Igniting Our Values
Igniting Our Values

February 18, Ash Wednesday

Are we who we say we are?

Welcome to IGNITING OUR VALUES, the Jesuit’s online pilgrimage for Lent 2015. IGNITING OUR VALUES uses the liturgical readings (available in English and Spanish) as a prism through which we will prayerfully examine what it means to follow Jesus -- as Jesuits and Ignatian companions. Over the course of Lent, specially composed prayers and reflections will focus our attention on six Jesuit/Ignatian values.

A carefully curated selection of auxiliary material will be available to augment our prayer. Think of these passages of prose, poetry, music, art and video as a buffet. Sample as many or as few items as you like; you might find something that enriches your prayer. If nothing appeals to you today, no problem — new material will be on offer tomorrow! We will end each week with a special Saturday celebration of Our Blessed Mother, the Queen of the Society of Jesus.

IGNITING OUR VALUES has been designed for use by the entire Ignatian network — Jesuits and their Ignatian colleagues, partners, alumni, students, parishioners, family and friends. A diverse group, yes, but united by the singular vision of St. Ignatius Loyola, sharing a distinct set of spiritual reference points and a worldview that derives from Jesuit education, Jesuit ministry and the transformative experience of St. Ignatius’ Spiritual Exercises.

You may be familiar with the old custom of beginning a retreat with “disposition days.” Jesuits try to eke out a few days at the start of the Exercises to “dispose themselves” to the spiritual journey that lies ahead, to turn their focus more completely toward Jesus and try to become more intentional in prayer.

Let’s use these first few days of Lent as our “disposition days.” Let’s slow down, catch our breath and turn our eyes to the Lord, who calls us to follow him through the desert of Lent, toward Jerusalem and his Passion, Death and Resurrection.

Fr. Timothy Kesicki, SJ, President of the Jesuit Conference, presents the theme for our disposition: Who do we say we are? You will find his reflection immediately following the readings.

Scripture Readings

JL 2:12-18
2 COR 5:20-6:2
MT 6:1-6, 16-18

English
http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/021815.cfm

Español
http://www.usccb.org/bible/lecturas/021815.cfm

Daily Reflection

Who Do We Say We Are?
by Timothy Kesicki, SJ

You know that thing when you come across a word or a phrase and it feels entirely new, even though you must have seen it a million times before? The words rearrange themselves, as if by magic, and suddenly offer a fresh perspective or insight. Such serendipity often triggers a rush of enjoyment, which, in my case, is usually tempered by utter mortification — how could I not have noticed this before?

This phenomenon struck me — rather dramatically — yesterday, during Mass with my community.

Back story: I’d made a dozen starts to my reflection for IGNITING OUR VALUES: none of them felt right and all of them wound up in my digital trash can. Anyone who’s had to write something that requires more introspection than a newsletter will appreciate my trepidation. My position in the contributor lineup didn’t help matters either. Is this the right tone? Am I sharing too little? Is my message predictable? Why on earth would anyone want to read this?

Back to yesterday’s Mass: As often happens when I’m not the presider, I was preoccupied when the liturgy began with corralling my scattered thoughts so I could focus enough to pray. Truth be told, there are days when this little round up lasts well into the readings; yesterday was one of those days. In fact, it took a passage from the Gospel to jar me into the here and now.

The Jews sent priests and Levites
to ask him (John the Baptizer), “Who are you?”
He said: “I am the voice of one crying out in the desert,
‘Make straight the way of the Lord.’”

For weeks I’d worried about how to kick off our Lenten exploration of Jesuit/Ignatian identity; suddenly, here was a loud, clear voice from the Gospel asking the most fundamental question about identity, “Who are you?”

Had I never heard this Gospel passage? Of course I had, many times, but never had that passage popped out at me with such unexpected import. Who are you? Who am I? Such human questions, reverberating with our need to know and desire to be known.

In Ash Wednesday’s Gospel, Jesus assures his followers that our Father knows every secret part of us. We are taught that this moment is from early in Jesus’ ministry, not long after he called his disciples. Later in the same Gospel, Jesus faces the task of preparing his followers for the pain and loss that awaits them in Jerusalem. He begins, quite characteristically, with a question.

Jesus asked his disciples, “Who do you say I am?” Simon Peter said in reply, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”
From that time on, Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer greatly from the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed and on the third day be raised.

Today, Ash Wednesday, we smudge our foreheads with the cross of the penitent and prepare for the great pilgrimage of Lent. As we follow Jesus to Jerusalem, we will listen to stories and get to know our companions. We might tell our own stories. We will pray — maybe even sing — together. As the days pass and the horizons lengthen, our conversations will gain specificity, deepen, become braver and more challenging. This Lent, what better conversation can we have than identity? What better theme than our shared identity as Jesuits and Ignatian Companions? What better question can we ask ourselves than Jesus’ own question, Who do we say we are?

¿Quién decimos que somos?
Por: Timothy Kesicki, SJ

¿Sabe usted a que me refiero, cuando sucede que uno se encuentra con una palabra o una frase que se sienten como algo totalmente nuevo, aunque probablemente las haya visto millones de veces anteriormente? Las palabras se ordenan a sí mismas, como por arte de magia, y de repente nos ofrecen una nueva perspectiva o visión. Este suceder generalmente inicia un impetuoso gozo, el cual, en mi caso, es totalmente moderado por una absoluta mortificación - ¿Cómo es posible que no haya notado esto antes?

Este fenómeno me sorprendió – de forma dramática – ayer, durante la Misa con mi comunidad.

