing in our hearts, and we are in desolation when our lives are in conflict with his action. So, too, our ministry of evangelizing culture will be a ministry of consolation when it is guided by ways that bring to light the character of God’s activity in those cultures and that strengthen our sense of the divine mystery. But our efforts will be misguided, and even destructive, when our activity runs contrary to the grain of his presence in the cultures which the Church addresses, or when we claim to exercise sole proprietorial rights over the affairs of God.
107††††† ††††††††††† 23.† A genuine attempt to work from within the shared experience of Christians and unbelievers in a secular and critical culture, built upon respect and friendship, is the only successful starting point. Our ministry towards atheists and agnostics will either be a meeting of equal partners in dialogue, addressing common questions, or it will be hollow. This dialogue will be based upon a sharing of life, a shared commitment to action for human development and liberation, a sharing of values and a sharing of human experience.† Through dialogue, modern and postmodern cultures may be challenged to become more open to approaches and experiences which, though rooted in human history, are new to them. At the same time theology, when developed with an eye to contemporary critical culture, may help people discover the limits of immanence and the human necessity of transcendence.