The Office of Stewardship
“Jesus said to his disciples, ‘The Kingdom of heaven is like a treasure buried in a field, which a person finds and hides again, and out of joy goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.'” Matthew 13:44-45
Today is the Feast of St. Ignatius of Loyola, one of my favorite saints and one who has taught me many things over the years. When I read today’s Gospel, it was one of those moments when you say, “Wow! Only God could have planned it so well.” The Gospel today is from Matthew (13:44-46) and, to me, it sums up the life and teaching of St. Ignatius, who gave himself wholeheartedly to the service of God and His Church. St. Ignatius certainly saw the Kingdom as the treasure worth giving his all for. Almost 500 years later, we are still being enriched and guided by his wisdom, just one of the fruits of his saintly life .
For example, in his Spiritual Exercises, he suggests a meditation on “The Two Standards.” As a military man, he was familiar with the standards, or flags, of leaders that were carried into battle and acted as a rallying point for the army. To stand under someone’s standard was to be a put yourself at their service and to commit yourself to their cause. In this meditation, St. Ignatius invites retreatants to imagine what it is to live under two very different standards — that of being under the standard of Jesus, whom he calls “the sovereign and true commander”, versus being under that of the Evil One, who “lays snares for men and binds them with chains”. Of course, as committed Christians, we want to plant ourselves firmly under the banner of Jesus, committed to Him and to living under His standard. But the reality is, sometimes we drift away and find ourselves outside of Christ’s camp.
How does this happen? And what do we do about it?
A year or two ago, Fr. Mark McCormick shared with me some wisdom he had gained from Fr. John Horn, SJ. In the words of Fr. Horn, when we are firmly under the standard of Jesus we experience a sense of communion with others; we are filled with courage and hope, humility and happiness.
By contrast, when we find ourselves under the “standard of Satan”, we experience division, unbelief and unforgiveness. We find ourselves entertaining doubts, feeling discouragement, experiencing disappointment and perhaps even feeling despair. We have a sense of inadequacy and tend to isolate ourselves and feel alone.
But if our desire is to be firmly rooted in Christ, why do we find ourselves sometimes experiencing these fruits of being under the Standard of Satan? Fr. Horn suggests that when we experience fears, doubts, angers and sorrows in life, we are vulnerable to the temptation to hide them, to withdraw into ourselves and into our pain. When we do this, Satan is able to use our pain to bind us. By contrast, when we share our fears, doubts, angers and sorrows with Jesus and allow Him into our pain, He brings healing and uses our suffering to draw us closer to Himself and others.
Having this knowledge and applying it in my life has been a great blessing to me, allowing me to recognize the temptations which pull at me in an attempt to draw me out from under the Standard of Christ. Armed with this recognition, I am better equipped to fight the temptation and remain firmly rooted in Jesus.
St. Ignatius, pray for us.
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