The story of the rich young man is haunting, particularly for those of us who like to follow rules and earn our way to the top. We are stunned to find someone who chooses checklists over grace and possessions over accepting Jesus’ personal invitation to “come, follow me.” But are we really all that different?

Ignatius of Loyola, himself a rich young man at the time of his conversion from courtier to companion of Jesus, struggled with the very same issues. Having received the graces of revelation, faith, and prayer, he developed the Spiritual Exercises to help us be open to the same graces in our lives. Ignatius’s “First Principle and Foundation,” which begins the Exercises, offers an ideal reflection for today:

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 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.

—St. Ignatius, as paraphrased by David Fleming, SJ. Click here for prayer card.

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