This blog post from William Barry, SJ, is a reflection on David Fleming’s Book, “What is Ignatian Spirituality”, which Ignatian Volunteers are using for spiritual reflection in many regions this service year.
Have you ever been stunned by the fact that you exist at all? Years ago a Jewish man who was studying early rabbinic sayings, told me of being stunned that way by a remark of one rabbi about the nothingness before God spoke the universe into existence. There is nothing but God, and God wishes a universe into existence. In her poem “Primary Wonder” Denise Levertov tries to get at such a moment of stunned awareness. Why? Why does anything exist, rather than nothing? Why does God create, not only a universe, but you and me and everything else? Can you think of any good reason? I cannot. The only reason lies in the mystery of God.
Over the centuries human beings have tried to fathom that mystery. David Fleming’s “God is Love Loving” may come as close as any statement to pointing to an answer. He is echoing the first letter of John, “God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them” (I John 4:16). God, who is love, desires into existence all that exists. There is no other explanation possible, no other answer to our “Why?” except God’s desire, God’s love. So we owe everything to God’s desire for us. But doesn’t God make demands of us? God, I believe, demands nothing but our existence and our acceptance of who we are. Unlike trees which cannot choose to be untrees, we are free to be inhuman. One of the risks God takes in desiring us human beings into existence as God’s images and likenesses is that we can, and unfortunately, too often do, choose to be less than human, less than images of God. But God’s love never changes.
I feel as though I am babbling. But isn’t that the way we often speak when we try to explain any real love, received or given? I’ve never heard a good response to the question “why?” that often follows a declaration of love. God, too, may be tongue-tied, saying, “I just love you, that’s all.”
Fr. Bill Barry, SJ is a Spiritual Reflector for IVC New England. He entered the Society of Jesus in 1950 and was ordained in 1962. He earned a Ph.D. in clinical psychology from the University of Michigan in 1968. He has taught at the University of Michigan, Weston Jesuit School of Theology, and Boston College. Bill is the author or co-author of 20 books, including The Practice of Spiritual Direction, God and You, Finding God in All Things, Spiritual Direction and the Encounter with God, Who Do You Say I Am?, Contemplatives in Action, and A Friendship like No Other. For more on his writing please visit Loyola Press.