Godtalk: Feeling God's Love
Many people would say that while intellectually they believe that God loves each one of us, personally, eternally, they find it hard to feel this deeply. We may be helped by reflecting on St Ignatius’ conclusion to his Spiritual Exercises, a ‘Contemplation to Attain Divine Love’
Firstly, I think about what God has done for me’, and ‘how much he has given me of what he possesses.’
Second, says Ignatius, I think about the way God ‘dwells’ in all his creatures. In the elements, God gives them existence: in the plants, life: in animals, sensation: in human beings, intelligence. And in ourself, in whom God dwells, ‘giving me existence, life, sensation and intelligence; and making me his temple, since I am created as a likeness and image of the Divine Majesty.’
Third, consider how God labours on our behalf and on behalf of all creatures, ‘giving them their existence, conserving them, helping them to grow and be themselves.
Finally, I think of how all these gifts – and others, like justice, goodness, piety, and loving kindness – descend from God ‘as the rays come down from the sun, or the rains from their source.’ God is at work in us and for us individually, personally eternally.
After meditating on God’s wholehearted love for each one of us, people are often moved to respond wholeheartedly. So Ignatius, finishes with this prayer:
Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty. My memory, my understanding, and my will – all that I have and possess, You, Lord, have given me. I now give it all back to you, O Lord. All of it is yours. Dispose of it according to your will. Give me love of yourself along with grace; for that is enough for me.
This is a tall order! I offer you everything, God. All I need is your love and grace. This is all I need to be ‘alive.’ That prayer reminds us that the spiritual life is a constant journey. We may not be sure we can say yet that ‘all I need is God’s love and grace.’ But as Ignatius says, it’s enough to have the desire for the desire. It’s enough to want that freedom. God will take care of the rest.
Peter Knott SJ