Note: as requested, a homily about St. Ignatius of Loyola. This homily was given by Sch. Jovan Chua SJ on the 4th day of the novena masses of St. Ignatius.
My dear sisters and brothers, today is the fourth Novena Mass in honor of our model & founder of the Society of Jesus, St. Ignatius. As we continue this nine day celebration, I’d like to share with you something inevitable in our life, and that is making choices. The beginning of St. Ignatius’ conversion from a worldly life to a God-centered life started with a choice. Yes, he started in making a choice. He chose to make his life an instrument of God. He chose to be a man of God.
Today, we are faced with so many choices. We are given so many choices on products, services, education, and so on…. Coke or Pepsi? Lady’s Choice or Best Foods? Globe or Smart? SM or Robinson’s? Kapuso o Kapamilya? Ateneo or La Salle? My point is, in any case, small or big situation, ordinary or special cases, we have to make a decision, we have to make a choice. We have to answer a question, “To do this or to do that?”, “To be or not to be? But my dear sisters and brothers, the basic question is “TO LOVE OR NOT TO LOVE?” We have the freedom to choose.
In our gospel today, the disciples of Jesus decided to pick the heads of grain on a Sabbath. They made a choice. Jesus further mentions David’s decision of going into the house of God, eating the bread of offering. David had to make a choice. And he made one. In both situations, they chose what is more life-giving. They chose what is more loving./ Even as a Jesuit scholastic, though bounded by some rules, we still have choices. To study or not study? To pray or not pray? To confess or not confess? To sleep early or not? To exercise or not? To be transparent to our Superiors or not? To fully give ourselves to the formation or not? To be sensitive to the needs of others or not? To be faithful to our Vows or not?
St. Ignatius started in making a choice – to continue his worldly life or imitate the lives of the saints. St. Ignatius started to ask himself, “What if I am to do what St. Francis did, or do what St. Dominic did?” He started to make a choice. He had the freedom to choose. At one point of his pilgrimage to Jerusalem, he chose to exchange his clothes to a poor man. He began thinking less of himself and more of others. He made a choice between loving and not loving…And he chose to love. He chose to give life to others.
My dear friends, we may have encountered questions like: ”What if I give my old clothes to the poor?” “What if I give something to a relief operation?” “What if I offer a prayer for peace in our country?” “What if I join our Parish Pastoral Council?” “What if I visit a sick old friend?” For these questions, we made a choice and we still can make a choice. Are we choosing to love? We Jesuits believe that we left everything and everyone, even our families and friends, because we also chose to love.//
God doesn’t force us. God invites us but gives us the decision whether to accept it or not. God is so loving that even though he wants us always to follow His ways, He still gives us the choice. St. Ignatius had all the freedom to choose. He was never forced by God. But certainly because of God’s love, St. Ignatius came to realize what will give him true happiness. From God’s love “sprang the enthusiasm of St. Ignatius for the salvation of men”. For this, he chose to leave his family and friends, he chose to beg for food, he chose to do great penance, he chose to be immersed in prayer – all of these he endured not because God was telling him to do it but because he chose to love.
And so, the question of St. Ignatius became a statement: “St. Dominic did this, so I have to do it too. St. Francis did this, so I have to do it too.” In the end, the question remains, “TO LOVE OR NOT TO LOVE?” It’s up to us whether we are going to live our lives just for our selves or for Christ. St. Ignatius chose to do the things which are pleasing to God. He was able to reciprocate God’s gift of freedom by continuously choosing the things that would make him more a man of God.
So, my dear sisters and brothers, in this novena Mass we include in our prayers that God continue to guide us in our decisions – that in the end we are making the right choice, and we can easily be guided if we always choose to love.
*Jovan Chua SJ (right) is a Junior at Loyola House of Studies. Every year, the Juniors share their insights about St. Ignatius of Loyola in the novena masses at the Loyola campus. Sometimes they are invited to share even at the professional schools like Ateneo Rockwell. The picture above is theologian Karel San Juan SJ being conferred with the Ministry of Reader and Acolyte on St. Ignatius Day 2007. These ministries are needed before Ordination.