20 November 2015

Day 4—Second Week #7 Exercises

Today’s a repetition of Day 2 where we discussed the schema that Ignatius supplied. The idea is, basically, to see that the things God’s given us can be used against us if we’re not careful. Most notably are seeking after riches than can lead to seeking after honor (or human approval) , which, in turn, leads to a false sense of pride. And If pride goes unchecked, it could lead to all vices.

That’s the story Ignatius tells anyway.

And I can kind of see the point. “Paul” wrote that “the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil” (1 Timothy 6.10). So I think that’s what Ignatius is referring to—not the money itself but an unhealthy desire for more wealth. If one is solely focused on obtaining wealth one begins to look at scrupulous ways to get it. At the beginning, one might be hesitant, but if one doesn’t get caught stealing, and doesn’t for a long time, then one begins to think one can get away with a lot more. But it all starts from “the love of money.”

Now, this doesn’t have to be money, necessarily, because what we’re really talking about is greed. Greed can take on many forms—wealth, sex, power, food, drugs, etc. Whatever one has too much of and will stop at nothing to obtain more of, I would place under greed.

Ignatius believes that the counterpoint here is poverty, both spiritually and, if God wills, physically. And while that may be one solution, I don't think it’s the full solution. In other words, it’s not the “root” of the counterpoint. For me, that’d be intention and presence.

In Buddhism, intention and presence are two very big ideas. Keeping the money motif, intention is just what it says—what does one intend by obtaining money? Not motivation; that’s something else, but what’s intended? My intention could be to make a nice dinner for my wife. My motivation could be because it’s her birthday. Two different things.

My intention for obtaining more wealth could be security in the future, helping those with less, etc. All noble ideas. But if my intention is to buy myself more stuff, well, I’m on the road to “all vices”, as Ignatius put it.

Being present, though, is something else. It’s “being in the moment”; being aware of what’s going on around me; not getting caught up in thinking about the future and missing out on the present. Jesus said, “Stop worrying about tomorrow, because tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own” (Matthew 6.34). In other words, be present. Be in the moment for that’s all we have. If we’re scheming how to get more, we’re not in the moment.

But make no mistake, being in the moment is one of the hardest things to do. That is, to truly be present—to be open to the experience, to see and hear God in the midst of the moment, to be aware of my feelings and thoughts and senses—is something we must practice daily. And that’s what the examen is all about. The examen helps us, teaches us, to be present by reflecting on the previous moments. The point of this exercise is to cultivate a life of presence. To realize that there is no other moment, that this is it. For me, that’s the tool to root out the vices.

Be present, my friends.

In the Love of the Three in One,

Br. Jack+, LC

16 November 2015

Day 3—Second Week #1 Exercises

As I stated previously, I’ve been quite busy with the second year of Spiritual Director training. And because of that, I’m not able to update this blog as much as I’d like. However, the last few days of class have been the exception to the rule.

Last time, we talked about God’s Dream. Today, we’ll focus on Jesus and his cause. The prayer texts for this are:

Just like the other day, I’d add some other texts, specifically to Jesus’ cause: Mark 1.15; 10.35-45; Luke 4.16-21; etc.

To put it bluntly, the Gospels seem compelled to say that Jesus did and said the things that only Yahweh was supposed to do and say (see Wright’s book How God Became King). His main cause, therefore, was to usher in God’s Realm (or Kingdom). As he said in Mark 1.15, “Now is the time! Here comes God’s kingdom! Change your hearts and lives, and trust this good news!” And just like we saw from Luke 4, the fulfillment of those promises—the preaching of God’s Realm to the poor, the releasing of prisoners, healing the blind, liberating the oppressed, and proclaiming Yahweh’s Jubilee—is not sometime in the distant future. No. Jesus said, “Today, this scripture has been fulfilled” (v. 21). All of the passages above are sub-points to the establishment of God’s Realm. In other words, it’s because of God’s realm that all of those other things happen.

Another way of saying this is that there’s an eschatological emphasis with Jesus. He’s the final chapter, if you will, of Israel’s story. St. Paul wrote that Jesus is the “goal of the Law” (Romans 10.4). That is to say, everything was leading up to Jesus. He’s the hinge upon which the whole story turns. All of God’s promises find their fulfillment in Jesus (2 Corinthians 1.20). Because of Jesus, the “old creation” came to an end. That is, the Old Covenant System—with its sacrifices, laws, etc.—were only a temporary system put in place until Jesus (Galatians 3.23-25). That system, however, wouldn’t be completely finished until the fall of Jerusalem in 70 CE (Hebrews 8.7-13; note the present tense verbs in verse 13).

