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  • Writer's pictureImmersed in Christ

Memorial of Saint Ignatius of Loyola, Priest

Monday, July 31, 2023

by Fr. David M. Knight

View readings for 17th Monday of Ordinary Time (A1): LECTIONARY 401 (Ex 32: 15-24, 30-34; Ps 106: 19-20, 21-22, 23; Mt 13: 31-35),

Today we celebrate the Memorial of St. Ignatius of Loyola - founder of the SOciety of Jesus, "aka the Jesuits." St. Ignatius of Loyola, a mystic - and a very practical one - specified that whenever the Jesuits he founded elected someone to be head of the order, the first quality they should look for in a candidate was that he "be closely united with God our Lord and intimate with Him in prayer and all his actions."

And he established it as a first principle that, in order to pre­serve the Society of Jesus in existence, promote its develop­ment, and enable it to achieve its objective on earth, the most effective means are "the means which unite people to God as instruments and dispose them to be guided authentically by God's divine hand."

Examples of these means which unite people to God as instruments are "authentic goodness and virtue, espe­cially love, a pure intention of serving God in everything, famil­iarity with God in spiritual exercises of devotion, and a sincere zeal for the spiritual good of souls and the glory of the One who created and redeemed them." These qualities, Ignatius says, are more effective in apostolic ministry than those which equip a person to work with people. And so, he concludes, the overrid­ing concern among Jesuits should be that all the members de­vote themselves primarily to acquiring solid and perfect virtue, and to the study of spiritual things, and attach greater impor­tance to these than to learning and other natural and human gifts. "For these are the interior qualities from which power flows into external actions to make them effective for the end we seek."[1]

So, what does leadership in the Jesuits have to do with the laity? Well, what is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. The point is that the principle St. Ignatius lays down for Jesuits here is precisely the principle which all Christians should lay down for themselves. Let us be "the means which unite people to God as instruments and dispose them to be guided authentically by God's divine hand."

[1] The Constitutions of the Society of Jesus, Part IX, Chapter 2, paragraph. 1 and Part X, paragraph 2

Here is the reflection for the readings at Mass today:

Monday, Week 17 Ordinary Time (A1) LECTIONARY 401 (Ex 32: 15-24, 30-34; Ps 106: 19-20, 21-22, 23; Mt 13: 31-35), Idols The Responsorial (Psalm 106) invites us: “Give thanks to the Lord for he is good.” Always. Exodus 32: 15-34 shows the need we have for something visible and present that we can deal with to experience our relationship (interaction) with God and be assured of God’s relationship (interaction) with us. An invisible, intangible God just seems too vague, too far-away to keep us confident that he is “with us.” While Moses was in camp, he fulfilled this need. In a sense he was an “idol” for the people: not that they worshipped him, but that his visible, physical presence made them feel safe. When he delayed on the mountain, they said to Aaron, “Make us a god to be our leader. As for the man Moses… we do not know what has happened to him.” The “idol” that reassures us can be the tangible observance of the law (“legalism”); or the visible, felt external practices of some devotion. It can be an authority figure (if a priest, this may be “clericalism”) or an inspiring minister (religious “hero-worship”). It can be the visible and reassuring splendor of the Church itself (“triumphalism”). These become idols for us when we fail to subordinate them consciously to the living God and to use them only as aids to personal interaction with God as Person. When we put our faith in these things, that is idolatry. Then, when they fail us, we turn to other gods, leave the Church, seek another religion. A classic example of this is the Protestant Reformation. When ministry in the Church was so corrupt and corrupting that the early reformers could not “find” Christ in the Church — even in Eucharist — they turned away from the mystery of Christ’s living presence in the sacraments and focused on the Bible instead. They could not “give thanks to the Lord for he is good” in unreliable people, so they made the words of the Book their only sure link with God. The words, at least, are unchanging. Matthew 13: 31-35 focuses us on the living, active presence of God in the Church itself — in the people who are the present, visible, living body of Christ. Jesus invites us to see God’s life in the smallest mustard seed, his action in the seemingly inert lump of dough that is in fact always rising. The “Church” is the “assembly” of people made alive by grace, in whom Jesus is present and active, even when our sins and mediocrity make him hard to see. At Mass, during the Liturgy of the Word, the human ministers and congregation make it harder or easier to perceive Christ’s presence, because he is acting in and through them. But in the Eucharistic Prayer we can be more easily present to the mystery of what Christ is doing regardless of humans’ part in it — if we focus with faith. And at all times, with faith we can penetrate to Christ’s presence in the ministering Church (both clerical and lay), even when what we see and hear obscures more than reveals his presence. In spite of appearances, we continue to “give thanks to the Lord for he is good.

Initiative: Be a priest. Let Jesus appear in your words and actions.

Reflections brought to you by the Immersed in Christ Ministry

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