Our featured book throughout the retreat will be Here’s My Heart, Here’s My Hand: Living Fully in Friendship with God.
Does God of the Universe really communicate with individual human beings? Christians (and people from other faith traditions) believe that the Divine does communicate with us on a personal level. God also communicates through the cosmos in ways we don’t comprehend, and the Divine works not just with individuals but entire communities. But Jesus demonstrated an ongoing personal relationship with God and encouraged his disciples—and, by extension, you and me—to do the same.
But how do we know we aren’t we just talking to ourselves in prayer—projecting our own needs, desires, beliefs, and prejudices onto this so-called relationship? Given the human tendency to center everything on the self, how can we possibly determine that a particular experience of wisdom, comfort, or instruction is from God?
“Ignatius was not praying when he made this first discernment of God’s communication; he was daydreaming. Moreover, both sets of daydreams had a quality of narcissistic, unrealistic ambition to them. Yet he came to believe that God used one set of such daydreams to draw him toward a new way of life. Because of experiences like these Ignatius came to believe that God is always communicating to us, that every experience has a touch of God in it. It is almost a motto of Ignatian spirituality that God can be found in all things. The only question is whether or not we will be aware of God’s presence” (Here’s My Heart, Here’s My Hand, 21).
The ultimate test of whether I’ve heard from God is the impact of that experience on my life. If I’m on an unhealthy or dangerous course, it is God’s voice that sounds warning and correction. That experience probably won’t feel good at the time, but if I listen and change my course, I will know the benefit of that conversation with God.
If I’m living in a way that is generally loving and wise, God’s voice will help me stay on that path. Sometimes, though, the voice that’s loudest at such times is not God’s. What I hear, growing louder in the background, is the voice of guilt and accusation, telling me I’m not good enough, or that I should have done something better, or that eventually people will know what a fake I am. This is the voice of the “enemy of our souls,” as St. Ignatius put it. Here’s what the biblical writer of Revelation had to say:
“Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Messiah, for the accuser of our comrades has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God” (Rev. 12:10).
Even when God corrects us, the purpose is not to accuse and shame us but to heal and help us. I may feel great sorrow when God communicates to me that I’m in the wrong, that I am “grieving the Holy Spirit,” that I have caused harm. But such sorrow does not push me away from God—it draws me into the Divine embrace. The sorrow leads to renewal. This is true even when I don’t succeed quickly but struggle with a problem or situation for many years. God speaks to me always of hope.
A Spiritual Adventure for the Week
This week, prayerfully look back over the past year (or, if it’s easier, the past month or week) and try to identify times when God was speaking to you. Ask these questions:
- How did God speak in that situation? Through a friend’s advice or a family member’s concern? During my prayer time? Through a certain feeling or an intuition? Through a dream? Through a Scripture reading, the liturgy, a song or poem?
- What was my reaction at the time? How did I respond to God?
- What impact did that experience have on my life after that?
Note: Some of you shared that you had issues with Friday’s reflection. This is something new that we tried and we apologize for the technical difficulties. We’ve tweaked the file if you’d like to try and view the reflection again.