This is a recap of the homily I preached this past Tuesday morning; I based it on the lament of the prophet Jeremiah (14:17-22). Much of it is actually also used as one of the canticles from the Old Testament for Morning Prayer in the Breviary. And I offer it since just this past Friday was the Memorial of St Ignatius Loyola (especially dear to Pope Francis, as you might imagine!).
First of all, Jeremiah prophesied disaster (“terror on every side” became his enemies’ nickname for him). But people wouldn’t listen to his message of reform/repent. And Jerusalem was in fact first sacked and then destroyed. He was the Biblical equivalent to the Greek figures Cassandra and Laocoon. The former, a daughter of Troy, was condemned by Apollo to prophesy the truth but with the condition that no one would ever believe her. The latter warned against bringing the Horse inside Troy’s walls, to no avail. The gods even sent serpents to kill him and his sons. They were ignored; we know the rest of the story.
We can be like this—whose voice do we hear and listen to? This is especially important in our times—civil unrest, the pandemic, the upcoming election… Do we recognize Jeremiah (or Cassandra) in our midst, or do we go another way? In The Magician’s Nephew, the story of the creation of Narnia, Uncle Andrew has been shockingly bad, but his nephew and his friend begged Aslan to help him. Aslan said he could not: “He has made himself unable to hear my voice. O Adam’s sons! How cleverly you defend yourselves against all the might do you good!” Do we do the same thing?
This past weekend EWTN re-aired a recent movie-biography of St Ignatius Loyola—a version very well done. A pivotal scene shows Inigo at night, lashing himself in “atonement” for his previous life of sin. He’s at the edge of a cliff. And a figure screams at him, “You’ll never atone! Can you endure this kind of torture for 70 years? You’re a sinner and will burn in hell! Go on and jump—get it over with.” Inigo looks up and defies the figure, who turns out to be satanic. When he defies him, the figure explodes into nothingness. The following finds him in a clear pool of fresh water, and a Child is sitting on the edge of the pond. It is the youthful Christ, who tells him, “You have learned to recognize the sound of that voice; now come to recognize the sound of my voice.” This is the origin and the essence of the Spiritual Exercises.
What voice do I hear and follow? How do I discern the difference? In part (in large part), this involves sitting in silence, with heart and soul open to listening. Can we spend time in quiet, begging our Lord to help us hear His voice and reject the voice of the “enemy of our human nature” (as Ignatius called him)? Of course we can. Will we take the time to listen?