were once three groups of persons, who had a considerable sum of money, but they were not sure whether they could keep it. All realised they needed to take a decision, but each group went about it in a different way.

The first group were really determined to decide, but somehow never got down to it. There always seemed to be a good reason: they were so busy, they always had another more urgent decision to take… In practice they never decided.

The second group was more pro-active. When they considered giving up the money, someone pointed out they could do so much good with it, it would be wrong to give it back. Slowly they convinced themselves that since they could do so much good with the money, then certainly God wanted them to keep it and use it for a good purpose. It was so obvious: there was no need to consider any change.

The third group got straight to the point. They prayed for freedom and felt deep in their hearts that they were ready to do whatever God wanted of them. They were free both to keep the money and to give it up: what really mattered was what God wanted them to do.

This simple parable, proposed by St Ignatius when speaking about taking decisions, is a mirror of what happens in our hearts when we face a decision. I can be like the first group, I tell myself I want to decide, I need to, it is very important…yet I procrastinate, and never take the necessary steps to arrive at a decision.

Or I can be like the second group, those who go half way: I am not ready to leave what I already have or do, I want God to come where I am so that I do not need to go where He wants me to.  Where I am is so obviously good there is no need to consider changing.

Or I can be like the third group, really free to seek what God wants of me, ready to do it.

Most probably we move from one group to the other. What is really important is to realise that without interior freedom I will never be able to take a good decision. We have all sorts of blind spots and strong attachments, hidden agendas, some of which we might not even be aware of.

Lord give me a free heart.

From God’s word:

◦ “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. For you were called to freedom, brothers and sisters.” – Gal 5

◦ “For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? For what can a man give in return for his soul?” – Mk 8

◦ “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” – Mt 6

◦ “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” – Mt 6


  • With which of the three groups do you identify most?
  • Is there any decision you know you need to take yet you never seem to manage?
  • Do you feel that you are a free person interiorly? Try to think of someone whose freedom you admire, and ask yourself how you can become more free. Pray to be given this grace.

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Note where the third person begins: she is not sure whether or not God is asking her to give up the possession; she simply desires to be free to do what God wants her to do. So she begins by asking God what she should do. She is open to how God directs her through her prayer, her experience, her reasoning through different options, her discernment of consolations and desolations, and the wise counsel of others.

The truly free person checks her motivations, which are often mixed. She tries to choose from a desire to better serve God and others. The third person may feel some attachment to the possession and does not mind waiting to make a decision. But she does not procrastinate. She does make a timely decision. — Kevin O’Brien, SJ

– See more at: An Ignatian Prayer Adventure – Week 5

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