Today is the feast of St. Ignatius of Loyola (1491-1556) who was on his way to military fame and fortune when a cannonball shattered his leg. During his convalescence, because choices were few, he read a life of Christ and the saints and was deeply touched. His life story is worth a read as he became a tireless servant of God who founded the Society of Jesus – the Jesuits – and wrote The Spiritual Exercises which forms the basis of spiritual practice for innumerable people – lay and religious alike – in today’s world. Ignatius was a proponent of finding God in all things and his motto was “For the greater glory of God.”
Today’s first reading from the prophet Jeremiah (18: 1-6) might have been written for Ignatius, as well as for each of us. It is the story of God’s instruction to Jeremiah to go to the potter’s house. As Jeremiah did so and watched the potter form and reform the clay, God says to/through him, “Can I not do to you, house of Israel, as this potter has done? Indeed, like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand.” I have great admiration for people who work with clay, having once tried it myself with less than stellar result. Keeping the clay moist, turning the wheel endlessly while forming the object, feeling everything to be just right…not as easy as it looks to the watcher. And then there is the firing in the kiln. Cracks often ruin the piece so the potter must begin again. That reflection makes me grateful to God that he never gave up when I got dry or when my cracks appeared. And being the clay is a daunting process as well. Trying to remain malleable in times of great turmoil (having a leg shattered by a cannonball!) or the small times of distress, willing to go through the fire of testing to come out well-formed and whole…is the work of a lifetime. The key is in surrendering to the hand of the potter and trusting in the skill that the potter possesses for our benefit. Ah, but the beauty of a well-tooled vessel! Who can ignore the invitation to become that?