On December 16th and 21st, 2021, educators from our global community of Educate Magis gathered online to share and pray together in a very special global Recollection for Advent 2021. “We wait with Joy and Hope” was the title chosen for these two gatherings, and Hope was the main topic for reflection.
During the Advent Recollection, celebrated on the 16th, Fr. Leon O’ Giollain SJ invited participants to reflect on our culture today, and how it is more and more prevalent the exclusion of God. How there is a loss of meaning, a loss of direction, and hence, inevitably, a loss of hope. This is the culture many of our young people live in, Fr. Leon said and mentioned that today’s youth feel overwhelmed by a confusing array of conflicting values. “This is a generation that knows about nuclear devastation (Chernobyl) and the ongoing threat of nuclear war. It is a generation that has seen the world slide towards the precipice of self-destruction due to man-made climate change. It is a generation that has had to severely restrict its social interaction because of wave after wave of the deadly coronavirus. It is a generation that is acutely aware of the apocalyptic nature of human existence and the epochal change that is taking place, leaving them uncertain, anxious, and ‘de-rooted’ (uprooted) and ‘de-routed’ (thrown off course). One can understand then how anxious and insecure they might feel and why they might question the very existence and the future of humankind.”
After this presentation Fr. Leon invited all participants to reflect further on how “without faith, there is little ground for hope, of course and many young people are hopeless.”
After a moment of silence and recollection educators were invited to be Bearers of hope: “Whatever our particular place in God’s vineyard, as Christians, we are each called uniquely to be ‘bearers of hope’. This is surely one of our main tasks as educators today – to be bearers of hope and to instill hope in our young people. During this period of Advent, we as educators and evangelizers reflect on the gift of faith we have received and the deep consolation it engenders within, so that we can be authentic and convincing announcers of the Good News and ‘bearers of hope’ especially for the young people we serve. We might ask ourselves if the following opening salvo of Pope Francis’ Evangelii Gaudium, The Joy of the Gospel, rings true in the depths of our being.”
The Advent Recollection closed with a prayer, and with a joyful and renovated personal sharing amongst participants in the breakout rooms.
God of Love,
Your son, Jesus, is your greatest gift to us. He is a sign of your love. Help us walk in that love during the weeks of Advent, as we wait and prepare for his coming. Lord God, we adore you because you still come to us now. You come to us through other people and their love and concern for us. You come to us through men and women who need our help. You come to us as we worship you with your people. We welcome you, the God who comes. Come to us now Lord Jesus Christ. AMEN
On the other hand, it was Fr. Sunny Jacob SJ who lead the recollection on December 21st. Fr. Sunny invited teachers to Stop, wait and reflect, as the colour of Advent, Purple, invites us. “Christmas is of peace, joy, and love. Jesus is the Prince of Peace, epitome of love, a hope for all humanity, the Saviour of the world. He was a non-citizen of any country, not owned a citizenship of any nation!”
Fr. Sunny invited participants to reflect on the situation around us in this Christmas season. “The Pandemic is still at large, in different variants, threatening lives and livelihood of people.. Added to that hatred, of violence, of rejection, of suppression, of oppression, of segregation and division, and of making many homeless in their own homeland are going on unhindered! Seemingly a hopeless situation is all around us! The intensity is more, when the highest authorities in many countries of our time behave like Caesar of Jesus’ time, ordering a census of all and Citizens to prove that they are legally valid to live in! Mary and Joseph are a prototype of those rejected people of our time! They were refugees too like millions of them from the Middle East, Myanmar, war-torn African nations, Sri Lanka, and Afghanistan. Today in many parts of the world, we witness persecution, violence, hatred and harassment of the maginalised, Christians, minorities, women and children. Millions of people are exiled as migrants and refugees…”
During his presentation Fr. Sunny urged all to look at their own personal circumstances and ask themselves; “Where am I at this moment: my entire being: body, mind, spirit. My relationships. My work. Is it wholesome? Are we at peace? Or …. are we complacent?”
“In your personal life, perhaps a close friend, relative, or spouse has betrayed you, leaving behind wakes of bitterness and confusion that make it difficult to get through another day. Perhaps a failure in your teaching profession, too much workload in your school, or the political climate and culture of hatred and violence harshly remind you that all isn’t right with the world, that total justice has yet to be served, that we need the rule of Christ who is the prince of peace. Or are we hearing a deeper and more intimate call?”
“Perhaps we are being called not be afraid of leaving familiar shores; courage to walk into the mess. Maybe we are called to be hope-filled risk-takers in a messy world. To be a prophet of our time! Hope casts us into the future, connects us with the eyes of faith with what is yet to come. It enables the practice of Christian love, enables the practice of justice. Hope enables the practice of reaching out in compassion to the poor, the migrant, the homeless as Pope Francis exhorts us to do.”
Fr. Sunny finished by saying “By taking on our humanity, Jesus has shown us that we can be divine. We can love more, we can dare more, and we can BE more. Nothing is now outside the scope of our humanity, which, after the birth of Jesus, is no longer a limitation but an advantage.”
“This is Christmas, this is true love, this is the story of God made man, this is the story of hope for us, of love over hatred, peace over violence, selflessness over selfishness, service over greed, harmony of all over hegemony of few, and positivity over negativity. Through collaboration with all those who work for peace and harmony, networking with all those organisations and groups that work for communal and religious harmony, exposing all those elements who are blind to the realities of human life, denouncing hatred that are result of any political ideology, working against the falsehood that is spread by media against the marginalised and minorities, exposing the very nature of extreme ideologies, and working unitedly to mitigate the sufferings of people, standing with Constitutional values, and embracing all as God’s children for a better world in which all are respected and accepted.”
After a moment of silence and recollection educators were invited to join the breakout rooms for group reflection, guided by these two questions: What is the meaning of ‘Waiting in Hope’, during the Advent, in your personal and Professional life?, and how can you be a hope to the hopeless, in your profession as an educator?
The Advent Recollection closed with this beautiful prayer.
Thank you for the blessings of this Christmas Season.
help us celebrate your Son’s presence in every moment of every day;
inspire us to use this new year to draw closer to you;
and grant us the desire to give our most precious gifts to those in need
Give us the energy, enthusiasm, and strength
to withstand the doldrums of life
Help us, Ignatian Educators, to be fruitful
of the hard work we are doing,
May they blossom into new achievements, successes, and opportunities.
Grant this through Christ your Son,
the Light of the World,
the hope of the new year,
and your most precious gift to us.
We would like to thank all educators who made the last few weeks become a delightful preparation for the coming of Christ by participating in these two Advent Recollections.