By Fr. Gilles Mongeau, S.J.
Nothing is more practical than finding God,
than falling in Love in a quite absolute, final way.
What you are in love with,
what seizes your imagination,
will affect everything.
It will decide what will get you out of bed in the morning,
what you do with your evenings,
how you spend your weekends,
what you read, whom you know, what breaks your heart,
and what amazes you with joy and gratitude.
Fall in Love, stay in love,
and it will decide everything.
Pedro Arrupe , SJ (1907-1991)
This short reflection by Father Arrupe, superior general of the Jesuits between 1965 and 1983, has always moved me deeply.
Often, the people I accompany in spiritual direction initially come to see me because they are facing a challenging and important decision that will affect every aspect of their lives, and they don’t know how to begin to make that decision well and prayerfully. Later, they choose to continue in spiritual direction because they have discovered that every aspect of their lives, no matter how small, is charged with the presence of God who is love, and they desire to respond generously to that love.
In our present context in North America, we want to make decisions quickly and efficiently; our culture is eminently practical, and we approach decision-making with practical problem-solving logic. But the most important decisions, the ones that shape our lives and give them meaning, cannot be boiled down to a set of practical reasons for and against. These are the decisions that reveal to us what we truly value, what moves us to action; in these moments of decision-making, logical and practical arguments may be helpful, but they will not carry the day.
“When I am in Love-with-Absolute-Love, I love all things and all people in God, simply because God loves them as his own. This is how Jesus can ask us to love even our enemies and work for their good, because they too are God’s Beloved.”
What counts in these moments are the ultimate values and meanings revealed to us in our experiences of desire and in our feelings of attraction or resistance towards a decision to be made. And those feelings and interior experiences are rooted in what (and who) we love above all other goods and persons. This is especially true when it comes to practicing our faith in our daily life.
The starting point, as Fr. Arrupe reminds us, should not be this or that practical choice in isolation, it is Falling-in-Love-with-Absolute-Love, and staying in love. To know ourselves as God’s Beloved, and to love God back, transforms all our desiring and knowing. Love here is not some romantic feeling, it is that interior experience of desiring the genuine flourishing of the one I love for their sake alone, because I want their good above all else.
When I am in Love-with-Absolute-Love, I love all things and all people in God, simply because God loves them as his own. This is how Jesus can ask us to love even our enemies and work for their good, because they too are God’s Beloved. How I respond to the good creation God has made, how I respond to those who have hurt me, how I express gratitude and blessing to those who have helped me, how I discover in myself the desire to take time to pray every day, all these things flow from Being-in-Love, right down to them oat practical details of my day to day living.
So love above all, and the rest will take care of itself.