SFX Feastday Homily
School Mass Livestream from XSN, 3 December 2020
JOURNEYING ON A MISSION TO SERVE
SFX Feast Day Homily by Fr Ari C. Dy, SJ
For our reflection today I would like to focus on the image and theme which is found on the virtual holy card designed for our feastday celebration this year. In the image, we see St Francis and his companions on a lifeboat. It is not quite the huge ship that he boarded in Europe to come to Asia, but it is a reminder of the long journey he took by sea to reach our part of the world. This year, we imagine him being in a lifeboat, calling to mind our many fellow Filipinos who suffered from massive flooding some weeks ago. We see St Francis wearing his crucifix, and holding up a light so he can call for help and lead his companions to safety.
Whether riding a ship or a lifeboat, we know that St Francis was always on a journey that was full of risks and uncertainties. During his time, many people did not survive the harsh conditions at sea in the journey from Europe to Asia, a trip that could take as long as six months. Once he arrived, his passion to share the story of Jesus had him traveling across Asia. He was in Malacca, India, Japan, and other islands before he died in Shangchuan, off the coast of China. Unlike us who plan our travels and make sure that we have everything covered from visas to hotel reservations and food arrangements, St Francis had nothing, and could only take one step at a time, relying on God’s Providence and the kindness of people.
This year, we highlight the journeys of St Francis because we too are on a special journey. The Covid-19 pandemic sent us on a journey that is still going on. I remember the early days in January. Especially in Nuvali, we were still recovering from the eruption of Taal volcano when we also had to start observing health protocols like sanitizing our hands frequently in school. We carried on that way for several weeks, but just a few days before the school year ended, we went into lockdown and ever since, we have taken steps to survive, take care of ourselves and our families, take care of the sick, grieve those who have died, support the healthcare frontliners, shift our Xavier education online. Onward and forward, we proceed on this journey.
What the journey of St Francis teaches us is that the journey is not only about survival, but about the mission to serve. In the image, we see a man in a life vest rowing the water. He is helping St Francis to steer the journey in the right direction; for Francis Xavier, the journey was undertaken not only in order to survive, but to reach his destination and continue telling people about Jesus. In our time, our mission is not only look out for ourselves and our loved ones, but to be concerned about the well-being of everybody. We obey health protocols even if we are getting tired of it because we know it is for the common good.
The mission to serve means a lot more. We take care of ourselves and others so that we can help those who are in greater need than ourselves. This is a practice that goes deep in the story of the early Jesuits, and in the mission of Jesuit schools like ours.
Recall that soon after Francis Xavier, Ignatius Loyola, and their companions had organized themselves into the future Society of Jesus, they thought of going to the Holy Land to offer themselves for service there. Given the difficulties of travel in those days, they had to wait for several months to see if they could arrange passage to the Holy Land. During this period, they spent their time working in hospitals that operated under very primitive conditions, specially compared to what we have today.
Imagine Francis Xavier and his fellow first Jesuits, with all their skills and education, tending to the sick and the needy. Imagine them wearing PPEs to serve the sick in primitive hospitals. They took the time to look after the poor.
This dedication to those who suffer at the margins of society has become a hallmark of Jesuit education, and is the reason why we are having service interactions online during XSEL. It is so important that we spend time creatively bringing to awareness what is happening in the world around us, even and specially during the pandemic.
Sometimes, it seems like it is all we can do to take care of ourselves and our loved ones. It is already so tiring, but we don’t let our tiredness let us forget that there are people who have it worse than us, and so we have our Christmas/Alay Kalinga Drive, so that we can send some joy to those who will be experiencing a very bleak Christmas this year. That is our mission to serve at this time, and I thank all those who have contributed to it.
We are all in this journey together. We will find our way together; we will keep teaching and learning; we will prepare ourselves as best we can for a future whose shape we cannot see clearly, but which awaits our passion to bring light and love. We have a mission to serve, and today we take inspiration from our school patron, St Francis Xavier, who undertook many dangerous journeys until his strength wore out and he died facing mainland China, so eager to bring the light there. May his example help us to proceed in faith and hope that God is always with us, guiding us every step of the way.