ISA Holds Lecture on Integral Spirituality of Friendship

On May 6, 2018 the Institute of Spirituality in Asia (ISA) welcomed an out-of-towner as the resource person for the public lecture for this month.

Ricardo M. Ravacio came all the way from Oroquieta City in Mindanao Island to speak on "Integral Spirituality of Friendship: Re-owning Our Sense of Human Authenticity."

Venue was the Multi-Purpose Hall, Teresa of Avila Building, 4th Floor.

Mr. Ravacio spent five years in the seminary in Ozamiz City and holds a law degree as well as another on Master of Arts in Teaching (M.A.T.). He taught for 15 years at Stella Maris College in his home town.

The speaker had been a medical representative of Ciba-Geigy for 10 years when he felt the call of the Holy Spirit to focus on the Biblical Apostolate. As a result he has been involved in the formation of the Basic Ecclesial Communities (BEC) for the past 23 years with the full backing of his wife Marsha and their two sons, now with families of their own.

"I opened the first waffle store in our city," Ravacio told with his audience of Carmelite novices and priests, formators from other congregations like Fr. Ryan Espejo for the Redemptorists , nuns, professors and other lay persons.

"There at the market, I saw a cranky old man named Tiago One -Eyed walking without any pants on and making me and other people laugh.  Suddenly, we saw a woman fetch a man who must have been Muslim, going by his gear, and who gave Tiago a pair of pants. I was amazed by this friendly gesture and suddenly remembered the words of the Lord: `I was naked and you clothe me.' "

Ravacio was ashamed to claim to be a Christian but did not  respond to Tiago's dilemma. But from this incident he came to develop his thoughts on integral spirituality of friendship.

He explained that the spirituality is  integral because it involves seven aspects corresponding to the earthly life of Jesus: social, cultural, religious, economic political, ecological and global.

"The historical-faith ministry of Jesus can be a foundational strategy as we struggle for humility in order  to re-own the dignity lost by our First Parents," he added.

"To quote the Book of Wisdom,  God created man for incorruption (Wisdom 2:23) and our First Parents  glorified God, could see God face to face, had  no concupiscence nor death nor sin, were happy and had an abundant life. God gave them freedom to choose what is good and to reject what is evil but then, his goodness was rejected by humanity."

In spite of such a rejection, God continued the sense of belonginess and allowed the friendship of love to continue, said the speaker.

He also said, "This is our history of friendship. For those who want to re-own their Christian (and non-Christian) sense of human authenticity, Integral Spirituality of Friendship as seen in John 15: 14-15 can be a salem (image) and a demut (likeness) of our Creator.

"God called Abram and promised a new land to a nation which would be great and would include all the families of the earth who shall bless themselves. God also promised to bless those who would bless Abram and to curse those who would curse Abram."

 According to Ravacio, the God of the Bible started small with Abram and began to  transform the world by starting anew, at a particular place in the world, with a single individual. Jesus of Nazareth became human,  was incarnated with an origin of tribe and with an order of values as a Jew, experienced an Abba or  a loving God, and worked as a carpenter.

He explained, "Jesus also radically opposed the Jewish leaders and the state, used the environment to heal and exorcise, called out people and gathered them as friends. He made known to them what he had  heard from the Father so that they could continue greater works for the renewal of Israel as the new people of Yahweh. Lastly, he destroyed structural violence by opposing it, and faced death because he loved them."

Based on biblical history, Jesus freely accepted suffering and death which would come from the different integral structures present in his life. Ravacio offered a paradigm shift wherein the ministry of Jesus and its holy signs can help people regain the dignity lost by our First Parents.

"Jesus is present in our time but this is not emphasized. When a family eats together, the Eucharist is  there in the kanin, ulam and sabaw (rice, simple viand and hot soup) gained through the efforts of Itay and  Inay (parents), " the speaker said of a painting made by his one of his daughters-in-law.

He also directed attention to human authenticity reclaimed through  the spiritual effects of the ministry of Jesus: If we allow God to reign in our midst, then we will experience spiritual effects in our life situations. It is our response in our faith that we will become perfect."

Jesus authentically lived the whole structure of life in his ministry of compassion, friendship, love and taking away sin. For example, he was born to a social structure of systematized pride, egocentrism and of human beings wanting to be like God. Lucifer wanted to be like the Most High.

But during his ministry Jesus did not regard position as important and even emptied himself (kenosis).

"He could have said, `I could have been comfortable' but Jesus did not," said Ravacio. "If we follow his spiritual direction, we will struggle to empty ourselves without discrimination." 

As for the structure of culture, Jesus was born a Jew and a descendant of Abraham but he transformed the civilization to which he was born into a new Jerusalem. The spiritual effects of this are a rejection of  exclusivism and  a willingness to ask like the Good Samaritan who had helped a traditional enemy of his people: Who is my neighbor?

And on religious structures which  give a sense of belonging, Jesus was  the son of a loving father, and counseled that true religion means giving one's life to one's brother and visiting orphans and widows.

"Being religious requires a social relationship," the lecturer reflected, "and includes learning to forgive." 

In terms of economic structures, Jesus came from a poor family, carried no money, pointed out that man does not live by bread alone but from the word of God, and criticized temple taxation. The spiritual effects of following his ministry include being nourished by his body and blood; feeling joyful celebration by preserving one another; and fasting and giving of oneself with perfect discretion.

As for politics whereby people form institutions and nation-states, Jesus advocated non-violence, justice and righteousness when he quietly confronted Pilate on the true source of power, and clarified that true power promotes life.  The spiritual effects of his actions include respect for human rights, dignity, the right to life, collegiality and a society of equal opportunity.

 Here, Ravacio also included matrimony and conjugal love which build the family as the smallest assembly of God's people. He said, "Collegiality is the hardest thing even in families. But when husband and wife gather to talk about and plan for their family, they take care of their sons and daughters."    

Among the manifestations of the ecological structures relevant to Jesus is the relationship of organisms, people and environment to all of creation and to God's kingdom. He used clay-earth to heal the blind, and oil to heal the sick. The spiritual effects of such a ministry include uniting a sick person to the passion of Christ as Lord for his or her sake as well as for the Church; the healing of the whole person with renewed strength and above all, the forgiveness of sin.

And lastly, the global structures during the time of Jesus had Jerusalem under Rome and Gentiles lording over society. People were like sheep without a shepherd, but he asked them to serve  one another and to treat the least among them as they would have treated him.

"Globally, one of the spiritual effects of the ministry of Jesus, " said the resource person, "is the increase in the willingness of people to serve. Is this utopia or reality? Well, we can only point out St. Teresa of Calcutta and how she placed others first." 

Mr. Ravacio also showed a short video made  by a Thai insurance firm about a man's persistence and willingness to do good above everything else.  

At the open forum, Sr. Caroline Nuryati of the Sisters of St. Charles Borromeo  agreed with the statement that the family is the smallest assembly of God's people, making it so important to build character at this level.  

For his part Fr. Rico Ponce, ISA executive director, distinguished between FaceBook friends and genuine  friends: "I could have 3,000 contacts but I still know that true friendship is not used to manipulate  me."

In closing the public lecture for May 2018 Dr. Carmen Alviar, forum moderator, added that such friendship starts with a foundation of trust.

 The forum ended with the giving of  a certificate of appreciation.

The next lecture is set on June 30, 2018 with Dr. Dennis Gonzales of the Saint Vincent School of Theology and of the Ateneo de Manila University speaking on spirituality and leadership in governance.    


                                                                                                       Pinky Choudhury; 15 May 2018