Tuesday, 31 July 2018 : 17th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Ignatius of Loyola, Priest (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we heard from the prophet Jeremiah in the first reading passage, in which he beseeched and asked God to be merciful to His people, for they have been assailed by their enemies, beaten up and in danger of being destroyed and annihilated. At that time, during the ministry of the prophet Jeremiah, the kingdom of Judah was on its last days of existence, as it was threatened by the power of the mighty Babylonians.

Yet, the people of Judah still refused to listen to the prophet’s warnings and they in fact persecuted him and made life very difficult to him. They arrested him and put him into prison, all because they would rather believe in the false prophets and guides, and in continuing to live in the state of sin, disobeying the Lord’s laws and commandments, profaning His Temple and House.

It was in this context that the prophet Jeremiah made his plea and prayer before God, for the sins of the people were very great indeed. If they continued to live as they were, their punishment and the consequences for their sins would be very great. Nothing would have been left of the people which God had led into the Promised Land of Canaan, and just as their northern neighbours, they would face destruction and annihilation unless they repented from their sins.

In the end, the people of Judah lost their kingdom, and they lost their Temple, destroyed by the Babylonians together with Jerusalem, which was sacked at the end of the kingdom of Judah. Most of the inhabitants, God’s people, were brought into exile in the faraway lands of Babylon, and what the prophets had prophesied and foretold for a long time became a stark reality. But eventually the people repented and turned back to God.

They realised the suffering and humiliation they endured, caused by the disobedience of their ancestors, and led by the prophets Ezra and Nehemiah, they would return to their homeland many decades later, to rebuild their cities, as well as the Temple of God in Jerusalem. They repented their sinful ways and cast aside many of the wicked acts and corruptions that had led their ancestors to sin.

And all of these showed us God’s true and enduring love for us all, His people. He despised our sins and wickedness, but in the end, He still loves each one of us. Every one of us that has been lost to Him because of sin, unrepented in stubbornness, are painful wounds in His heart. He does not desire the destruction of sinners, but rather their repentance, forgiveness and redemption, that all of them may be reconciled with Him.

That is why in the Gospel passage today, the parable of the wheat and weed, we heard about a sower of good seeds, representing God, who went against the enemy who tried to sabotage the field by sowing weeds among the good seeds. The devil is always trying to spread his lies and tempt us to sin, to disobey and rebel against God’s will. That is why the wheat grows up intertwined with the weeds, as there are both good and evil within us.

But God did not outright destroy us for our sins. Indeed, our sins are despicable in His sight, but He allowed us the opportunity to seek forgiveness and to be reconciled with Him, so that, in the end, we will be made worthy and clean again, free from the chains of our sins. Therefore, we will be truly worthy to be called God’s children and as God’s beloved people.

Today, together with the whole Church, all of us celebrate together the feast of St. Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Society of Jesus, also better known as the Jesuits, the largest religious order present in the Church today. St. Ignatius of Loyola was once a soldier, born from a noble and rich family in what is today known as Spain, but had a moment of conversion and revelation, in which, he changed his life completely, and devoted himself to a new existence with a new purpose in God.

St. Ignatius of Loyola initially desired for worldly glory, honour and power, as how he was conditioned in within his family environment and noble upbringing. Hence, he joined the military, fighting in the army in order to gain for himself valour, power, fame, recognition and honour, all the things that the world treasured at that time. But he did not find true fulfilment and consolation in them.

When he was grievously injured and imprisoned by his enemies during one particular siege, St. Ignatius of Loyola went through a spiritual conversion in which he was convinced to follow the religious life, called by God to turn away from worldly glory, and instead seek to bring greater glory of God. This would later on become the motto of the Jesuits, Ad Maiorem Dei Gloriam – For the greater glory of God.

St. Ignatius of Loyola continued to study more about the faith and eventually was ordained as a priest. Gathering likeminded men of his time, filled with zeal and fervour for the faith, as well as missionary zeal, St. Ignatius of Loyola founded the Society of Jesus, which very quickly became the epicentre of the efforts of Counter-Reformation against the false Protestant heresies spreading in many parts of Christendom at that time.

St. Ignatius of Loyola and many of his fellow Jesuits established schools and seminaries, through which the efforts of Counter-Reformation were done, as the spearheads of the Church’s work to call many of those who have fallen into heresy to return to the Mother Church. Many people and many souls were saved because of the works of the Jesuits, and many of them had to suffer persecution for their faith.

The example of St. Ignatius of Loyola shows us all that while all of us are sinners and are unworthy of God because of our sins, but through sincere and genuine repentance, we can truly make a difference in our lives. As the conversion of St. Ignatius of Loyola has shown us, that God Who has called us to be reconciled with Him can make us into such great instruments of mercy and forgiveness for many others, and many more can be saved, through us, who have been saved first.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, shall we all strive to turn away from our own sinful lives, and from all the wickedness we have committed thus far, which made us all unworthy to be truly called children of God? Let us all be inspired by the fervour and the courage which St. Ignatius of Loyola and the Jesuits showed, in the midst of difficulties and even persecution, to do the work of God, and to gain greater glory, not for ourselves, but for the greater glory of God.

May the Lord be glorified through our works, and may He be glorified by the strong and living faith present in each and every one of us. May He continue to bless us and all of our works, that we may truly walk the path to the eternal glory and true joy that God alone can give, and not the world. May the Lord be with us always, now and forevermore. Amen.

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