Over the past few weeks, our Gospel reading from Matthew’s Gospel has come from Jesus’ Sermon of Parables. Seated in a boat near the shore, he teaches the crowds gathered on the shore about the Kingdom of God. Today on the 17th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Jesus concludes this sermon with three parables about the Kingdom of heaven. The parables do not give a definition of the Kingdom of heaven, but present images or pictures that are windows into the mystery of the Kingdom. Three parables – a buried treasure, a fine pearl, and a net thrown into the sea – invite us to consider different dimensions of the Kingdom.
We continue our celebration of “summer saints” this week with the celebration of the feasts of additional giants in our litany of saints. Monday is the feast of St. Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits. Tuesday begins the month of August with the feast of St. Alphonsus Liguori, a Bishop and Doctor of the Church. Friday we have the feast of St. John Vianney, the “Curé of Ars” and patron of parish priests.
St. Ignatius of Loyola was the founder of the Society of Jesus – the Jesuits. Many of our parishioners have known the influence of St. Ignatius through attending a Jesuit sponsored school. Since my college and graduate education took place at Benedictine schools, I was not all that familiar with Ignatian spirituality until I returned to school at Creighton University in Omaha in preparation for my term on the faculty at Mundelein seminary. There I was introduced to the wisdom of St. Ignatius and his Spiritual Exercises.
Ignatius developed a very simple and practical prayer form for his followers to use. He called it the “Consciousness Examen.” Unlike the examination of conscience, which begins with our failures (“Where did I sin?”), the Consciousness Examen begins with gratitude. The prayer invites us to review the events of our day by considering five simple steps.
- As I review the events of this day, for what am I grateful?
- As I review the events of this day, where did I experience God’s presence?
- As I review the events of this day, what do I sense God inviting me toward?
- How will I respond to God’s invitation tomorrow?
- Ask God for whatever I need to respond.
The Examen seems to be about three significant points. First, it invites us to notice the presence of God in all of the events of our day. Then it invites us to give thanks each day, and to be attentive to the ways we need God’s healing love. It is a good opportunity to slow down and take notice of the things we have experienced in the previous 24 hours. It can be done at any time of the day. I find it most helpful as part of my prayer at the end of the day. It can take anywhere from 5 minutes to 60 minutes, depending on the time that we have. We don’t need a book or any other aides – only a desire to spend some time with God. In the end, it challenges us to listen and helps us to become more aware of the subtle and gentle ways God has been present to us that day.
Ignatius invites us to encounter God in our everyday experiences and to recognize that we are called to ongoing conversion. His daily prayer was “to know Thee more clearly, love Thee more dearly, follow Thee more nearly, day by day.” There is a lot of practical wisdom here. Even though Ignatius died in 1556, his teachings speak to us in our own day.
In addition to our veneration of the saints, another one of the blessings of our Catholic faith tradition is our practice of interceding and supporting each other through our prayer. We do that every time we gather for the Eucharist, especially during the Prayer of the Faithful. Since we are connected to each other in faith, it is important that we support those in need with our prayers.
While we regularly remembered those who are sick and those who have died, we have additional opportunities to request the prayers of our community. Our Parish Book of Prayer is located in the Narthex of the Church, near the left entrance doors. All are welcome to write their prayer requests and intentions in our Parish Book of Prayer.
Since we are a people who value life, our Respect Life Expecting Parents’ Prayer List is printed in the bulletin and posted on the bulletin boards in the narthex. Please stop at the Hospitality Desk or call the parish office to add the names of expecting parents and their due date to this prayer list. We also remember those who are serving in the military or are attending the military academies. It is good for us to remember all of these intentions in our prayer.
The “Back to School” advertising circulars in the Sunday’s newspapers remind us that we will begin the final month of the summer this Tuesday. School will re-open in just a few short weeks. What happened to that “Summer To Do” list? Perhaps we should move family time to the top of the list. Let’s enjoy the time that we have. And we remember in prayer all those who are traveling. May God continue to bless us with all that we need, and more.
Father Jim Murphy