19.1 Three Degrees of Loving. 101: Proactive Love.


The “Second Week”: Week Nineteen/Session One.

Theme: Three Ways of Loving.

Our reading for today: Luke 19: 1-10.

Then Jesus entered and walked through Jericho. There was a man there, his name Zacchaeus, the head tax man and quite rich. He wanted desperately to see Jesus, but the crowd was in his way—he was a short man and couldn’t see over the crowd. So he ran on ahead and climbed up in a sycamore tree so he could see Jesus when He came by. When Jesus got to the tree, He looked up and said, “Zacchaeus, hurry down. Today is My day to be a guest in your home.” Zacchaeus scrambled out of the tree, hardly believing his good luck, delighted to take Jesus home with him. Everyone who saw the incident was indignant and grumped, “What business does He have getting cozy with this crook?”

Zacchaeus just stood there, a little stunned. He stammered apologetically, “Master, I give away half my income to the poor—and if I’m caught cheating, I pay four times the damages.” Jesus said, “Today is salvation day in this home! Here he is: Zacchaeus, son of Abraham! For the Son of Man came to find and restore the lost.” (Luke 19: 1-10 MsgB)

St. Ignatius saw life through a series of lenses or degrees. For him, if you or I obtained a love for Jesus, he would insist that we not stop there, but that we keep pushing forward into that love of Christ so that we might find an even greater degree or expression of that love. Ignatius often used the Greek word “magis,” for example, when talking about these varying degrees of life we find ourselves in. This word “magis” can be translated as “more” or “greater.” So when it came to talking about our inward love for God and the outward expression of that love toward others, Ignatius wrote of three levels or degrees of that expressed love; with each level or degree becoming “more” or “greater” than the previous.

Some might use the series of adjectives: Great, Greater and Greatest. For me, however, I much prefer using an approach to Ignatius’ Three Degrees of Love (he called them Three Kinds of Humility) by using terminology used primarily in the classroom; thus my table below:

Three Degrees of Loving.

101: Proactive Love: Our all in all for God.

201: Unlimited Love: Beyond our limitations.

301: Outlandish Love: Beyond our imaginations.

Today, class, let’s tackle Level One.

As I see it, Jesus of Nazareth was our Master teacher when modeling this first level of proactive love that flows from the Father toward His broken world. Today’s scripture is a prime example of how you and I need to be obedient in loving the un-loveables of this world.

You see, for Ignatius, the beginning level of humility (expressing God’s agape love toward others) is when you or I act, in obedience, on the proactive initiative of Jesus’ commission. You see, when Jesus commissions and sends His disciples in His Name into the world, the primary command of that commission is to humble oneself and simply “Go & Love.” And as my mentor, John Wimber, used to say, it’s really clear how much you and I love Jesus when we either act (or don’t act) on that simple & basic command.

Let me put it this way: In God’s Kingdom economy, Go & Love is good. Stay & Do Nothing is bad. Get it?

So throughout the Gospels, we find Jesus modeling this basic level of agape love by simply going to the people and proactively loving ‘the hell’ out of everyone He met. Zacchaeus is a prime example of this Proactive Love-101. For Jesus, He was simply being obedient to God’s command as He went to the streets, proactively reaching out to God’s lost sheep, even when the voices of earthly reason told Him to do otherwise. Next time, we’ll discuss the greater degree of Love. 201: Loving outside our limitations. But for now, I say…

My prayer: Wow, Jesus, make me obedient, just as You were, to the Father’s basic commission to “Go & Love”. Holy Spirit, empower me and, if need be, kick me in the rump, so that I get out of my comfy chair and go, proactively, in Your Name, to the lost and the least of my community. Loving and caring deeply, for Your name’s sake. Amen.

My questions to ponder: So how have I been failing God at living my life even at what St. Ignatius viewed as the basic level of Christian love? Am I truly proactive with God’s agape love, acting obediently, as Jesus did? Am I being proactively inviting and accepting of those like Zacchaeus? Am I going to those who are the outcasts of my society, loving them deeply even though society encourages me to dislike them instead?

So what is God speaking to you today as we ponder together The Ignatian Adventure?

Over an eight month period, you and I will be working our way through the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius. For more information on our journey and how to begin…click here!

To go onto the next journal entry…click here.

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