Saturday, November 24, 2012

The Examen and the Ten Commandments

Here are some notes from Father Andrew's Illustrated, Simplified and Painless Bible Study for Wednesday, November 14, 2012.
                                                First take a look at this clip:
                                              Big Rich Texas Tip: Stylish Adult Baptism

Our study began with a look at Mark 10: 17-31, the story of the rich young ruler who came to Jesus to ask what he must do to inherit eternal life. The video above prompted the first question by Father Andy:
How does the stylish baptism described above remind us of the rich man in Mark's gospel?
It's obvious from the video when lines like "how to throw an elegant baptism" and "it is preferable to use a beautiful swimming pool" are used, the emphasis is on the appearance, not the substance or purpose of the sacrament of baptism. In the same sense further questions from the gospel story help us to look more closely at what Jesus is trying to teach the young man he was addressing, his disciples, and us today.
What is the rich man seeking from Jesus?..........."What must I do to inherit eternal life?"(vs 17)
What does Jesus want the rich man to do?.........."Go sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then follow me."(vs 21)
What is the difference between "eternal life" and "follow me?"........... The rich man wants a guarantee into heaven, believes he has it in obeying the commandments, specifically the six Jesus chose to quote: "You know the commandments: Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, do not defraud, honor your father and your mother."(vs 18)
It was no coincidence Jesus only chose the last six commandments listed in verse 18 instead of the first four. He was making an important point. The first four are what the entire law flows from, these are the commandments which are the foundation of how and why we can live out the rest. The rich young ruler was missing something, something really big- Jesus was attempting to get him to see, to challenge him to go back to the beginning, instead of focusing on the end.
Much like the video above, where the focus is on the presentation and appearance instead on what is really important.
"Come, follow me." Jesus is attempting to get his attention, trying to show him the way.
The first four commandments:
I- To love and obey God and to bring others to know him;
II- To put nothing in the place of God
III-To show God respect in thought, word, and deed;
IV- And to set aside regular times for worship, prayer, and the study of God's ways.
Had the young man placed his wealth, his status, above God? Is that why Jesus asked him to sell all that he had? Probably. God looks at the heart..... cuts to the quick....... gets to the bottom of our attitudes and actions.
"Jesus looked at him and loved him."(vs 21) What was it God loved about him? 
As a conclusion to our study about the Ten Commandments and how to apply them in our lives, Father Andy shared two different approaches for a practice called the Examen. 

