Where can I go from your spirit?
From your presence where can I flee?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I sink to the nether world, you are present there.
If I take the wings of the dawn,
if I settle at the farthest limits of the sea,
even there your hand shall guide me,
and your right hand hold me fast.
If I say, “Surely the darkness shall hide me,
and night shall be my light”–
For you darkness itself is not dark,
and night shines as the day.
New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All1 rights reserved. USCCB approved. http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translation
Today this psalm of marvel sits between St. Paul exhorting and encouraging the Thessalonians with great fondness, reminding them of the example he and his companions set for good gospel living, and Jesus with great distress exhorting and lamenting the bad examples of the Pharisees. Jesus goes on to ask “how many times I yearned to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her young under her wings, but you were unwilling?” (Mt 23:37)
I am grateful for the good days when I participate in graced moments, able to “walk in a manner worthy of the God who calls you into his kingdom and glory” (1Thes2:12). I also have bad hypocritical days when I don’t act with transparency and integrity, or I perpetuate unhealthy patterns of behavior in my relationship with family, friends or neighbors. On those unworthy days I want to flee from God’s presence, yet the psalmist reminds me I am pursued by Love to the ends of the earth.
The realization that I am a loved sinner is the grace of the first week of the Spiritual Exercises. St. Ignatius instructs me to pray for “shame and confusion” for my sins. Another way to pray this is to ask for “deep embarrassment over my actions and amazement at God’s goodness and mercy.” It is part of human nature to have both good days and bad. It is part of God’s nature to search and know us and reach out to us through every means possible, to show us that we are each loved beyond measure every day.
—Jenene Francis is the provincial assistant for pastoral ministries for the Chicago-Detroit and Wisconsin provinces of the Society of Jesus.
I cry with wonder accompanied by surging emotions as I pass in review all creatures. How is it that they have permitted me to live, and have sustained me in life? Why have the angels, though they are the sword of God’s justice, tolerated me, guarded me, and prayed for me? Why have the saints interceded for me and asked favors for me?
And the heavens, sun, moon, stars, and the element; the fruits, birds, fishes, and other animals – why have they all been at my service? How is it that the earth did not open to swallow me up, and create new hells in which I would be tormented forever? I extol the mercy of God our Lord, pouring out my thoughts to him and giving thanks to him that up to this very moment he has granted me life. I will resolve with his grace to amend for the future.
—St. Ignatius Loyola, Spiritual Exercises, #60-61