Monday, May 17, 2010

Why are you standing there looking at the sky? A call to active contemplation.

Our parish celebrated the 11:30 Mass for the Ascension yesterday with the baptism of an infant and a 3-year-old (cousins) - immersion baptisms with the whole community gathered around the font to welcome them. Embracing one another in love, baptizing in the name of the Trinity - these are important actions and appropriate affirmations of everything that Christ left us to do when he ascended to the Father.

As the children were dressed after the baptisms and the altar was prepared for Eucharist, we sang  "God is Here"  by David Haas, which is rapidly becoming a parish favorite. A great evocation of the presence of God in all that we are, have and do, one of the song's  lines is "the truth that you long for is not found in the sky" - which made it perfect for the Ascension. 

Why do so many people still stand there "looking at the sky" - hoping for help from a God who is "up there" "at a distance" remotely watching over us? This very typical American understanding makes it possible for people to live their lives independently, only remembering to praise God on Sundays or consult God when they feel a particular need.  It also makes it possible to feel that God is a lurker, watching their every move, lying in wait to "catch" them in sin.  Neither understanding is particularly helpful.

When we believe and look for in an immanent God, present in all things, as did St. Ignatius, our outlook on life is different - counter-cultural. Everything we do every day is filled with the presence of God through the Spirit. Ignatian spirituality is a very healthy one - the Spiritual Exercises, Examen and other tools for discerning our daily decisions and their effectiveness in doing God's will for us are a way to unite our daily actions with our spirituality. Ignatius, man of contemplative action, is a great model, and for me a very sympathetic one for modern life. 

When we continue to act without reflection, we run the risk of losing our  sense of God's plan for us and become more and more distant from who God wants us to be. With the help of daily reflection on the actions of our life, we are less likely to think of God as distant, and more likely to proclaim that "God is here." If you are not familiar with Jesuit spirituality, I suggest you check out the resources at .

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