As part of my Master of Divinity studies at Seattle University, I took a class on Spirituality. In that class one of the assignments was to be aware of our surroundings, to observe, to notice, to see. The idea was to activate our senses and pay attention to finding where God was already active in our world. The idea was to find ways to be attentive to God’s self-revelation.
So, with this intention, I went to Greenlake for my weekly walk and as I was sitting in my favorite place by the water, I started observing the color and the form of the leaves on the trees. I started being aware of the whispering of the wind, the little cricket jumping in the grass near me, and the ripples created as I was threw little stones into the water.
So, I discovered something during this process. A new wonder suddenly revealed itself, how just by observing, by noticing, by truly seeing, we are opening ourselves to be surprised and to recognize the wonderful gifts in which God is present every day.
In the gospel that we just heard today we can see that the act of noticing and seeing, play an important role in the narrative story of this gospel. Just as Jesus entered an unknown village, Jesus saw, and noticed the lepers that were crying for mercy.
In a sense, he recognized the need of them to be clean and to be restored from their “marginalization” so that they could rejoin and be a part of their community. One of the biblical commentaries points out, that the fact that Jesus “saw the 10 lepers” would be superfluous if this account did not carry a deeper meaning. Just a few chapters before, in the parable of the good Samaritan, the priest, the Levite and the Samaritan all “see” the man in the ditch, but only the Samaritan stops to help him.
An important theme in this story emphasizes “seeing and noticing”. One of the lepers, the Samaritan, when “he saw” that he was healed, turned back, praised God, prostrated himself at Jesus feet and gave thanks.
When this Samaritan saw that he was healed, he recognized this wonderful gift from God. When the Samaritan saw that his healing was a miracle of God, his instant response was praise and adoration. Instead of immediately forgetting the suffering that he experienced and focusing only his own good fortune like the other 9 lepers, he turned back to Jesus in gratitude and thanksgiving.
But what is gratitude we may ask?
According to Ignatius de Loyola the founder of the Society of Jesus, gratitude is recognizing God’s loving gifts and recognizing God’s loving presence through them.
This is what lies at the very heart or our entire relationship with God according to Ignatian Spirituality.
Gratitude is the foundation of our relationship with God.
That is the reason the Samaritan returned to the source of his blessing. This is why seeing and noticing is so important. The Samaritan recognized God’s loving gift for him.
So, I wonder,
Where can you recognize the unconditional love of God in your current lives now?
Can you identify God’s loving gifts in your life and can you see God’s loving presence through them?
Recently I started practicing “The Daily Examen Prayer". The Daily Examen (inspired by Ignatius of Loyola as he describes it in his Spiritual Diary) is a technique of prayerful reflection on the events of the day in order to detect God’s presence and discern God’s direction for us.
What is interesting about this spiritual practice is that after becoming aware of the love with which God looks upon us as we begin this examen, the first step is Gratitude.
This first step according to Ignatius is to give thanks to God for the benefits received. Again, gratitude is recognizing God’s loving gifts and recognizing God’s loving presence through those gifts.
So the examen prayer starts by reviewing God’s loving gifts to us during the day. During this spiritual practice we may ask ourselves: What am I grateful for? And as we review our day we start seeing and noticing all the blessings that we already have.
If I had to answer this question today, what am I grateful for? , I would say that I am so grateful to be in this moment with all of you, I am grateful to have had the opportunity to start this ministry of Our Lady of Guadalupe here at St Paul’s’, I am grateful to have the support of Mother Sara, the staff and many of you gathered here today. I am grateful for the use of the space, for the bread the wine, the vestments, and all that allowed me to break bread with God’s people, my community. All this is a blessing for me and believe me I am so grateful.
By being grateful we start seeing the world with different eyes. We start to recognize the gifts received from God, we start seeing God in all things. We start seeing how much God loves us, how much God loves others and how God is present everywhere we look.
We start seeing and noticing that God gives abundantly.
Sometimes we are so focused on worries in our daily life that we blind ourselves to seeing and to noticing all the blessings we actually have. And when we fail to recognize God’s loving gifts, and we immediately start focusing on what we do not have or what we have not become, our scarcity mentality begins to take over and control us more and more. This mentality then begins to stop the flow of blessings.
There is a prayer that I have in the wall of my office. It says: be thankful for difficult times, because during those times you grow, be thankful for your limitations because they give you opportunities for improvement, be thankful for your mistakes, because they teach you valuable lessons. At the end of this prayer it says:
Find a way to be thankful for your troubles and they can become your blessings, and in those blessings God is always present.
This is the good news that this Gospel proclaims. God gives abundantly. Gods desire to give is so great that it exceeds our human capacity to receive. The Samaritan was a vivid example of God’s loving grace and presence because he was able to recognize how God had blessed him.
So I invite you to see, to notice, to pay attention to how God has been active in your life, I invite you to recognize the gifts that God continues pouring into your life every day.
I invite you to walk through your day in the presence of God and notice its joys and delights. Focus on the daily gifts. Look at the work you did, the people you interacted with. Pay attention to the small things, the leaves on the trees, the whispering of the wind and the ripples on the lake. Stop, see and notice, and you will find that Gods loving presence is always there.