Last Thursday I sat with three young talents of ABS-CBN during the dinner after AJ Perez’s 40th day Mass. The conversation eventually centered on choices. What course to pursue? How to balance studies and their careers?
One had the difficult challenge of choosing between going for further studies or taking advantage of career breaks being offered him. The other was exploring how to start pursuing a degree in music. The third is enrolled as a business major, but he thinks Mass Com is more his field.
Earlier that afternoon, right before I left my office in ABS-CBN, I talked to another talent who was to take part in the DepEd project of collecting toys for the incoming 1.9 million kindergarten students. It was also inspiring to hear his story– how he chose to focus on his showbiz career, but how he also continues to remember his promise to his late father and his mother that he will resume and finish his studies.
There was, I think, one underlying question behind all their stories, their concerns, their struggles and challenges: how does one make the right choice? Or simply, how does one make a good choice?
Follow your passion and make conscious choices. These will make for good choices – maybe not the “right” choices all the time, but good choices.
The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola, the classic work that serves as guide or “manual” for Ignatian retreats and is one of the key sources of Ignatian spirituality, gives us a view of spiritual formation where a person’s desires or passions are redirected or reoriented towards God’s mission for the person.
The redirection or reorientation leads to self-possession and freedom to make choices without inordinate attachments.
Following one’s passion presupposes the discovery – or perhaps rediscovery – of one’s passions, one’s deepest desires. And with this is a discovery also of one’s mission, which serves as compass in re-orienting one’s passions
Living out one’s mission
The beauty of the Ignatian framework is that it does not create a prototype, except for Christ, the only model and the only one we are to follow. It is not, as we would say in Filipino, de kahon. Each one is made to discover, to be aware of him/herself, and in this awareness become aware of God’s loving presence in one’s life in a very personal way. It is knowing better who one is and why one is in this world—again, identity and mission.
What I find most inspiring in the Ignatian framework is not just the discovery or rediscovery of one’s identity and mission, but living it out with great love and a great soul.
When I was a seminarian, I was asked to do vocation work at the Ateneo de Manila High School. This was 1987. I ran three vocation seminars for third year high school students and had a total of 42 attendees. The following school year, 14 of the 42 continued to seek spiritual guidance on their vocation.
As they were ending their senior year, we had to ask if they wanted to continue spiritual guidance. All 14 young men had very similar struggles – they were attracted to considering being a Jesuit, but they also were aware of their sexual drive. I told them, “Maybe that is a sign that you will be a good Jesuit.”
Most of them would look at me with puzzlement, and I would ask, “Tell me, is there a Jesuit you admire or look up to who is not passionate about his work?”
Re-orienting our passion to serve God’s mission
This Sunday’s Gospel exhorts us to live a life of obedience to God. For St. John, obedience is the greatest proof of love – "If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” What is obedience? The Filipino word often used is masunurin, obedient; to obey, sumunod – to follow. “Follow me” was the often repeated invitation of Christ.
Obedience is not uniformity. Each of us has a very personal way to follow Christ, and we follow Him according to who we are and what our mission is, warts and all. As the late Fr. Horacio Dela Costa put it, “It is to know that one is a sinner yet called to be a companion of Jesus …under the standard of the cross, in the crucial struggle of our time: the struggle for faith, and the struggle for justice which it includes.”
To the four young men: follow your passion. Follow your great love. Live.