In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people.
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him.
He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God. And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.
(John testified to him and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks ahead of me because he was before me.’”) From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known.
New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations
I can’t decide whether it is fitting or ironic that the Gospel on the last day of our calendar year starts with the words “In the beginning.” In the next few days, many people will be making New Year’s resolutions to exercise more, eat healthier, read more books, etc. Today, though, on this last day of 2013, and the seventh day of Christmas, we also have the opportunity to look back on our year and see how God has been working in our lives.
One of the most fundamental Ignatian prayer tools is the Examen. This daily prayer can help us become more aware of God each day. Another way of looking at the Examen, though, would be to look back over the past year and take note of where we have experienced God. The Gospel reading reminds us that God, the Word, “made his dwelling among us, and we saw his glory, the glory as of the Father’s only-begotten Son, full of grace and truth.”
As I examine the past year in my life, I go through this modified Examen process:
1. Take time to simply be in God’s presence
2. Reflect on those gifts from the year that I am thankful for
3. Review the year, taking special note of the instances where I felt God’s presence, or an increase in faith, hope and love
4. Take note of the instances where I struggled to find God, or felt a decrease in faith, hope, and love
5. Look ahead to next year: What is God inviting me to in 2014?
Happy New Year!
—Lauren Gaffey is Director of Programs and Administration at Charis Ministries. Founded in 2000, Charis Ministries reaches those in their 20s and 30s nationwide, nurturing their faith through retreats based in Ignatian spirituality. www.charisministries.org
Lord, we choose that the goal of our life is to live with you forever. You, who love us, gave us life. Our own response of love allows your life to flow into us without limit. All the things in this world are gifts of you, presented to us so that we can know you more easily and make a return of love more readily.
As a result, we appreciate and use all these gifts from you insofar as they help us develop as loving persons. But if any of these gifts become the center of our lives, they displace you and so hinder our growth toward our goal. For everything has the potential of calling forth in us a deeper response to our life in you.
Our only desire and our one choice should be this: I want and I choose what better leads to the deepening of your life in me.
—Based on the words St. Ignatius Loyola as paraphrased by David L. Fleming, S.J. from the beginning of the Spiritual Exercises