January 31, 2012

MISSION MATTERS: Pilgrim Not Traveler

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Last week, we began to examine the experience of a journey. We saw how even Ignatius, the founder of the Society of Jesus, a person very close to God, got preoccupied by his own expectations and desires, and had to have a friendly reminder that God works here and now, and that God's work is here and now. Today, we can look more deeply into how each of us is called to be pilgrims in life, looking for God, seeking the goodness of God, in all times and all people and all places.

Early in his own journey in life, and shortly after his conversion, Ignatius traveled to Jerusalem. The authorities there quickly sent him home because he was, they accused him, wandering around untended and having religious conversations with everyone he met. Not a bad thing in itself, but he did not understand the people with whom he was speaking, nor the political situations of that place and time. He posed a real danger of making a bad situation much worse. So, he was sent back to Rome.

Ignatius had gone to Jerusalem not as a pilgrim, but as a traveler. He had gone to Jerusalem, uninvited, actually, to change others and to make a difference, but perhaps not open to change himself, or in himself. He brought his own cultural assumptions which may have lead him to think that everyone was like him, and every place like the places he knew. He was in a new place but had kept himself in his own cultural bubble.

Many of us live our lives like Ignatius in Jerusalem. We may make incorrect assumptions and want to help and change others--more often than not, uninvited--while we are not entirely open to change in ourselves. We live in our "bubbles" where we feel comfortable and safe. Now this is not entirely bad, but we limit our possibilities of any real encounter with others. As a result, therefore, we limit any possibilities for change in ourselves. As Fr. Adolfo Nicolás, S.J., observes, ... there is no real, deep encounter that does not alter us. Part of all of that, though, needs our openness to that change, that alteration. Ignatius, his own plans somewhat thwarted, returned to God's plan, God's place for him.

If we examine our lives today, do we find any assumptions we make about others that keep us from really meeting them, from allowing them to alter us, to enrich us, to educate us, to aid or support us? Are there any attitudes which have kept us "comfortable" but which may keep our interaction with others superficial?

We can pray that with Ignatius and the early Jesuits we might learn to trust more in God, that we can learn to meet others in real encounters, encounters that may change us a little or a lot, but will always change--alter--us.

We can pray that with Ignatius and the early Jesuits...

We can meet God here and now, in you and you and you...

Higher purpose. Greater good.
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