23 October 2008 Thursday of the 29th Week in Ordinary Time
Ephesians 3, 14-21; Psalm 33; Luke 12, 29-53
The phrase, “for the greater glory of God” has become common to many who grew up with Jesuits and those who share the spirituality of St. Ignatius of Loyola. Many Ateneans would place, on top of their papers the letters, AMDG, meaning: “Ad majorem Dei gloriam” (for the greater glory of God). However, though a common practice, I feel that this term needs some explaining. I think the readings today sheds light to it.
In the first reading, Paul prays that the Lord will bestow on us gifts “in keeping with the riches of his glory” so that, in return, the gifts that we have reflect and mirror the “breath and length and height and depth of Christ’s love, and experience this love which surpasses all knowledge.” In other words, in order for us to experience, though never totally, a taste of the immensity and boundless glory of God, we have to be very aware of the gifts that the Lord personally bestowed on us.
Especially in the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius, the retreat begins by being sensitive to these gifts of God. We are asked to reflect on everything we have and are, our talents and abilities, our relationships and opportunities. We are made aware of God’s creation around us. To see that the birds and the flowers and the grass are all gifts. And eventually, to see the whole universe and everything in it as gifts of God for us. Gerald Manley Hopkins once said that the world is charged with the grandeur of God. This is what we are led to experienced. And thus, Ignatius would ask the one who is making the retreat to pray the desire (id quod vollo) and grace of gratitude. And when we are able to be sensitive to all of these gifts, the overflowing gratitude allows us to glimpse God’s glory.
Thus, in response to this experience, we respond in the same way. Just as God has given us gifts, we respond in love and gratitude to Him. When these gifts are used for the sake of a specific community, we give glory to God who gave that gift to us. When we develop our talents, we show gratitude for the talents given. At the same time, the effort we place in progressing is our contribution to God’s ongoing creation of us. This is how we grow and mature. So, when we study, we reflect the intelligence of God. When we play the piano, we reflect the Source of our music. When we post beautiful pictures on the net, we reflect God’s beauty. When we act kindly, we reflect God’s goodness.
When we say ‘AMDG’, we mean that whatever we do will reflect God’s glory. If we will be in a competition and we say that our abilities will be offered for God’s greater glory, then whether we win or not, we continue to reflect it. If we win, then we mirror God’s greatness through our talents. If we lose, then we mirror God’s love through the value of sportsmanship and friendship.
I think many of us miss the point of sportsmanship. And this is a disease for both the winners and the losers. On one hand, many of us have a doctorate in sour graping. Think for example many instances when schools compete. There is always a complaint from the losers or when one goes down a few notch and another goes up. We scour the universe to justify our loss. On the other hand, think for example the attitude of those who won, who in a bonfire, wrote the names of those they beat — in poor taste, very uncivilized, very uncouth, very unChristian. I would be very happy if they stop writing AMDG on their papers — or perhaps, if they really love the school, deny that they have been schooled there. This would spare the many better people the shame.
Win or lose, what matters is character. Who we are should mirror who God is.