Browsing Homilies

Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

1 Kgs 3:5, 7-12 | Ps 119 | Rom 8:28-30 | Mt 13:44-52

Every year on July 31, the Church celebrates the feast day of Saint Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Jesuit Order (whose relics are encapsulated within the base of our altar). He was born into the nobility of Loyola, Spain, in the late 1400s. By all accounts, he loved the noble life. He trained to be a soldier and sought the fame and glory that came with that life. He wanted to be popular. He wanted to be powerful. He wanted the good things in life. His plans were shattered when he was thirty years old. He was struck in the leg with a cannonball. Even after undergoing brutal surgeries to have his leg repaired and reset, he never fully recovered. His dreams had been derailed. Ignatius did not get what he wanted. He got something much greater.

During his convalescence, Ignatius read the only two books available to him: the Bible and the Lives of the Saints. Inspired by these books and the example of the lives contained within them, Ignatius underwent an amazing spiritual conversion. He was able to see that there was more to life than the fame, fortune, and power that he had previously sought.

Immediately following his recovery, Ignatius set out on pilgrimage, spending years fasting and praying. During extended periods of contemplation, he recorded his scriptural meditations and prayer experiences.

He was able to look back at his cannonball experience and see that while it wasn’t necessarily a good thing, God was present in that cannonball and able to make good come from it. The battlefield injury changed the course of his life in a way that he never could have expected. As the second reading reminds us, “all things work for good for those who love God.” Ignatius encouraged those undergoing the Spiritual Exercises to keep this same perspective. He encouraged them not to become attached to any one particular thing or goal but to be open to how God can and does work in all things.

Fr. Tom Woost story (Skillet-Roasted Lemon Chicken and Limoncello).

Ignatius writes, “In everyday life, then, we must hold ourselves in balance before all of these created gifts, insofar as we have a choice and are not bound by some obligation. We should not fix our desires on health or sickness, wealth or poverty, success or failure, a long life or a short one. For everything has the potential of calling forth in us a deeper response to our life in God. Our only desire and our one choice should be this: I want and I choose what better leads to God’s deepening his life in me.”

Finding the kingdom of heaven can be messy, my friends. It might mean derailed dreams. It might involve digging up a field or sorting through a massive haul of fish. (It might mean picking up chards of red crystal from Poland.) If we are seeking the kingdom of heaven, we must tune our vision to discern what is of God and what is not. Solomon knew this. Saint Ignatius of Loyola discovered this.

Let us pray for the gift of wisdom and follow their example.


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