Spoilers in this paragraph. The meditations of the second week (the illumination of Christ and his call to participate in the Kingdom with meditations on the life of Christ) continued with contemplation on the ministry of Jesus, from his baptism through Palm Sunday.
The choice to participate in the Kingdom of God is the end goal of week 2. Jesus Christ is both the example of and caller to Kingdom work, while Satan attempts to entice us away from this calling. In perfect humility, my first aim should be to serve God, and all other choices I make, whether they benefit me personally or not, should be toward that end. In those choices I have made which are lifelong, such as marriage, I should endeavor within that state to order all things toward “the greater praise and glory of God our Lord.”1
I believe God is sovereign, omniscient, and omnipotent enough to give us real choices in life and still be sovereign, omniscient, and omnipotent. Life contains paths that God sometimes says, “No” to. I find those the easiest to discern. In other opportunities, God definitely prompts us to act. Those are the times which we must learn to not be resistant. Lastly, there are the times when life simply offers a choice. Whether I eat turkey or ham for lunch or choose this job or that one will have personal ramifications for me and those I come in contact with, but God can use either decision to fulfill his purpose. Some courses of action may be better than others, but several options may all be godly, wise, and of faith. When two people are dancing, at a basic level they simply must move together, not bump into anyone else, and stay on the dance floor. Sometimes God says, “Here’s the floor. Enjoy dancing,” while other times we need to realize that he is calling the steps.
Week 2 contains enough contemplation for two full weeks, plus a list of optional meditations which could extended week 2 for as much as four weeks. (I will be moving on to week 3.) The amount of time Ignatius devotes to this week leads me to believe that this week contains the most important and/or the most difficult concept to internalize.
An important feature to look at regarding spiritual formation is that the second week shows the process at its most adaptable. Churches with discipleship programs or catechisms normally move a Christian through a series of books, lessons, or curriculum, and upon completion the person is assumed to have attained a new level of knowledge and maturity. The flexibility of week 2 made me ask this question. What if I took someone through Growing in Christ (or a book in the D Series) and after 13 weeks of study they still didn’t “get it” (had not internalized it)? Have we Christians become reluctant to “hold someone back a grade?” I am not saying that we necessarily have errored in this area, just posing the question, but I have never been asked to repeat a Bible study or course unless it was to teach the material to someone else. Can you imagine a seminary class where the professor said, “You completed all the work satisfactorily, but you still do not have the heart. Repeat the course.”
Remedial teaching aside, a church should consider adaptability in its congregational spiritual formation. A church may choose to use one program for congregational spiritual formation, but every church should have people at various stages of maturity. In addition, a local church may be multi-ethnic, multi-generational, and/or multi-socioeconomic. One model may not function with all the members if it includes only one curriculum and one teaching method. This is not due to any learning deficiencies in any group, but to adapt to different learning styles and cultures. Also, while different people may need different types and levels of spiritual formation, our goal should be unity as well as maturity, and the body needs all of its diverse members together to grow in this way.
1. Ganss, George E., S.J. (1992). The Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius: a Translation and Commentary. Chicago: Loyola University Press.
This is a continuing series as I go through The Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius.
©2012 Paul Tillman