Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.
1 Corinthians 11:1
Today is the Memorial for St. Ignatius of Loyola. He is best know for founding the Society of Jesus, or, better known to some, the Jesuits. St. Ignatius and his fellow companions had in mind a passion to bring the Gospel of Christ to all peoples. Within the next century of its founding, the Society would reach as far east as Japan, and as far west as the Americas. In fact, the Jesuits were largely responsible for bringing the Gospel to this continent. Much of South America, the northeast United States, and southeast Canada were settled and evangelized by the Jesuits.
Today's epistle is from St. Paul's First Letter to the Corinthians. Here, he concludes a paragraph of offering himself as an example to his fellow believers by telling them that they are to imitate him as he imitates Jesus. This can be seen in three degrees.
First, we must imitate Jesus. This is, of course, the fundamental call to discipleship. We become the followers of Jesus. As children, we seek to imitate everything we can about Jesus.
Second, we must imitate other followers of Jesus. This is one of the primary reasons why the Church proclaims various men and women to be saints. They have lived a life of what we call "heroic holiness". Therefore, the Church deems them to be worthy of imitation as we seek to follow Christ. We follow the saints as we follow Christ. We imitate the saints so that we may attain a closer imitation of Jesus.
Finally, we are called to be worthy of such imitation. We are to live in such a way that others may imitate us as we follow Jesus. This is very intimidating. But it is part of the equation. It calls for us to live very close to the Lord, which is what we are to be doing anyway.
Today, we look to St. Ignatius of Loyola to imitate him as he imitated Christ. St. Ignatius was a Spanish soldier of the sixteenth century. He wanted to be well known for his exploits as a soldier. However, he was wounded in battle and required a lengthy convalescence. During this time, he wanted to read about war heroes. Instead, all he had available to him was a Life of Christ and a book on the lives of the saints. He began reading and slowly was transformed. Now he yearned to live the life of a saint rather than that of a soldier. He began to study, was ordained a priest, and founded the Society of Jesus as a missionary organization.
The imitation of our Lord Jesus is the work of a lifetime. It is not some secret revelation suddenly discovered. It is not about a crisis emotional experience. It is about living in, with, and for the Lord moment by moment every day. In this ongoing relationship, we continue to discover more and more of what it means to imitate our Lord. Today, as we ponder the life of St. Ignatius, we are led to imitate a love and devotion to our Lord made manifest in a corresponding love and devotion to the reaching of souls without Christ. We do not need to travel to distant locations. Such people are all around us.
Today, let us think about our own imitation of Christ. Let us continue to draw near to Him. Think about imitating the lives of the saints in those ways that they reveal more of Christ to us. Let us also determine that, by God's grace, we will live lives worthy of imitation so that others who come after us may learn to imitate Christ in their lives as well.