Facing the unjust bits of life (Horizons of the Heart 20)

The grace we are asking of God: a deeply felt awareness of how God in all of history and most powerfully in the Word made flesh draws us into the unfolding of the mystery of his love which always is extravagant and which is always seeking to save us. We desire that in doing this we enter into a process of healing that we might love Jesus and follow him more intentionally, completely, and wholeheartedly.

Horizons of the Heart is inspired by the Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius and my own notes from my thirty-day Ignatian retreat in 2022.

Looming large in my 30-day retreat was a decision that was in a certain sense, due to forces outside myself, forced upon me.

Nothing strange there!

Doesn’t this happen to just about every one of us?

Even if we think we can control ourselves and mastermind our success, either materially or spiritually, we soon find out that we can’t control others, we can’t control the forces of nature, and we can’t control the randomness of incidents that could affect, break, and change the direction of our lives.

But still, when we need to do an unexpected about turn, when we are blocked and forced into a right or a left hand change of direction at what turned out to be a dead end, we at times suffer indescribable pain.

I remember standing at the end of the outdoor Stations of the Cross at the retreat house and reading the inscription taken from the second chapter of Paul’s letter to the Philippians: “Jesus did you deem equality with God something to be grasped at, but rather humbled himself taking the form of a slave.” Every injustice I had ever received, little ones and big ones, came back with powerful force and left me breathless… and angry.

How ashamed I felt, but there it was. Who Jesus was and what he invited me to, I was not, and at that moment I clearly refused to follow him. It was just too hard…by myself. I needed God’s help, a lot of help.

The natural reaction to injustice is hurt or rage or bitterness because something we deemed to be our own or somehow necessary to our living and thriving is suddenly changed and taken away.

As we enter into the next mystery of Jesus’ life, the flight into Egypt, we are entering into this sacred mystery of why bad things happen to good people. We certainly won’t be answering this age-old question, but instead offering the wisdom of Ignatius and the Scriptures to help us enter reverently ever deeper into the mystery of God’s loving us even in times that are difficult.

I randomly opened my notes from the retreat and discovered something that was pivotal to my finding peace:

God decides which alternative in our life is of value to me and my life in the world, what will make me more loving towards other people and more open to God’s love flooding my heart. God is the one who know which of two alternatives will ultimately make me more selfish and which will make me more selfless. Which ultimately will make me unhappy and which will result in my unending happiness which may or may not begin on this earth.

God knows….

I don’t really ultimately know which of two alternatives before me will give God the most glory and bring me and others true joy and peace. If I have fixed my attention on one alternative, and stick with that no matter what, unwilling to see or try what God is making apparent to me right before my eyes, if I try to force God to agree with me, what will I ultimately lose? And really what is it that I would gain in the end?

I can only live true to myself if I live true to who I am as I am in God’s plan and to all that he hopes in me.

This reminds me of another great quote from St. Paul, this time from his letter to the Romans:

If God is for us, who can ever be against us?  Since he did not spare even his own Son but gave him up for us all, won’t he also give us everything else?  Who dares accuse us whom God has chosen for his own? No one—for God himself has given us right standing with himself.  Who then will condemn us? No one—for Christ Jesus died for us and was raised to life for us, and he is sitting in the place of honor at God’s right hand, pleading for us.

Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death?  As the Scriptures say, “For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.”)  No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.

And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:33-39 NLT)

Our desire in these next meditations is to enter courageously into life as it is and to discover right there the unfolding of the mystery of God’s love which always is extravagant and which always is seeking to save us. How healing will be this discovery when we are embraced by Love. How we will desire out of sheer gratitude to follow Jesus more intentionally, completely, and wholeheartedly.

Blessed Dina Bélanger, a heavenly friend I found while on retreat, leads the way here, “My only pleasure is to let you have your way. I have abandoned myself completely to Your action, so that, without hindrance, You may be able to fulfill your designs in me, poor as I am, to act freely, always, and in everything.”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.