I mentioned that last week I was on retreat. It really was a moment of God’s grace for me, because after leaving the legion I hadn’t done a good retreat. The last retreat before leaving was in Rome where I did the 30 day Ignatian spiritual exercises. Since then the weight of leaving and reestablishing myself in my new parish left its toll. I really needed a good retreat.
As I was preparing for this Sunday’s homily, the second reading from St Paul’s letter to the Corinthians (2 Cor 12:7-12), I remembered a certain moment of grace during those exercises in Rome. It was just before lunch in the third week, which is dedicated to the Passion of Christ. I was praying my breviary. The psalm for that hour was Psalm 119 which reads, “It was good for me that I had to suffer”. In Portuguese the word “suffer” was translated humiliated. It read, “It was good for me that I was humiliated.” I stopped in my tracks in the hot summer sun. It was good to be humiliated.
The humiliations that I suffered in the Legion, both the normal ones that everyone goes through, and the extraordinary ones that were particular to me, in the long run were good for me. They stripped away any self-seeking and taught me to want God alone. From this I anchored my personal spirituality in three basic principles that I follow to this day. God loves me with an infinite, personal love; he forgives me unconditionally; and he has prepared a place for me in heaven. There is not a day that goes by that I do not fall back on these principles and thank him for where I am today. “We know that all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose” (Rm 8:28).
In no way does the fruit of humiliation justify the means used to humiliate. Each legionary responsible will have to respond before God for that. But that God can bear fruit in adversity, there can be no doubt.