I am attending the Redemptorist Provincial Chapter Assembly here in Cebu at the Holy Family Retreat House. It started last Monday (Jan. 3) and will end this coming Monday (Jan. 10). There are over 60 Redemptorists from Visayas and Mindanao in attendance. We have come together to set the direction of our life and mission for the next 4 years. We are also electing the leadership team of our religious province.
Yesterday morning, I was the designated presider and homilist of our daily Eucharist. This is the text of my homily:
Overcoming our Dark Side, Becoming the Best Version of our Self
There is a story of a native American chief of the Cherokee tribe talking to his grandchild: “there are 2 wolves fighting within my heart.
One is mean, greedy, lazy, proud, and avaricious.
The other is kind, compassionate, loving, courageous, and vibrant.”
When the child asks who will win, he answers:
“the one that I will feed.”
This story reminds us of the struggle within each one of us – a struggle that continues even to our old age.
If we go through our life we will notice acts and behavior
that we are not proud of,
that we find despicable and that we regret.
This could be those moments when we became, selfish, greedy, angry, avaricious, lustful, lazy, abusive, and prone to addiction
This is the dark side of ourselves, the worst version of ourselves,
the sinful self.
What happens when the dark side dominates our life?
We fail to carry out our prophetic mission,
we tend to spend our time in pursuit of sensual pleasure and comfort– feeding our addictions, we could break our vows,
we could engage in sexual misconduct or abuse,
or be involved in financial anomalies, we could create scandals,
we could lose our credibility
But who we are doesn’t have to be defined by our past sins & mistakes.
We don’t have to allow the worst version of ourselves dominate our life.
The Gospel relates to us Jesus' struggle against the diabolical temptation in the desert, before he started his prophetic ministry of proclaiming the Good News and urging people to conversion.
Paul in his letter to the Colossians calls for conversion – dying to the old self and putting on the new self.
Constitution 10 states that our special mission is the explicit proclamation of the Word of God to bring about fundamental conversion… We are called to be apostles of conversion.
We can only carry this out if we ourselves have experienced conversion and redemption.
Conversion requires transformation – from sinner to saint, from being the worst version of ourselves to being the best version of ourselves.
St. Alphonsus in his letter to the confreres in Aug 8, 1754, wrote:
“ God has called us into the congregation to become saints … Let us – in what remains of our lives, long or short – let, us, I say, become saints.” This does not mean being canonized or having a statue and feast celebrated in our honor.
A description of what it means for us to become saints can be found in Const 20: “Strong in faith, rejoicing in hope, burning with charity, on fire with zeal, in humility of heart and persevering in prayer …hearts full of joy, denying themselves, always ready to undertake what is demanding…"
For many of us, Const 20 is a distant unrealistic, ideal. But it is the image of what we can be – the best version of ourselves.
Unless we are able to overcome our dark side,
unless we go through a process of ongoing conversion,
unless we become the best that we can be –
all the restructuring will be in vain,
all our beautiful resolutions and proposals will remain on paper.