Dear Brothers and Sisters,
In his New Year’s reflection, Fr. Mike Schmitz (Ascension Press) talked about the value of stopping, taking a look back, and reflecting on the past and then in the present moment stopping to take a look towards the future. And this doesn’t have to be limited to a “new year and old year thing,” but could be at the end or at the start of the week, or even daily. Saint Ignatius Loyola introduced this practice of making an examen to the Jesuits, encouraging them to stop, perhaps even twice daily, to review the part of the day that has already passed, and then to look ahead to what’s left of the day, and ask the following questions: “God, where were you? Where were you in the blessings? Where were you when you invited me to say YES to you and I said NO? Where were you speaking to me and I was deaf to you? Where were you when you spoke to me and I heard your voice?”
There are many different ways that one can make an examen. One way is to look at the day, from the first minutes of the day when you woke up, until the last hour before you went to sleep, and review the day as if it were a series of photographs. Look at your day each part of the day like an individual photo paying attention to what you see, hear, think, or feel. What did you say in that moment? What did you do? Who did you share these moments with? To whom did you show love or kindness? To whom did you deny that kindness? Were there any missed opportunities? Keep in mind that as you flip through these photographs, God is at your side looking at them with you and remind yourself that God was with you throughout each moment of the day. For those times in which you recognized God’s presence, God’s grace or blessings, and responded to Him, be grateful. For those times perhaps that you missed or rejected God, or God present in a moment or in another person, you may feel regret. None of us is perfect. But remember those things. Ask God for forgiveness, for humility, for the grace to be better. You may have noticed something especially meaningful about this examen, talk to God about it, and listen to what God has to say. Then, take a deep breath, and ask to see God the next day.
The goal of the examen is not to live or dwell in the past, on passed regrets, hurts, disappointments, or wounds. Nor is it to focus solely on the future, our longings, our hopes, or our fears. Rather, the point is to live thoughtfully in the present, being present to God’s presence in every moment. As to the past, the events, the choices, the mistakes, the glory days they’re gone. We cannot relive them or do anything about them. As to the future there is only so much we can do to prepare for it and we cannot live in fear, and to beat to death a cliché, our worrying is useless. What we can do and I think this is the best part of Fr. Mike’s reflection is to surrender both our past and our future to Jesus Christ, thereby giving him dominion over them. Just as we do when we make a good confession (following a sincere and thorough examination of conscience), when we make an examen we bring our sins, our wounds, and our regrets, and we surrender them to God, who in turn forgives us, heals us, and gives us the grace we need. The same is true for the future those things that we’re worried about, those fears, or the things that we are longing or hoping for we surrender them to God. And this is really what we all must do as people of faith, living always in God’s presence, in a spirit of loving self surrender, and entrusting all that we are to God, Who is Lord, forever and ever. Amen.
If you haven’t had the opportunity to check out Fr. Mike Schmitz’s “Surrendering the Past and the Future to Jesus’s Lordship and Dominion,” it can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wAiSP_Hzljw
Peace in Christ,