Voluntary

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by Fr. Randy Roche, SJ

Though we make rules or guidelines that support the ways we express our love, it is always voluntary. We cannot be coerced to love, no matter how many obligations and responsibilities we take on as manifestations of our love. Loving is the most valuable and the only aspect of our capabilities that continues on with us even through death. The voluntary aspect does not mean that love is one option among many others that are equal, or that loving is to be equated with volunteering for temporary or part-time service. Love is the most significant and at the same time, the most fulfilling activity of the human spirit.

Many of us are so habitually busy that we can easily become unaware of the deep significance and value of much that we do. Even a small amount of reflection can make the difference between “the same old same old” and the recognition of an energizing yet calming power that is moving within us. If we only take one meal a day, we can probably manage to remain healthy, but most of us choose to give more time to eating, not only for the sake of physical sustenance but for social reasons as well. Likewise, we can get by with one short period of reflection during a typical day, but why not take time to notice a little more frequently the love present in and through so much that we do?

Many businesses conduct annual inventories, a necessary but not usually pleasant task. Daily reflections are not about counting how many times we did or did not do something, as if we were taking some kind of inventory. Rather, the purpose is to appreciate the value of our experiences, an open-to-inspiration exercise that goes deeper than merely checking off a list of happenings. The difference is much like that of a person who stands before a beautiful natural scene, appreciating it for the effects it has within one’s person as compared to someone who runs up with a camera, takes a quick photo, and turns away with only a digital record of something seen but not viewed.

Since we can enjoy a good meal and find satisfaction in music, art and hobbies of all kinds, we can surely take appropriate delight in recognizing some of the ways that we experience love, whether received, or enacted in our own words and deeds. If we take a consistent period of a few minutes for looking over the past day, or pause only for a moment to consider the presence of love in our most recent experience, we perform the equivalent of taking a short glance of appreciation at a work of art or a beautiful scene. There is nothing more important in life than love, so why would we not choose to appreciate at least some of our involvement with the one power that only adds to life and never takes something from it?

Love is voluntary; so is taking time for reflection and celebrating this gift in our lives.

Father Randy Roche, SJ, Director of the Center for Ignatian Spirituality, has an M.A. in Theology from Santa Clara University, and an M.S. in Counseling from San Diego State. He has served as LMU Director of Campus Ministry, Rector of the Jesuit Community at Jesuit High School in Sacramento, Director of Studies and Spiritual Director at the Jesuit Novitiate, and as Pastor, Superior, and Director of Diocesan Campus Ministry at the Newman Center in Honolulu.         

Throughout his years of ministry, he has continuously deepened his own experience of the Ignatian Spiritual Exercises, while also acting as a guide in the Exercises for lay people and religious. Not surprisingly, his specialty is Ignatian spirituality as a tool for discernment in decision-making.

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