For the Journey

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?”
It is in this spirit of grateful wonder that Ignatius asks me to make some response of love freely. “All I have, You have given me. What I can give You back is my selfish, possessive and exclusive possession and use of them. I ask only that You bless and grace me in our future together. That would be enough for me and a beginning for You.”

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.
I return to the childlike puzzling at the littlest things and muse that God has always and is always at work to hand things to me. God is laboring to attract me but not force me to see the divine finger and hand and arm and self, creating me and all else for me as well. This exercise increases my awareness of how everything is a gift and at the same time an invitation. I am both the recipient and the responder. Once I am aware of how God exists in everything and everything exists in God, how can I keep from singing, from watching and listening, from sharing and from wanting to know what is being offered at any one moment of my life? The river of God’s love flows on whether or not I am attentive to its presents and presence. I want to be less unavailable to the Giver of Love who works and does things in my life so as to reduce me to the wondering child of God I am. The “child of God” is a mature human who knows what things are, where they have come from, and where they are taking me. All things that come from God return to God, including 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.

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