The 34th General Congregation of the Society of Jesus came to close on March 22, 1995, having opened 76 days before. The Jesuits’ superior general, Peter-Hans Kolvenbach, delivers the following homily at the Church of the Gesù in Rome.
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March 22, 1995
Almost three months have passed since our communal discernment began in the Church of the Holy Spirit. This unremitting labor of renewal of our way of being and of our always becoming better companions of Jesus comes to a close tonight in this act of thanksgiving.
The general congregation concludes before the image of our Lady of the Way who incarnates so well a spirituality which, as a way to God, passes through the street, through the joys and the sorrows, the anguish and the hopes of humanity. It concludes also before the altar of St. Ignatius the pilgrim, who has constantly accompanied us in our deliberations and voting for the renewal of the Constitutions in creative fidelity.
It concludes, finally, before the altar of St. Francis Xavier, as we acknowledge that in the present state of the Society we have ever greater need of his missionary passion to announce with greater zeal and vigor the Gospel of the Lord, the entire Gospel, and nothing but the Gospel, as servants of Christ’s mission. To this undertaking this evening’s Word of God brings full meaning. It is the Lord who comes to fulfill the law and the prophets. Jesus confronts what had been spoken to the men and women of old and what he speaks to us now. But this new law, this law of Christ, does not sweep away the words of Moses and the words of the prophets. Not a letter nor a stroke of the pen will be suppressed of what God our Father has revealed as law for his people. Jesus does not replace it with a better or superior system. If he comes to fulfill this law, it is to assume it personally as a new commandment of love which knows no limits or calculations; it is to live it fully in the paschal mystery, loving his own who are in the world until the end.
In the spirit of this evening’s Gospel, nothing of the laws and Constitutions, of the decrees and declarations, of the Complementary Norms and Notes, in the measure that they are grafted on to this law of the love of Christ, nothing is negligible and all merits to be assumed personally in the Lord by each companion.
Everything the general congregation has tried so hard to elaborate needs to pass through our hearts, so that for today and for tomorrow in the service of our brothers and sisters we more effectively resemble the Lord Jesus, often by becoming in the eyes of our contemporaries fools and madmen for him who first became such for us and who nevertheless labors only for life, the true life of the world.
It is by the side of the Son that the intense work of General Congregation 34 will really be accomplished. In fact the abundance of words and the multiplicity of texts conceal as under a bushel the lamp of a great basic desire for conversion. Through all the encouragement of or cooperation with the laity and others, through all the urgency of ecumenism and interreligious dialogue, the clarifications of the vows for our day, the renewal of our commitment to justice in the name of the Lord, through all the insistence on authentic “thinking with the Church” in the delicate context of our times—to mention only these examples—the general congregation is calling for a change of mentality, a greater transparency in our mission and a conversion of heart for “an offering of greater value.” Why try to delude ourselves? It is conversion or the absence of conversion which is the deciding factor for the living-out of this congregation, for the future of all that this general congregation has elaborated, clarified, and decided. That the general congregation was able to appeal to this conversion of heart by means of its decrees and its norms is testimony that the grace of holiness has not been abandoned, even if our examen has revealed that we carry this grace in very fragile vessels of clay.
We thank the Lord that he gives us this opportunity to begin anew to live the words and gestures, to bring to reality the choices and desires of Christ that our labors of three months have tried to recognize. And by the intercession of our Lady of the Way, let us ask in the words of St. Ignatius the grace that we may always know the most holy will of the Lord and that we may accomplish it perfectly.
Original Source (English translation):
Jesuit Life & Mission Today: The Decrees & Accompanying Documents of the 31st–35th General Congregations of the Society of Jesus, ed. John W. Padberg. St. Louis, Mo.: Institute of Jesuit Sources, 2009, “Homily of Father General at the Closing Mass,” pg. 693–694.