Grace: an intimate knowledge of our Lord, Who has become man for me, that I may love Him more and follow Him more closely.
Text for Prayer: Lk. 2: 41-50
Reflection: Few choices in life are so obvious that even someone with the worst-formed conscience could easily make a good decision. St. Ignatius even notes in his second set of “Rules for the Discernment of Spirits” that the Evil Spirit can trick us, presenting as good something that is actually evil. So he provides guidelines in his “Rules” to help us consider carefully the decision at hand.
But St. Ignatius did not just want people to be able to choose good over evil. St. Ignatius recognized that a person can be presented with two good options that are not compatible with each other- the life of a husband and the life of a monk, for instance. He is very concerned that a person chooses not just what is good, but what is best. Ignatius shows this concern when speaking about the magis. “Magis” is a Latin word that can translate to “the greater good”. There is another Latin word, “satis”, that can mean “what is good enough”. These words are the origin for “magnificent” and “satisfactory”, respectively. So another way to think about it when St. Ignatius says to strive for the magis is to work for that which is magnificently good, instead of that which is satisfactorily good.
One contemplation that Ignatius proposes to help us understand this more clearly is that of the finding in the Temple. At the age of twelve, Mary and Joseph take Jesus to the Temple. After they left with the caravan, Jesus stayed behind. Even if they never outright said to Jesus that He was to go back with them, there could not have been any doubt in Jesus’ mind that this was the will of His mother and foster-father. There isn’t any question of Jesus choosing between good and evil. He is choosing between two good things- to obey the will of His parents, borne out of a love and concern for His well-being on the one hand; and to be about His Father’s business on the other. “Both” is not an option. Jesus must decide which good thing is the magis.
And when Mary and Joseph arrive, and Mary scolds Jesus for worrying them, He asks “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be about my Father’s business?” For Jesus, it is clear that He must seek to do the Father’s will in every situation. It is so clear to Him that He does not understand why Mary and Joseph would have had any doubt where to look for Him. His attitude of “where else would I be?” is an example of Jesus’ single-minded drive to do the Father’s will, a drive seen so often throughout the Gospels. This is true all the way to Gethsemane and the Cross- where even there He says “not my will but yours be done” (Lk. 22:42).
Even for Jesus, to leave His parents at the age of twelve is a dangerous proposition. In choosing to do the Father’s will, Jesus is giving up a home, security, the care of family, and everything He has grown up with. He is the embodiment of the First Principle and Foundation. His overriding concern is not for comfort or safety, but for the magis and the Father’s will. Again, we see the Call of the King being played out here. Jesus is choosing to endure any hardships necessary out of a love for the Father and a desire to constantly be doing the Father’s will. He is fulfilling His promise in the Call that he would also toil and live without comforts in order to complete the Father’s mission. Like Jesus, we must constantly ask ourselves what we are willing to do for the sake of the love of God.
Questions: Think of the love for Jesus that Mary and Joseph show as they are looking for Him. How could Jesus choose something besides this? What are times in your own life that you have had to choose between two good things? What motivated your choice? How does that motivation compare with Jesus’ motivation for staying in the Temple?