For the Journey

For the Journey: True Freedom

We are facing a prelude or overture this week, which follows the pattern of the Spiritual Exercises. It is like the opening section of a musical play, which gets us familiar and comfortable with the score that will be developed later in the work.

The difficulty with what we hear as openers this week can make us a bit uncomfortable and question whether we want to continue. Near the beginning of the Exercises, Ignatius displays what he means by freedom. I know that each of us wants a long life, health, a good name, and sufficient wealth. It may appear that right here, after such gentle prayer, the other shoe has finally dropped. To continue making these exercises, we must already have complete detachment from such natural desires and from life, health, and wealth.

In truth, Ignatius points to the universal human inclinations, which, if not tended to, can drive, dominate, imprison, and destroy our experience of life. We are invited in this overture simply to look at the areas that most commonly take us out of harmony. For the first time in this retreat we are asked to check whether we are free enough to face our unfreedoms. It is only when we do this that the rest of the symphony of the Exercises will make any sense.

We must be very clear about this, then; Ignatius assumes that as human beings we will experience disordering tendencies. Can I be honest and gentle with the uncovering of what plays such a loud part in my personal orchestra — that there is disorder in my life’s symphony? Later, Ignatius will be inviting us to watch Jesus as the conductor of our own, and the world’s, musical play. When Ignatius uses the term indifference, he does not mean “not caring.” He is literally up front about where we are all going by making this retreat. Here, he indicates the areas of “over caring” that will take us away from trusting in the God-caring that is true freedom. Will we, in time, be freed to watch, listen to, and follow the Divine Conductor?

This week we are guided toward a freedom that will be the result of honest reflection and prayerful surrender, but that takes time and God’s good grace. The basic freedom of this week is the simple recognition of our human tendencies, which, when softened by our contact with Jesus and God’s ways, become elements of harmony and balance. “Be not afraid”; the God who calls is faithful, and that God is constantly inviting us into the symphony of life.

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