This Sunday, although no explicit mention will be made of him in the prayers of the Mass, is the feast day of St. Ignatius of Loyola, the young Spanish knight become priest, founder of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits), who died on this day July 31, 1556. Like all the saints, he was (is!) in love with Christ.
In our second reading today (Colossians 3:1-11), St. Paul tells us that “our life is hidden with Christ in God”. The saints are Sisters and Brothers in Christ who deliberately yielded to His love in such a way as truly to be “hidden with Christ in God”, and, as a result, become, for us, instruments of divine love and light. St Ignatius journeys with us.
The following prayer, called the “Anima Christi” is often attributed to St. Ignatius. It was composed well before his time, however, which actually allowed him to include it in his famous work, the “Spiritual Exercises”. Its author is unknown. It has been carried in the heart of the Church, part of our spiritual patrimony. It is the prayer of someone in love with Christ:
Soul of Christ, sanctify me
Body of Christ, save me
Blood of Christ, inebriate me
Water from the side of Christ, wash me
Passion of Christ, strengthen me
O Good Jesus, hear me
Within the wounds, shelter me
from turning away, keep me
From the evil one, protect me
At the hour of my death, call me
Into your presence lead me
to praise you with all your saints
Forever and ever Amen.
Yours in the heart of the Church,
"Lord, teach us to pray" Jesus' disciples ask him in this Sunday's gospel (Luke 11:1-13). If we are honest about our spiritual life, it is surely a question that we pose-for, as St. Paul tells us in Romans 8: 26, "we do not know how to pray". "Lord, teach us to pray" is a cry of the heart of those who wish to engage their Lord intimately, but are at a loss as how to do so. St. Paul tells us, in the very same verse, that "the Spirit helps us in our weakness...and intercedes with sighs too deep for words". How interesting. At the end of this Gospel passage, Luke says, "how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!"
The "Our Father" is not a method of prayer-which one might expect in response to a question regarding how to pray. The "Our Father" focuses and wisely orders the deep desires of our heart, the cry of the heart of those who wish to engage their Lord intimately.
And, amazingly, the response to our deepest desires, to the cry of our heart is the Holy Spirit. It does not sound very romantic, does it? The One who, according to St. Thomas Aquinas (Summa Theologica, I, Q. 38, art. 1 & 2; II, II, Q. 38, art 9, obj. 3), is the "Gift" is beyond romantic, and uniquely full-fills the heart, enabling us to engage our Lord intimately. This is good news. This is, well, a gift. Amen. Alleluia.
Yours in our Lord,
Martha vs. Mary,
Action vs. Contemplation?
This Sunday's gospel (Luke 10:38-42) is an amazing encounter between Jesus and Martha and Mary. Most of us are familiar with it. Jesus, probably proactivelyurged by Marthato enter their home, accepts her invitation and,once in the home, finds Mary.
Both Martha and Mary are drawn to Jesus. But how they respond to and welcome Jesus differs. Martha performs the typical rites of hospitality: service of refreshments. Mary's version of hospitality-at first, exterior glance-is unusual. She sits at Jesus' feet and listens to him speak. The average guest might be oddly flattered, yet find it strange.
Martha is annoyed with Mary, and her lack of assistance. Jesus, surprisingly, seems to take Martha to task. The strength of his response suggests, however, that he trusts her, and knows that he can seek to awaken her to the gift that he brings: himself.
Before we do anything for or with him, Jesus asks that we let him love us and reveal himself to us. We are called to a relationship that is always his initiative. Our purpose is to respond, to surrender. This we do primarily in prayer which is, as it were, to sit at Jesus' feet, like children and friends and students of His light.
Let us bear in mind that, strictly speaking, Jesus does not need anything from us-save our hearts. We are indeed called first and foremost to welcome him, and to do so as we are. Let us invite him in, unready as the house may seem...
Yours in this Jesus who comes,
"And who is my neighbor?" asks a lawyer of Jesus, in this Sunday's gospel (Luke 10:25-37).The lawyer sought not to deepen his understanding of mercy but to justify himself. Regardless of his motive, however, Jesus lets him know, in no uncertain terms, who the neighbor is. The neighbor is the one right on my path: the family member, the person in the check-out line, the co-worker. We do not need to look far to know whom we are called to love. "Love the one you're with", folk-rocker Stephen Stills wrote and sang back in 1970. St. Thomas (back in the mid-13th century!) says that, "in matters concerning relations between citizens,we should prefer our fellow-citizens". In other words, well-ordered charity begins at home. And, of course, "at home", those most vulnerable beckon our love in a special way.
Jesus gives us the love with which we can love all those whom He brings across our path-including people with whom we have little in common, people whom we find annoying, people even who have hurt us. Divine love, an unconditional, liberating gift is offered to us at every moment, and, in a special way, in the Eucharist. Do we ask? Do we receive?
Yours in Christ,
"Rejoice that your names are written in heaven" Jesus says, in this Sunday's gospel (Luke 10:1-11, 16-20), to the seventy-two disciples who have just returned from their first round of ministry. They are amazed that spirits submit to them, and Jesus tells them that their joy ought to be found not in experiences of power-as amazing and noble as these may be-but in having their names inscribed in heaven. What does this mean? That there is a large celestial book in which, in exquisite golden calligraphy, the angels write the names of those destined to make it through the pearly gates? Jesus speaks in the present tense, and there is no book in the proper sense of the term. The name refers to the person. Heaven refers to the life of God-not some vague after-life. Our person, deep inside, somehow, now, by grace, participates in the life of God. St. Augustine (+430) tells us: "out of compassion for us, the Son descended from heaven, and although He ascended alone, we also ascend, because we are in Him by grace."
The bottom line is: we are in intimate relationship with God. It may not always feel like it. There may be moments of doubt. And, we are most free to come and go. Regardless, however, of feelings of emptiness, struggles to believe, and unfaithful goings, our hearts are held by the One who faithfully indwells us.
St Augustine, in his autobiography, testifies to the faithfulness of the Lord:
Late have I loved you, O Beauty ever ancient, ever new, late have I loved you! You were within me, but I was outside, and it was there that I searched for you. In my unloveliness, I plunged into the lovely things which you created. You were with me, but I was not with you. Created things kept me from you; yet if they had not been in you they would not have been at all. You called, you shouted, and you broke through my deafness. You flashed, you shone, and you dispelled my blindness. You breathed your fragrance on me; I drew in breath and now I pant for you. I have tasted you, now I hunger and thirst for more. You touched me, and I burned for your peace.
Yours in Christ,
From the desk of the Rector