Today this psalm of marvel sits between St. Paul exhorting and encouraging the Thessalonians with great fondness, reminding them of the example he and his companions set for good gospel living, and Jesus with great distress exhorting and lamenting the bad examples of the Pharisees. Jesus goes on to ask “how many times I yearned to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her young under her wings, but you were unwilling?” (Mt 23:37)
I am grateful for the good days when I participate in graced moments, able to “walk in a manner worthy of the God who calls you into his kingdom and glory” (1Thes2:12). I also have bad hypocritical days when I don’t act with transparency and integrity, or I perpetuate unhealthy patterns of behavior in my relationship with family, friends or neighbors. On those unworthy days I want to flee from God’s presence, yet the psalmist reminds me I am pursued by Love to the ends of the earth.
The realization that I am a loved sinner is the grace of the first week of the Spiritual Exercises. St. Ignatius instructs me to pray for “shame and confusion” for my sins. Another way to pray this is to ask for “deep embarrassment over my actions and amazement at God’s goodness and mercy.” It is part of human nature to have both good days and bad. It is part of God’s nature to search and know us and reach out to us through every means possible, to show us that we are each loved beyond measure every day.
—Jenene Francis is the provincial assistant for pastoral ministries for the Chicago-Detroit and Wisconsin provinces of the Society of Jesus.