Jubilee Year – In Sequela Christi

Jubilee Year – In Sequela Christi

Inspiration is from Fr. Didier Boillat, O.P. and Fr. Claver Boundja, O.P.

The jubilee we are talking about has its roots in the Bible. During the Jubilee year, individual life as well as community life is filled with favours from The Lord (Grace). Narrative of the Past with its shortcomings, its elements of disappointment, its struggles and hopes are linked to the present complex narratives in a moment of restful celebration of the life we receive as a gift from God. It is a time given to allow a chance for an authentic renewal full of hope. It is a time to reconnect with the newness of God who never gets old or tired. In the life of individuals and communities the presence of God reassumes everything in Christ. God changes everything and liberates everything. He brings everything in a deep movement of transformation.

It is God who offers Humanity the spirituality of the Jubilee. From the Biblical point of view, we know the Jubilee is related to the experience of Freedom, Abundance and Remission. In Leviticus 25, God appears as the one who rules the earth because he sets freedom for the whole creation. The Jubilee is celebrated after « 7 weeks of years », seven times seven years, meaning 49 years which is a symbol of perfection. The Jubilee start before the 49th year is completed, which is a sign of lack of perfection and continue in the 50th year which is the beginning of a new creation. There is a combination here of tension towards perfection in time which has to start afresh, breaking the limits of time. The jubilee is in connection with the sabbatical year symbolised by the gift of the land (Lv 25).

What is said here was an idealistic vision. We know the Jubilee law was never applied fully. It was a kind of utopia leading to a different reality, inviting to another look of reality in order to break the normal usual rhythm of life. It was a law which aimed at consolidating the present of a busy people, having effects on social life. It was useful in strengthening family and social life. Family links and social ties were reinvigorated by a new look on earthly properties in view of a renewed fraternal and social life. We should not forget that the jubilee law was given during exile. Its intent was also to restore the spiritual renewal and shape a new vision.

The three elements of a Jubilee were the idea of repose and rest reminding the Creation Narrative (Gn1,1-24), the regulation of Freeing of Slaves which is found in the Code of the Covenant (Exodus 21 – 24) as well as in the Deuteronomy Code (Deuteronomy 12 – 26) and the Priestly Code (Lv. 17- 27), and the Remission of Debt, offering a new chance  to those who did not show responsibility and stewardship in managing their property and those who were sick (Lv. 25, 23 – 31).

That is why the jubilee year is more than a mere souvenir. The celebration of the Jubilee is crucial in order to prepare for the future. It is rooted in basic needs. It refers to the first paradise. It is a call to peace and harmony, not only with oneself, but also with brothers and sisters as well as with nature. In this context, the jubilee law is to be seen as a kind of contemplation leading to the gift of intelligence and wisdom. The social fabric regains its connection with the religious dimension in which reconciliation with God is achieved and allows fraternal reconciliation amongst ourselves. This work brings about real freedom in as much as people have rediscovered their dependency from God. Our fraternal life is strengthened by the fact that the awareness of being all pilgrims on this earth keeps increasing, knowing that our real citizenship is somewhere else. We can then be open to new possibilities for our social and community structures with a deep sense of forgiveness and reconciliation. This becomes even stronger in the New Testament.

It will be important here to understand the continuity with the Old Testament and the shift from the same Old Testament. Jesus’ public ministry started with these words from Isaiah 61, 1-2: “The Spirit of the Lord has been given to me for he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor, bind up hearts that are broken, liberty to captives and to blind new sight, to set downtrodden free, to proclaim the lords year of favour, comfort those who mourn”. Jesus said: “This text is being fulfilled today even as you listen” (Luke 4, 16-22). The jubilee becomes a daily style of life. It is not linked with a given number of years any more. We are not told when this jubilee style of life intervenes. Jesus just says that he realizes in himself Isaiah’s prophecy. Jesus introduces himself as having in him all the characteristics of a jubilee. He announces deliverance to captives, sight to blind people, remission of debt, liberation of prisoners, newness, abundance of life, presence of God in the midst of his people. It becomes then clear that the last judgement be focused on the jubilee year requirements. Have we been able to be present to our brothers and sisters in need? (Mt 25, 41-45; Jm. 2, 15-16). Fleeing in religious exercises and devotions is not enough. The disciple has to lay down his or her life as Jesus did, giving a living witness to Christ through charity (1 Jn. 3, 16). The poor in spirit (Mt 5, 3) will be the one whose detachment sets him or her free. He/she will live in this world which passes away as a citizen of another world governed by a jubilee law (1 Co 7, 31). 

