Philippine Daily Inquirer
Ignatius and discernment
In the movie “Ignacio de Loyola,” the protagonist Iñigo, in the Salamanca trial, testifies that the Spiritual Exercises— a book of Christian meditations, contemplation and prayers that he wrote—has saved souls, especially his own. He pleads with the tribunal not to wait for the theologians in Rome to approve the Exercises.
This is one of the core values we have been nurtured with, during seminary formation. Ministry is all about saving souls.
The three readings this Sunday have this theme. The first says, “Every day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.” Then, from Peter: “You rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy, as you attain the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” And from the Gospel of John: “Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them.”
Because we are sinners
The core message of Divine Mercy Sunday is we’ve been redeemed by the love and mercy of God in Christ. Pope Francis’ inspiration that led to the papacy was rooted in a realization that God calls us, not despite us being sinners, but because we are sinners.
Mercy and compassion are often viewed from the perspective of the Cross—the greatest symbol and graced-presence of God’s saving love. St. Paul wrote, “He loved me and gave himself up for me.” On the Cross we hear the most succinct and “home run” statement on the power of God’s love, mercy and compassion.
In a Holy Week recollection at The Anima Center, “Ignacio de Loyola” was our material for prayer and reflection. On Holy Thursday we focused on faith and hope.
We watched as Iñigo is converted and makes his initial choice to pursue his “new dream” to serve and follow Christ. This sets one free from one’s sinful past.
But then the evil spirit starts to tempt him. He’s discouraged, his distraction and depression bordering on despair. This leads to his Agony in the Garden, where one faces the deeper choice that sets one free to surrender to God.
This freedom to offer to God is what leads to the Cross. For Iñigo, the Cross is his struggle, his deep interior struggle in the cave of Manresa, where he nearly commits suicide.
In that most extreme struggle, our faith is put to the test, our hope seemingly dashed by doubt and deception.
As a commentary on the Passion and Death of Christ says, on the Cross the struggle of Christ is to suffer as fully human and not give up by taking on his divinity. On the Cross his faith and hope in his Father is brought, through his obedience, into an integration in love.
The Resurrection as the New Creation makes it possible again for us to live life as if in heaven, “in all things to love, in all things to serve.”
Fr. Howard Gray, SJ, in his talk on Ignatian Spirituality, describes Iñigo’s “stint” in Manresa: “He did a lot of dumb things. Like letting his hair grow. He didn’t cut his hair. He didn’t cut his nails... became more and more peculiar... to that point where he contemplated suicide.
“And gradually something snapped... Gradually what came into Ignatius’ mind was that everything God does comes as a helping presence. Everything that is not from God comes as a destructive presence. So, when I move away from love or life, God’s not there. But when I move toward love or life, God is there.
“Ignatius called this movement a discernment of spirits. Discernment was a way of sifting through the movements in his heart. Gradually what he felt drawn to was this wonderful expression, ‘to help people.’”
Ignatius lived his life more and more “rooted and grounded in” the love and service that comes from the Cross and the Resurrection. He abandoned the dream to go to the Holy Land and go instead to Rome to place his companionship in the service of the Pope, the Church and God. He gave up his “first love” to help/save souls through direct ministry in order to guide and nurture the infant Society of Jesus. He became a “prisoner” in Rome to lead and to write the constitutions of the Jesuit.
God’s mercy and compassion come full circle. “The Lord is Risen!”