Active Indifference

In today’s first Mass reading, St. Paul writes to the Philippians that he has “learned, in whatever situation I find myself, to be self-sufficient. I know indeed how to live in humble circumstances; I know also how to live in abundance. In every circumstance and in all things I have learned the secret of being well fed and of going hungry, or living in abundance and of being in need.”

When I read this morning’s passage, I immediately thought of a beautiful poem written by Teresa of Avila titled In the Hands of God. As are many of Teresa’s poems, it is a long one, but it is worth sharing in its entirety. I think it does a wonderful job of expressing the “active indifference” St. Ignatius asks us to strive to achieve – the ability to accept (indeed, welcome) whatever circumstances in which we are put, God will be with us and will find a way to help us use our talents to labor with him.

I am Yours and born for you, What do You want of me?

Majestic Sovereign, Unending wisdom,
Kindness pleasing to my soul;
God sublime, one Being Good,
Behold this one so vile.
Singing of her love to you:
What do You want of me?

Yours, you made me,
Yours, you saved me,
Yours, you endured me,
Yours, you called me,
Yours, you awaited me,
Yours, I did not stray.
What do you want of me?

Good Lord, what do you want of me?
What is this wretch to do?
What work is this,
This sinful slave to do?
Look at me, Sweet Love,
Sweet Love, look at me,
What do you want of me?

In your hand I place my heart,
Body, life and soul,
Deep feelings and affections mine,
Spouse – Redeemer sweet,
Myself offered now to you,
What do you want of me?

Give me death, give me life,
Health or sickness, Honor or shame,
War or swelling peace,
Weakness or full strength,
Yes, to these I say,
What do you want of me?

Give me wealth or want,
Delight or distress,
Happiness or gloominess,
Heaven or hell,
Sweet life, sun unveiled,
To you I give all.
What do you want of me?

Give me, if You will, prayer;
Or let me know dryness,
An abundance of devotion,
Or if not, then barrenness.
In you alone, Sovereign Majesty,
I find my peace,
What do you want of me?

Give me then wisdom.
Or for love, ignorance,
Years of abundance,
Or hunger and famine.
Darkness or sunlight,
Move me here or there:
What do you want of me?

If You want me to rest,
I desire it for love;
If to labor, I will die working:
Sweet Love say
Where, how and when.
What do You want of me?

Calvary or Tabor give me,
Desert or fruitful land;
As Job in suffering
Or John at Your breast;
Barren or fruited vine,
Whatever be Your will:
What do you want of me?

Be I Joseph chained
Or as Egypt’s governor,
Davie pained or exalted high,
Jonas drowned, or Jonas freed:
What do you want of me?

Silent or speaking,
Fruitbearing or barren,
My wounds shown by the Law,
Rejoicing in the tender Gospel;
Sorrowing or exulting.
You alone live in me:
What do you want of me?

Yours I am, for You I was born:
What do You want of me?

I confess that these words of Teresa’s don’t always come easily out of my mouth. It is not easy to accept Calvary over Tabor, sorrow over exulting. It helps if we can remember what Paul told the Philippians was the secret: “I have the strength for everything through him who empowers me.”

One thought on “Active Indifference

  1. This prayer evokes very much Charles de Foucald’s famous prayer. Ah, holy abandonment! Yes,Susan, these are not easy dispositions to cultivate, but, wow, are they the best!

    Peace and good, Michael

    Father,
    I abandon myself into your hands; do with me what you will.
    Whatever you may do, I thank you:
    I am ready for all, I accept all.
    Let only your will be done in me, and in all your creatures.
    I wish no more than this, O Lord.

    Into your hands I commend my soul;
    I offer it to you
    with all the love of my heart,
    for I love you, Lord,
    and so need to give myself,
    to surrender myself into your hands,
    without reserve,
    and with boundless confidence,
    for you are my Father.

    Charles de Foucald

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