Jesus Christ being the foundation of our Jubilee life, the Sequela Christi becomes our vocation. « Sequela Christi » is a response to Jesus’ call. Jesus did not conceive his mission as a solitary accomplishment. Starting from the communion he enjoyed since eternity with the Father and the Spirit, we see Him choose a group of simple men and ordinary disciples to be with him and share in his missions (Mt 4,19-22; Mk 3,7-19). This Sequela Christi is our permanent challenge through time and in our various locations as we have to stimulate hope, work for freedom and engage ourselves and our society in a transformative endeavour for integral liberation and human development.

The challenge then is there to face: How am I ready to give to myself, to my community and my Order a new chance? Am I ready for new possibilities for myself, for my community and my Order?

While reflecting on these issues, Fr. Didier Boillat from Switzerland came back to a thought from Saint Augustine linking our life experience with its wounds to our present commitment in building the future: « There are three times: The present of the past, the present of the present and the present of the future. Those three types of times do exist just in our mind. The present of the past is memory, the present of the present is direct intuition, and the present of the future is the expectation » (Saint Augustin).

 

According to Fr. Didier, this leads us to develop three virtues:

  • Patience: Jesus told his disciples that they should allow time to help discern between wheat and darnel. This patience from God is a mark of the jubilee year.
  • Courage: One cannot enter the jubilee year if one is afraid of newness.
  • Prudence: Here we are implying the capacity to read the signs of time in order to respond adequately to challenges with a renewed vision.

In our “Sequela Christi” we should not forget our own wounds, the wounds of our brothers and sisters as well as the wounds in our society remembering that the wounds of the risen Lord have been a hermeneutical lieu of reconnecting with the historical Jesus (John 20,19) showing the extent to which the love of God can be offered.

 

Fr. Emmanuel Ntakatarutiman, OP

Editorial

Editorial

In his first letter to the Corinthians, the apostle Paul talks of the three main virtues of the Christian life; faith, hope and love.  He says that these three last.  He also says that love is the greatest; “the greatest of these is love” (cf.1 Cor 13:13).  Christian believers esteem these virtues as theological, that is they give us a supernatural connection to God.  Moreover they direct all the other virtues including the cardinal virtues of prudence, justice, fortitude and temperance so that we can live like Christ.  Together these seven virtues create the interior transformation of the Christian life.

In this edition of Lumen Gratiae we focus on the virtue of hope.  More than a feeling of expectation or desire, hope gives us certainty about the future.  We know that if we follow Christ authentically, if we walk in his footsteps, we will share in his heavenly life.  The strength for this sequela Christi comes from the grace He gives us in the sacraments, apart from which following Christ would be impossible.  As Dominicans we proclaim the sequela Christi as bequeathed to us by our holy father Dominic.

Several important events have transpired since our previous issue, events that strengthen the virtue of hope.  We will highlight these events in this issue.  They include the success of the Vicariate assembly which not only witnessed the election of the first native born Vicar Provincial, but also expanded the scope of Lumen Gratiae from simply covering the priory of St Dominic (Nairobi) to covering the entire East African vicariate.  In addition, we have witnessed the growth of the studentate and the novitiate.  However, with these signs of hope also come new challenges.  Facing these challenges with renewed hope will solidify our presence in East Africa and enhance our preaching and teaching as St. Dominic encourages us.  

In this issue we include reflections related to our life of study; a reflection on Lonergan’s work, Insight, and a reflection by Fr. Leo entitled Theology of Evangelical poverty.  We also include articles related to our communal life of fraternity and prayer; The Fraternal life at St. Martin de Porres and The Day the Cow Fell in the Pond.  In addition we include reflections related to our apostolic life; St. Dominic’s Kianja Parish and The Dominican Youth Movement.

We pray that the virtue of hope will increase in all of us.  In this regard we ask the intercession of St Dominic and the special intercession of our Blessed Mother, Mary, the model par excellence of the virtue of hope.  May the Lord Jesus Christ increase our hope.

Keep us in your prayers.  We look forward to your feedback.

