“Easter is the event that brought radical news for every human being, for history and for the world: the triumph of life over death; it is the feast of reawakening and of rebirth. Let us allow our lives to be conquered and transformed by the Resurrection!”. Pope Francis, in Regina Cæli.
Jesuit Education is almost four and a half centuries old, and it has evolved as a globally spread education network in the world. The primary aim of Jesuit education is to educate the world in a holistic, and person-centred education. In Jesuit Education, Catholic/Ignatian Spirituality is inseparable. In fact, Catholic/Ignatian Spiritual experience gives all the necessary impetus to Jesuit Education. Jesuit Education is always spiritually oriented. It believes that there is a deeper unity among God, human beings, and the nature, that are to be valued and nurtured. The Aim of Jesuit Education is, therefore, to strengthen these relationships, and reinterpret it according to the context.
Our Global Identifier #1 explains; “Jesuit education must be committed to providing a solid faith formation and theological education to all members of its community and ensure a solid catechetical formation for Catholics. Not every person associated with a Jesuit school is or will be Catholic, but they are invited to understand the ecclesial identity of the school and participate in that identity to the extent that is appropriate for them. As educators in Jesuit schools face the future, they must learn to balance the particularism of their institutional roots with the pluralism of believers from many faith traditions as well as non-believers; they must be dialogue schools. In this sense, Jesuit schools are also committed to an inter-religious dialogue that prepares our students to understand, interact and embrace the religious diversity of our world.” (Global Identifier #1, (171) Easter is a time for us to look at its spiritual meaning for humanity.
In Ignatian spirituality, Easter is an important event and therefore, in light of Easter, it is apt for us to reflect on what does this season of Passion of Jesus Christ and Easter mean to humanity. What does Easter mean to us today? How can all humanity experience Easter joy? How significant is the Resurrection experience of Jesus for people of other religions, cultures, ethnicity, and regions? How can Easter be a source of hope for the ‘hopeless people’ of today?
We are living in a world where so much of differences, religious, cultures, castes, and races exist. There is hatred and animosity, discrimination and disharmony, violence, and wars, poverty and exploitation exist in the world. People are affected by calamities; both human-made and natural. Millions of people have been exiled from their own motherland! Migration makes the world more difficult for many. Rich nations dominate the poor nations through unjust policies. Religious and ethnic fanaticism takes the form of terrorism and violence in many parts of the world.
When we look at the time of Jesus, we see things were almost like ours. Religious intolerance was the order of the time of Jesus. Ritualism and strict rules were imposed on faithful people. The spirit of religion lost its grip. There were mainly 4 levels of social systems that existed. The Upper Class, the Middle Class, the Lower class, and the Class was not considered part of society. The Upper Class included the very wealthy, such as the aristocratic families of the Herod, the high priests, and the rich nobility who owned most of the land. The Middle Class were people such as shopkeepers, tradesmen, fishermen, and educated people such as the Pharisees and Scribes. Jesus, the carpenter, may have belonged to this class. The Lower Class included the poor, but the vast majority of the peasant class. These were the tenant farmers and farm labourers to whom Jesus refers in his parables. Below them were people such as orphans and widows, the blind, the crippled, lepers, and the mentally ill. Having no other means of livelihood, people with physical and mental handicaps became beggars. Many of these were considered as outcasts. One could be an outcast without necessarily being poor economically. Such were tax collectors and sinners, who were not poor, but socially untouchables. Because the tax collectors were Jews who collected taxes from fellow Jews for the Roman Empire. They were considered sinners, and traitors, who became wealthy by collaborating with Roman authorities at the expense of their own people. Such exploitation was a clear violation of the law of God stated in Leviticus 25:36-38. Prostitutes too were considered sinners. These were individuals who sold themselves to a life of sin in deliberate disregard of the law of God. But this hopelessness is not eternal. Injustice cannot be forever. Death is not the end. There is resurrection, Easter joy that is everlasting.
People of Jesus’ time were looking for liberation. They wanted spiritual, political, and economic freedom from their oppressors. Jesus was the Messiah, they all looked up to. He was convinced of His God-given mission of saving humanity through forgiveness, compassion, mercy, and love. His approach was spiritual. His death and resurrection tell us that we too can be risen to a new life!
Jesus was fully human and fully divine. He was a combination of all that is good in a human being, and fully divine in his being and acting. For Jesus, everyone, without any discrimination, was considered as God’s Children. He loved all, especially people who were at the margins. For Him bringing back the lost sheep was the Mission. That is why He associated with such people at dinner parties. The Pharisees charged that Jesus was “a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners” (Luke 7:34). To them He answered by saying; “The tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you” (Matthew 21:31). It’s not hard to see why those who were hostile to Jesus were upset.
So, the passion and death of Jesus was a result of His choice. He stood for Justice, Truth, Love, and Peace. He had to suffer the worst form of death through crucifixion. However, truth wins ultimately is the message of Easter. Easter is therefore nothing but the triumph of love and justice, truth, and peace. It is not only for Christians, but for the entire humanity, no matter which religion, region, culture, or gender you belong to, Easter is for you. Easter is hope for the humanity. Someone said “The very first Easter taught us this: that life never ends, and love never dies.” Mahatma Gandhi said about Jesus; “A man who was completely innocent, offered himself as a sacrifice for the good of others, including his enemies, and became the ransom of the world. It was a perfect act”.
In fact, Easter is a reminder of victory of truth over evil. When we commemorate the Resurrection of Jesus on Easter, we celebrate the defeat of death, and we celebrate the hope of salvation. Easter signifies the triumph of Jesus over death, or even victory of truth over untruth, light over darkness, success over defeat, and brings hope for a new world instead of the present inhuman world. Christians believe that the resurrection of Jesus confirmed that he was the Son of God who had come to Earth to provide salvation to humankind and redeem us of our sins through his compassionate sacrifice.
GC 36, D. 1 defined the mission of the Society of Jesus as companions in a mission of reconciliation and justice in three interrelated dimensions: reconciliation with God, within humanity and with creation. Pope Francis has entrusted to the Society of Jesus the Universal Apostolic Preferences announced by Fr. General in 2019. UAP #1 To show the way to God through the Spiritual Exercises and Discernment.
The 10 Global Identifiers of Jesuit Schools today depicts the new context of the world, and it is the foundational documents of Jesuit Education. The 1st Global Identifier is Jesuit Schools are committed to being Catholic and to offer in-depth faith formation in dialogue with other religious and worldviews.
In this sense, Jesuit schools are also committed to an inter-religious dialogue that prepares our students to understand, interact and embrace the religious diversity of our world.” (#167)
As our Jesuit Global Network of schools continues discerning how to act as a universal body with a Universal Mission, an in-depth understanding of the message of Easter, in the context of the today, is very meaningful for all of us. Through Jesuit education we can spread the universal message of Easter-joy and hope to all. Remembering the resurrection of Jesus is a way to renew our daily hope that we have victory over sin and death. In Easter event we have hope. Wish you all a very happy Easter!