The “Fourth Week”: Week Thirty-One/Session One.
Theme: Gathering The Graces.
Our reading for today: John 6: 1-13.
After this, Jesus went across the Sea of Galilee (some call it Tiberias). A huge crowd followed Him, attracted by the miracles they had seen Him do among the sick. When He got to the other side, He climbed a hill and sat down, surrounded by His disciples. It was nearly time for the Feast of Passover, kept annually by the Jews. When Jesus looked out and saw that a large crowd had arrived, He said to Philip, “Where can we buy bread to feed these people?” He said this to stretch Philip’s faith. He already knew what He was going to do. Philip answered, “Two hundred silver pieces wouldn’t be enough to buy bread for each person to get a piece.”
One of the disciples—it was Andrew, brother to Simon Peter—said, “There’s a little boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish. But that’s a drop in the bucket for a crowd like this.” Jesus said, “Make the people sit down.” There was a nice carpet of green grass in this place. They sat down, about five thousand of them. Then Jesus took the bread and, having given thanks, gave it to those who were seated. He did the same with the fish. All ate as much as they wanted.
When the people had eaten their fill, He said to His disciples, “Gather the leftovers so nothing is wasted.” They went to work and filled twelve large baskets with leftovers from the five barley loaves. (John 6: 1-13 MsgB)
We’ve now come to the part of our Prayer Adventure where we are encouraged by the good saint, Ignatius, to begin looking back over the trail we’ve walked the last eight months. If you joined us way back at the beginning (about 100 blogs ago!) you know that Ignatius certainly covers a lot of ground throughout his Spiritual Exercises. And as we get ever so much closer to the end of our journey together, it’s a wise sage who suggests that we gather up all the loose pieces and review in our mind the many graces we’ve received throughout this long trip together.
This “gathering up of all the loose pieces” that Ignatius suggests for us reminds me of the amazing story where Jesus feeds the hungry crowd of five thousand people (see today’s passage). For most of my life, as I’ve studied this text, I’ve tended to emphasize the miracle of the multiplication of the five barley loaves and two fish. Certainly the manner in which Jesus takes a couple of sardines and a handful of bread, making it into a buffet for five thousand is worthy of our consideration! But as I’ve grown older and begin to reflect a bit more carefully on all the wonderful God-events I’ve experienced in my personal life, my focus has begun to change a bit. Today, I seem to be noticing more of the “leftovers” of my life. The unused pieces of bread that are scattered around the room. The small chunks of uneaten fish leftover on the serving tray.
And as I take the extra time to reflect on these “loose pieces” scattered around my life, I’m so encouraged by the tender-loving care I find in the Master’s approach to what others might just toss in the garbage. “Gather the leftovers so nothing is wasted,” Jesus tells His friends. In other words…“Don’t hurry away from this picnic site, guys…there’s still a lot here for you to chew on if you’ll take the time to gather up all the loose pieces!”
If you’re like me, this elongated journey with St. Ignatius has been well worth.
I’ve told some of my closest friends in recent weeks that I would never have survived the toughness of the last eight months in my personal life without many of the spiritual tools given me by Ignatius in his Spiritual Exercises. The last eight months have contained, for me, some of the most difficult times of transition I’ve ever experienced in my sixty-four years of living. And without the disciplined time of Bible study, waiting on God, and the writing of this blog; all of which the Exercises have forced me into, I’m not sure I’d been strong enough to walk through some of the tough things I’ve experienced during this season.
So what about you, my friend?
What has the Master done in your life as you’ve charted your way through the Exercises? What “loose pieces” need to be gathered up right now before moving onto the next scene?
Kevin O’Brien, author of The Ignatian Adventure, suggests that we spend this week going back over our journey together, reviewing some of these many “loose pieces” we’ve looked at over the last eight months. O’Brien says this:
With the aid of the Spirit, review the retreat now to discern the key graces you have experienced. Don’t replay the retreat day by day or week by week. Instead…go back to what is most significant. Review your journal. As you do, try to summarize in brief statements the most meaningful insights and movements of the retreat.
Father O’Brien continues by suggesting these questions to ponder:
- How has my awareness of God’s presence in my life grown or shifted?
- What ways of praying were most meaningful or challenging for me?
- How have I grown in knowledge and love of Christ?
- Where have I experienced greater interior freedom?
- Where is there still disorder or lack of interior freedom in my life?
- How do I most usually experience consolation and desolation?
- How does good and evil usually operate in my life?
Hmm. I guess taking this extra time this week to gather up all the loose pieces of our journey just might be well worth my time. I pray it is for you as well.
My prayer: Jesus, You are a wonder-worker who has done so very much in my life. In recent months, I’ve experienced so much of Your grace and walked in an increased outpouring of Your love. This week, Father, I chose to listen to Your Son when He tells me to “gather the leftovers so nothing is wasted.” May my time of recollection be filled with Your Spirit’s wisdom and guidance. For Your name’s sake. Amen.
My questions to ponder: So as I review the last eight months of this Ignatian Prayer Adventure, what stands out as key morsels of food for me? What have been the primary works of God that seem to shimmer and glimmer in the light of His truth today?
So what is God speaking to you today as we ponder together The Ignatian Adventure?
Over an eight month period, you and I will be working our way through the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius. For more information on our journey and how to begin…click here!
To go onto the next journal entry…click here.