Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Spiritual comfort

As a foreign student who had already heard about the Jesuits, I thought it was interesting to learn more about the ideas of Jesuit higher education in America. I realized they endeavor to help the needy ones in their community. This is an expression of their Christian faith and of a desire to promote justice. This is a commendable initiative in this increasingly selfish and individualistic society.

Actually, those ideas are not new for me since I am a Christian who strive to live according to Bible principles. All Bible readers know that ‘‘ faith without works is dead’’ (James 2 :24-26), in other words I think that it is difficult to define faith without a ‘‘promotion of justice’’. However, I think that this phrase may be problematical because each individual or each group of individuals has his or their conception of justice but also of the way to achieve it. Kolvenback gives some indications about what justice is : ‘‘it requires an action-oriented comitment to the poor with a courageous personal option’’. I think that this comitment should not be only physical but also spiritual. I mean that it is important to attend the physical needs of people who are sick, hungry or thirsty but very often, their situation makes them depressed, mentally fragile. Thus, they need more then a physical help, they need to be comforted with well-chosen words that will print into their hearts. For instance Kolvenbach invites each professor to ask ‘‘a legitimate question, even if it does not sound academic : ‘When researching and teaching, where and with whom is my heart ?’’’ In other words sharing our knowledge with others is part of our ‘‘service of faith’’.

I am part of a Bible student group that likes to share positive and comforting thoughts from the Bible with people we meet. It is such a wonderful and practical Book from which one can draw strenght and advice to cope with anxieties, depression, economical problems, sickness…In order to touch people from all horizons, origins and languages, some of us try to learn a new language or use the one that we already know in order to reach the heart of these people. For example, when I was in Guadeloupe, my family and I were part of an English Bible student group and we would visit English speaking people, most of them from the neighboring island of Dominica. People usually appreciated when we talked to them in their mother language because they felt dignified and were inclined to listen more easily what we wanted to share with them. As a matter of fact, some of them undergo hardships because they are foreigners. They may be despised by the local population even if they come from another island like ours in the Caribbean. It is also difficult for them to find jobs when they don’t have papers. My dad and I used to pay visits to a Dominican man who was dialysed and suffered a lot. He appreciated our visits because we would listen to him a lot, be nice and smiling. We would also show him passages from the Bible that say that God really cares for him and the promises that he made to us, promises that he shall fulfill soon. When we would leave he would say thank us for coming and he looked foward to the next week. I like this form of community service because it gives me an opportunity to comfort downhearted people thanks to my knowledge of the Bible.

Furthermore, this form of community service allowed me to travel by meeting other cultures in my own country. As a matter of fact, some friends of mine belong to Spanish and Creole Bible student groups and I had the opportunity to accompany them and meet people from Dominican Republic and Haiti. Most of the time, these people fled their country for economical reasons and hope to find a better life in Guadeloupe. But very often it is the contrary. When we talk to them in their language, we become like extended family members . Most of the time there is a fruitful exchange : we share spiritual thoughts but also elements of our cultures.

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