The Mission of the Ignatian Educator Today – Missioning Mass 2017

The following homily was delivered by School President Fr. Aristotle C. Dy, SJ last 02 June 2017 during the Missioning Mass for Faculty & Staff at the Angelo King Multi-Purpose Center.

“Do you love me?”

“Feed my sheep.”

These are the words spoken by Jesus in today’s Scriptures, and I offer them to you as the Word of God for us as we cap our summer work and open a new school year in a few days.

What is happening here? Jesus is preparing Peter and his disciples by extension, for mission. We know that Peter denied Jesus three times and now he is also given three opportunities to declare his love for Jesus. Not only that, but Peter is also given his mission to tend the lambs, feed the sheep. In our context as a school, you might say, well isn’t that only the work of the CLE teachers, and the work of Campus Ministry or IGNITE?

But no, feeding the sheep is not only about religious knowledge, spiritual activities, and service programs. In Catholic and Jesuit education, our mission is holistic education. It is education of mind, body, and spirit, inspired by the vision that all things have come from God and are meant to return to Him.

Whatever work you do in school, as teacher or administrator or staff, you feed the sheep. You can feed the sheep only with what you have, so like Peter, we must be able to figure out what Jesus is trying to do in our lives. He flip-flopped a lot but was always redeemed by Jesus, and was still entrusted with the great mission of leading the community. He had to understand this process; what Jesus was doing for him.

Can we, too, read the signs in our lives and connect the dots in God’s plan? Last year, I talked about the importance of mindfulness in the life of an educator; in particular, the practice of the Ignatian examen. Over the past year, I realized that maybe we don’t do the Examen as much as we talk about it.

If there is one spiritual practice that St. Ignatius wanted all his followers to observe, it is the Examen. For those training to be Jesuits, he even said that if one is not feeling well and cannot go to Mass, cannot meditate, cannot perform other spiritual duties; all that is okay if one is sick. But one must still do the Examen, even those who are sick and bedridden.

Why is the Examen so important? What is it anyway? To me, the simplest way to understand it is that it’s a daily prayer to find God in one’s life. There is a method to it–thanksgiving for blessings received, a prayer for light to see, a review of one’s day, contrition for one’s shortcomings or sins, and then resolutions to do better. All this in the context of a conversation with God in a span of about ten minutes. This is the practice that St. Ignatius prescribes for those who follow his way of engaging the world as a Christian.

In short, it is a daily moment of reflection on one’s encounters; an effort to discover how God is moving you through your thoughts and feelings, and your experiences. It takes practice for this to become a daily habit, but once it becomes part of life, then we also grow in our following of Christ. Reflection on our school life, our interaction with students and parents, becomes an important platform for encountering God.

When I review a typical school day, I try to track how I am feeling throughout the day. How I felt when I woke up and went through my morning routines; how feelings change from one meeting or one event to another; how I feel about other people, my attitude towards them; the way I spoke or behaved. During Examen, I ask why I felt that way or behaved a certain way, especially of there was something negative. I think about it and talk to god about it, trying to understand myself more and making an effort to become a better person. It’s a daily practice that has become second nature, and I offer it to you as an invitation to encounter God through your feelings and experiences.

This year, we will try to go deeper into the practice of the Examen, both for students and faculty and staff. This is not a theory to talk about, but a prayer, a daily prayer that helps us encounter Jesus who is always wanting to redeem us and send us on mission. It is my hope that we can all set aside some time for this spiritual habit, because this habit of reflection and action also animates our Ignatian approach to education.

So Jesus redeems us and sends un on mission, just as he does for Peter. There are many demands on us as educators–to live with integrity, to be competent in what we do, to model Christian virtues to our students. It is a tall order, specially in the age of accelerations when changes in technology, globalization, and climate challenge us to adapt quickly so we can be good facilitators of learning. It is a tall order to be an Ignatian educator in the time of martial law, post-truth and the fake news it engenders. The Lord sends us on mission because bearing witness to the Gospel, to truth and justice, is difficult. The sheep need their shepherd. These days, the shepherd needs to go against popular sentiment to stand for what is right. This is a very urgent need in our national life.

I pray for each one of you today, that reflection on each day’s feelings and experiences may put you more in tune with God’s will for you and for the people given to you to shepherd. I pray that you may face each day’s challenges with the love of God that comes from daily contact with Him. Amen.

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