St. Ignatius of Loyola
Friday of the Twenty-second Week in Ordinary Time
Reading 1 1 cor 4:1-5
Thus should one regard us: as servants of Christ
and stewards of the mysteries of God.
Now it is of course required of stewards
that they be found trustworthy.
It does not concern me in the least
that I be judged by you or any human tribunal;
I do not even pass judgment on myself;
I am not conscious of anything against me,
but I do not thereby stand acquitted;
the one who judges me is the Lord.
Therefore, do not make any judgment before the appointed time,
until the Lord comes,
for he will bring to light what is hidden in darkness
and will manifest the motives of our hearts,
and then everyone will receive praise from God.
Responsorial Psalm ps 37:3-4, 5-6, 27-28, 39-40
Trust in the LORD and do good,
that you may dwell in the land and be fed in security.
Take delight in the LORD,
and he will grant you your heart’s requests.
R. The salvation of the just comes from the Lord.
Commit to the LORD your way;
trust in him, and he will act.
He will make justice dawn for you like the light;
bright as the noonday shall be your vindication.
R. The salvation of the just comes from the Lord.
Turn from evil and do good,
that you may abide forever;
For the LORD loves what is right,
and forsakes not his faithful ones.
Criminals are destroyed
and the posterity of the wicked is cut off.
R. The salvation of the just comes from the Lord.
The salvation of the just is from the LORD;
he is their refuge in time of distress.
And the LORD helps them and delivers them;
he delivers them from the wicked and saves them,
because they take refuge in him.
R. The salvation of the just comes from the Lord.
Gospel lk 5:33-39
“The disciples of John the Baptist fast often and offer prayers,
and the disciples of the Pharisees do the same;
but yours eat and drink.”
Jesus answered them, “Can you make the wedding guests fast
while the bridegroom is with them?
But the days will come, and when the bridegroom is taken away from them,
then they will fast in those days.”
And he also told them a parable.
“No one tears a piece from a new cloak to patch an old one.
Otherwise, he will tear the new
and the piece from it will not match the old cloak.
Likewise, no one pours new wine into old wineskins.
Otherwise, the new wine will burst the skins,
and it will be spilled, and the skins will be ruined.
Rather, new wine must be poured into fresh wineskins.
And no one who has been drinking old wine desires new,
for he says, ‘The old is good.’”
• Luke 5, 33: Jesus does not insist on the practice of fasting. The conflict here is concerning the practice of fasting. Fasting is a very ancient use, practiced by almost all religions. Jesus Himself followed it during forty days (Mt 4, 2). But he does not insist with the disciples that they do the same. He leaves them free. This is why, the disciples of John the Baptist and of the Pharisees, who were obliged to fast, want to know why Jesus does not insist on fasting.
• Luke 5, 34-35: When the bridegroom is with them they are not obliged to fast. Jesus responds with a comparison. When the bridegroom is with the friends of the bridegroom, that is, during the wedding feast, they should not fast. Jesus considers himself the bridegroom. During the time when Jesus is with the disciples, it is the wedding feast. One day will come when the bridegroom will be taken away from them, and then if they wish they can fast. Jesus refers to his death. He knows and he is aware that if he wants to continue along this path of liberty, the authority will want to kill him.
Several times, in the Old Testament, God presents himself as the bridegroom of the people (Is 49, 15; 54, 5.8; 62, 4-5; Os 2, 16-25). In the New Testament, Jesus is considered the bridegroom of his people (Ep 5, 25). The Apocalypses speaks of the celebration of the marriage of the Lamb with his spouse, the Heavenly Jerusalem (Rv 19, 7-8; 21, 2.9).
• Luke 5, 36-39: New Wine in new skins! These words pronounced concerning the new piece of cloth on an old cloak and about new wine in old skins should be understood like a light which gives clarity on diverse conflicts, narrated by Luke, first and after the discussions concerning fasting. They clarify the attitude of Jesus concerning all the conflicts with the religious authority. Today, these would be conflicts such as: marriage between divorced persons, friendship with prostitutes and homosexuals, to receive communion without being married by the Church, not to go to Mass on Sunday, not to fast on Good Friday, etc.
A piece of new cloth is not sewed on an old cloak; because when it is washed the new piece of cloth shrinks and tears the old cloak more. Nobody puts new wine in old skins, because the new wine when it is fermented makes the old skins burst. New wine in new skins! The religion diffused by the religious authority was like an old cloak, like an old skin. It is not necessary to want to combine the novelty brought by Jesus with old customs or uses. Either one or the other! The new wine which Jesus brings bursts the old skins. It is necessary to know how to separate both of these things. Very probably, Luke gives these words of Jesus to orientate the communities of the years 80. There was a group of Christian Jews who wanted to reduce the novelty of Jesus to the Judaism of the beginning. Jesus is not against what is “ancient”. But he does not want the ancient to be imposed on the new, preventing it from manifesting itself. It would be as if the Catholic Church reduced the message of Vatican Council II to the Church before the Council, like many persons today seem to want to do it.
