Friends in the Lord

August 17, 2022

It is our role as Jesuits to help others to find God in their lives, and it is this that helps us to find God in our lives too, writes Sam Dixon SJ.

The early members of the Society of Jesus conceived of their relationship with each other as friends in the Lord. This sounds odd today and I have often wondered what it concretely means. Until this week, that is, when with six other Jesuits – another Brit, an Indian, a Mexican, an Ivorian and two French – I have been running sessions on prayer and spirituality at the London Jesuit Centre. Had it not been for our shared call to the Society of Jesus, the seven of us would likely never have met, and, if we had, we would perhaps never have become friends. We are all very different. There is huge variation in our backgrounds and in our life stories, and yet we are brought together by a common call to be Jesuits, that is by a common desire to give our lives to Christ in service.

We’ve been calling the sessions we’re running a Faith MOT. When people arrive we welcome them and then sit down to dinner together, a dinner that we cook. Then there are sessions on different types of prayer, on friendship with God, on navigating life with God and on social justice. Finally, we bring the evening together in prayer where we review and share about our experience and about how and where God may be acting in our lives.

In one way we’ve been making it up as we go along; this is the first time any of us have a run a week like this together. And in another way this is exactly what our formation prepares us for; to be alongside others, to guide prayer, to speak and listen to people about God. It is our role as Jesuits to help others to find God in their lives, and it is this that helps us to find God in our lives too.

After our sessions each evening, we share our experience as Jesuits. It draws us closer together and it helps us to realise that we are working not for ourselves or for our own glory, but rather for the greater glory of God. It is a good antidote to all those very human feelings of jealousy or inadequacy when we compare ourselves to others. In fact, it leads us to greater freedom and trust more in God and that he is working through us, even or perhaps especially in those moments when we feel like we don’t know what we’re doing.

One of the best bits of running the Faith MOT is encountering the people who come. They are united, it seems to me, by a desire to come closer to Jesus Christ and to live out their faith more explicitly. Some people walk in off the streets for one of the evenings and then come back for another, others plan what they will do each evening of the week. Many are very impressive people, committed to helping others, giving of themselves to God and seeking to give more. Others come with an image of a frightening God and through the evening together God teaches us and them more about who he is – a patient friend who walks with us, leading us to greater life. We are inspired by the people we meet.

When I joined the Jesuits I didn’t know what to expect, but I certainly didn’t expect anything like this. For all of us, I think, there is a deep sense of meaning that this way of life provides. We may not have much money, we may not be able to have romantic relationships, and we may, in obedience, give over the final say in the decisions of our life, but there is for us a deep happiness in serving God in this small way.

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