The third and final portion of my talk delivered on Kairos 155.
My brothers, I have said a lot to you this evening about my own life, about the lives of those important to me throughout the years, and perhaps most importantly, the threefold life of God – Father, Son, Spirit; Creator, Redeemer, Sanctifier – present throughout those relationships, both in their good times and in their bad, the perfect times, and the imperfect times. Ultimately, along with prayer and sacraments, this is how we live out our relationship with God – in communion with other people. We as Catholics don’t believe in a me-and-Jesus mentality of salvation (though a strong personal friendship with Jesus is essential). We emphasize God as a community of persons, Father, Son, and Spirit, who dwells within human persons, all of them created in God’s image and likeness. Those in whom he dwells fully we like to call saints. That’s heaven – the life of the Trinity and those in whom the Trinity lives. And that life begins here on earth. Now.
Hopefully you guys daydreamed along with my talk about your own lives and how God might have been present to you throughout the relationships in your lives as I spoke. I tried to give you guys some experiences from family life, grade school and high school you could relate to, as well as some experiences you all will go through in your futures. What’s key in all of this is that I couldn’t have done this talk or realized God’s presence in my life at all without going back and reflecting on my life. Thankfully this is exactly what you guys have been doing throughout the past 24 hours on this retreat. The questions we have been asking you, the reflective writings you have done, the discussions you’ve had in your small groups have all been exercises to help you see how God has been working in your own life thus far, especially through your relationships with your mentors, friends, and family, especially your parents. And you’ve had some great examples of how your peers have found God in their lives by looking back and reflecting on those lives. God is present to us and speaking to us, even in the tough times of our life – perhaps especially then. We just need to clear the way to let him speak, especially when He’s speaking through others. It’s emphasized so often – daily – at school, and I can’t emphasize it enough here how important this practice that we like to call the Examen is. If you want to deepen your relationship with God, and strengthen your relationships with other people, take the Examen after 8th period seriously. Do an Examen before going to bed at night, asking yourself similar questions to the ones you have been asked here on retreat. And write things down! It’s a lot easier to go back and reflect on your life when you have a written account of it.
Another way you can attend to your relationship with God through your relationships with other people is simply by spending more time giving attention and being open to those around you – your parents, siblings, friends, classmates, teammates, and so on. Tell your parents you love them. Offer to do the dishes every once in awhile. Clean your room. Help a kid struggling in a subject that you’re good at. Good intentions – and I know from experience that this retreat fosters a host of good intentions – amount to nothing if those intentions are not acted upon. By giving your parents the respect they deserve and the love they desire, by being fair and honest with your siblings and friends, you will be honoring not only them but your relationship with God, who dwells in a real way in each of these people. And let’s not forget the poor! Ignatius offers ample service opportunities, and I don’t need to tell you again that engaging in them will only help your relationship with God. Remember at the end of St. Matthew’s Gospel, where Jesus separates the sheep and the goats… whatever you did to the least of my brethren – that is, the hungry, thirsty, naked, homeless, sick, imprisoned, dead – you did to Him.
The one other piece of advice I have for you guys is to adopt an attitude of gratitude to your lives. This again incorporates much of what we’ve done on the retreat thus far. Ignatius, as any saint would say, likes to say that all is gift. When we reflect on our lives through the Examen and see the innumerable goods we have been given, especially as well-off members of American society and as members of the Catholic family, we will eventually – if maybe slowly but surely – adopt an attitude of gratitude for all that we have and are. And it is this core attitude towards existence that helps us most be a good and trustworthy friend, an attentive and patient sibling, a loving and obedient son. And it is through these actions that we respect most the presence of God working in those we have relationships with.
The ultimate result of God’s friendship is having a loving relationship with all those around you. Let’s live it out, brothers.