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 St. Ignatius as master of life in the Spirit.
Church of Saint Ignatius, Rome, July 31st 1994
First of all I would like to thank you for your active presence in this Eucharist in honour of Saint Ignatius in the church which bears his name.
How shall I present Saint Ignatius this evening? As man of the Church? As the author of the Spiritual Exercises? As the initiator of apostolic religious life? Let us be satisfied this evening with meeting him as master of spiritual life.
Ignatius’ spiritual life was not only marked by hours of prayer or moments of familiarity with God. His conversion was to consist in the discovery that spiritual life is life in the Spirit who acts in the hearts of those who open up to him. In the course of his spiritual adventure, the Spirit disturbed Ignatius’ military and militant certitudes, the Spirit upset his most holy prospects: his ideal of charismatic pilgrim, his apostolic project of working in the Holy Land and many other ideas were to be radically set aside by the Lord’s Spirit. To his surprise, the Spirit urged him towards the path of studies and the priesthood, towards the path of the foundation of a religious family under Jesus’ name, as well as many pastoral initiatives which Ignatius had never dreamt of embarking on.
An adventurer of the Spirit, Ignatius knew only the passion of opening wide to him who made him live on Christ and no other anguish than that of withdrawing from him who leads us to recognize the truth wherever it may be, the truth of man the sinner, the truth of God-love. Ignatius lived the experience of the fact that nothing is more frightening than the truth. The Spirit of Truth suddenly exposes a life which does not appear to deserve reproof as a life – Ignatius says – “poor in love”. The Spirit of Truth suddenly transforms a word of the Scripture, a word of an often repeated prayer, a perfectly banal event, into a personal call to follow Jesus carrying the cross of his life. The Spirit of Truth answers our smallest aperture to his gratuitous action, changing our hearts of stone into hearts of flesh, insinuating itself everywhere in our ample perspectives and in our entire conduct, which ceases to appear insignificant in order to become so many occasions for impressing Jesus’ choices on our every-day life.
For all these reasons Ignatius wanted every Christian, and in particular every companion of Jesus, to be an “activated” person, engaged in a true spiritual adventure. This is why he also considered the discernment of this Spirit of Jesus, of this Spirit of Truth, the concrete way of adoring, praising and serving God and of unceasingly asking: may your Spirit illuminate me to know your will. To discern, discernment: these have become modem words which we use haphazardly as if they were a matter of method for making good decisions or a practical means for coming out of a delicate and painful situation. In the preparation, development and confirmation of a discernment, Ignatius strove, as spiritual master, to always give primacy to the irruption of the Spirit of love, the Spirit of truth, which alone can guide us to the whole truth which is Jesus. Even if involuntarily, our life will always be a choice: it will be a choice for true life when the Spirit, who is Life, guides it so that our choice may be Jesus’ choice. If this were not so – this evening’s gospel tells us – we would lose our lives (cf. Lk 9:24). It is not surprising that Ignatius loved to make his choices while celebrating the Eucharist, for it is precisely through the strength of the Spirit that God’s choice, consisting in the Son’s donated body and shed blood, takes possession of the bread and wine of our spiritual options under the guidance of this self-same Spirit. May Ignatius, master of spiritual life, accompany us in this adventure kindled by the Spirit of Truth, the Spirit of Jesus.
Read the other homilies here.