Look to the good

By

6 Sep 2022

Jesus is with us all offering hope always – even when we face failure, fear and disappointment.

Recently I celebrated a Requiem Mass for which the family chose Genesis 1 as the opening reading with its constant beautiful refrain: ‘God saw that it was good’. One can almost hear God’s delight in these words about his creation.

Each year Xavier College, where I am a member of the chaplaincy team, chooses an Ignatian spiritual theme to thread its way through all the activities and pursuits in the school community. Its aim is to give clear focus and perspective to all that we endeavour to achieve. In 2020 the theme was ‘Look to the good first’.

At a school assembly that year vice-captain of the school, Tom Croagh, gave an excellent speech to unpack the meaning of the theme. In part he said: ‘Look to the good encourages us to be optimistic and hopeful. It is also an important reminder that not all of life is in fact good. For if there is to be good, there must also be failure, disappointment and the acknowledgment of evil.

‘For us to look to the good in a meaningful way, we must be inclusive. And being inclusive isn’t about taking the easy option, by speaking to those you already know – it’s about putting ourselves in the shoes of others, trying to see the world through their eyes, and having the patience to listen and the humility to acknowledge that others’ experiences and disappointments are just as real as our own. In this way looking to the good requires us to have the courage to stand up for others.

‘Looking to the good requires us to listen more than we speak.’ For one so young, there is great wisdom in Tom’s reflection.

COURAGE

Another line on this theme highlights a centrepiece of Ignatian spirituality – namely, ‘finding God in all things’. It is grounded in the conviction that God is active in our world. As the great Jesuit palaeontologist Pierre Teilhard de Chardin wrote: ‘God is not remote from us. He is at the point of my pen, my pick, my paintbrush, my needle — and my heart and my thoughts.’ The spiritual path laid out by Ignatius is a way of discerning God’s presence in our everyday lives and doing something about it.

In August 2012, that wonderful religious writer and speaker, Father Daniel O’Leary, wrote in The Tablet: ‘Something in all of us wants to dance when courage taps us on the shoulder, when the chains of fear and the baggage of false guilt fall from our shoulders. We want to dance when we feel a passion for the possible, when we hear the music of hope … The time to dance is now.’

It takes courage and faith to hope.

Father Gerard Timoner, Master General of the Dominicans, has said helpfully that ‘hope is the radical refusal to put limits on what God can do for us’.

In similar terms Pope Francis has told us that Jesus administers ‘a therapy of hope’. ‘We have all had difficult moments in life, dark moments in which we walked in sadness, pensive, without horizons, with only a wall before us. And Jesus is always beside us to give us hope, to warm our hearts and to say: “Go ahead, I am with you. Go ahead”.’

HUMOUR

Above all, a sense of humour enables us to keep our life in some proper balance and perspective. In the First Principle and Foundation of the Spiritual Exercises, St Ignatius invites us to reverence every part of creation as his gift to us, to be used therefore with great respect, even chastely. There is a fine line between enjoying the good things of life, even religion dare I say it, and allowing them to become idols that possess us. When we lose sight of God as our source of meaning and perspective, it is not difficult to find replacements in shabby replicas. To misuse or abuse God’s creatures is soon to find ourselves on a slippery slope to excess and addiction. A good sense of humour can pull us up short, help us see our folly, and set us on the right path to freedom – that lifelong task of paying attention to what truly matters in life, God’s presence in our midst.

GRATITUDE

Being grateful is central to our Ignatian spirituality and keeps us connected to people and the planet as our home. We believe that our world is transparent, reflecting constantly a God who works in the depths of everything.

As the Pope challenges us in Laudato Si’, we have the responsibility and privilege to care for God’s playground. For Ignatius every part of the world, from the stars in the heavens to the flowers of the field, elevated his mind and heart to God. In Ribadeneira’s Life of Loyola [Pedro Ribadeneira SJ, 1527-1611], we learn ‘how even the smallest things could make his spirit soar upwards to God, who even in the smallest things is greatest. At the sight of a little plant, a leaf, a flower or a fruit, an insignificant worm or a tiny animal Ignatius could soar free above the heavens and reach through into things which lie beyond the senses.’ (Life I11 5381)

Everything belongs. Everything and everyone is connected. Enjoy the dance.

This article first appeared in the Spring 2022 edition of Madonna magazine. For subscription information, see www.madonnamagazine.com.au.

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