Spiritual Exercises

Seeking to become more like Jesus

one day at a time.

one week at a time.

The Reality of Sin

This week’s focus & prayer:
Jesus, help me to know the richness of your love as I consider how much our sin and my sin hurt you.

Our goal this week is to begin preparing for God’s grace in a deeper way by honestly reflecting on the pain and brokenness caused by sin – both in the world and our own. This can be hard, but it is all for a good purpose. This strips us of some of the delusions we live with about ourselves, but it also prepares us to feel more authentically and fully loved by our God and Lover.

“Above all, trust in the slow work of God.

We are quite naturally impatient in everything,
to reach the end without delay.
We should like to skip the intermediate stages.
We are impatient of being on the way
to something unknown,
something new.

And yet it is the law of all progress
that it is made passing through
some stages of instability –
and that it may take a very long time.

And so I think it is with you;
your ideas mature gradually – let them grow,
let them shape themselves, without undue haste.
Don’t try to force them on,
As though you could be today what time
(that is to say, Grace and circumstances
acting on your own good will)
will make of you tomorrow.

Only God could say what this new spirit
gradually forming within you will be.
Give our Lord the benefit of believing
that is hand is leading you,
and accept the anxiety of feeling yourself
in suspense, and incomplete.”
– Pierre Teilhard de Chardin
Monday

Today, we begin some reflections on sin, “our inescapable reality of the human condition; we abuse the freedom God gives us and make choices that hurt God, others, and ourselves” (Kevin O’Brien)

Read Luke 15:11-32 (The Parable of the Prodigal Son).

How does this story help you understand your own estrangement from God? How does it describe some of your own life, even perhaps more recent moments? How does this story help you appreciate God’s welcome and love to you as someone who has done damage?

Spend some time reflecting between the life of the prodigal son and the actions of the loving father. Notice that the father is also “prodigal” since the word means “extravagant.” God is always trying to overcome our own actions and lovingly welcomes us home with “arms wide open”.

Tuesday

Sin isn’t just about us. It’s a part of the tragedy of God’s loving, beautiful world. Christian teaching tells us that even God’s angels and all of creation were harmed by some who turned away from God – including the fact that Satan himself is a fallen angel.

Spend some time today reflecting on the sorrow and sadness of the brokenness in our world that results from this “turning away from God.” As you look at the news or hear about things in the world, let yourself feel the pain God must feel. That none of this was God’s desire, but instead that there are forces aligned against God’s will that sow division, hatred, and other calamities upon us and our world.

Feel free to use your imagination as well as you think about God’s sadness at the rebellion of God’s angels who chose not to follow God’s ways.

Wednesday

Read Genesis 3 (The sin of Adam and Eve).

Now we begin to reflect upon our first spiritual parents and the tragedy of their own fall from grace. Consider today what it must have been like to be in their shoes, what it felt like to follow the inclination to move away from God’s will. How do you see Adam and Eve in this story? What emotions do you feel like they experienced.

Again, reflect on God’s own experience. How does it pain God to see and come to know of this breach in love and trust in their relationship? What emotions run through God as the breakdown in relationship happens.

Feel free to expand and read more of the story (Gen. 2:4-4:16). What do you notice about the nature of sin and how it impacts further generations? Notice how subtle and alluring sin can be.

Thursday

Prayerfully read Luke 16:19-31 (The sin of one person)

This is the story of the rich man and Lazarus, and we want to note how the rich man’s insistence on his own way and own comfort ultimately leads to a life that is deeply impoverished and heart-wrenching.

What would it be like to be a person totally closed off from God’s love? What actions or attitudes can you sometimes adopt that lead you to close yourself off? What is it like to feel the agony of separation in your relationships?

None of us like to think about these things, and – yet – we’ve all experienced these times as well. These can be moments of godly sorrow that remind us what attitudes, actions or orientations of life we want to stay clear of so as to avoid such pain.

Friday

Read Romans 5:1-11 (“God proves his love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us”)

Now use your imagination to place yourself before Jesus on the cross, and use these words from Ignatius for guidance:

“Imagine Christ Jesus our Lord suspended on the cross before you, and converse with him and let him know how you feel:

“How is it that he, although he is Creator, has come to make himself a human being? How is it that he has passed from eternal life to death here in time, and to die in this way for my sins?

“In a similar way, reflect on yourself and ask:

“What have I done for Christ?

“What am I doing for Christ?

“What ought I to do for Christ?”

Saturday

Savor the graces of the week.

Ask yourself again, “Where do I see delight?” Begin cultivating a discipline this winter of writing down the good things God is doing in your life, your family and in our world.


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