Late yesterday afternoon we welcomed 13 participants to a long weekend of reflection on the subject of Mary Magdalene and Conscious Love. This Mary’s story has a long and checkered history in the life of Christianity. Labeled a “harlot” early on, she has been “rehabilitated” in our lifetime through serious Scripture study that has pointed up her important role in each of the four gospels. This has brought the Church to name her as “Apostle to the Apostles” and celebrate a feast in her honor – tomorrow, as it happens: July 22nd. Perhaps I will say more about that tomorrow but today I was drawn to open the Jesuit prayer book, Hearts on Fire, where on page 43 I found the following prayer to be good advice for our first full day of reflection together. The prayer says this:
Lord Christ, help us to see what it is that joins us together, not what separates us. For when we see only what it is that makes us different, we too often become aware of what is wrong with others. We see only their faults and weaknesses, interpreting their actions as flowing from malice or hatred rather than fear. Even when confronted with evil, Lord, you forgave and sacrificed yourself rather than sought revenge. Teach us to do the same by the power of your Spirit. (William Breault, SJ)
I’m not suggesting we will have any situation of malice or hatred here this weekend. As a matter of fact it seems that this group of some familiar faces and some people totally unknown to us is quite congenial and has easily begun to be comfortable together. It is the early part of the prayer that calls me to attention. We often – usually unconsciously – have a tendency to characterize or even judge group members by what we know from past experience or what we don’t know – even by considering where they’ve come from or whether we like their name. (That’s a bit of hyperbole, you understand, to push my point.) Fr. Breault reminds me to enter our day together with my mind and heart a clean slate – as I should every day in every encounter. In that way, I will have nothing to “rehabilitate” at the end of the day in my assessment of my thoughts and/or approach toward any guest – or even in my own “dear” self!