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’ companionship with Jesus.
Church of the Gesù, Rome, July 31st 2003
Celebrating once again Saint Ignatius’ feast, we realize how difficult it is to characterize him in two or three words. Undoubtedly he was a man of God, undoubtedly he was a man of the Church, but something in Saint Ignatius’ faith has led certain people to call him a saint of the world. Because, though he wished to be alone with his Lord, he did not escape to a hermitage but looked for and found God our Father, with his Son the Lord Jesus, who knew from experience what there is in man and in his world. His familiarity with God remained so intense that a few instants were enough for him to be profoundly united with his Creator and Lord, with his Master and friend.
However his life was overwhelmingly active and disconcerting: he was as concerned with the Roman tramps as with the faith of emperors and kings; he laboriously searched for funds to support the Roman houses and founded the hundreds of colleges which were so essential for saving the faith in Europe and Asia; he sent companions all over the world and kept in touch with them with letters and advice. This mystical contemplation and intense activity drew their strength from Ignatius’ desire to live with Christ in all things. When the Lord himself chose the twelve (Mk 3: 14), it was to send them to preach, but – the Lord says – in the first place to be with him. Ignatius took this accompaniment literally and in the most realistic of senses.
First of all sharing with the Lord his own cause, his own mission, which was, in Ignatius’ words, “exclusively to the service of his eternal Father” (Sp. Ex. 135), accepting to be with Jesus in his suffering and cross as well as in his joy and glory. A pilgrim with Jesus, the first pilgrim, Ignatius gives pride of place to what Jesus’ mission is and wants to be in order to continue it with Jesus, here today, among the men and women of our time. But living with Jesus as one’s companion is more than this, it is choosing what Jesus chose as condition of life, as methods of work. Jesus’ evangelizing mission is not a publicity stunt or a charity campaign. It is proposing the good news with Jesus in all poverty and weakness, with disinterested love, and waiting for the other person’s answer of faith, given in all freedom. Ignatius liked to speak of conquering the world for his Lord but he knew that, out of respect for each person’s freedom, instead of imposing his message this Lord, like a beggar, wished to propose the greatest of man’s riches: the love of his Father, to the other person’s faith and love.
Asking to be placed with the Son – the prayer granted at La Storta – Ignatius knew that he would suffer with the Son under the social pressures of our world, under the apparent defeat of the Church, under the persecution of the Prince of this world who all too often seems to have the last word in every human progress and ambition. But doesn’t fleeing from the fragility of the people of God, fleeing from the humiliations we have to submit to as Christians, mean fleeing from Christ himself? Ignatius consecrated half the Spiritual Exercises to introducing us to the paschal sharing of his passion because we are all called with the Crucified one, with the Risen one, to live this very personal experience with him, to attain our greatest joy – which we mention so seldom – of being always with the Lord. Receiving the Body and Blood of the Lord we pray with Ignatius that nothing may separate us from this privilege of living with the Lord. In Ignatius’ own words: My entire desire is to desire nothing other than Christ and the crucified Christ because, crucified in this life, and in this world, we ascend, risen, towards the other world (Letter 92).
Read the other homilies here.