"Remember, I am with you always to the end of the age" (Mt 28:20)

"All Things In God" And "God In All Things"

he Ascension Chapel on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem is a revered holy site for pilgrims, traditionally believed to be the place from which Jesus ascended to heaven after his resurrection. The building, circular in shape and resembling a small mosque, reflects the varied architectural influences of the numerous reconstructions it has undergone over the centuries. For those familiar with St Ignatius of Loyola, the Ascension Chapel holds particular significance. During his pilgrimage to the Holy Land 500 years ago in 1523, just two years after recovering from a severe injury caused by a cannonball, Ignatius set out on his pilgrimage. His physical limitations did not deter him; rather, they seemed to deepen his resolve and even became an obsession. In less than a month of staying in Jerusalem, Ignatius returned to this chapel three times, highlighting its profound spiritual impact.

What happened during those visits? During this period, Ignatius was in the process of seeking direction for his life. The Mount of Olives, being a site of Jesus' prayer and ascension, was particularly significant for seeking this guidance.

Initially, Ignatius planned to stay and live permanently in Jerusalem to follow the steps of Christ more closely. However, the Franciscans, who had authority over Christian pilgrims in the area, were concerned about the safety and political implications of allowing Western pilgrims to remain permanently, given the political instability and the risks posed by the Ottoman rulers at the time.

Under these circumstances, Ignatius was advised by the Franciscans to return to Europe. Before leaving his dream destination, he felt a strong desire to visit the Mount of Olives again. According to his autobiography,
On Mount Olives, there is a stone from which Our Lord ascended to heaven, and His footprints are still visible there; this was what he wanted to see again. So, without informing anyone or taking a guide (for those who go without a Turk as a guide run a great risk), he slipped away alone to the Mount of Olives. The guards initially refused him entry. He offered them a desk knife he carried, and after praying there with deep consolation, he felt compelled to visit Bethphage. While there, he realized he had not clearly noted the direction of the right and left footprints on Mount Olives. He returned there, and I believe he offered his scissors to the guards so they would let him enter (Autobiography 47).

During his time on the Mount of Olives, St Ignatius experienced a significant vision that profoundly affected him. He described it as seeing Christ continuously, that is, "all things in God" and "God in all things." This moment of spiritual insight became foundational to the Jesuit motto "Finding God in all things," which emphasizes a deep connection with God by sensing His presence in every aspect of creation.

This encounter at the Mount of Olives was one of many mystical experiences that influenced the development of his Spiritual Exercises, where he encouraged others to seek and find God in all things. This experience not only shaped Ignatius's personal spirituality but also his future teachings and the spiritual legacy he left through the formation of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits).

A final point about our gospel. We heard the final words of Jesus to his disciples before he was lifted up into heaven. He said, “Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature." This final words to preaching the gospel to all of creation is something that is very much connected with "Finding God in all things." He was not saying goodbye after all despite this being now his last words to them.

The Risen Lord asks us to preach the gospel to every creature because by doing this we will drawn closer to him, to be with him everywhere, in everything within the cosmos beyond the confines of this Church building. Preaching is not a one-way thing. Preaching the gospel happens in communion with God in creation, i.e., among the trees and animals and insects. Not only in Holy Land but in all lands. "All Things In God" and "God In All Things." Amen. Fr JM Manzano SJ