Once when Jesus was praying alone, with only the disciples near him, he asked them, “Who do the crowds say that I am?” They answered, “John the Baptist; but others, Elijah; and still others, that one of the ancient prophets has arisen.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered, “The Messiah of God.”
He sternly ordered and commanded them not to tell anyone,saying, “The Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.” Then he said to them all, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will save it. What does it profit them if they gain the whole world, but lose or forfeit themselves?
New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved (http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations)
As we celebrate today with St. Ignatius, let us ponder his service to “our supreme commander and Lord.” All of his spirituality centers on this service, understood in the first place as military service. In the Spiritual Exercises, St. Ignatius begs to be received “under the standard,” or into the service, of Christ. He describes a Jesuit as one who “desires to serve as a soldier of God beneath the banner of the cross.” He looks for ways to distinguish himself ” in total service to [his] eternal King and universal Lord.”
This service, though, is distinguished from worldly service in two crucial ways. First, it is intimate service. Jesus is a genuine leader, with true affection and closeness to those who serve with him. He shares with his soldiers all that he has; he shares hardships with them as well as the glory to be won. He shares his company and friendship with them. We serve not a distant, unconcerned leader, but rather enjoy the close companionship of the King we serve in the everyday life spent in his service. We are his companions in the battle, serving always with him at our side.
Secondly, the battle strategy is Jesus’ own strategy, a decidedly spiritual one which he developed and perfected. Jesus’ strategy is one of poverty, suffering, and humility. When St. Ignatius had his mystical experience at La Storta, in which he was received into the service of Christ, he did not see Christ in his battle finery, glorious and triumphant, but humble and poor, carrying his cross. The enemy is defeated and souls, including are own, are saved for the glory of God through these weapons of poverty and humility.
Like all true military service, service under the standard of the Cross can be daunting. But undertaken as friends and companions of Jesus Christ, not only is it possible, it is joyful and exhilarating, as by following our true King, we win the glory for which we were created.
—Fr. Matthew Monnig, S.J.
Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty,
my memory, my understanding
and my entire will, all I have and
call my own.
You have given all to me. To you, Lord, I
Everything is yours; do with it what you will.
Give me only your love and grace,
that is enough for me.
—St. Ignatius of Loyola