In these troubled times, as I continue to look for God’s consolation,
I reflect on my experiences with the Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius of Loyola and am drawn to review their meaning for me.
The Ignatian Exercises are “bookended” with meditations considering God’s love. In between them are four sections or, as Ignatius calls them, “four weeks.” The Fourth Week typically coincides with the Easter Season, from Resurrection to Pentecost. What was it about this Fourth Week of the Spiritual Exercises that seemed to launch me into new prayer disciplines and closer relationship to the Divine? At least for me, it was the new energy and interest in daily quiet prayer, practicing the Examen, and contemplating the scriptures with imagination while using all my senses.
Through meditation with the scriptures of the Easter season, Ignatius reminds us that Jesus wants to do for humans today what he did for his disciples in the early church. Indeed, we become Easter people when we open up to this deep well of God’s gift of Spirit. Like the disciples in the early days and weeks after the Resurrection, I slowly awaken to God’s presence in my life and in events around me.
The Fourth Week ends with Contemplation on the Love of Christ, suggesting themes of God’s Gifts, Giving back in return, God’s Laboring on my behalf and deep Gratitude. Spending time in prayer reflecting on my own God-given gifts, and how much God is laboring or always being there for me and others, I am inspired to return those gifts from a grateful heart.
Yet, in these days after Easter, 2021, new questions and doubts arise. I ponder, where have the graces from the Gifts of the Holy Spirit found a new home in me? And how have I been nurturing them? …or not? How has this difficult year of Pandemic blocked my own Easter Joy? To what action out of deeper love of neighbor could these days and weeks of recent racial unrest and injustice be calling me? Often, it’s hard these days to find that hope, that light, that Easter Joy. Obstacles like fear, stress, anxiety, grief, anger, adversity and suffering of so many communities take their turns slipping into my quiet spaces quite uninvited, yet determined to stay awhile!
Frequently, I ask myself, “Where is God in all this?” My eyes scan my book shelf and land on “The Book of Joy…” Yes, I am reminded that “God works in strange ways!”
Healing balm in the form of the Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu’s “Joy Meditation: on the 8 Pillars of Joy” (342-345) has been consoling. Those 8 Pillars help me to explore how the roles of perspective, humility, humor, acceptance, forgiveness, gratitude, compassion and generosity invite me to hope in this Easter Joy with renewed life-giving trust that God is indeed present in these turbulent times. There are vaccines, unheard of one year ago. People working for justice and toward peaceful, nonviolent solutions appear out of all sorts of communities. I share a quote from Pope John Paul II in 1972 that seems to speak directly to our circumstances today: “If you want peace, work for justice.”
I close with Romans 12:12, “Rejoice in hope. Endure in affliction. Persevere in Prayer.”
To learn more about the Extended Exercises of Ignatius of Loyola go to Loyola’s website under the Spiritual Direction link for more information. https://loyolaspiritualitycenter.org/the-spiritual-exercises/
Reference: His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu with Douglas Abrams. The Book of Joy: lasting happiness in a changing world. 2016. New York: Avery Publishing.