“But discernment only operates in an atmosphere of prior trust—only when we admit an experience and let it develop do we have the grounds for discernment. You cannot discern from a distance. You have to get involved, to take the risk; only on that basis can you assess the feedback and make the adjustment. Discernment implies relationship.
In the third Addition, Ignatius invites us into a complex, relational reality. If God is looking at us, God is in relationship with us. As we try to understand this relationship, we can focus either on God or on ourselves. We can consider what it is like to be looked at. How am I feeling? We can also consider the God who is looking, and what that God is like. How is God feeling? As we move between these two ways of responding to Ignatius’ invitation, they begin to fuse, to enrich each other, to be woven into something intricate and beautiful. I am looking at God looking at me looking at God. When I look at the God who looks at me, it is not a matter simply of seeing the other as one object among many, but of looking, gazing, contemplating. We see each other. The look transforms—it is encounter.”
~Robert R. Marsh,
Although St. Ignatius wrote his Spiritual Exercises as a 30 day silent retreat for his “company” of men, both times that I have completed the Exercises, all the meditations, readings and prayers have been modified and presented as a program for lay people in the midst of everyday life.
A great example—and one that I highly recommend for people in the Oklahoma City Archdiocese, is called “Retreat in Daily Life.”
During the first week of the Spiritual Exercises, St. Ignatius sets up several prayer opportunities to help us reflect on how loved we are, how much God loves us.
The idea is that here’s where it all begins. It is within this Love experience, this relationship, that we are able to respond to God in complete sincerity and honesty, and it is then that we can begin to see truthfully and then, confront our sinfulness.
It is such a critical and central point of reference! It is from, with, and in this Love that all else comes, develops, unfolds—even sorrow for our sins, which then allows us to receive God’s mercy and love.
I think Jesuit Anthony de Mello summarized it in beautiful simplicity:
“Behold God beholding you … and smiling.”
Last week my amazing daughter-in-law Mary sent me this delightful video of my Twinkies, who are now 1-year-old. At first I thought that their giggles came as a response to their big sister Elena.
But, no. The twins were simply looking at each other—gazing at each other in complete wonder—and the response was utter delight. Joy! Manifested in their smiles and laughter.
When you watch Cecilia and Ignacio in this video, may you imagine
God looking at you… and smiling!