Sunday, December 07, 2014

Sunday word, 07 Dec 14

                                                              Window on Repentance
Second Sunday of Advent B (07 Dec 2014)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
St. Ignatius of Loyola established the Society of Jesus. He is important for us Jesuits: in part because he is our founder; and in part because Jesuits identify with him in some ways. I consider St. Ignatius my spiritual father: how important he is to me. His ways of praying and of viewing the world fit me, and I try to make them mine. His conversion was rocky: his strong-willed disposition did not smooth its way; that is how I identify with him.

His conversion began while he recovered from a near-deadly battle injury. His conversion was not instantaneous; as for most people it was a process. A conversion-process purifies our human qualities; it does not erase them. Purifying our human qualities has a lot to do with the invitation by John the Baptizer to repent. St. Ignatius’ conversion lets us see how repentance purifies human qualities. Besides being strong-willed Ignatius was loyal; and he was excessively attached to achievements, including to live a new life.

Ignatius was strong-willed not ill-willed. He desired to re-fashion his life, and he resolved to do it as soon as he could leave his sickbed—and he did. Ignatius was loyal. During his months of recovery he transferred his loyalty to Jesus: Jesus was the delight and desire of Ignatius’ life. Ignatius accepted he had lived immoderately; he thought by his power alone he could refashion his life. On his sickbed he read about Jesus and the saints; “he used to say to himself: ‘Saint Dominic did this, so I have to do it too. Saint Francis did this, so I have to do it too.’”1

When he could walk again he left the family castle. He had decided to live the rest of his days in the Holy Land doing penance for his early life. His plan was interrupted. He had a reached town on his way and remained in it. He described his months there this way: “God [dealt] with him in the same way a schoolteacher deals with a child while instructing him.”2

Ever the achiever Ignatius fashioned his action-plan. It was rigorous. To stay with his schoolteacher-pupil image we may say Ignatius never entered the lesson God desired to offer him. Ignatius clung to achieving on his power his new life. He desired to live forgiven and free from his past; yet he thought he could earn forgiveness and freedom by a rigorous, austere, even harsh life.

That sort of earning-for-myself or self-saving challenged more Christians than St. Ignatius; it still does. I lean that way, a reason I identify with St. Ignatius. Yet Christian repentance is a mindset before it is an action: Christian repentance lets go attempts to save ourselves. Christian repentance allows God in Jesus by their Spirit to offer us what we cannot offer to or achieve by ourselves. The verb acknowledged in the gospel sentence,
People of the whole Judean countryside and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem…acknowledged their sins,
is no quick glance; they agreed fully—acknowledged—their lives did not align with God’s heart. Then they accepted God’s loving kindness and let it wash over them.

From of old God offered God’s loving kindness in a container of comfort: comfort my people…speak tenderly, act according to my care. Prophet Isaiah conveyed God’s good news to all Jerusalem so all in the city bear the same good news. God personally conveyed God’s good news of comfort and care in Jesus, God’s son and our savior.

As he revealed God’s good news Jesus demonstrated God’s might registers not as force but as forgiveness and freedom. When St. Ignatius stopped relying on his self-help program, as devout as it was, and accepted God’s loving kindness, his conversion turned a corner. Accepting God’s loving kindness the saint realized was a daily, even hourly, mindset. It is so for us. Advent bids us first let go of attempts to save ourselves; then welcome Jesus and his transforming power and stake our lives on him. To welcome Jesus and his transforming power opens the way to forgiveness and freedom. It also is our way to conduct[ ]ourselves in holiness and devotion.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week
  • Rest in the creative love of our triune God.
  • Ask St. Ignatius Loyola, John the Baptizer and your patron saint to present you to Jesus.
  • Chat with him: praise him for dying and rising for you. Thank him for saving you.
  • Ask Jesus for grace to welcome him as your Savior and to align yourself with his good news.
  • Close saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. Jesus gave it to us to purify our humanity and to align ourselves with his good news each day.

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise

  1. A Pilgrims Journey: The Autobiography of Ignatius of Loyola. Translated by Fr. Joseph N. Tylenda, S.J., Ignatius Press. Kindle Edition, Kindle Locations 524-525.
  2. Ibid., Kindle Locations 888-889.

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