"Praying WIth Ignatius of Loyola" - 7 of 11 sermons on the Reformation (Matthew 22:34-46)

Mark Longhurst, October 29, 2017
Part of the Pentecost series
the scripture readings can be found at the bottom of the page

Sermon: Praying With Ignatius of Loyola – Rev. Mark Longhurst
October 29, 2017
Scripture: Matthew 22:34-46

In 1521, the very year that Luther stood before Charles V in Worms, Germany, refusing to refused to recant his writings, to the southwest in Spain, another man had an experience that would shape history, too. His named was Inigo Lopez deLoyola, or, as we know him through his Latin name Ignatius of Loyola. He, at this time in his life, is not a spiritual man. He’s rather vain and hedonistic, serving as a page in the king’s court, then a soldier, picking fights and picking up women. But then one day French troops marched against the Spanish town of Pamplona. The Spanish don’t have a chance of defending the city, but Inigo’s Romantic and passionate impulses compel him to fight heroically anyway.

So he plunges into battle against the French, even though it’s doomed, and a cannonball ends up hitting his legs. The French are so impressed by his heroism that they carry him back to Loyola. Yet even after surgery, his legs don’t turn out quite straight, and, vain as he is, he is worried about not being able to fit into the tight pants and stylish Spanish boots of the time, and so asks the doctor to break and reset his leg again. And the injury becomes grave; he almost dies. While he is recovering he has a conversion experience. He’s already a Catholic, church-attending guy, but he, like many people in church’s, he has had no real inner awakening. But begins reading and meditates on several spiritual books about the saints, and Jesus, and he starts to imagine a different sort of heroism, an adventure of serving God like the saints, rather than his own visions of grandeur.

And as he heals, he dedicates himself more deeply to prayer. He’s not sure what to do, except that he seeks to be a pilgrim dedicated completely to God. He spends time in a Bendictine monastery, spends extended time in solitude, and he takes notes about it, he writes about it. He doesn’t write about his experience, actually, he writes how to pray in such a way that one enters into the presence of God as he has. And this instruction manual, rather dry, like traditional cookbooks or toaster directions, becomes a classic, called the Spiritual Exercises. He begins guiding people in this prayer process, a process of examining one’s conscience, of slowly meditating on Scripture and the story of Jesus’s life, and a group gathers around him. The pope gives his approval, and the Society of Jesus, or the Jesuits are born. By his death they number about a thousand people and stretch from Brazil to India. Today the Jesuits number about 25,000 people today, and are in 112 countries.

Remember, reform did not only happen with Luther or Calvin. Protestantism is not the only Reformation. Reform happened, remember, in its radical form with the Anabaptists, and in certain renewal movements of the Catholic Church. There’s the reactionary repression of the Counter-Reformation—the thirty years war and the Inquisition, most notably—there are also renewal movements being birthed on the Catholic side of things, that seek reform from within the church. That’s where Ignatius lies in his importance. He’s sort of the opposite of Martin Luther – instead of separating from the church in his program of reform, he dedicates himself more loyally to it.

And so what I want to do today is, instead of give you more historical information about Ignatius, is instead to spark you to pray like Ignatius. That’s where all of this focus on reformation is intended to take you. To invite you, and your heart, to be reformed, too. To awaken us to how God is moving in our time. And the Ignatian Spiritual Exercises are written towards this end, towards the end of transformation. The Spiritual Exercises are intended to be undertaken during an intensive month-long retreat. But there are ways to make the insights of Ignatian relevant for very busy people, too. I’ll give you two Ignatian practices that have the potential to change your life. The first is the “Examen,” the second is called “Composition of Place.”

Two Ignatian Spiritual Practices:
The Examen—Examining our conscience, practicing gratitude, welcoming God’s presence in our day. From www.ignatianspirituality.com
1. Become aware of God’s presence.
2. Review the day with gratitude. “Thank you.”
3. Pay attention to your emotions.
4. Choose one feature of the day and pray from it.
5. Look toward tomorrow.

Composition of Place or Application of the Senses
1) Place yourself in the presence of God, creating an inner silence within yourself.
2) Ask God to lead you in prayer, to open your heart and mind to His gifts.
3) Slowly read the selected passage (in this case, John 8:1-11). Notice the details of the passage--the place, the characters, what is being said, etc.
4) Now, set the scene. Imagine the place--what does it look like? Who is there? Observe what is going on.
5) What do you hear? What are the people saying? How are they saying it?
6) Allow the use of the other senses now. In this scene, you probably won't use smell or taste--but maybe you will. You may want to feel a stone at the scene--feel its weight and that temptation to throw it.
7) Enter into the scene. How do you react to the scribes and pharisees? To the woman? To Jesus? Perhaps you can identify more with one of those characters. Perhaps you place yourself as one of the scribes or the woman.
8) Speak to Jesus about your experience. How you felt, what struck you, how you were challenged, etc. Or, perhaps you do not say anything at all but to allow the fruits of the scene to penetrate you.
9) End with a prayer of thanksgiving.
--From Ryan Rallanka, SJ

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