When it comes to our goals in life, the paths we are on, or even the habits we have formed, it is important to remember that there are times when we shouldn’t deviate from them. St. Ignatius of Loyola wrote extensively about our tendencies to deviate from a good path when we find ourselves going through a rough patch. He called this a time of desolation, which is quite appropriate for our time.
Whenever we feel that we are alone, cut off from others, misunderstood, or maybe even resentful, we need to take a long, deep breath and examine what that means. St. Ignatius tells us that this is the most dangerous time for us to make changes in our lives, because we aren’t in a state of mind or spirit to make the best decisions. What we do in these times, according to him, should reflect the old saying: if you’re going through Hell, keep on going.
In today’s Gospel, we see Cleopas and Mary making the mistake so many made after Christ’s death, they simply left. Who could blame them? They, along with almost everyone else, thought all was lost. Much of what St. Ignatius is trying to help us understand is based on these experiences, in which Christ’s disciples learned the hard way what we must know to face our own hard times well. Through remaining faithful to our lives as Christians through thick and thin, we are all rewarded with seeing the glory of Christ’s victory in the end.
But how does that help in a time when we struggle? Does it actually help? What it does for us is guide us to acting rightly and righteously in a time when it is so easy to seek for comfort in all the wrong places. Again, St. Ignatius points out that we seek to find comfort in times of desolation, when what we really desire is to return to a time of consolation. Those times that we remember when all seemed right are what we desire, but our tendency is to reach out for the first thing that will bring us comfort, rather than hold on to the thing that brought us true peace in the first place.
Of course, Cleopas and Mary had no way of knowing all of this, which is why Christ himself came to speak with them and teach all of us this lesson through their lives. At a time when something outside of their lives seemed to tear everything apart, what they truly needed to do was hold on to what was at the very core of their lives, Christ himself. Whenever some outside influence changes our lives, we ought to do the same, and ride out whatever it might be that brings us to that time of desolation.
We cannot expect to simply bring ourselves out of a time of desolation, nor should we make that effort. This would be as silly as expecting to make good decisions when we are tired or choose healthy food when we are starving. What we must do is avoid the temptation to reach out for something to comfort us, by holding on tight to what has grounded us in the first place.
St. Ignatius of Loyola,
Pray for us now and always.