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Saturday, May 27, 2017

Now I See

I recently started reading The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius at the recommendation of a friend (check out Angelo Saludo's post entitled "Love Beyond" at fargreaterthings.blogspot.com). As humans, we are continually drawn to two diametrically opposite directions: one towards goodness and the other towards sinfulness. The Exercises aim to develop one's "discernment" or the ability to discern between good and evil spirits, which through continuous application and practice, the choices we make will become more aligned with God's will, which in turn lead us to a deeper union with God.

As I read through the Exercises on the Punishment of Sin, I can't help but reflect on the sins I commit on a recurring basis, without giving God's justice much thought! Suddenly I'm made much more aware of my own iniquities and how much I've offended God. I can imagine Him being saddened each time I resist His will and I persist in my stubbornness.

In the First Exercise, St. Ignatius touches upon "Sin punished in the rebel angels", wherein he asks us to consider the state of the rebel angels before they fell into sin: their purity, knowledge and wisdom, their powerful inclination toward good, God's most perfect and beautiful creations. Yet, despite of having possessed God's favor, they revolted against Him. Lucifer, in his desire to surpass God, led the rebellion. God's justice struck them like thunderbolt and were cast into the depths of hell, where they remain.

In the Second Exercise, St. Ignatius touches upon "Sin punished in Adam and his posterity". Again, as with the rebel angels, St. Ignatius asks us to consider Adam's state before he sinned: the excellence of his being, the happiness and glory of his being, the innocence of his heart, the paradise where he lived, his relationship with God and the fact that he was created in the likeness and image of God. Like the fallen angels, Adam also fell into sin when he chose to listen to Eve, who was tempted by the serpent to eat from the tree of knowledge. As punishment, God expelled them from the Garden of Eden, cursed Eve with the pain of childbirth, and made Adam toil the land for food. St. Ignatius characterized the first sin as imprudent, sin of the senses, cowardice, contempt of God and blindness.

Out of all these characteristics, "blindness" resonated with me the most. St. Ignatius defined blindness as having deceived ourselves at the moment of temptation by foolish reasonings on the justice of God and on His mercy; by having persuaded ourselves that sin is not so great an evil and God is too good to punish us. How many times have I begged God to hear my prayers despite knowing how my request must greatly offend Him; disillusioned with the thought that my unreasonable requests are not offensive in His eyes? How many times have I justified my errant ways by dismissing it as the "social norm" even when my conscience dictates it as unethical? Clearly I have much to learn on proper discernment.

These first two exercises show us that even the angels, God's most perfect creation, and Adam having enjoyed full benefits from God, were capable of sinning and despite their status, still God's justice fell upon them. These were meant to steer us into a deep reflection on the state of our own souls and inspire us to always choose the path that will lead us closer to Him.

I am often reminded that God is generous with His mercy and grace abounds to those who seek it; however, this journey with St. Ignatius makes me much more aware of my unworthiness, so the more fervently I must seek to do His will. I pray that these exercises will quench my thirst for a deeper communion with God, to gain a broader knowledge on how to discern God's voice amidst the noise that pollutes our senses today and learn practical ways in applying these exercises to stay on the path which leads us to God.

--with faith and gratitude,
Elle

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