The Blog: Christopher's Apologies

Desires: What We Truly Want

The following is the beginning of the article, A God of Created Desires.  Credit and link will be provided below


St. Ignatius of Loyola knew, better than most, of the human capacity for self-deception. He was a former knight, was arrested a few times, was involved in many a bar brawl, and alluded to having committed just about every crime imaginable. The slow-to-convert Ignatius discovered in his own life, and eventually for all of us, who we most truly are. From his conversion experience, he stressed praying out of one’s deepest desires, to enter into conversation with the Spirit of God, in seeking what it is that “I most truly want.” For example, at the start of each of the prayer periods of his Spiritual Exercises, Ignatius requests that the one making the retreat, should: “Ask for the grace I now seek…” Intriguing isn’t it? Why should I ask for what I want? Don’t I already know what I want? Doesn’t God already know what I want? How is the absolute creator of all swayed by my needs and my requests?

Desires Ignatius’ argument behind this way of prayerful boldness is that we humans are creatures into whom our loving God has implanted divine desires; that we are made to long for God, and he alone can satisfy our hearts. It also reminds us that we are not computerized automata, but have desires of our own, as well as the ability to enter into loving collaboration with the Maker of us all. Yet, as wayward children, we have let our holiest desires be clouded by our skewed and, oftentimes, selfish expectations, by our more immediate needs, and by our desires for popularity and recognition, for physical allure and material comforts. We can have conflicting desires, like St. Augustine’s famous prayer early on in his life, “Grant me chastity, O Lord, but not yet!” But, the divided heart will never be happy, for it will never get what it wants. The secret, then, is to go further, cast into the deep, and allow ourselves to discover our deepest, holiest desires. In order to do this, Ignatius has us settle quietly into what it is we most deeply seek. Once quieted, we hear the voice of the Spirit, “deep calling unto deep,” as the Psalmist expresses it. However, to know our deepest desires, and not just our superficial wants, we need to be brought into union with the creator of our desires.

The desires within us, which everyone has, have been learned through other people with whom we spend time. We all live in families, in social structures, in communities, and in circles where some things are valued over others; where some items, and ways of life, are presented to us as more attractive, more desirable than others. We are not the self-made people we think we are; each of us is a collection of learned desires and traits. Especially as Americans, we pride ourselves on being “self-made,” self-developed beings who discover who we most truly are. Like Prometheus standing up to the gods in autonomous rebellion, each of us makes our own way in life. Ignatius would see this differently: we are given our identity, each of us has been named, we have been brought into God’s family through baptism, we have learned—rightly or wrongly—a particular way of life, and so on. Whereas we tend to glorify our autonomy, Ignatius would always have us see our truest selves as relational, crying out for community and love. The deepest desire of every human heart is to be known, to be loved, and to love forever.

We all learn early on, however, that true love is elusive, and that relationships can be risky. We, instead, have all learned how to hide behind the mask of self-sufficiency. Like H.G. Wells’ Invisible Man, we hide our empty selves with the bandages of success and wealth, achievement and power. We are afraid to let anyone encounter the self we all know is just under the surface, so we wrap that invisible presence around with illusory accomplishments, status, and gossip. We tend to blame others for our shortcomings, afraid to look too directly at our own brokenness. So instead, we cover up our hearts with little luxuries and distractions, anything to keep ourselves, and others, from seeing who we really are. We may show only bandages to the world, but they’re better than nothing.

To overcome this attachment to our illusory self, Ignatius would advise us to do two things: first, recognize that only union with God is going to satiate and satisfy our deepest longings; and, second, see how union with God, in his becoming human, can now be approached through that humanity, Christ Jesus—the Way leading to God the Father. The Ignatian approach is never, therefore, a “God-and-me” solitary affair, and it is never a spirituality that is going to insist on “God alone.” It is a spirituality that always incarnates and, therefore, leads us back into the world. As baptized members of the body of Christ, we are to recognize that our God is now human, now in space and time, a God who, through our Mother Mary, has gotten so close, as to become one of us. God is no longer simply “out there,” God surrounds us. We are called, therefore, to find God in all things! To allow God to “fit” into our daily experience, we must let our souls be magnified. This is why Ignatius linked desires with the spiritual gift of magnanimity, large-souled-ness. Only the large-souled person will be “big” enough to live above all rancor and jealousy, to live in union by the Spirit, and no longer with his or her own petty littleness.


37f24-fr--david-meconi_2014Click on the link to finish reading, A God of Created Desires, written by Fr. David Vincent Meconi, SJ and published online at the  Homiletic and Pastoral Review on June 26, 2014.

 

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