Father Arturo Sosa gave his first
public homily in Nepal the day after Ash Wednesday in Kathmandu, as part
of a celebration of the final vows of two Jesuits from the Region of
Nepal: Roy Sebastian and Juel Kispotta. Here is the gist of his text.
‘Selfie’ is a buzz word today. People
take ‘selfies’ on their mobile phones, upload the pictures in their
Facebook or WhatsApp accounts and wait for “likes”. A ‘Selfie’ shows our
outward self. However, each of us has the inner self too. Lent is the
time to take ‘selfies’ of our inner selves and upload in our accounts
and see how many “likes” we receive from God.
We are at the beginning of Lent which is
a call to a desert experience, where all else is silenced and God alone
begins to matter. Yesterday we signed ourselves with blessed ashes, a
sign of our readiness to discover the spark, the fire hidden in these
ashes and to embrace wholeheartedly the call to conversion and
wholeness. In today’s gospel, Jesus puts before us the cost of
discipleship. Suffering and self-denial are the hallmarks of
The invitation of Jesus today is powerful, and his words are direct and clear:
- If anyone wants to come with me, he must forget self, take up his cross every day, and follow me.
- For whoever wants to save his own life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.
- What gain, then, is it for a man to have won the whole world and to have lost or ruined his very self?
The first reading places before us two
choices – self-preservation or dying to oneself, to experience death or
real life, life to the full, what Jesus wishes for each one of us (John
10:10). Every of us, instinctively, would want to preserve our life.
However, each one of us also has an inner desire to make spiritual
advancement and move closer to God. The choice placed before us is to be
self-centered or God-centered. The former brings “death”, the latter
brings “life”. The words and invitation of Jesus in today’s gospel are a
call to conversion, to experience “life”. The call is counter-cultural
and far from what the world honours, praises, desires and advocates.
Dying to oneself is not pleasurable; far from it, it is painful.
However, there is no growth without pain.
The cross that Jesus is talking about is
not the cross that comes out of our own making, due to our
insensitivity, our foolishness, our own failures to live up to our
calling, our isolation from reality and our clinging to privileges. The
cross that Jesus is calling us to carry are the hardships, insults,
reproaches and injuries we will face if we dare to live by Jesus’s
values and follow the challenges placed before us in today’s gospel.
The choice is clear but not easy. We
find ourselves pulled in both directions. We do the very things we do
not want or wish to do. We need conversion. The first reading is an
invitation to discern between choices that bring life and those that
bring death. Discernment is one of the essential characteristics of our
Jesuit way of life and is one that can truly foster conversion.
Discernment is a way of listening to our deepest desires and the desires
that God has for each one of us here and now. We are invited not only
to choose “life” for ourselves but also to help others along the way to
also choose life.
In terms of the situation here in Nepal,
we are called to discern the works we are involved in, so that we bring
life to the people who are suffering and on the throes of death. Today,
personal, ethnic, political and economic self-preservation has pushed
millions of people to the periphery of the society leaving them
vulnerable, excluded and impoverished. The April 2015 devastating
earthquake left many Nepalese homeless, and many children orphaned and
vulnerable. Many tea garden tribal workers, in spite of being born and
living in Nepal for years do not have Nepali citizenship.
Assertion of ethnic and religious
identity is on the rise in Nepal. On a few occasions, Nepal has
experienced disruption due to ethnic and religious intolerance. Nepal
has been an abode of great religions, cultures and traditions. However,
the younger generation is drifting away from God. There is a spiritual
vacuum among the youth. Materialism has overshadowed spirituality.
Corruption is almost institutionalized. These are some of the concrete
realities we are called to face and work with in Nepal.
Hopefully, a deep reflection on the 4
UAPs that the Holy Father has confirmed and missioned the Society to,
will help us discern and bring about a much needed individual,
communitarian and institutional conversion to choose what is more
conducive to promote the Kingdom, in the context of the current
socio-economic-political realities of the country.