Grace: That I hear the call of Christ, and be ready and willing to answer it.
Text for Prayer: Luke 4:14-31
Reflection: Our lives are guided by ideals—we use them to measure our failures and successes, to orient the desires of our hearts, to motivate ourselves or others when the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak, and for a number of other reasons. We have a vision of what a perfect life would be like: a beautiful and virtuous spouse, a number of wonderful children, a beautiful home, financial security, enough material wealth to share with friends and family, being involved in Church, having a meaningful and profound relationship with God, justice and peace in our neighborhood, our city, our state, our country, our world. We can tweak this however we want, but this is what we would ultimately have the world if we were given the power to make it so, right? Daydreams are where these ideals come alive in our imagination, and help to motivate us to take action.
We all know the world needs help. Open a newspaper and read the headlines—tragedy and strife are in great supply. If it were up to us, how would we fix the world? What the world be like? How would we run things if we had the power and authority to make a difference? How would we get others involved? How would we try and inspire others to live better lives, to contribute to our plans for a better, more loving, and peaceful world? How would we endure the hardships that come with great responsibility? How would we share the glory and prestige of making the world better with others?
Now is the time in the Exercises where prayer takes a turn towards imaginative prayer. In the reading of Luke we see Jesus returning to Nazareth and reading from a scroll of Isaiah—what he reads is his plan for the world. This is his project, what he is willing to give his life for. Jesus does not plan on going it alone either—he calls the disciples and apostles to be helpers, to be “workers in the vineyard.” Although they might misunderstand what and how he plans to do, they still follow and surrender their lives to his judgment and discretion: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life” (Jn 6:68).
The point of today’s prayer and reflection is to imagine how Jesus makes that universal call to follow him and help him on his mission to “to preach good news to the poor…to proclaim release to the captives/and recovering of sight to the blind,/to set at liberty those who are oppressed,/to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord” (Lk 4:18-19). Imagine him saying to the whole world throughout history, “My plan is to make this world a better place: a place of love and peace, a place where the work of my Father is brought to fulfillment, so that everyone may come with me to heaven and spend an eternity of happiness with my Father. Come and work with me! I can’t promise that this will be easy. In fact, there will probably be suffering and discomfort along the way. But I promise that whoever works with me and sticks it out to the end will one day be with me in paradise.”
Looking over the course of history, how have people responded? How many people have heard the call and done nothing? On the other hand, look at the saints—look at what happens when someone says “yes” to the call and gives everything they have. Take St. Ignatius of Loyola, for example. His simple surrender to this call, his “two cents” have changed the world forever. And us? How do we respond? Try and write a response to this noble call of Christ our King.
Questions: What kinds of emotions arise when I think about answering this call? Is there resistance? Is there joy? How comfortable am I in my own ways, with my own plans and projects? Is my life too hectic to stop and think about the direction it’s headed in? What kind of ideal is governing the way I live my life now? For what am I working so hard? How am I responding to the call here and now?