During the present season of Lent - the Office of Readings presents us with the story of the Exodus. An absorbing story, faith and doubt, leadership, intrigue,God's wrath and more importantly His love. Ultimately it's a comforting story and one we can relate to. The Chosen People bickering, blaming Moses for leading them out of the comfort of Egypt into the midst of the barren desert. Forgetting the Promised Land, forgetting the promises of God. Yet God did not abandon His people, and He will not abandon us. All He asks is that we keep on walking. This story reminds us that this experience of exile - wandering and searching for the promised land, having our trust and our faith tested is a foundational experience for the Jewish Faith - and thus for our own faith.
In this anniversary year - when we remember the dislocation of the Society of Jesus - the 'wilderness years' between 1773 and 1814. We can be inspired at the efforts so many made to stay true to the spirit of Ignatius. The Suppression was the Societies 'Lenten' experience - its moment of Exodus. The experience of the Jesuits was a sharp microcosm of the greater attacks on the Church. For many the dismantling of the Society of Jesus was the first step towards the greater goal of destroying the Church. However as the English Writer, Hillaire Belloc writes, "The Church is a perpetually defeated thing that always outlives her conquerors.” God walks with us in our Exoduses.
One of the greatest acts of the Restored Society has been Pedro Arrupe's prophetic decision to found the Jesuit Refugee Service. Their great work of advocacy, accompaniment, hospitality and lobbying, often in the hidden corners of the world, refugee camps and hidden in the big cities of the West. Just as important as all the practical support that JRS offers is their mission to pray with refugees. The Old Testament describes how the people of Israel suffered war, violence, famine, persecution, and exile, and how they tried to find the presence of the loving God of the covenant in all those harsh realities. Sharing this faith in God's fidelity with those who are displaced - renews our own faith and reminds that we are all on our own pilgrimage through a world of temporary pleasures and pains. We are all waiting for the promised land. This perspective of exile can give us the equilibrium we need as we engage with the powers of this world.