From the Chaplain

We can never tell what good we do: like a pebble thrown into a pond, it ripples into eternity. So it is when we allow God to work in and through us. The recent visit of the relic of the arm of St Francis Xavier to John XXIII College turned us around with many incursions into our deeper unconscious selves. Francis Xavier's travelling spirit into the Far East reflected Ignatius spirituality, 'to find God in all things" Big hearted questions require big answers-answers that change our lives: we should think on the questions of life raises within us, and respond to them… "What I have done for Christ, what am I doing for Christ and what ought I do for Christ".

The back-story to the picture below is that one of the legends about Francis Xavier was that he was sailing toward Malacca one day when a storm came up and he dropped his cross into the sea trying to calm the storm with it. Having saved all on board, the next day he was walking along the beach and out of the sea comes the crab with his crucifix.

The command of Jesus that we must love God with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength and love your neighbour as yourself impelled not only Francis Xavier to distant shores but countless before and after him.

In sixteenth century Cornelius Jansen proclaimed ambivalent feelings and views of the human body. It was to be feared as an instrument of sin and he encouraged it to be tamed through prayer, mortification and penance, tragically this is still active in Christian thought today.

Jansenism is irreconcilable with today's Gospel where Jesus tells us that the love of God, the love of neighbour, and the love of self are the cornerstones of the Christian law. And the opposite must be true too. We cannot call ourselves Christian if we hate God, hate our neighbour or hate ourselves.

Some people argue that Western society has already gone too far in the direction of self-love. They maintain that the lengths some people go to achieve a sculptured body, the use of steroids, the growing frequency of eating disorders, the adoration of sports men and women, the cult of the gym and of the sex industry all point to a culture too much in love with the itself. Some argue what we need is a good dose of self-control. They are half right.

The problem with the term love of self is that we often hear in it an encouragement to adore self. Nothing could be further from what Jesus is saying. We are called to love our bodies, not worship them. Jesus is not calling us to a narcissistic love, like we see in the sex industry and the gym cults. If we have no sense of our own self-worth, our own dignity, and the personal love of God for each of us, it is impossible for us to give the same to others and to claim from others the dignity we deserve. We will either treat others as our inferiors, on the one hand, or allow others to walk all over us, on the other.

Love of self is not about canonizing a loss of self-control. Jesus shows us by the way he loved his Father, us, and himself that true love always involves sacrifice. If we love ourselves in the right way, we have the self-control to forgo those things that are most destructive in our life and we have the generosity to do for others the things that will enrich their lives. Jesus knew that we can never love others if we hate ourselves.

Let's look at our own enjoyable dinner parties and celebrations in our own lives, full of laughter and good cheer, everyone delighting in one another's company. There is a reason that one enduring image of heaven is as a banquet. At the Grandparents gathering, one did allude, "at my house we often laugh ourselves sick around the dinner table". Isn't this the point of dinner parties?

Fr Gaetan Pereira SJ
College Chaplain