A few weeks ago I was invited to a premiere of a romantic-comedy movie. I was asked what my takeaway was and I said: “Follow your passion and it will set things right.”
Today is Passion Sunday, the beginning of Holy Week where we remember, celebrate and renew our faith in the central mystery of Christianity, the Cross and Resurrection.
While the liturgy begins with the commemoration of the Triumphant Entry into Jerusalem and the blessing of the palms, the main readings focus on Christ’s Passion and Death on the Cross; the prophecy of Isaiah, the fulfillment in Luke’s Passion Narrative and the “post-event reflection” in the Letter of Paul to the Philippians. This explains my preference for calling today Passion Sunday.
The focal point of our reflection today is: Follow your passion and it will set things right.
The basic Ignatian framework for formation is the discovery of one’s mission—what God’s will is for you. And once you discover your mission, the choice to commit to it means reorienting, redirecting one’s life—everything in it, most especially your passion—toward this mission.
Ignatius places a premium on passion or desire. One of his prescriptions was, if one wanted to be a Jesuit he should be asked if he has holy desires. If he doesn’t, then does he have the desire to have holy desires?
Desire or passion, like mission, is integral to our life and person. We are born with a mission, and coupled with this is the passion or desire to live out this mission. This passion and mission we see in what Parker Palmer refers to as our birthright gift, which is our integrity, our hidden wholeness at birth, which we are to nurture.
Moment of clarity
Christ’s own life, I believe, followed the same journey. From the infancy narratives we jump to his Baptism event, with a phrase referring to the close to 30 years of his hidden life: “Jesus advanced in wisdom and age and favor before God and man” (Luke 2:52).
In his Baptism, Christ clearly understands who he is and what his mission is. From this moment of clarity of understanding, Christ sets forth and begins the final stage of his journey in his three years of public ministry.
Holy Week, the week of his Passion, Death and Resurrection, is the fulfillment of his mission—a mission he had discerned for a lifetime, being fully human like us, and, when seen with great clarity, lived out with great passion and love.
Almost three years ago, one of the artists of ABS-CBN asked to see me. He was on break from projects and he wanted to discuss how he could help out in our public-service efforts.
The first thing I asked him—as I would always do with anybody who wants to work on something—was what his dream or vision was for the work he wanted to do. What was he passionate about?
I will never forget how he shifted in his seat and how his eyes came to life when I asked this question. He said, “You remember one of our station IDs where our crew cab was going to a calamity-stricken area and you could hear our jingle in the background? That’s my dream—to let people know that we will be there when they need us.”
In the past three years, this young man has always been one of the early responders whenever calamities struck and we mobilized for rescue and relief. We also tried a couple of programs to help young kids in poor communities through sports, and he would always apply himself totally to the work.
In his playful moods, he would post an Ironman-to-the-rescue on Instagram when there was a terrorist attack or some calamity in other parts of the world.
Then on his 27th birthday almost two weeks ago, all of these came together. He finally put into action his deepest passion. He launched his foundation, which focuses on training rescue dogs for calamities and disasters, the first such group in our region.
He finally found his stride, and his passion is now expressed in the training of K-9s to rescue people when calamities strike. The Gerald Anderson Jr. Foundation is his dream for our people and for our country as we brace for stronger typhoons and “the big one.” His dream: “We will be there when they need us.”
There are three things that will make us happy (according to Polish poet Cyprian Norwid): something to live on, something to live for and something to die for.
The first is a call of necessity. The second is a mission of meaning and nobility. The third is a life lived with a mission rooted and grounded in a passion for a dream for others, a passion for a dream of a better world.
Christ’s passion healed a world broken by sin and injustice. His passion healed, renewed and transformed us, a fallen humanity, and made possible for us eternal life, a share in the Resurrection.
Everything is set right by Christ following his passion all the way to the Cross and the Resurrection.