Today was one of those days when nothing seemed to go right for me. Exasperation lurked around every corner. Student cheating, insurance company and hospital billing inconsistencies (why is it never a mistake in the patient’s favor?), a cold that has lingered, a leaky toilet, dreary weather – lots of things that made my little corner of the world a personal challenge. Throw in the incredible problems around the globe, and there were plenty of opportunities to feel helpless and out of control. Its nice to fantasize about having a magic wand that could make these troubles disappear!
How can I be a victor over this world? Wouldn’t it be nice if everyone were honest, if the large companies we dealt with worked through issues and resolved them promptly and correctly, if we all were healthy, and things worked the way they were designed to (and didn’t wear out before their time), where the weather was always nice? Well, yes it would. But this paradise doesn’t seem to be likely anytime soon. And in fact, that isn’t the world in which we find ourselves. This is a messy place, and it almost always has been and will be. So how can I be a victor over this world that I find myself in?
A victor usually is the person who wins, who is left standing after the fight, who has the highest score at the end of the game. Usually a victor involves a loser – someone wins and someone loses. If I am a victor over the world, then I win and the world loses. But can the world really lose? What if victory meant that I accepted the world as I found it, and I reacted to the harm that the world brings me with dignity and charity, and to the successes that I have with equanimity and humility? Could that be a victory? I win, because of my reaction, but the world doesn’t lose – it just is. This isn’t the kind of result we normally think of as victory, but fighting the world isn’t the kind of game where there can be winners and losers. The world is like the house in a casino – the odds of success always seem to be in its favor.
For St. Ignatius, the world is neither good nor bad. It is. Instead, it is our reaction to the world, the challenges we face, the gifts we receive, that determines whether we are winning or losing, moving closer to or farther from God.
Victory then must be spiritual reunion with God. This victory, John says, comes through belief in Jesus – the Son of God, the one who teaches us to turn the world on its head, to be generous with our successes, to respond to injury with charity, to give and not to count the cost, to fight and not heed the wounds, to labor and not to seek reward, to seek first to understand. Jesus calls us to emulate His godliness by the way we react to the messiness of the world, calls us to be detached from things that pull us away from God, who us to question those who would lead us astray (whether by example, or temptation, or by their narrowmindedness).
This is the Jesus who was present in the Epiphany, who was worshipped by the Magi, for whom Simeon waited. This is the Jesus who healed souls and bodies, who preached on the Mount, and who died on the cross. This is the Jesus who defeated death. This is the Jesus who is the Son of God.
My prayer today is that I can be in the world as Jesus was in it, and thus be victorious in my quest for spiritual reunion with God.
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