Grace: To choose what is for God’s greater glory and the salvation of my soul.
Text for Prayer: Lk. 12:35-48
Reflection: Yesterday’s meditation on the Two Standards had us consider what it means to be a follower of Christ, and in this way it gave us a sense of the direction and goal of our entire lives. You might say that the Two Standards is a macro meditation while the meditation for today on the Three Classes is more micro: it deals with the sort of particular choices that we might make in the course of an ordinary day.
Say, for instance, that I come into a fairly large sum of money today. Like most people, I might be very happy to have made this money for myself, and so I might set about thinking through some of the ways in which I could spend it. I might also wonder about what God would have me do with the money and so consider the possibility of giving it to the poor or to the Church. Now, giving the money away might be a good thing to do, and these causes are both worthy of my financial support. But the question remains: Which of these is the one God wants me to help? Or does God want me to save the money? Or invest the money so as to make more money that could help more people? We are not talking about which of these objectively has the most merit (if such a determination were even possible). Instead, we are considering which of these is the particular will of God for me at this moment. How do I come to know God’s will in the midst of this decision-making process?
In this exercise, St. Ignatius asks us to consider our attachments. In this example, we are asked to look at whether or not I am free to keep the money or to give it away, depending upon what is for God’s greater glory. Ignatius breaks down the levels of freedom with regard to attachments into three classes:
- Someone who wants to do God’s will but doesn’t make any real effort to discover or follow it. Later, she dies before taking any action.
- Someone who wants to do God’s will but who bargains with God, perhaps coming to the decision to give away half the money, spend some on his spouse, and save the rest for a rainy day. He makes a “safe bet” and spreads the money around among a number of good options, hoping to fulfill his obligations while still making the decision on his own. Thus, his attachment keeps him from being free to hear the voice of God speaking to his heart.
- Someone who truly wants to know and follow God’s will. She chooses to neither keep the money nor give it away until she understands what God would have her do with it. Thus, she is truly free.
The distinction between the three individuals described above is not their level of holiness, for they all want to do God’s will on some level. However, they aren’t all equally free to know what God’s will is. Thus, the distinction is really found in the level of freedom that they each possess with regard to the money they have acquired. Freedom is not merely choosing what I want, for then there is no real choice at all. Instead, the goal of this exercise is to obtain freedom to choose what is best, to choose what is of God and what is conducive to my own salvation.
This exercise gives us a particular case in order that we might see how each choice is made either for God’s greater glory or not, but it is also important to remember that these attachments are often with us for a long time. As in the case of the first class, the attachment doesn’t go away or become less problematic with the passage of time. On the contrary, attachments often become difficult to see when we ignore them and impossible to see when we no longer look for them. When this happens, we simply make decisions based upon our attachments, deluding ourselves into thinking that our choice is the will of God when it is not.
However, our hearts are good and trustworthy guides in this whole affair, and God asks only that we pay attention to what our hearts tell us in the stillness of our prayer. If we demand an account of our attachments, God will give us one. If we consider where we still lack freedom to know and choose God’s will, we will know what grace we need to ask for. And if we pray with each of the particular choices in our day, we will ultimately find ourselves living a life with God.
Questions: Do I consider carefully each of the decisions of my day? When I recall decisions I have made in the past, do I see myself making them in true freedom? Do I struggle to see my attachments for what they are? What do I need from God in order to choose His will every day?