To Know, To Love, and To Follow: Knowing God’s Gift of Shelter Through the Incarnation

August 12, 2020

This month’s blog series focuses on the grace we pray for in the second week of the Spiritual Exercises: to know, to love, and to follow Jesus. Today Becky Eldredge shares with us how we can find shelter in Christ.

One of the most meaningful memories for me when I made the Spiritual Exercises was praying with St. Ignatius’ meditation on the Incarnation.  This meditation comes at the very beginning of the second week of the Exercises where we pray for the grace to know, to love, and to follow Jesus.  

St. Ignatius’ Meditation on the Incarnation: 

Much of the second week is spent walking closely with Jesus through his public ministry.  Before we immerse ourselves in the story of Jesus’ life, St. Ignatius offers us a meditation that reminds us that God sees the world, sees us, and sees what is happening. In this meditation he invites us to reflect on the Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, looking down on the world and noticing. Here are his words:

Looking upon our world: men and women being born and being laid to rest, some getting married and others getting divorced, the old and the young, the rich and the poor, the happy and the sad, so many people aimless, despairing, hateful, and killing, so many undernourished, sick, and dying, so many struggling with life and blind to any meaning. With God, I can hear people laughing and crying, some shouting and screaming, some praying, others cursing. (Draw Me Into Your Friendship, pg. 91) 

Every time I read these words and guide people through this part of the Spiritual Exercises, I think, this sounds all too familiar. St. Ignatius penned these words over five hundred years ago, but they ring true today. Are people not being born and dying? Are people not getting married and divorced? Are there not young and old, rich and poor, the happy and the sad? Are people not aimless? Despairing? Hateful and killing? Are we not faced with an overwhelming part of our world’s population who are undernourished, sick, dying, and struggling with life? Are people not laughing, crying, shouting, screaming, some praying while others are cursing?

What St. Ignatius noticed five hundred years ago is not much different from today. What he imagined the Trinity seeing back then is not much different from what the Trinity sees today. St. Ignatius saw the world groaning, just as we are groaning now. His meditation continues: 

In a leap of divine joy: God knows that the time has come when the mystery of salvation, hidden from the beginning of the world, will shine into human darkness and confusion. It is as if I can hear the Divine Persons saying, “Let us work the redemption of the whole human race; let us respond to the groaning of all creation.” (Draw Me Into Your Friendship, pg. 91-92)

Remembering that God sees what we see is very comforting to me right now.  Maybe it’s comforting to you as well?  

Knowing that Jesus entered our humanity in all of our joy and sorrow consoles me in what we are facing during this uncertain time.  Jesus came to respond to the groaning of creation and is still responding to the groaning of creation we are facing today.  Jesus is still with us, companioning us, offering us his life as a model and the way. 

I am reminded, too, of Mary’s role in responding to the groaning of creation:  her “yes” to the angels’ request.  

Mary’s Yes Puts the Incarnation into Motion:  

The ultimate response to the groaning of creation is the decision to send an angel to Mary (Luke 1:26–38). Mary’s yes puts into motion the Incarnation, God becoming flesh and “[living] among us”(John 1:14). Mary sheltered God within her in the form of Jesus. At the same time that Mary was sheltering Jesus, she was also sheltered by God who saw her and was with her in her inner chapel. They were inseparable from each other. God sought to shelter us by sheltering with us.

We see intimacy here: God’s response to the groaning of the world began with the tenderness of a mother who first said yes and then received her child in her arms. Can you imagine the gaze between mother and child that day? Mary gazing into Jesus’ tiny eyes, stroking his hair, and snuggling the new life in her arms. Mary feeling the same profound love, tremendous responsibility, and fear that all new parents experience. Jesus looking up at her. Jesus crying and needing to be soothed by his mother, the same way all newborns need to be soothed.

The intimacy we imagine between Mary and Jesus is the same tender and loving intimacy with Jesus and us.  Jesus looks upon us with that same loving intimate gaze.  Jesus profoundly loves us.  Jesus seeks to soothe and to comfort us.  

I invite us to spend some time this week pondering and reflecting on the gift of Jesus sheltering with us.  How do we respond to this profound gift of shelter and love?  How might we offer our own gaze of love and offer of intimacy to Jesus?  How can our “yes” to the nudges from the Holy Spirit to act and to speak be part of birthing Jesus into the world today?  

* adapted from The Inner Chapel p. 95-98 

Go Deeper:

Photo by Hada Lanssa on unsplash.

Becky is an Ignatian-trained spiritual director, retreat facilitator, and writer. She is the author of the Busy Lives and Restless Souls (March 2017, Loyola Press) and The Inner Chapel (April 2020, Loyola Press). She helps others create space to connect faith and everyday life through facilitating retreats and days of reflection, through writing, and through spiritual direction. With nearly twenty years of ministry experience within the Catholic Church, Becky seeks to help others discover God at work in the every day moments of people’s lives by utilizing St. Ignatius’ Spiritual Exercises and the many gifts that our Catholic faith and Ignatian Spirituality provide.

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