The Day the Cow fell into the Pond

The Day the Cow fell into the Pond

On Friday, August 30, about 1 PM, our biggest cow fell into our deepest pond. Fortunately, her neck remained above the water. Still, it was a pathetic sight, especially with the green algae dangling from her ears.

The workers had named her “Gula,” meaning “greedy,” in recognition of her enormous appetite. She managed to accumulate a weight of at least 200 kilograms, that is, about 450 pounds. She was also 8 ½ months pregnant

The farm workers pumped most of the water out of the pond. Still, her feet were sticking in the mud. Not for even the shortest second did I ever expect that we would get her out of the pond. The two farm workers and a grounds keeper, at least, were experimenting, gathering ropes and boards, though I don’t know why.

When the water was drained, a cement shelf about half way up the side of the pond was exposed. Two mechanics from our neighbors organized raising her onto the shelf. At this point, she was still cooperating as they guided her onto the shelf. As soon as she reached the shelf, she lay down and refused to budge. She had enough of being pulled and pushed.

Hope emerged when our two Masai watchmen (Askaris) appeared. The Masai are famous for their knowledge of cattle.

About 5 pm, eleven of our brothers returned from playing football. They were soon joined by our prior. A variety of approaches were tried to lift the cow, but even 17 men could not lift such a cow, who had no intention of being lifted. Who knows what was going on in the cow’s brain and how she understood why these men were trying to raise her heavy body. One brother began to massage Gula’s head and speak to her – and it calmed her. Even St. Thomas knew that animals have feelings but it was a surprise to realize it.

My reflections became more miserable: good bye to the calf, good bye to the abundance of milk that comes after a cow gives birth (which we could sell), and what were we going to do with 450 pounds of beef after we stuffed the freezer and the refrigerator. We would have to have an ordination and invite everyone we knew.

Then, our prior came up with a plan. Our prior teaches philosophy and philosophers do not have a reputation for being practical but there are exceptions. And besides, the lifting was going nowhere, and no one else had any other ideas.

First, it would be necessary to get a hold of her legs and to turn her over onto her back. Have you ever heard of anyone turning a 450 pound cow onto her back? Not an easy task but with 17 men pushing and pulling, it happened!

Once that was done the prior told the men to tie her two front legs together and then tie her two back legs together. A search produced a heavy pole, which was run beneath the tied feet. Then with 8 men standing on each side of the shelf, lifting the pole, slowly by slowly, the upside down cow began to rise, not quickly, to be sure.

With our brothers and workers strenuously lifting, the cow was pulled to the top of the pond and turned onto solid ground, her feet untied, and she was rolled upside up. The cow appeared finished. Then she opened her eyes and looked around. Mustering what strength she had, she stood up and walked away from the crowd of muddy men. Within seconds, she was in the pasture, eating grass. A cow can get very hungry after such an experience, especially if her name is Gula.

We called the veterinarian to check on her. He inquired whether she was eating and, of course, she was. He said there was no reason for him to come. We asked him to check the unborn calf. His answer was the same, if the mother is eating, the calf is ok.

Other friars probably had the same experience I had, when I walked by the next day, Gula looked at me with big sad cow eyes. She never expected we would treat her in such a way. I told her I was sorry but really she had something to do with it in the first place.

Two weeks later, Gula gave birth to a healthy young bull, whom we named “Taabu,” “Troubles.”

Denis Vincent Wiseman, O.P.

St. Dominic Kianja Parish

St. Dominic Kianja Parish

We find ourselves pondering the feasibility of the new ministry at St. Dominic Catholic Church – Kianja (Kisumu).  Are we in a position to take on this new parish apostolate? Let us analyze some of its foreseen benefits and challenges.

In terms of benefits, the idea is good as it offers an apostolate for the priory in Kisumu (St Martin de Porres) which is the original house of the vicariate, and having a parish in the Archdiocese of Kisumu will help to establish in the Archdiocese. In addition, the parish will offer those in the formation program an opportunity for direct participation in a vicariate ministry. Previous chapters (meetings) of the Priory have raised the issue of more apostolates to help support the community. 

 It could also ensure economic sustenance for the priory, though presently minimal, there is hope for a better future. The parish would be an ideal place for fostering vocations to the vicariate, as the parishioners could also utilize our St Catherine of Siena retreat house and the proposed Shrine.

