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 grow in an intimate knowledge of the Lord, allowing the Beatitudes to be my way to love and to follow Christ.
Text for Prayer: Mt. 5:1-12
Reflection: After his baptism and the time he spends in the desert, Jesus recognizes that the call to action has come. It is time for him to proclaim and prepare the way of God’s Kingdom. In order to do this, Jesus calls twelve disciples. Right before the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew shows us Jesus selecting the disciples who will be his fellow-workers. If helpers and assistants are to embrace the Kingdom, they must first have instruction.
The Sermon on the Mount is Jesus’s instruction of his disciples. In it, Jesus shows the disciples what the Kingdom of God is all about and that the Kingdom of God is here already but not yet fully. One great scholar called the Sermon on the Mount “the ordination address to the Twelve.” It is Jesus’s lesson to the twelve before their time of apprenticeship and companionship with the Lord. The Sermon is the Manifesto of the King, a moment of formal teaching when Jesus opens his heart and pours out his mind to his disciples. In doing so, he teaches the disciples that the Kingdom of God invites us to open our hearts and pour out our lives for the sake of the world.
Grace: To grow in poverty of spirit as a person of the Beatitudes during this Lenten season.
Text for Prayer: Mt 5:1-12
Reflection: Jesus tells us in his sermon on the mount: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven,” In the sermon at his installation mass yesterday, Pope Francis likewise called on current government and church leaders to “protect all of God’s people and embrace with tender affection the whole of humanity, especially the poorest, the weakest, the least important.” For it is in love of the poor that we find heaven on earth.
These are challenging words in a world that revolves economically around capitalist self-interest and socialist materialism, but they are perhaps even more difficult for us to incorporate on a personal level, as we too often assume that “somebody else” should be poor with the poor while we look after ourselves.
Jesus does not say that we should merely help the poor, but be poor in spirit with the poor, to be poor ourselves.
Grace: To grow in an intimate knowledge of the Lord, allowing the Beatitudes to be a way to love and to follow Christ.
Text: Mt. 5: 1-12
Reflection: We are all looking for the secret on how to “make it” in this world. We want lasting happiness and the feeling of accomplishment. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus begins with the Beatitudes, which provide a straightforward path on how to live a blessed and happy life.
If we have been freely given the secret to happiness, then why aren’t people ending their chase for fleeting passions to pursue what can only make them truly happy? Because being poor in spirit, mourning, pure of heart, etc. seem contradictory to being happy. The world tells us we need ambition and greed in order to be happy, not poverty of spirit. Reality TV shows dictate that we need constant drama to have a meaningful life, not peacemaking. The media explicitly expresses that we cannot live without sex, and purity of heart and intention is folly. Wall Street upholds that the hard-boiled are blessed, not the meek. Thus, the world sees no value in the Beatitudes. (more…)
Grace: To see Jesus more clearly, to love Him more dearly and to follow Him more nearly.
Text: Matthew 5: 1-20
Reflection: Ignatius recommends praying with three points from the Sermon on the Mount: the Beatitudes, the exhortation to be the light of the world, and Christ as the fulfillment of the law.
Someone once told me he found it much easier to follow the Ten Commandments than to follow the Beatitudes. I think a lot of people would agree; the commandments are more direct, their expectations clearer. But the flipside is the inexhaustible riches of the Beatitudes (a word that means profound and lasting happiness).
Why do the Beatitudes follow the model of ‘Blessed are…for they shall?’ At first glance, we might expect ‘Blessed will the meek be, for they shall inherit the earth’ or ‘Blessed are the meek, for they have inherited the earth.’ But instead we have a combination of times, the present and the future. The Lord is calling us to let our future happiness flow into our present lives, allowing us to experience a profound happiness now despite the circumstances in which we may find ourselves.
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: Mt. 5
Reflection: Jesus taught not only by words but also through symbolic actions. The cleansing of the temple is the most famous. In the Sermon on the Mount, we see the combination of both word and symbolic action. The fact that he goes up to a mountain to give this new law immediately reminds us of Moses who received the Law upon Mt. Sinai and then delivered it to the people. Jesus, however, doesn’t receive the New Law on tablets. He is the New Law. He embodies God’s action in the world. Therefore, we have before us a new and greater Moses. Just as the law of Sinai helped form the identity of a people, so will the New Law of the Sermon on the Mount form the new People of God who profess the name of Jesus.
In order to enter into meditation upon the Sermon on the Mount, it is helpful to place ourselves in that group of people who will hear Jesus’ word. Together we will be a people who will live out this Law and embody it in the world. Notice that some people are rich while others are poor. Women and men gather. Jews are present, but also the random Gentile living in the area who has heard of this charismatic figure preaching in the wilderness. What does Jesus say?
We hear the Beatitudes. Notice, first of all, that the Beatitudes give us a perfect description of Jesus himself who was poor in Spirit (relying upon his Father for everything), meek, merciful, peace-making, and persecuted for righteousness. To understand the Beatitudes, we need only look at Christ.
We hear in verses 13 through 16 that we are not to hide our lights under a bushel basket. Our talents are not meant to be squandered. The Father has plans for us. We are to listen to the voice of Christ our King, calling us into his service. Where will this service take us? The message is meant for all people, so the scope of Christ’s call is universal.
Finally, Jesus says that he is not a transgressor of the Law, but the Law’s fulfillment. More than mere fulfillment of the Law’s commands, Jesus lives the Law’s Spirit. His whole being—every thought, word, and action—is obedient to the Father. Therefore, those who live in His Spirit will live this life of total dedication. They will be the true lovers of this world, desiring what God desires: the salvation of all people, even enemies.
Questions: This is a wealthy section of Scripture. Which section most draws your heart? Who are you in the crowd? What are your reactions to the words Jesus proclaims?