After his conversion from an indulgent, worldly life of filled with prestige and pleasure; Ignatius left Loyola with his heart on fire filled with a passion to be a servant of Christ. At a cave in Manresa, Ignatius’ strove to be great and glorious practicing extreme penances and taking impulsive actions only to fall into a deep desolation, so deep, that he even contemplated suicide.
How often are we like this version of Ignatius, obsessed with becoming great, or saving the world, or though driven by good motives, how often do we make our work the most important part of our lives?
I certainly am guilty of this, but the priest at my parish made a point about Ignatius that really moved me; it was at this point of deep desolation that Ignatius surrendered himself to God, begged Him to lead the way and order his “tangled loves”, that he discovered a beautiful contradiction: that it is in our smallness, our brokenness, our weakness that we are made great, made whole, and able to manifest the work of God. We are not called to be saviors, Jesus took that job 2,000 years ago, but rather we are called to empty ourselves so that God can fill us with His love and use our gifts and talents to address the needs of our world. This surrender is not a surrender to smallness, it is not a shying away from excellence, rather it is a surrender to the ways God is working in our lives, letting Him untangle the knots we have made in our lives, and fanning the flame of love that God places in our hearts.
In many ways, the readings today can be tied to Ignatian spirituality. In the first reading, Jeremiah laments the destruction that surrounds him, speaks of the endless tears from witnessing those consumed by hunger, begging God to relieve the drought that is destroying the land. Being “honest with the real”; looking at the hard realities in our world and in our selves, is at the core of the spiritual exercises. Ignatian spirituality challenges us to contemplate these realities until our soul feels and understands them and challenges us to discern how God calls us to respond in the face of suffering.
In the gospel, Jesus interprets the parable of the weeds. In this parable, the weeds are left to grow among the plants until harvest time and it is the harvester (God) not the workers (humans) that will pick out the weeds. We are reminded from this parable that it is not our role to judge, but rather to grow, and to grow with and in spite of the weeds in our lives. Yes, evil exists, yes suffering surrounds us, but Ignatian spirituality calls us to be the light of Chris anyways, to grow anyways, and to love those (even those who may perpetuate evil) anyways. When we are tempted to uproot or give up on the “weeds” in our lives, remember Ignatius, and remember that conversion is always possible and that so often God picks the most unexpected people to work wonders and set the world on fire.
Prayer of St. Ignatius
Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty,
my memory, my understanding,
and my entire will,
All I have and call my own.
You have given all to me.
To you, Lord, I return it.
Everything is yours; do with it what you will.
Give me only your love and your grace,
that is enough for me.
- Jean Baumgardner, 2009-2010 Passionist Volunteer International in Honduras, is presently a graduate student at the Seattle University to become a Family Nurse Practitioner.