HOMILY WEEK 17 06 – Year I
Jubilee, Justice and Hope:
Memorial of St Ignatius of Loyola
(Lev 25:1-17; Ps 67; Mt 14:1-12)
Have you walked through a Holy Door during the Jubilee Year of Mercy?
Although that Jubilee Year ended in November of 2016, we are invited, as followers of Jesus, to live in rejoicing and gladness every day of our lives.
The idea of jubilee dates from the time of the Exodus, as we read in the first reading today. According to The Word Among Us, God instructed the Israelites to hold a jubilee every fifty years once they had settled in the Promised Land. It was meant to be a time when the land could rest, slaves would be freed, and all sins and debts would be forgiven. It was meant to be a reminder of God’s goodness to God’s people as well as an invitation for them to treat each other with mercy. Imagine the hope a jubilee year, when honored, gave to the poor, the unfortunate and the downtrodden who could look forward to a fresh start in life.
A consistent feature of a jubilee year was to be justice and honesty. People were supposed to treat each other fairly and never take advantage of another person. In the gospel that justice includes speaking truth to power, as St. John the Baptist did to King Herod in pointing out the immorality and unfairness of his actions. Fr. Andrew Britz OSB, former editor of the Prairie Messenger, did just that in many of his editorials that after his death became a book by that name.
Although the jubilee year has ended, as Christians we are living in a permanent state of jubilee because of Jesus death and resurrection: Jesus is risen; death is overcome; forgiveness of sins is always available; healing of soul and body is always possible; God’s mercy is always accessible to every person and in every land. We can now rest from our labors, especially from our vain attempts to make ourselves holy or to earn God’s love.
The idea of jubilee naturally carries with it the idea of a celebration, as the root of the word “jubilee” is the same as the root for the word “rejoice.” So why is it that we are not more joyful and free? Why are so many living under a cloud? Why are there so much fear and paranoia, depression and addiction in our society? As Henri Thoreau once claimed, many people are living lives of quiet desperation.
Perhaps it is because the evil one tries to whisper depressing, divisive and oppressive thoughts into our minds, trying to convince us we can’t be forgiven or that we have to earn God’s love, persistently trying to rob us of our joy and lead us into unbelief that so characterized the Jewish leadership in the time of Jesus.
Our response is to praise God for God’s goodness, as expressed by the psalm, and to hold fast to the truths that are the basis of jubilee: Jesus does not condemn us (Jn 8:11); nothing can separate us from God’s love (Rm 8:39), and Jesus calls us his children (1 Jn 3:1) as well as his friends (Jn 15:15). We have been loved, redeemed (forgiven), sanctified (healed), filled with the Spirit of the Risen Jesus and set free to love and to be loved. An entire age of jubilee is ours to celebrate!
Eddie Hecker, former Oblate, was in charge of the exhibition of a replica of the Shroud of Turin at a Ukrainian Catholic Church in Edmonton recently. He recounted how a coroner in Los Angeles told him he had conducted hundreds of autopsies on people who had died a violent death, and that the violence of their deaths was visible on all their faces. Looking at the shroud, he commented it was obvious this man had died a violent death, yet his face was totally at peace!
Jesus, on the cross, was totally at peace, because he knew he was accomplishing the Father’s will to reveal the depth of the Father’s love. I suspect he may even have felt a subtle joy, despite the fact he was also experiencing the “apparent absence of God” that in Psalm 22 turns into a magnificent burst of praise for God’s goodness. In the end, peace and joy are not just passing emotions – they are gifts of the Holy Spirit we can claim as believers in, and disciples of, Jesus Christ risen from the dead.
The Church honors today someone who truly lived these readings, St. Ignatius of Loyola. Ignatius was born into a noble Basque family in northern Spain and raised as a gentleman destined for military service. In 1521, during the defense of the citadel of Pamplona, he was struck by a cannonball. During his convalescence, he read a life of Christ and the lives of the saints and found himself filled with joy and inflamed with the desire to serve Jesus. In a moment of graced insight, he realized in this state, a stark contrast with the brief pleasure followed by sadness and depression he would feel after reading worldly literature. This insight led to him later developing his theory of the discernment of spirits.
Leaving home, Ignatius spent a vigil at Mary’s altar in the Benedictine monastery of Montserrat and then lived in the nearby town of Manresa, praying and serving the poor. During this time, he had mystical experiences and illuminations that later formed the basis of his Spiritual Exercises. After a brief stay in the Holy Land, naively thinking he would evangelize the world from there, Ignatius returned to Europe to acquire a formal education. He studied theology for eleven years and thus laid the foundation for his future work. He gathered together a group of students, including Francis Xavier, with whom he shared his eagerness of whole-hearted service of Jesus.
After ordination and a variety of apostolic experiences, Ignatius brought the group to Rome, where they offered themselves in service to the pope. Wishing to make their companionship a lasting one, they formed the Society of Jesus (Jesuits). Ignatius spent the rest of his life directing the rapidly growing order, writing its constitutions and refining the Spiritual Exercises. He was canonized in 1622 and is universal patron of retreats and soldiers.
The Eucharist is a daily mini-jubilee. It is certainly a celebration of faith, a cause for rejoicing, a source of hope, and a mandate for us to go forth and live out the Eucharist working for justice with joy in our hearts as we wait for the final consummation of jubilee in eternity.