Friday, July 31, 2015

Take a Deeper Look

By Colleen O’Sullivan

Jesus came to his native place and taught the people in their synagogue.  They were astonished and said, “Where did this man get such wisdom and mighty deeds?  Is he not the carpenter’s son?  Is not his mother named Mary and his brothers James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas?  Are not his sisters all with us?  Where did this man get all this?”  And they took offense at him.  But Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his native place and in his own house.”  And he did not work many mighty deeds there because of their lack of faith.   (Matthew 13:54-58)


When we disclose something of ourselves to another in trust and love, we are sharing in God's revelation to the beloved Son.  When we listen with loving attention to another who speaks of what is deepest in life, we understand a little more the Son's listening attention to Abba." (from Orientations, John Veltri, SJ)


In the long run, not many of us are who we seem to be at a first glance.  People make assumptions about us based on initial impressions.  And sometimes they never take time for a second, deeper look.  Jesus knew what that was like.  He came from Nazareth, a village without distinction if we go by the remark in John’s Gospel, “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” (John 1:46)  Maybe the villagers themselves felt downtrodden, as though they really did live on the wrong side of the tracks.  In today’s Gospel, along comes one of their own, preaching and teaching with wisdom and authority.  Maybe they’re jealous, but they see Jesus as getting above himself and being pretentious.  Who does he think he is?  His father was only a carpenter and his mother just one of the many Mary’s living there.  What makes him think he’s so special?  They truly had no idea who it was who decided to just travel on to more fertile ground.  They never gave him a second thought.

As I thought about St. Ignatius, I wondered what his sister-in-law thought about him when she had to take care of the wounded 26-year-old Inigo, as he was known then.  (She and her husband lived in the Loyola family home.)  She knew all about him; how, lacking any hope of inheriting land, he had been sent to serve as a page at another nobleman’s court and how he had gone on to become a soldier. She knew about his reputation as a ladies’ man.  Hit in the leg with a cannon ball during a battle in Pamplona and carried home to rest and recover, he displayed his vanity about his appearance when he insisted on having his poorly set leg re-broken and operated on again.  Bored with staying in bed, Inigo asked for a novel of a popular genre, a knightly romance, but this was not a home given to reading of such a frivolous nature.  Instead, he was given a life of Christ and a book on the lives of the saints.  I would imagine his brother’s wife was not too impressed with him at this point.

No one would have imagined that this restless, wounded man would go on to spend his life developing and perfecting his well-known Spiritual Exercises or that people today would still be using them to grow closer to Jesus.  They would have laughed at the idea that he would go on to found a religious order or that a few centuries later there would be Jesuit schools all over the world.  Our assumptions about others are often fairly limited in scope.  But God sees what we can be, and God stepped in at this point and rechanneled the zeal of Inigo, who was beginning to realize that he found more satisfaction in thinking about doing great things for God than in all his daydreams about pretty girls.

What I especially like about St. Ignatius is his humanity.  He wasn’t perfect; he made mistakes and took some wrong turns in his attempts to serve God, but he owned up to them and learned from them.  Serving God was what really mattered to him, so much so that he could send one of his closest friends far away as a missionary, knowing they would likely never see each other again.  He was willing to spend many years doing administrative and desk work, which weren’t his favorite pastimes, for the good of the order.  And one could never underestimate the power or genius of St. Ignatius’ Spiritual Exercises.


When have you allowed your assumptions about someone to limit your appreciation of the totality of his or her gifts and graces?  When have you felt that someone made a quick judgment about you and didn’t see you for who you really are?  Pray for the ability to listen to others as Jesus listened to his Father, to truly know the other.

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