One of my favorite prayer sites is Sacred Space, run by the Irish Jesuits. Their daily prayers consist of a modified Examen of Ignatian Spirituality. Every week they have a reflection as you enter into prayer. A reflection from a couple of weeks ago was particularly interesting, in part because I am currently teaching the history of Israel in my 6th grade Catechism class and I am taking a Coursera course on the Fall and Rise of Jersualem with a focus on the Babylonian exile. Set forth below is the reflection:
In the Christian scriptures, Babylon is a godless construction, which tries to reach to the skies and displace God.
Today the term can stand for a widespread culture that is seductive, glamorous, but unreal and unsatisfying. It is superficial and one-dimensional. It is black-and-white rather than abundant in color. Instead of fostering healthy imagination, it limits and pre-packages it. Thus, advertisements tell us what to eat and drink, what to do and what to wear. Babylon impoverishes us. It cuts us off from many enriching dimensions of human life. It imprisons the spark that is within us, the soul that is invisible, intelligent, free and immortal.
The churches are not safe from this culture. In the United States today there are 22 million ex-Catholics. Their over-riding reason for leaving their Church is that their spiritual needs were not being met. They were looking for sustaining spiritual nourishment but they felt that they were being fed on junk food. The task of the churches is to rediscover the riches of faith, for God has bigger hopes for us than Babylon could ever entertain. God offers us an undreamt-of gift, conveyed to us by his Son. We need divine food, because we are made for greatness. We live in an open-ended world where we can risk becoming who we really are, persons who can love without limits. We need then to cultivate our Christian imagination carefully.”
What are the items that replace God in our lives: Career success? Material possessions? Money? Needing to be right? Status? Sexual lust? Focusing on getting ahead at the expense of others? For me, it has been all of these items. I have been guilty of falling into the seductive materialism trap of modern Western civilization.
This week, I am praying for the graces of appreciating the beauty of the world while not falling prey to its nihilistic dark side.
I also pray with Sacred Space every morning. It is certainly a concern that the Roman Catholic Church is not meeting the spiritual needs of people. At our parish we try to engage people in opportunities to deepen their faith during the week but it is a challenge for people to make this a priority and set aside the time. Small group Bible studies are a good way for people to feel connected – one such group has been meeting in my home for over seven years and has provided people with the connection that they need and the opportunity to deepen their faith. Other small groups meet other needs but people get lost if they just attend Mass and aren’t involved in any ministries within their parish.
Whatever path you may take to appreciating the beauty, I wish you well.