As part of our keeping of the season of Lent, a member of the Georgetown Prep community will offer an Ignatian thought, reflection, and prayer each Sunday. These offerings are meant to encourage us to pray together over common themes and concerns.
“The next day as they were leaving Bethany, [Jesus] was hungry. Seeing from a distance a fig tree in leaf, he went over to see if he could find anything on it. When he reached it he found nothing but leaves; it was not the time for figs. And he said to it in reply, “May no one ever eat of your fruit again!” And his disciples heard it.
"... Early in the morning, as they were walking alone, they saw the fig tree withered to its roots. Peter remembered and said to him, 'Rabbi, look! The fig tree that you cursed has withered.' Jesus said to them in reply, 'Have faith in God.'" (Mark 11 12-14, 20-22)
Jesus’ response to the poor fig tree seems extreme. Shriveling a fig tree for not bearing fruit? What if it just wasn’t ready? What if it just wasn’t the poor tree’s time for figs? Who among us has not felt ready, perhaps for a test, an interview, a big day?
But that appears to be the point; the fig tree made a big show of its fancy leaves, but on closer inspection yielded nothing. The idea of “bearing fruit” is a big one in the New Testament. We hear often that “a tree is known by its fruit” (Matthew 12:33). The merits of a tree in our lives can be judged by what they yield. Does it bring us what Paul calls the fruits of the Holy Spirit: “… joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, self-control” (Galatians 5:22)? Or does it provoke fear, resentment, anger, jealousy, selfishness, and more? (A tree is known by its fruits.) The Examen is a simple place to start answering that question.
Is there a fig tree in your life – one that looks good on the outside, but on closer inspection, isn’t paying its dues? (It was not the time for figs.) This Lenten season, let’s take a courageous look at what is not working in our lives and hearts – and be ruthless in culling them, to make room for what is good.
- Ms. Joanna Scimeca
Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful.
And kindle in them the fire of your love.
Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created.
And you will renew the face of the earth.
by the light of the Holy Spirit
you have taught the hearts of your faithful.
In the same Spirit
help us to relish what is right
and always rejoice in your consolation.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.
- The English translation of the Prayer to the Holy Spirit from A Book of Prayers
- Sunday, March 10 | Fr. Van Dyke, S.J.
- Sunday, March 17 | Brendan Ryan '20
- Sunday, March 24 | Mr. Mac Kimmit
- Sunday, March 31 | James Hathway '20
- Sunday, April 7 | Matthew Scola '20
In the First Week of the Spiritual Exercises Ignatius asks us to consider God’s love for us and how we respond in our everyday lives. In so many ways, the meditations and contemplations he offers echo one of the blessings we heard as we received ashes this past Wednesday: Believe the Good News, and repent! And what is this repentance? It is not beating ourselves up and feeling miserable for the six weeks of Lent so that God has to love us, but rather a re-thinking of our actions, our attitudes, our response to God’s love. The prayer Ignatius offers us is that we might let go of everything that keeps us from the relationship that God longs to share with us—our status as God’s daughters and sons in whom God delights.
Reading: Luke 4:1-13, Jesus is Tempted in the Desert
It’s funny, isn’t it? Jesus has just stood in line with all those sinners, waiting to be baptized by John. Imagine what the passers-by thought as they saw him there with the sinners: Hmmm… I wonder what he did?; Isn’t that Mary’s kid?; Oh, look at him! But Jesus stood there, waiting patiently to be baptized; he stood there with the sinners. And we know the end of that story: as he rises from the river, he hears a voice from the heavens: You are my beloved son! With you I am well pleased! It is with these words echoing in his ears that Jesus goes to the desert.
So what does the devil use on Jesus to tempt him? The very affirmation he just heard! Again and again the enemy tempts Jesus to prove his sonship with God, to prove that he is special, offering spectacular results in each case. But Jesus will not use that relationship. Rather, he places himself firmly under the law of God that holds true for the rest of us. He stands with us!
