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Saturday, 30 July 2011

THE MAGIS IN THE LIFE OF ST. IGNATIUS



THE MAGIS IN THE LIFE OF ST. IGNATIUS
The word “Magis” which is a major term in the spirituality of St. Ignatius has often been rendered “More”. It is in fact the adverbial form of the adjective “maior,” and can be translated “to a greater extent” or “more nearly” in addition to “the more.”
In the life of Ignatius, however the “Magis” was more than a word or a term, it was an attitude. Ignatius possessed this attitude even before his conversion from knight for king, to knight for God. He always wanted to do better; to do more. He was never content with the status quo, with the tried and tested. For him mediocrity was never an option.  He was constantly looking for ways and means to impress his king and win the queen of his heart. This attitude showed itself in his bravery, daring and courage both in battle and at other times. The “Magis” at this time and even in the initial years after his “conversion”   was about DOING MORE. After his “conversion”, however, it was about “doing more” for God the heavenly king. He believed that if the saints before him could do so much for God, he too could do it as well and even better. Thus he was constantly searching for newer, better and more challenging ways of doing things. This desire to do more, sometimes led to extremes. Thus he would undergo rigorous fasts and punish his body in the hope that he could bring it under control. He would undertake night vigils and spend long hours in prayer in the hope that he would be considered as one who had gone beyond; who had done more.
Even as he “did” these things for God a transformation was taking place and indeed took place definitively on the banks of the river Cardoner. This experience is arguably the most significant of Ignatius’ life. He did not describe what actually happened except to say that he received from God at that moment such clarity that it lasted with him for the rest of his life. All that he had “done” in the past, all that he wanted to “do” in the future for God seemed now so insignificant, temporary and passing. Now all that mattered to him was “to be”. After this experience, Ignatius became a different man. If before the experience his focus was on action alone, now it was on “being”. He began to see things with other eyes than those he had. He now began to see with the eyes of his heart. This was for Ignatius the point of departure from his past orientation to a newer and better orientation. Since the experience that he had was not an end in itself, Ignatius wanted to share it with others. He did so in the Spiritual exercises and especially at the start of the Second Week where he states: "I will ask for an intimate knowledge of Our Lord, who has become man for me, that I may love Him more and follow Him more closely." (Sp Ex 104). This means that for Ignatius, the “Magis” now became not so much “doing” as “being”. The focus was now a relationship with Christ and a deepening and intensifying of that relationship.
It is in this context that the Ignatian notion of “indifference” must be read, understood and interpreted. Indifference in Ignatian spirituality does not mean an attitude of callousness, insensitivity or inconsiderateness. It means exactly the opposite. It means sensitivity, considerateness and concern. It means that precisely because one is so concerned and involved, one possesses a sense of detachment to such an extent that one will not desire what one wants but always and every time what God wants. God’s will, becomes the norm and guiding light. Thus, one will choose and opt for poverty rather than riches, dishonour rather than honour and humility rather than arrogance and pride only because this fits in with God’s plan. When one is to choose between two “goods”, one will choose that which one gives God greater glory.
The “Magis” is thus not so much a quality that one possesses but an attitude. It permeates all that an individual is and therefore does. The man or woman of the “Magis” is constantly driven to rediscover, redefine and reach out for the more, the newer, the better only because that is what God wants for him or her. Then the good becomes better, the better becomes better still and the better still becomes still better. The man or woman of the “Magis” is one who is bold with a holy boldness which has its roots in Jesus and in Jesus’ relationship with the Father. Everything that such a person does flows from this relationship.
In a day and in an age when a person’s worth is often measured by what he or she has or possesses, the “Magis” of Ignatius comes as a breath of fresh air. When so many are striving to “achieve” greatness by increasing their possessions and material wealth, the Magis invites and challenges us to focus not on having but “on being”. When so many are placing their trust in externals and property, the Magis invites us to realise the temporariness and passing nature of all things and that God alone is eternal and permanent. When so many have made “things” ends in themselves and are possessed by them rather than possessing them, the Magis challenges us to realise that the basic reason of our creation and existence is to praise, reverence and serve God alone. It is then that we realise the truth of the Latin phrase “Deus semper maior” which literally means “God is more”, but which really means “God is the Magis”.

Friday, 29 July 2011

Will you, like John the Baptist point to Jesus through your life today? How? Exodus 25,1.8-17; Jeremiah 26,11-16.24; Mt 14,1-12


Herod mentioned at the beginning of this story of the death of John the Baptist found also in Mark 6,14-29 is Herod Antipas and the son of Herod the Great mentioned in the Infancy narrative of Matthew (2,3). Though Matthew has taken this story from Mark, he shortens it considerably. Matthew’s reason for Herod wanting to kill John is the same as Mark, John had objected to Herod having married Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife. In Matthew, unlike in Mark, it is not Herodias who wants to kill John, but Herod himself. When the daughter of Herodias (who is not named) pleases Herod with her dance on his birthday, she asks for the head of John the Baptist. After burying John, his disciples go and tell Jesus about what had happened.
It is not always easy for us to take a stand against injustice. Yet this is what this text is calling us to do. In the process on taking a stand we might become unpopular or sometimes the object of ridicule. The challenge is how much we are willing to risk.

