The call to discipleship amidst today’s unprecedented times, was the fundamental message of the Eucharistic Celebration commemorating the Solemnity of St. Ignatius of Loyola, held last Sunday, July 26 at the Ateneo de Manila University’s Church of the Gesu.
Live-streamed via the Radyo Katipunan 87.9 FM Facebook page, the Holy Mass marked the most important date on Philippine Province of the Society of Jesus’ calendar, and was the highlight event of the month-long Ateneo 2020 Ignatian Festival, “One Foot Raised”.
Presiding over the highly-anticipated Eucharist honoring the Jesuit founder’s feast, was Provincial Superior Fr. Primitivo Viray Jr. SJ, accompanied by homilist Fr. Lito Ocon SJ via video.
While pondering on his own experiences as chaplain of the UP-Philippine General Hospital, Fr.Ocon decided to reflect on the wisdom St. Ignatius himself would impart in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“On this note, we can ask ourselves, as sons and daughters of Ignatius, where are we right now? Are the people around us — the people we serve and the people of God feeling our presence?”
“People are watching how we have been behaving during this pandemic—what we have been doing or not doing for the least and the little ones at this time,” he remarked.
Recounting the kindness he was shown as a frontliner who needed a place to stay during a retreat, Fr. Ocon noted that this open-hearted and giving disposition is necessary given today’s challenges.
“This is the spirit that we need this time in our community. We cannot forever insulate ourselves in a safe place. This is not the Jesuit way, this is not Christian! Love and compassion impel us, summon us, call us to go out and take the risk. Compassion is to suffer with — not full distancing.”
Grappling with the harrowing realities faced by the poor, ill, health workers and other first respondents, Fr. Ocon urged the faithful to visit and be one with the Church truly present amongst these people.
“We cannot say our Church is closed as our cathedrals and basilicas are closed. With or without the pandemic, this Church in hospital wards is open. If you cannot visit them, please do something for them or for those who are taking care of them—the front liners! Reach out. Not ill or self-quarantine. See what our neighbors need.”
To end, Fr. Ocon reminded all to seek courage in God’s grace and find inspiration in St. Ignatius’ life of humble service.
“What moves us to go beyond ourselves, to go beyond our comforts and means? It is God’s grace, present in a messy Church, in hospital wards.”
“May the spirit of Ignatius ignite us all to beg for the grace of courage when we are drowned by fear, for the grace of self-giving when we are held back by self-preservation,” he reassured.