Jesus restores the whole dignity that he thought with reverence because we’re on holy ground here. This is what we’re asking at this stage of the spiritual exercises, this kind of transformation. The courage, and I would say, the opportunity to bring our weakness, that part of ourselves, that weighs on us, that burden that we never seem to be able to free ourselves from falling again and again, that lack of progress, that sense of being self centered, whatever it might be. The invitation now is to bring that to the Lord and allow the Lord to respond as Jesus showed us. He always responds to that kind of sincere desire. He is present. He stays with us. Transforms us. Restores our full dignity and opens the path of holiness to us.Fr. Timothy Gallagher, OMV
Spiritual Exercises Day 19
Often when Hallow I join the challenges as part of daily prayer. One day I’m hoping to grow in holiness and yes I know more time with my phone, right? I really loved listening to Story of a Soul, the autobiography of Saint Therese of Lisieux. While it isn’t her voice there was something about hearing this journey of faith in a woman’s voice other than my own that spoke deeply, helping me hear more of the depth of her life-long, on-going conversion. St. Therese’s desire to give over her life to the Lord in a way that completely acquiesces to His Loving Call.
As the Spiritual Exercises continued I started to resist listening. Oh Good Golly did I resist listening. You know how your body tightens up and your mind screams, No! No! Yeah that. Sometimes we resist things because they will do us grave harm physically or spiritually, and this is good and we need to grow in understanding of this and honoring it. Then there is the resistance to doing something good, like walking, or prayer, or eating food that is nutrient dense and nourishes our bodies, and drinking water which allows our bodies to work well. Because of my response to this I reached out to a friend that I pray with regularly, shared with this with her, she came back with the perfect response: either wait a few days and return to it or push through. Through is a consistent theme in Spiritual Direction, so through it is.
And then this morning Fr. Gallagher spoke those words above in reflecting on Zacchaeus, the guy who climbed the tree just to see Jesus. Father pointed out that Zacchaeus wasn’t seeking anything from Jesus, he wanted to see Him. Knowing the desire of Zacchaeus’ heart Jesus granted this desire and dined with him that evening, and what comes next is a full conversion of heart. Zacchaeus 180 is profound and restorative both to himself, and those whom he’s hurt in and through the years. Jesus dined in Zacchaeus home restoring him to the full dignity of not only his birth as a child of Israel, but also of his own personhood. Complete, immediate, full restoration of dignity in that moment.
I can point at the moment when I stopped, wrote down that bit from Fr. Gallagher. Gratitude washed over me as I passed through the resistance to listening to the Spiritual Exercises, realizing they will take me to the place I want to go, into deeper relationship with Jesus, listening to the Holy Spirit, to contemplative prayer and conversation with God in the way He’s calling. The courage, the opportunity to bring all of those places where we’re broken to Jesus. My spiritual director pointed out in one of our conversations that the disciples knew Jesus in the Breaking of the Bread and the Pouring of the wine (Eucharist), it is in the action. Knowing where we lack, where we sin and bringing this to Jesus. Looking for Him. Oh I could go on, and want to.
Sometimes I long to know the place of my resistance so I can dig in there and root it out. And yet I know it is the place of pride, free-will, original sin, disordered desires, wanting in so many ways to Be God rather than allowing God to be God and allowing myself to be me, the one who is created, rather than the Creator. Baptism completely changes who we are and yet in my humanness I persist in pride and other sins and while I’m trying, with the guidance of the Holy Spirit and God’s never ending grace, I need to make the effort. Somedays I really do, and others oooph, not so much.
Oddly enough the more I ponder, think about, dive into Faith the more I’m realizing that this place is a gift. This place of encounter with God permits the rough edges of my being to be presented for pruning, smoothing, sanding, chipping away at, polishing, spiffing up. Then while on my way home from a few errands I heard this:
“The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.”
― Elisabeth Kübler-Ross
Beautiful people do not just happen. And the corollary beautiful quilts do not just happen. In some ways because people and my own in-built sense of guilt and shame I’ve felt terrible about the poverty as a child, a situation I had zero control over. There is the shame and guilt associated with divorce. The shame and guilt associated with struggling in school because taking care of my siblings. The shame and guilt associated with learning that my poverty meant that certain kids in school couldn’t be friends. While these things happened the result of these experience might have made me bitter, and in some ways this indeed did happen. And yet here I am still trying to plod along, letting go of the shame and guilt of things I’ve had no control over and forgive myself for holding onto this shame and guilt for far too long.
For now though, I need to go finish getting ready to head to California this weekend.
May our Lord bless you,