Listen to this!
Today’s Lectio Divina:
I’m not saying that I have this all together, that I have it made. But I am well on my way, reaching out for Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for me. Friends, don’t get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I’ve got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus. I’m off and running, and I’m not turning back. So let’s keep focused on that goal, those of us who want everything God has for us. If any of you have something else in mind, something less than total commitment, God will clear your blurred vision—you’ll see it yet! Now that we’re on the right track, let’s stay on it. Philippians 3: 12-16 (MsgB)
Ignatian Truth #8: Ignatian spirituality is all about the Prayer of Examen. Self-awareness is the key prayer practice of the Exercises and an important tool for becoming a discerning, grateful person. The Examen extends beyond the Exercises, helping us develop a healthy rhythm of life; morning, afternoon and evening.
So far, we’ve briefly looked at two key components of the Examen:
An attitude of gratitude.
A God-breathed self-awareness.
The good folks at the excellent website IgnatianSpirituality.com offer these suggestions, as we progress through these first two parts of the Examen:
Become aware of God’s presence. Look back on the events of the day in the company of the Holy Spirit. The day may seem confusing to you—a blur, a jumble, a muddle. Ask God to bring clarity and understanding.
Review the day with gratitude. Gratitude is the foundation of our relationship with God. Walk through your day in the presence of God and note its joys and delights. Focus on the day’s gifts. Look at the work you did, the people you interacted with. What did you receive from these people? What did you give them? Pay attention to small things—the food you ate, the sights you saw, and other seemingly small pleasures. God is in the details.
Pay attention to your emotions. One of St. Ignatius’s great insights was that we detect the presence of the Spirit of God in the movements of our emotions. Reflect on the feelings you experienced during the day. Boredom? Elation? Resentment? Compassion? Anger? Confidence? What is God saying through these feelings? God will most likely show you some ways that you fell short. Make note of these sins and faults. But look deeply for other implications. Does a feeling of frustration perhaps mean that God wants you to consider a new direction in some area of your work? Are you concerned about a friend? Perhaps you should reach out to him/her in some way.
Choose one feature of the day and pray from it. Ask the Holy Spirit to direct you to something during the day that God thinks is particularly important. It may involve a feeling—positive or negative. It may be a significant encounter with another person or a vivid moment of pleasure or peace. Or it may be something that seems rather insignificant. Look at it. Pray about it. Allow the prayer to arise spontaneously from your heart—whether intercession, praise, repentance, or gratitude.
Now, before we conclude our prayer of Examen, it’s so important to add this final, important step:
An attitude of hope.
Continuing with the excellent advice found on IgnatianSpirituality.com…
Look toward tomorrow. Ask God to give you light for tomorrow’s challenges. Pay attention to the feelings that surface as you survey what’s coming up. Are you doubtful? Cheerful? Apprehensive? Full of delighted anticipation? Allow these feelings to turn into prayer. Seek God’s guidance. Ask him for help and understanding. Pray for hope.
You see, if our pursuit of self-awareness (the Daily Examen) only produces sorrow for our sin, we’re missing the true hope found within the Christian faith. As Paul states in our reading for today…
Friends, don’t get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I’ve got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus. I’m off and running, and I’m not turning back.
Let’s face it.
You and I will always have a stack of dirty laundry to deal with in this lifetime. But as we mentioned last time, it’s Jesus’ job to come and help us sort through all that mess, knowing it’s in and through Him alone that we can be set free from our besetting sin. But we must remember that ultimately, as Paul reminds us, that God is beckoning us onward…beyond our filthy rags, into a life of hope and promise, a human existence that truly represents Christ living in and through us.
So, cheer up, my friends, our Daily Examen is an opportunity to, yes, stop and survey our lives, asking the Holy Spirit to prompt us into a better awareness of our sin and short-comings, but ultimately, the Examen is meant to remind us of the great hope and promise that awaits those who are journeying through life with Jesus as our final destination.
My prayer: Jesus, without a doubt, You want me to have a greater self-awareness of those things in my life that pull me away from You. I readily confess my need for a Savior. But, like Paul, my desire is to focus more on the hope and promise that awaits me in Christ, so as I end my daily Examen, I’ll live and move in the awareness of all the good You have for me as I continue my journey toward You. Holy Spirit, empower me with that gift of hope. For Your name’s sake. Amen.
My questions to ponder: So, as I look at the three major parts of the Examen:
An attitude of gratitude, a God-breathed self-awareness, an attitude of hope…
…am I finding a healthy balance in these three components as I use the Examen on a daily basis? Am I allowing the Holy Spirit to move freely through my use of the Examen so that it doesn’t become a dry-n-crusty, religious discipline but remains as a breath of fresh-air and on-going hope in my life?
How are you experiencing God as you ponder on these Ignatian truths today?
Over a period of twelve weeks (3 sessions per week), we will take this journey into Iggy’s Biggies, contemplating twelve foundational truths found within the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius. We suggest you bookmark our blog series homepage to keep all the writings in one place for your future reference. Take note that each blog session begins with a short scripture reading. My suggestion is that you don’t hurry through, or skip the text, but treat it as a Lectio Divina reading where you slow down and sit a bit with God’s Word, allowing it to penetrate and influence you as you read.
If you’ve never journeyed through the Exercises, might I suggest that you find a qualified spiritual director and ask them to accompany you along the way? Here at The Contemplative Activist, we can offer a good number of highly qualified folks to do just that.
Oh, and if you enjoy what you’re reading here, we encourage you to share this page and our website, The Contemplative Activist, with your friends!