Tilling the soil
The beginning of a new year is a good time to re-examine and deepen our faith. Only weeks ago many of us made resolutions to get healthier or exercise or lose weight or maybe we resolved to eat out less frequently and save more money (to share with the poor) rather than spend it on what might be deemed frivolous desires. Interestingly resolutions that focus on the spiritual life aren’t played up by the media in the same way as getting in shape. But starting the year with a concerted effort to be more kind and considerate, practice patience, pray more, care and love more deeply, respond to the plight of the poor, and judge others less harshly is not a bad plan for the coming 12 months.
Perhaps Pope Francis, who so clearly speaks, leads and acts out of the depths of Ignatian spirituality and his Jesuit formation, will inspire us. His pleas for mercy, forgiveness, compassion and love have been picked up by Twitter, Facebook and a variety of news media outlets. What is it about these ideas that seems so new and newsworthy? And how are these ideas Ignatian and Jesuit?
In a short homily during a reconciliation service at the Jesuit Retreat House at Oshkosh, Wis., Rev. Jack Treloar, S.J., described God as “Love Loving.” This concept of the divine presence is no different than the one St. Ignatius repeatedly invites us to reflect and meditate on in the Spiritual Exercises. Ignatius urges us to pay attention to God’s presence in our personal lives and the created universe. His idea of God is of a God who creates and loves. Ignatius’ God is a force and being who wants the best for each and every one of us. In the eyes of Ignatius, God is the one who offers forgiveness, mercy, compassion and care: God is “Love Loving.” And human beings are the recipients of that love in the created wonder of the earth, in friends and family, in moments of healing, in times when we feel forgiven or are shown mercy, and when others are compassionate and caring for us.
These ideas are embodied in the life and teachings of Jesus Christ. When Ignatius spent time reflecting and focusing on what Jesus did and said, he came to know a God who has loved us fully and gifted human beings with the ability to do the same. Pope Francis echoed these ideas in his address to the U.S. Congress and at the United Nations and in his address to families in Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. Pope Francis learned well a way of being in the world in his Jesuit training, and he is calling us to enter this new year with resolutions that have the power to transform our world.
By Dr. Susan Mountin, director of Manresa for Faculty in the Office of Mission and Ministry