31 July – Memorial for St. Ignatius of Loyola, Priest
St. Ignatius (1491-1556) was wounded in the leg by a cannonball at the siege of Pampeluna on 20 May 1521, an injury that left him partially crippled for life. During his recuperation the only books he had access to were The Golden Legend, a collection of lives of the saints, and the Life of Christ by Ludolph the Carthusian. These books, and the time spent in contemplation, changed him.
On his recovery he took a vow of chastity, hung his sword before the altar of the Virgin of Montserrat, and donned a pilgrim’s robes. He lived in a cave for a year, contemplating the way to live a Christian life. His meditations, prayers, visions and insights led to forming the Constitutions of the Society of Jesus.
– Patron Saint Index
Vanity of vanities, Qoheleth says. Vanity of vanities. All is vanity!
For so it is that a man who has laboured wisely, skilfully and successfully must leave what is his own to someone who has not toiled for it at all. This, too, is vanity and great injustice; for what does he gain for all the toil and strain that he has undergone under the sun? What of all his laborious days, his cares of office, his restless nights? This, too, is vanity.
Since you have been brought back to true life with Christ, you must look for the things that are in heaven, where Christ is, sitting at God’s right hand. Let your thoughts be on heavenly things, not on the things that are on the earth, because you have died, and now the life you have is hidden with Christ in God. But when Christ is revealed – and he is your life – you too will be revealed in all your glory with him.
That is why you must kill everything in you that belongs only to earthly life: fornication, impurity, guilty passion, evil desires and especially greed, which is the same thing as worshipping a false god; and never tell each other lies. You have stripped off your old behaviour with your old self, and you have put on a new self which will progress towards true knowledge the more it is renewed in the image of its creator; and in that image there is no room for distinction between Greek and Jew, between the circumcised or the uncircumcised, or between barbarian and Scythian, slave and free man. There is only Christ: he is everything and he is in everything.
A man in the crowd said to Jesus, ‘Master, tell my brother to give me a share of our inheritance.’ ‘My friend,’ he replied, ‘who appointed me your judge, or the arbitrator of your claims?’ Then he said to them, ‘Watch, and be on your guard against avarice of any kind, for a man’s life is not made secure by what he owns, even when he has more than he needs.’
Then he told them a parable: ‘There was once a rich man who, having had a good harvest from his land, thought to himself, “What am I to do? I have not enough room to store my crops.” Then he said, “This is what I will do: I will pull down my barns and build bigger ones, and store all my grain and my goods in them, and I will say to my soul: My soul, you have plenty of good things laid by for many years to come; take things easy, eat, drink, have a good time.” But God said to him, “Fool! This very night the demand will be made for your soul; and this hoard of yours, whose will it be then?.” So it is when a man stores up treasure for himself in place of making himself rich in the sight of God.’
Look for things that are in heaven
I have been thinking about death recently. What will it be like when my time comes? What will the state of my life be? More specifically, what will my life look like in this secular world at the point of my death? What would my legacy be? What will people remember me for? Or will they remember me at all?
Recently I attended a funeral of a dear friend’s husband. He was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in October last year. When I last saw him in November, he was already looking weak from the effects of the illness. At the wake, I was completely shocked and deeply saddened. He was not at all the person I remember him to be. The sickness has ravaged my friend to an unrecognizable 40kg shell. Seeing how shocked I was, his wife said to me ‘Remember him as he was. Happy.’
As I look at the photograph the family picked for the occasion, I will always remember him that way. Not the person lying in the box – that’s just a shell. He had returned home; to the arms of Jesus, accompanied by the multitudes of Saints and Angels; happy, healthy and at peace.
It is a reminder for us all. We benchmark ourselves according to the secular culture’s call to a measureable success. All over the news today is the panic about Brexit, the uncertain economy, people losing jobs. As we fret and are anxious about our lives today, what we have, where we are, our positions in life, will this all matter when the Lord calls us to our eternal home?
For what profit comes to man from all the toil and anxiety of heart with which he has laboured under the sun?
Don’t misunderstand me. We live in the secular world. Even as we strive to be holy, the truth is, there are some realities and we all have our earthly responsibilities and yes – worries. I am definitely guilty of this. I sometimes ask God “So how do I do this Lord? Eat bread and drink honey and hope for the best? And who is going to pay the rent, school fees, put food on the table, Lord?” Some well-meaning friends will come forth and sprout scripture and that makes me even angrier. And guilty.
Why guilty? Because Jesus is so ever present in our lives. In my life. I look back on the last few years in sheer amazement. Where I came from and where I am today – it is most definitely God’s hand in it.
I shared previously that I walked away from a corporate job some years ago and while I waffle and meander through these past 2.5 years asking Jesus, ‘So what’s the plan? What is my vocation? Just what you want me to go on to?’. Recently in prayer, He answered me. Shot the answer square in between my eyes …. “You are living your vocation! If only you would let me lead.” Wow! His mercy and blessings far outweigh what this world can possibly give us…and more. I am actually living quite a happy existence but I still whine like a spoilt child. So why do I get anxious?
If you were raised with Christ, seek what is above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Think of what is above, not of what is on earth.
So my brothers and sisters, fret not what we attain on earth but seek to gather what matters in heaven. Live out your vocation today, be the person God meant for each of us to be. Look for things that are in heaven.
I know my friend lived his vocation – he was a loving and supportive husband, a doting and giving father and a very genuine friend.
(Today’s OXYGEN by Geraldine Nah)
Prayer: Teach us oh Lord, to gain wisdom of heart. That we may fully surrender our lives to you and let you lead. Teach us not to hanker after things that do not matter but seek to love as you loved us. Help us live out our lives, as you had meant for each one of us.
Thanksgiving: Thank you Jesus, for being so present in our lives. For being ever so patient with us, especially during the times when we become arrogant and hard-hearted.