The Sign And Strategy Of Jesus

 To Labour and Work in the Mission of Christ Jesus
 and to Serve With Him Under His Sign.

(a paraphrase and adaptation of the  Two Standards Exercise
of The Spiritual Exercises #'s [136] through [147])


         As a follower of Jesus I am involved right now and throughout my life in a struggle with the enemy of the human race - the power of darkness. This enemy is so hidden and  pervasive that my Caring God must warn me in metaphor and image:

         From this influence, no country, no city, no state of life, no individual is overlooked.  Weeds grow alongside the wheat and remain until the end ..... Mt 13:24 ff.  This influence takes place in the depths of my being (the area of my desires, fears, attitudes) where I desire to possess and to have security where I desire to be worth something or to be accepted and loved; where I desire to exist. I can even imagine the enemy laying plans to trap me at these more vulnerable parts of my person as Ignatius describes with the following images:
The enemy acts as a military leader ... first, inspecting the strength and condition of the fortification and then, attacking it on the weakest side. In the same way the enemy of our human nature ....  explores all our defences to discover where and how we are most vulnerable and there initiates the attack and strives to take us.
        During the age and culture of his time Ignatius understood this entry as following a generalized pattern. The first step is riches as a means to attain the empty esteem of others that will lead eventually to pride - riches, honours, pride. For many persons even today this pattern helps to understand the approaches of the enemy. Therefore though one possesses the noblest of intentions, a person's deepest desires can be skewed. Good persons unwittingly walk down the `garden path'. The desire to possess for oneself (riches), turns into the desire to be worth something in oneself (esteem of others). These turn into a false kind of independence or pride, by which a person comes to exist only for oneself.  From this state of false independence the evil one leads one to all other disorders.

        Unique persons living in different cultures may have different points of strength and weakness. The enemy usually will establish a foothold in those vulnerable spots with those basic temptations that appear to achieve some good or fulfil some need. After the first foothold, temptations come in a variety of ways. A gradual seduction or a torrent of exaggerated fear or through some innocent-looking seemingly good suggestion can all lead into a web of deceit. With serious reflection (such as the consciousness examen), prayer, and dialoguing with a wise counsellor, one can discover the personal patterns of temptation by which one repeatedly may be seduced. Repeatedly?  .... yes, because our more subtle character and personality traits usually remain the same throughout life.

        Therefore, there are other deceptive patterns that initially differ from the Ignatian "riches." However in time they ultimately lead to same end, some form of pride. Here are some examples:

 a) the child from a dysfunctional background may start out in life with the learning that `it is not good to feel' and so, in later life, that person is usually tempted by `don't feel', which leads to the temptation `always follow the others' expectations to gain their acceptance, which can lead to different temptations such as: ...   doing good things for others repeatedly until one reaches a state of emptiness and gives up ... or putting oneself at the centre of attention to be constantly affirmed as worthwhile and thus becoming self-absorbed ...

 b) a woman reaching adulthood around the mid-twentieth century in  North America typically was raised not to say what she was really thinking. She learned a definite secondary role in her patriarchal-type society. So she initially enters into temptation by `hiding' her real thinking and feelings about things to seek approval. This might lead to the temptation to `put herself in second place' (by trivializing herself) that can lead her into several forms of self destruction ... such as letting others define her role and through such limitation the possible good that she can do for God's household  decreases ... or she becomes secretly self-righteous.

Grace For Which I Will Ask

        Here it will be to ask for a deeper knowledge of the deceits of the enemy and help to guard against them. Also, ask for a deep-felt knowledge of Jesus' strategy since he is "the way, the truth and the life" Jn 14:6. Ask for a growing desire to imitate him by adopting his strategy and following the lead of his Spirit.

Ways Of Disposing Myself For This Grace

1. I turn to Jesus, my Lord and my God, and with him I examine the traps and deceits that have already been and are even now operative in my life.

2.         Watch Jesus choosing the disciples and apostles. He desires to establish a new human community, sending the Spirit throughout the world - sowing the seeds of his teaching in the hearts of people everywhere.  He is teaching all people to serve `Abba' with him with his own strategy -  complete dependence on one's Loving God, leading to the cross.  His life manifests the very way that we can arrive at this complete dependence on God.  "I have given you an example, that as I have done, you also should do" Jn 13:15. It is the way of poverty, insults, humility - these are the very ways that touch the basic needs of the human heart.

3.         Consider the address that Jesus our Lord makes to all his followers and friends whom he missions to help the human family.  He recommends:  "Make it your aim to help everybody.  Lead them first to perfect poverty of spirit, and even to a lifestyle of poverty in reality, if this is God's gracious desire for them. Secondly, lead them to a desire for insults and contempt.  From these two come humility and total dependence." Notice the three steps:  poverty (against riches) so that they come to desire to possess nothing except for God, being laughed at and looked down on (as opposed to empty esteem) so that they desire to be worth something only because of God, humility (as opposed to pride) so that they exist only for God who is All in all, the Divine Mother, Father, Lover, Creator and so much more .....

