VOICE FROM THE SOUTH
By FR. EMETERIO BARCELON, SJ
When an army moves forward against the enemy, there should be time to take a pause and assess its strengths and losses. So too in the spiritual life there is need to check the damage suffered during the past year of combat in life. It just happens that the coronavirus has given us a double opportunity to do the checking. In a spiritual retreat we assess the opportunities that we have had in increasing our love for Jesus. And of course we must check where sin has made a possible inroad on our spiritual health. Recalling the great commandments: Love God above all else (including self) and the second of loving our neighbor as ourselves. The spiritual retreat of St. Ignatius was for about thirty days with four breaks. This was to orient the retreat ant for all his life. To renew the memory of this retreat there is a yearly eight-day retreat. At this time we are to check if we are still on the path we set for ourselves. Any plan made by military generals or business tycoons must have a periodic review if the overall plan is still being followed. At the same time, be on the outlook for opportunities to increase our love for Jesus.
In business, you need a yearly audit to check the health of your enterprise. How healthy is our company? Can we give an increase in our dividend to our stockholders and an increase in the salaries of our workers, or at least a bonus for success? However, if it has done poorly, how can we improve performance? Similarly in our review of our spiritual life during this Holy Week, we have to make a good assessment. Do we love Jesus more now than last year? Where are the weaknesses? Where are the strengths? Are our practices in good shape? Is our adoration of Jesus better? Do we love our neighbor just a little bit better? Do we go out our way to help the neglected? After all this is all that the Lord asks of us.
In the spiritual exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola, he divides the time into four parts. The initial part is on the basics like: Is there sin that has crept into our lives? If not, then we move on to the life of Christ. He spent 30 years living a simple ordinary life in Nazareth. This is what we call the hidden life. If he spent so many years in ordinary living, we should not worry about our living an ordinary life. He must have worked as a carpenter and fetched water for the house and cleaned the house and the kitchen. We should not worry that we can offer our ordinary life to Him. At this point St. Ignatius challenges our resolve to give more of ourselves for the promotion of the kingdom of Jesus on earth. It is the “more” that is challenging. It is no longer the doing of the good but of the better. We can all improve just a little bit more. Once we have settled on this “little bit more,” St. Ignatius wants us to remember the suffering of Jesus on the Cross. If He loved us so much as to suffer the Cross, can we not do the little bit more that we see we can do for love of Him and His kingdom?
Then we move to the last tranche of our retreat. We review how victorious he was over death and suffering. He offers us victory over sin and death. He offers us the joys of heaven and the kingdom of His Father in heaven. The end is glorious with Him. There is nothing else but victory. It is all a question of giving of giving of ourselves to Him in return for His giving Himself in love for us. HOLY WEEK IS THE TIME TO MAKE A SPIRITUAL RETREAT. (Some say that the sauna bath at 56o centigrade kills the coronavirus. Are they using the sauna as a cure?)