Bishop Ambo David
If you have not yet watched the film "Ignacio de Loyola", which is currently showing in town, I advise you to see it as soon as possible! To enjoy it fully, I also advise you to stay till the very end of the credits and you'll feel mighty proud that such a beautiful production was done by Filipinos. You'll read the names of Paolo Dy, Nono Alfonso SJ, Rene Javellana SJ, Mike Idioma, Ryan Cayabyab, etc.The film is about the conversion story of Iñigo, a proud soldier of the Loyola family who was obsessed with soldiering and the romance of knighthood. How his dreams of worldly glory were shattered after experiencing a defeat while fighting at the battle of Pamplona and suffering a terrible injury on his leg, having been hit by a cannon ball. How he experienced a spiritual soul-searching that gradually transformed him from soldiering for earthly kingdoms to soldiering for God's kingdom, under the standard of Jesus Christ. It was his experience as a soldier that made him understand the greater battle that needs to be fought on earth: the spiritual warfare. Eph6:12 "For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms." Drawing from his past experience as a war strategist, Ignatius of loyola sought to understand the ways of the evil one, the spiritual enemy, through a discipline of prayer and discernment.He recorded his own spiritual struggle as he went through that process of conversion, going on a pilgrimage trading places with a beggar, and retreating at a cave in Manresa. He has immortalized his insights on the art of fighting the spiritual battle in his spiritual exercises. It was for this little manual that the Jesuits have become known all over the world as spiritual directors, retreat facilitators and even as exorcists. They are not that keen anymore on playing a prominent role in the ministry of exorcism, largely because of the tendency to associate devil possession with holywoodish cinematic manifestations a-la Linda Blair. Exorcism, now often regarded as a magical esoteric ritual by the misinformed, has always been practiced by the Jesuits in the context of serious spiritual direction and the art of discernment of the movement of the spirits. A person may look totally normal but be "possessed" or under the spell of evil spirits in his thoughts and decisions without realizing it.
The climax of Ignatius' conversion is summed up by a Latin word SUSCIPE, the first word of the prayer which is at the core of his teachings on Christian discipleship. Because it connotes a giving up, some people misunderstand it to mean surrender to God, probably on account of his military background. Actually it comes close to it but is not exactly equivalent to it. The idea of SURRENDER to God is closer to the Islamic spirituality. But it has the negative connotation of defeat. Ignatius' SUSCIPE is positive. It is not surrender but self- oblation, total self-offering or self-giving to God. It is never against one's will as in surrender. It is voluntary. Much like Mary's fiat, in response to God's total self giving to us in Jesus Christ. "Take Lord, receive all my liberty, my memory, understanding, my entire will. You have given all to me, now I return it..." It is not a surrender but a response to God's love, God's total and unconditional Love. Faith is a mere response to that love. (It is not even possible without first being awakened to the immensity of God's love.) As in the Gospel, discipleship begins with an invitation: "Come and see for yourself", meaning to taste and see the goodness of God. It is only after realizing God's graciousness and generosity to us that we learn to respond by living our lives with generosity. That's the title of yet another prayer that goes with Ignatius' SUSCIPE: a prayer of generosity. "Dearest Lord, teach me to be generous, to serve you as I should, to give and not count the cost, to fight and not mind the wounds, to toil and not to seek for rest, to labor and not ask for reward..."In reality, even if the vocabulary of surrender seems very pious and noble, because it is against one's will it can lead to a feeling of exhaustion and weariness, as in the famous lament of Jeremiah. We give but begin to count the cost, we fight and heed the wounds, we toil and seek for rest, we labor and expect to be rewarded. Jeremiah seemed to have felt this way at the start: like he had been duped, seduced, overpowered by God. Because he thought it was forced on him or against his will, he began to lament, even to the point of sulking and resolving to shut up and no longer proclaim his word. It is then, he says, that a fire burns within him. The compulsion is not from outside but from within him. Jeremiah realizes:It's not like God had forced himself on me. He merely invited me and I said yes, and things have never been the same again. Like Paul, like Jeremiah, Ignatius also began to see as loss what the world considers as gain. What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses his soul..?What treasure had Ignatius found in exchange for what he had given up? Nothing but God's love and his grace, nothing but the pleasure itself of knowing and doing the will of his king and master. Only that which leads to God's greater glory. AMDG "ad maiorem Dei Gloriam". This is the romanticism of Ignatius, God's knight in shining armor.Ignatius went by the principle of the magis. The more, the greater, aiming to give nothing but the best that I can give, the most that I can offer, nothing less. (It is therefore a sin to be mediocre for a Jesuit.) I seek no reward for serving God. Being at the disposal of my king, obeying, embracing his will as my own. That is its own reward.