Even Unto Death

Even Unto Death

A reflection on the book El Camino de Santiago by Leean Rosal, CFC FFL Fulltime Worker. El Camino de Santiago is a book written by our Servant General, Frank Padilla.

I’ve also had my share of long walks. You see, I was never the ‘I love walking’ person. I would rather avoid the harsh bite of the scorching sun and forego the ache of having very tired feet. But that all changed when God allowed me to go on pilgrimages. In total, I’ve gone to three: one in Europe, another in Asia and recently just here from EDSA to Antipolo. All three became significant turning points in my life. All three made me see how walking to a certain place actually is a “trip” deep within myself. All three made me see the God who has been, since the beginning, dwelling in me and calling me to share this love I have overwhelmingly been graced with to others…even unto death.

In Tito Frank Padilla’s ‘El Camino de Santiago,’ he draws out from his pilgrimage along the way of Saint James in Spain principles of Servant Leadership. It is a rich read; something that should not be read in one sitting but just like a pilgrimage, it must be taken “step by step.” In my spiritual walk with the founder of the community that taught me how it was and is to fall madly and deeply in love with the God who calls me to be a missionary, there are three interconnected things that, I think, sum up the principles: humility, endurance and total surrender.

The pitfall of leaders, especially those in the Church is this: humility. The popular notion of leadership is lordship. That was not the case with Jesus. The entirety of Jesus’ words and deeds was a diakonia. Jesus showed us the example of what a leader should be: we must not take the place of honor but we must be ready to kneel, “shed off our garments” and wash the feet of others. Ultimately, this example was taken into Calvary where He was pierced for all to see. There in the tree of suffering, with arms wide open, He took the form of a slave. For our sake and because of His loving obedience to the Father, Jesus stripped off Himself of honor, shed of His glorious garments and washed us by His blood.

When you read Tito Frank’s principles, majority had that underlying theme of humility. Even in the recognition of the small and big blessings that we have is already an act of humility. When we recognize the abundance of grace in our lives, and when we see that nothing can ever be credited to us, the natural gesture of the heart is thanksgiving. And when we are thankful as Servant Leaders, we shall constantly find ourselves in awe of the God who sees in us like a gem covered in ashes. We cry: “who am I for you to favor?” We recognize our nothingness and our littleness and even in spite of it, we were called to take part in this awesome work of evangelization. What better gesture we can do but give thanks?

Also, when we are humble, we find the endurance to suffer as Jesus did. I remember clearly that in all of the walks I did, I found myself wanting to give up. In my walk from Manila to Antipolo, my Cervical Radiculopathy made walking harder as I had to endure the ache in the feet and the numbing pain in the shoulders that radiated to my arms. I could have given up. But I remembered why I made the walk in the first place: I was walking with the intention to pray for others in mind. I was walking to “be with Jesus” on His walk to Calvary and “bear the cross” for others. I remembered praying for grace and offering the pain. If Jesus endured the walk for me, I, too, must “love to the end.” That loving and enduring to the end, in a way, helped me in my “walk” now as I dedicated my entire life to serve the Lord. In the face of trials, look to Jesus. Fix your gaze on Jesus. Remember Who walked the path to Calvary first. Remember the One whose love endured to the end. Remember that even in pain, there is grace. In Tito Frank’s book, he constantly exhorted the need to endure as a servant leader: never give up on anyone, never give up in serving even in the face of difficulty, never be discouraged. He gives us an image of St. Paul towards the end of the book. Paul endured to the end. He was ever zealous for the mission. Even in humiliation, even in the darkness of prison, even unto death.

Lastly, I think that interlaced in his reflections on servant leadership, Tito Frank was bringing us to what made saints Saints: total surrender. When I walked the path of the Martyrs during the Asian Youth Day in South Korea where we also met Pope Francis up close, I recall asking the Lord: “What is needed of me to be holy and see your glory as the martyrs of Korea did?” In that long walk, two words constantly came to mind: Total Surrender. This brought me back to four years back when a priest told me to pray St. Ignatius’ Suscipe every day. Finally recognizing that it was a prayer of total surrender, I realized why it was the prayer that my professor in Spiritual Theology cautioned us not to pray without knowing what it truly meant. The Suscipe was a radical prayer of giving God free reign in one’s life. Nothing would be left in the hands of those who pray it. His love and grace is enough.

This is exactly the heart of Jesus on the cross: total surrender even unto death. This is the demand for servant leaders, too. Ours is not a mission bearing our name. Our work and toil is the Lord’s and whatever the Master says we must do. We give our all as He did. We extend our all to those who hunger and thirst for God. With arms wide open, as His on the cross, we embrace everyone with mercy and compassion. Not only those entrusted to our care but those who are lost in the world. Not only those who are easy to love but even those who hit us where it hurts. We take our walk in our own “El Caminos,” with the souls we have won for Christ’s sake, toward the end when we finally see His Kingdom come. To the end. To where we find our rest as holy warriors. To Him alone. To the God we love with all our hearts. To nothing but His love and grace. Yes, even unto death.