[Homily: ADDU Chapel of the Assumption, Mass for participants of “A Night with St. Iggy”, Feast of St. Ignatius, July 31, 2016]
On the Feast of St. Ignatius, I would like to share something of Ignatian spirituality with you. I know that in “A Night with St. Iggy,” you’ve been up all night in vigil; keeping you awake just past 4:00 a.m. will be challenging. But what I have to say, I think, is important for people who are devoted to St. Ignatius, or for people who wish to encounter and serve God in a manner that might be described as “Ignatian.” Ignatian spirituality is based largely on the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius. Here, I hope to give you a summary impression of Ignatian spirituality in six points.
The first is to catch oneself existing, alive, living meaningfully unto an inborn purpose that involves God. That’s already a grace. Some of us are so busy with the “important” things of life that we hardly notice. So, the starting point is to be moved by the surprise of one’s existence and one’s relatedness to God. Appropriately grasped, one knows oneself “created to praise, reverence and serve God.” It is in fulfilling this purpose that one finds order – or disorder – in life. One even finds happiness or sadness, excitement about the challenge of life or alienation.
The second is to know oneself as a sinner. This is a contrast to the first point. But not just in a conceptual way: I have a concept of meaningfulness, and I act in infidelity to the concept. What is involved in the first point is not just a conceptual principle, but an existential reality. We are in fact ordered to happiness in knowing, loving and serving an existing God and all that God reveals himself to love and cherish. When we breach that order, we breach a basic relationship with God. We sin. Knowing oneself as a sinner is a grace. It is a profound grace. In our callousness, many of us sin and don’t even notice, don’t even care. Many of us are selfish, manipulative, or mean. We think only of ourselves; we manipulate our friends; we are mean to those who are weaker than us. We are envious of those who are successful around us, uncaring for those in need, and breach laws we know ought not be breached. For instance, the law, “Thou shalt not have strange gods before me.” We worship money. We worship fame. We worship our celfons, our computers, our cars. Are these not “gods”? They claim more attention from us than our friends, our duties, our loved ones, our God. Or, “Honor thy father and thy mother.” We hardly have time to talk to our fathers and mothers. We obey them in the breach. Or, “Thou shalt not steal.” But we cheat habitually, we take what is not rightly ours. Or, “Thou shalt not kill.” We think we can kill to fulfill a just end. We kill. Others kill. We turn the other way, as long as the killing achieves my ends and does not affect my loved ones. If I know myself as a sinner, a concomitant grace is to feel shame and confusion. That too is a grace. Many of us are shameless. We rationalize away all guilt, all sin.
The third is to know oneself before the Crucified Lord. This is the reason why I asked that we celebrate this Eucharist here in front of the great image of the Crucified Lord. Knowing oneself before the Crucified Lord is a great grace. It is a profound outcome of a pivotal mediation in the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius. The great Crucifix in front of us is, of course, but an image. But it is an image of an overpowering manifestation of God’s love. God could have left me alienated and rotting in my sin. He did not. He worked to free me from sin, teach me of his Father’s Kingdom, bring me the fullness of life. But he was opposed, rejected, and nailed to a cross. The Crucifix is an image of great suffering. It is an image of the gravity of my sin. My sin put him on the cross. But it is also an image of great love. Because, crucified, the Lord loves, the Lord forgives. His love is greater than his suffering. And he is turned to me, gazing into my eyes, loving me and forgiving me. To know myself before this Crucified Lord is a great grace. Because I also know myself in the manner I respond to that love. Some respond to his gaze, rightly, with deep personal guilt. Yet others respond more profoundly with great relief, gratitude and peace. For the gaze of the Crucified Lord does not condemn, it forgives – no matter the gravity of my sin.
The fourth is to know oneself impelled to follow Jesus through discerned choices. Before the Crucified Lord, I ask, “If you have done this for me in love, Lord, what have I done for you? What am I doing for you? What ought I do for you.?” “Ought”, “impelled” – that remarkable combination of compulsion and freedom. This is the question that opens me to discipleship in freedom and love. In response to love that peeks on the Cross given in freedom and love. The Lord labors to establish God’s Kingdom, “Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done” (Mt. 6:10); me too, I wish to labor with the Lord to establish God’s Kingdom. He labors to bring “life, life to the full: (Jn 10:10); I wish to labor with the Lord to establish life, life to the full. Being impelled to do this by a living God now means it cannot be postponed for a Kingdom in Heaven. The Kingdom of God must be established against the godless, the impious, the killers, the violent, the liars, the manipulative, the violent, the greedy, the rapists, the corrupt, the drug lords, the human traffickers, the gun smugglers, the destroyers of our common home. Here, it is clear. This is not an individual’s crusade against the evils of the world. It is rather a disciple’s necessary choice to subordinate his will to the redemptive will of his Lord, to will willing the will of the Lord, and to lead only in choosing to follow the Lord. Distinction here is not in great deeds achieved for the Lord, but in discerning the will of the Lord in the examination of inner motions of consolation and desolation, and in freely deciding to do the Lord’s will. This belongs to the free offering of the disciple: “Take and receive, O Lord, my liberty. Take all my will, my mind, my memory. All things I hold and all I own are thine. Thine was the gift. To thee I all resign. Do thou direct and govern all and sway. Do what Thy will. Command, and I obey. Only that grace, thy love on me bestow. These make me rich. All else will I forgo.”
A condition and outcome of the fourth point is the fifth: to know oneself in an intimate relationship with Jesus Christ. It is a great grace to know oneself intimately loved and appreciated in this relationship, just as it is a great grace to know Jesus intimately. It is a grace we beg for as we contemplate the mysteries of the Lord’s public life, his passion and death, and his resurrected life. It is a grace we pray for in seeking to intimately know the Lord’s sensitivities, values and will and how this impacts on me in meeting the challenges of every day life.
A final point is to know oneself finding God in all things. As a lover sees all through the prism of ones love, so to the disciple sees all through the prism of God’s love. In the redeeming, forgiving, accepting, empowering love of the Lord, God is in all, Love is in all, Hope is in all. I catch myself alive. I know myself loved. I need to respond. Not just in words, but in deeds.
Happy Feast of St. Ignatius!