This post is by Barbara Lee, author of God Isn’t Finished with Me Yet: Discovering the Spiritual Graces of Later Life, as she begins An Ignatian Prayer Adventure.“I have called you by name, you are mine” (Isaiah 43:1). The prophet introduces us to a God whose love is tender and intimate, a love that was manifested at the moment when we received the names that tell us who we are.
At Baptism, God called us by the names chosen by our parents. We have no memory of a sacrament experienced in infancy, but we can remember the love of our parents and godparents—their nearness, their care, their attention to our needs, and their celebration of all our milestones. In fact, the names they chose for us were the names chosen by God. The love that they showed us was God’s gift; our parents and godparents (and, indeed, all the people who have loved us) were and are channels of God’s love.
But God’s love for each of us did not begin at Baptism. “For it was you who formed my inward parts; / you knit me together in my mother’s womb” (Psalm 139:13). Before we were named, before we were born, before we were conceived, God loved each of us into being. The psalmist tries to respond to his awareness of this love: “I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. / Wonderful are your works; / that I know very well” (139:14).
Love cannot be separated from freedom. Every parent knows the tension between the desire to protect their children from harm and allowing them the freedom to grow into mature and healthy adults. God gives us the freedom to fail, even to sin, to grow into spiritual maturity. At the same time, God is always inviting us to accept his love and to choose a God-centered life. There are many examples in Scripture; one of the most familiar is Mary’s assent to the astounding announcement that she has been chosen to be the Mother of God (Luke 1:26–38).
In the opening days of the Ignatian Prayer Adventure retreat, the graces we pray for are “to be more aware of how God is near; to trust in God’s personal care and love for me.” The suggested Scripture passages can help us get our heads around these very big ideas. Reflect with some of these questions:
- What does my name tell me about who I am?
- Where have I experienced God’s love today?
- What choices have I made today? Which ones drew me closer to God?
- Can I, like Mary, respond: May it be done to me according to your Word?