Anyone who has participated in Boy or Girl Scouts knows the motto: “be prepared.” For Scouts this means being ready in mind and body to do your duty, to do the right thing at the right moment.

As today’s gospel reveals in rather stark examples, to be a disciple means being prepared to encounter Jesus here and now. This type of preparedness requires us to avoid being distracted by petty concerns and trivial pursuits. It calls us to free ourselves from unhealthy attachments to possessions and even people. For, “those who try to make their life secure will lose it, but those who lose their life will keep it.”

To help us better understand what it means to be prepared for a relationship with God, let’s take a moment to reflect on Saint Ignatius’ “First Principle and Foundation,” which opens the first week of his Spiritual Exercises:

The goal of our life is to live with God forever. God, who loves us, gave us life. Our own response of love allows God’s life to flow into us without limit.

All the things in this world are gifts of God, presented to us so that we can know God more easily and make a return of love more readily.

As a result, we appreciate and use all these gifts of God insofar as they help us develop as loving persons. But if any of these gifts become the center of our lives, they displace God and so hinder our growth toward our goal.

In everyday life, then, we must hold ourselves in balance before all of these created gifts insofar as we have a choice and are not bound by some obligation. We should not fix our desires on health or sickness, wealth or poverty, success or failure, a long life or a short one. For everything has the potential of calling forth in us a deeper response to our life in God.

Our only desire and our one choice should be this: I want and I choose what better leads to God’s deepening his life in me.

(A Contemporary Translation by Fr. David Fleming, SJ)

—Jeremy Langford is the director of communications for the Chicago-Detroit Province Jesuits and author of Seeds of Faith: Practices to Grow a Healthy Spiritual Life ©2007 Paraclete Press, Brewster, MA.