July 31, 2021
by Tom Shanahan, S.J.
Creighton University's Athletic Department
click here for photo and information about the writer

Memorial of Saint Ignatius of Loyola, Priest
Lectionary: 406

Leviticus 25:1, 8-17
Psalm 67:2-3, 5, 7-8
Matthew 14:1-12

Praying Ordinary Time

Homily of Pope Francis on this feast in 2013

A brief bio of St. Ignatius

Weekly Guide for Daily Prayer

Ordinary Time Symbols in Our Home

I remember it as if it were yesterday.  1982, annual retreat at Oshkosh, Wisconsin, praying with scripture under the guidance of the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius whose feast we celebrate today.

The scene is me sitting on a quaintly small bridge over a slow-moving stream running through a fertile farm in Wisconsin’s dark earth.  The retreat director, Fr. Joe Diamond, S.J., from St. Joseph University in Philadelphia, had suggested a psalm for me to pray over in an early period of the 8 days of retreat.

The psalm* was a lamentation for the many and oft-cited ways the people ran away from God despite the covenant with Yahweh.  This is the God that expressed abiding and prodigal love for the people of Israel.  They could not or would not abide by the covenant (I am your God, and you are my people).  The psalmist was persistent in his condemnation of the people as they moved away towards “other” gods.  Still the God of the covenant loved them beyond measure.  The psalm’s last half of the very last verse was a reminder of how they missed the mark, “but I remained faithful to the covenant; you are beloved!"

Then it struck me.  The psalm was about me!  The way the people left their commitment to God and sinned by denying God’s choice love for them, was describing myself in my unfaithfulness (sin) to God’s intense love.  This is an incredible discovery: I was loved despite my failures – just like the people from the psalm.  What a personal blessing and revelation of God’s very personal love.

Later, I discovered that commentators on the Spiritual Exercises referred to this kind of experience as the grace of recognizing that I/anyone am a loved sinner.  As the Israelites found themselves loved despite their many and great failings (sin) in attending to God’s covenant, so I was led to see that despite MY failings and sin,  God never stopped loving and forgiving me.

Today we honor the life and memory of St. Ignatius Loyola, founder of the Society of Jesus.  Through his inspiration we have the Spiritual Exercises, a book of reflections on God’s love for us through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus the Christ.  This “how to” book on prayer and deepening relationship with God (our covenant), written in the 1500’s, has had a lasting influence on Christians then and now who seek to grasp some of the mystery of how God lovingly reveals himself to them.

What a blessing this day is for the many who have grown spiritually in love of God and Jesus’ life portrayed in the gospels.  The Exercises has been a guide for so many who have opened themselves to the wonders of God through the gift of St. Ignatius’ work.  And for me on a personal note, I extend my deep gratitude for the Late Joe Diamond, S.J., gifted director of women’s and men’s hearts and mentor to me those glorious days at Oshkosh.

* Full disclosure, as they say, I visited all the 150 psalms and could not discover the one that day in 1982! God has some wonderful and quirky ways to deal with us, to be sure.  However, I will never forget the point of that psalm from that day onward.  It has made deep memory ruts and I remain grateful.

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