"Remember, I am with you always to the end of the age" (Mt 28:20)

DAY XIII: "Having Nothing Yet Having It All" (JULY 30)

Ignatius in tears
Thirteenth Rule of the Discernment of Spirits: Our enemy may also be compared in his manner of acting to a false lover. He seeks to remain hidden and does not want to be discovered. If such a lover speaks with evil intention to the daughter of a good father, or to the wife of a good husband, and seeks to seduce them, he wants his words and solicitations kept secret. He is greatly displeased if his evil suggestions and depraved intentions are revealed by the daughter to her father, or by the wife to her husband. Then he readily sees he will not succeed in what he has begun. In the same way, when the enemy of our human nature tempts a just soul with his wiles and seductions, he earnestly desires that they be received secretly and kept secret. But if one manifests them to a confessor, or to some other spiritual person who understands his deceits and malicious designs, the evil one is very much vexed. For he knows that he cannot succeed in his evil undertaking, once his evident deceits have been revealed. (SE 326)

There is a story told of a very rich landowner and slaveholder. One night he dreamed that the richest man in the valley would die the next day. Immediately he instructed one of his slaves, a man with a deep love for God, to harness the horse and take him to his lawyer's office in the city. At their arrival, the master signed away a portion of his property over which he and a rival had fought for years. He giggly confided in the slave that he could rest happy that night, as his land transfer meant he was no longer the richest man in the valley, his enemy was. The next day he climbed back into the carriage to head towards home. But no body was on the driver's seat, because the richest man in the valley had already died.

Do not be deceived like the rich landlord who thought that having money was having wealth. It was St. Paul who wrote to an affluent church of Corinth the line, "to have nothing yet have it all." Ever in human history, the enemy of human nature has been at work 24/7 to mislead. St. Ignatius calls our attention to this "false lover" once again who hides its blackest sins and does things always in secret. Like a malignant virus, this false lover constantly mutates to appear different and desirable each time to its target host previously infected with its old virus strain. If we do not have the habit of good soul hygiene and discernment of spirits, our soul will sooner or later succumb to the disease.

There are three ways to a good soul hygiene.
I. First is to lose everything. The way up is down. There is a saying, you never know what you've got till it's gone. We do not have to take this very literally though, far from it. For St. Ignatius it means holy indifference and detachment from everything that is not God. Detachment exposes the enemy. That includes even detachment from our own lives. "For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it" (Mt 16:25). The saint told his companions, "Let them tear my body into a thousand pieces, and let me be kept in the fires of Purgatory until the Last Judgment, I shall rest satisfied, provided that at such a price I succeed in causing one sinner to love God." The wiles of the Devil is to erase in our mind this sole end of our human existence on earth, i.e., that we are God's and we belong to God alone throughout our earthly sojourn and the next.

II. Second, be humble always. Humility is poison to the Devil. He is master of deceit for he would always lord it over his own angels that he is right and God is wrong. A humble heart is not self-conceited, it is other-oriented. The first saint to write about degrees of humility was St. Benedict of Nursia, the father of western monasticism, he prescribed the twelve degrees of humility. In the Spiritual Exercises, St. Ignatius had three degrees but all-encompasing. St. Ignatius once told about being praised by his companions. "Those who praise me, scourge me," he said. This is not a form of false humility, but self-denial at its deepest degree. He placed every one far above him and reputed himself the least. He once quipped, "Every one in the house sets me an example of virtue, I am only scandalized at myself... Each of my brethren possesses the qualities which I am devoid of, there is not one who is not a cause of confusion to me. I never have occasion to treat of the things of God with the greatest sinners without receiving much profit for myself."

III. Third, be grateful always. If humility is poison to the Devil, gratitude is the final nail in the coffin. For Ignatius, to be grateful is in fact, first, acceptance that we are under an obligation to someone. It is always good to be grateful, it is the door to the divine. Secondly, gratitude cannot be kept in secret, it naturally bursts forth. The most thoughtful among all hearts is the most grateful heart. Being all-knowing, God is a thoughtful God and that makes Him a grateful God. Ultimately, the model of a grateful heart is the Sacred Heart of Jesus who thinks of us with much affection and gratitude each time we do not fall astray. Just imagine what He would do the moment He sees one of us getting lost, he would not hesitate to lay down his life for us, like the Good Shepherd towards his sheep. "Considering by the light of Divine goodness," St. Ignatius says, "that of all evils and sins, ingratitude is in my judgment one of the things most deserving of abomination in the sight of God."

All these three ways are intertwined. To lose everything which this current pandemic is now trying to do to us, as Pope Francis said, could be a moment of grace for personal conversion. "Having nothing, nothing can he lose" (Henry VI, Part III, III, iii, 152). There is no room for ingratitude in the heart of that person who, despite having lost everything, realises one's truest treasures in life. There is neither room for self-entitlement which is a wrong way of receiving a gift. This is an attitude that most of us adhere to in some form or another. In the church's parlance, this is "clericalism" or that assumption that we deserve the good life, that our efforts should be rewarded. But when all is taken away from us, the truth comes out, we deserve nothing.

The Gift Of Tears
“Heaven knows we need never be ashamed of our tears, for they are rain upon the blinding dust of earth, overlying our hard hearts. I was better after I had cried, than before―more sorry, more aware of my own ingratitude, more gentle" (Charles Dickens, Great Expectations). When we are in pain for hitting rock bottom, it is natural to cry to "lessen the depth of grief." And when we are grateful we burst into tears of joy. After that we feel much better. Tears are good for one's soul hygiene. Have a good cry once in a while. St. Ignatius was so much blest with the gift of tears. "The tears which I shed today seemed to me very different from those which I shed other days. They followed slowly and gently, without noise or agitation; they proceeded from a source which is so deep that I do not know how to explain it. Everything excited me to love God, both the interior word, and what I heard from without; but these Divine words had a certain harmony which so penetrated my innermost soul that I am unable to express it" (ON DIVINE GRACES 317). Fr. JM Manzano, SJ

Ninth day of our Novena of Grace in honour of St. Ignatius of Loyola
Repeat this prayer for nine successive days. The first novena happened between the Feast of the Ascension and Pentecost, when the disciples gathered in the upper room and devoted themselves to prayer.

Suscipe (Prayer by St. Ignatius)
Take, O Lord, and receive
all my liberty, my memory,
my understanding and my entire will. All I have and call my own. Thou hast given all to me, to Thee, O Lord, I return it. Everything belongs to Thee; do with it as Thou wilt. Give me only the love of Thee and with it Thy grace, that is enough for me. Amen.

With St. Ignatius we pray:
Soul of Christ, sanctify me.
Body of Christ, save me.
Blood of Christ, inebriate me.
Water from the side of Christ, wash me.
Passion of Christ, strengthen me.
O Good Jesus, hear me.
Within Thy wounds hide me.
Suffer me not to be separated from Thee.
From the malignant enemy defend me.
In the hour of my death call me.
And bid me come unto Thee,
That with all Thy saints,
I may praise Thee
Forever and ever.

St. Ignatius of Loyola, pray for us.