The Three Dialogues

Carry on a discussion with our Lady, asking her to obtain for me from her Son this grace (or if you prefer carry on this conversation with a saint or some wisdom figure)  that I may labour and work with him in his mission of saving the human family and serve with him under his sign:

  1. At first in the highest spiritual poverty then in a lifestyle of real poverty, should this be my Gracious God's desire for me;
  2. Next, in putting up with insults and treated unjustly, so that I may be more like him - provided I can bear these without offense to my Divine Sovereign.
  3. Then pray the Hail Mary.
Then I will enter into conversation with Jesus asking him to obtain the same favours for me from his Abba. Then I will say, Soul of Christ.

Finally I will dialogue with my Creator God who is so much more than a mother or father to grant me these favours. Then I will say, the prayer that Jesus taught.

Three Types Of Persons

(a paraphrase and adaptation of the Three Types Of Persons
of The Spiritual Exercises #'s [149] through [156])

        This prayer exercise is intended to help in choosing the kind of life towards which the Spirit of God is drawing one. During this process a person must always take into account the real data of one's history. It is so easy to be misguided. One may be biased towards what is less helpful among possible choices in God's service. Also it is easier to imagine oneself as being open than to be actually open. Many of us have non-negotiables which can contaminate the discerning process. These non-negotiables may be hidden assumptions; or unacknowledged inordinate attachments; or habitual ways of handling our lives. This exercise concerning the different attitudes of three categories of persons may be useful for surfacing such areas of unfreedom. As such it can help one to assume a freer attitude in making choices. This Ignatian parable is much more profound than it seems because it deals with that interface where the creature resists the loving Creator.

        In the first instance, the parable applies primarily to one's attitude toward possessions as these impinge upon the material for decision-making. However by analogy this parable can touch the interior stances and those non-conscious, long forgotten, twilight decisions made long ago and still affecting one's choices. Hence in the place of the sum of money one can understand any one of the following: interior gifts ... non negotiables ... defence mechanisms ... habitual ways of handling life ... personal life-long dream ... assumptions ... the exaggerated behaviour flowing from one's shadow etc.

Settling Into Prayer

         Here I am before my concerned and Caring God who at this moment beholds me.  At this moment many members of the communion of saints are also with me for they will be affected by the kinds of responses I make.

Grace For Which I Will Ask

         Ask for the grace to choose what is more conducive to carrying out Christ's mission and my own salvation.

A Parable

        There are three types of persons. Each has won $2,000,000 in a fair lottery. Each person fears their immediate attachment to this sum:

"What is the best use for the money?  ... With whom do I share it? ... How will the rest of my life be affected? ... I may end up using this windfall for all the wrong purposes and end up missing my purpose in life! ... I may discover a great deal of hindrance in the peaceful service of God. ... "
However, they all wish to be free from the burden arising from their attachment.

The first type  wants to get rid of the attachment to the money in order to find peace in God and to be assured of salvation. But the hour of death comes without making use of any means.

The second type  also would like to rid themselves of a possible disordered attachment. But they wish to do so in such a way that they retain what they  have acquired, so that God is to come to what they desire and they are not willing to entertain the possibility of giving up the sum of money in order to serve God better, if that should prove more in harmony with God's desires for them.

The third type  want to get rid of the attachment but wish to do so in such a way that they desire neither to keep nor to give up the sum acquired. They seek to be free. They desire to choose to keep the sum acquired if God so inspires them to do so; they desire to relinquish the sum acquired if God so inspires them to do so.  Meanwhile during the decision process they strive to conduct themselves as if every attachment to it had been broken.  They will make efforts neither to want that, nor anything else,  unless the service of God alone move them to do so.  As a result, the desire to be better able to serve Jesus Our Lord and his Abba will be the cause of keeping or giving up the sum of money.

 Close with the Three Dialogues as in the former exercise.

Three Moments Of Loving Response

(a paraphrase and adaptation of the Three Kinds Of Humility
of The Spiritual Exercises #'s [165] through [167])

Introductory Consideration

        In a continuing relationship of love various moments manifest diverse attitudes of loving response.  First there are the moments of fidelity when the lover remains steadfast in one's basic commitment to one's beloved to this extent:  for no reason whatever would one consent to infidelity or to severing the bond of the relationship.

        Then there are the moments of loving concern:  when the lover lives one's commitment for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death .... and is in such complete detachment  from one's own self-centredness that even in the smallest ways one is faithful to the beloved.

        Finally there are the moments of the heart, moments that only the heart can understand:  when the lover desires and chooses to share even the suffering and hardship, the poverty and rejection of the loved one.

        These three moments apply to our relationship with our Loving God. Ignatius of Loyola calls these three moments the "Three Modes Of Humility."

The First Moment -- Fidelity

        This is necessary for my ongoing relationship with God and hence, salvation. It consists in this: that as far as possible I so serve and respond to God in everything I do, that not even for all of creation, not even to save my own life would I consent to violate God's word in a serious way.

