Wednesday, April 7, 2010


In the course of a wonderful year with my Jesuit spiritual director perhaps 4 years ago, I worked through the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius stretched over a much longer period than the 30 days of intense exercise that was Ignatius’ original standard. He himself recognized that many folks could not spare 30 days in a row but could benefit from adaptations; these have come to be known as the “18th and 19th Annotated” Exercises.

Much of the focus in these Exercises is to enter deeply into the stories of the Gospel, and my prayer let me “fantasize” (if you will) on the scenes recorded by Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. In particular, I felt free to “extemporize” the scenes for the sake of prayer, while (I hope) remaining faithful to the overall view of the Gospels’ stories.

Yesterday, after a good round of golf and some supper, I took a serious walk (4 miles, 1 hour) on the Sandestin complex, listening to the songs of John Michael Talbot on my iPod. His song “Holy Is His Name” drew me back into some of the scenes I had created, of the events prior to the birth of Jesus (yes, with a mix of Matthew and Luke going on). I had imagined that the “dream” Joseph had by which he heard the angelic voice telling him to welcome Mary, was actually several dreams (it took Joseph a while to “get the message,” so to speak). Mary, meanwhile, was with Elizabeth because she had nowhere else to turn. And when the word was sent to her that Joseph wanted her back, this was the “trigger” of her Magnificat. This was the time she realized “…the greatness of the Lord…the Almighty has done great things for me…He has regarded the lowliness of his handmaid…and holy is His Name” (Luke 1:46ff.).

In the context of a mysterious unplanned pregnancy, in the face of being rejected by her betrothed husband, facing what must have seemed like certain exile from her home town, Mary kept the faith—she was open to God’s work, and because of her openness (here, as well as earlier in accepting the angelic message), she saw God’s hand played out in wonderful ways. What could she do but rejoice?

What are the wondrous things that God does for us that we often do not notice? The introduction to Psalm 42 for this past Monday’s Morning Prayer in the Magnificat prayer book suggests that often we think God is absent, when the truth is we simply did not recognize Him; we did not “see the signs” (think of Jesus’ words to the crowds in John 6:26, after the multiplication of loaves and just before the “Bread of Life” discourse).

Today is a wonderful day to keep ourselves open to the touch of God, to the hints of Presence, to see with the eyes of the heart where the Lord is leading us. Holy indeed is His Name!

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