Grace: To be humble and to further die to myself so as to be able to live in a state of indifference that will allow me to better hear and follow God’s call in my life.
Text for Prayer: Mk. 10:17-31
Reflection: The second week of the Spiritual Exercises includes several meditations on discerning our state of life, including the Meditation on the Two Standards, the Meditation on the Three Classes of Men, and today’s Meditation on the Three Modes of Humility.
All of these meditations are meant to make us reflect on what it means to follow Jesus and the different ways that we are called to follow Him. We might be led to think that following Jesus is simply a matter of following rules or giving up our possessions. But following Jesus demands a more radical commitment on our part and the cultivation of our interior dispositions.
The rich young man in Mark’s Gospel might seem like someone who is willing to follow some rules and give up some of his possessions to follow Jesus. The disciples, with Peter as their spokesman, are quick to say that they have given up everything. But Jesus reminds them to think about their desire to follow him in terms of humility—it is not only about giving up worldly possessions, thinking that what we are doing is right, and giving ourselves a pat on the back. We must have the humility and courage to die to ourselves so that God can work in and through us to bring about his kingdom.
In the Spiritual Exercises, St. Ignatius invites the retreatant to consider three modes of humility. We can use the Gospel story of the rich young man to meditate on these three modes and how it is that we are called to be more humble in our own calling to follow Christ.
The first mode of humility requires us to submit ourselves to the will of God enough to avoid committing any grave sins. We seek to be aware of the worst sins and do our best to avoid them, with the help of God’s grace. This resolution is the bare minimum if we are to follow the Lord.
The second mode of humility requires us to be obedient to the will of God so that we seek to avoid even the lesser sins, not only the gravest ones. We seek to develop our dispositions so that we are indifferent towards things such as riches or poverty, honor or dishonor, a long life or a short one. The lesser sins may lead us in one direction or another, but in the second mode of humility we seek to balance our inclinations so that we can respond more faithfully to God’s call.
The third mode of humility is a determination to do everything possible to please the Lord, either in avoiding evil or seeking out and doing good. As far as we can and our life circumstances allow, we choose to be poor with Christ poor, to be insulted with Christ insulted, and to be thought fools as Christ was thought a fool.
In his desire to follow Jesus, the rich young man is probably somewhere between the first and second degrees of humility. Jesus invites him, the disciples, and us, to choose the third. If we still find ourselves like the rich young man—and more often than not we might sense that we can empathize with him—let us as for the grace to be able to make that choice that leads us to unite ourselves ever more closely to Christ.
Questions: Who am I most like in the story of the rich young man? Am I willing and do I strive to avoid the gravest of sins so as to be able to follow Christ? Am I willing to avoid the lesser sins, too? Am I willing to live in a state of indifference towards riches or poverty, honor or dishonor, and a long life or a short life so as to be able to hear and follow God’s call? Am I willing to ask for the grace to be truly humble to and entrust myself to God’s will?