Matthew 13:47-53, Thursday in Week 17 of Ordinary Time
My dear friends, most of us would surely be familiar with Padre Faura Street in downtown Manila. But not too many of us may likely be familiar with Padre Faura, the man and the Jesuit priest.
Fr Federico Faura SJ was an excellent scientist. In 1878, he was missioned here to the Philippines to work at the Ateneo Observatory (what is known today as Manila Observatory). In July 1879, Padre Faura (as he came to be known) gave his first prediction of a typhoon. He warned people, “A strong typhoon would hit North of Luzon. We need to prepare. We need to get ready for its coming.” Sadly, very few listened to him. And so, much damage resulted. In October of that same year, he gave his second prediction saying, “Another strong typhoon would be coming. It would hit Manila, directly. So please, let us prepare. Let us ready ourselves.” This time, many listened to him and there was minimal damage
Padre Faura was a first class astronomer. He was so good in his field that he even invented what is now known as the Faura Barometer, i e a barometer which indicated the proximity and intensity of typhoons. And this instrument of his helped to save many lives. Yet, despite his being a learned man of science, he never forgot that he was first and foremost, a man of faith, a priest of God.
My dear friends, speaking of barometers, in the mind of St Ignatius, given our lives, faced with so many choices daily, we truly need some kind of an interior, spiritual barometer to help us in our way of choosing.
Indeed, our way of choosing is so pivotal. Such is the case because, whether we accept it or not, we become what we choose. In other words, we are who we are today because of the many, countless choices we have made (and continue to make) in our lives. As one spiritual writer said, “Our lives are a sum total of the choices we have made.”
And that is why, in the end, we really need a spiritual tool like an interior, built-in barometer to help us learn this art of choosing well. And I believe, for our saint, this built-in barometer is nothing else but the gift and art of spiritual discernment.
My dear friends, of course like all of us, St. Ignatius had to deal with so many choices and questions. And as we know, his schooling in discernment all started where? Of course, in Loyola, where he recuperated for nine months, after being hit by a cannonball that permanently damaged his legs. And there in Loyola, he came to realize that he had so many feelings and desires present and alive in his heart. And to his great surprise, not only were these feelings and desires so numerous but, at the same time, they were so conflicting and contradictory to one another. For example, a part of him still so desired those old, worldly ambitions – material riches, honor, power, pride. But then, another part of him also started to desire new values (new spiritual values) – like doing penance, going to Jerusalem, imitating the saints and even offering his entire life to God.
Slowly though, Ignatius realized that there was a clear difference between these two sets of feelings and desires. The first one (on worldly ambitions) gave him some joy and delight. But in the end, the joy and delight were fleeting and temporary, leaving him sad and empty. However, the second one (on spiritual values) gave him much peace and consolation such that it left a far more lasting imprint on his interiority. And as Ignatius tells us, this was the moment when his eyes were opened to the kinds of spirits that moved him from within, namely, the one coming from the Evil One, and the other coming from the Lord himself. Thus, from then on, he went out of his way to develop this spiritual tool, this interior and spiritual barometer, which he called – discernment of spirits. As such, he learned to separate and sift those inspirations and feelings coming from the Lord, and those not coming from the Lord. And the more he did this, the more he realized how vital it is to keep on “looking in”; how vital it is to do daily, quality prayerful introspection.
My dear friends, without question, most of us almost always “look out.” And that is why perhaps we know well what has been unfolding in our world today – from this virus pandemic, to LSIs (locally stranded individuals) in Rizal Memorial Stadium, to ABS-CBN franchise issue, to the SONA and many others.
But then, how many of us actually make time to “look in”? – i.e. to prayerfully examine and clarify our top feelings and inner experiences, asking questions like, “How have I been feeling lately? What has been affecting me much lately?”
Precisely, for Ignatius, it is these top feelings and inner experiences – like gratitude, hope, trust; OR sadness, discouragement, fears and others – that we need to sift, checking how they have been influencing and affecting our more recent choices and decisions and ascertaining which ones are bringing us closer to the Lord and which ones are moving us away from the Lord. And in the end, for Ignatius, this is what doing discernment is all about
Yes, indeed, what we badly need today is a spiritual tool like Ignatian discernment which can serve as our spiritual barometer to help us learn the art of choosing well.
And exactly, is this not what we see in today’s Gospel?
In today’s Gospel, our Lord gives two parables on the Kingdom of God. They are – the parable of the net and the parable of the head of the household. Now these two parables are not only parables on God’s Kingdom and reign. They also are parables on spiritual discernment. And that is why in both parables, there is this explicit act of separating, distinguishing and sifting. And our point here is this – in the Bible, where there is this theme of separating, there also is the theme of discerning. In fact, the Biblical Greek word for discernment is diakrisis which literally means to separate and distinguish. And we see this often enough, especially in the Gospels – like separating the weeds from the wheat; separating the goats from the sheep; separating the bad fruits from the good fruits; and of course in today’s Gospel, separating the useless items from the useful ones; separating the wicked from the just and the old from the new.
My dear friends, like Padre Faura, there always will be life’s storms and typhoons that will come our way. In fact, for many of us, the strong winds are already here, hitting us hard and perhaps even doing some damage to us. Nevertheless, let us not lose hope and faith in our Lord.
In this mass, let us then pray for ourselves that, with much discernment, we may be able to defy and withstand these violent winds that have come our way trusting that our God never abandons and that his Kingdom. in the end, always, does overcome. His reign always does overpower, no matter what.
St Ignatius Loyola, pray for us!