The Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius Loyola are best suited for prayer during a silent retreat. However, Ignatius knew that they could also be effective when employed in a less isolated environment. It is the hope of the authors of this blog that you, the reader, find the meditations that we offer here useful in your own search to encounter Christ in prayer in your daily life. The meditations are intended to be prayed in order, from as close to the beginning as possible, perhaps over the course of a dedicated time such as the season of Lent. (more…)
Grace: To remain in the things of the Father, as Jesus did, so that I can love him more dearly and follow him more closely.
Text for Prayer: Lk. 2:41-52
Reflection: The Gospels tell us nothing about the life of Jesus from the moment he returns from Egypt as an infant to the time he begins his public ministry around the age of thirty, with the exception of this one event when he travels with his parents to Jerusalem for the Passover.
Pope Emeritus Benedict, in Jesus of Nazareth, points out that the Torah required every Israelite to make a pilgrimage to the Temple for three great feasts: Passover, Pentecost, and the Feast of Tabernacles. Jesus and his parents were a part of one of these pilgrim communities, on its way to the Temple. In the Temple, these communities journeyed towards a place where they received their identity and unity from their encounter with God.
Rather than returning with his parents to Nazareth, Jesus decides to remain in the Temple. Viewed in light of the pilgrimage, it makes perfect sense that Jesus should desire to stay there, where he tells his parents that he must remain, literally, “in the things of the Father” (Lk. 2:49). Jesus receives his identity directly from God, for he is God, God the Son obedient to the Father’s will.
Grace: To have an heartfelt knowledge of the Lord, who is the Son of God and my brother. That I may love him and following in the service of the Kingdom
Text for Prayer: Luke 2:41-52
Reflection: A great book or film, invites us to consider the life of character who is searching for purpose and longing for meaning. At some point in that journey of self-discovery, the character has an Eureka moment. He or she discovers a truth so profound and meaningful that, simply by realizing it, his or her life will be forever changed. In other words, the character has an epiphany – an insight about God, the world or his or herself that alters everything.
The passage of the finding of Jesus in the temple is a very important passage in the gospel story. According to the law, every adult Jewish male who lived within fifteen miles of Jerusalem had to attend the Passover. Every Jewish person should attend it at least once in a lifetime. A Jewish boy became a man when he turned thirteen years of age. At that moment, he became a son of the law. This is what is celebrated in a Bar Mitzvah, the boy becomes to a ‘son of the commandments’ (A girl becomes a ‘daughter of the commandments’ through a Bat Mitzvah). Through the ritual, a boy dies to his childish ways and becomes a subject of the law. Becoming a subject of the law means that he can properly understand the Torah. This coming of age relates to acquiring wisdom.
Grace: To have an intimate knowledge of the Lord, to love him more devotedly, and to follow him more whole-heartedly.
Text for Prayer: Lk 2:41-52
Reflection: Today’s passage on the finding of Jesus in the temple might raise some prickly questions for us. When we first read Jesus’s response to his mother’s question of “Son, why have you treated us so?” we might ask whether Jesus is treating his human parents unfairly. How could a mother not worry about a son who is missing for three days? Why couldn’t Jesus have told his parents that he needed to spend time in his Heavenly Father’s house? However, this passage contains some pretty profound insights into Jesus’s identity as both the Son of God and the Son of Mary, and it hopefully helps us to understand our own relationship to God and Mary as well.
The fact that Jesus goes up to the Temple each year for the Feast of Passover shows that he is obedient to the Law of Moses. As a devout Jew, he fulfills the obligations of his religion and subjects himself to its precepts, even though he is the Son of God. The fact that Jesus leaves the temple to go home with his parents shows that he ultimately does subject himself to their discipline. Though God, he humbles himself to be obedient to his human parents and conforms his adolescent life to their will. However, Jesus also says that he “must be in [his] Father’s house.” In this way, Jesus maintains the primacy of his obedience to his Father’s will. While obedient to both Law and mother, Jesus is first and foremost the Son of the Father and the one who will ultimately say, “Thy will be done” on Calvary.
Grace: An intimate knowledge of our Lord, Who has become man for me, that I may love Him more and follow Him more closely.
