Wednesday of the Sixth Week of Easter
The early Jesuit missionaries were scattered across the globe from Japan to South America. When they encountered new peoples and cultures, they had to rely upon their spiritual formation, especially through their retreat experience of the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius Loyola. One fundamental insight of Ignatius was that God relates directly to His creatures. In the minds of the missionaries, they were meeting with people who already had an existent relationship with God, albeit without the Christian formulation of our faith tradition. This predisposition to see where God was already led to the creation of local churches that incorporated new cultures and traditions. The historic failures and injustices perpetuated by Catholic missionary practices treated non-European cultures without dignity and equality.
St. Ignatius’s insight is a later echo of St. Paul’s missionary work in Athens. Paul proclaims to the Athenians that they have been worshipping an unnamed God who was truly the Christian god. Historians debate whether there was an actual altar to an unnamed God on the Areopagus, but Paul’s idea was similar to Ignatius: look to where God is already at work in a people. Paul describes God desiring for all people to be united to Him. “He made from one the whole human race to dwell on the entire surface of the earth, and he fixed the ordered seasons and the boundaries of their regions, so that people might seek God, even perhaps grope for him and find him, though indeed he is not far from any one of us.” Everything God does is so that we might seek Him, and others might find Him through our actions and words.
This predisposition to understand where God is already at work in another’s life is not only expedient for the Church’s past. The Church must adopt this disposition for our current time. As our communities are divided in ideological, racial, or socioeconomic lines, we need to look to where God is present. We need to open ourselves to the person on the other side of the “us vs. them” or the “I vs. you” dichotomies. We are called to embrace fellow human beings as sisters and brothers, each seeking the Lord in his or her life.
When have you recognized the work of the Lord in another’s life?