Luke 1:69-70, 71-72, 73-75
The first year of training to be a Jesuit boasts a broad spectrum of activities and assignments that range from introspection and prayer that is deeply personal and distinctly solitary to immersion within the most active communities of inner-city America and beyond. Of that first year, moreover, novices are typically sent away for a pilgrimage experience. The 10 of us in my class were “supplied” with $35 and a one-way bus ticket for six weeks. A bit intimidating, huh?
But just imagine the story-swapping in the days – weeks, even – after we all returned! Actually, it’s been nearly ten years and I still find myself sharing the stories of pilgrimage.
There are a few reasons why Jesuit novices go on pilgrimages, doing so equipped with such scant resources. One of those reasons points toward a phrase present at so many Jesuit initiations, such as the high schools, universities, and retreat houses: finding God in all things. In many ways it’s a capstone phrase that represents the great practicality of Ignatian spirituality. But it’s well represented in the force of our readings today. Paul’s tone of voice with the Galatians isn’t just stern, but offensive! Yet it doesn’t mask his message. Have faith!, he insists. ‘Have faith and thereby believe that God is present in the midst of daily life.’ He’s rather emphatic about the reality of the Holy Spirit, that is, the work of grace in a world much like ours today: busy and full of activity and sometimes in conflict with the highest of our values of peace and justice. So Paul pushes hard, telling us to be open to the reality of God in our midst as spirit and to do so by having faith. Believe!
And then Luke seems to echo the same command! His words are more familiar to us: “seek and you will find,” “knock and the door will open,” “ask and receive.” Luke is also telling us that God is so present in our lives. The seeking, knocking, and asking of Luke’s message is his way of encouraging us to believe in the reality of God’s presence at every turn. In his own way he says the same thing: believe. But his nuance is this: do so actively!
As Jesuit pilgrims we had to embrace the very dictates of today’s Scripture in such an explicit way. We were sent out into the world to experience God’s goodness and generosity. Sometimes it falls into our laps. But more often than not we had to look for it and name it. God’s activity in our lives can never be pigeon-holed, but I think so many of us Christian believers learn day by day how to experience God in our lives, strengthening our faith lives through prayer and discipleship and so many other ways. We learn that goodness and beauty in our world come from God and we become more astute for finding God in all things.
How can we predispose ourselves to witness God today, and thereby
experience the grace of the Holy Spirit? How can we seek, knock,
and ask of God? How can our belief in God – the faith that ultimately
defines us – actively search and find grace today?
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