The Essential Intention

When a suitor meets his girl’s parents and they ask him: “What are your intentions?” he had better have the right answer. Intention is the all important force in our lives that leads us to right or wrong actions. Likewise, intention is vital for a deeper, more meaningful spiritual life.

Our intention thrusts us into a stimulating, psychological zone, the zone of willful seeing, the zone of the “third eye” that empowers us to see more, to discover more. It opens our hearts to insight and fires up our energies. Of course, intention implies a life vision. Vision drives our attitudes, values and intentionality, all of which determine how we act.

We have many life visions for the many different aspects of our lives. Late in life I find my life visions converging into one simple vision. That life is a course in personal transformation. The really important experiences in life are all about transformation.

I have concluded: my overriding life vision should have been one of transformation. For that is the essential vision that generates our essential intention of seeking enlightenment and growth.

Living with that essential intention would have driven me a lot sooner to encounter life, to confront life with such questions as: how are my life events and experiences transforming me into a fuller human being, moving me into a deeper spiritual life?

Take the Good News of Jesus. It is all about transformation. His message: life is not about amassing prestige, power, possessions. It is about transforming our life vision into his life vision. How could I have missed that message? Lack of the essential intention for transformation!

Most of my life I have struggled with the ritual of our Eucharistic Celebrations. Jesus’ Love Meal has been so well hidden in the Liturgy of the Mass that it has taken me a lifetime to discover it. And Jesus’ Love Meal is all about transformation of us into the Beloved Community. How could I have missed that vision? Lack of the essential intention for transformation!

My wife and I will celebrate 55 years of marriage in September 2012. Only recently have I realized that marriage is all about transformation. Two thousand years ago in his Dialogues of Love, the pagan Roman historian Plutarch described the transformation process that takes place in committed married lives. How could I have missed that vision? Lack of the essential intention for transformation!

The famous Jesuit writer, Fr. Bernard Lonergan wrote: “…conversion {or transformation} is the experience by which one becomes an authentic human being.” In short, life is a course in personal transformation.

So where do we look for transformation in our lives? Every where and at all times. I have already given three areas of our lives to seek transformation: in our response to Jesus’ Good News, in our married lives or other committed relationships, in our Eucharistic Celebrations. But the Spirit operates dynamically in every aspect and every moment of our lives inviting us to transformation:

  • In our life events. For example, every Wednesday I meet with my Centering Prayer Group where in addition to centering, we share on the upcoming Sunday Gospel. There have been moments when I reacted negatively to an individual’s sharing. One of the participants revealed to me that I do a poor job of hiding my feelings. Without realizing it, I tense up noticeably. That’s when I discovered my intolerance of others’ differences with me and from me. This disclosure was the Spirit’s invitation to me for transformation.
  • In our experiences. I was watching a DVD of Jules Massanet’s opera Thais, the story of a monk who converts an Egyptian priestess to Christianity. The monk presses the crucifix in her face and pleads with her to convert. She is lying on a lounge meditating which is expressed through a dancer in a very erotic dance. We hear the composer’s beautiful interlude, Meditation. The stage prop is a hollow frame of the cross. Its structure allows the dancer to move in and out of the cross’ frame. Finally the dancer lifts herself onto the cross taking the pose of the Crucified Jesus, her body writhing in agony. The Egyptian priestess had surrendered, totally identifying with Jesus. What an invitation to me to enter more deeply into Jesus’ passion and death.
  • In our dialogues with others. In his book Man Becoming, Gregory Baum states that we become more fully human beings through dialogue with others—being addressed and responding to others. Our conversations with others, even our enemies, will reveal to us who we are. They judge us, they summon us to grow. The same Word in Scripture that summons, judges, reveals, and provokes decisions is the same Word in human dialogue. The invitation to transformation can be found in our everyday dialogues.
  • In our relationships. It is the care and love offered us by others that create in us the strength to listen to the word that calls us to transformation. Just as we discern the Word of God in our everyday conversations, so we should be alert to the gift-dimension in our everyday relationships. The gift that others give us to find transformation from our woundedness is really the Spirit’s gift. That is how the Spirit calls us to transformation—through our supportive relationships.

Indeed, life is a course in personal transformation. Let that be our essential life vision. Let that be our essential intention.