Thursday of the Twenty-fourth Week in Ordinary Time
When I made my annual retreat after my first year away from the novitiate, I did so under a wise old Jesuit whom I had known from day one in the order. As I began the retreat, he made sure to admonish me that “all prayer begins with gratitude.” We receive a gift, and when we are grateful, we have a natural desire to thank the giver. So with God, we recognize those blessings and gifts we have from Him, and quite naturally wish to speak with Him, if only to say “thank you.”
This gratitude to God is something Jesus encourages in today’s gospel. He tells Simon the Pharisee that when one is forgiven of much, one has much to be grateful for–just as the sinful woman who came to Jesus was grateful. We would do well first of all to remember that we are not so different from the woman. In the Spiritual Exercises, St. Ignatius encourages us to consider “one who went to Hell for one mortal sin [and] countless others who have been lost for fewer sins than I have committed.” The woman who comes to Jesus is overjoyed because her sins have been forgiven, and she has gained the possibility of heaven. Whatever our own sins are and have been, we are in the same boat as her. Let us pray today to know how God has shown His mercy to us in our sins, and to be grateful for the gift of salvation He has offered us.
Grace: An intimate knowledge of the many blessings received, that filled with gratitude for all, I may in all things love and serve the Divine Majesty.
Reflection: In the meditation upon sin, we made reference to Dante’s vision of hell, a cold, desolate place where the fire of love has been extinguished and all lies in a spiritual torpor. This is the perfect image of the heart grown cold to the stirrings of love which God places within it. At the opposite end of Dante’s journey lies a vision that perfectly encapsulates the final meditation of the Spiritual Exercises, the Contemplation to Attain Divine Love. From the lowest reaches of the spiritual universe, Dante ascends to the heights of heaven, where he views “the love that moves the sun and the other stars.” At the heart of the universe lives the Trinitarian God, whose perfect love draws all being into an ordered symphony of praise. Dante feels himself drawn into this harmonic vision through the enflaming of his passions and desires. No one with eyes to see can sit impassively at the vision of God’s love. From the disordered state in which Dante had fallen at the beginning of the poem, he becomes progressively cleansed of his disordered affections through the grace of God and the intercession of Beatrice until finally he is able to pass through the heavens and stand in the presence of God. But notice that Dante only sees God’s depths after he has been interiorly transformed.