Readings: Wisdom 9: 13-18b; Psalm 90:3; Response: Turn not man away to be brought low: and You have said: Be converted, O you sons of men; Philemon 1: 9-10, 12-17; Gospel: Luke 14: 25-33
Dearest Lord, teach me to be generous. Teach me to serve you as you deserve; to give and not to count the cost; to fight and not to heed the wounds; to toil and not to seek for rest; to labor and ask not for reward, save that of knowing that I do your most holy will.”
Many of us are familiar with this prayer attributed to St. Ignatius of Loyola. We pray it, sing it or hear it at Mass.
Experts say the prayer was not written by Ignatius, although it embodies the spirit of his commitment, dedication and devotion to the Lord.
The Gospel for today opens with this “shocking demand” of Christ to give up everything and carry our cross as the way of discipleship. He says this at the point in his own journey to Jerusalem to carry his own cross.
As he’s about to enter into his own passion and death, Christ defines it as an act of generosity. Without denying the pain, agony and suffering, it was about giving without counting the cost, fighting unmindful of the wounds, toiling without rest, laboring regardless of reward, save that of knowing he is doing God’s holy will.
This is what matters in the end. It is what makes all the blood, sweat and tears meaningful. It is this singular devotion to God’s will, God’s mission for us that Christ invites us to consider. From this springs generosity, living out, pursuing God’s will with greatness of soul.
St. Ignatius’ own story embodied this. As did the stories of the great martyrs of the church—from St. Stephen and Sts. Peter and Paul to St. Oscar Romero and the hundreds martyred by ISIS as they refused to renounce Christ.
The witness of the martyrs is heroic, but so are the many men and women who devoted their lives to service and prayer: St. Theresa of Avila, St. Teresa of Calcutta, Dorothy Day, Fr. Pedro Arrupe, SJ, Thomas Merton, to name a few.
Opposite of generosity
In one of his early books of God tales, Fr. Nil Guillemette, SJ tells the story of the greatest tempter who champions the greatest sin. The name of the devil is Lukewarm.
To be lukewarm is the opposite of generosity.
Of late, I have felt overwhelmed by the amount of work to be done in the ministries I’m engaged in. It has been a struggle between hope and despair.
There’s hope because of the vibrancy of the work with the many opportunities coming our way and knowing it is the work that God wants us to do.
But there’s despair because the challenges also seem endless—considering, modesty aside, our work is pioneering in the kind of education in public schools that we are working for. As such, there are very few historical models and evidence available.
The busyness can deaden the spirit and we end up dishing out soulless work. This easily degenerates into a lukewarm state, which is the door to despair.
Christ reminds us today that he alone is the beginning, the center and the final home of our life and soul.
The second part of the Gospel on the tower builder and the king marching to battle is a good guide to avoid falling into lukewarmness and despair.
“Lean Startup” guru Eric Ries points out that among hundreds of visionary ideas for a product, business or service, only a handful will be realized as a viable product or business.
Why? Because after the visionary experience that takes our breath away, few have the constancy and the tenacity to do the “boring, tedious” stuff of setting up the nitty-gritty of a sound business model and organization.
St. Ignatius also embodied the path Christ asks of us—leave behind everything, take up our cross and follow him. His version of the “Lean Startup” 500 years ago was his way of responding to Christ’s call.
St. Ignatius, according to one of his closest friends, Fr. Juan Polanco, embodied great courage and energy to undertake extraordinarily difficult tasks, great constancy in pursuing them and great prudence in seeing them to completion.
We pray for generosity, the greatness of soul that will make us undertake the extraordinary tasks that need to be done; great constancy in pursuing what God wants us to pursue no matter what the price; and great prudence in completing what God wants us to do. —CONTRIBUTED