One wise principle of spirituality is to live in the present moment and not be trapped in the past or fear for the future. Both entrapments are tools of the evil spirit.
Fr. Benny Calpotura, SJ, constantly said, “Grace works in the present moment.” As we heard in the movie “Kung Fu Panda,” the present moment is a gift, a present. The present moment is where we encounter God’s grace.
This Sunday’s readings are prescriptions for a life lived in faith, a life freed from useless worry. Let us reflect on these readings from the perspective of this freedom, the two stages or types of freedom as gleaned from the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola (Spex): freedom from and freedom for.
One of the key exercises in the Spex is “The Three Classes of Men or Persons.” Ignatius briefly describes each type of person sharing the same situation. The situation is they all come across tremendous wealth or resources, a windfall. All desire to prevent or get rid of any inordinate attachment to the wealth. However, they differ in what they actually do.
The first class or type of person desires to get rid of the wealth, but does not act at all. The person dies without doing anything.
The second desires not to be attached to the wealth, but also compromises. The detachment will be on his/her terms and not God’s. The person will serve God, but also wants to keep the wealth.
The third wants to get rid of the inordinate attachment and neither wants to keep it or give it up. The deepest desire is to seek and follow what God wants even in the use or disposition of the wealth.
Here you see the kind of freedom that Ignatius advocates in the Spex. This is the detachment that is both a freedom from the wealth and a freedom for God’s will. It is the same freedom that we see in the “climax” of the Spex in the Contemplation to Attain Divine Love: “All things I have and all that I am you have given all to me, to you I return them that you may dispose of me only according to your will. Give me only your love and your grace, these make me rich I ask for nothing more.”
These are the lessons in today’s Gospel. We are encouraged to rid ourselves of inordinate attachments to all things and even persons. To seek and follow God’s will is our only attachment.
It is the third class of person who is totally free. For this person, it is only the seeing, the loving and the following of God that matters. In this sense, life becomes worry-free because one knows God is in charge.
One of my co-priests told me this story. Recently, he was able to borrow the relic of St. Faustina, a part of the bone of her finger.
St. Faustina was the Polish sister to whom the devotion to the Divine Mercy was revealed in the 1930s. The relic belongs to the Diocese of Tarlac where there is a parish named after St. Faustina in Paniqui, Tarlac.
The story that moved my priest-friend to borrow the relic was about a “miracle” that happened over a month ago. A Filipino residing in Vancouver was preparing to fly to San Francisco to visit her older sister who was due for a heart bypass. Before she was able to book her flight from Vancouver, she received word that her brother who was also based in San Francisco suffered a heart attack.
With two siblings in critical condition, she anxiously rushed to the airport to try to catch a flight to San Francisco. At the airport she was met by a long line of people trying to buy plane tickets. She decided to sit first and wait.
A sister dressed in a nun’s habit approached her and smiled at her. She smiled back. The sister introduced herself as Sister Faustina and told her, “You have the eyes of your siblings.” She did not put much meaning to this comment, but she told the nun her predicament.
Sister volunteered to get her ticket for her and said they would board the plane together. She was also told not to worry because her siblings will all be well by 3 p.m.
Upon landing in San Francisco, she looked for sister. Not seeing her, she asked the flight crew and the other people around her if they saw where the sister who accompanied her on the plane went. Everybody she asked told her that they did not see any sister and that she was alone when she boarded.
She began to wonder, but still did not put much meaning into the situation, still being anxious over her siblings’ state. When she reached the hospital, she was told that before 3 p.m., the doctors had pronounced both her siblings out of critical condition. It was only then that she got over her worries and told her family about her encounter with Sister Faustina.
Then one of her siblings said, “Patay na si Sister Faustina, ano ka ba? Yan ang parokya natin sa Paniqui, Santa Faustina!” (Sister Faustina is already dead, what are you talking about? That’s the name of our parish in Paniqui, St. Faustina.) At that point she was stunned and awed.
The family Googled the name of St. Faustina, and when her picture appeared, the lady said. “That’s her! Siya yung sister na tumulong sa akin!” (She is the sister who helped me.) For two days, the whole family was crying as their sister from Vancouver related the details of her encounter with St. Faustina and the healing “miracle.”
This was the story that my priest-friend heard, and which prompted him to seek out the relic and request to borrow it for a day to bring her to close friends who were sick. The day when the relic came, he ended up bringing it around to five houses from 3-10 p.m.
He related how moved he was when all the people prayed fervently with much faith and devotion, for them to be healed of their various ailments.
The experience overwhelmed him and he started to better understand how Christ was moved with compassion when people came to him to be healed.
Then, three days after this experience, he passed by the shrine of Padre Pio along C-5 to pray for someone. When he got to Padre Pio’s image to pray, he said he was overcome by tremendous peace and faith. It was something he could not fully explain—and felt no need to explain.
This is the worry-free grace of faith that this Sunday’s readings describe to us.
This is the miracle in our day-to-day life—in the words of Ignatius, “Finding God in all things” and believing in peace that He is in charge.