Grace: To choose what is more for the glory of God and the salvation of my soul.
Text: SpEx #149-157
Reflection: The Exercises are fundamentally geared toward helping us make good decisions, to bring us to that point at which we are properly disposed and can choose the same thing that God himself has already chosen for us. This especially applies to the question about our “state of life,” or in more common language our vocation. What is the Lord asking of me? How am I to serve to him in my own life?
We are coming to the point of the retreat when these sorts of questions come into focus. And it would be good to ask yourself: what is the Lord asking me to discern in the context of this retreat? To come to a final “election” (choice) about your state of life, you’ll want to make the full Exercises with an individual director. But in the context of this retreat, you can certainly begin to ask the question in a serious and structured way, reflecting on what the Lord has been saying to you as you have prayed through these Lenten exercises. For those for whom the question of vocation is already settled or seems still on the distant horizon, the Lord may be inviting you to consider how to reform your life. If this seems to be instead what the Lord is asking you to discern, pay attention to that as we continue with the retreat. In either case, there is a decision to be made.
In today’s meditation, we consider the three different dispositions that people typically find themselves in when making a decision. It employs a classic strategy that St. Ignatius developed for spiritual discernment: if you want to make a good choice, imagine yourself as a third-party observer with no personal interests at stake. Seeing which party is best placed to make a good decision, you can then see whether your own disposition matches theirs.
The preparation for this prayer is important. Ask the Lord to help you come into his presence with intentions purely ordered to his own. Use your imagination to see yourself standing before the Lord and his whole heavenly court, including his Mother, the angels, and the whole communion of saints. All your friends in heaven stand ready to help you with their prayers, as they also want you to make a good decision. There in the Lord’s presence, ask him for the grace that you desire, which is noted at the beginning of today’s post.
The content of the prayer consists in a meditation on the following scenario and the response made by three different people. Each of these people have come into a large sum of money, enough to sustain them in complete comfort for the rest of their lives without ever working again. (Let’s say they won the Powerball lottery.) Each of the people is aware of the power the money has over them and want to be free of this inordinate attachment so that they can be free to serve the Lord in the way that he desires, and not in a way dictated by their desire to hold on to the money.
The first person says he wants to be free from the attachment, but always puts off doing anything about it until later and ultimately dies without ever taking any steps.
The second person would also like to be free from the attachment but never gives serious consideration to the possibility that God may be asking him to distribute all of the money to others. He tries to get God to come around to what he desires, which is to keep the money for himself.
The third person is completely indifferent as to what happens to the money. He will keep it if the Lord asks him too. But he will also distribute it, if that is what is more for the praise and service of the Lord. His discernment begins from the position in which he desires neither to keep nor to get rid of it. He waits for the Lord to move him in one direction or the other.
In the final few minutes of prayer, speak to the Lord about what you have seen and how the example of the three different people moved you. With which one do you most closely identify? With which one do you wish to identify? What questions does this raise for you about your own discernment?