Memorial of Saint Ignatius of Loyola

Ex 34:29-35; Ps 99:5-7,9; Mt 13:44-46

The founder of the Society of Jesus is remembered today in our liturgy.  Saint Ignatius of Loyola was a faithful priest who knew and treasured the power of his conversion to Christ.  Though raised in a Catholic family and a Catholic culture, he did not give himself completely to the Lord Jesus until he was recovering from battle wounds.  The society of friends who gathered around this holy priest were actively engaged in the mission of the Church.  They were not required to the prayer routine of a monastic life style.  Saint Ignatius once taught his followers that if they had fifteen minuets of focused encounter with Christ each day they would have enough awareness to fill their whole day with the glory of God and the energy to serve Christ faithfully.


Earlier in the Gospel of Saint Matthew the Lord Jesus commands us to “be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect!”  This command is a restatement of the command from Leviticus: “You shall be holy; for I the lord your God am holy.”  What is this holiness?  At its root holiness is being set apart for the service of God.  To be available to His Presence and His Power is to be holy. One theologian spoke of the Holy One as a mysterium tremendum et fascinans,a frightening and fascinating mystery.  The experience the All Holy God is not like any other experience, and it is not just an experience; it is reality, more real than anything else. Upon frequent encounters with the Holy Lord Moses frightened people away because his face had become radiant with the holiness of God.  The Lord God, who is totally transcendent and completely immanent, reveals himself through the preaching and in the ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ.


Moses had just spent forty days and forty nights on the mountain of the Lord.  When he brought the covenant law down to the people, he did not know that the skin of his face had become radiant.  They were afraid to approach him because he had been touched and transformed by the holiness of God.  This is what happens to mere human beings when they stand before the Face of God and live.  They no longer appear as they did before; someone changes in such and encounter, and it’s not the Face of God.  This change was not merely superficial.  It is the kind of change that shows up elsewhere.  It shows up in behavior, in conversation, in personality, in every aspect of one’s humanity.  Moses was forced by peer pressure to hide his face.  He would only take off the veil when he went into the presence of the Lord God. Perhaps Moses had to hide his transformed face because all his peers were envious, or perhaps this transformation was a painful reminder of what they could become if they conversed with the Lord more frequently.  Nevertheless, Moses removed the veil during times of conversation so that nothing would hinder the light of God’s glory shining forth and transforming him in God’s own image and likeness.


The Psalmist commands us to extol the Lord, our God and to worship on his holy mountain.  We are on the mountain of the transfiguration during every Mass.  We are the closest friends/disciples whom the Lord Jesus invites.  This moment of revelation unfolds in a familiar ritual, and we are enlightened to hear more about the mystery of the Kingdom of heaven. The Lord Jesus compares the Kingdom to a treasure hidden.  Such is the Kingdom because the very holiness of God is something we are surprised by hidden out in the fields of life.  This surprise discovery motivates us to sell all to buy the field in which we have re-hidden the treasure.  The Lord Jesus also compares the Kingdom to a merchant’s searching for fine pearls. Such is the Kingdom because the very holiness of God is worth searching for during an entire lifetime.  This dedicated and desperate search is worth selling everything to buy that pearl of great price.  Both, our lingering in the presence and our searching out the presence, engage us in the radical transformation of the holy, holy, holy Lord. Such is the mystery of the Kingdom hid in the Eucharist even as it is reveal on this mountain of the liturgy.