Open in me the gates of the kingdom, I prayed before church on Sunday, hoping something in the service would enliven me. But God’s still, small enlivening was not in a hymn, the sermon or Eucharist as much as it was in the people and what I heard in conversations before and after worship.
Aggressive cancer … exhausted and weeping … what a little girl needed to do to be loved … overwhelmed and just getting through.
If these four people were my directees and the conversations happened in spiritual direction, we would have an hour to open to God and what is going on for them. We would share an intention to receive God’s loving action in their lived reality.
But what can I do in these brief encounters? I hold what they carry and feel compassion rise. I can pray for them as they come to mind through the day. But it doesn’t feel like enough.
This time of year I prepare those who are praying the Ignatian Spiritual Exercises to meditate on the Principle and Foundation. I offer them a few translations or paraphrases including this one by Jacqueline Bergen and Sr. Marie Schwan. It begins like this:
Lord, my God
when your love spilled over into creation
you thought of me
I am made from Love, of Love for Love.
I close my eyes and recall the people who spoke with me on Sunday. I imagine God’s love spilling over and creating them “from Love, of Love, for love.” Their creation or enlivening (en-life-ing) began at the genesis of all things. Enlivening is happening now–moment by moment–whether we see it or not.
Further down in the prayer, it says,
Teach me reverence for every person, all things.
I hold each person, tenderly, lovingly. I reverence not only them but what God is doing in “all things”–the cancer, the weeping, the memory brought to mind, the heavy load.
The next line says:
Energize me in your service.
Yes, I will help carry their burden. Energize me, Lord, to do what you ask–no more, no less. Enliven us, your church.
Carry each other’s burdens,
and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.
–Galatians 6:2 (NIV)
* * *
The Grade Two teacher asked the facility manager at the school (aka my husband, Fred) if he could tell her what’s in the storage shed. Two of her students were trying to break into it to see what was inside, and she thought the information would assuage their curiosity. Fred had another idea. “Send them to me,” he said.
He placed a huge wad of keys into the boys’ hands and announced, “You’re holding the keys to every door in the school. What would you like to see?”
Their eyes grew wide. Every key. Every door. “The shed! The shed!” they exclaimed. And that’s where they started.