The “Second Week”: Week Seventeen/Session One.
Theme: Meditation on Two Standards.
Our reading for today: Joshua 24: 1-18.
So now: Fear God. Worship Him in total commitment. Get rid of the gods your ancestors worshiped on the far side of The River (the Euphrates) and in Egypt. You, worship God. If you decide that it’s a bad thing to worship God, then choose a god you’d rather serve—and do it today. Choose one of the gods your ancestors worshiped from the country beyond The River, or one of the gods of the Amorites, on whose land you’re now living. As for me and my family, we’ll worship God. (Joshua 24: 14-15 MsgB)
In this week’s Spiritual Exercises’ meditations, we are encouraged to look at what St. Ignatius calls The Two Standards. As a former soldier, Ignatius used his military experience to construct this theme using the idea that a “standard” is a banner or flag under which the followers of a particular leader rally.
When Ignatius was twenty-six, he took up the life of a soldier in the northern Spanish town of Pamplona. Ever loyal, Ignatius did not hesitate to come to the Crown’s defense when in 1521 the French attacked Pamplona. It was a lost battle from the start, with Ignatius’ small band of soldiers easily outnumbered. As a matter of honor, Ignatius refused to give up the town fortress. Through the walls of the citadel crashed a cannonball, which struck Ignatius in the legs. Impressed by his courage, the French soldiers tended to Ignatius’ wounds and carried him back to Loyola, where doctors reset his legs. (This story was taken from Kevin O’Brien, SJ from The Ignatian Adventure)
It was here in Loyola, where Ignatius began his long recuperation, finding the Divine in the midst of his failings to become the brave Spanish knight he once hoped he’d become. In the process, Ignatius soon realized that the Christian life, in so many ways, was to be lived out just as a soldier would, intentionally choosing the banner for which he would live or die. For Ignatius, he decided once and for all to put away his brave allegiance to the Spanish flag and spend the remainder of his days living under the standard of the Lord.
As I see it, Ignatius was simply following in the footsteps of other men and women in history who found themselves standing at the intersection of Good and Evil. Human beings who through life experiences found that deep down, there are really only two choices in this life. One choice is to follow Good. The other choice is to follow Evil. Now I know to some that seems rather cruel to narrow our choices in life down to just two; and others would say that this is a gross over-simplification of life that comes from very narrow-minded people.
But here’s the rub.
From time to time in my life, things can become so complicated, it’s good every once in a while to just sit down for one moment and allow myself to simplify the choices that are in front of me…to clarify the picture, making the blurry mess that lies before into one that can be defined by two choices.
Joshua and his words found in today’s passage seem to ring out to me in times such as these…just as Ignatius is pointing out to his listeners that indeed, there are only two standards or banners under which we might choose to stand.
Hmm. When it’s spelled out as clearly as that, it kinda makes it simpler, doesn’t it?
Which one’s in your wallet?
My prayer: Father, thank You for the clear reminder that from time to time, it’s good to have only two choices in front of me. It’s obvious from history that You’ve spoken to others about this clear choice given us in life. Joshua chose wisely. Apparently Ignatius did as well. As for me and my household, I chose to worship You, and You alone. For Your name’s sake. Amen.
My questions to ponder: So what ‘standard’ or banner am I standing under today? Or am I trying to hedge my bets, attempting to remain uncommitted and neutral during a time of warfare? What decisions need to be made today that can be summarized and simplified by reducing them down to the choice between two standards?
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.
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