In today’s first reading, the prophet Ezekiel seems to understand today’s world, and then he offers a prophecy of hope.
No longer shall they defile themselves with their idols,
their abominations, and all their transgressions.
I will deliver them from all their sins of apostasy,
and cleanse them so that they may be my people
and I may be their God.
When I made the Spiritual Exercises a few years ago, I remember asking my retreat director how I would know if I was one of God’s people. I had spent a sizable portion of the retreat meditating on things Ezekiel might call abominations. Some of them were my own, and some belonged to others. It was not hard then and it is not hard now to find sin in the world, and it is fair to say I make my own contribution.
I started to obsess over it, becoming frustrated by evil’s intransigence and my own brokenness. “Frustrated” is not a strong enough word. “Agony” or “despair” is what I felt in my prayer. On top of that, I felt confused. Am I not supposed to be indignant and frustrated by injustice? Should I not feel heartbroken when I hear horrifying stories of war a world away?
My director agreed that I should, but asked me this: “Do you find your meditations spiraling inward, deeper into your own thoughts and feelings, or do you feel drawn toward compassion, empathy, and a desire to do something for others?”
Two years later, I’m no better at changing the way I feel, but I try to notice if my indignation and frustration is directing me toward others, compelling me to do something for them, because it is in those moments that I know I am one of God’s people.
- Take a few moments today to notice if your own frustration is leading toward compassion and action rather than toward despair.
Henry Frank is director of communications for the Office of Ignatian Spirituality.