Two Standards and Two Types of Fish, Memorial of St. Ignatius of Loyola, July 31, 2014

Fr. Roger J. Landry
St. Bernadette Parish, Fall River, MA
Thursday of the Seventeenth Week in Ordinary Time, Year II
Memorial of St. Ignatius of Loyola
July 31, 2014
Jer 18:1-6, Ps 146, Mt 13:47-53

To listen to an audio recording of today’s homily, please click below: 

 

The following points were attempted in the homily: 

  • There’s both good and bad fish in the net of the Church, like wheat and weeds in the field of the Church. We shouldn’t be shocked that we find in the Church people who are sinners, even occasionally people who are corrupt, unrepentant sinners. There are people within the Church, not to mention within society, who are living the type of life in which they’re being prepared to be tossed out where there is wailing and gnashing of teeth, who are the weeds fit for burning at the end. But Jesus preached this parable not fundamentally as an image of predestination, but of conversion, to awaken us and everyone to the fact that just because we’re in the Church doesn’t mean necessarily that we’re guaranteed heaven. It’s not enough to practice the faith on the outside. We have to be living it on the inside. We need to be seeking total communion with Christ.
  • God gives us a consoling image of the type of conversion to which he is calling us in today’s first reading. He sends Jeremiah to see the work of the potter, fashioning and refashioning the clay and says that that is what he wants to do in us. He wants to form us more and more into his image and likeness. Even if we’re not happy with who we are right now, even if we know he’s not happy, the potter’s wheel is still spinning and God with his master hand wants to shape us more and more into the persons he created us to be.
  • These two images from Sacred Scripture today help us to understand much better the life of the saint we celebrate today. Until he was 30, St. Ignatius sought worldly honor for placate his vanity on the battlefield. But then, in a battle, he had his left leg shattered by a cannonball, and that was the best thing that could have happened to him. While he was convalescing, after exhausting all the romances and knights’ tales he had in his castle, he read a book on the lives of the saints and was pierced by his own shallowness in compared to their substance. He was moved by the saints’ valor and heroism. He grasped that they were fighting the good fight in the battle that counted most. And he asked one of the most important questions in the history of hagiography: “Why can’t I do what Francis of Assisi did? Why can’t I do what Dominic of Guzman did?” He knew that they were men just like him, but men who said yes to God, men who gave the Master Potter permission to form them for what he needed most. And Ignatius made the commitment to serve the true King. His transformation was arduous. He spent nine months in a cave in Manresa praying, turning his wish into a firm will, allowing God to do the difficult work of melting his worldly ways into clay that could be reformed. The interior struggles he went through as he pondered his sinfulness and Christ’s beauty eventually became his famous Spiritual Exercises, the most popular and influential retreat manual in history. He then knew he would need an education to be of much use, so, in his 30s, he returned to grammar school with young children in order to learn Latin before going for advanced degrees in universities. It was at the famous University of Paris that he met the other first Jesuits, including his roommate, the future St. Francis Xavier, and he helped them to become good clay in the master’s hands and the master’s apprentices in literally re-forming the Church after the scandals that led to the Protestant Reformation.
  • One of the key climaxes of the Spiritual Exercises is St. Ignatius’ meditation on the two standards or banners. He has us imagine we’re on a big battlefield and on one side there is the standard of Christ and on the other the standard of Satan. We have to choose one or the other. Christ is offering us a live of poverty, humility, self-denial, the Cross. Satan is offering us all the vanity and pleasures of the world. As fish, we need to swim toward one or the other. We have to choose. The Spiritual Exercises not only help us to choose Christ but to persevere in that choice.
  • At the end of today’s Gospel, Jesus mentions that the scribe instructed in the Kingdom is like the head of his household who takes from his storeroom both old and new. What it means is that when we convert to Christ, it’s not like we lose whatever was authentic in our lives before, but find the fulfillment of all of those things. For the scribes, the scholars of the Old Testament, once they learn about the Kingdom, about Jesus’ fulfilling their messianic hopes, they are able to take from their storeroom of prayer and study both “new and old” to live by and help others to live by. In the life of St. Ignatius, he was able to take from his storeroom all of his previous virtues of hard work, daring, courage, perseverance and put them to service with the new things that he had learned through prayer and study. The Lord wants to transform us in the same way. He doesn’t throw out our own experiences, but reforms them in the new clay pot that he continually seeks to perfect in us with our permission.
  • Today as we approach the Master Potter in this Mass, he wants to inspire us to be as docile in St. Ignatius in allowing him continually to form us. He wants us to make the commitment to persevere under his standard in the good fight. He wants us to ask: Why can’t I do what St. Francis, or St. Dominic, or St. Ignatius or St. Bernadette has done? He wants us to recognize that we can do in our own situation what they did in theirs, provided that like them, we will it. The same Lord who strengthened them has just taught us and is now about to feed us to fortify us with his very presence, his own holiness, on the inside.

The readings for today’s Mass were: 

Reading 1
JER 18:1-6

This word came to Jeremiah from the LORD:
Rise up, be off to the potter’s house;
there I will give you my message.
I went down to the potter’s house and there he was,
working at the wheel.
Whenever the object of clay which he was making
turned out badly in his hand,
he tried again,
making of the clay another object of whatever sort he pleased.
Then the word of the LORD came to me:
Can I not do to you, house of Israel,
as this potter has done? says the LORD.
Indeed, like clay in the hand of the potter,
so are you in my hand, house of Israel.

Responsorial Psalm
PS 146:1B-2, 3-4, 5-6AB

R. (5a) Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob.
or:
R. Alleluia.
Praise the LORD, O my soul;
I will praise the LORD all my life;
I will sing praise to my God while I live.
R. Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob.
or:
R. Alleluia.
Put not your trust in princes,
in the sons of men, in whom there is no salvation.
When his spirit departs he returns to his earth;
on that day his plans perish.
R. Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob.
or:
R. Alleluia.
Blessed he whose help is the God of Jacob,
whose hope is in the LORD, his God.
Who made heaven and earth,
the sea and all that is in them.
R. Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob.
or:
R. Alleluia.

Gospel
MT 13:47-53

Jesus said to the disciples:
“The Kingdom of heaven is like a net thrown into the sea,
which collects fish of every kind.
When it is full they haul it ashore
and sit down to put what is good into buckets.
What is bad they throw away.
Thus it will be at the end of the age.
The angels will go out and separate the wicked from the righteous
and throw them into the fiery furnace,
where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.”“Do you understand all these things?”
They answered, “Yes.”
And he replied,
“Then every scribe who has been instructed in the Kingdom of heaven
is like the head of a household who brings from his storeroom
both the new and the old.”
When Jesus finished these parables, he went away from there.