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