Online Retreat Guide - Week 17
Two Ways of Desiring
Guide: What Do We Want?
We have begun to contemplate the life of Jesus. We have seen how, from the very beginning, his life was shaped by profound trust in God, surrender to God’s plan, and the acceptance of poverty and rejection. We have been praying to know, love, and be with him more deeply. Before we move on to contemplate his active ministry, we will take a few weeks to prepare for how this retreat will shape our lives and the choices we will make as we draw more closely to Jesus.
It is desire that leads to choice. To understand the choices we make, and to prepare to make new ones, we must understand our desires and prepare to reform them.
Throughout this week, in all the in-between times, especially in the busiest and most pressured moments, we will try to understand the way of desiring that places us with Jesus. And to freely respond to Jesus’ way, we will try to understand the very opposite way of desiring, a way that surrounds us in our culture today.
The clearest message from our society today, and the values that shape the advertising that tries to seduce us, is that we will be happier if we have more. It’s subtle but consistent. If some is good, then more is better. It seems so natural to work hard to earn more so that I can have more. We acquire and consume and become addicted to some bad things, but normally we just adopt a lifestyle that fits what we can afford. And it’s not just things that we accumulate. We experience a desire to gather accomplishments or attractive relationships — other indications of our success. What is closely associated with this movement is the inevitable connection between what we possess and our identity. It’s tempting to think that we are more, because we have more. We judge one another by these measures of success. And while there is nothing inherently bad about having things or achievements, or with the recognition and adulation that goes with them, they can seductively lead to pride, arrogance, and independence from God. Riches, leading to honors. Honors, leading to pride. This is a pattern of desiring we want to understand insofar as it is at work in us.
We’ve already seen that the way Jesus desires is quite different. His way of making choices is formed by a pattern of desiring that we’ve already been attracted to and that we want to understand more deeply this week. Jesus attracts us to the fundamental desire of trusting in God. When we place our lives in God’s hands, as Jesus did, we experience the vulnerability of that surrender. When all is gift, we can no longer measure ourselves by what we’ve accumulated. This poverty of spirit, and the freedom that comes with it, often feels wonderful. Jesus, however, wants us to understand that it is quite countercultural. If riches lead to honors, poverty of any kind inevitably leads to dishonor. Much of our society doesn’t respect simple trust in God. From the desire for spiritual poverty comes the free openness to actual poverty, if it should come to us. The less we desire to acquire, the less we will be well regarded by others. Therefore, the desire to trust in God alone leads to the incredible desire for the dishonor, humiliation, and contempt that will place me with Jesus. For, ultimately, this is the path to humility and humble readiness for any service with him. Spiritual poverty leading to humiliation. Humiliation leading to humility. This week we want to understand this way of desiring.
The helps that follow will assist us in entering into these reflections more deeply. They will help us get started and to turn these reflections into prayer. The photo of the land mine victims can help us reflect upon those who are on the margins of society.
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Photos by Don Doll, S.J.
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