Preparing by Love: Week Two of Advent [10DEC2013]
Readings: Psalm 26, 28 ◊ Amos 7:10-17 ◊ Revelation 1:1-16 ◊ Matt. 22:23-46 ◊
The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola
Today was filled with many opportunities for contemplation. I am blessed to retrieve wisdom from a treasury of resources. I enjoyed spirit-filled conversations from the moment I awakened until the close of my day. I have dug into ancient writings from spiritual masters finding conviction, wise direction, and inspiration. I have experienced loving support and affirmation from friends and family. Most importantly, I have sensed the real presence and guiding hand of my Great and Mighty God. Prayerful words from the prayer book of the Irish Jesuits remind me; “God is with me, but more, God is within me, giving me existence. Let me dwell for a moment on God’s life-giving presence in my body, my mind, my heart, and in the whole of my life. Help me, O LORD, to be more conscious of your always-near-to-me presence.”
Wise direction from the great spiritual master Ignatius of Loyola helps me to keep an attentive attitude for discerning what spirits are having influence in my life. I reflect and evaluate what my thoughts are and what the condition of my emotional, physical, and spiritual states are. How do I feel myself being guided? Ignatius teaches us that “evil spirits” will try to make us complacent, defensive, offer excuses, and entice us with further distractions and pleasures. The good spirit tries to get our attention in such a way that will lead us back to or closer to God. The good spirit may shake us up a bit, making us feel remorseful or unsettled…convicted or stinging our conscious.
The good spirit will strengthen, encourage, console, and give peace… leading us in a direction to grow more Christ like. The evil spirit wants to derail all of the above; stirring up anxiety, false sadness, needless confusion, frustration and other obstacles. It is of immense help to be aware of this and to recognize what is happening. As I am aware of these attitudes and sensations within me, I am able to move in the direction of the good spirit and reject the advances of the evil spirit.
Two passages are especially inspiring to me this day/evening. The first is a warning to me. Jesus speaking to the Sadducees, who were trying to trick him, rebukes them with these words: “Your mistake is that you do not know the Scriptures, and you don’t know the power of God” (Matt. 22:29 NLT). The sobering thing about this rebuke from Jesus is that the people he was speaking to were very knowledgeable of the words of Scripture. They were known as experts in the Law of God…yet Jesus told them they knew neither the Scriptures nor the power of God. This, I believe, can serve as a very clear warning to me, not to assume superior knowledge of the Scriptures, but to remain open to, discerning, to the movements of God’s Spirit. The second passage is also from Matthew 22: 37-40
You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: Love your neighbor as yourself. The entire Law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.
This passage and exhortation from Jesus is sufficient for me to practice the rest of my life. I read this to say the most important thing I can do as a Christian is to focus all my attention on the act of loving God with all of me…in whatever season of life and wherever I may be. If I do this…the subsequent commands and perfection of God’s Law will be a natural succession in my spiritual journey.
A Psalm Prayer:
Declare me innocent, O LORD, for I have acted with integrity; I have trusted in the LORD without wavering. Put me on trial LORD, and cross-examine me. Test my motives and my heart. -I come to your altar, O LORD… I love your sanctuary. Redeem me and show me mercy. Psalm 26: 1-2, 6, 8, 11