30 July 2011

Ignatian inspiration

“We should not fix our desires on health or sickness,
wealth or poverty, success or failure, a long life or short one.
For everything has the potential of calling forth in us
a deeper response to our life in God.” 
—St. Ignatius of Loyola 

In November 1998, Banu and I made a retreat at Sacred Heart Jesuit Retreat House in Sedalia, Colorado.  This was our first interaction with practitioners of Ignatian spirituality.  (That is, Jesuits!)  It wasn’t until several years later that I discovered that Ignatius’ feast day is 31 July.  In his book, The Spiritual Exercises, he includes a section entitled “Discerning the Spirits.”  His use of the word “spirits” reflects a medieval concept; today, we would say “inclinations.”

Ignatius can still guide us in our decisions as we consider that “Our only desire and our one choice should be this:  I want and I choose what better leads to the deepening of God’s life in me.”

24 July 2011

hidden treasure

The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which someone found and hid; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field” (Matthew 13:44).  That was a verse from today’s gospel reading. 

We can see ourselves as the field with the hidden treasure.  How could we not be?  We are made in the image of God.  Still, we tend to settle.  We settle for the 2nd best we can be.  Or is it the 3rd best?  How about the 15th best?  Actually, putting any number on it misses the mark. 

I would think that the message is that we’re always capable of more than we think we are.  But often we’re too distracted, too lazy, or too uncaring for it to make a difference.

15 July 2011

future sacrament

This morning, I was drawn to Salvador Dalí’s wonderful painting, The Sacrament of the Last Supper, done in 1955.  (I don’t pretend to be an art “expert,” so I feel no hesitation in labeling it “wonderful.”)  A great deal has been said about its mathematical properties, Dalí’s ethereal portrayal of Christ, the landscape, and other aspects it possesses. 

The first time I saw it, I had the impression of an event in the distant future.  (Again, my non-expert opinion.)  It still strikes me that way.  And I’m always interested in the disciples.  The two dressed in robes that are not white are both positioned two spots away from Christ.  (The one to our left in blue, the one to our right in gold.)  The two disciples who appear to be looking toward him are across from each other, on opposite sides of the table / altar. 

The New Testament says that the inner twelve were all male.  I don’t suppose I have a reason to doubt that, but I’m also not unaware of the tremendous scandal Jesus caused by his willingness to freely welcome women—and to even treat them as equals.  If any of the disciples pictured are women, it looks like the ones at his right and left hands would be good candidates.  (To me, their hair and posture seem to be more feminine.) 

In any event, these are some of my non-expert thoughts!

08 July 2011

Godly men, just men

In December 1991, the corrupt military-led government in Algeria was inching toward democracy when it held elections.  At the time, I was at seminary in Philadelphia, following the story in the newspaper.  The fundamentalist Islamic Salvation Front pulled in enough votes to force a runoff.  It seemed clear that it would win in a direct election with the government.  And that, as they say, was that.  The government cancelled the elections, and the war was on. 

Of Gods and Men (2010) is the true story of a small community of Trappist monks who live near a village in the Atlas Mountains.  The war has come to their beautiful corner of Algeria, and many questions are forced upon them.  Do they stay?  Do they seek a safer place elsewhere?  Do they return to France?

Aside from the movie’s compelling story and beautiful scenery, I found myself captivated by the characters.  I found myself identifying with all of them.  As a pastor, I did not envy the task of their leader, Christian, played by Lambert Wilson.  Olivier Rabourdin’s character, Christophe, was the most vocal about his desire to leave.  I felt that all of the characters act as elements within the human personality. 

I was impressed by their maturity, their realism, and their faith.  They acknowledge the indecision and fear, but they do not let it swallow them.  I imagine that I will revisit this movie when I need some inspiration.  Below is the lengthy voiceover by Christian at the end of the movie (borrowed from the IMDb site). 

“Should it ever befall me, and it could happen today, to be a victim of the terrorism swallowing up all foreigners here, I would like my community, my church, my family, to remember that my life was given to God and to his country.  That the Unique Master of all life was no stranger to this brutal departure.  And that my death is the same as so many other violent ones, consigned to the apathy of oblivion.  I’ve lived enough to know, I am complicit in the evil that, alas, prevails over the world and the evil that will smite me blindly.  I could never desire such a death.  I could never feel gladdened that these people I love be accused randomly of my murder.  I know the contempt felt for the people here, indiscriminately.  And I know how Islam is distorted by a certain Islamism.  This country, and Islam, for me are something different.  They’re a body and a soul.  My death, of course, will quickly vindicate those who call me naïve or idealistic, but they must know that I will be freed of a burning curiosity and, God willing, will immerse my gaze in the Father’s and contemplate with him his children of Islam as he sees them.  This thank you which encompasses my entire life includes you, of course, friends of yesterday and today, and you too, friend of last minute, who knew not what you were doing.  Yes, to you as well I address this thank you and this farewell which you envisaged.  May we meet again, happy thieves in Paradise, if it pleases God the Father of us both.  Amen.  Insha'Allah.”