Monday of the Seventeenth Week in Ordinary Time
Ignatius of Loyola no doubt was encouraged if not inspired by the vision of the Kingdom of God presented in today’s readings. In these readings, Matthew describes the kingdom of heaven as a mustard seed, the smallest of all seeds which in turn becomes the largest of all the shrubs in which the birds find a home.
Certainly the founder of the Jesuit order did not place his foundation on pessimism. Thinking of the early works of Ignatius and then when we consider them later in their size and contribution to promoting the Kingdom of God, one can identify these works of Ignatius as an apt examples of something small transforming itself, with the help of grace, to something rather large.
Soon after the order was founded Ignatius sent Francis Xavier to the missions in the East, a single Jesuit whose work became the foundation for the evangelization of Asia and the re-introduction of Catholicism to India. Ignatius’ plans for the Roman College, its beginnings in a small school at first in a dilapidated building on the side of the Capitoline Hill, became the great Roman College, the template for greatest system of education Europe had seen since the fall of Rome. What began with just a small group of companions by his death on July 31, 1556 had grown to almost 1,000 men spread throughout the world.
We are frequently tempted toward discouragement when we look at minimal resources, lack of time, and a world that seems bent on defeating our best intentions. The great saints, like Ignatius, knew that the enemy of our human nature attacks the first faltering steps toward growth. The foe to human progress knows that from small seeds grow great trees.
Grace: An intimate knowledge of the many blessings received, that filled with gratitude for all, I may in all things love and serve the Divine Majesty.
Reflection: In the meditation upon sin, we made reference to Dante’s vision of hell, a cold, desolate place where the fire of love has been extinguished and all lies in a spiritual torpor. This is the perfect image of the heart grown cold to the stirrings of love which God places within it. At the opposite end of Dante’s journey lies a vision that perfectly encapsulates the final meditation of the Spiritual Exercises, the Contemplation to Attain Divine Love. From the lowest reaches of the spiritual universe, Dante ascends to the heights of heaven, where he views “the love that moves the sun and the other stars.” At the heart of the universe lives the Trinitarian God, whose perfect love draws all being into an ordered symphony of praise. Dante feels himself drawn into this harmonic vision through the enflaming of his passions and desires. No one with eyes to see can sit impassively at the vision of God’s love. From the disordered state in which Dante had fallen at the beginning of the poem, he becomes progressively cleansed of his disordered affections through the grace of God and the intercession of Beatrice until finally he is able to pass through the heavens and stand in the presence of God. But notice that Dante only sees God’s depths after he has been interiorly transformed.