The Second Moment -- Loving Concern

        I live in this moment when for my part I am content with riches or poverty, honour or dishonour, a long life or a short life. My attitude is only swayed by the loving service and praise of God. It means that I am so detached from my own self-centredness and that I so love God my All that not for all creation nor to escape a threat to my life would I be unfaithful to God's word even in the slightest way.

The Third Moment -- Act Of The Heart

        This third moment includes the attitudes of the first two. I live in this third moment (remembering that the service and praise of God must be my ultimate norm) when I desire and choose poverty with Jesus poor, rather than riches, insults with Jesus loaded with them, rather than honours. I desire to be accounted as worthless and a fool for Christ Jesus, rather than to be esteemed as wise and prudent in the world's eyes. I desire and choose these to imitate and actually be more like Jesus. I want to share his life more fully and to return love for love. The Word Incarnate  was treated this way for me, I desire to do as much as I can in return.

        If one desires to live in this third moment of loving response, it will help very much to use the three dialogues. Pray to be chosen for this gift of imitating Jesus in this way. Of course the supposition is that such an act of the heart would continue the love, service and praise of the Divinity. The following prayer, To Follow Jesus Completely incorporates this "Act Of The Heart."


To Follow Jesus Completely

       My Lord Jesus, may I love you completely with my entire self and embrace totally and without hesitation whatever you embraced. Therefore may I love the world as you loved it and abhor worldly wisdom of falseness, greed and pride as you abhorred them.

        As persons, living according to worldly wisdom, love and eagerly seek approval of others, a good reputation, status and "the good life"; may I loyally follow you and eagerly desire the contrary.

       I love you so much and so appreciate what you have done for me that I desire to be like you in all things. I desire to live life in your skin  - that is, to use your approach in my choices leaving myself open to experience the consequences you experienced.

       Therefore if it could be done without hurting anyone else or disappointing our Caring God, I desire to be insulted, rejected, and written off as a nobody in order to be more like you my loving Lord and follow more closely in your footsteps.  You are the true way that leads us to life. If worldly wisdom can make its adherents greedily love the approval of others, status, riches, pursuit of the illusions of one's `ego'  how much more can you make your followers love integrity, poverty, rejection and the cross!


Contemplation To Gain Love

(a paraphrase and adaptation of the Contemplation To Gain Love
of The Spiritual Exercises #'s [230] through [237])

        Before entering into this contemplative exercise it is important to keep in mind two truths:

  1. Real love is manifested through actions more than through words (Mt 7:21).
  2. Love is a mutual affair. The lover communicates with and gives to the beloved what one has or is able to give and the beloved to the lover. Each shares with the other what each has.
Settling Into Prayer

        As I settle into this contemplation I become aware of the mystery of the Holy One.... I am before my God along with the community of saints and angels who intercede for me.

Grace For Which I Will Ask

        What gift or grace do I desire at this time? Before the mystery of God and surrounded by such a great crowd of witnesses I could ask for the gift of gratitude and a deep-felt appreciation of God's goodness to me, so that I will be able to love God more fully and to cooperate with my brothers and sisters more effectively.

        Each of the following points can be used to dispose myself for this gift:

1.     I recall many of the gifts I have received such as those from:

        I ponder with deep feeling how much my Divine Benefactor has done for me; how much God has given me of what God has; how God desires to give God's Self to me. Then I ponder over what I ought give in return: "What shall I give in return for all that God has done for me?" In response I can make a suitable offering of myself in my own words....

2.     After naming and appreciating the various gifts I have received I ponder how, on so many different levels, God dwells in these gifts:

3.     Next I ponder how God works and labours in all things in the heavens, on the earth, in the plants and animals giving them being, preserving them, giving them vegetation and sensation and all for the benefit of all including myself (Jn 5:17). Then, as in the first point above, I ask and respond to the following question: "What shall I give in return for all that God has done for me?"

4.     Finally I ponder how all the good things and gifts descend from above (Jm 7:17). My power comes from the supreme and infinite power of God. My justice, my goodness, and my mercy derive from God who in God's very Self is justice, and goodness, and mercy, etc. Every good thing descends from above as rays from the sun descend the sun, and tributary rivers from their source. Then, as in the first point above, I ask and respond to the following question: "What shall I give in return for all that God has done for me?"

Prayers Which Incorporate Possible Responses

My loving God,
take and receive
all my liberty, my memory, my understanding, my entire will
and all that I have and possess.
You gave it all to me.
To you, my God, I return it!
All is yours, dispose of it according to your desires.
Give me your love and grace.
This is enough for me.

 ---- The offering of Ignatius of Loyola.

How shall I make a return to my loving God
for all the good that I have been given?
The cup of salvation I will take up,
and I will call upon the name of my God;
My vows to the Holy One I will pay
in the presence of all the people.
My God, I am your servant....
To you will I offer sacrifice of thanksgiving,
and I will call upon your name.
My vows to you I will pay
In the presence of all your people,
In the courts of the house o God,
in your midst, O Jerusalem.

  ---- Adapted from Psalm 116.


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