This final exercise of the retreat is modeled on the final reflection in the Spiritual Exercises. There is an irony here. Though it is the final exercise, the making of the Exercises never ends. God does not send us a certificate proclaiming, “You have successfully finished the course.” Paul himself wrote that he had not reached the finish line but pressed on. So we finish our beginning and continue our being created and recreated by the love of God. Two points for Ignatius were very important during these last exercises: love consists more in deeds than in words, and love is a mutual handing over to the other of all that one has. In the first “For the Journey” we are encouraged not to look for progress or lack of it during our journeys. Instead, we have been encouraged to watch Love at work, manifesting that love in deeds and in the handing over to us all the gifts of grace and life that we have been offered.
This week we pray with the receptivity of children who sense how deeply they are loved. Ignatius wrote the Exercises to be very personal and so we move from the general we to the very particular I. There are the children in our culture, who at the end of opening all their Christmas presents might have a feeling of “Is this all there is?” Maybe after evaluating his or her siblings’ gifts, he or she might feel cheated or less loved. This is very human and understandable.
I am encouraged to be the Christmas presented child who, after seeing my gifts and those of others, wants to look at my parents and relatives and wonder, “Why are they so good and loving to me?”
I walk through a world of created gifts. Trees, flowers, birds of all sizes and kinds, amazingly diverse, and all these presents given to me.
I look up at the moon, the stars, I marvel at the changes of the weather as the sun moves back and forth keeping this world at the proper temperatures for life and growth. All this God hands over to me.
We leave this retreat to live so that we constantly recover sight and sensitivity to the goodness of God and the goodness of this God-love self who I am.