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Lenten Reflections: Palm Sunday

March 29
Reflection by John Glynn, STM'11

John Glynn, STM'11, is a campus minister at Boston College where he oversees the wildly popular Kairos Retreats for BC undergraduates. John also serves as Resident Minister to undergrads in Ignacio and Rubenstein Halls, and is actively engaged with the Contemplative Leaders in Action program through The Jesuit Collaborative in Boston.

"Men and women for others." At virtually every Jesuit educational institution today, you'll find this statement issued as the formational goal for students. Certainly our hope for students at Boston College is no different; even a cursory search through the BC website will turn the phrase up in dozens of places, across several offices and departments on campus. Forming young people to live as men and women for others – to live with an orientation toward the common good, mindful of the needs of all, and putting others before ourselves – is one of the essential values of a Jesuit school, and one deeply ingrained in campus life. Simply put, service is part and parcel of the BC experience.

Admittedly, I'm still a relatively new product of Jesuit educational philosophy. My first experience of a Jesuit school was as a graduate student at Boston College, when I attended the newly opened School of Theology and Ministry for my Master's in Pastoral Ministry. Upon coming here I was anxious about establishing a new home in Boston, but found that BC's commitment to service deeply resonated within my own upbringing. Being at service to others has been one of the guiding principles of my life (as I mentioned in last week's reflection); in serving others I've found my truest self, experiences laden with joy, and encounters with the God Who is Love. To discover it so widely emphasized at BC made me feel at home in a new place.

Palm Sunday
Image: Entry into the City by John August Swanson

But I've wondered at times, does this motto of "men and women for others" capture all of what we hope? Should there be something distinctive about the way our graduates are “for others”, and if so, what? Pedro Arrupe, S.J., former Superior General of the Society of Jesus, first coined the phrase "men and women for others" to describe the objective of Jesuit education. But for Arrupe, it wasn't just a carte blanche notion of service, but service with an essential characteristic: to serve like Christ. To care for others as Christ did.  To love unconditionally as Christ did. To risk all for love as Christ did.

Christian service – to serve as Christ served – offers us an imagination for how we are called to serve. Whether we claim Christianity as our faith tradition or not, Jesus offers all of us an example of servanthood with self-emptying love. We celebrate today, on Palm Sunday, Christ's service to us. In today's readings we discover both the cost and the promise of serving others, and the passion narratives invite us to consider that serving like Christ – serving in love – comes with the cross. But it is also the only path to transforming this world from death to life. As Arrupe stated in his address to Jesuit high school alumni in 1973[1]:

“Evil is overcome only by good, hate by love, egoism by generosity. It is thus that we must sow justice in our world. To be just, it is not enough to refrain from injustice. One must go further and refuse to play its game, substituting love for self-interest as the driving force of society.”

Men and women for others as Christ is for us. Men and women formed for service in love. Today on Palm Sunday we imitate the people in Jerusalem who welcomed Jesus into their midst – a man who had performed incredible and scandalous acts of love in their communities. So as we raise our palms today and symbolically welcome Jesus into Jerusalem and into our hearts, let us pray in gratitude for the ways we have been shown examples of Christian service in our life, and consider how we can more fully imitate Christ's loving service to all. Even though to serve in love oftentimes means bearing a cross, let's remember, Easter is coming.

[1] For the full text of Pedro Arrupe, S.J.'s address, check out http://onlineministries.creighton.edu/CollaborativeMinistry/men-for-others.html

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