Text for Prayer: Lk. 2: 40-50
Reflection: An 18-year-old boy, Paul, enters Notre Dame Cathedral on Christmas Day 1886: he is a bright non-believer. Hearing Vespers and taking in the architectural beauty of the cathedral, he leaves convinced not only of God’s existence, but that God had ordered the world and placed mankind at the center of it. The French poet, dramatist, and ambassador Paul Claudel’s (1868-1955) entire adult life was influenced by, and dedicated to, his Catholic faith. His own sister, Camille, was a famed sculptress who rejected the faith of their forbears for her entire life. Like Paul Claudel, Jesus’s life of faithful service to God – being “about my Father’s business” – starts in a temple of God, and would face rejection.
After reading of Jesus’ birth in Luke’s Gospel, we learn nothing of his childhood save that he grows in age, strength and wisdom. Like every good observant Jewish family, Mary and Joseph take the young Jesus every year up to Jerusalem for the days-long feast of Passover. And then Jesus turns twelve years old, and with God’s favor upon him (Lk 2:40), he decides to remain at the temple. Joseph and Mary set out to return to Nazareth in a caravan, unaware of their lost son.
Grace: an intimate knowledge of our Lord, Who has become man for me, that I may love Him more and follow Him more closely.
Text for Prayer: Lk. 2: 41-50
Reflection: Few choices in life are so obvious that even someone with the worst-formed conscience could easily make a good decision. St. Ignatius even notes in his second set of “Rules for the Discernment of Spirits” that the Evil Spirit can trick us, presenting as good something that is actually evil. So he provides guidelines in his “Rules” to help us consider carefully the decision at hand.
But St. Ignatius did not just want people to be able to choose good over evil. St. Ignatius recognized that a person can be presented with two good options that are not compatible with each other- the life of a husband and the life of a monk, for instance. He is very concerned that a person chooses not just what is good, but what is best. Ignatius shows this concern when speaking about the magis. “Magis” is a Latin word that can translate to “the greater good”. There is another Latin word, “satis”, that can mean “what is good enough”. These words are the origin for “magnificent” and “satisfactory”, respectively. So another way to think about it when St. Ignatius says to strive for the magis is to work for that which is magnificently good, instead of that which is satisfactorily good.
One contemplation that Ignatius proposes to help us understand this more clearly is that of the finding in the Temple. At the age of twelve, Mary and Joseph take Jesus to the Temple. After they left with the caravan, Jesus stayed behind. Even if they never outright said to Jesus that He was to go back with them, there could not have been any doubt in Jesus’ mind that this was the will of His mother and foster-father. There isn’t any question of Jesus choosing between good and evil. He is choosing between two good things- to obey the will of His parents, borne out of a love and concern for His well-being on the one hand; and to be about His Father’s business on the other. “Both” is not an option. Jesus must decide which good thing is the magis.
And when Mary and Joseph arrive, and Mary scolds Jesus for worrying them, He asks “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be about my Father’s business?” For Jesus, it is clear that He must seek to do the Father’s will in every situation. It is so clear to Him that He does not understand why Mary and Joseph would have had any doubt where to look for Him. His attitude of “where else would I be?” is an example of Jesus’ single-minded drive to do the Father’s will, a drive seen so often throughout the Gospels. This is true all the way to Gethsemane and the Cross- where even there He says “not my will but yours be done” (Lk. 22:42).
Even for Jesus, to leave His parents at the age of twelve is a dangerous proposition. In choosing to do the Father’s will, Jesus is giving up a home, security, the care of family, and everything He has grown up with. He is the embodiment of the First Principle and Foundation. His overriding concern is not for comfort or safety, but for the magis and the Father’s will. Again, we see the Call of the King being played out here. Jesus is choosing to endure any hardships necessary out of a love for the Father and a desire to constantly be doing the Father’s will. He is fulfilling His promise in the Call that he would also toil and live without comforts in order to complete the Father’s mission. Like Jesus, we must constantly ask ourselves what we are willing to do for the sake of the love of God.
Questions: Think of the love for Jesus that Mary and Joseph show as they are looking for Him. How could Jesus choose something besides this? What are times in your own life that you have had to choose between two good things? What motivated your choice? How does that motivation compare with Jesus’ motivation for staying in the Temple?