Monday of the Twenty-seventh Week in Ordinary Time
In the Principle and Foundation that begins the Spiritual Exercises, St. Ignatius sets forth the Christian view of the world. First, that we have been created to praise, reverence, and serve God our Lord. Second, that things of this earth are meant to help us along this path of the praise, reverence, and service of God. Therefore, created things should find their proper role in the ordering of our lives, being accepted insofar as they help us, and rejected insofar as they impede our progress (keeping in mind that things which are inherently sinful or disallowed do not enter into the discernment). Finally, St. Ignatius draws this line of reasoning to its logical conclusion, and does so in a way that truly challenges the human heart. He says that we should not immediately choose wealth, health, or honor over poverty, sickness, or dishonor. Rather we should be willing to give up those natural goods for their opposites if choosing those opposites will lead us closer to God.
In the present age, it seems like the honor/dishonor dichotomy is becoming more difficult. In the age of mass communication and social media, image is everything. And, people do not want to sacrifice their image. I see in the lives of my students an unhealthy preoccupation with image, obsessing over whether they have enough Twitter followers; whether their pictures have gotten enough ‘likes’ on Instagram; whether their stat sheet on Maxpreps is impressive enough. There is not such a large step from these adolescent preoccupations to the adult attitudes which are unwilling to take stands for fear of being disliked in the world of instant character assassination.
But in today’s reading from Galatians, we see the figure of Paul who has ceased being concerned with what people think. He is no longer controlled by pleasing men. Why? Because he has received and become the steward of a message that was not of human origin, but from God. In this he has found freedom. At some point, don’t we all long to cast of the shackles of human respect and honor in order to live in the freedom which only the Gospel can give?