 We also project some few challenges including: The present minimal remuneration offered by Christian community, but which we anticipate to grow with time. As the Parish is new and just unveiled recently by the Archbishop, the Christian faithful together with the Friars will continue laboring to see it the Parish construction and structuring. 

 Though a new venture, the Christian community, in their simple but profound ways, have shown desire to grow in faith and support the ministers of the Word. Are we ready and disposed to journey with them?

 So far the Friars within the Priory have also yielded to the spiritual demands of the people of God and the local ordinary through their continued support through the weekly celebration of Holy Mass, administration of Sacraments and accompaniment in prayers.

As we near completion of the formal agreement with the Archbishop concerning this noble endeavour and implanting of a Dominican identity to Parish and Archdiocese of Kisumu, we beseech your prayers, advice and support.

May the hope, grace and love of our Lord Jesus Christ and blessed Dominic be with you!

 Charles Kato, op

Saint Dominic’s Priory, “An African Convent”

From its foundation the order of preachers has been a fraternity with the mission to save souls through preaching of the Gospel and contemplation of the truth.  The Order is composed of provinces which, in turn, are comprised of priories and houses.  Following the constitutions of the Order these subdivisions help to maintain a democratic way of life that facilitates unity and fraternal sharing.

Though independent, the provinces collaborate with each other to carry out the universal mission of the Order.  Unfortunately this subdivision sometimes presents a challenge to unity manifested as “provincial individualism,” whereby the needs of some provinces are ignored.  While some provinces grow and overflow in numbers, others close convents and ministries for lack of friars.  While some provinces enjoy the benefit of renowned universities, others, for lack of resources, do not.   Such disparity creates a challenge to unity.

In order to avoid such discrepancies and create more unity among provinces, some African provinces have created the “Inter Africa Order of Preachers” (IAOP).  The purpose of the IAOP is to foster unity among the African provinces especially in the area of formation.  To this end, the IAOP hopes to establish an “African Studentate” and an “African Novitiate.”   The master of the Order spoke of this hope at the latest general assembly in Ibadan (2017).  There the master spoke about a united novitiate even as he advised the brothers to strengthen existing ones.  Unfortunately, there exists no legislation that would make it a reality, and so despite much effort, it has not yet become a reality.  Still, many strive to make it a reality.   Some African entities strive to put this idea into practice by sending students to other parts of Africa for formation.  These entities feel that a united formation would foster an authentic African identity.

Saint Dominic’s Priory in Nairobi is very open to the idea of shared formation.  Every year we welcome Dominican student brothers from outside of the vicariate.  Such cooperation facilitates unity among the different entities of the Dominican family.  For example, St Dominic’s hosts student brothers from 3 different IAOP entities (Eastern African Vicariate, Vicariate of Rwanda-Burundi and Vicariate of Angola) in 6 different countries (Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and Angola).  This diversity enriches Saint Dominic’s Priory and fosters the IAOP dream of common formation.

Fraternal unity remains an important aspect of the Dominican character.  The IAOP hopes to realize that unity in shared formation.   Such a sharing would benefit the Dominican Order in Africa by fostering an authentic African identity.  The hope is that Saint Dominic’s will serve as a model for future efforts to bring together various African Dominican entities.  Only then may we fulfill the dream of our founder Holy Father Dominic, who on his death bed bequeathed to his sons his wish that they might have charity for one another.    

By Bro. Feliciano, OP & Bro. Jordan, OP

Mary: A model of Hope for the Vicariate

Mary: A model of Hope for the Vicariate

Recently we have seen a number of changes in the vicariate of Eastern Africa.  For example the Master General raised St. Dominic’s in Karen from a house to a priory.  The community elected new leadership accordingly.   St. Martin de Porres priory in Kisumu elected a new prior.  The archdiocese of Kisumu erected a new parish, St. Dominic (Kianja), and placed it under the pastoral care of the Dominican friars.   The vicariate appointed a new priest to our parish in Nairobi, St. Catherine of Siena.  And the first African was elected as the vicar provincial of the vicariate.

These changes present both a challenge and an opportunity.  How should we respond to these changes?  The Blessed Mother Mary offers us a way to respond to these changes in a life-giving way.  I wish to reflect on her response as demonstrated by three mysteries recounted in canonical Scripture: The Annunciation, the Visitation and the Wedding at Cana.

