Contemplatives in action
GOD’S WORD TODAY - Ruben M. Tanseco S.J. (The Philippine Star) - August 10, 2014 - 12:00am

In today’s Gospel reading, we experience the person of Jesus as THE Contemplative In Action. After his inspired teachings and compassionate miracles of curing the sick, about five thousand people kept following him. They were in a deserted place, and it was already evening. Moved with love for them, he performed still another miracle -— the multiplication of loaves and fishes.

“After doing so, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray” (Mt. 14:23). This period of total silence and solitude with his heavenly Father was again followed by pastoral, loving action, as he joined his apostles and gifted Peter with courage and faith. Such was the cycle of Jesus’ love-life. Contemplation, and then action. Over and over again.

“When the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified. ‘It is a ghost,’ they said, and they cried out in fear. At once, Jesus spoke to them, ‘Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid’” (vv. 26-27). Peter then asked Jesus to make him walk through the water toward him. But as Peter was doing this, he got frightened when a strong wind came, and he began to sink. “’Lord, save me!’ Immediately Jesus stretched out his hand and caught him, and said to him, ‘O you of little faith, why did you doubt?’” (vv.30-31). Thus, gradually, courage and faith motivated Peter to also be a contemplative in action, all the way to sainthood.

This spirituality of Jesus that he passed on to his apostles and disciples is what Ignatius of Loyola also embraced, both in his own life and in what was later published as the Spiritual Exercises. This ultimately led Ignatius to sainthood. And since it was the feastday of St. Ignatius just this past July 31, I am inspired to share with our readers his miraculous conversion.

The Spanish family of Ignatius belonged to the class of the nobility, and as such, were also wealthy. But as a young soldier, he was seriously injured in the leg during a battle in Pamplona against the French, and went through a very serious and painful operation. During his prolonged convalescence in their family castle, Divine Providence led him to start reading the lives of saints, and this was how his dramatic spiritual conversion started. Later on, when he was able to walk again, he went on a pilgrimage at the shrine of Our Lady of Montserrat. From there, he was led by the Holy Spirit to Manresa, where he stayed for several months in prayerful silence and solitude. He was also blessed by mystical visions that finally made him decide to change his whole life — from a secular worldly soldier to a contemplative, poor soldier of Christ. He was finally ordained to the priesthood after many tough years of studies at his age. With a small group of companions, he eventually formed a new religious order, the Society of Jesus, and the very charism which he handed down to his followers was precisely to be contemplatives in action, inspired by the very person and life of Jesus Christ.

The climax of this in today’s world is nothing more and nothing less than creation-centered spirituality. Taken from the “Contemplation to Attain The Love of God” of the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius, let me quote a part which is most relevant to this: “Contemplate with great affection how God dwells in creatures: in the elements giving them existence, in the plants giving them life, in the animals conferring upon them sensation, in man bestowing understanding. So he dwells in me and gives me being, life, sensation, intelligence; and makes a temple of me, since I am created in the likeness and image of God.” This is preceded by contemplating the many blessings that God has given me, and my response of offering to Him all that I am and have. It ends with contemplating on how God works and labors in all of creation, so that moved with deep gratitude, I now offer myself to Him in love and service for the rest of my life. (#235).

I cannot help but conclude how ecumenical and interfaith Ignatian spirituality is. All of humanity belongs to the one and the same loving Creator, whatever institutional religion we belong to. We are all interconnected and interrelated to one another; we are all brothers and sisters under the one, universal Father of the whole universe. This should be our lifelong mission and goal : international unity.

In this connection, I want to express my respect and appreciation for the recent 100th anniversary celebration of the Iglesia ni Cristo. Their dedication as a religious institution must not be ignored. Likewise, let me respect and appreciate the recent celebration of our numerous Muslim brothers and sisters, Eid al-Fitr, with their monthlong Ramadan fasting and praying. Last Sunday, our Aglipayan church (Iglesia Filipina Independiente) celebrated their 112th anniversary. This Filipinized Christian Church is a striking example of religious inculturation. Congratulations!

We are now one hundred million fellow Filipinos. Let us continue to pray and work toward greater unity, solidarity, love and service for one another. Let our one, universal, ever-loving Creator be our constant companion, within each one of us, and all around us. Amen.


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