“It’s all about me.” “I am the author of my own destiny.” “What’s in it for me?” “I am better, smarter, faster, stronger.” “God helps those who help themselves.” Our society is filled with these messages. In a world of competition, he or she who is the strongest, fastest, wealthiest, and brightest survives or is seen as most powerful. This gospel of individualism is preached and perpetuated in social media, movies, television, and music. Instead of a philosophy of togetherness and equality, a dangerous focus on the self has dominated our society.
Christian tradition recognizes and values community. This message can especially be seen in the Gospels and the writings of Paul. Jesus’ first public miracle was not performed out of view from others. Instead, Jesus turns water into wine at a wedding, a communal celebration, when the supply of wine runs dry and the party continues (Jn 2:1-12). Later in Jesus’ public ministry, Jesus preaches that we are the branches, He alone is the vine, and God is the gardener (Jn 15:1-17). The Catechism teaches that “the human person needs to live in society. Society is not for him an extraneous addition but a requirement of his nature” (Catechism, 1879). Simply put, we are communal beings made for and with others. St. Paul contributes to this belief by likening our Church as the Body of Christ. We are one body, but each of us is individually a part of this Body (1 Cor 12:12-31).
How does this message apply to our year of teaching and service at Rockhurst High School? Community is essential for our daily lives. We cannot go about it alone, even if we think we can. We need God and each other. Jesus teaches that the greatest commandment is this: to love God with whole mind, heart, and soul (Mt 22:38). Jesus follows with the second greatest: love of neighbor (Mt 22:39). Our efforts as Christians should not be focused inwardly or solely on ourselves. Instead, we ought always to be focused on others, a hallmark of Pope Francis’ preaching. Paul writes, “If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it; if one part is honored, all the parts share its joy” (1 Cor 12:26). We must direct our efforts to all people: gay or straight, rich or poor, white or black, male or female. Our Church is to be a church of inclusivity, not one of exclusivity.
As Christians, we must be dedicated to loving and serving others, promoting justice and peace. We must work to bring down barriers that divide our communities. As Jesuit educators, we must actively seek to form men and women dedicated to the pursuit of truth and the service of humanity. We can challenge students to discover ever-present injustices and seek solutions to end them. Teachers and administrators alike can work to foster communities, starting in the classroom. We can treat all people with dignity, love, and respect – especially those we struggle to like or who are strangers.
A significant pillar of ASC is community. Each school is served by a community of ASC volunteers dedicated to the service of their schools and their students. This alone is not enough. As individual volunteers part of a community, we recognize that each person has a role to play. We come from a variety of backgrounds, philosophies, and studies. We serve our schools in various positions. Our communities cannot survive if we view ourselves as a group of strangers living separately in the same dwelling. Together, however, we give witness, work to spread the good news, form men and women for and with others, and lead souls to Christ. We must always seek to open ourselves to each other and never be afraid to ask for help.
“Go forth and set the world on fire!” – St. Ignatius of Loyola