Furthermore, somehow, through Jesus, God’s Dream would begin. The seeds would be planted during his ministry, the crops would grow (from his ascension to the beginning of the war), and then the harvest would occur at the end of the Old Covenant age (Matthew 13.36-43; 24.1ff). Ultimately then, God’s Dream (i.e., Jesus’ main cause) is the complete restoration of all creation (Colossians 1.15-20). From then to now and into the future, God’s Dream is continuing to spread throughout creation and will finally be capped off with a fresh surge of Grace when God’s Realm and our realm fully and finally become one (Revelation 21.1-5; cf. John 17.11; 20-23).

In the Love of the Three in One,

Br. Jack+, LC

13 November 2015

Day 2—Second Week #1 Exercises

I apologize for not keeping up this blog like I normally do. I’ve been deep in my Spiritual Direction class and part of our “homework” is to keep a spiritual journal. At first, I was just going to post my journal entries but then I realized that there would need to be a lot of back story for you, the reader, to know what the heck I’m talking about! So I canned that idea.

But this last week we actually tackled something I want to share. It was about God’s Dream. These were our prayer texts: Isaiah 65.17-25; Ezekiel 26.22-38; Hebrews 2.5-13; Hebrews 8.6-13; Revelation 21.1-7.

I’ve adopted God’s dream as my own dream a number of years ago. I’d add a few other passages to the above, though: Isaiah 2.1-4; 55.1-13; 66.22-23; Ezekiel 47.1-12; Revelation 22.1-5. And many more besides. Take some time to read both of these sets of passages and then come back here. Go on. I’ll wait.

Back? Good!

In Proverbs, it says, “When there’s no vision, the people get out of control” (29.18). As followers of Jesus, we must reclaim God’s dream! This is where creation is heading, not with God destroying this world and starting over. The vision presented in the New Testament (especially from Peter and John) is that God’s not destroying everything and starting over creating all new things but God’s taking all the current things and “making [them] new” (Revelation 21.5). In other words, God’s dream is to renew creation! The kingdom stories of Jesus bear this out.

Think of the story about the yeast in the dough (Matthew 13.33). The yeast is added in the middle of the process of making bread; not at the end! The first batch isn’t discarded and a new batch is made. No. The yeast (representing God’s Realm—the New Jerusalem, the Kingdom of God) is added to the existing dough (creation) and the yeast keeps spreading until the whole dough has been transformed.

That’s the meaning behind Jesus’ resurrection, too. God didn’t discard his physical body and create a new one but transformed it into a transphysical body; a physical body that was more than physical. In that one event, we see God’s dream—the entire story of New Creation—unfold; a pattern for the rest of creation.

Jesus said in the same way that God sent him into the world, he sent his people into the world (John 20.21). And Jesus’ vocation was to usher in God’s Realm (Mark 1.15); to add the yeast to the dough, if you will. Our job is to continue that work; to knead the dough, if you will, and see to it that the yeast continues to spread. That’s why Paul encouraged the followers of Jesus at Corinth to “stand firm, unshakable, excelling in the work of the Lord as always, because you know that your labor isn’t going to be for nothing in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 15.58).

Again, as followers of Jesus, we must recapture God’s dream. We’re God’s co-workers (1 Corinthians 3.9; cf. Mark 16.20; Acts 14.27; 15.4; 2 Corinthians 6.1) and our vocation is to help bring about this transformation in our world. Not some day in the remote future but now. Jesus said, “Now is the time” for God’s Realm to come (Mark 1.15). When should we transform our weapons into farming tools? Now.

When should we stop making wars? Now.

When should we stop violence of every kind? Now.

When should we forgive each other? Now.

When should we seek reconciliation between each other and nations? Now.

When should we forgive the debts of the world? Now.

When should we end poverty? Now.

When should we see each other as sisters and brothers? Now.

When should we “turn to the other cheek; go the extra mile”? Now.

When should we “work to live in peace with everyone”? Now.

When should “do justice”? Now.

When should we “love kindness”? Now.

When should we “walk humbly before God”? Now.

Now is the time for us to enact the dream of God.


In the Love of the Three in One,

Br. Jack+, LC