Daily Reflection

I once had the embarrassing experience of riding a mechanical bull.  It was not my finest moment, to be sure.

Awkward…nauseating…disorienting…just a few of the words that come to mind as I consider how best to describe the encounter I had with that mad machine.  In hindsight, the interesting thing I now realize is that all the suffering (both perceived and real) I experienced while on the plastic bull’s back could have instantly ended had I simply done one thing…let go!  Of course, that isn’t quite in accord with the social contract of what one does while attempting to prove something atop a fake, spinning suggestion of a bull.  Many of our cultural norms in the tech-obsessed, capitalist culture of 21st century America are not that different from the ones I have been describing thus far.  We hold on for dear life to the addictions and attractions that rampant consumerism breeds only to be taken for a ride, spun around, and thrown to the ground after which we find ourselves jumping back on for another “ride”…awkward…nauseating…disorienting…

Jesus saw how our clinging, white-knuckled approach to life was not serving us and he offered an alternative…the cross.  If you want to hold to something, he says, hold on to that.  What an invitation to be in solidarity with him!  I am sure it was counter-cultural (or at least counter-intuitive) to the first disciples on whose ears that first invitation fell and it is certainly so for us today!  Can I surrender all I have and possess in order to choose the cross for and with Jesus?

St. Ignatius of Loyola described the means to this end through the concepts of indifference and detachment.  This is not the type of indifference I express when my wife asks what I think we should have for dinner (“I don’t care.” — *cue my stomach growling) or I fein when my dentist says I have a cavity (“No big deal.” — *cue my anxiety rising).  This is a much deeper indifference that requires regular prayer imploring God’s guidance beyond my clinging to desired objects or outcomes.  As he writes in the First Principle and Foundation of his Spiritual Exercises:

It is necessary to make ourselves indifferent to all created things as much as we are able, so that we do not necessarily want health rather than sickness, riches rather than poverty, honor rather than dishonor, a long rather than a short life, and so in all the rest, so that we ultimately desire and choose only what is most conducive for us to the end for which God created us.

St. Paul reminds the community in Rome that they are to keep first things first by focusing primarily on love–the ultimate end for which we were created.  Before getting too attached to any of the other laws, it is the law of love that must remain primary and central.  All else cascades from this originating point.

A great guide for me on this journey more deeply into letting go of the life I think I desire while clinging to the cross, the greatest symbol of love, is St. Ignatius’ “prayer for generosity:”

Eternal Word, only begotten Son of God,
Teach me true generosity.
Teach me to serve you as you deserve.
To give without counting the cost,
To fight heedless of wounds,
To labor without seeking rest,
To sacrifice myself without thought of any reward
Save the knowledge that I have done your will.  Amen.