By Fr. Paul Stark, S.J.
Vice President for Mission and Ministry
How or who would you be if you removed all the things that hold you back from being how or who you would be if you...well, you get the drift. We often allow--sometimes we even invite--obstacles, real or imagined, to hold us back from being more or being creative or living in freedom or willing to try new things or open to others' suggestions. We sometimes even invite and invent obstacles to invitations from others, obstacles for opportunities to be or do something different or differently, to live the freedom we often preach about or say we want.
We make all sorts of excuses about why we "just really can't do...xxx" because...well, because I guess I don't want to. Because...well, I never have before. Because...well, it might be difficult. Because...well, because it might not fit with how I see myself. And maybe, just because. In any case, fear is not a good and productive substitute for freedom.
Ignatius, in the Spiritual Exercises and his many letters, called his early Society then, and all of us now, to more freedom than we might ordinarily seek for ourselves. He called us through faith, away from fear, into freedom. He called us into a life of bravery, a life of bold desires, of a willingness to burst through the boundaries, real or otherwise, that might ensnare us. He called us into freedom.
But, clearly, that freedom comes with a price. It's not easy for some of us to change or to see ourselves differently or to see what we do as part of a larger picture, to realize that it's really not all about us, but about any number of others who have needs and lives and opportunities as well. It's not easy being free, it's said, but it is ever so much better than the alternative.
Ignatius provides numerous opportunities in the Spiritual Exercises to seek, and to approach, and perhaps even to achieve, freedom. He calls us to understand our desires--external and internal--as deriving from God, active and present in them all, active and present in us. Sometimes, all we need to do is to offer God our reluctance, ask God for acceptance, seek God for guidance, pray to God for freedom.
Then we can live not in fear, but in faith and freedom. Then we can accept our many opportunities with some joy and peace, rather than finding fearful reasons not to do anything other than what we've already done and complained about doing. Then we can seek the magis in ourselves, the passion we're called to live life fully, with substance.
Really: How or who would you be if you removed all the things that impede you from being how or who you would be if you...well, you get the drift...
Lent gives us the time and the opportunity to do more than dream or desire...
Lent gives us the time and the opportunity to do...
So, just do it...and have a blessed Lent.