Readings: Kings 3: 5, 7-12; Psalm 119, Response: Lord, I love your commands.; Romans 8: 28-30 Gospel: Matthew 16: 44-52
Years ago, one of our seminary Philosophy professors, Fr. Roque Ferriols, S.J., critiqued one of the translations to Filipino of St. Ignatius of Loyola’s prayer, “Take and Receive.”
The translation goes: “Ipagkaloob mo lamang ang pag-ibig mo at lahat tatalikdan ko.” One English translation from the Spanish: “Give me only your love and your grace, these make me rich, I ask for nothing more.”
The nuancing unlocks for us the power of the message of this Sunday’s Gospel. “These make me rich, I ask for nothing more.”
The first two parables give us images of great wealth, the hidden treasure and the pearl of great price. It tells us of giving up everything to attain this treasure or pearl.
St. Paul makes reference to this in his Letter to the Philippians (3: 8), “I continue to consider all these things to be a loss for the sake of what is far more valuable, knowing the Messiah . . . because of him that I have experienced the loss of all those things. Indeed, I consider them rubbish in order to gain the Messiah.”
It may seem that St. Paul’s view is more radical, as it considers all things rubbish for the sake of knowing and gaining Jesus.
But let me propose the Ignatian view as far more challenging. It stems from the basic idea that in choosing only God’s love and grace, we are coming from a process of seeing that everything that God has created and blessed us with is good and of great value.
Ignatius asks us to view God’s many blessings in our life, and in all things he created. Not only does he bless us with these, but he himself is actively present in these.
It is a distillation of God’s gifts and loving providential presence in all these into his love and grace, the pure essence of God who is always love and is always grace. Thus we find God in all things.
To desire only this is really not just a choice between good and bad, but a choice between what is good and what is the greater good; not only for the glory of God, but for the greater glory of God.
Father Ferriols drove home a point in his critique that if God wants us to serve him with the talents, the wealth and the power we are blessed with, then we must use them to follow his will for us, his mission for us.
Thus, to give greater focus to our reflection, it is discovering our mission, what God wants us to do, that is our hidden treasure, our pearl of great price.
For Ignatius, when one discovers God’s will, everything must now be redirected or reoriented toward obedience to this will—a radical reorientation. In this sense, everything is potentially an instrument to do his will.
The ending of the Gospel makes reference to this: “The head of a household . . . brings from his storeroom both the new and the old.” To those who undergo the radical reorientation toward mission, everything is reoriented—everything.
The third parable, the net thrown into the sea, we saw in last Sunday’s Gospel, the Parable of the Wheat and the Weeds. In fact, the images of the throwing into the fiery furnace, the wailing and the grinding of teeth, are repeated.
Justice will prevail
The stern warning to evildoers is that they will not triumph. The first reading, the psalm and the second reading state this in a positive tone, but the message is the same: God’s justice will prevail. God’s plan will work out and be brought to completion, and the good shall overcome evil.
A final note for our reflection, a synthesis of sorts. This is our final Sunday where we have the parables of the Kingdom for our Gospel.
“Give me only your love and your grace, these make me rich, I ask for nothing more.” This is to ask for the power to “set the world on fire” and to be taken into the service of Jesus.
Ignatius had one constant prayer: “Place me with your Son.” After years of journeying and discerning to know how he is to live out his mission, he finally decides that he will go to the Pope in Rome and place himself at his disposal for mission.
A few miles away from Rome in November of 1537, he had a vision in La Storta. Fr. Brian O’Leary, S.J. writes: “He saw God the Father, together with Jesus who was carrying his cross. Both the Father and the Son were looking most kindly on him and he heard the Father say to the Son: ‘I wish you to take this man as your servant.’
“Jesus then directed his words to the kneeling pilgrim and said, ‘I wish you to be our servant.’ This was what Ignatius had always wanted. Then he heard the Father add, ‘I will be favorable to you in Rome.’”
Thus started the completion of the mission of Ignatius in founding the Society of Jesus that has worked for close to 500 years to build God’s Kingdom with men who “set the world on fire” to serve under the Standard of the Cross.
What is our treasure, our pearl of great price? Like Ignatius, what is it that we have always wanted to be our mission in serving Christ, under the Standard of the Cross and struggle of the faith that includes the promotion of the justice, the justice of the Kingdom of God?
To borrow (and paraphrase a bit) the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.: “The arch of the [Kingdom] is long. But it bends toward justice.” And to add Mahatma Gandhi’s faith in this: “Always.” —CONTRIBUTED