I'm so thankful to be “making” the 32 week Ignatian Retreat in daily life with a few friends participating in spiritual direction. Jesus and I are having conversations we have never had before, in spite of my 40 years as a Christian. He is helping me appreciate and love Him more deeply, and He is inviting me to follow Him more closely. The rich guide I am using this year is The Ignatian Adventure by Kevin O’Brien S.J.
This week’s readings and prayers are around Jesus’ pain-filled journey to the cross, timely as Easter approaches, and timely in this pain-filled pandemic season. What He experienced brings tears to my eyes because it’s hard to see my Friend suffering in so many ways, and sobering as I reflected on the reality that it was for my sake. In a similar way, though there are inspirational acts of kindness, it is heart-breaking to hear of those suffering in this crisis and those who react selfishly by judging or hoarding.
I am also working my way through a book that has connected with the Ignatian prayer exercises in a surprising way. Mirror for the Soul, A Christian Guide to the Enneagram by Alice Fryling is full of insights for understanding ourselves, our gifts and our blind spots as relates to each of the nine vantage points. It explores how we each, with Jesus’ help, can grow out of the traps our false selves hold us in to live increasingly in His grace, freed to be our true selves.
Now, back to the Ignatian exercises, lights went on when I was “accompanying” Jesus during the crisis of His life, the week before His death. I couldn’t help but notice the many people who were abandoning, washing their hands of or abusing Him both physically and verbally. I recognised something of myself in their broken responses to Jesus’ suffering, one another and the situation. I wondered what was motivating their heart-breaking reactions and realised that they were acting out of the compulsions of their false selves. Mirroring the nine points of the enneagram, I identified in them the nine negative impulses of: anger, pride, deceit, envy, greed, fear, gluttony, lust and sloth. I sadly see these in my own reactions from time to time.
I was astounded at Jesus loving, honest and forgiving presence even in His suffering. He lived from his beautiful true self right to the end. His responses and actions, in contrast to those around Him, seemed to reflect the nine graces offered to each of the nine types. He appears to respond to his fearful friends and his violent persecutors with: serenity, humility, truth, equanimity, detachment, courage, sobriety, innocence and action. I am humbled that these are exactly the graces He offers me, offers us persistently and patiently as we pursue Him even during this deeply unsettling time.
Lord thank you for helping me notice the compulsions of my false self. Help me to live and love more as my true self...Teach me together with others to respond like Jesus does to the challenges and the needs of those around us.