Live by the Spirit, I say, and do not gratify the desires of the flesh. For what the flesh desires is opposed to the Spirit, and what the Spirit desires is opposed to the flesh; for these are opposed to each other, to prevent you from doing what you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not subject to the law. Now the works of the flesh are obvious: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these. I am warning you, as I warned you before: those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. Galatians 5:16-21
Continuing on with the Exercises in Daily life includes the obligatory visit with St. Paul. I did not like spending time with this passage. I imagine I began to try to leave my body around the time of my first surgery, when I was 18 months old. I never stopped trying, probably until the last year. When I look at my life, I’d have to say that it is precisely that estrangement, that effort to live as if my body weren’t worth inhabiting, that has led me to do the things I most regret. I have no problem acknowledging the list of “works of the flesh” enumerated in these verses as a good descriptor of ways in which I fall short and do harm. It’s the attribution I struggle with.
Another part of the work of following the way of Ignatius is called the “daily examen”. You can find a good description of this approach to reflection and prayer in a wonderful paper written by Fr Dennis Hamm, SJ called Rummaging for God. Here‘s a link to the paper. Among other things, the daily examen is an opportunity to recognize and offer fractures, bruises and wounds, both mine and those I cause, to the Source of our redemption and healing. At its best, this practice allows me to look at myself with honesty and at the same time, some gentleness and hope—the focus is not on all the ways in which I am a miserable wretch, but rather on the ways in which God continues that “slow patient work” with me. So, no. Presumptuous as this may be, I put this bit aside for now, glad to be reminded that there are so many ways, both subtle and not, in which I fail, but adamant that the deepest desire of my flesh is “wholeness and health”, what is holy, and good.