This post is based on Week Eight of An Ignatian Prayer Adventure.
I don’t like cats.
We never had a cat growing up. We were all allergic. If I spent more than five minutes in a room with a cat—or even in a room in a house with a cat, even if the cat were nowhere in sight—my eyes would itch, my skin would turn red, and I’d start to sneeze.
“Do you have cat?” I’d mutter.
“Oh, yes. But it’s in the other room.”
“Doesn’t matter.” I’d grimace and purse my lips together and stumble outside, desperate for fresh, cat-free air.
Why not get a dog? Cats always struck me as aloof, like guests in the house, passing through from time to time but with no real affection. Feed me, and I’ll be on my way. Why even bother?
Cats are bad news. And I don’t need them in my life.
But you know what I need in my life even less? Mice. And we encountered a few too many of those wandering unchecked about our home. And so my wife and I soon found our search engines auto-filling with “hypoallergenic cats to chase mice.”
Now, we have a cat.
Sebastian is adorable. Our girls love him, and he—against all conceivable odds—doesn’t mind the headlocks the one-year-old puts him in or the constant cuddles the four-year-old seeks out. He’s a great cat, the girls are super happy, and I haven’t seen any mice in a long while. And our local pharmacy will definitely see an uptick in its sale of allergy medication.
The Fourth Week of the Spiritual Exercises is all about Resurrection. It may seem like the obvious conclusion to a retreat that began by bringing us face-to-face with the effects of sin in our world. Of course, we say. God is greater than sin and evil; God wins in the end.
But if that’s our only takeaway from these Exercises, then we’ve missed the mark.
As we read in An Ignatian Prayer Adventure, “Resurrection refers to the event of God’s transformation of life, making all things new.” Transformation is key. Our encounter with the Risen Christ—with our friend Jesus, who we’ve come to know so intimately over these past weeks—transforms us. As we’ve been reminded throughout this Ignatian Year, we are called “to see all things new in Christ.”
Jesus has risen for me.
From the vantage point of the Resurrection, the world—and our vocation within it—looks different. We necessarily ask the question: How might I respond in love and service? What am I being called to look at differently, so as to see with new eyes?
I didn’t like cats. I still might not, generally speaking. But I love my cat. Sebastian has become a unique, particular cat, and from that encounter, a relationship has grown. There’s new joy in my home, and my entire family has benefited.
And that relationship—that joy—was only pursued after a real and frustrating experience of one-too-many mice.
The stakes are pretty low with a cat. But the stakes are quite high when we look at our world, at the places where those proverbial mice are causing trouble.
Our experience of sin and disorder in our world explored through the Exercises isn’t meant to make us feel guilty; it’s meant to lead us to action, to the love and service of God and God’s creation. It’s meant to lead us to a renewed desire for the things of God.
And that desire, like those many graces we’ve been praying for throughout our experience of the Exercises, leads us into the heart of Christ and into friendship with Jesus—not in a vague, general way but in an intimate, specific way. It’s you Jesus desires to have breakfast with by the seashore. It’s you Jesus meets along the way to Emmaus.
Set aside general ideas of gods and cats. As we engage the Easter season, know that our God deals with us in the particular—and we are invited to do the same.