Monday, October 5, 2009

Joy and Consolation

While I was praying before Mass today, I found myself suddenly overcome with a deep sense of peace and joy. There was no particular cause to the incident. I had spent most of the day with a headache trying to sort through the myriad of Spinoza's philosophical proofs and propositions, and I came home from class frustrated by the onerous philosophical study. This joy I therefore experienced came as quite the surprise to me. Ignatius has a term for this spiritual movement: "consolation without preceding cause" (from the Discernment of Spirits for Week II of the Spiritual Exercises). Jesuits believe this to be the work of God within us. It is a grace. It is gift.

I cherish these moments in my Jesuit vocation. As I began to experience this joy, I could not help but respond with a sense of awe and thanksgiving. God was doing something within me that I had not necessarily asked for. In these moments, I find myself in a place of surrender. It is the call to let God in, to get out of the way, and to trust in the work that is taking place.

This is one of the ways in which I understand our 'Suscipe' Prayer: "Take Lord, Receive, all my liberty, my memory, my understanding, and my entire will." In offering these faculties over to God, it removes the focus on self and redirects it towards God's action. Paradoxically, in the surrendering of self, we, in a sense, become more liberated, more free. By allowing God to take root and to take hold, to inspire and to animate, we become more fully who we are meant to be.
We become more human.

I feel blessed to be living religious life. Because of my vows and the life I have chosen to live as a Jesuit, my life must necessarily have God as my center if I am to live this life with passion, integrity, and joy. And, I am called everyday to live into this relationship that I have freely chosen to enter. God knows that I often fail at this. But, I try my best. And sometimes, I become surprised by joy.

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