How to want what truly matters (Horizons of the Heart 18)

The grace we are asking of God: a deeply felt awareness of how God draws us into the unfolding of the mystery of the Word made flesh and how in doing this we enter into a process of healing that we might love Jesus and follow him more intentionally, completely, and wholeheartedly.

Horizons of the Heart is inspired by the Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius and my own notes from my thirty-day Ignatian retreat in 2022.

The grace we are asking for in the Spiritual Exercises is the grace to love rightly and the grace to love well.

If we have a deeply felt awareness of how another human being loves us and wants us near them, our response is wonder, gratitude, love, and wanting to be both physically and spiritually close to them. We no longer feel alone. We have a sense of belonging to someone who desires our presence. We feel safe and happy.

Similarly, God’s drawing us awakens in us a desire to return love for love, to offer ourselves in love, to leave ourselves in order to draw near to God in grateful praise. St. Ignatius is having us beg for the grace to deeply feel this in our very bones. We are loved! And love for God is rising like the sun in our hearts. This love overflows with joy.

This love for God, however, needs to be trained. This divine love, just like any love, needs strengthening through focus and practice. Our hearts and desires have become sluggish by loving material things, by being satisfied with what is of the earth and what brings pleasure to our senses. We are bombarded daily by stimulations, memories aroused by sights and sounds, emotional responses to whatever is going on around us. As David Fagerburg, author of Liturgical Mysticism, said, “In both body and soul, the human person is the matrix of a thousand bits of data input.”

St. Paul encourages us to direct our attention upwards:

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. (Colossians 3:1-4 NIV).

As a good father, St. Paul is instructing us to direct our desires toward what will truly bring us ultimate and eternal satisfaction and glory. This is the telos or end for which we were created: the beatific life.

Cathopic: lulitobal

“The beatific life requires a sort of integrity from us…. Integrity means being a person who wants, instead of a person who is a collection of wants” (Liturgical Mysticism, page 102). This kind of response to the drawing of God, this kind of wanting demands a true attentiveness, a spiritual and steady awareness sustained over time. We need to train our wants to discover how insipid are the things that simply give passing pleasure, episodic and trivial desires, and how beautiful is the taste for worthwhile things, consequential things that order the mass of sensations that harass us daily toward “the things above.”

In the Spiritual Exercises we learn to want steadily what truly matters. They train us to keep our eye on the target, so to speak. We become sensitive to those behaviors in which we engage that contribute to our desires dissipating, losing their fragrance. And we feel a greater attraction to what contributes to a deeply felt knowledge of that to which God is drawing us in his immense and illimitable love.

You may wish to reflect on what is drawing your heart right now.

What are behaviors that dissipate your spiritual strength?

What are the desires that give you peace? That make you feel closer to God? How can you train those desires?

Image Credit: Rawpixel, public domain.

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