An Ignatian Reflection on Sustenance- By Chris Murphy

Posted on: August 26th, 2015

An Ignatian Reflection on Sustenance

Those working for social justice need a proper diet in order to sustain the movement towards a just and peaceful world. “Do not work for food that perishes but for the food that endures for eternal life…” (John: 6:27) Many of us desire a food that will not perish, a spirit that can be sustained. The question is to discern if what is feeding us will sustain us overtime?   A life experience exhibited that I was feeding on an unhealthy desire.

I entered a seminary with an uncertain sense that I was called to the priesthood. Within in three months I discerned that I was called to ministry but that I needed to explore marriage. I was nervous about telling my father as he dreamed that one of his boys being a priest. I headed home to share my decision. As the words slipped from my mouth I watched for my father’s response. I braced myself for his disappointment. He responded “the priesthood and marriage are both wonderful vocations. Good for you for exploring your options.” What a relief I felt.

A couple of days later my dad said that if I was to raise a family, I needed to get a job that could support a family. Working in ministry was a not a sufficient means. But I was convinced that I could do professional ministry and have a family. I made an internal promise that I would prove to my father that I could work in ministry and have a suburban home.

Fast forward six years, I am married, have a child, a cute bungalow and work as a hospital chaplain. A close friend and I are talking when he notes, “you have it made, the American dream.”   The way he said it was sincere while I felt hollow. What I realized was that my internal promise to show my father I could “make it” had become my desire. My internal promise was feeding me. I was pursuing this American dream to prove to my father wrong. I was feeding on a desire of self-promotion. On the outside all appeared well while on the inside I was feeding on false pride.

In recognizing this I cried because my father had died two years prior. I had this pent up anger at him for dying before I could prove to him that I could make it. I was not acting on faith, or the service to others, rather I had substituted my desire to serve my family and ministry with a desire to prove my father wrong. I was subsisting on food that would perish.

How often do we subtlety replace what would give us life, what would lead towards a more just world with something that seems to be a better choice, an improved way, only in time to find we have deceived ourselves? We are not feeding on the bread of life but a substance, a desire that is malnourishing.

To sustain one’s work for peace and justice, we need food that will not perish; the love and grace of God is what will sustain us. For love and grace will not perish. Love and grace are the nourishing food in our efforts for social justice. It they are not, eventually our efforts will collapse. As Ignatius prayed, “Give me only your love and your grace, that is enough for me.”

“All the things in this world are gifts of God,

presented to us so that we can know God more easily and

make a return of love more readily.

As a result, we appreciate and use all these gifts of God

insofar as they help us develop as loving persons.

But if any of these gifts become the center of our lives, they

displace God and so hinder our growth toward our goal.”

                                                                        St Ignatius of Loyola


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