... in a message from the Jesuit Father Provincial of Japan

Published on 06 May 2020
Interior of a church

Not long ago, I asked a colleague about to retire what he was going to do with his time now, and he said “read the Bible”. He was, he said, already on page 300.

I suggested than instead of going from A to Z, he choose selected texts and, most importantly, also read or hear how specialists (such as Jesuits) interpreted the texts, since I found that very helpful.

My husband and I are members of a small faith sharing group led by our Spanish priest. My husband, also retired, lovingly prints out the Jesuit commentaries on the weekly liturgy, in English and in Spanish. The texts inform and ground us and bring us together and make the faith-sharing more memorable.

Having myself attended a Christian school with daily Bible readings, I confess I had been largely unaware of how they might relate to me.

Not so with the personalized interpretation of Matthew from Fr. Renzo de Luca, Jesuit Father Provincial of Japan.

Explaining in his consoling Easter message how Jesus asks His disciples to do what the Pharisees say, not what they do, Fr. Renzo urges listeners in this time of pandemic to follow not what our leaders do, but what they say.

Now we are in Lockdown, my husband, for his reasons, had already home-bound himself, and I am more than happy to stay in, having just retired from a grueling, physically demanding job. I am Delighted to follow what Mr. Abe, the Prime minister says, though not what quite what he does, for example presiding over massive press conferences with journalists elbow to elbow.  

However, for some time, I have been troubled by the words of a local priest who, in his homily, highlighted the two key cultural values of Japan: Greetings and Gratitude…while not manifesting either in the four years I volunteered as gardener for his church.

Since I am neither an anthropologist nor a psychoanalyst I am unable to fathom his reasons for this incongruity. However, Mathew ‘s message makes it clear, just do as he says, Greet and say “A-ri-ga-to-!” and never mind if the priest does not himself comply.

That being said, how much easier it is to emulate the witnessed example of Christian practice. Returning to the Father Provincial, as an occasional participant in the Spanish-speaking Congregation at St Ignatius in Tokyo, I happened to be there at Christmas time last year. After Spanish Mass, there was a get-together, and Fr. Renzo came along, despite demanding weeks preparing and attending to His Holiness, hosting, shepherding and translating at the multitudinous events. There he was, cordially listening, amiably chatting with fellow Jesuits, youths, factory-workers, housewives, retirees and the little people, such as me, just as comfortable as he had been in the company of his former mentor, then Jorge-Mario Bergoglio, Pope Francis today.  

How much easier it is to follow the lead of this inspirational leader of our Province than of often arrogant and incongruous leaders of nations.