by Fr. Ignatius

By Fr. Ignatius L. Madya Utama, SJ

This is my 4th year to join the Genesis Community in celebrating its anniversary. And this year’s celebration was very special. What made our 13th Year Celebration very special was—in my opinion—its focus. Aside from reflecting on the focus of our next year’s journey, we were also invited to once again reflect on “the Elements of Good Membership” and to live them out not only to become “a Community of Disciples on Mission,” but also “to live as a Community of Disciples effectively in the modern world.” To achieve this ideal, we need to reflect seriously on some death-dealing characteristics of our modern world.

Our modern world is controlled by a globalized economic system, which gives emphasis on free market. It is an economic system that puts financial interest before everything else. In this economic system, everything is simply treated as a means. In some countries, playgrounds, parks, historical and cultural sites, residential areas of poor people, and fertile farms are “transformed” into mega malls and hyper marts. In the name of economic development, forests (with its ecosystem and tribal people therein) are destroyed. Success in life is measured by the accumulation of material things: how much money do I earn and put in the bank or invest monthly, how many houses I have, how many luxurious cars I drive, etc.

Holding the above values, it is not surprising that many people also want to get those material things as fast as they could. As a result, many parents condition their children to study accounting or management, and they will get crazy when their children want to study literature, music, or pure mathematics.
Alongside with this economic system, our modern world is also characterized by consumerist mentality. People tend to buy and to have things that they actually do not really need. Wanting to be modern, they buy things that are considered “the latest models”.

People are also getting more aware that they live in a pluralistic society: plurality of religions, plurality of cultures, plurality of ethnicities, plurality of political affiliations, etc. And yet, there is a sad tendency: many people are very sectarian and pluralism is still far from our reach. It is even worsened by individualism.

In this kind of modern world, what should we do so that we can live as a Community of Disciples effectively? First of all, we need to take our Community life seriously. We become a real Community when we know each other personally. This will happen if each of us is willing to share our life stories and our life struggles with one another. This is followed by our willingness to share our “wealth”—both spiritual as well as material—to support one another to grow as fully human. “Wealth” is evil when it is self-serving, but sacramental when shared. Secondly, we need to be aware that our life is much much bigger than material possession. Being human and Christian requires willingness and strong determination to cultivate “traditional” virtues and values: compassion, generosity, willingness to share, caring for nature, valuing cultures, life-giving-relationship, hard working spirit, working together (bayanihan), unwavering faith in a compassionate and caring GOD, etc. Thirdly, our enemy is not those having different religions, but poverty, illiteracy and stupidity, ecological destruction, injustice, violence and modern atheism. We need to work hand in hand to eradicate all of these anti-Kingdom realities. We do all of this because we believe that it is our way of working together with our GOD to continue His redemptive presence in our world; a presence which we continually celebrate every Christmas.

Have a very Happy Christmas with your loved ones back home and do return to Indonesia and other countries where you work and live temporarily with a hopeful New Year!