Founder’s Week, Day Six

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I say to you, many will come from the east and the west, and will recline with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob at the banquet in the Kingdom of Heaven.

        Matthew 8: 11

Today’s gospel calls us to awaken from the pervasive kind of social and cultural sleep of tribalism, nationalism, and, to coin a phrase, “ecclesialism.” One of the ways we domesticate the Mystery and the reality of the world is to constrict our vision and our heart to our own kind. Our group, our tribe, our nation, our church is special; it manifests what is most truly human, good, and true. We are chosen, and the others are not.

If we are truly to be awake and on the watch for the Lord’s coming, we’d better be ready to recognize if He appears in a foreign and strange place. But awaking out of our myopic ways of seeing is extremely difficult. By now it is a commonplace understanding of cognitive psychology that none of us perceives the world directly, but rather always through our representational map of reality. Our consciousness is a filter that includes and excludes dimensions of every experience and encounter, and, we appraise and make judgments of the situation based on our filtered perceptions.

Consistently in the gospel Jesus declares that membership in the kingdom of God requires first that we recognize and realize the limits of our own vision, judgments, and opinions. No tribe, tongue, people, nation, or Church corresponds to the Kingdom to which all are invited. At the core of the vision and mission of Theodore James Ryken was an impulse to keep pushing beyond the margins and boundaries of his homeland and his people. This disposition of marginality, although seen by Ryken to be largely geographical, is one that is a gospel imperative for all of us. The key to its ongoing growth in us is that we consistently remember the limits of our own vision and understanding, and those of the cultures and societies to which we belong. Perhaps the process of coming to love the stranger and to appreciate and serve her or his unique spiritual unfolding begins with the recognition of how little of him or her we really see and understand.

The following comes from the Working Paper on Xaverian Mission.

It should be noted that Ryken-the-young-visionary demonstrated a degree of flexibility with regard to the marginality of the congregational Frontier. True, he clearly specified that the brothers would primarily evangelize Native American children and youth. However, he had also envisaged the possibility of extending their work to older individuals, regardless of ethnicity: “They will teach the adult Indians to lead a Christian life, and… instruct the civilized people who are living in the woods at a great distance from a church.”  In his early years in power, Ryken still showed a capacity for pliability, even beyond physical margins. Ryken was drawn to Father van Beek’s forward-looking ministry to the deaf-mute. He envisioned his Brothers conveying the Word of God to those who could not physically hear it. There were several Brothers who actually went to Father van Beek’s institute in order to learn sign language and his pedagogical techniques. To whichever group the Brothers are sent, Ryken insisted that the Brothers must have “a capacity for learning foreign languages” so they can effectively communicate with the people they will serve. Judging by weakness in his own skills, Ryken may not have expected that his brothers perfectly master the language of the people they serve. What mattered for him is that they could go beyond the language barrier and, through their works, convey efficiently the Good News.

Working Paper on Xaverian Mission

 

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