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Tilling the soil

A graduate student and young alumnus recently shared photos he took during a trip to Ireland. Stunningly sharp images of the ever-green Irish countryside, wandering sheep, cathedral ruins and tall crosses were common.

In his travelogue, he highlighted a dozen or more sunrise and sunset shots. Strong rays emanating from the setting or rising sun broke through mountainous cloud formations. “God rays” the young man called them ... his favorite images.

What does it take for people to use their imaginations to turn natural phenomenon into metaphors for God? St. Ignatius realized his lively imagination gave him insights about God and he encouraged those on retreat with him to plumb those depths as well.

Imagining God reaching down to touch the earth and humanity through the rays of the sun is not a new idea. Artists have used that imagery for centuries.

Yet, concrete imagery often helps the human mind. Early in the Spiritual Exercises, St. Ignatius suggests that imagining God looking at you, gazing at you with love, desiring a relationship with you is a way to deepen your faith and know of God’s presence in your own life. God deeply desires us to be happy and loving ourselves.

So often as human beings we think of God looking at us with judgment and dissatisfaction. St. Ignatius believed God looks on us with deep and abiding love, as we know exists when we are in deeply loving relationships. God wants a relationship like that with us. At the same time, as we are loved so intensely by God who wants nothing but the best for us, so, too, we are called to love deeply and want the best for those around us in our families, friends, work environments, neighborhoods and cities.

Our faith depends on building a community of love and compassion. “God rays” not only emanate from the clouds but also from the hearts of people, extending out with warmth and light in a sometimes dark and cloudy world.

Dr. Susan Mountin, Jour ’71, Grad ’94, director of Manresa for Faculty, helps us till the soil of faith in a quarterly column on Ignatian values.


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