God the Father at Work in the World
Spiritual Exercise 29
Immediately on waking, I rouse myself to sorrow by standing in the shoes of one who has seriously offended their partner, friend, or superior who has in the past given them many favors. I get dressed with thoughts like these.
At my prayer place, I stand to consider how the Father is gazing at me with mercy. I make a gesture of reverence and humility.
I ask for the grace to direct my whole self to the service of the Father.
I desire the tender mercy of the Father, even while feeling embarrassment and confusion at how little I merit this mercy.
I read the prayer texts to consider how the Father works.
Then I consider one person who has become ensnared in a lifestyle of sinful choices or trapped because of one deadly sin. I imagine such a person or, knowing someone like this, I stand back to look objectively at his or her life.
I see how this person’s choices created a darkness that moved through his or her life, at home and work, how he or she became unfree, cut off from life. I consider how the person’s actions move against his or her lifelong fundamental goodness. I watch how destructive these choices and actions are to others, how they hurt children and families, how corrosive of even past good. I understand this person might be justly condemned. Perhaps I have even grieved to see it.
Now I imagine the effects of the Father’s infinite mercy in this person. I watch forgiveness flow through his or her fundamental goodness and see it reawaken. I catch love mending self-worth and watch generosity bud on half-dead relationships. Slowly, a life turns around. All undeserved, sustaining kindness is given in the face of its opposite. I go over this movement of mercy in more detail with my understanding, arousing my feelings as well.
I conclude by imagining Christ before me on the Cross. I ask him why he, Lord of all creation, became human, and why he loved me and why he was killed.
Then I ask myself, “What have I done for Christ? What am I doing for Christ? What ought I to do for Christ?”
Still seeing him on the Cross, I go over whatever comes to mind.
I, the Lord, took my people up in my arms.. I led them with cords of human kindness, with bands of love. I was to them like those who lift infants to their cheeks. I bent down to them and fed them. (Hos 11:3-4)
My Father is still working, and I also am working. The Father loves the Son and shows him all that he himself is doing; and he will show him greater works than these, so that you will be astonished. Indeed, just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whomever he wishes. (Jn 5:17, 20–21)
Jesus said to[the Pharisees, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and now I am here.
Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot accept my word. You are from your father the devil, and you choose to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks according to his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” (Jn 8:42–44)
These are the seeds on the path where the word is sown: when they hear, Satan immediately comes and takes away the word that is sown in them. And these are the ones sown on rocky ground: when they hear the word, they immediately receive it with joy. But they have no root, and endure only for a while; then, when trouble or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately they fall away.
And others are those sown among the thorns: these are the ones who hear the word, but the cares of the world, and the lure of wealth, and the desire for other things come in and choke the word, and it yields nothing.
And there are the ones sown on the good soil: they hear the word and accept it and bear fruit, thirty and sixty and a hundredfold. (Mk 4:15–20)
Time: 40 Minutes
Preparation: 5 minutes. Opening Prayer: 1 minute. Desire: 1 minute. Prayer: 25 minutes. Conversation: 8 minutes. Listening Book: 10 minutes.
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This excerpt from The First Spiritual Exercises: Four Guided Retreats ©2013 by Michael Hansen is used by permission of Ave Maria Press. All rights reserved.