“What does it mean to be a Jesuit today? to commit oneself under the banner of the cross in the crucial struggle of our time: the struggle for faith and the struggle for justice which that very faith demands…. We will not work in the promotion of justice without paying the price.”
These words from the Constitution of the Society of Jesus, the Jesuits, were written in the 1970s. They were prophetic words in light of the Jesuits killed in many parts of the world.
Tomorrow is the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Jesuit martyrs of San Salvador Central American University (UCA) who were killed by Salvadoran military forces who were trained and financed by the United States.
A plaque with the above words from the Jesuit Constitution graces the wall in the UCA chapel where they are buried.
But dying while seeking justice is not just a recent experience of the Jesuits.
Today is the anniversary of the killing of two Jesuits in Paraguay, Saints Roque González and Alonso Rodríguez, who were working among the Guarani in the Jesuit “reductions,” places of refuge for the native peoples. Though they were killed by chiefs who saw them as agents of the colonial exploiters, they had given their lives for the marginalized and often enslaved Guarani.
The struggle for faith and the struggle for justice are not separate; they are part of the same endeavor to live as members of the Kingdom of God. We need to show people the loving God we worship but we also need to accompany them in their efforts to live as children of that loving God.
It is not always easy and sometimes comes at a step cost. But God calls us to commit ourselves under the banner of the Cross, a banner of love, of mercy, of justice, of self-giving.