“And now I am no longer in the world,
but they are in the world, and I am coming to you.
Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me,
so that they may be one, as we are one.”
~ John 17:1-11
The passionate and highly emotions-charged Philippines elections are over and things are starting to simmer down. As people are picking up the pieces and cleaning up things to get back to their normal usual lives, I reflect on how religion, prayers and yes even spirituality have played a big part in the process, even among professed non-believers and agnostics. Church and religious leaders of all stripes and persuasions were very visible and very vocal all throughout.
I cannot but help view the recent events within the context of my own spirituality. I have been greatly influenced and inspired by Ignatian spirituality. Many friends and acquaintances who are similarly disposed have been very active in the elections and the campaign that preceded it.
One of the touchstones of Ignatian spirituality is the Magis, the More, the search and the reaching out for excellence. It asks the questions, what more can I do? how can I do better? And this has inspired many followers of Ignatius to heights of excellence and achievement. But like all good things, it can be corrupted. The excellent ones can become a clique, an elite to the exclusion of all others. They are acknowledged, or even worse proclaim themselves, as leaders. Leaders who are wont to tell others what and how to do things.
The quest and search for excellence need to be tempered by another theme of Ignatian spirituality: the man for others. Excellence is never for one’s sake, nor even for its own sake. Excellence must be expressed in service and love for others. True excellence is best expressed is generous self-giving. It is servant leadership. This is the gospel roots of Ignatian spirituality.
Excellence without being a man for others is self-serving and leads to elitism and exclusivism. This is what people voted against in the recent elections.
Service with excellence is also self-serving and ineffective. It leads to frustration, feelings of hopelessness and, yes eventually, despair. This is also what people voted against in the last elections.