“How can I repay the LORD for all the good done for me?” (Psalm 116:12)
Reflection: At the heart of the Ignatian Exercises is a question. The question Ignatius poses is this: seeing all that Jesus did for you (becoming a fellow human being to die a brutal death so that you could be liberated from the tyranny of sin), what are you going to do in response to such amazing love?
After all, Ignatius is a soldier. He’s a man of action. He wants the whole world to hear the summons to salvation. His source of power is contemplation (prayer), but prayer leads to action: to service. If the King (Jesus) is fighting a battle for souls, then the soldier of Christ needs to be fully enlisted in the King’s service.
Ignatius has a battle plan. If we are to follow the biblical mandate to be in the world but not of it (see John 17 and Romans 12:2), then we must practice a certain indifference towards all created things so that the allure and charm of the world (its seductive power) has no power over us. Thus we are freed to use all of creation for its intended purpose: to give glory to God. This indifference places in our hearts “a calm readiness for every command of God” (Karl Rahner), and the courage to accept the unforeseen circumstances which God may permit to occur in our lives. In this battle plan the reference point for all that we do is God. “Our hearts are restless until they rest in God” (Augustine).
The call of the Ignatian exercises is to get spiritually fit for service. The training consists in a review of one’s life (part I), examination of conscience, cultivating a profound sorrow for past sins, learning to trust in God’s mercy, the practice of prayer and meditation, learning how to petition God with boldness for the graces we need, and learning how to become like the one who died for us primarily by an intense identification with the Savior’s life (part II).
“Love consists primarily in a sharing of all that one has with whom he loves.” This is the essence of Trinitarian love! The Savior has seen fit to give all of Himself to us so that we may ultimately share in the eternal life of the Trinity. In response to such amazing love, Ignatius asks: what are you going to do in return? The proper response to Ignatius is to LOVE God in return; and to Ignatius, to quote one of the most famous lines of the Exercises, “love ought to manifest itself in deeds rather than words.” Part III of the Exercises has, as part of its focus, contemplating the love of God. Contemplation leads to action. This is Ignatian spirituality: a “service-mysticism.” The grace we seek is to discern God’s will in the service of such a great King: the Lord Jesus Christ. The response then to such great love is love.
And love bears fruit.
Tom Mulcahy, M.A.
Image: Painting of Saint Ignatius of Loyola by Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640), a public domain work of art in the U.S.A,
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