John 14:21-26, Monday of the Fifth Week of Eastertide
In my life as a Jesuit, people who peek into my room gasp and say, “Yikes, ‘oc-oc’ ka (obsessive-compulsive)! Abnormal!” I don’t have much stuff in my room. I can’t think straight when there’s “stuff” I don’t really need. So there’s a very short shelf-life of 3 days for abubot, souvenirs, desk caddies from kris-kringle, plants, statues, and worst, stuffed toys of any shape and form. Being a neat freak is one reason. But there’s a more entrenched reason why my room is bare – and it’s not the vow poverty. I guess, it’s more of obedience. All my Jesuit life, I’ve felt I can’t and shouldn’t get too comfortable in any bedroom issued me because no sooner than I make it a “home” than I’ll have to pack everything up again and move on to my next assignment. Whether I like it or not.
There’s a lot of movement in the Province this year and many communities are in transition. I myself am moving to Arrupe after spending five very, very happy years in San Jose. It’s the longest I’ve ever stayed in a community continuously, five years. Now and then, my thoughts turn to my contemporaries out in the world. They’re thinking of slowing down in five to ten years. I, however, am still packing and unpacking, moving, staying, then moving again for God knows how much longer. If I walk up to the Jesuits who are also on their way to a new assignment and ask them if they’re all excited, I bet several would rather stay put, happy as we already are and doing very good work. And when you get to be 50 and older, transitioning becomes more and more stressful. In the normal scheme of thing, the biggest part of us wants to stay “home” and be home for keeps. But that’s not what it means to be a Jesuit. So, there. Keeping a simple room is no virtue as it really is self-protection from the pain of tearing myself away.
That’s why tonight’s Gospel contains one of the most consoling verses for me: “Whoever loves me,” Jesus says, “will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him.” I hear a similar version in my prayer whenever I’m anxious over a new assignment: “Arnel, anak,” God would say, “did I ever call you to where I wasn’t already?” Typical of God. In the most deep-down things in life, God is always already there. Nauna na siya doon. Same thing when we’re in transition. God has already made the “first move” to where he calls us to go next, the place that we’d later learn to call “home”.
My dear brothers in Arvisu, my transition has begun and so has yours. Don’t you wish you could stay where you are, for maybe two more months, or maybe six more, a year even? After all, Arvisu is quite home to you as San Jose is to me. Don’t you think life would be much simpler if you remained living a candidate’s life for just little longer—rather than go on this anxiety-ridden, nail-biting, heart-wrenching changeover. It feels like a roller coaster on its last few feet of climbing and will soon come thundering down and around, forwards and backwards, going past images of your life, the happy times, the bad, the wise, the silly, and the mad—before it finally slows down…and we notice, hah, there are tears in our eyes…because the ride has actually ended. And what a ride it’s been; an unbelievably grace-filled, life-changing, friends-filled ride!
Wherever this transition brings us, dear brothers in Arvisu, it’s definitely not going to be where the Lord isn’t home already. The first reading says, God “gave you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, and nourished you and gladdened for your hearts.” Then the Gospel says, “Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them & we will come to them and make our home with them.” This is what God has done for me in San Jose, and for you in Arvisu: filled us with blessing, gave us a home, and most of all, made a home in us. God doesn’t bring us so far just to let us down. And if tears be shed sometimes, let it be of sadness, for sure. But only at the beginning. Hopefully, they turn into tears of deep joy because it has been an awesome ride; grace-filled, life-changing, and best of all, friends-filled.
I love our Tagalog word for “home”. Tahanan. And however you look at it, tahan means “to stop crying.” Until we find our tahanan, we carry tears in our hearts whether or not they actually well up and out of our eyes. We pray that the Lord find a home in us and we in him. Because if God and we are home in each other, then we can and will feel at home anywhere we are. Wherever God brings us will eventually be tahanan…where we eventually stop crying. Amen.
Delivered to the candidates of the Arvisu Jesuit Candidacy House