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’ personal love for Christ.
Church of Saint Ignatius, Rome, July 31st 1997
In this first year of preparation for the Holy Year, the Church renews her devotion to the person of Christ, the Word of God, the Son of man. And so it is very natural that this evening we question Saint Ignatius, the saint we have come to celebrate, on his personal love for Christ.
The person of Jesus is so rich and inexhaustible that even a saint can cull only one trait, one characteristic, and then live it fully. It is thus that Christ in prayer troubled Saint Benedict, and that the Christ of poverty fascinated Saint Francis of Assisi. What struck Ignatius in the figure of his Lord was his mission. Ignatius saw Christ above all hurrying from one place to another, from city to city, from village to village, to accomplish his mission which was that of announcing the good news. Jesus never concealed the fact that he was an envoy, one sent on a mission. And so Ignatius saw Jesus as a king, chosen by God, invested with all his Father’s authority, to tear the world away from certain death in order to bring it back to the glory and joy of him who is the source and the aim of all and everything.
Sent on a mission among men, Jesus saw no sense to his life other than that of pure service to him who sent him. My nourishment is to do My Father’s will. Filled with wonder, Ignatius saw that this King, sent on a mission, was transfigured into a missionary, a simple, wandering and begging rabbi who did not impose his message with regal force or haughty power. He was a missionary Jesus who approached people to help them discover his Father’s love and the new commandment. He preferred to be among the suffering in order to draw them out of a misery which his Father never wanted. For Saint Ignatius the facts and gestures, the words and prayers, of this missionary Jesus did not remain in a distant past. Thanks to his praying imagination he made Jesus’ every word and choice relive in order to contemplate them and thus know Jesus more intimately in his mission.
Ignatius did not conceal his emotion at Jesus’ deeply felt choice to accomplish his mission with a poor heart; and how his divinity was hidden, i.e. how he could have destroyed his enemies and not allowed his most holy humanity to suffer so cruelly. Ignatius discovered that, having risen from death on a cross, the Lord continues his mission among us: let us note the mission of consoler Christ our Lord practises in the way that friends are in the habit of consoling one another. Living among us he continues consoling us, proposing his paschal path, his good news, himself, so that we too may enter with him into the glory and joy of his Father.
Finally Ignatius was shaken by the discovery of this missionary Jesus as one who sends others on a mission, as he who, in order to accomplish his mission, wished to have need of our hands. The Lord continues calling men and women to himself so that they may discover their only wealth and consolation which is that of being with Christ, of becoming for Christ. Thus Ignatius’ only desire was that of being placed with the Son of God in order to be sent on the mission. And it was at the gates of Rome, in a place which is still called La Storta, that the Father placed Ignatius by the side of his Son, who carries the cross, to continue his mission in the world. Today too Jesus’ companions know that they are weak and sinning men, and yet they are seized by the mission of announcing the good news in a great diversity of ways, particularly in the midst of hostile indifference or unjust poverty, as he who sends them was the first to do. Through the intercession of Saint Ignatius the missionary, may participation this evening in the body and blood of Christ transfigure our priestly, religious and lay life into a mission, into a new evangelization, wherever the Lord has placed us by the side of his Son for the greater glory of God.
Read the other homilies here.