Often we think that in order to be with Jesus we have to become something extraordinary, something special. We forget that Jesus made himself ordinary so that we could be with him. He humbled himself for us to be with us in our humanity, from birth to death, in our very worst moments as well as our best (Phil 2:6-11). He stands with us humbly.
Humility is a peculiar virtue. It does not mean, as some think, diminishing oneself or belittling oneself, denying one’s talents or gifts. Rather it means being honest about oneself, about the strengths and weaknesses, the gifts and the flaws. The word has its roots in humus – earth. Humble people have their feet on the ground, knowing who they really are. Jesus shows us how to do that. If he can stand with us, we can stand with each other, believing the Good News of God’s love for us ordinary people, trusting God’s love as Jesus did, not for the sake of being spectacular but for the sake of being truly human, truly the image and likeness of God that we were created to be, truly God’s children.
- Fr. Van Dyke, S.J.
as we begin this Lent,
help us to trust your love
to believe it and to live out of it.
Help us to stand with our sisters and brothers,
especially those who are left unloved,
who have no one to stand with them.
We ask this in the name of Jesus
who became one of us,
who stands with us,
who calls us to stand with him.
"What have I done for Christ? What am I doing for Christ? What ought I do for Christ?"
- St. Ignatius of Loyola
Every year, when the Lenten season comes around, I think of the word “sacrifice." I think of the sacrificial resolutions we often make during this time. Perhaps no sugar, or no TV. I think of the sacrifices that those around me have made that have formed me into the person I am today. Sacrifices of time and effort, made out of love. But above all else, I think of the ultimate sacrifice, he sacrifice that we are reminded of every time we walk into church for Mass. The sacrifice of Christ on the cross. Whenever we make sacrifices we are honoring Jesus, and especially during Lent, we follow Jesus’ example on the cross by choosing to “pick up our own crosses." We show Jesus that we are willing to make our own sacrifices as a way to say thank you for his. In this Lenten season, as you ponder what you should give up or what your resolution should be, I ask that you not forget why we are called to make sacrifices in the first place. We do it to show Jesus how much his sacrifice on the cross means to us.
- Brendan Ryan '19
Lord, teach us to be generous,
Teach us to serve as you deserve,
To give and not to count the cost,
To fight and not to heed the wounds,
To toil and not to seek for rest,
To labor and not to ask for reward,
Save that of know that I do your will.
The Ignatian Examen is a way to reflect each day on the gifts we have received from God, how we can see God in all things, how we are living our lives, and to ask God what it is He asks of us. This is a type of prayer that has a framework, but it has to be personal to everyone. Daily Examen is like a daily workout: you are trying to strengthen your relationship with God the same way you try to strengthen a muscle. Reflect on the verses of the Parable of the Prodigal Son and what Jesus was trying to teach us about the Father:
“The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’
“But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.”
The Parable of the Prodigal Son is one of my favorites. Among other things, it reminds us that no matter what mistakes we make in life, God will always love us and will always forgive us. However, we need to be in a place to deserve forgiveness. We cannot just live immoral lives and expect to be forgiven without repentance.
We all sin. We all make mistakes. I see Lent as a time to reflect on what behaviors we can improve upon. Many of us like to give up something for Lent. However, we can also work to improve ourselves. This Lent, I want to commit myself to my daily Examen and improve my dialogue with our loving God.
However, giving up something is not a bad idea. I have a weakness for diet soda, specifically Diet Coke. I know it's not good for me but I enjoy the taste. Although it may not be the worst vice to have, for me personally I think giving it up would be a small way to help maintain a healthy lifestyle. Taking care of our bodies is appreciating the gift of life; this can also be referred to as stewardship. No one's diet or lifestyle is perfect, but giving up soda is one thing I, personally, can do to continue to improve on my stewardship.
Find what is right for you to give up or to work on this Lent. I challenge everyone in our community to continue improve themselves and be closer to God. Pray an Act of Contrition and go out and repent!