Be careful of saying, “I know”, you may miss the Messiah. Leviticus 23,1.4-11.15-16.27.34-37; Jeremiah 26,1-9; Mt 13,54-58


The incident of the rejection of Jesus in his hometown is found also in Mark 6,1-6. Like Mark, Matthew too leaves Jesus’ hometown unnamed. Yet many think that Matthew may have been referring to Nazareth where Jesus grew up (2,23) rather than Capernaum in which Jesus did a lot of his ministry. While the people accepted that Jesus did indeed speak and act with authority, they wondered about the source of this authority. This wonder soon turns to a negative assessment on their part when they take offence at Jesus. Matthew {unlike Mark who identifies Jesus as a carpenter (Mk 6,3)} identifies Jesus as the “carpenter’s son” since he is interested in showing Jesus as Son of Joseph and so Son of David. In response to their negative attitude to him, Jesus speaks of himself as a prophet and identifies himself with the true prophets of Israel. In Matthew {unlike in Mark where the failure on the part of Jesus to work miracles is the result of the unbelief of his townspeople (Mk 6,6)} the initiative rests with Jesus and though able, he does not do many miracles there because of their unbelief.
We keep expecting people to behave in a particular manner and sometimes when they do not behave as we expect them to, we tend to get upset. This happens even with parents and children. While it is not a problem to have some reasonable expectations, we must also be open to change and realise that they may not always behave as we expect them to.

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

If the sorting were to take place now, would you be kept or thrown away? What will you do to ensure that you are kept? Exodus 40,16-21.34-38; Jeremiah 18,1-6; Mt 13,47-53


The parable of the Net (13,47-48) its interpretation (13,49-50) and the parable of the householder (13, 51-52) are found only in the Gospel of Matthew.
In the parable of the Net, a large net is used to catch fish of every kind. There is no sorting out of the fish at the time of their being caught. It is only after the net is full and drawn ashore that the sorting takes place. The good fish are kept and the bad are thrown away.
The interpretation focuses on the fate of the evil (bad fish), which will be thrown into the furnace of fire. It does not speak about the fate of the righteous except to say that the evil will be separated from them.
In the parable of the householder, both the new and old are affirmed. However, the old, which is valuable, is presented in a new light and therefore seen in a new way. The fact that the order of the words is “new” and “old” is an indication that the new is to be used to interpret the old and not the other way around.

If the sorting were to take place now, would you be kept or thrown away? What will you do to ensure that you are kept? Exodus 40,16-21.34-38; Jeremiah 18,1-6; Mt 13,47-53


The parable of the Net (13,47-48) its interpretation (13,49-50) and the parable of the householder (13, 51-52) are found only in the Gospel of Matthew.
In the parable of the Net, a large net is used to catch fish of every kind. There is no sorting out of the fish at the time of their being caught. It is only after the net is full and drawn ashore that the sorting takes place. The good fish are kept and the bad are thrown away.
The interpretation focuses on the fate of the evil (bad fish), which will be thrown into the furnace of fire. It does not speak about the fate of the righteous except to say that the evil will be separated from them.
In the parable of the householder, both the new and old are affirmed. However, the old, which is valuable, is presented in a new light and therefore seen in a new way. The fact that the order of the words is “new” and “old” is an indication that the new is to be used to interpret the old and not the other way around.

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

What would you give in exchange for your life? Exodus 34,29-35; Jeremiah 15,10.16-21; Mt 13,44-46


The parables of the hidden treasure (13,44) and the fine pearls (13,45-46) are found only in the Gospel of Matthew. In both the parables the one who finds, goes and sells all he has for the sake of what he has found. However, the one who finds the treasure in the field finds it by accident and is not actively looking for it, whereas the merchant is in search of fine pearls. This is probably why the one in the field is filled with joy whereas the merchant knowing that he has found what he is looking for is not filled with joy, but is willing to give up everything for the sake of the pearl that he has found. Though some may find the action of the man in the field who hides the treasure questionable, it must be noted that the parable does not legitimise the man’s action of hiding, but focuses on his action of selling all that he had. The point of the parables seems to be that the dawning of the kingdom calls for reflection on one’s values and leads to action that brings on a new set of values.
We might become so used to doing things in a particular way that we are unwilling to change even if someone shows us a better way of doing the same thing. These parables are calling us to Newness and to sacrifice what we are for what we can become.