SPIRITUAL GROWTH & SPIRITUAL DIRECTION: LAUNCH “HOMILETTE” FOR SPIRITUAL DIRECTION:
ST. JOSEPH’S PARISH, CEDARA – 17TH SUNDAY, YEAR “C”
0. GOSPEL READING: LUKE 11:1-13
“Seek, and you shall find!”
I am terrified! I asked Fr Zaba for 5 minutes to talk on Spiritual Direction in the Parish … and he offered me the whole homily!!!
For the last 2 years, Lynne Keaton and I under Father Zaba’s direction have been exploring the possibility of a ministry of Spiritual Direction as a way of deepening our spiritual life. We have visited all the Faith Sharing Groups earlier this year are now confident to present such a ministry to the whole parish:
2 THE DESIRE TO BE IN A RELATIONSHIP WITH THE LORD: INVITATION AND PROMISE
2.1 The desire to seek the Lord and be in relationship with Him is inscribed in the deepest part of our being and from our earliest origins. This is what the psalmist so joyfully proclaims:
“Lord… it was you who created me, it was you who knitted me together in my mother’s womb; too wonderful for me this knowledge too high beyond my reach!”
“And again he says: “As the deer yearns for running water, so my soul is yearning for you my God.”
The Lord has planted the seed of a deep desire to be connected with him in the core of our persons, and has promised to respond to our desire to be connected with Him. “Ask, and you shall receive; Seek, and you shall find!”
2.2 In this same gospel reading today, Jesus cuts an extraordinary figure in his solitary and deep communion with his Father, his Abba, his “Dad”. Throughout his journey he frequently seeks out his Abba and is seen as having a truly unique and intimate relationship with him. This relationship is most prominent at turning-points of his own journey, such as:
- when choosing the apostles from amongst the rather dense disciples (“Boss! I want to sit at your right hand in your Kingdom!)
- when mobbed by his fractious and rather basic followers (Hey! More bread please, sir!),
- when confronted with the hostile official opposition (“Who says you are allowed to heal on the Sabbath?”).
- It also at times of deep joy like at the Last Supper that we hear of this relationship (“Oh Father! as you are in me, and I am in you, may they also be one in us!”).
- But it is also not a trouble-free relationship, not plain-sailing, to say the least– in Gethsemane (“Father! Take this cup away!”) and, in the desolation whilst impaled on the cross on Calvary (“Abba! Why have you abandoned me?”).
In our daily walk, Jesus is an example and an inspiration of seeking and maintaining an intimate and ongoing relationship with the Father throughout life. For us, we are also invited into a relationship with the Father which goes beyond the superficialities of our consumer-ridden and success-driven culture. Jesus encourages us to allow the Father to keep alongside us in the ever-present crosses that we bear, and indeed remain with us into death, and, as with Jesus himself, beyond death.
2.3 If we look at our experiences with the Lord from early childhood until now, we also recall the experiences of the Lord’s presence, of a plan for ourselves, for our own lives, and times of deep joy in his presence.
We are perhaps most profoundly touched
- at the birth of our children, or
- when caught up in a view from a mountain top, or
- or taking in our splendid winter sunsets, or
- soulful singing during the liturgy, or
- a deep and satisfying reciprocal relationship.
But our human condition is such that seeking and finding is ongoing and includes experiences of distance and loss and absence. At times - in crises, in our wasteful wanderings, or in our pre-occupations with ‘more important’ issues, in our frenetic, diversionary activities we also experience this absence, or a feeling of being disconnected, or bored, or in the dark and painfully separated.
2.4 In some of our visit to the Faith Sharing Groups, we asked the members to describe their relationship with the Lord over their life-times in visual terms – What an amazing range and richness of experience! Here are but a few visual pictures:
- a rope ladder, which is God supporting, and connected by rungs so that one could keep climbing towards the future
- a long thin piece of wool
- a rugged rope, interspersed with all kinds of knots
- a darkened room and difficulty in finding the light switch - if it is there one at all!
- a continually flowing stream of different deepness’s along a water-course.
2.5 The promise of the Lord in the Gospel is that in the determined seeking, in the struggle to be receptive and still and wait, that we will find. It is perhaps more appropriate to say that: “Search, and we will be found!”, and that the times of absences will end. We are assured that God will meet us and give us sustenance, bread for our journey. He will not give us a snake or a stone or a scorpion - He is also our Dad after all! He has not planted the seed of a deep desire to be connected with Him in the core of our persons, just to frustrate us!!
3 WAYS TO MAINTAIN AND DEEPEN OUR RELATIONSHIP: THE UNIVERSAL CALL TO HOLINESS
3.1 The relationship with the Lord is similar to other significant relationships, such as with a spouse, a parent, a child, a friend - closeness, absence, connectedness and disconnectedness occurs. The desire to remain to maintain and deepen any such relationship has to be worked at. Without doing our part such as an expression of desiring to remain in the relationship, the relationship itself dies. A spouse who never demonstrates his/her affection by touch or gesture or word will soon find that love itself withers.
