“…Indeed the word of God is… sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating even between soul and spirit … able to discern reflections and thoughts of the heart. No creature is concealed from him, but everything is … exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must render an account. (Heb 4:12-13)
Ever since his first transgression in the Garden of Eden, man has tried to hide his sin from God (Gen 3:8). Man has a knack for hiding his turpitude by burrowing deep into his soul and squirreling away his offenses. In fact by accumulating an assortment of lesser venial sins without confession and reparation, man creates a cushiony nest on which to deposit his greater sins, so as to not feel their full weight as he should. Once the soul becomes a padded fortress for sin it builds battlements to defend itself against admonishment so that it may continue on as is, unabashed and unashamed.
In order to breach the heart of the sinner, God sends his Word to pierce the conscience, so that the person might feel sharply the severity of his sinfulness. If the person be honest, then he will suffer the scrutiny of the Lord like the burning Sun since “nothing escapes its heat” (Ps 19:7). If he be dishonest, then he will seek the shade or rather the shadows in which to hide his sins. Yet, this is of no avail because all men “must render an account” to God in the end.
Nor does a person have to live in serious sin to avoid God. He may just be lazy and dismissive toward deeper religious devotion. When Ignatius Loyola met Francis Xavier at the University of Paris, Francis did not take the word of God and Ignatius seriously until these two young Basque nobles were united in friendship. The word of God through Ignatius lanced the soul of Francis Xavier to whom Ignatius had asked, “What will it profit a man to gain the whole world and lose his own soul?”(Mk 8:36)
In order to memorialize this sentiment raised in today’s second reading from the Letter to the Hebrews, we place on our bulletin cover for this 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time a work by the Spanish Expressionist, Carlos Saenz de Tejada (d. 1958), Plate 4 from his series The Life of St. Ignatius Loyola. Expressionism reacted to the Neoclassical and Romantic tendencies of the Academic Art of Europe which depicted myths, legends, and famous events of ancient, medieval, and contemporary history. The modern Expressionist however sought the personal, subjective perspective in order to “express” an emotion or mood.
Tejada’s work has been compared to Art Nouveau and this work bears this out. However, “Plate 4” also bears the spiritual legacy of El Greco with elongated and uplifting tone and figures. Not only the posture of Loyola (standing) and Xavier (sitting), but the serene yet stoic scene emits the sacred mood of Francis finally capitulating through Ignatius to the word of God. Francis accepts the austerity of religious life symbolized by the scantily supplied room, while God frees him for a new and glorious life shown by the open window. We can “feel” Francis Xavier gaining his soul and leaving the world behind.
–Steve Guillotte, Director of Pastoral Services