Saturday, October 5, 2013

The Daily "Audit": A Wedding Homily for Accountants!

Some folks think I must have given up blogging (or preaching). Not so, but I've been both away and very busy on my return. Wasn't sure how I'd find the time to write a homily for the wedding of a wonderful young couple today, since I was out at our wildly-successful diocesan men's conference for the first part of the day.  Happily, the profound Ignatian spirituality course that Father Elton Fernandes, S.J.of St. Mark's College launched at the parish this week gave me the inspiration for a slightly unusual wedding homily.

The "examen" (the popular name for St. Ignatius's examination of conscience in n. 43 of his Spiritual Exercises) deserves a deeper treatment than I could give it here.  You might like to look at one of the websites that treat this spiritual treasure: there's helpful information here and here and here. Even better, you can read The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything by James Martin S.J., which has a good chapter on it, or a whole short book, The Examen Prayer by Timothy M. Gallagher. O.M.V.

I'm very well qualified to be marrying a pair of accountants, since I come from a long line of them.
My grandfather was a chartered accountant. My father was a chartered accountant. And so were my uncle, great-uncle and cousin.

On the other hand, I haven’t balanced a checkbook since I was twelve. And even then I was overdrawn.

Qualified or not, I found myself thinking about the accounting profession as I prepared some thoughts for this happy day. In fact, I could hardly avoid it, since this morning’s scripture reading in my prayer book was the passage where the Apostle Paul talks like someone keeping a ledger:

“When I was at Thessalonica,” he wrote to the Philippians, “you sent something for my needs… It is not that I am eager for the gift; rather, my concern is for the ever-growing balance in your account.

Herewith is my receipt, which says that I have been fully paid and more.”

But my thoughts for aspiring  C.A.s didn’t run in the direction of finances; today I want to talk about auditing.

What’s an audit? Of course you know the technical meaning, but the word’s often used outside your profession not only for the scrutiny of accounts but for any thorough check or examination of something. So today I want to propose something to you both: why not plan to audit yourselves each day?

Such an audit—usually known by other names, such as an examination of conscience—has a long history in the Christian tradition. By regularly taking stock of our relationship with God and with others, we nip problems in the bud—and, just as important—we learn to recognize the good things we might otherwise take for granted.

One of the best teachers of this subject is St. Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Jesuit order to which Pope Francis belongs. Ignatius proposed a practical way of taking a look at how our day had gone.

The saint suggested we begin with thanks to God for the blessings we received before moving on to the events of the day and our response to them—where we’d done well and where we hadn’t. The prayerful exercise ends by asking God’s forgiveness for our faults.

Over the centuries, wise men and women have adapted St. Ignatius method to suit different temperaments and times. This week a young Jesuit taught a class in the parish where he offered a version that’s ultra-simple and more focused on the positive than the negative.

At the end of each day, we ask ourselves “Where did I receive the most love today?” And then “Where did I give the most love today?”

Wouldn’t that kind of audit produce a report well worth thinking about? Wouldn’t a daily tally of good things done and received strengthen the marriage of any couple, accountants or not?

But of course good accountants need to work with what are called Generally Accepted Auditing Standards so their evaluation is objective and accurate.

Keely and Kyle, the readings you have chosen for this Wedding Mass are an excellent standard with which to examine each day of your married lives. The first reading, from the Book of Genesis, presents God’s basic plan for creation and society—married life, man and woman created for each other.

The second reading sets a high standard—a standard of love—and offers numerous criteria against which you can judge your progress in married love, indeed your progress in loving your children and everyone else you meet in the course of our day.

And, finally, the Gospel we’ve just heard ties the Old Testament reading directly to the New Covenant of Christ. Jesus quotes the Book of Genesis, making the original plan of creation an intimate part of the new creation He has inaugurated.

Kyle and Keely, I pray that you will live each day according to the glorious vision of married love these Scriptures reveal—and may you do so with courage, conviction, and the daily adjustments needed to persevere.

God bless you both!

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