A word from Pope Francis ~ “Whenever we encounter another person in love, we learn something new about God.”
As we come to the final Sunday of July, we celebrate the 18th Sunday in the Ordinary Time of the Year. Week by week, we have been reading from Luke’s Gospel. This weekend, we first hear of a quarrel between two brothers for which Jesus refuses to play the role of judge. Greed blinds the brothers to the truly important things in life. Jesus uses the moment to teach that one’s possessions don’t substitute for the real stuff of life. He then offers a parable to drive home his point. He concludes with a blunt warning to “all who store up treasure for themselves but are not rich in what matters to God.” Even in the more relaxed months of summer, we are challenged to keep “what matters to God” before us and to act on it.
We continue our celebration of “summer saints” this week, with the celebration of the feasts of additional giants in our litany of saints. We celebrate the feasts of St. Alphonsus Liguori (Monday), St. John Vianney, the patron of parish priests (Thursday), and the feast of the Transfiguration (Saturday). Normally the feast of St. Ignatius Loyola is celebrated on July 31. Since that day is today, and the Sunday celebration takes precedence over a feast, and St. Ignatius Loyola is not celebrated this year. Since many of our parishioners have known the influence of St. Ignatius through attending a Jesuit-sponsored school, I’d like to share some of Ignatius’ insights into the spiritual life.
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.
1. As I review the events of this day, for what am I grateful?
2. As I review the events of this day, where did I experience God’s presence?
3. As I review the events of this day, toward what do I sense God inviting me?
4. How will I respond to God’s invitation tomorrow?
5. I ask God for whatever I need to respond.
The Examen seems to be about two significant points. It invites us to give thanks each day, and to be attentive to the ways in which 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. I find it most helpful as part of my prayer at the end of the day. It can take as long as is needed. We don’t need a book or any other aides – only a desire to spend some time with God. In the end, it helps us to notice and to become more aware of the subtle and gentle ways in which God has been present to us that day. Ignatius is a great summertime saint. He invites us to slow down and recognize God’s presence all around us.
The “Back to School” advertising circulars continue to weigh down our Sunday newspapers. The month of August begins tomorrow. Many of our college students are preparing to return to school. 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