One of the readings which can be used for the Feast of St. Ignatius Loyola is Luke 14,26-33. In these words to a crowd Jesus speaks of what in the first century was called 'hatred'. In his teaching, Jesus mentions a series of objects to be hated if one is to be his disciple: father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, and even oneself, A final instance of this hatred is in v.33, wherein Jesus says one must give up one's possessions in order to be his disciple. Jesus' use of the term 'hatred' in these examples must be clearly understood. It does not mean what we mean today by 'hating', i.e. 'not loving'. Rather, it has the meaning of 'preference'. Since Jesus espouses very clearly the command to love one's neighbor, he cannot ask for 'hatred' of one's neighbor, and all the more so of onself; Jesus does not contradict himself. His language often is a form of exaggeration (and the trick is to recognize when he exaggerates!). In this case, Jesus knows what 'hatred' is and uses it exaggeratedly to make a point. And the point is that one cannot prefer anyone or any possession or any other thing to love of God and of Himself - if one wants to be his follower. He gives two examples, one dealing with building and the other dealing with warfare. Into neither situation can one enter half-prepared or half-ready or half-devotedly. Either one gives his all to build, to win or one should not even try. Similarly, if one is to follow Jesus, this following demands a preference for God and Jesus above everyone and everything else. In practice, one must order life, choices, affections so that one knows only that no one and nothing take the place of God and Jesus.
In his Spiritual Exercises, St. Ignatius' first advice is that one realize why one has been created: to praise, reverence and serve God. With this principle in mind, he asks the one doing the exercises to make one's life correspond to the fundamental truth which, St. Ignatius hopes, the exercitant has accepted. Everything has been made to help a human being love and reverence and obey God. As a result, once one is convinced about what decision(s) he should take and live out, no one and nothing will keep one from these decisions. The exercitant, then, is urged to have only one supreme preference and to make choices, whether for a state of life or an improvement of live, in the light of the fundamental preference.
St. Ignatius proposes what he has learned from Jesus about 'hatred' or preference. Ignatius speaks in a calm, intellectual way, Jesus speaks in a semi-poetic, exaggerated way. Each, however, hopes that what he says about preference or 'hatred' will become a part of an individual so that a person does become a disciple of Jesus. Indeed, even if Jesus and St. Ignatius had never spoken their words, their lives would be profound examples of prefering God to all other things. This Gospel reading, then, is very apt for St. Ignatius Day: the words of Jesus inspired this Saint to make his own correct preference, then teach others the preference he knew Jesus wanted people to know.
John Kilgallen, S.J.