With his gaze on the Heroic Christ

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Ignatians Fix their Gaze on the Heroic Christ

Ignatians follow a Heroic Leader who came into this world to battle for the world’s salvation. His first battle with Satan occurred even before he began his public life for he had marched into the desert as the hero goes to face clear and immediate danger: “Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil. He fasted for forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was hungry. The tempter approached…” (Mt. 4: 1-11).

All this he endured for our sakes: “it was our weaknesses that he carried; it was our sorrows that weighed him down….he was pierced through for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities…and by his wounds we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:4-5).  Great Christians have never ceased to be moved by his suffering in our place: “I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and offered his life up for my sake” (Gal.2:20). The great Handel while composing his “Messiah” on the basis of texts such as Isaiah 53 was found with tears covering his face. How can we not love and want to follow Christ who goes forth as a champion to represent all of humanity and suffer in the battle with the forces of darkness?

But although he went ahead of you to gain the merits for your salvation and win for you the assurance of final victory, he asks you to be his co-operator, fellow soldier, companion in the struggle. As priest or seminarian you are called to follow in his footsteps: to go into the seminary, to go into the priesthood ready to take on Satan, the world and the flesh in hand to hand combat not just for your own salvation but for the souls of your people.  By accepting the suffering implied in struggle against temptations you  fulfill your mission: “In my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ on behalf of his body, which is the Church” (Col 1:24)

Is the price high? Yes. But what you are fighting for is the “pearl of great price” for which everything else must be sold!

You, then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus, and what you have heard from me through many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. (2 Tim 2:1-3)

And yet He who calls you to fight also assures you of strength and consolation during the fight:

“Come to me all you who labor and are heavy burdened and I will give you rest. Shoulder my yoke and learn from me for I am meek and gentle of heart and you will find rest for your souls. Yes, my yoke is easy and my burden light.” (Mt.11:28-29)

So Christ doesn’t deny that there is a burden but he assures you that it becomes mysteriously light when accepted because you receive his strength through the prayerful reception of Holy Communion and Confession.

Confidence!

That must be the attitude of the Christian who knows that Christ has already conquered the Axis of Evil. He who once told us: “I am with you always even unto the end of the age” (Mt.28:20) also said “Be brave! I have conquered the world!” (Jn.16:33). There is nothing to be afraid of “for the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world” (1 John 4:4): this was the truth the early Christian martyrs lived and died by:“How gladly was Christ there present! How willingly did he fight and conquer in such servants as these, for he protects the faith of his believers, giving them all the strength each trusts to receive. He was the ally in his own battle; he uplifted those who fought for the glory of his name; he strengthened them and them courage. He who once and for all conquered death for us, in us ever is victorious.”

 “God looks on, his angels look on, Christ, too, looks on as we struggle and strive in the contest of faith. What great dignity and glory are ours, what happiness to join battle in the presence of God, and to be crowned by Christ our Judge! Let us be armed with a great determination and, pure in heart, sound in faith, and full of courage, be prepared to face the combat.”

The Christian who knows that Christ has already conquered the Axis of Evil

He who once said to us “I am with you always even unto the end of time”(??) also said “Be brave! I have conquered the world!” (??). There is nothing to be afraid of  “for the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world”(1 John 4:4). 

“It is required of us that we proclaim in Spirit and in power that Jesus has overcome all powers, and that henceforth he is the one, true Lord and that there is nothing to be afraid of, It is very important, while the struggle is still going on and the dragon seems to have the upper hand, that the Church should raise the triumph-shout of victory: “Now have salvation and power come, and kingdom of our God and the authority of his Anointed One.  For the accuser of our brothers is cast out, who accuses them before our God day and night.  But they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb” (Rev 12:10-11).  By the purity of faith that it implies, this shout raised in the darkness makes satan’s throne tremble to its foundations.” (Raniero Cantalamessa, The Holy Spirit)

The Battle is not only your’s: Christ  is at your side

In the moment of temptation, with the psalmist you can cry out “ My God, my rock,my fortress, my savior”

“‘So do I,’ said Gandalf. ‘And I wonder many other things. Good-bye now! Take care of yourself! Look out for me, especially at unlikely times! Good-bye!” p 40 of LOR

Trust not in your own merely natural powers but in the power of grace:

Recall the truth  (and not the emotion) on which your spiritual life is built: “I am with you always” (??)

Especially you, priest , seminarian, who have heard the special call of Christ to be one of the successors of the apostles.

This lack of focus will be conquered when there is that greater ‘yes’ burning within you, the love for God and souls.

Speaking of the early Christian martyrs, a Father of the Church wrote: “How gladly was Christ there present! How willingly did he fight and conquer in such servants as these, for he protects the faith of his believers, giving them all the strength each trusts to receive. He was the ally in his own battle; he uplifted those who fought for the glory of his name; he strengthened them and them courage. He who once and for all conquered death for us, in us ever is victorious.” (From Epistle 10 of the letters of St.Cyprian, quoted in the Office of Readings for the 13th of August, the feast-day of Sts. Pontianus Pope and Hippolytus, Priest, Martyrs)

“God looks on, his angels look on, Christ, too, looks on as we struggle and strive in the contest of faith. What great dignity and glory are ours, what happiness to join battle in the presence of God, and to be crowned by Christ our Judge! Let us be armed with a great determination and, pure in heart, sound in faith, and full of courage, be prepared to face the combat.”  ( From the responsory for the office of readings breviary for August 13th, Feast of Sts Pontian and Hippolytus)

Joseph Conrad went to sea as a boy. One day, the captain was teaching him to steer the ship. Suddenly a storm blew up. Instead of taking the wheel from Joseph, the captain shouted instructions to him: “Laddie, keep her pointed into the wind! Laddie, keep her pointed into the wind!”  Jesus said: “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me … and they shall never die.” JOHN 10:27 28.