Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on July 31, 2009

tissot-our-lord-jesus-christ-422x733Gospel reading of the day:

Matthew 8:18-23

When Jesus saw a crowd around him, he gave orders to cross to the other side. A scribe approached and said to him, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.” Jesus answered him, “Foxes have dens and birds of the sky have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to rest his head.” Another of his disciples said to him, “Lord, let me go first and bury my father.” But Jesus answered him, “Follow me, and let the dead bury their dead.” He got into a boat and his disciples followed him.

Reflection on the gospel reading: July 31 is the Feast of Saint Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Society of Jesus, also known as the Jesuits. I attended a high school that the Jesuits ran, and when I finished high school, I entered a novitiate of the Society of Jesus, later took vows, and began a course of studies that would have led to the Roman Catholic priesthood. I remained in the Jesuits until I finished philosophy six years later. Even now at 50, a fifth of my life was spent in the Jesuits’ instruction, and I recognize the great influence they had on me and everything I have become.

One keystone of Jesuit spirituality is indifference, and it is a theme in the gospel passage that I selected to celebrate Ignatius’ feast today. “Indifference” in Ignatian spirituality is absolute openness to the will of God without consideration of the price. So when the scribe approaches Jesus and says he will follow the Lord wherever he goes, Jesus makes it clear that the cost of true discipleship is the willingness to let go of everything for the sake of the kingdom. And when the disciple asks Jesus to let him bury his father, Jesus asserts that the service of the kingdom always is now. When we are indifferent in the Ignatian sense, we have no preferences for one course of action over another but always seek God’s will for the moment and empty ourselves to pursue God’s will.

Saint of the day: Ignatius was born in 1491 in Loyola, Cantabria. He spent his early years at court and as a soldier. Later he was converted to God and undertook theological studies in Paris where he attracted his first followers. Afterwards in Rime, he joined them together as the first members of the Society of Jesus. He exercised a devoted apostolate both by his written works and in the training of his disciples for their renewal of the Church. He died in 1556 in Rome.

Ignatius of LoyolaAt the heart of Jesuit spirituality are the Spiritual Exercises. These exercises are crucial to the formation all Jesuits, but they also provide a handbook for retreat masters and spiritual directors to guide anyone who is under their care. The result of Ignatius’ own experience of conversion, the Exercises are particularly suited to help people individuals to reach sufficient detachment and freedom from inordinate passions when they are trying to make a good choice about their state of life or to achieve some serious reform of character.

These spiritual exercises involve a program in several steps. The full-length version of an Ignatian retreat would involve about a month of praying for four or five distinct hour-long periods each day whole otherwise keeping strict silence, but there are also abridged versions for use on three-day and week-long retreats. The first week invites the person making these exercises to confront sinfulness and to accept God’s mercy. The second week puts the focus of one’s prayer on the public life of Christ, while the third week considers Christ’s passion. In the fourth week, one meditates on Christ arisen and in glory. In addition, there are special exercises at crucial junctures during the exercises where one is invited to hear the call of Christ the King and to ponder the various degrees of humility with which one might be willing to serve Christ.

A particular instruction in the Exercises allows people whose lives do not permit them to go off and make the Exercises to make them over a much longer period of time. The Jesuits at Creighton have put the Long Retreat on the web. It requires commitment, but you can find a way to make Ignatius’s famous Exercises in the midst of the helter-skelter of your own life.

Spiritual reading: Principle and Foundation–Human beings are created to praise, reverence, and serve God our Lord, and by means of doing this to save their souls. 250px-SocietasiesusealThe other things on the face of the earth are created for the human beings, to help them in the pursuit of the end of which they are created. From this it follows that we ought to use these things to the extent that they help us toward our end, and free ourselves from them to the extent that they hinder us from it. To attain this it is necessary to make ourselves indifferent to all created things, in regard to everything which is left our free will and is not forbidden. Consequently, on our own part we ought not to seek health rather than sickness, wealth rather than poverty, honor rather than dishonor, a long life rather than short one, and so on in all other matters. Rather, we ought to desire and choose only that which is more conducive to the end for which are created. (Spiritual Exercises by St. Ignatius of Loyola)

A Prayer of Ignatius of Loyola: Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty, my memory, my understanding, and my entire will. All I have and call my own. Whatever I have or hold, you have given to me. I restore it all to you and surrender it wholly to be governed under your will. Give me only your love and grace and I am rich enough and ask for nothing more.

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