- Mr. Mac Kimmit
Georgetown Prep College Counseling
My God, I am sorry for my sins with all my heart,
In choosing to do wrong, and failing to do good,
I have sinned against you whom I should love
Above all things. I firmly intend, with your help,
To do penance, to sin no more, and
To avoid whatever leads me to sin. Amen.
Before he found God, Ignatius of Loyola was an egocentric and selfish man. He loved picking fights, drinking, and messing around with different women. After a battle in which he was greatly injured by a cannonball, Ignatius took to his bed to undergo medical operations. As the days went by, his old lifestyle completely diminished. He did not have the health to leave his bedroom and pursue his sinful habits, and there were no distractions. During this time, he picked up and read the only book on his shelf, the Life of the Saints. Ignatius’ life was, from then on, transformed forever as he took up his cross and followed God. Without denying his sins and his own self, Ignatius would never have fulfilled his potential as the man God intended him to be.
In the busy and stressful lives that each of us leads, we sometimes get caught up in the excitement and action, and lose sight of what truly matters. This can cause us to shut God out, and detach from the meaning and simple joys of everyday life. Ignatius calls us all to give up the things that distract us from God: the materials, comforts, social needs, etc. Mainly, he challenges us to give up our life as a man or women for ourselves, and follow God’s will. Of course, this does not mean giving everything you own away (unless that is God’s call for you). It simply means finding God in everyday life, finding Him in all things, and rejecting the possessions and habits that keep us from Him. Easier said than done, I know. But there are ways to become aware of our relationship with God, such as the Examen. This is a spiritual exercise that allows us to realize God’s active working and presence in our lives, and in fact, for the Lenten season, Georgetown Prep students will be praying the Examen every day during religion class. Take the steps necessary to grow closer to God this Lent. The first step might simply be creating more silence in your day by pausing before pulling out social media or headphones the moment you are alone. Let go of your worries, watch God transform your life, and rely completely on Him.
- James Hathway '20
Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty,
my memory, my understanding,
and my entire will,
All I have and call my own.
You have given all to me.
To you, Lord, I return it.
Everything is yours; do with it what you will.
Give me only your love and your grace,
that is enough for me.
Man was created to praise, [revere*], and serve God our Lord and in this way to save his soul. The other things on Earth were created for man's use, to help him reach the end for which he was created. Thus, it follows, that he must use these means, insofar as they help him to reach his goal, and to refrain from using them insofar as they keep him from that goal.
– Spiritual Exercises “First Principle and Foundation” – Saint Ignatius of Loyola
As we reflect on our lives and relationship with God during Lent, we look to find where we fall short in loving God and look to strengthen our relationship with Him by creating a good habit or breaking a bad one. We examine our lives and desires to form alter into qualities that will make God happy. In Ignatius’ terms, we look to discern our love for others and take a more active role in our daily lives, potentially through an Examen. Reflection can be increasingly useful in the suburban DC community as we are surrounded by high paced life. God asks that we take a breath, give thanks, and ask for consolations while looking at our life through a broader lens. In terms of the Jesuit Identity of Georgetown Prep, an examen can focus on whether or not one embodies the mentality of a Man for Others.
A way this spirit of awareness can improve our lives is through our mindset. We can make conscious decisions to be happier and more active in our day, rather than dwell on our shortcomings or look to the excitement of the future. One simple and rewarding action is to make the conscious decision to be alive in the moment, take a breath to breathe deeply, and look for God in the nature around us, for Ignatius embodies that we can find God in all things. Take every day as it comes, especially as spring break allows us to rest and reflect before the final stretch of the year.
- Matthew Scola '20
Grant me, O Lord, to see everything now with new eyes,
to discern and test the spirits
that help me read the signs of the times,
to relish the things that are yours, and to communicate them to others.
Give me the clarity of understanding that you gave Ignatius.