During this Ignatian Year, we are publishing a series of homilies that Fr. General Kolvenbach held on the feast days of St. Ignatius. In this homily, Fr. Kolvenbach focuses on Ignatius’ expression that love must be manifested more in work than in words.
Church of Saint Ignatius, Rome, July 31st 1995
Dear brothers and sisters, first of all I would like to express my gratitude for your participation this evening in the feast of Saint Ignatius in the church dedicated to him.
This year Saint Ignatius’ figure and the fire he came to bring on earth as Jesus’ companion have been particularly present. Ignatius’ inspiration guided the long preparation for the General Congregation, his discernment led the Society of Jesus to the renewal of its life and apostolic work; his way of proceeding, of going ahead in the Lord, will vivify our exercizing all that the Spirit has led us to discover for the good of his Church in the world. And it is precisely this exercizing which Ignatius wanted as the mark of his spirituality.
One very simple word of Ignatius dominates all the decrees and documents of the General Congregation, all this paper and all these words: the expression he used to assert that love must be manifested more in works than in words. Ignatius merely applied the gospel we have listened to this evening, a gospel which might sound strange. Jesus came to bring fire on earth. He did not offer the world the gift of fine words and a quiet vision of things. He did not bring this fire to make us dream in front of the fascinating flames, to allow ourselves to be attracted by the spell of the magic of fire. No, our God, Father of Jesus and our Father, spoke in the middle of a burning bush and this fire, the prophet unceasingly reminds us, is a devouring fire, not in the sense of a power of destruction but in the strength of irresistible love. Jesus came to bring his Father’s ardent passion for his people and for each one of us and, with the same passion of love, He would like it to be lit, even though he knows that this love will not remain of straw but will devour him until his death on the cross, until his heart is pierced by the lance of hatred and division.
Christian love is never theoretical or platonic: like a fire it devours us through painful choices, burdensome decisions which must be made, divisions which we must want in the heart of our intimate life, because the love of Christ can impose grave reasons for disunion. As the gospel says, in a house of five people three will be divided against two, and two against three.
And so Saint Ignatius’ call to bring love into effect more in works than words is not merely sensible advice in favour of efficiency and activism, even in a life of faith. Ignatius’ call is inspired by the love of God who never ceases doing great things for us, and on the love of the incarnate Son of God who warns us that not all those who say “Lord, Lord” to him will enter the kingdom of heaven, but those who do the will of the Father who is in heaven. Quite frankly Jesus prefers the son who happens to say no in words but goes to work in the vineyard to the son who promises his whole commitment in words but in the end does nothing. In this perspective Saint Ignatius invites us this evening to contemplate the Lord at work, busy carrying the fire of his love on earth, calling each one of us to be his collaborator not in words but through concrete choices and daily decisions which bear the mark of Jesus’ own sentiments and preferences. Through Saint Ignatius’ intercession, may this participation in Christ’s body and blood transform us into messengers sent to inflame this our dead and cold world with the fire of God’s loving passion.
Read the other homilies here.