Memorial of Saint Alphonsus Liguori, Bishop and Doctor of the Church
Jesus came to his native place and taught the people in their synagogue. They were astonished and said, “Where did this man get such wisdom and mighty deeds?”
Today’s gospel retells the wonder had by the hometown friends of Jesus. No doubt, the friends and family of Ignatius were a bit surprised that their relation or friend had taken a course in life that certainly was different than the young man they knew.
By the time Ignatius had returned to Azpeitia, his home town, he had been to Jerusalem, finished his formal schooling in Paris, and had undergone a spiritual conversion which included a desire to bring other men and women closer to God. He was a changed man. In many ways he had changed but much of his dynamic personality and resolve stayed the same.
Sometimes we fear conversion because the product we foresee will be something so alien to us that the prospect of change leaves us a bit nervous. Ignatius certainly went through a conversion but perhaps it would be better to call it a refocusing of his energies. God worked through all his natural gifts, modified some, and added a few. But whatever occurred at that conversion and subsequent developments, he remained the man whose temperament forged in the Castle of Loyola served him well as superior general in Rome.
Perhaps the fear some have of religious expression is that we presume that if we talk about religion it requires some sort of sweet docility. The life of Ignatius reminds us that God works through all kinds of people, the brave, the timid and everything in between.
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.