Letters from a Pastor to His People- July 19, 2020
I am currently in the "Third Week" of my 30-Day Retreat according to the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius of Loyola. Though I wrote this bulletin article back in June before departing, I know that what I am about to say is true: I have been praying for you all and for your intentions.
Before I speak about the Third Week, a few more comments about the Second Week, as there are some meditations Ignatius provides in the Second Week that are quite applicable to our Gospel this Sunday.
Last week we mentioned the "Meditation on the Two Standards." Well, Ignatius immediately after that gives the "Meditation on the Three Classes of Men." He basically says there is the individual who wants to do God's will, but postpones doing it, saying now is not the right time and he will do it later when things are more suited. The second individual says he will do the will of God, but with certain conditions. He is not "all in" and looks to compromise. The third individual has total freedom to do God's will. The first two classes of individuals are still attached to themselves and their world possessions. The Enemy has sown weeds in their soul, in reference to the Gospel parable (cf. Matthew 13:25).
After this Meditation, Ignatius then gives a Meditation, or rather a description of, what he calls "The Three Kinds of Humility." The first is to be humble by being totally obedient to God; the second to be ready for honor or dishonor, wealth or poverty, or anything else for God; the third is to desire dishonor, poverty, and to even be considered for a fool for God's glory.
Whoa. That last one is tough. But do not fear, for, as Saint Paul says, "the Spirit comes to the aid of our weakness" (Romans 8:26). If you don't think you can desire that, or fulfill that desire for the third level of humility, God will provide.
The first reading from Wisdom is very much connected to humility. "You show your might," says the author of the book in reference to God, "when the perfection of your power is disbelieved" (Wisdom 12:17). He then goes on to write, "though you are master of might, you judge with clemency" (v.18).
In other words, all the glory belongs to God. And yet even he is humble. All the more reason we should be. Remember, the Kingdom of God is like a mustard seed, the smallest of all seeds. We are called to be small like that kingdom.
In 1640 an anonymous Jesuit wrote of humility, "Not to be constrained by the greatest thing, but to be contained in the smallest thing, is divine."
The Third Week of the Exercises focuses now on the Passion and Death of Christ. The retreatant is to spend the holy hours praying with the Agony in the Garden, the trial before Caiaphas and Pilate, the carrying of the cross, and so forth. All of this is a display of Jesus' humility; his obedience to the Father; his being very small, like that tiny mustard seed.
I don't know what is going on in the world right now. Hopefully nothing too tragic. But I'm sure suffering is somewhere to be found and, with suffering, the opportunity to turn and surrender to Jesus. Humility isn't about us feeling bad, but ultimately about us deepening our union with God. I pray we may all exercise humility and littleness this week, and that the Kingdom of God will thus come among us.
Yours in Christ,