Today’s Lectio Divina:
I (Jesus of Nazareth) came so they can have real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of. John 10: 10b (MsgB)
Ignatian Truth #5: Ignatian spirituality is all about Freedom. We are free to be our true selves, free to be all God has made us to be.
Real and eternal life…more and better life than you’ve ever dreamed of!
Who in the world wouldn’t sign up for that?
Yet sadly, it seems as though so many of those folks who have taken Jesus at His word and decided to make Him Lord and Savior (today, we call them Christians) seem to be some of the most discontented, unhappy, unfulfilled joy-suckers the world has ever seen!
So, where’s the disconnect?
If Jesus never lies, there must be something deeper here that I must be missing. If a “real and eternal life, more and better life than I ever dreamed of” is available to me as a Christ-follower, maybe I’m looking at the picture all wrong?
Maybe Jesus was referring to the life eternal that starts on the other side? Some scholars suggest that. Yet others, including many saints throughout the ages, teach us that Jesus was not just talking about the by-and-by here, but was also addressing the quality of life available to us in the here-and-now.
Ignatius, in his Spiritual Exercises, addresses this difficult question and I, for one, feel the answer is so life-changing, it’s worthy of a lot more writing than I have space for here today.
You see, in truth, following Jesus through this life and into the next is not a job for sissies. When you and I respond to the Master’s invitation to “Come, follow Me,” we are responding to one of the most curious, out-of-this-world experiences this planet, or any other for that matter, offers us.
Following Jesus, drawing closer and closer to Him with each step we take, takes courage.
Why you ask?
Because, as we discussed last time, it takes courage to face the real and honest truth about ourselves. And it takes courage and a strong stomach to welcome the radical change Jesus of Nazareth brings to our lives as we decide to follow His lead in this life versus living our lives according to our own self-centered, self-consuming desires.
Following Jesus changes us from the inside out. Some call it transformation. Others call it sanctification. Jesus called it, being born again, or being born from above. John’s Gospel mentions this new-birth experience in a conversation Jesus had with one of Israel’s learned teachers, a man named Nicodemus.
He (Nicodemus) came to Jesus at night and said, “Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the signs You are doing if God were not with him.”
Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the Kingdom of God unless they are born again.”
“How can someone be born when they are old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!”
Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the Kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at My saying, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” (John 3: 2-8 NIV)
As I see it, being “born from above” or being “born of the Spirit” is so much more than what we 21st century Americanized Christians believe it to be. Sadly, for much of my 30+ years of pastoral ministry, we reduced being “born again” into a one-time moment of “confession-salvation” where a sinner confesses their great need for forgiveness, giving their heart to Christ. Now, don’t get me wrong here. I believe that special moment when a person makes a decision for Jesus does indeed qualify as being “born from above.” But as I explored the Gospels through the eyes of St. Ignatius and the Spiritual Exercises, I’ve become more and more convinced that being “born again” means so much more than simply attending a church service, coming forward at the pastor’s invitation, saying a prayer of acceptance, and placing a rose on the alter!
You see, when Jesus invites us to a “real and eternal life…more and better life than they ever dreamed of,” I’m convinced that we are being invited into a life of freedom. A life in Christ that produces a radical inward transformation both here and now, and forevermore. Jesus said it Himself…
So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. (John 8: 36 NIV)
Join us next time as we unpack this amazing, out-of-this-world, over-the-top freedom that is available to all those who respond to Jesus’ amazing invitation to simply “Come, follow Me.”
My prayer: Jesus, I ponder Your words today, words inviting me to a real and eternal life…more and better than I ever dreamed of, and I find myself giddy inside at the possibility of discovering that type of life in this lifetime! Yet, in honesty, I feel as though the trials and hardships of this life war against such a blessing becoming real inside me. But Master, here’s the truth. If You can set me free, I will be free indeed. So today, I simply come, inviting You into all this mixed bag of feelings I have about such things. May Your truth prevail. For Your name’s sake. Amen.
My questions to ponder: Knowing that honest truth sets me free, what fears and apprehensions are pushing hard against me today, convincing me that a real and eternal life is just not possible for me? Once I identify these things, am I willing to bring them to Jesus, and in honest confession, turn them over to Him, inviting Him to help me bear the weight of my struggles? Finally, do I truly believe there might be a fuller, more fruitful life awaiting me as I invite Jesus to walk with me today?
How are you experiencing God as you ponder on these Ignatian truths today?
Over a period of twelve weeks (3 sessions per week), we will take this journey into Iggy’s Biggies, contemplating twelve foundational truths found within the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius. We suggest you bookmark our blog series homepage to keep all the writings in one place for your future reference. Take note that each blog session begins with a short scripture reading. My suggestion is that you don’t hurry through, or skip the text, but treat it as a Lectio Divina reading where you slow down and sit a bit with God’s Word, allowing it to penetrate and influence you as you read.
If you’ve never journeyed through the Exercises, might I suggest that you find a qualified spiritual director and ask them to accompany you along the way? Here at The Contemplative Activist, we can offer a good number of highly qualified folks to do just that.
Oh, and if you enjoy what you’re reading here, we encourage you to share this page and our website, The Contemplative Activist, with your friends!