Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Today is the memorial of St. Peter Faber, the first of St. Ignatius Loyola’s six companions that founded the Society of Jesus. St. Peter Faber was known for his work for the renewal of the Church in Europe, under which he led many in the Spiritual Exercises and eventualy became the master of the Spiritual Exercises.
In memory of St. Peter Faber, let us reflect on the scripture reading today. In the Spiritual Exercises, St. Ignatius proposes that we imagine Jesus as the model of a King who invites us to labor with him to conquer the world. Perhaps one can easily imagine Jesus as a King with an ambitious plan to overcome all poverty, hunger, and oppression. While the fight against poverty and hunger is important, St. Ignatius invites us to imagine the battle between the two kingdoms – the Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of Satan. The meaning of Jesus’ invitation to labor with him is not simply the struggle against physical hunger, but rather the fight against spiritual hunger. More importantly, Jesus invites us to fight against the power of evil that is shown through the appeal of the “Satanic buffet line.”
One of the best illustrations of the Kingdom of Satan is the buffet line from which we can choose what we like best and leave behind what we do not. We will travel down the lines picking and choosing things that we like such as wealth, job security, and a good sex life. Moreover, Satan will lure us to treat our spiritual life as a buffet as well. We make our own bowl of salvation and slowly pick and choose the tasty choices of Christianity and abandon the rest that seems to be a tasteless way of being a Christian.
The Kingdom of God is not a buffet line. When we decide to follow Jesus, we will have a full-course meal with a nice desert but we do not get to choose the dish. Jesus is the Bread of Life who calls us to labor with him. If we eat the meal He has prepared for us we will leave more satisfied than we have ever been with the Satanic buffet line. As Jesus said, “whoever comes to me will never hunger and whoever believes in me will never thirst.”
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.