Homily of Bro.Robbie Paraan, SJ
Noon Mass, 20 July 2011
Ateneo de Manila College Chapel
Recently, a young college student came up to me seeking help with a dilemma. The deadline for a certain commitment was coming up, a commitment that would affect his life significantly. Even before we sat down to talk however, he was already talking non-stop, enumerating all the possible points for the two options before him. And then, without missing a beat, he told me that he had more than made up his mind for one option already, and he reiterated all the points he had already mentioned, in an apparent attempt to convince me that this option was the best one. After 20 minutes he finally stopped talking. Silence filled the room for quite some time before I asked him, “So, what do you want me to do for you?” He gave me a puzzled look, and he annoyingly said, “Bro naman…anong gagawin ko?”
The art of discernment, as many of you know, is one of the most important gifts that St. Ignatius of Loyola has shared with the Church through his Spiritual Exercises. Compared to regular decision-making, discernment factors in the will of God. In decision-making I ask myself which is the better option. In discernment, on the other hand, I ask myself what is it that God wants me to do.
But many times we do our discernment the way the young student did his. We come to the Lord in prayer, earnestly begging for the grace to see his will in the options before us. But many times we do not receive the grace of knowing His will because we have already made a decision, we already know what we want. I am here to share not on discernment but really one of its elements, without which it will not work: Ignatian indifference. When we come to the Lord seeking his will and yet already having an inclination, then we lack Ignatian indifference, and thus our effort at discernment falls flat on its face.
When we talk nowadays about indifference, it connotes a certain lack of interest or concern, a listlessness or insensibility which could evolve into its most worrisome forms: apathy. But what Ignatius meant by indifference was freedom. For him, being indifferent means approaching anything with fresh eyes. This is especially applicable in making decisions. Faced with a choice, it would be best, according to Ignatius, not to lean towards one option over the other. To be indifferent means to take a step back and detach oneself from any form of bias that would color the decision prematurely.
But we may ask, is this even possible, to approach a decision with absolutely no inclination? I personally do not think so. If this is so, then why try to be indifferent at all? The answer is quite simple but it requires some knowledge about Ignatian Spirituality. At its core Ignatian Spirituality is about finding God in all things. Ignatius believed that the world and everything in it—-from the mundane to the grand, is, to quote Hopkins “charged with the grandeur of God”. May kakayahan tayong makita ang Diyos dahil ang Diyos ay nasa bawat sulok ng mundo. And thus, the task of every person is to open his eyes to the world and he will find God. And this is the main goal of discernment: to find God and to find his will for us.
Why do we have to bother to be indifferent or at least try to do so? Because if we don’t, we do not let the God who is in everything reveal himself to us. If we are predisposed already for one option over the other, genuine discernment is impossible because we cannot be moved nor inspired by the Spirit anymore. When we are too sure of ourselves already, there is no gap left, no space for God’s will to manifest itself.
For Ignatius, indifference meant freedom. Freedom from our own biases and inclinations in making decisions which leads to a freedom for God’s presence, for God’s will, for God himself. We pray for this grace on this third day of our novena, that we may be indifferent in the face of our decisions, insofar as it allows us to be open to the movement of God in our lives. Amen.
Contributed by P.V. Beley, BCBP Greenhills