Days of Preparation: Week Five/Session Three.
Theme: The Principle and Foundation.
Our reading for today: Exodus 3: 1-15.
God saw that (Moses) had stopped to look. God called to him from out of the bush, “Moses! Moses!” He said, “Yes? I’m right here!” God said, “Don’t come any closer. Remove your sandals from your feet. You’re standing on holy ground.” Then He said, “I am the God of your father: The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob.” Moses hid his face, afraid to look at God.
“The Israelite cry for help has come to Me, and I’ve seen for Myself how cruelly they’re being treated by the Egyptians. It’s time for you to go back: I’m sending you to Pharaoh to bring My people, the People of Israel, out of Egypt.” Moses answered God, “But why me? What makes You think that I could ever go to Pharaoh and lead the children of Israel out of Egypt?”
“I’ll be with you,” God said. (Exodus 3: 4-6, 9-12a MsgB)
This week in our Spiritual Exercises, we’ve begun looking at what Ignatius called his Principle and Foundation. These words, written so long ago, conclude with a powerful commission:
To attain (our goal or vocation of glorifying God) it is necessary to make ourselves indifferent to all created things, in regard to everything which is left to our free will and is not forbidden. Consequently, on our part we ought not to seek health rather than sickness, wealth rather than poverty, honor rather than dishonor, a long life rather than a short one, and so on in all other matters. Rather, we ought to desire and choose only that which is more conducive to the end for which we are created. (SE 23 traditional translation by George E. Ganss, SJ)
As I see it, Moses is a prime example of a man who learned throughout his life the fine art of glorifying God, serving Divine purposes, while also allowing that same God to make him into a man “indifferent to all created things.”
At the end of his life, Moses is portrayed in the Scripture as one whose face was set like flint toward God. A man who would always choose God’s will over his own. A man who would sacrifice nearly all he had to be obedient to the call (or vocation) that God had placed upon him.
But let’s get honest here.
Moses, at the time of his calling, standing at the burning bush on Mt. Horeb, has much more reservation about this unique call from God than he does faith in his ability to accomplish such an overwhelming task.
Who me, Lord?
Why me, Lord?
Are you kidding, Lord?
So let’s review a bit of Moses’ history in order to see how much work God has to do to strip this unbelieving, uncertain man of his multitude of disordered attachments and self-preoccupations, making him into one of the most renowned leaders in human history.
First, let’s talk about his early beginnings. Here is a man who was a foreigner in a strange land, but his amazing birth finds this Hebrew child being adopted into the royal family of Egypt! Moses grew up as a prince of Egypt, but before he could ever live out this high calling, his uncontrolled temper got him kicked out of the homeland, dis-enfranchised by both Pharaoh and his own people. Wandering aimlessly in the desert, he finally picks up a day job, shepherding the flocks of another wayfarer, Jethro of Midian.
By the time he stumbles upon God’s burning bush, Moses’ self-esteem is probably about as low as the temperature in Minneapolis in January. Below-freezing! As we read today’s text, we find a man who hears God’s voice, but has no confidence in his ability to accomplish such a task, nor a belief that anyone would listen to him even if he did go in obedience to the Lord’s command.
You see, living a life of indifference, free of all the trappings this created world contains, not only means letting go of all the good stuff that might trip us up or pull us away from God and His plans for our life…but it also means dropping all of our countless excuses why you or I can’t do something special for God as well!
A life that glorifies God must be one that is increasingly free of all the good, bad, and ugly that we perceive is in our lives. In truth, I’ll never be good enough to accomplish God’s purposes for my life; nor will I ever be bad enough to be ignored by Him and His Kingdom-advancing work. As I see it, Ignatius, when he writes about living a life of indifference, is simply trying to jar us loose from ourselves. Get us out of our own limited capacities. Move us beyond our own stinkin’ thinkin’ (as one pastor so eloquently taught me) so that we are free to simply follow the instructions God gives us.
For Moses, this means dropping his pre-conceived ideas about himself, His God, his fears about Pharaoh, his anxieties about speaking to God’s people, and just about everything else his life had contained up to that point. The burning bush, you see, is meant to do just that. Burn up all we have; the good, the bad, the ugly; into ashes…leaving only God and a naked human being who now, “with God”, can do all things, not by our might but by God’s alone.
Hmmm. Do I smell something burning here?
My prayer: Father God, the indifference spoken of by Ignatius must increase in my life so that I’m increasingly free to follow You and Your plans anywhere at anytime. I place all of my strengths and my weaknesses, my past victories and my past failures into Your burning bush, so that in those ashes, only You and Your plans remain. For Your name’s sake. Amen.
My questions to ponder: Paul states in Philippians 4: 11-13 that “whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am.” What circumstances are yelling at me today, trying to make me focus on my abilities or inabilities? How can I step away from that type of thinking and learn to rest in and rely upon God, walking in the gift of indifference Ignatius speaks of in his Principle and Foundation? Finally, now that I’ve pondered Ignatius’ words (SE 23), what might my Principle and Foundation statement for my specific life and vocation look like?
So what is God speaking to you today as we ponder together The Ignatian Adventure?
Over an eight month period, you and I will be working our way through the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius. For more information on our journey and how to begin…click here!
To go onto the next journal entry…click here.