In the Spiritual Exercises, one of the key meditations is the Call of the King, in which we imagine Christ as a great king who invites us to join his cause to do God’s work in the world.
The really interesting part of the Call of the King exercise is what Ignatius has to say about our response to Christ’s call. We might respond in two different ways. One way is the “reasonable” response. What would a normal, sensible person do upon hearing an invitation to join a great leader in an effort to bring peace, justice, and prosperity to the world? Of course you’d sign up. Who wouldn’t? Ignatius writes, “All persons who have judgment and reason will offer themselves entirely for this work.”
. . . But you could go further—much further. . . . He speaks of people who will “give greater proof of their love,” who will act against their natural inclinations and “make offerings of greater value.” People who want this will be willing even to suffer the same abuse and rejection that Christ suffered. (Jim Manney, God Finds Us, 71–72)
Today, it’s pretty unnatural to think of following a king; there are few true kings in existence anymore; certainly those of us in the industrialized world would hesitate to follow any one person, whether king, prime minister, or president. We are not conditioned to give full allegiance to any one entity; the closest we come is allegiance to country, but even those boundaries become fuzzy in a world that is influenced as much by multinational corporations as by national governments.
For me, the Call of the King exercise relates to core beliefs upon which I try to ground my whole life. I believe in God the Creator, who loves me, the created. If I am to thrive in this life and help the whole world thrive, then I will do so by following the truth, wisdom, and love I learn in the midst of my life with God.
The whole world works better when we approach our individual lives as being intertwined with all other lives but also rooted in the reality of God. When we are motivated by this reality, then we naturally involve ourselves with compassion, justice, kindness, creativity, integrity, generosity, and so on. In the old days, we would have followed a king whose character and example showed us the best way to live. History has taught us that no one human authority figure can provide, without fail, that kind of guidance. So we Christians look to the broader and deeper example of God as revealed through our sacred stories; also the example of Jesus of Nazareth, who gave the eternal, almighty divine a human face; also the example of the community of faith, which reaches backward and forward, which is flawed yet continues the endeavor to love life and this world the way God loves them.
- How, and where, do allegiance and commitment manifest in your life?
- Upon what do you center, or ground, your goals, emotions, beliefs, and values?