3.2 I believe that there are 4 important ways that we express and deepen our relationship with to the Lord:
- by our participation in the liturgy especially the Eucharistic – taking time aside to attend to the Word together and share the Bread of life together on our journey,
- by our regular, personal and solitary prayer,
- by sharing our journey with another person, such as a friend, a ‘spiritual buddy’, a spouse or a member of a faith sharing group, and
- by sharing of ourselves in caring for others in our family, our parish, and beyond such as in pastoral care and outreach.
3.3 Since the Vatican 2 Council, the ways which foster this deepening of relationship has increased enormously, such as with, faith sharing groups, directed retreats, centering prayer groups, and “Marriage Encounter”, scripture study, etc.
It was with statement of the Vatican 2 Council Constitution on the Church, of the “Universal Call to Holiness”, that many more ways to enhance our spiritual journeys have been given us. The Church has opened up old treasures, and found new ones.
The “Universal Call to Holiness” means that ALL of us – lay persons, religious brothers and sisters, and priests, bishops and Yes! Even the Pope - ALL are called to the same holiness; ALL are called to be in an ever-deepening and personal and intimate relationship with the same Lord.
4 What is Spiritual Direction?
4.1 Spiritual Direction is another way to express and deepen this union. It is an ancient practice from the early Church, and kept alive in monasteries and religious congregations over the years, and recently mainly reserved for priests and religious. Since Vatican 2 it has also been like good old wine cracked open and poured out also for lay persons. It has burgeoned especially in North America.
4.2 It can be described as a privileged and confidential relationship between one Christian and another, aimed at enhancing and deepening the relationship of one of them in seeking the Lord on their spiritual journey.
It focuses on:
- the increasing awareness of the Lord’s ongoing communication with the seeker – our tunnel-vision closes out so much of the Lord’s communication,
- how the seeker responds to the Lord - ranging from avoidance to resistance to open receptiveness, and
- how the seeker lives out the relationship in all the circumstances of his/her life.
Group Spiritual Direction is similar in purpose, but occurs in a group where the group with a facilitator focuses on each member and their spiritual journey one at a time. One of the Faith Sharing Group’s has expressed an interest in this.
4.3 Spiritual Direction needs to be contrasted with other ways of expressing our relationship to the Lord to be understood better. It is:
- a privileged and confidential relationship, where sacred experiences are shared in trust. Thus confidentiality is a “non-negotiable”
- usually described as more facilitating than direction or instructing, and is sometimes termed “Spiritual Accompanying” or “Spiritual Partnering”. It is more guiding the person on how to read a road map, with reading the symbols for ‘mountain’, ‘river’ etc., rather than telling a person the way to go.
- more informal than formal – like two friends talking
- “Spiritual”, as understood as involving that deepest core of the person, affecting the whole person, and affecting the person’s whole life; and not having those connotations of an “out-of-this-world’ and purely interior experience.
- open-ended, and may continue for an extended period of time. This distinguished it from pastoral care and counselling when particular problems of life and faith cloud and may obstruct the relationship with the Lord, such as bereavement, where the counselling usually ends with the working through of the particular issue.
- purposeful, usually involving a regular monthly meeting. This distinguishes it from ad hoc sharing with some-one like a soul ‘buddy’ or members in a Faith Sharing Group.
4.4 So as one of the old wines recently uncorked is it necessary or desirable for all? The answer is that it is “Sometimes necessary and always desirable”.
It is necessary at times of important discernment and decision making, for example, such as when deciding on a calling to the religious life or the priesthood and, could we dare to say, a calling to marriage?
And It is desirable for all - the Celtic tradition of the Church, such as St Patrick and St Brigit, have a saying –“ a person without a soul friend is like a body without a head” – that is, very incomplete!
4.5 There are some amongst us parishioners who have experienced Spiritual Direction and its benefits. The benefits are:
- expressing the desire to maintain and deepen the relationship by the regular meetings - working on the relationship, keeping centred in the relationship itself. The regular meeting help to see if one is still on compass course; whether the Lord has slipped off your radar. To overcome the tendency to become stale and stay in one’s comfort zone
- aking time to be specially conscious of the Lord’s communication before and sometimes in the direction meeting
- for myself, especially, the affirmation of my unique identity and unique spiritual journey
- to experience the emboldening resolution after making a life-changing decision of leaving the familiar and walking with trust into unknown places, like Abraham leaving his comfortable homestead.
4.6 And not only is it desirable for all called to this one holiness but all parts of the church including lay persons and religious may minister to one another as one Christian to another in Spiritual Direction – it is not identified with the sacrament of ordination.
Lynne Keaton and I have undergone a spiritual direction course here at the Scholasticate, involving both knowledge and skills. We have ourselves also have had a number of years in direction. So, if you feel the prompting of the Spirit to find out more about the ministry of Spiritual Direction, and perhaps intensify your search, or to participate in this ministry as a Spiritual Director, you are welcome to speak to Fr Zaba, Lynne, or myself.
Today this day as in the gospel you are given an invitation and a promise.
This day you are invited to deepen your relationship with the Lord in all its facets of your person and your lives.
You are invited to deepen your relationship with the Lord with the ways that you find most authentic and helpful in your own spiritual journey.
The promise follows – search, search more deeply -- and you will be found!
Dave Geber July 2010