First there is the Annunciation.  Mary lived an ordinary life.  Her daily chores were probably menial such as fetching water and collecting firewood.  All of a sudden she experienced a significant change in her life.  We can imagine Mary’s surprise at the archangel Gabriel’s announcement that she would be the mother of the Messiah.  Sacred Scripture tells us that she was perplexed by the angel’s greeting and wondered what kind of greeting it might be.  Gabriel reassures her that she has found favour with Lord. (Luke 1:26-38). The Annunciation brought significant change to Mary’s life.  

Many wonder how the changes in the vicariate will affect them.   Some may even feel anxiety.  The words of the angel Gabriel apply; “do not be afraid.”  Just as He did for Mary, the Lord will do “great things” for us.  When we examine how Mary responded to Gabriel we realize that we should remain confident in the face of change.   Our faith encourages us to respond to change as Mary did; “I am the servant of the Lord; let it be done to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38).

The recent changes in the vicariate invite us to imitate Mary, to trust that the Lord will accomplish great things for us.   He wants to give new life to the vicariate, just as He gave new life through Mary.  As with Mary we know that with the Lord all things are possible.  He can overcome whatever challenges we face, such as gaining economic independence, increasing vocations and finding self-sustaining ministries.  Mary presents a model of trust in the Lord even when things change significantly and the future is unclear.   If we trust in God’s providence, then we have every reason to hope for a better future. 

Mary’s yes to the message of the angel reflects the faith of Abraham who was asked by God to accept a radical change.  The Lord asked him to leave his home and settle in an unknown land. Reflecting on the happy result of Abraham’s trust in God’s promises gives us reason to trust that the Lord will guide us, as well.  As with Mary and Abraham, God will guide us to a better future.   It remains for us simply to embrace this new experience and accept the challenges.  We know that the Lord will use these changes to help us grow and become better preachers of the Gospel.

Second is the Visitation.  We should reflect on the response of Mary to her kinswoman, Elizabeth, who in her old age had conceived and was in her sixth month.  Mary does not take pride in her privileged position as mother of the Messiah but instead she immediately offers service to Elizabeth in her need.  Mary approaches her cousin with humility.  Elizabeth experiences great joy, and in return Mary ponders the great things that God has done (Luke 1:39-45).

The interaction between Mary and Elizabeth reminds us that having a privileged position in the Church means being a servant.   Those in leadership roles should take Mary as a model; identify the needs of the brothers and place themselves at their service.  Just as Mary humbly went in haste to Elizabeth, so leaders should make haste to help the brothers rather than use their authority to serve themselves.   The temptation is to view leadership in worldly terms.  Mary could have taken a worldly approach to her new position and expect others to come to her and praise her, after all she is the mother of the Messiah.  Instead she chose the path of humility.  She went to her cousin and served her needs.

But service is not only for leaders.  All brothers should look for opportunities to serve one another, to inquire as to their welfare, and to offer a helping hand.  Such humble service will go a long way to build up the vicariate.

Third is Mary’s role at the wedding of Cana. Though she was invited as a guest (John 2:1-12) she does not just come as a guest.  Rather, she demonstrates concern for the welfare of the couple.  She noticed that the wine ran out and so went to tell her son.  Turning to the attendants she said of Jesus, “Do whatever he tells you.” (John 2:5)

The wedding at Cana offers a valuable lesson in problem solving; “Do whatever he tells you.”  Because of Jesus and Mary the wedding celebration was a success.   Our life, too, can be a success.  When something is lacking, all we need do is invite Jesus and Mary.  Inviting Jesus and Mary into our lives ensures a good outcome.  They are the best of guests.  They know our particular needs.  They especially help those brothers entrusted with leadership to fulfill their roles.  And we need the help of Jesus and Mary, for knowing all the needs of the vicariate and of each particular brother and how to respond to them is impossible by human resources alone. 

We need Jesus.  But Mary’s support is also essential.  She does not despise our petition, but in her clemency she hears and answers us.  She does so by directing us to Jesus, the one unique savior of the world.

Mary is a sign of hope shining in a world of cynicism.  She could have kept silent when the wine ran out, but she chose instead to bring the problem to Jesus.  In this way Mary was able to find a solution where the world could only find a problem.  Mary encourages us to ask Jesus for solutions.  If we do, then in the next few years we will achieve great things in the vicariate.

 Authored by:

 Dennis Wataka, O.P.