Our Name Is Ignatius

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Saint Ignatius High School

Following Jesus Through the Vale of Tears

For whom is this life, in the end, not filled with tears? The most important relationships in our earthly lives all end in tears. What phrase better relays that sense of what this world is all about than the phrase “vale of tears?” With Jesus and Mary, however, we can come out rejoicing.

Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time

First Reading: Jeremiah 31:7-9

Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 126:1-6

Second Reading: Letter to the Hebrews 5:1-6

Gospel: According to St. Mark 10:46-52

One of the great Marian prayers, and my favorite, is the ‘Salve, Regina’ or the ‘Hail, Holy Queen.’ Central to the theme of the prayer is the line:

“To thee we send up our sighs, mourning and weeping in this vale of tears.”

For whom is this life, in the end, not filled with tears?  The most important relationships in our earthly lives all end in tears.  What phrase better relays that sense of what this world is all about than the phrase “vale of tears?”

This week’s psalm recognizes this situation in all of its importance to the human condition.

“[T]hey go forth weeping, carrying the seed to be sown,”

So often life is about carrying the seed to be sown in situations where we’d rather be doing just about anything else.  Thoreau thought he had our number when he said in Walden that, “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.”  The lives of most people are indeed quiet, but maybe it takes a man of the Enlightenment like Thoreau to then conclude that those are therefore lives of desperation.  To those with faith, they are lives of quiet heroism.

To carry the seed to be sown is the duty of each of us.  We are to carry on our work in this world even when we’d rather just give up and tell the world, “You win.”  St. Teresa of Calcutta told reporters on a number of occasions that her job was not to be successful, but to be faithful – to always carry the seed to be sown even when it looked like nothing would ever grow from it.  We now know just how incredibly telling her words were as aspects of her spiritual journey have been made known that reveal that she was not far off from being the poster child for Thoreau’s life of quiet desperation.

Yet, she continued.  She continued not because she had an epiphany or heard the voice of God telling her it would all work out.  She continued because she never lost hope, hope in the one thing that really matters in life – that Jesus really is the Way.

Like Bartimaeus in today’s Gospel reading St. Teresa was blind – blind not in the physical sense, but blind like a pilot in a storm who must fly solely by her instruments. Like Bartimaeus she held on to the faith that through Jesus she would be able to see.  Once he is freed from his physical blindness, Bartimaeus doesn’t just thank Jesus, he, as St. Teresa did, follows Jesus.  As St. Mark tells us: “he followed Him on the way.”

To be a follower of Jesus, like Bartimaeus or St. Teresa, is very different from being an admirer of Jesus, where one can watch from the sidelines.  To follow Jesus is to go forth to sow the seed even while weeping.  To follow Jesus is to know that, as the psalm tells us, those who sow while weeping “shall come back rejoicing.”

And if we follow Jesus we are also given a companion in the Blessed Mother.  We can, and not only in this month (dedicated to her as Our Lady of the Rosary), but in all times, as the prayer says, ask her to:

“Turn, then, most gracious advocate, thine eyes of mercy toward us, and after this, our exile, show unto us the blessed fruit of thy womb, Jesus.”

We may go out full of tears, but with the help of Jesus and Mary we will most certainly come back rejoicing.

A.M.D.G.