Homily for the Novena of St. Ignatius

July 26, 2013
By: 
Fr Bienvenido F. Nebres SJ

First, I am happy to celebrate this mass with you on the Feast of St. James, brother of St. John, and one of the three companions of Jesus at the Transfiguration and the Agony in the Garden. I have come closer to him from my walking the 800 kilometer pilgrimage, the Camino de Santiago, from St. John pied de Port in Southern France to Santiago de Compostela in Galicia, Northern Spain 2 years ago.  That pilgrimage made me realize that the apostles truly followed Jesus’ mandate at the Ascension to go out to all the world and preach the Good News – as Pope Francis is doing now in Brazil.
 
We also learned some very sad news today. A train carrying pilgrims to Santiago de Compostela yesterday was derailed and at least 60 people have died, the rest badly injured. Santiago has cancelled all the usual festivities today. So let us also pray for the victims and their families.
 
Next, as we are into the Novena of masses for the Feast of St. Ignatius next Wednesday, I have been asked to preach on an Ignatian theme: Magis – to be more, to love more, to serve more. 
MAGIS is a much used and, perhaps even overused or abused, word in Ateneo and in Jesuit schools. Magis is more. The reflections I wish to offer you in this mass are: More what? Or More of what?
 
Where does this Ignatian “More” or “Magis” come from?
 
First, from the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius, at the end of the First Week, where we meditate on sin, the risk of hell – and forgiveness from a God, who died for us on the cross, we end with a sense of wonder and gratitude that we have been forgiven so much. And so we make the Colloquy of Mercy before Christ on the Cross and ask ourselves: What have I done for Christ? What am I doing for Christ? What more, Quid magis, can I do for Christ?
 
So magis, more, for Ignatius, is more for Christ. In the concrete, what is this “more” that we seek to do for Christ. Above all, it is to help, to serve others, especially the needy and the poor – through corporal or spiritual ministry. 
 
I was reflecting on this and thinking about the use of Magis in the Ateneo. For example, we have the Magis classes in the Ateneo Grade School. These are for gifted students in mathematics or other subjects. And because they are gifted, more is asked of them. As the Gospel of Luke says, “More will be asked of those who have been given more.”
 
But perhaps an even more appropriate use of Magis would be for Service Clubs – for those who give more of themselves to others in need.
 
Because More or Magis in Ignatius is above all the “more” in the prayer we use all the time in the Spiritual Exercises, which in the adaptation of Godspell is: This Lord I pray – to know you more clearly, to love you more dearly, to follow you more nearly, day by day. 
 
So this above all is the Magis of Ignatius in the Spiritual Exercises.
 
Second, we also often use Magis together with the drive of Jesuits and Jesuit schools for EXCELLENCE. In talks, we tell our students that Ateneo seeks to form them to be the best that they can be: in academics, in sports, in the Arts – and hopefully in service as well. Where does this drive for Excellence come from? In the Jesuit Constitutions, St. Ignatius says that the best way to help our neighbor is first through spiritual gifts, prayer and sacrifice. Then he says, given these spiritual gifts, then the development of our natural gifts, intellectual, artistic, athletic and so forth, can all be of help in the service of our neighbor. So for Ignatius, it is not simply Excellence. It is Excellence for others. In the same spirit as Magis – which is for the service of others.
 
My third and last reflection.In the Meditation on the Kingdom or better, the Call of the King, at the beginning of the Second Week of the Spiritual Exercises, St. Ignatius invites us to reflect on the kind of response we are invited to make to Christ’s call. We have a King or a leader, he says, who has gone ahead of us, who has labored and worked for us, who has given His life for us. We should then go all out for him. “Totus ad laborem” is the Latin phrase. To give ourselves totally to the work – to the service to which Christ call us. Is there then something  more, something beyond giving ourselves totally to the work. St. Ignatius says yes. Those who want to be Outstanding, Insignis in Latin, in their response to the Call of Christ, will make this prayer:
 
Eternal Lord of all things, I make my oblation with Thy favor and help … that I want and desire, if only it be to Thy greater service and praise, to imitate Thee in bearing all injuries and all abuse and poverty of spirit, and actual poverty too, if Thy most Holy Majesty wants to choose and receive me to such life and state.”
To be outstanding, insignis, Excellent, Magis, is to accept to share in the Cross of Christ.
 
This is the same response of Jesus in today’s Gospel on the Feast of St. James. The mother of James and John thought that being outstanding or excellent follower of Jesus would be to sit at his right and his left in the Kingdom. Jesus says, maybe, that is up to the Father. But for Jesus, to be outstanding, Magis, is to be willing to drink of the cup of which He must drink. To share of His cross. St. James was the first apostle to be martyred. He was beheaded by  Herod. 
 
So: Magis for St. Ignatius means above all: To know, love and serve Jesus more – especially in his brothers and sisters in need. More love and more service.
 
Excellence is so that we can be more effective in the service of others.
 
And that ultimately what saves the world is our sharing of the Cross of Christ.