• How can we understand today the phrase of Jesus: “do not put a new piece of cloth on an old cloak? Which is the message which you can draw from this for your life and for the life of the community?
be confident in him, and he will act,
making your uprightness clear as daylight,
and the justice of your cause as the noon. (Ps 37,5-6)
In today’s reading, St Paul warns the Corinthians not to rely too much on their human judgment. Why? Because God’s judgement is very different from our judgement of others and of ourselves. And even if our judgement is made in good faith, that is, when our conscience does not reproach us, it does not mean that we are right in our judgement. This is what St Paul meant when he said, “I will not even pass judgement on myself. True, my conscience does not reproach me at all, but that does not prove that I am acquitted: the Lord alone is my judge.“ Why is it that we cannot truly pass judgment on ourselves or of others, no matter how objective we try to be? The fact is that our thoughts, desires and judgements are all greatly influenced by our past history, relationships and experiences. They have sunk into our sub-conscious and coloured the way we look at ourselves, other people and events, so much so that we often see only what we want to see, and see things not as they are but as we are.
This was what happened to the scribes and Pharisees. They saw that Jesus was not fasting and judged Him to be wrong, because for them, a person could attain justification in the sight of God only by fulfilling the law and doing ‘good works’, which includes fasting. But if conformity to the law is not accompanied by motives of love and obedience towards God, it will result in legalism. A purely outward observance of the law is no observance at all. This, they failed to see. Consequently, their criticism of Jesus was based on the old attitude in which they had been conditioned, which was legalistic, self-righteous and judgmental too.
Jesus’ retort was that those who were accustomed to the old perspective would not accept His new paradigm of looking at the observance of the laws of Moses. And His new outlook is disclosed in His teaching, that interior disposition is the decisive factor in moral action, and this entails good intention, love of God and love of neighbour. Hence, according to Jesus, fasting and formal prayer should be done with sincere and godly motives, not merely for the sake of ostentation; otherwise these will gain no merit in God’s sight. In other words, we must be authentic in our actions. Indeed, many of us fast, but for the wrong reasons, e.g. for vanity or health reasons, or to let others know how disciplined we are, etc. We must fast only for the love of God and for others. Hence, we do not fast when the bridegroom is with us.
What can we learn from today’s scripture readings? Firstly, we must be careful in passing judgement on other people’s intentions; only God is entitled to judge each person’s intentions. Just from external observation alone, one cannot conclude what is in the heart of the person. Of course, this does not mean that we cannot judge external actions. If we do, we need to bear in mind that the basis of our judgement is derived from what is right and wrong from the perspective of the law. But with regard to the interior motive of the person, only God can judge. At most such external facts are indicators of the person’s disposition. As such, St Paul advises us that “There must be no passing of premature judgement. Leave that until the Lord comes: he will light up all that is hidden in the dark and reveal the secret intentions of men’s hearts.”
Secondly, we must admit that we are indeed prejudiced by our past, and this cannot be helped. Thus, our judgement of others is often lob-sided. Only by realizing this, can we pay more attention to the views of others, or try to find view-points different from our own. So instead of imposing our views on others, we need to be receptive of other views as well, especially by listening to the person himself. Before we conclude and make sweeping judgements that destroy others, we must be charitable and give the others the benefit of the doubt and to try to understand where that they are coming from. Most people have their reasons for doing what they do. We might not agree with the method, but it is another thing to cast aspersions on their motives.
Thirdly, we need to face up to our secret intentions. Unconsciously, we may be seeking honour from others, just like the early Church leaders, while seemingly working for God. Awareness of our interior intentions is an important element of our spiritual discernment in our daily life. This is why the regular examen of our consciousness is important, especially with respect to the fruits of the Spirit. This will help us purify the motives in our actions.
Truly, if there is only one reason why we should not judge at all, it is simply because our judgement is a world of difference from God’s, not only with respect to our inability to see the intention, but in terms of compassion. God understands each one of us more than we understand ourselves. He knows how much we struggle to be faithful to Him, and how we must abhor our lack of integrity in our lives. Certainly we know, as Jesus reminds us, that ‘No one tears a piece from a new cloak to put it on an old cloak; if he does, not only will he have torn the new one, but the piece taken from the new will not match the old. And nobody puts new wine into old skins; if he does, the new wine will burst the skins and then run out, and the skins will be lost.” Yes, we know all these, but yet, because of human weakness we succumb to the old Adam in us.
