Ignatian Indifference on Steroids
“To have courage for whatever comes in life, everything lies in that." ~ St. Teresa of Avila
Extraordinary faith and spiritual fortitude is on full display in today’s 1st Reading (Daniel 3:14-20, 91-92, 95) as we look in on Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego as they square off against the mighty King Nebuchadnezzar. I would wager to say that lectors around the world paused to say an extra Hail Mary before approaching the ambo and attempting to recite this Reading with minimal flubs.
When told to bow down before the golden statue that King Nebuchadnezzar demanded they serve and worship or face the consequences, in this instance a rendezvous with a white hot furnace, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego‘s collective response is one for the ages. “There is no need for us to defend ourselves before you in this matter,” they replied in almost taunting fashion, going on to say “if our God, whom we serve, can save us from the white-hot furnace and from your hands, O king, may he save us! But even if he will not, know, O king, that we will not serve your god or worship the golden statue that you set up.”
These men were so firm and resolute in their faith in God and their utter refusal to idolize anyone or anything else, that they completely divorced themselves from the outcome.
....God may miraculously save us....or maybe he won’t....
But God’s will as it pertained to their individual plight was, in their eyes, irrelevant. To quote the great Bobby Weir of the Grateful Dead in their seminal classic Jack Straw, “now the die is shaken, now the die must fall.”
As this reading unfolded at daily mass this morning I couldn’t help but think of Saint Ignatius and the discipline of “Ignatian Indifference,” a spiritual mindset that he espoused so ardently throughout his life.
Saint Ignatius believed that human freedom, when harnessed properly, allows the individual to grow in perfect relationship with God and to subsequently share in God’s redemptive work. He believed that this required internal freedom, or what Ignatius called “indifference.” He defined indifference as being detached enough from things, people, or in the case of our protagonists in today’s Reading, their experiences so as to be able to either take them up or leave them aside, depending on whether they help them “to praise, revere, and serve God.” In other words, it’s the capacity to let go of what doesn’t help one to love God or love others while staying engaged with what does. Saint Ignatius knew that if he were to perfect this mindset, results and outcomes were largely immaterial against the backdrop of eternity. They were, in essence, merely a matter of God’s perfect will unfolding per his larger, overarching divine plan.
This is of course very challenging. Who among us would opt for sickness over health, poverty over riches, a short life over a long one? It takes enormous faith in God’s plan and an eye fixed doggedly on the heavenly finish line. The wisdom and knowledge to understand that the crosses we bear in this life, however excruciating, will one day be long forgotten against the vast backdrop of eternal life. Or as Saint Thomas More once said, “Earth hath no sorrow that heaven cannot heal.”
“We adore you O Christ and we praise you, for by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.”