The Examen and the Ten Commandments
The examen, or examination, of conscience is an ancient practice in the church. Many Roman Catholics were taught to prepare for confession by “examining” one’s conscience. St. Ignatius, in The Spiritual Exercises, suggests one form of the examen:  to examine one's life in terms of the Ten Commandments to see how daily behavior stacked up against those biblical and ancient criteria. St. Ignatius includes it as one of the exercises 
The following approach is suggested by Dennis Hamm, SJ:
A Method: Five Steps.
I. Pray for light. Since we are not simply daydreaming or reminiscing but rather looking for some sense of how the Spirit of God is leading us, it only makes sense to pray for some illumination. The goal is not simply memory but graced understanding. That's a gift from God devoutly to be begged. "Lord, help me understand this blooming, buzzing confusion."
2. Review the day in thanksgiving. Note how different this is from looking immediately for your sins. Nobody likes to poke around in the memory bank to uncover smallness, weakness, lack of generosity. But everybody likes to fondle beautiful gifts, and that is precisely what the past twenty-four hours contain—gifts of existence, work, relationships, food, challenges. Gratitude is the foundation of our whole relationship with God. So use whatever cues help you to walk through the day from the moment of awakening—even the dreams you recall upon awakening. Walk through the past twenty-four hours, from hour to hour, from place to place, task to task, person to person, thanking the Lord for every gift you encounter.
3. Review the feelings that surface in the replay of the day. Our feelings, positive and negative, the painful and the pleasing, are clear signals of where the action was during the day. Simply pay attention to any and all of those feelings as they surface, the whole range: delight, boredom, fear, anticipation, resentment, anger, peace, contentment, impatience, desire, hope, regret, shame, uncertainty, compassion, disgust, gratitude, pride, rage, doubt, confidence, admiration, shyness—whatever was there. Some of us may be hesitant to focus on feelings in this over-psychologized age, but I believe that these feelings are the liveliest index to what is happening in our lives. This leads us to the fourth moment.
4. Choose one of those feelings (positive or negative) and pray from it. That is, choose the remembered feeling that most caught your attention. The feeling is a sign that something important was going on. Now simply express spontaneously the prayer that surfaces as you attend to the source of the feeling—praise, petition, contrition, cry for help or healing, whatever.
5. Look toward tomorrow. Using your appointment calendar if that helps, face your immediate future. What feelings surface as you look at the tasks, meetings and appointments that face you? Fear? Delighted anticipation? Self-doubt? Temptation to procrastinate? Zestful planning? Regret? Weakness? Whatever it is, turn it into prayer—for help, for healing, whatever comes spontaneously. To round off the examen, say the Lord's Prayer.
 Here is another approach, suggested by a Lutheran, Pastor Duncan Harrell:
1. Invite God to search the depths of your heart as you meditate on the Ten Commandments found in Exodus 20:1–20. Ask him for insight into how the truth in Scripture and your own experience have intersected.
 2. You may wish to hold up other Scriptures as a mirror for your soul. Some suggestions include the wisdom literature of Proverbs and Ecclesiastes, the Psalms, the Beatitudes  (Matt 5:1–12), Paul’s New Life in Christ ( Col 3), or the Well-Pleasing Service ( Heb 13).
 3. Read slowly, pausing at each sentence or verse to listen for anything that stands out. Perhaps there is an area of your life that you would like God to examine—your use of time, your relationship with your coworkers, the books you read, etc. Perhaps you will invite him to look through a particular period, your day or your week. Think through your thoughts, feelings, and actions in the context of the passage. How did they draw you to God? To self? How were they like or unlike the picture of God that the reading paints? How has God been at work? What seemingly ordinary things might God have been using for his own purposes? How did you respond?
4. If you find your mind wandering or trying to dredge up remorse without conviction ( Matt 6:7–8), perhaps it is time to move on to the next sentence or verse. (Suggestions for dealing with distractions can be found under (Lectio Divina/Practice/4.)
5. When something not quite right comes to light, avoid the urge to defend yourself. Instead take responsibility for what is wrong and ask God to purify you. On the other hand, avoid the urge to punish yourself. Trust that you will receive God’s mercy ( Eph 2:4–5).
6. God’s Spirit encourages as much as he convicts. As you practice the prayer of examen, do not forget to sit still for his smile. When something is shown to you that falls in line with the commands, do not diminish it. Thank God for this evidence of his work through you and for allowing you to participate in his plan ( Jer 9:23–24).
7. If it is difficult to hear his voice pointing out matters for celebration or confession in your life because your own inner voice drowns him out, begin by listening for his characteristics or actions instead of your own. What does God reveal about himself as you read through the Commandments?
8. Write down your confession to God, both the truth about yourself and the truth about him. Make sure to note the whole truth: his holiness, which cannot be trespassed against, as well as his love that redeems you with mercy. If you have felt a nudge concerning an action you might take, a word you might offer, or a new perspective you might adopt, write that down, too. When you are done meditating through the passage, read what you have written. Thank him for his work. Offer all that you have discovered about yourself to all that you know to be true of God. The goal is not to journey into yourself and stay there, but to journey through yourself to the heart of God.2 Yield to his righteousness and mercy and wait.
9. Finally, do not forget that when you leave the mirror, you can leave with confidence and peace that he has shown you all you need concern yourself with today ( 1 Cor 2:10 )

Considering the serious nature of this study, thought it might be good to end with a funny video!

 Father Andrew's Illustrated, Simplified and Painless Bible Study  will resume in January with a look at the parables of Jesus!

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