Thus it is important to remember and to take refuge in the Lord, for the Lord is more compassionate to us than we on ourselves. That is what the psalmist says, “The salvation of the just comes from the Lord.” Indeed, holiness and salvation is not the work of man alone but the work of God. Without the grace of God, we cannot live an integral and holistic life. Yes, the psalmist declares, “he is their refuge in time of distress. And the Lord helps them and delivers them; he delivers them from the wicked and saves them, because they take refuge in him.” So let us “Trust in the Lord and do good, that you may dwell in the land and be fed in security. Take delight in the Lord.”
Most of all, we need to pray for a greater openness to the truth, to be able to see life through the eyes of Jesus. We pray for the courage to abandon our preconceived ideas and pre-judgements, so that we can see life through the perspective of Jesus. We must not say with the Pharisees, “the old wine is better.” Clinging to one’s past can hardly sustain one’s life in Jesus. An inner transformation is required of the heart if we are to prepare ourselves anew to receive God. We must make ourselves as new wineskins for God to pour His new wine – a wine that can bring vitality and freshness.
To build with me
and to do with me as Thou wilt.
Relieve me of the bondage of self,
that I may better do Thy will.
Take away my difficulties,
that victory over them may bear witness
to those I would help of Thy Power,
Thy Love, and Thy Way of life.
May I do Thy will always!
Thank you, God, Amen!
What is your philosophy of life? We all have one even though we may not be aware of it! These key words express the “Philosophy” of life of many: Materialism, Hedonism, Agnosticism, Atheism, and Moral Relativism.
In his consideration at that start of the Spiritual Exercises ( # 23) known as “Principle and Foundation”, St. Ignatius expresses clearly a philosophy of life in the first sentence: “Man is created to praise God, reverence God, serve God and by means of that to save his soul…” Put concisely, man’s existence must praise and glorify His Creator and culminate in the salvation of his immortal soul for all eternity.
The last part of Principle and Foundation has been termed classically as “Ignatian Holy Indifference”. By “Indifference” Ignatius does not mean apathy, a “who cares”, “I don’t give a darn”, “whatever…” attitude or interior disposition. On the contrary, “Holy Indifference” really means a total openness to the will of God in one’s life. In other words, whatever God wills for me, I will strive with all of the energy of my will and the proposition in my intellect to conform my will to His Almighty will. As the poet Dante expressed it: “In God’s will is our peace.”
With respect to Ignatian Holy Indifference, St Ignatius divides it into four separate categories. “Therefore, we must make ourselves indifferent to all created things, as far as we are allowed by free choice and are not under any prohibition. Consequently, as far as we are concerned, we should not prefer health to sickness, riches to poverty, honor to dishonor, a long life to a short. The same holds for all other things.” (Spiritual Exercises # 23)
To arrive at this lofty spiritual disposition requires extraordinary grace, limitless patience, as well as firm purpose and determination of the will. However, if understood, willed and assumed as an interior disposition of mind and will, the fruits of striving for “Holy Indifference” in one’s life are innumerable! Among the most important blessings is that of peace of mind, heart, soul, and an unreserved trust in God’s loving and constant guiding Divine Providence. As St. Paul reminds us, “If God is with us who can be against us.” Jesus Himself calls us to trust with the comforting words: “My Father has you in the palm of His hand and nobody can snatch you from His hand.” Let us offer a few examples of Holy Indifference taken from those who strived to live it out best— the saints!
St. Alberto Hurtado joyfully works with the youth
First category: “Not to prefer health over sickness.” A modern saint, a Jesuit Chilean priest, SAINT ALBERTO HURTADO. Involved in a whirlwind of activity—Catholic action, retreats to young, vocational presentations, radio-ministry and an apostolate designed to help the poor of Chile, in his early 50s he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. When the news was brought to him by his Vice-Provincial as he lay suffering in a hospital bed, his response was, “Contento Señor Contento!!!” (Content Lord, content!!!!) “Now I will have time to prepare myself to meet my Maker!” Saint Alberto did not despise life; rather he loved life and lived it to the fullest! Through Holy Indifference he recognized God’s will clearly. If indeed his life was given to him by God as a gift, then God had a right to take his life when He best deemed fit. Now he is SAINT ALBERTO HURTADO living forever with God in heaven!
