Inauguration of Arrupe Jesuit University, Harare—Zimbabwe
Homily at the Mass of Thanksgiving
Saturday, 24 February 2018
1st Reading: Philippians 1:3—11
Resp. Psalm: Ps 140 “Lord, send forth your Spirit, and renew the face of the earth.”
2nd Reading: 1 Corinthians 12: 3b—7, 12—13
Gospel: John 21:15—17
Theme: “Ever to Love and to Serve” (Motto of Arrupe Jesuit University)
Over a period of 27 years (from 1521—1548), St. Ignatius of Loyola—Founder of the Jesuits—wrote and continually updated a little manual or guide for making a retreat, which he always carried with him for the rest of his 65 years on earth. This manual, The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius Loyola, is a classic in our Christian tradition. This year marks exactly the 470th anniversary of the approval of The Spiritual Exercises by Pope Paul 111. In the 4th and last part (or “4th Week”, as Ignatius terms it) of this manual, Ignatius invites the woman or man making the retreat to a “Contemplatio ad Amorem: Contemplation of the Love of God.” A deep personal experience of the overflowing, super abundant and unconditional love of God leaves an indelible mark in one’s life, and becomes a point of departure for how a person lives and acts. For Ignatius, the love of God—in and out of itself—is not enough. No, such love of God must necessarily be made manifest in action: in the love of neighbor—love of fellow human beings, and love of creation. Ignatius pushes even further the love of God to include service—to serve God, that is to serve our neighbor, and to care for our “Common home.” In Ignatius’ worldview, love is not separate from service. For him, to love is to serve! This double dynamic between love and service, for Ignatius, simply collapses into one word, albeit a compound word: loving-service.
Notice how, in the Gospel we just listened to, Jesus makes a direct link between love and service. To each of Jesus’ three questions—“do you love me?”—Peter responds in the affirmative: “Yes, Lord, I love you.” Peter even sort of shows off a little bit, by indicating that he was once a student of philosophy—at least that he attended his classes on epistemology, the act of knowing—by saying to Jesus, “you know that I love you…you know everything….” I can imagine Jesus whispering to himself, “hmmm, hmmm, Peter, I surely do know you, quite alright; but if you claim to love me, how then do you explain denying me at a critical moment of my life—not once, not twice, but three times!” However, being the merciful, forgiving and sensitive person that he is, Jesus does not dwell on such inner thoughts. Rather, he uses the dialogue with Peter as a teachable and formative moment, by pointing out to Peter and instructing him three times to show his love in humble and selfless service: “feed my lambs … tend my sheep … feed my sheep.”
The Vice Chancellor and Pro-Vice Chancellors of Arrupe Jesuit University (AJU) must have given serious considerations to this vital interplay between love and service that they decided to have as Motto of AJU “Ever to Love and to Serve.” AJU expects of both faculty and students to always be willing and ready to love and to serve—yes, with alacrity and magnanimity. As a Jesuit University, it is not enough to simply love and serve—no, more is needed: magis. Thus, everyone associated with AJU is called to love MORE and to serve MORE! Think of better ways and means to love and to serve this university community, deeply reflect on and consider more efficient and effective ways and approaches of learning, teaching and administering. Can AJU creatively reimagine alternative, more in-depth and contextualized ways of appropriating the 4c of Jesuit education—ensuring an enabling environment for the women and men of this university to be people of competence, commitment, conscience and compassion?
The pioneer students of AJU join the more than one million men and women benefitting today from Jesuit education in different continents of the world. Like your colleagues in other Jesuit institutions, be a fire that kindles other fires! Be men and women of great dreams, great hopes and great passion, people with large hearts, with far-sighted visions. This is another way of saying what the man after whom this Jesuit University is named, Fr. Pedro Arrupe, SJ, would refer to as being men and women for others! Make your Jesuit education have a direct bearing and make a meaningful, positive impact on the lives of our people—especially the poor, neglected, marginalized and unjustly treated among us. With the enormous talents and rich varieties of gifts from various nationalities assembled and concentrated in AJU, there is more than enough room for every man and woman to tap from the well/river of diversity in this school and to contribute his or her quota “for the common good” of society.
Today, as in the past, no university can stand alone as an island. Hence the crucial need for mutually respectful partnership with sister institutions, to cultivate and sustain areas of collaboration and networking. In the 24 years since our humble beginning as Arrupe College in the premises of St. Anne’s Hospital, we look back with gratitude to the countless women and men—laity, religious, priests and bishops—that have blessed and nourished us at Arrupe, and continue to do so. We thank them all. In this Eucharistic celebration of the inauguration of AJU, we appreciate and remember with sentiments of love each one of you, and all of you—both living and dead. We offer our prayers for you in this holy sacrifice of the altar.
As we join the Psalmist in begging the Lord to “send forth his Spirit, and renew the face of the earth,” may AJU be an instrument of renewal of the minds and hearts of all who come to our campus to seek peace and wholeness. And, in the words that St. Paul addressed to the Philippians, “…this is my prayer: that your love [and service] may increase ever more and more in knowledge and every kind of perception, to discern what is of value … for the glory and praise of God.” Amen.
Chuks Afiawari, SJ
Arrupe Jesuit University, Harare—Zimbabwe
24 February 2018