Grace: To choose what is for God’s greater glory and the salvation of my soul.
Text for Prayer: Spiritual Exercises 165-168
Refection: Yesterday we considered the need to relinquish our attachments in order to follow God’s will more faithfully; today we we contemplate the choices we can make with that freedom. Jesus calls us to the front lines of the battle. Even the Apostles had to learn the hard way that there is no compromise when Jesus turns His face toward His mission, to Jerusalem and to Calvary. His way of battle is a strange way to our eyes, but His Standard is the only one that can lead to victory.
While responding to anyone else might leave us wavering, having considered just how much Christ has done for us (even in our sin!) and how good His way is – we are able to love Him rather than respond out of duty or fear. And it is only love that is willing to make real sacrifice. Nothing can replace love.
Perhaps we can recall a time in our own life or in a movie or story we know in which love motivated us to do something extraordinary, beyond our usual reach…
(Pause. Don’t go on just yet. Think of such a time.)
In considering these three modes of humility – the invitation to more and more authentically love Jesus – I should try to be so inspired by love as in those times, now out of love for Jesus. This is a call to Christian heroism.
Yet we must remember, Christian heroism is the only heroism tied up with the Cross, with the truth that death, real self-sacrifice, is the only way to life. This paradox confounds our usual models of heroism. Am I willing to volunteer for the service of Christ the King in this life-changing way?
The modes mention three essential points – being determined to avoid sin, being indifferent to the way God chooses to have me serve Him, and preferring when possible to be more just like Jesus in His suffering. Where am I now? How willing am I to grow and to follow?
(1) To entirely be determined to avoid moral sin at every cost – even if I were offered every good in the world or my very life were at stake.
(2) To find myself with no inclination to be rich rather than poor, honored rather than dishonored, to have a long life rather than a shorter one; and to be entirely determined to avoid deliberate venial sin at every cost – even if I were offered every good in the world or my very life were at stake.
(3) Including both the first and second modes, to want and choose to imitate and be actually more like Christ Our Lord – poverty with Christ poor, scorn and shame with Christ who was replete with them, and to be considered a fool for Jesus, Who was first considered so.
The modes are not a choice to be made in a single moment, but a disposition to be cultivated. I may not always find myself in the same mode or the best mode, so I ought to motivate myself, spur myself always to choose the more – the magis – when it comes to the service of Christ. At my Christian best, there can be no limit to the degree or way in which I am willing to empty myself for Jesus.
The third mode sets a goal for me – not only avoiding sin, but also seeking and accepting the will of God at every moment, forgetting the cost to myself. Even if I am not in the third mode, I can ask for the grace to desire it. Let me bear in mind this authentic Christian heroism as I reflect upon these three modes, or degrees of commitment and love, in following Jesus.
In closing, it is important to mention that these considerations take place within our current situation and state of life. God’s glory is not served when we are distracted from our duties. Following Christ more deeply does not always mean radical resolutions and promises. It can and does, however, mean real changes and sacrifices for all of us.
On the other hand, perhaps we are facing a major choice in our lives – such as whether to be married or a vowed religious or a priest. These meditations can help us make a good choice in these considerations, but such a choice should only be made with competent personal spiritual guidance from a spiritual director. Discernment, not daring, goes a long way.
Questions: Where I am now among the Three Modes? Where do I desire to be? What helps me to be willing to love and trust God more in order to take the next step? The most complete and loving step?