Blessed Jacinta Marto, Lucia de los Santos and Blessed Francisco Marto
Second category: “Not to prefer long life over short.” BLESSED FRANCISCO MARTO. He was one of the three shepherd children that Our Lady of Fatima appeared to from May 13, 1917 until October 13, 1917. Once Our Lady of Fatima made the announcement that both he and his sister Jacinta would soon die, little Francisco rejoiced! The reason for his rejoicing was this interior attitude of Holy Indifference. The abundant joy that overflowed from his little heart was motivated by his faith in God and ardent yearning to be with Our Lady of Fatima and Jesus in heaven forever. Indeed not long after Our Lady of Fatima’s apparitions both Francisco and his sister Jacinta died and were taken to heaven. They were both Beatified by Blessed Pope John Paul II, among the youngest saints in the Church Calendar! This attitude of Holy Indifference teaches us that what is important is not a long life, but a holy life. (Imitation of Christ, Thomas Kempis).
St. Francis of Assisi embracing the leper
Third category: “Not to prefer riches over poverty.” One of the common hallmarks of the saints is a detachment from wealth as well as material possessions in general. Religious, both men and women, make a vow of Poverty. Among the many saints that lived out intensely and authentically the attitude of holy indifference with respect to poverty was SAINT FRANCIS OF ASSISI. Being bred, brought up and raised by a father who was a wealthy clothes-merchant, as a youth Francis felt drawn to vanity and luxurious dress, the party-life and worldliness. Once converted, Francis gave up all he had and even had to cut ties with his father and with a total confidence in God said, “From now on I will say only Our Father who art in heaven..” The final proof of this detachment and total embracing of holy indifference was the famous encounter he had with the leper in rags and Francis still in his elegant clothes. Overcoming himself, Francis returned to the leper and exchanged his elegant and expensive clothes for the rags of the leper. From that moment on Francis lived out to the fullest extent Ignatian Holy Indifference renouncing all attachments to riches to embrace what he termed, “Lady Poverty”—the wife that he would be espoused to the rest of his life!
Fourth category: “Not to prefer honors over dishonors.” Humility indeed is a very difficult virtue to acquire in life. Once we think we have it, circumstances in life quickly prove the contrary! Nonetheless, the royal path to arrive at humility is through the narrow and difficult path of humiliations. Indeed humiliations humble us. Once again we find ourselves in the schema of Holy Indifference.
The Mystical Doctor, St. John of the Cross +
SAINT JOHN OF THE CROSS. With Saint Teresa of Avila, St. John of the Cross was called to the exceedingly difficult task to reform a decadent, declining and worldly state of affairs in the Religious life—specifically the Carmelite Order. Neither the men nor the women took a liking to someone rocking their comfortable boat of complacency! God chose these two saints to disrupt their comfortable status quo!
The anger which led to fury leveled against Saint John of the Cross was so intense that violent persecutions descended upon the saint like an unending tempest! John was kidnapped, locked in a small cell in a Carmelite convent. He was scourged, deprived of saying Holy Mass, barely given enough food to eat so as to survive, nor even a bath to take for hygiene purposes. Through Our Lady’s intercession St John escaped.
After all of this unjust abuse both verbal, physical, mental and spiritual, the great mystical doctor of the Church Saint John of the Cross, never uttered an unkind word against any of those who plotted and carried out against his person such unjust and uncharitable actions!
At the end of his life he was asked where he would like to end his days— in a convent where he would be loved and appreciated to end his days or in the convent of a Superior that detested him. St John of the Cross preferred the latter so as to conform his life more and more to the passion, suffering and humiliations of his Lord and Master Jesus Christ.
In conclusion Principle and Foundation teaches us who God is, where we come from, where we are heading and how to get there. An essential component of Principle and Foundation is “Ignatian Holy Indifference”. A key means to attaining Holy Indifference is a constant and dynamic prayer life, which leads to a total confidence in God, which is translated and manifested in a total willingness to give one’s whole self to God as a sacrifice, offering and oblation.
Jesus in the Garden conforming His will to “Abba” Father
Of course Jesus is our Way, Truth and Life and best example. In the Garden of Gethsemane Jesus battled with this Holy Indifference in His human nature and conquered with these words of total and absolute Holy Indifference— conformity to the will of the Heavenly Father. “Father if it is possible, remove this chalice from me; however, not my will but yours be done.” (Mt. 26:39)
Mary’s “yes” to God’s will brought us the Savior.
May Our Lady’s “Fiat” (total and willing consent to God) motivate all of us to strive to understand, pray over and embrace “Holy Indifference” in our lives. “Behold I am the handmaid of the Lord; may it be done to me according to your will.” (Lk. 1: 38) In God’s will is our peace. (Dante)
Pope Francis (left) and St. Francis of Assisi