SUNDAY HINTS FOR THE SPIRITUAL LIFE
Consciousness of the presence of God in our spiritual life (John 15:1-17)
The word of God is alive and active (Heb. 4:12) and so, I prayerfully wish you the blessings of the Good News of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ as the New Year 2018 continue to unfold with its lofty events. Amen.
For our spiritual life project, we shall continue to enlighten the eyes of our hearts, minds, souls and spirits, in order to keep discovering the mysterious ways of God and how they inform our uniqueness and happiness. Thus, our interest is to rediscover the power of the consciousness of God’s presence in our spiritual life. Psychologists over the years have gathered that about 60,000 thoughts are generated by our mental factories daily. However, one of the major challenge of the human person is the inclination to forget. Part of the special thought that we easily forget is the reality of God’s presence in us, around us and in all we do. Hence, we hear as some of us begin our prayer by saying “Lord we come into your presence” and this sounds as if God is out there and separated from us. Now, this seems to mean “Lord I am making a deliberate choice to focus on your presence.”
How come we say we are spiritual beings making a human journey but we are grossly associated with loneliness instead of solitude? When we start complaining of loneliness in marriage, loneliness as singles or our inability to respect and treasure silence generally and the “occasional silence of God” note that we are becoming deficient in our consciousness of God’s presence. If that is not handled, we may derail into day dreaming, alcoholism, pornography, drugs and sexual promiscuity for a short-term relief. Again, if we go through the day without dialoguing with God in our daily plans and activities, then the danger of poor consciousness of God’s presence sets in. This may be as a result of self-sufficiency, or the mindset that says God is only in the Heavens and we can only contact or approach Him when need arises; but the psalmist asserts, “O Lord, you have searched me and known me. You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from far away … Where can I go from your spirit? Or where can I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there; if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there” (Ps. 139:1-8).
The point is that one of the foundations of the spiritual life is the consciousness or awareness of the presence of God. That is having a steady conversation with God through the power of our thought system that is governed by prayer, meditation and contemplation. The whole mystery and events of Christmas that we have just ended is rooted in the incarnational experience – the presence of God. But our prayers, sense of judgments and behaviours betray us and reveal the fact that we are not mindful of the presence of God. Hence, St. Augustine observes and interrogates “Why climb the mountains or go down into the valleys of the world looking for Him who dwells within us? If God ‘dwells within us’, then everything we do is in the presence of God.” He maintains also that God is “more intimate to me than I am to myself.” So, I should be conscious of God’s presence for He is Omnipresent!
Practicing the presence of God
Visualization: Sense the presence of God by running through all your activities of the day before ending your morning prayer.
Ejaculatory prayers accompanied with breath prayers and exercises: Aspirations such as “Jesus, Mary, I love You. Save souls”; “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner”; “Jesus, Mary, Joseph, be my Salvation” and others have helped many to develop the consciousness of God’s presence.
The use of images, pictures and other objects/articles of devotion like the Bible, Crucifix, the Rosary, and scapular and frequent/regular visitation of the Blessed Sacrament can go a long way to remind us of the presence of God.
Examen of Consciousness: An Ignatian ancient tool that enables us to reflect moment by moment on the love and graces of God. Psalm 26:2-3 gives us an example of the examen of consciousness: “Test me, O Lord, and try me. Examine my heart and my mind. For your love is ever before me and I walk continually in your truth.” Note that the foregoing can lead us to an examination of conscience where we seek for the mercy of God and to do so is also to seek the presence of God.
Taking the exercises of improving our consciousness of God’s presence seriously will reduce or eliminate the effects of the seven capital sins (Pride, Anger, Lust, Covetousness, Envy, Gluttony and Sloth); faithlessness; and despair/hopelessness.
How have you sensed or felt God’s presence recently?
St. Ignatius teaches that it is one thing to acknowledge intellectually the truth of the presence of God or to embrace it spiritually but quite another is to practically live it out. What is your experience on this?
Have you ever sought spiritual direction in the area of the consciousness of God’s presence?
Fr. John-Mary Atep.