Historia de fondo: Comencé doce veces mi reflexión acerca de ENCENDIENDO NUESTROS VALORES: Ninguna de ellas me satisfizo y todas terminaron en mi basurero digital. Cualquiera que haya tenido que escribir algo que requiera más introspección que un boletín de noticias, apreciaría mi trepidación. Mi posición en la lista de contribuyentes, tampoco fue de mucha ayuda. ¿Es éste el tono adecuado? ¿Será que estoy ofreciendo poca información? ¿Es mi mensaje predecible? ¿Porqué alguien querría leer esto?

Volviendo a la Misa de ayer: Como suele suceder cuando no estoy presidiendo, al comienzo de la liturgia yo me encontraba ocupado tratando de acorralar mis dispersos pensamientos, para lograr enfocarme y rezar. La verdad sea dicha, hay días en los que este proceso se extiende hasta las lecturas; ayer fue uno de esos días. De hecho, fue precisamente un pasaje del Evangelio el que me enfrascó en el aquí y ahora.

Los Judíos enviaron sacerdotes y Levitas
Para que le preguntaran (Juan Bautista),” ¿Quién eres?”
Él respondió: “Yo soy la voz de alguien que grita en el desierto,
¡Preparen el camino del Señor!”

Estuve preocupado durante semanas, acerca de cómo dar comienzo a la exploración de la identidad Jesuita/Ignaciana durante esta Cuaresma, y repentinamente, una voz fuerte y clara, desde el Evangelio, articula la pregunta fundamental en cuanto a la identidad, ¿Quién eres?

¿Será que nunca he escuchado este pasaje del Evangelio? Por supuesto que lo he escuchado. Muchas veces. Pero este pasaje jamás me salió al encuentro con una tan inesperada importancia. ¿Quién eres? ¿Quién soy? Interrogantes muy humanos, reverberando con nuestra necesidad de conocer y el deseo de ser conocido.

En el Evangelio del Miércoles de Ceniza, Jesús le asegura a sus seguidores que el Padre conoce cada parte secreta de nosotros. Nos han enseñado que este momento se sitúa en los comienzos del ministerio de Jesús, poco después de haber llamado a sus discípulos. Más tarde, en el mismo Evangelio, Jesús comienza la tarea de preparar a sus seguidores para el dolor y la pérdida que los espera en Jerusalén. Él inicia este proceso, muy característicamente, con una pregunta.

Jesús preguntó a sus discípulos, ustedes, “¿Quién dicen que soy? “Simón Pedro le respondió: “Tú eres el Mesías, el Hijo del Dios viviente.”
A partir de entonces Jesús comenzó a explicar a sus discípulos que él tendría que ir a Jerusalén; y que los ancianos, los jefes de los sacerdotes y los maestros de la ley lo harían sufrir mucho. Les dijo que lo iban a matar, pero que al tercer día resucitaría.

Hoy, Miércoles de Ceniza, nos tiznamos las frentes con la cruz de los penitentes y nos preparamos para la gran peregrinación de Cuaresma. Mientras seguimos a Jesús a Jerusalén, oiremos historias y conoceremos más a nuestros acompañantes. Tal vez contemos nuestra propia historia. Rezaremos – y hasta cantaremos – juntos. Conforme pasen los días y los horizontes se extiendan, nuestras conversaciones se harán específicas, profundas, devendrán valientes y más desafiantes. Esta Cuaresma, ¿qué mejor conversación podríamos tener que la de la identidad? ¿Qué mejor tema que el de nuestra identidad en común, como Jesuitas y como compañeros Ignacianos? ¿Qué mejor pregunta nos podríamos hacer a nosotros mismos que la de Jesús? ¿Quién decimos que somos?

Father Timothy P. Kesicki, SJ, a native of Erie, Pennsylvania, is the President of the Jesuit Conference of Canada and the United States. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., the Jesuit Conference promotes common goals and oversees international projects for the Society of Jesus. Prior to leading the Jesuit Conference, Fr. Kesicki taught theology, worked for the Jesuit Refugee Service in Uganda, served as the president of St. Ignatius High School in Cleveland and was the Provincial of the Chicago-Detroit Province of the Society of Jesus.

Prayer

Jesus,
you know us from the beginning of time,
you know us in the depths of our dreams and in the darkness of our shame,
you know us as your beloved.
Help us to own that core identity more and more in this season of repentance and mercy.
Give us the rock-solid assurance of your unwavering faith in us
as we seek the same in you.
Amen.

Passages

In those years, people will say, we lost track
of the meaning of we, of you
we found ourselves
reduced to I
and the whole thing became
silly, ironic, terrible:
we were trying to live a personal life
and, yes, that was the only life
we could bear witness to
But the great dark birds of history screamed and plunged
into our personal weather
They were headed somewhere else
but their beaks and pinions drove along the shore,
through rages of fog
where we stood, saying I
: Adrienne Rich

The cross of ashes is not a memento mori; it is a sign of Christ’s victory over death. It might be good stoicism to wear a reminder of our condemnation to die, but it is not Christianity.
: Thomas Merton

Here the whole world (stars, water, air,
And field, and forest, as they were
Reflected in a single mind)
Like cast off clothes was left behind
In ashes, yet with hopes that she,
Re-born from holy poverty,
In lenten lands, hereafter may
Resume them on her Easter Day.
: C.S. Lewis

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Since St. Ignatius bought a printing press in 1556, the Jesuits have been involved in communications. Today the Society of Jesus publishes a number of award-winning journals and publications. Click below to access our latest issues.

America 10/14/19

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