Cruelty or kindness. Evil or goodness. Two polarities battling it out. But what if it isn’t that simple? What if good intentions can unwittingly prompt destruction? What if bad intentions inadvertently foster new life? As St. Paul admitted, “I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do.” Romans 7:19 During this time of All Hallows’ Eve to All Saints Day we ponder the forces of good and evil, life and death. Ignatius suggested we drop these polarities and instead assess our lives on how close or distant we are to God. God is close when we are in a state of “consolation” and distant when in “desolation.” Can we be angry but in a state of consolation? Can we be happy and, oh, so desolate?
Beginning of the meeting. Read the reflection above. Quiet yourself. Become more aware of God’s presence. Open yourself to the love of Jesus as you read or hear the following hymn.
Reflective reading. Listen for whatever applies to your situation.
These I Lay Down. Before I take the body of my Lord,
before I share his life in bread and wine,
I recognise the sorry things within: these I lay down.
The words of hope I often failed to give,
the prayers of kindness buried by my pride,
The signs of care I argued out of sight: these I lay down.
The narrowness of vision and of mind,
the need for other folk to serve my will,
and every word and silence meant to hurt: these I lay down.
Of those around in whom I meet my Lord,
I ask their pardon and I grant them mine
that every contradiction of Christ’s peace …might be laid down
Lord Jesus Christ, companion at this feast,
I empty now my heart and stretch my hands
and ask to meet you here in bread and wine …which you lay down.
John Bell (1949- )
Reflect on these questions for a few moments in silence, then turn to another person and discuss.
- Reflect on the past 24 hours. When did God seem close to you in consolation? When did God seem distant from you in desolation? How did that feel? (You do not have to provide personal details, just an awareness of God’s proximity and what that feels like.)
- Is there someone in your parish, living or who has died, who you would consider to be a saint? What made or makes them a saint? Hard work, diligence, sacrifice, consistency…other? Would you consider them perfect?
- What is the difference between working on being good and living closely to God?
After a few minutes bring the small group discussion to a close and invite people to talk about their insights and reflections in the larger group.
Conclude by offering this or another suitable prayer.
Holy God, Holy and strong, Holy and immortal, Have mercy on us. Amen
God forgives us, Asks us to forgive others and Asks us to forgive ourselves.
End of the meeting
Read the passage once again and ask how God’s Word has been known in your time together.