An Ignatian Reflection on the feast of Pope John XXIII
In his dictated Autobiography, Ignatius describes how after his wounds were healed, he possessed a deep desire to journey to the Holy Land, and to live in that part of the world for the remainder of his days. Such was his wish, and conviction that this was what God wanted him to do, until the Franciscan guardian and Provincial, who had jurisdiction over the Christians in the Holy Land, told him quite emphatically that he could not remain there for a variety of practical reasons: he could be kidnapped, held for ransom, or even be killed. He did not know the language. Who would support him, etc.? He is profoundly disappointed, but he obeys. This action by Ignatius illustrates the grace of giving correction & grace of receiving correction
Occasions of Ignatius receiving correction in other contexts can also be found in his Autobiography. For example, after he begins his studies in Spain, the Inquisition forbade him to teach w/o degree. And so, Ignatius refrained from this activity.
He has the grace to receive correction.
Today’s Gospel reading from the 11th Chapter of St. Luke illustrates Jesus demonstrating the grace of giving correction:
“Oh you Pharisees! Although you cleanse the outside of the cup and the dish, inside you are filled with plunder and evil.
You fools! Did not the maker of the outside also make the inside?
But as to what is within, give alms, and behold, everything will be clean for you.”
Jesus demonstrates this grace in this story and also on many other occasions. And Jesus exercises this grace as a strategy always to increase the faith and love in the recipient.
Pope St. John XXIII, whose feast we celebrate today on the 60th anniversary of the opening of Vatican Council II, also demonstrates this grace in his labor for renewing the Church through this Ecumenical Council.
John exercised this grace not to right what is wrong. But rather to re-focus the Church on what is essential in our faith & our practice of it, so that the secondary or incidental beliefs and symbols do not obscure or diminish what is essential. For example, aspects of religious life before Vatican II were perhaps too focused on exterior religious habits—what one wears or the specific patterns of community life.
In the Sacramental life of the Church and in celebrating the Eucharist oftentimes what was of essence was perhaps obscured by too many symbols and minor rituals.
John always put the focus on Christ to whom our essential focus belongs.
John demonstrated the boldness, clarity, and strength of giving correction to the Church, i.e. re-focusing the Church on its proper direction, like Jesus challenging and re-focusing the Pharisees on what is truly essential.
In following the example of Jesus, Pope John, and Ignatius Loyola, may we also be attentive to the graces of giving and receiving correction in our lives, always as a strategy to increase faith and love.
Fr. Kevin Leidich, a native of San Francisco is an experienced Spiritual Director and has been a member of the JRC Pastoral Staff since August 2014.