HOMILY ON THE FEAST OF ST. IGNATIUS
By Cecil Azzopardi, S.J.
My Dear Brothers and Friends,
I would like to share with you four dimensions from the life of St. Ignatius that forcefully come across to me in my exposure to this man, namely, his relationship to God / to Christ / to the Church / and to the World.
!gnatius is a man taken up with God,, and this comes across more forcefully because it was not always so. He was 31 years old when because of the experience he had at the river Cardoner, his whole life is projected in a dynamic movement towards God. And from then on there was no looking back for Ignatius.
There was only one reality he searched for with every fiber of his being, GOD. Only God, solely God, God alone are phrases we keep constantly bumping into in his writings. This
why Ignatian Spirituality can be summarized in just two words, ‘SEEK GOD’ — Seek God everywhere, seek God anytime, seek God anywhere, seek God in all things. And just living out these two words is a whole way of life.
But for Ignatius God is not only to be sought. God can also be found.
The whole of the Spiritual Exercises is founded on this
be tangibly experienced,
“Let God deal directly and personally with the retreatant,” Ignatius tells the Director of the Spiritual Exercises.
This means we are not chasing a dream, or running after a cloud. God can be met and tangibly experienced.
Ignatius was touched by this God.
— He shed tears that really spoilt his eyes because of his encounter with God.
— We find in his personal diary that his hair stood on end when his whole being was flooded by.God.
Hence Ignatius would dare say in his autobiography that towards the end of his life,
“each time and hour that he wanted to find God he found him.”
My Dear Brothers, I find this statement frightening in its boldness — and yet inspiring in its honesty.
It is in Christ that Ignatius finds his way to God. From early in his conversion lgnatius comes to discover that Jesus can take a hold of his heart as intensely and passionately as the lady of his dreams.
And so initially in remorse, but later out of gratitude and wonder Ignatius turns to ‘Christ our Lord hanging on the Cross and asks of himself:
“What have I done for Christ? What am I doing for Christ? What ought Ito do for Christ?”
These questions well up from a heart moved with profound gratitude and love, for when eh was on the brink of despair because of guilt, he finds himself embraced in God’s mercy. This experience of God’s mercy is the foundation grace that links lgnatius and every Jesuit to Jesus.
Later on his pilgrimage through life we find a prayer of longing arising from the depth of his soul, an anguishing
Prayer, “Mary place me with your Son Jesus)’ ignatius knew that Jesus, and Jesus poor, had become the most precious love of his life. This he had no doubt. But has the Lord accepted him in the intimate circle of his friends? — “like the apostles” aslgnath.is is often fond of repeating.
And so he asks Mary to intercede for him with her Son.
I would like to place here the deep-felt request we find Ignatius making later on in his spiritual journal, when he pleads.
“Eternal Father confirm me, Eternal Son confirm me,
Eternal Spirit confirm me, My only God confirm me.”
16 years after Pamplona Ignatius is confirmed, when at La Storta on his way to Rome, God the Father places Ignatius with His Son carrying the Cross.
Soul of Christ, sanctify me. Body of Christ, save me. Blood of Christ, inebriate me
There the Father binds lgnatius to Jesus by making him the servant of the same mission He entrusted to the Son.
— It is as servant of this mission that Ignatius is placed with Christ.
— It is as servant of this mission that Christ places him in the heart of the Trinity.
In his personal diary Ignatius will note down:
“I felt Jesus presenting me, or placing me, or simply being the means of union in the midst of the most Holy Trinity.” (February 27th, 1544)
This is why Ignatian mysticism is a mysticism of service. Union through service — Service out of loving union. Every human person is on a journey into the heart of the Divine. But for us Jesuits it is only as servants of Christ’s mission that we can find ourselves placed with Christ In the heart of God.
Ignatius’ relationship with the Church is intriguing and challenging.
He launches out as a free-lancer in the Church.
Touched by God he wants to converse with anyone willing
To listen about what is burning in his heart. However while doing this, he gradually finds himself coming in confrontation with the authorities of the Church.
While Ignatius nourishes his conversion experience in the arms of the Church, his first public encounters with Church authority seem to be one of opposition. For him at this stage, the Church seems to keep coming in the way of what he wants to do.
And yet, it is precisely in facing this authority in freedom that he finds the way where God is mysteriously leading him to.
In his Autobiography we do find, that whenever he feels that the Church closes the door to what he thinks he should be doing, Ignatius asks himself, “What must I do now?”
In this question we discover that Ignatius does respect the authorities of the Church. He takes seriously what is asked of him. And at the same time the very question reveals that he is not stifled. He keeps searching. lgnatius keeps that freedom of spirit not by fighting back, not by confronting, but by constantly searching.
Ignatius by integrating in a very delicate balance, obedience to the authorities of the Church without surrendering his liberty of spirit and his availability for the service of God’s people, he comes to discover his apostolic vocation within the Church. He is more a free-lancer in the Church but an apostle sent by Christ through the Church.
Placed with Christ as servant of the mission entrusted by the Father, Ignatius finds himself sent through the Church into the whole world.
The Spiritual Exercises open with the Principle and Foundation and it is here that we can find a basis for understanding Ignatius relation to the world.
His search for God, his openness to the beyond, his quest for the more, takes place in the very context of the world. There is only one path for lgnatius to journey to God, and this 32 .IGNIS — 1999/3
is in and through the rest of creation’ as he puts it in the Principle and Foundation.
Because at the Cardoner Experience God is encountered at the center of everything, for Ignatius discovering God is simultaneously affirming the whole universe.
Hence after the Cardoner Experience there is a total re-orientation that takes place in his life:
— from a penitential to an apostolic spirituality;
— from imitating Christ, to serving him;
— from renouncing the world to getting involved in the world.
If Ignatius asks us to seek and find God in all things, it is because God is at work in all things, even in the sinful situations of our world and the brokennes of humanity.
And so my Dear Brothers, without the slightest hesitation we can invest the whole of ourselves in the service of the world, seeking God, where God is not only just present but is also labouring in the world.
It is precisely because God is already at work in the world before we are sent, our Last General Congregation dares to affirm that for us Jesuits there is a level of consciousness of God that is only accessible in and through our apostolic commitments. (GC. 34, No. 252)
This is the core of an apostolic spirituality.
My Dear Brothers,
Touched by God, embraced in His mercy, sent with his Son into the world, may we be found to be men ablaze with God, who wish to give greater proof of their love and distinguish ourselves in the service of the Lord.