A pandemic, a war, a fragmented world facing increasing uncertainty, feeling lost, a world which is capable of great generosity and horrific atrocities.
How can we show the women and men of our time the way to God, so that what we are experiencing right now can actually enlighten their hearts and start a process of personal, social and ecclesial change? What ‘political’ impact do our suggested paths of Ignatian spirituality have? Is our manner of giving the Spiritual Exercises, along with our suggested ways to carry them out and all related activities sufficient? Are we perhaps, albeit unwillingly, inward-looking and a bit insular?
What are we prepared to risk in order to bear witness to that way in a credible, simple and clear manner? To what extent do we really want to offer ourselves in all our entirety, including in particular the gifts that God has given us (our emotional, cultural, economic, spiritual, Ignatian skills and more), allowing the Holy Spirit to use us to serve the Father’s holy plan? Are we genuinely interested in just receiving His love and grace?
Recently we reflected on what it means to be ‘holy’; it might have appeared pointless, out of context, almost an ‘old-fashioned’ way to escape from reality. However, we discovered instead that nothing could have been more relevant. We reminded ourselves that Jesus and all saints after him lived in circumstances that were very similar to ours: wars, epidemics, social unrest, ecclesial ambiguities. Yet they did not choose the sword as their weapon, but rather ‘a towel round the waist’ (cf. Jn 13:1ff). We all find Jesus’ way attractive and we all desire to follow it, so that our relationships with one another, at all levels, can become truly human.
Nevertheless, it may happen that, hidden under our garment of discipleship, we do carry the sword and prepare for combat (cf. Jn 18:10). In order to feel stronger, more secure and at peace in our lives (even our lives as believers) without realizing it, we could cultivate the need to have an enemy, no matter how big or small, to fight and annihilate. And, our need for an ‘enemy’ could be so pressing that we might conjure it if inexistent. What an illusion! What a deception! What unfathomable manipulation of life and God! The truth is that, if our world is the way it is, we are all jointly responsible for it.
However, is there a real enemy to fight? It is in fact the ‘enemy of human nature’ (cf. SpEx 136ff), who tries to weaken God by undermining His plan for a communion of all people, preventing His love from being recognized, accepted and lived. What is God’s response? He does not eliminate the enemy, who is after all one of His creatures: He becomes human and is incarnated in Jesus to give humankind the chance to overcome the enemy. This is what we can especially experience in times of desolation (cf. Sp. Ex 320): Passover (Easter in Hebrew NDT), a passage (a passing over) which is necessary to become men and women of peace like Jesus, to take the decision in our minds and in our hearts to abandon the sword, whichever form it may take (including sometimes even the gifts that God bestows on us).
Therein lies the real war to be waged: in our minds and our hearts. I will never lay a hand on others, and my words will remain humble, if I educate my mind to ‘think love’. And, if I ‘think love’ with my mind and if I ‘choose love’ with my heart, then I can ‘give love’ with my hands (cf. Sp. Ex 234).
In fact, we need saints, we need people who know how to live and share every gift received (cf. GE 6ff.), so as to build a world of peace, a Church more rooted in the Gospel, a more united Ignatian Family: “If we will be forever united in heaven, why not begin here? Let us cherish the beauty of having been ‘taken’, brought together, called together, by Jesus” (Pope Francis, 12th March 2022).
Wishing you a Holy Easter! Let us continue praying for Peace!
Paolo Monaco sj
A small present for you: Nannarè