To the clean all things are clean, but to those who are defiled and unbelieving nothing is clean; in fact, both their minds and their consciences are tainted. They claim to know God, but by their deeds they deny him.
It is only in knowing Truth that we know Jesus, who is the truth, the way, and the life (John 8:12). The extent to which we love truth, we love Him. Too many of His people speak His Words but do not love Him.
St. Ignatius of Loyola has given us Spiritual Exercises by which we delve deep into our life world, our own brokenness, and God’s love for us. In the meditation known as The Call of the King, Christ is beckoning us to a perfect loyalty to Him, one that is founded in and driven by love. It is through this loyalty that He perfects us and grows us in virtue. It gives us the fortitude to persevere through challenges, to remain humble and strong when humiliated, to seek out that which is truly good for others even at the expense of our own desires going unfulfilled.
St. Ignatius encourages us to use our imagination and meditate upon an earthly but holy king of God. We have many saints who were royals in this life that give us the example of God working through those whom He has purified: St. King Louis of France, St. King Stephen of Hungary, St. Elizabeth of Hungary, St. Elizabeth of Portugal, Blessed Karl of Hungary, etc. Rather than fixate on what we deem as ‘good’ in a popular celebrity, politician, or activist, in prayer God leads us to understand how His choices of saintly people imitated His Son in their earthly life. By our Baptism and Confirmation, we are called to do the same.
Thus, in the Spiritual Exercises (sp. ex. 93), we imagine this king saying to us:
“It is my will to conquer all the land of unbelievers. Therefore, whoever would like to come with me is to be content to eat as I, and also to drink and dress, etc. as I; likewise, he is to work with me by day and watch with me by night, that so afterwards he may have part with me in the victory as he has had it in the labors”.
How would we respond to a King that is so generous and kind?
We then meditate on this within the reality of Christ the King of all the cosmos. Jesus says:
“It is My Will to conquer the whole worlds and all My enemies, and thus to enter into the glory of My Father. Therefore, whoever wishes to join Me in this enterprise must be willing to labor with Me, that by following Me in suffering, he may follow Me in glory”. (Sp. ex. 95)
Through repetition in prayer, we engage with Jesus regarding all that keeps us from responding with YES: “I am too weak, too broken, too accustomed to my bad habits, too comfortable in my preferences and luxuries. I am already stressed enough; I don’t need to add more to that!” We react through the tunnel-vision of our own limited reasoning and the warped perspective that has been shaped by life experiences.
“One whom God loves never passes away. It is not just a shadow of ourselves that lives on in Him, in His thought, and in His love; rather, it is in Him, as His creative love that we are preserved forever immortal in the totality and truth of our being. It is His love that makes us immortal and this immortality, this abiding love is what we call “Heaven.”
Heaven, then, is none other than the certainty that God is great enough to have room even for us insignificant mortals.” (Pope Benedict XVI)
But by taking all of this to prayer, we are reminded that God’s providential plan for us cannot be foiled. His desire to exchange love with us is beyond our imagination. All of our concerns and resistance comes from a grace-less space in our heart. When we permit grace to enter, we no longer rely upon our luxuries and bad habits for an escape from stress (much of which is caused by those very same dependencies and attachments). Our love for our Savior creates a desire to be with Him even in the suffering.
In time, we become able to fully live out our Baptism and Confirmation, joining Christ in His project to save all souls. We become the saint we were created to be, not later in the afterlife but in the here-and-now of the present moment. We are able to give Jesus a response from the depth of our heart:
Eternal Lord of all thing, in the presence of Thy infinite goodness and of Thy glorious mother, and of all the saints of Thy heavenly court, this is the offering of myself which I make with Thy favor and help: I protest that it is my earnest desire and my deliberate choice provided only it is for Thy greater service and praise, to imitate Thee in bearing all wrongs and all abuse and all poverty both actual and spiritual, should Thy most holy majesty deign to choose and admit me to such a state and way of life. Amen.
-St. Ignatius of Loyola, sp. ex. 98
We are ‘all in’, go the whole way, as Servant of God John Hardon says, “It is love at its highest, the love that seeks to become like the Beloved, who having joy set before Him, chose the cross.”[i] As we celebrate the solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, our King of the Universe, let us ask for the desire of a perfect loyalty to Him founded in love and for the grace to live it.
“You live in an age when you must show your desires by your works. Look around you: where is the Divine Majesty honored, where is His tremendous greatness venerated, where is His most Holy Will obeyed?…See the misery into which souls are plunged.”
-St. Ignatius of Loyola
Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam.
 Fr. John Hardon, S.J. Retreat with the Lord, page 48.
This post originally appeared on The Face of Grace Project and is reprinted here with permission.
Image: Triumph of Christ by Gustave Dore 1868