AMDG Feast of St Ignatius
“ So it is when a man stores up treasure for himself in place of making himself rich in the sight of God! ” Luke 12:21
This is the challenge at the heart of our faith – Who is at the center of your life? Is it Me or God ? If I am an honest is God an insurance policy that I have just in case my other plans don’t work out? Is my career the most important thing and I am happy to come to church as long as God doesn’t get in the way – or ask me to do anything that will disturb my plans? As long as I keep God in a box that is labelled ‘Sunday’ or ‘Church’ he won’t bother for the rest of the week…..
So many of us who call ourselves Christians – live like this…. Spending some much time and energy storing up treasure for ourselves – that we don’t really want God to trouble us….. where do you put your trust? Do you place your trust totally in God ?
According to the American Franciscan, Richard Rohr, it is the job of the first half of life – to establish ourselves, to leave home, to build an identity, to get a qualification (might be a university degree) and to start a career. We all need to pass through this stage and therefore we develop a spirituality for the first half of our life – which is more concerned with outer things than inner things, so my Catholicism is and it is often only when a crisis comes along that we are jolted off our path. Often it is when someone we love dies, maybe we go through an illness, and suddenly we start asking ourself – what is life all about? All the stuff that was important about establishing our identity now becomes less important and we start ‘Falling Upwards’ as Richard Rohr calls it – we start to put God in the center.
This happened to a young Spanish Nobleman, Inigo Lopez de Loyola – who found himself as a soldier defending the town of Pamplona – in 1521 – when a French Canonball ripped through his legs and shattered his knee. Forced to recover in bed he started to ask himself these deeper questions – and realised it wasn’t just his knee that was shattered but also his self-image, his understanding of himself. Bed ridden for 9 months he dreams about the future – about returning to his chivalrous ways …. But as time dragged on and boredom forced him to read the only books that were at hand – religious books about the saints …. He noticed that he started to have a second type of daydream – instead of returning to be a solider for the King – he would become a pilgrim – a soldier for God.Thus 495 years ago began an journey that leads us to here to this beautiful church today –the Holy Name was founded in 1871 by men who have followed in the footsteps of Inigo.
Back recovering in his bed in Loyola, Inigo the swashbuckling soldier (now crippled) notices that he starts to have a second type of dream which is obviously fed by his reading – doing great things for God – outdoing the saints in holiness. He noticed this left him feeling a deep joy and peace that lasted longer the other dreams of future worldly glories ahead…. He had discovered already the fruits of making yourself ‘rich in the sight of God’ … Inigo was becoming Ignatius. He realised that up till then he had wasted too much time chasing ‘vainglories’ – it all seemed worthless now when compared to things of God.
The genius of St Ignatius – a great gift for me in my life which I will always be grateful for – is that he allowed God to teach him – and then showed others how to search for God’s will in their lives. He taught us to recognised Spiritual Consolation – the joy and the peace and the love that comes from moving closer to God…. We call this Ignatian Spirituality …. And it is an incredible legacy that has led to countless men and women changing their lives – abandoning our obsession with material wealth and storing treasures that make us rich in the eyes of God.
After the fall of the Berlin Wall – the end of Communism – we all hoped for an new age of peace, of stability but in fact what happened was the world became more complicated ….. this new multi-polar world has been marked by Four things – that military planners called VUCA. Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity. The world seems to have become less predictable, more scary – Volatile in the nature and speed of change, Uncertain in the lack of predictability, the prospects for surprise. Complex in the different forces and issues, and Ambiguous in that reality is difficult to read now, Confusion seems to abound.
This is a confusing and at times scary world…. Where an 80 year old priest is brutally executed during mass, with unprecedented people on the move, with an acceleration of technological change that has never been seen before.
St Ignatius gives us a fantastic map to navigate our way through this world. As God so patiently taught him – he wishes us to learn in a similar way – to be taught by God – who longs to be our teacher. It is a map – that helps us to navigate through a hurting and crazy world…. His way of praying helps us to listen to our teacher – even though there is so much to distract us away from these heavenly treasures.
And one his sons, Pope Francis, the first Jesuit Pope – is currently in Poland – celebrating mass as we speak with 3 million young people – Francis will be delighted to share such a special day for him ( and all Jesuits) with such a wonderful crowd – including our group of 20 from here. The Pope’s desire will be to share with all those youngsters the Joy of putting God in the center of your life – the Joy of being truly free – knowing that you are loved sinner – the peace that comes from falling Upward and knowing that in the end everything will be all alright.
Homily given at the Holy Name Church, Manchester – July 31st 2016