Tag Archives: Julian of Norwich

Desiring God: sermon for Proper 12 A 2017

I did not record the sermon on Sunday, July 30.  Here are the notes from which I spoke.  The Scripture texts were

Romans 8:26-39

Matthew 13 selections 

  • Silent retreat: what is it?  My trainer was shocked when I said that’s what I was going away to do
  1. 8 full days. Jesuit retreat house in Gloucester MA with ocean view.  If I was going to be silent for 8 days I wanted a good view!  Only talking w/ spiritual director for 45 min daily and making the responses at Mass, though you could go off the property to talk
  2. Silence is seen as gift to self and others on retreat. Different from Trappists or other silent monastic orders, the Jesuits themselves do not keep silence—very active order, and the directors on the retreat did not keep silence among themselves.  It is simply seen as a tool to use in specific times.
  3. Clears away noise so that you can hear God speaking in various ways
  4. Dedicated time to explore different forms of prayer you might not in daily rush.
  5. I spent time praying w/ Scripture, but I also spent time paying attention to God through nature, through drawing, through listening to music, through journaling, through reading
  • Silent and Ignatian: focused on teachings of St Ignatius of Loyola.  Start every prayer time telling God your desire for that prayer time.  Not asking God what God’s desire is for your prayer time, but stating your  desire.  A reverse from what we would expect.

 Paying attention to our desires is a crucial part of our prayer life in the Ignatian tradition.  This is a surprise to many folks who assume that in religious life desire only has bad connotations: sex or material wants.  I desire that person.  I desire that Maserati.  Women especially are taught that paying attention to our desires is selfish .

James Martin SJ :”Why this emphasis on desire? Because desire is a key way that God speaks to us. Holy desires are different from surface wants, … Instead, I’m talking about our deepest desires, the ones that shape our lives: desires that help us know who we are to become and what we are to do. Our deep desires help us know God’s desires for us and how much God desires to be with us. And God, I believe, encourages us to notice and name these desires,…. Recognizing our desires means recognizing God’s desires for us.”…..Desire leads people to discover who they are and what they are meant to do. On the most obvious level, a man and a woman feel physical, emotional, and spiritual desire for each other, and in this way they discover their vocations to be married. A person feels an attraction to being a doctor or a lawyer or a teacher, and so discovers his or her vocation. Desires help us find our way. But we first have to know them. The deep longings of our hearts are our holy desires. … the desires for change, for growth, for a fuller life. And our deepest desires, which lead us to become who we are, are God’s desires for us. They are one manner in which God speaks to you directly, one way that, as Ignatius says, the Creator deals with the creature. They are also the way that God fulfills God’s own dreams for the world, by calling people to certain tasks. Desire is a key part of Ignatian spirituality because desire is a key way that God’s voice is heard in our lives. And ultimately our deepest desire, planted within us, is our desire for God. [From Ch. 3 of “The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything”]

  • One of the passages I read was from Julian of Norwich.  I’ve talked about Julian before—the 14th Century Anglican mystic who was the first woman to write a published work in English
  1. “Our Lord showed me in a vision how intimately he loves us. I saw that he is to us everything that is good and comforting for our help. He is our clothing that out of love enwraps and enfolds us, embraces us and wholly encloses us, surrounding us for tender love, so that he can never leave us.  And … I saw that he is everything that is good, as I  understand it. …. Our Lord God also revealed that it is a very great pleasure to him that a simple soul should come to him a bare, plain and homely way.  For …this is the natural yearnings of the soul touched by the Holy Spirit.  “God, of your goodness, give me yourself, for you are enough for me, and I cannot ask for anything less that would fully honor you.  And if I do ask for anything less, I shall always be in want, but in you alone I have everything.”  [selections from Revelations, Long Text, Ch. 5, Barry Windeatt translation]
  • Ignatius and Julian are talking about the same thing that we heard in our lessons today:  those great assurances from Paul in Romans
  1. The Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.
  2. This is what it means to pray from our desires—praying from those emotions deep down within us that we can’t even put into words.
  3. And Julian’s imagery of Christ being as close to us as our clothing and skin—she knew Paul’s promise  For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.  
  • Matthew: Disciples should desire the kingdom like that merchant desired the pearl, like the landowner desired the treasure.  As we spend time with God in prayer, our desires gradually begin to align w/ God’s desires, and we become more sensitive to God’s desires  which are already planted in our heart
  • Terrance Klein SJ https://www.americamagazine.org/faith/2017/07/26/want-know-who-you-are-ask-what-you-wantsays our desires help tell us who we truly are and who we want to be.
  1. “To see what it is that you want of the world, ask yourself questions such as these: What pursuit gets most of my time? Why? What tends to be my primary cause of anxiety? What do I enjoy doing when I able to choose my activity? Reading? Exercise? Time with loved ones? Of course, once you know who you are by asking what you love, there is one more Gospel question that desperately needs be posed: Is this a pearl of great price? Is it worth my life?
  2. You have to ask, because life expends itself on its desires, even if they are not acknowledged.