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A Reflection on "Finding God in All Things" - May 2018

posted May 8, 2018, 1:37 PM by RSO The Fenwick Review

By Greg Giangiordano '18

“Finding God in all things” is the catchphrase of Ignatian spirituality.  But what does it mean? To understand Ignatius, we need more than the buzzword version of his popular ideas.  To begin with, then, St. Ignatius tells us in his Spiritual Exercises that “Love consists in a mutual communication between two persons.” When this mutual communication is between myself and God, I can know with certainty that God loves me. I can know that He continuously gives Himself to me. He says through St. John, “In this way the love of God was revealed to us: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might have life through him”; through the prophet Samuel, He declares “Also the Glory of Israel will not lie or change His mind; for He is not a man that He should change His mind.” Thus, I know two things about God—He said that He loves me, and He is not a liar. His love is true and unconditional, and it is constantly communicated to me in every moment of my life. He has given me the freedom to “find Him in all things.” It is then entirely up to me whether I choose to freely reciprocate or freely reject His love.

The first time that I truly felt God’s personal love for me was in high school. It was the summer before my senior year, and I was out for a walk with my dog. It was early evening—the sun was just beginning to set, and the sky was a blend of purplish-blue and fiery orange-gold. The air was pleasantly warm and dry, and the crickets were chirping in the bushes lining the street. I remember my dog ambling along happily beside me and sniffing here-and-there at foliage as the fancy took her, and I remember listening to music and feeling quietly at peace. Coming to a fork in the road, I turned right, and, as the road led west, I had a clear and unobstructed view of the sunset as it turned the sky a rich orange-rose.

A deep wellspring of joy exploded within me and rolled down my limbs. The feeling was so strong that I nearly collapsed; I remember gasping, leaning on my knees, and immediately bursting into tears. At the same time, my surroundings seemed to shift slightly—I can’t quite describe it, but it felt as if everything had physically trembled and fallen into place, whereas before it had all been slightly off-kilter. Everything felt new; it was as if I had been blind and then could see. The world around me had come into sharper focus, and I felt that each blade of grass and each leaf had a new brilliance, heard the cricket-song as if it were a symphony and smelt the sweetness of the air as if for the first time. I felt as though our Lord had touched my heart with the very tip of His finger and said, “Look at what I have made, out of My love for you.” I was overcome—obliterated, by a dewdrop of His Grace.

Everything that exists is born of God’s love for us. While many of us have heard that idea, we rarely stop to ponder it. I never look at the pansies lining the Hoval and think, these were created out of God’s love for me. St. Ignatius aims in his Exercises to make us aware that creation is one of God’s many acts of love for us: “I will consider how God labors and works for me in all the creatures on the face of the earth; that is, he acts in the manner of one who is laboring. For example, he is working in the heavens, elements, plants, fruits, cattle, and all the rest—giving them their existence, conserving them, concurring with their vegetative and sensitive activities, and so forth.”  St. Ignatius makes it clear that God’s labor in keeping creation in being is done “for me.” He had each one of us personally in mind when He made reality.

In high school, I only knew that, in nature, God had touched my heart, and I had felt a deep and abiding joy. Nature, God and joy—that was as far as the reflective process went. Now, through the words of St. Ignatius, I can begin to see meaning behind the experience. I now see that God hadn’t shifted the world; He had shifted me within the world. He had touched my heart and shifted my perspective, so that I could begin to see and respond to His love at work in creation. By means of creation, God had made His presence known to me, in order that I might come to know and love Him.

As beautiful as experiences like these are, they don’t occur on a regular basis. I won’t try to predict how many moments like these God will choose to give me, but it probably isn’t many. Since that time five years ago, I can only point to two other instances where God, by means of His Grace, made His presence known to me, and neither of those experiences were in natural settings. Usually, I feel about as spiritually sensitive as a bag of hammers. I do not routinely feel God’s presence in my life: I do not feel His presence every time I step outside into the sunshine, nor do I get the warm-fuzzies every time I see the pansies outside of Hogan. However, that does not mean that God is not actively present in my life. I may not be aware of it, but He is everywhere and holding everything in being.

Not being spiritually sensitive all the time isn’t a bad thing; trusting that our Lord exists and loves me personally, even when I don’t feel it, is essential to a strong faith. As one priest frequently tells me, it is important to remember the words that our Lord said to St. Thomas, “Have you come to believe because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.”

Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed. Our Lord makes it clear that we should not expect or demand profound spiritual experiences. In fact, Christ considers those people who do not receive many grace-filled moments and yet remain strong in their faith to be especially precious to Him. He calls those people “blessed.” I must admit, there are times when I wish that God would reach into my life and give me definitive proof that He exists, as He did with St. Thomas. But then I remind myself that faith involves trust. I remind myself of the words of Samuel and St. John—that God loves me, and that God is not a liar.