Scenes from the first day in Sydney

Scenes from the first day in Sydney
D, the Opera House, and the Bridge

Monday, August 10, 2009

First Day of Retreat

An underwater photograph from my snorkeling adventure off the coast of Whyalla in the Spencer Gulf... certainly one of the highlights of my travels here in Australia.

We began retreat last night to begin bringing our tertianship experience to a close after seven months. First of all, I realize what a privilege it is to have five days set aside for quiet reflection, especially given how many contemporary people find it challenging to set aside even fifteen minutes for recollection each day.

If I have taken any lesson from these seven months, it is the recognition that that way the world generally works is mad, and that true sanity requires bucking many of the world's values (thinking that more is always better; valuing doing over being; the way we have commodified values and lost the intrinsic worth of people, time, simple things, etc.). St. Ignatius painted the contrast between the way of the world and the Way of Christ by sifting through two sets of motivations. The way of the world is generally motivated by a desire for riches, honors, and pride... all based on a distorted illusion of our true nature. The root of that delusion is that we are not loved or lovable, and so we cling to riches, honors, and pride, wrapping our frail egos up in window dressing.

By contrast, the Way of Christ is the way of the Beatitudes, motivated not by fear of emptiness but by a desire to respond to the love of God, a love that brought about our creation, that maintains our existence from moment to moment, that is expressed through the self gift of God's presence which we call grace and by the love we receive from family and friends.

The way of the world is based on an illusion of scarcity-- that what I am is not enough, and that what little I have is always in danger of slipping away, so I cling to it and grasp for more. In this sense, I spend more energy at getting than giving, and what I do get, I feel entitled to, instead of grateful for.

The Way of Christ is based on an experience of abundance... that what I am and all that my life consists of is a gift. Even if what I have is small, it is more than enough. Out of gratitude I am generous... and strangely, Life responds to my generosity by filling my heart with satisfaction and contentment.

In Paul's second letter to the Corinthians, he writes:

2 Cor 9:6-10

"Brothers and sisters:
Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly,
and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.
Each must do as already determined, without sadness or compulsion,
for God loves a cheerful giver.
Moreover, God is able to make every grace abundant for you,
so that in all things, always having all you need,
you may have an abundance for every good work.
As it is written:

He scatters abroad, he gives to the poor;
his righteousness endures forever.

The one who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food
will supply and multiply your seed
and increase the harvest of your righteousness."

And so, most of all this day as I reflect on my experience of these seven months, I feel gratitude welling up inside me, and a cheerful desire to make a return on all that I have been given. I know that the way of the world is with me too, and need to be vigilant about falling into old patterns when tertianships ends. The temptation is particularly great to try and merit my existence by working too much, somehow thinking I can earn what I have received, or prove my worth by what I do. I have struggled with over extension, burn-out, and a bit of resentment at times. Do you know what I am talking about? More challenging is for me to live with the humility of appreciation-- that God has given more to me than I could ever earn or even be worthy of (For some reason, I find myself ending sentences with prepositions...).

1 comment:

  1. wonderful post david!
    even the most experienced, comitted and holy of Christians seem to struggle with this, a lesson we need to learn over and over