I direct the 19th Annotation of the Spiritual Exercises and we are entering Week Four and the Contemplations on the Love of God. This is the week where we begin to say the Take and Receive Prayer of St. Ignatius of Loyola. It is a scary prayer because if we truly understand it, we know we are emptying ourselves of everything that has been given to us and are returning it. We place ourselves wholly in a loving God’s hands and surrender everything, including our very lives.
Take, Lord, and receive
all my liberty,
my memory, my understanding
and my entire will,
all that I have and possess.
You have given all to me;
to you, O Lord, I return it
All is yours, dispose of it wholly
according to your will.
Give me your love and your grace
for this is sufficient for me.
In today’s first reading from Acts, we see disciples who have given us example of this–a community of those who believed, were united in heart and soul, who shared everything in common. No one was in need. This early church community understood that everything we receive is gift and we are asked to share generously.
On this wild journey that I am on, I find myself more in God’s good hands than any other time in my life though God knows I have been here before. Perhaps it is because this is not the first trial I have undergone that I already know that God’s love and grace are sufficient for me and for you. Our lives have never been ours; they are simply loaned to us. The best way that I know to live out the Take and Receive prayer is to serve lovingly and with open hands.
On retreat this weekend, one of the exercises was to imagine what you would do if you had one year left to live. I have responded to this question before with colleagues and friends over the years and thought I knew how I would respond. This time however I had a reality check. My energy levels are not quite what they normally are and so that changes some of the list. Since I might be forced to do less active work, I would continue to pray for world events, even if I were leaving this world. Today, for example, on my heart, are the girls stolen by Boko Haram one year ago, and their families who are still heart broken and outraged at this crime.
I have always believed that we cannot give enough. God is the Generous Giver and I am made in that likeness. If I can maintain a freedom around my giving, then I should not ever feel that my giving is out of proportion. These days I am on the other end of giving. I am receiving from generous hearts around the world and I am trying hard to be gracious about it. This proud, independent, and somewhat stubborn woman is learning to say yes, thank you more easily and more often. I have always had extraordinarily kind friends who have guided me on the way of gifting. Their love and grace combined with that of the Great Giver will get me through these weeks and months ahead of me. As with that early Christian community, no one will be in need if we stick together.