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 know Jesus, the Son of God and my brother, so that I may love more fervently and follow him more closely.
Text for Prayer: Lk. 2: 51-52
Reflection: After Jesus’ parents find him in the temple and he returns with them to Nazareth, St. Luke tells us that Jesus was obedient to his parents, advancing in “wisdom, age, and grace before God.” We can only assume that the family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph was like any other family in the village of Nazareth. Jesus grew up like any other young man in his small town and most likely learned the trade of carpentry from his father, Joseph. They worked to support themselves and had relationships with other people in their village that were typical of the village craftsmen of their time.
We hear much talk about marriage and family these days, especially as the Church’s Extraordinary Synod on the Family approaches. Paragraph 17 of the Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris Consortio, released after a previous synod on the family held in 1980, emphasized that the family is a community of persons, that serves life, participates in the development of society, and shares in the life and mission of the Church. Ideally, the family should be that first place where we learn to pray and love as Jesus did, a love that is for the sake of the other and calls us to sacrifice ourselves for the sake of others.
Grace: To have heartfelt knowledge of Jesus who is the Son of God and my brother, so that I may love him more fervently and follow him more closely.
Text for Prayer: Luke 2:51-52
Reflection: In Jesus’ public ministry, his parables are down to earth and make use of common images and experiences of people at that time. The simplest explanation for how Jesus was able to utilize these scenes from everyday life was that he actually lived them himself. Today’s Gospel text offers us an opportunity to enter into the mystery Jesus’ working life. The fact that he worked most of his life as a poor day laborer, shepherd, carpenter, and/or general handyman should make us reflect on the many good things work has to offer us.
Jesus’ work has two dimensions—the human and the divine. Throughout all of his life both dimensions are active: “But Jesus answered them, ‘My Father is working still, and I am working.’” (Jn 5:17). All Jesus does is in relation to the Father—we see this in him already as a twelve-year-old. Let this knowledge guide our imaginative prayer.
Grace: To grow in an interior knowledge of Christ’s example in Nazareth so as to live my life as he lived his.
Reading: Luke 2:51-52
Reflection: I doubt few Israelites in Jesus’ time were packing the family station wagons and heading up to Nazareth for their annual summer vacation. Most biblical scholars consider Jesus’ Nazareth to have been a boring, unspectacular kind of place. The powerful elite of Jerusalem probably considered it to be, at best, a forgotten roadside town.
Jesus is probably the one and only reason why Nazareth ever made it on the map and in the history books (and that’s a pretty good reason). It was in the quiet little Nazareth town that Jesus began to know his Father face-to-face. In the ordinary days’ routines, day by day, week by week, year by year, he came to a radical relationship with God the Father. Pope Benedict writes about Jesus saying, “He lives before the face of God, not just as a friend, but as a Son; he lives in the most intimate unity with the Father.” Jesus didn’t become this way in a vacuum, but in the dusty, forgotten village of Nazareth: sleeping under the roof of Mary and Joseph, sitting at the kitchen table eating breakfast, standing at the lathe carving out a piece of furniture, reading and praying at the local synagogue. And so it was in this little town that Christ the King (like David, Moses and so many of the prophets before him) came from such a humble beginning.
Grace: To know Christ more nearly, so as to follow Him more closely and love Him more deeply.
Text for Prayer: Luke 2:51-52
Reflection: What the Scriptures explicitly say about the life of Jesus after He is found in the Temple by Mary and Joseph but before He begins His public ministry is extremely brief. But that does not mean the Scriptures do not have very much to teach us about this part of Jesus’ life! What follow are two points with which we can spend some meditative time.
First, consider that Jesus, God Incarnate, Ruler and Creator of all that is, was obedient to human parents for about 30 years! How do we consider this extraordinary humility of Jesus? It took shape amidst the most usual tasks of day-to-day family life: the carpenter’s shop with Joseph, the home with Mary, observing the Sabbath. The majority of Jesus’ life was spent in this rhythm of every-day fidelity.
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: Luke 2:51-52
Reflection: See the house in Nazareth where Jesus grew up. See the place where Mary and Joseph live, where they gather together and work.
Jesus Christ is the model for all of us. Everything about Him, everything He does is a lesson for us in how we may be complete as human beings and as subjects to the Divine King. Just as Mary kept Jesus’ words and deeds as material for a holy pondering in her heart, we too are to do the same. While we are often mesmerized by the greatest of His deeds recounted in the four Gospels, perhaps the most instructive for our everyday lives are those everyday deeds that Jesus took upon Himself as a model of perfect humanity. We must let this hidden life of our King impress upon our hearts deeply those lessons which we so often forget in the hustle and bustle of our lives. Too often we are centered on something other than living as a child of God.
Take in the atmosphere of such a peaceful and holy home. Imagine the tranquility and order of such a place during those hidden years of our Lord. Let your eyes become fixed on the young Jesus and let your companionship with Him grow. Let the ice that surrounds your heart melt away and let yourself become aware of God’s love for you in your humanity as you see Jesus in His humanity. Jesus has come to meet you with none of the grandeur and majesty to strike your unaccustomed eyes; all is immediate humanity on this day. The heart that beats within Jesus’ chest fits perfectly into your own. Allow the words of Saint Paul to apply to your own inner longings for closeness to Christ: “It is no longer I that live but Christ that lives in me.” (Gal 2:20)
Jesus is set on doing the will of His Father at all times through obedience to Joseph and Mary. This is the trajectory of His Divine Heart. Jesus’ nobility shines through in His being more than His doing now. Far from desiring something more regal, notice how Jesus delights in the simple accommodations offered Him during His hidden life. He takes delight in what has been designed by His Father in Heaven. Jesus is able to see and accept Mary and Joseph as instruments the Father’s divine will. See the promptness that the hidden King attends to their voices. See how lovingly He conforms to their will, “subject to them.” (Luke 2:51)
His hidden life is one of love for His earthly family, one of work, one of poverty, one of humble concealment, one of interior life. And see how every heartbeat of Our Lord is a prayer as His zeal for completing His mission, begun in meekness, burns within Him.
Questions: What are the three most important changes that I would have to make to more closely resemble the Hidden King in His humble early life? Are there things that get in the way of those changes? Should there be things in the way? How can I draw nearer to Jesus in His humility?
Pray: Oh Jesus my King, grant that I may look upon Your life and see the secret to living close to Your heart. Teach me perfect obedience to those that I owe it to. Teach me to imitate that inner prayer that You model for me as King and Lamb. Teach me to be an instrument of ministry as You came to minister rather than be ministered to. Teach me to accept my current situation according to the will of Our Father, and if it is to His greater Glory, let me follow You more closely in every way: in work, in poverty, in concealment, in humility and, most importantly, in love.