Grace: Not to be deaf to the Lord’s call, but prompt and diligent to accomplish His most holy will.
Text: Please briefly read Spiritual Exercises 91-98 before reviewing the Reflection below. After reading the Reflection, please review the text from the Exercises, and feel free to repeat this exercise as long as you are drawing fruit from it.
Reflection: St. Ignatius is first calling us to imagine being exhorted by an earthly king to follow him so that we may thereby better recognize Jesus as our Eternal King and hear His call. But unless you live in Downton Abbey, it might be hard to imagine what it would be like to hear the call of an earthly king.
What do you think of when you hear the word king? Does Aragorn from The Lord of the Rings come to mind, or another fictional character? Since we do not live in a medieval age, the notion of kings and knights might be foreign to us. In this contemplation, it is completely appropriate to utilize an imaginary king or leader as from a novel or a fairy tale since few of us may have had any lived experience of an earthly king.
Ignatius is utilizing images that were of deep meaning for him and relevant for his day. In the same spirit of the Exercises, if the image of an earthly king is difficult for you to contemplate, there are other options that might be a better fit for you. I have often heard of retreatants utilizing John Paul II or Benedict XVI in place of a temporal king. Others have found one of the saints such as Maximilian Kolbe or a noble historical leader such as Martin Luther King (no pun intended) to be a helpful image. On a retreat I made prior to entering the Society, the image that came to me in prayer was my paternal grandfather, who was an important patriarch both in my family and in his town in India.
Regardless of what temporal image is being used, Ignatius is calling us to place ourselves in the scene of this leader’s call to the people. The leader is calling followers to join in a particular cause. In order to achieve the end of this cause, one must be willing to toil with and on behalf of the leader. This may involve hardships, whether it relates to sleep, nutrition or recreation, but when the cause has been achieved, all those who toiled will be able to reap the benefits along with the leader. After hearing this message, Ignatius asks us to imagine what kind of response we might give to this leader.
Having contemplated the call of a temporal leader, Ignatius asks us to consider that it is Christ as our King and Lord who is calling each one of us to follow Him and to labor with Him. This will require sharing in the hardships that Jesus experienced, but by following Jesus in His pain, we will be able to follow Jesus in His glory. Ignatius asks us to imagine what kind of response we might give to Jesus as our King.
Since we are now in the Second Week of the Exercises, we have made the decision to accept Jesus as our King and Lord, living no longer for ourselves but for Jesus (cf. 2 Cor. 5:15). Now we are being called to go deeper with this decision. It might be helpful to consider the importance of indifference, as we learned in the First Week, so that we may give a more loving response to the King’s call to serve Him in spite of accompanying hardships. It might also be helpful to be mindful of the many ways Jesus has blessed us as evidenced during the First Week of the Exercises. Recognizing these points, praying for a deepening of generosity would permit us to respond to the King with magnanimity marked with humble gratitude.
Questions: How does Christ appear before you as He is speaking to you? What do you hear Christ the King saying specifically to you? What do you feel in your heart as Christ is speaking to you? Are you moved to respond to Christ? If so, what is your response to Christ the King?