OBSTACLES TO LOVE
This week we turn our attention to the ways the vision of the Principle and Foundation seems unattainable in our lives. If we want to internalize the Principle and Foundation as the guiding aim of our lives, we need to understand why it can be difficult for us to fully live the call to love God and neighbor in freedom...
The guided prayer for this week is Psalm 23, "The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want..."
2 Samuel 12:1-7 King David and the Prophet Nathan
Psalm 42:1-6 “My soul longs for you, O God”
Psalm 51:1-19 “Have mercy on me, God, in your goodness”
Matthew 18:21-22 “Lord, how often must I forgive?”
Mark 2:1-21 “Rise, pick up your mat and go home”
Mark 12:28-35 “Which is first of all the commandments?”
Luke 5:1-11 “Depart from me, Lord!”
Luke 15:11-32 The Parable of the Prodigal Son
Luke 19:1-10 “Zachaeus, come down quickly!”
John 5:1-9 “Do you want to be well?”
Here you can find additional resources to help you pray through Week Two, including a post on the Meditation on the Incarnation (which has an audio file to help you pray with the meditation) and a discussion of Ignatian indifference. You can also go back to the resources from the first week of the retreat, including the posts on the Examen, distractions in prayer, and consolation and desolation.
Week One of this retreat introduced the Principle and Foundation, a glorious vision of life with God. Hopefully, you were able to spend some time last week reflecting on the ways God loves you and continues to love you. One of the goals of retreat is to grow in gratitude for the graces God shares with us.
This week we turn our attention to the ways the vision of the Principle and Foundation seems unattainable in our lives. If we want to internalize the Principle and Foundation as the guiding aim of our lives, we need to understand why it can be difficult for us to fully live the call to love God and neighbor in freedom. In short, we need to understand the obstacles in our lives that prevent us from living as the people of love we want to be.
Saint Ignatius, again, was no stranger to the obstacles that served as barriers between him and God. After his leg wound healed, Ignatius left his home, journeying as a pilgrim. Before, however, he could continue his journey, he spent a year living in a cave in Manresa, Spain, wrestling with his inner demons and his own sense of sinfulness. That time, while painful for Ignatius in many ways, helped him understand the ways God was calling him to a renewal of his life.
Ignatius’s time at Manresa helped him see all the ways he could be his own worst enemy and that his flaws, bad habits, and personal wounds prevented him from responding whole-heartedly to the call to love God and neighbor.
Fortunately, we don’t have to spend a year living in a cave in order to understand our sinfulness like Ignatius did. But we are inviting you to spend some time this week examining the personal wounds, bad habits, and unhelpful attitudes that block us from fully accepting and returning God’s love. You might find this week tiring, discouraging, and even painful. This week is a tough journey but a necessary preparation for the third week of the retreat, which will focus on the gift of God’s healing mercy and forgiveness.
Our goal for this week is to understand our obstacles to love. With God’s help, prayer can open our eyes to these obstacles before us and help us understand the ways they limit us. Here are a few suggestions.
Praying with Memory: we’re all wounded. We all have memories of being hurt and of being hurtful. Pray with your memory to get a fuller picture of yourself and how you are (and are not) open to love.
Think of a time you hurt someone close to you: what happened? Why did you do it (i.e., what habit or attitude led you to choosing this course of action)? How did you feel after you realized you hurt them? What can you learn about yourself thinking about this experience? What do you recognize in yourself that may be an obstacle to being a more loving person?
Think of a time someone close to you hurt you: what happened? How did you feel after being hurt? How has this experience made you reluctant to be vulnerable with others and risk deeper, loving relationship?
Think of a time life dealt you a harsh or unexpected blow: what happened? How did you feel when this happened? Did you talk about this event with God? How was your relationship with God impacted? Did you question God’s love for you? Your love for God?
Praying with Scripture: the Bible is filled with stories of pain and suffering, sin and stupidity, and repentance and healing. Use one of the suggested Scripture passages and do an Ignatian contemplation: use your imagination to picture the Scripture passage and play the scene out in your head. Let the Holy Spirit take you through the scene and open up the meaning of that passage for you. Or take one of the suggested passages and do an Ignatian meditation: quietly read through and pray with the passage, letting the Holy Spirit guide you towards a deeper understanding of yourself and God.
Praying with the Meditation on the Incarnation: towards the end of your week, we invite you to pray with the Meditation on the Incarnation from the Spiritual Exercises. Look with God at the world, seeing creation as it is. Look at both the good and at the bad, at the beauty of the world and at the mess it can be. Locate your own life in both the beautiful and the messy and look at your life alongside God. What do you see? What does God see? Talk to God about what you see. Listen to God for what God sees. Then, imagine Jesus saying, “Let us save them.”
Praying with Week One: use any Week One retreat resource to feed your prayer.
Always remember the grace that you are seeking: deeper understanding of yourself and the ways you prevent yourself or resist the call to loving relationship. We want to know our woundedness and the obstacles that stand between us and a deeper love for God and neighbor. If we know the obstacles in our way, we can begin to seek freedom from them, which is what God wants to give us.
However, this week’s prayer can be challenging and there are some traps that can be easy to fall into. Here are some important things to keep in mind:
You are not alone: if you feel yourself getting overwhelmed or find yourself stuck in a dark or negative place, reach out to the retreat directors to discuss what’s happening in your prayer. We can be an extra set of eyes and ears for your prayer and can help you spot unhelpful ways of thinking.
The goal is freedom and understanding: we are asking you to look at some painful stuff not to cause pain but to help you understand what stands between you and a deeper life with God. If any given prayer is not helping you reach greater understanding or freedom, move onto something else.
Faith, hope, and love: “Do not let your hearts be troubled; believe in God, believe also in me” (John 14:1).
Pray for each other! This week, be there for each other in prayer.
Remember the graces of the first week of retreat: God is still lovingly creating you and has not stopped loving you. If it will help you to return to or remain with some aspect of this retreat in its first week, feel free to go there in prayer.
A few reminders as you move into the week: Remember that this retreat does not depend on you figuring it out, or the advice we have given. Simply show up, offer yourself as generously as you can, and God will be there and do the work. Furthermore, in all of these suggestions, use what is helpful and draws you to God. Toss aside what is distracting or unhelpful. The rule is you and God’s personal encounter, not anything we say. And where you find the grace, remain with it. Quality over quantity!
Give yourself the gift of listening to God loving you, without qualifying things or needing to be all fixed up first. Invite God into the mess, wherever you are. You can let go and fall into God’s arms. That’s all God wants. Then comes generosity. Then comes service. Then comes deeper life.
WEEK 2 PRAYER RESOURCES
We highlight these resources for the week. You can find these, and resources from last week on the Prayer Resources page.
Here you will find a brief description of the Meditation on the Incarnation, along with written and audio guides for the prayer.
Here you will find a guided Ignatian Contemplation on a story from the Gospel of Mark where Jesus heals a paralyzed man.
Here you will find a guided Ignatian Contemplation on a story from the Gospel of Mark where Jesus calls Peter to follow him.
Ignatian contemplation focuses on using our imagination to place ourselves in biblical scenes or other spiritual contexts, while paying attention to our affective feelings.
Here you will find a more detailed look at the Examen prayer, along with videos that can help deepen your understanding of this key Ignatian prayer.
Did you find the concept of "indifference" in the Principle and Foundation difficult to understand? If so, here is a closer look at what Ignatian Indifference is.