This is not about the movie starring Jennifer Lawrence. This is about how we live our lives. This is about how we live as if our lives don’t count. As if we cannot change our world. This is about how we choose to live in status quo, and this is about how we would like to think that the status quo has been chosen for us.
The kids talk about YOLO. You Only Live Once. And it has earned the reputation of what kids do to justify stupid behaviour. You jump off a cliff because YOLO. You do drugs because YOLO. You have unbridled sex because YOLO.
But let us pause for awhile. These kids are onto something. You REALLY only live once! We have just one chance to impact this world. And we have this miserable capacity to forget that.
St. Ignatius, whose feast we celebrated last July 31, once said to his companions, “Go and set the world on fire!” I propose that to be a better catchphrase for this generation. Imagine if we live as if the world will end tomorrow? Imagine if we live as if all we had is today? Now imagine if we forget about our petty selves and we do the best GOOD we can ever do with our lives because of that reality?
Imagine if we catch fire?
A friend of mine died a month ago. His name is Fr. Jack Carroll. He’s an American Jesuit from New York who was more Filipino than most Filipinos. He worked in the dumps of Payatas for so many years. I was with him when he tried to combat malnourishment in Payatas. At one time, we were feeding around 2500 kids in different stages of malnourishment. There were more kids, but we had to stop at 2500 because that was all the resources we had. You feed children because it is a race against time. If these kids don’t get the nutrition they need during this short “window of opportunity” from 0-2 years, no amount of scholarship will help them later on. The World Feeding Program says that malnutrition in those critical years affect school performance later on and studies have shown that it almost always lead to lower income as adults. Fr. Jack saw that poverty is a very complicated problem, but also saw the opportunity to help in a very particular way. And he just caught fire.
Another friend—Jackie—started going on silent retreats some years back. It started out as a desire to pray, to commune with God. But my wife says she’s one of the best listener she knows. And then this friend started thinking, “Maybe I can do what spiritual guides have done for me and help other people find their God.” And she started asking around about how to do this. It took awhile. Nothing happened for some months. But the desire remained. Just waiting to be unleashed.
The beauty of it all is that when the desire of your heart is genuine, God takes you seriously. And now she is starting her journey to be a spiritual guide, and she is loving it! She is catching fire.
I guess that is how you help change the world. It starts with a desire to help. Sometimes that desire is just a vague itch that wants to be scratched. It comes out in conversations and probably even in motherhood statements. Then after awhile it becomes clearer and clearer, as you look at your life and talents, as you reflect on your passions and what keeps you awake and alive and happy. After awhile you start helping in a very particular way.
But you start WHERE YOU ARE. Even Jesus started in a small town called Nazareth, in a small country called Israel and to a particular people called the Jews.
It also becomes much clearer when you understand and know what pain you can learn to live with, and what you’re willing to give up. It’s like that guy who saw that pearl of great price and gave up everything he had to buy the pearl. The insight in the gospel is not that he gave up everything to buy the pearl. The insight is that it says, “IN HIS JOY, he gave up everything.” It’s crazy to think that we can give up things IN JOY. But it happens for people who catch fire. It happens because fire consumes you until nothing else is more important. Even if the world will try to knock you down. Even if the world tries to hold on to the status quo as long as possible. Even if inertia discourages you. If it’s real fire, it will consume you.
Fire consumes, just as real joy does. You cannot stop joy and fire from gushing forth. It warms your belly. It shows in your face. It shows in your smile. And even if you’re not smiling, it shows in your eyes. You bloom. You glow. Go and set the world on fire, Ignatius says. Because that is how you find your joy.
[by Eric Santillan]
About Eric Santillan
AngPeregrino is Eric Santillan. He is a management consultant for two firms specializing in sustainable business, competitiveness and risk management, cost control and culture management. During weekends, he does counselling for Clinica Salutare, an Integrative Health Clinic. He is also a writer for The Mindanao Current, a core group member of Heroic Leadership Philippines, and a retreat giver.