Grace: To know and be able choose how to draw closer to the Lord, to do what is most in line with His plan for humanity and most conducive to my own happiness.
Text for Prayer: Mark 10: 32-34
Reflection: Once we pass the half-way point of Lent, we start to think more and more of Easter, and how it will mean a return to the normal days when we can regularly enjoy the forbidden food or drink that we gave up for Lent. But in the Gospels, as Jesus approaches Easter—and his coming death and resurrection—He begins to remind his followers what it truly means to follow Him and the sacrifices they will be required to make if they are to continue along the path that He has set.
St. Ignatius, in the Spiritual Exercises, places one of the meditations on following Jesus in the second week of the Exercises and calls it a meditation on three types of men. This is an appropriate mediation to consider within the context of Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem, if we imagine a long line of Jesus’ followers split into three separate groups, with Jesus at the head of the line, leading the way.
The first group of followers consists of those who are closest to Jesus at the head of the line. These individuals have given up their careers and their livelihoods to be near Jesus. They are content simply to be near Him and to get to know Him, and they desire to be active participants in His plan of preaching the Gospel and reconciling the world, come what may. These people are amazed at the works Jesus has done, but their amazement has been turned into a desire to be co-workers, along with Jesus, in His work.
The second group of followers follows a little farther behind. They, like those who are near the front of the line, are amazed at the work of Jesus in the world. But they cannot quite simply put aside all of their life plans and career goals to follow Jesus and His plan. Many times they simply try to fit all of their plans and aspirations into what they believe is Jesus’ plan for them. They do want to know Jesus, but at the same time, there are so many other people who they want to know who might even help Jesus to execute his plans even better.
Finally, towards the end of the line, are those who are afraid of letting go and deepening their relationship with the Lord. They cling to their plans for money and success, and they are caught up in the dominant culture that speaks to their immediate gratification. The thought of giving up everything to which they feel entitled and putting aside all that the world says is good to follow a man who speaks about losing their lives in order to find it is quite unsettling.
We could probably easily imagine and fit people who we know into these three categories of followers of Jesus. One might think of those at the front of the line as members of religious orders, those near the center as successful entrepreneurs, and those near the rear as those who might state that they have no room for organized religion, the typical college student or young adult, perhaps. There might be some truth to these categorizations but to rest here would be to over simplify things. To be near the front does not necessarily mean that one embrace religious life, but rather that one seek to get rid of everything that would prevent him or her from doing God’s will. The meditation helps us see reflect on mediation is to give us various examples of the different levels at which we can follow Jesus and help us discern where it is that we desire to be in that line and more importantly where it is that the person at the front of the line wants us to be.
At different points in our lives we may even find ourselves in different groups that make up the long line, perhaps even moving from one group to another. The question here is for us to contemplate what is it that keeps us from being near the front, near Jesus. Perhaps it might be immaturity, or fear, but can we truly be happy and be successful in life, if we keep resisting what it is that the leader at the front desires for us?
Questions: Who are some people that I know or perhaps about whom I have read that might fall into the three groups aforementioned? Where is it that I would currently place myself in the three groups at this stage of my life? Is that where I want to be and where it is that Jesus would want me to be? Have I found myself in a different group during a different stage of my life? Would prompted me to move to another group?