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 the Lord, so that I may love Him more and follow Him more closely, always trusting that He is there to help me through the storms of my life.
Text: Mt. 14: 22-33
In a post featured on this blog a few years ago, David Paternostro, SJ, provides the following words that can be helpful for picturing the scene in this passage and using the passage for prayer:
Jesus is in the storm with the Apostles, walking toward the boat, when He sees that they are even more scared because they think He is a ghost, He calls out to them “Courage! It’s me! Don’t be afraid.” (Mt. 14:27). The Apostles are not given sunshine, calm waters, and a good breeze, but they are given the strength to endure the storm…
Upon seeing Jesus, Peter calls out “Lord, if it is You, tell me to come to You across the water” (v. 28). Jesus’ response is simple: “Come”. Peter climbs out of the boat, starts to walk on the water, and things are fine, at first. While Peter is walking on the water, he begins “noticing the wind” and becomes afraid (v. 30). At that moment, what matters most to Peter is not that the Lord is with him, but that the wind is dangerous. So he begins to sink.
Even though Peter failed Jesus and doubted His care for him, and even though Jesus could expect Peter to do so again, He saves Peter from the waters. For Jesus to just say to Peter “Why should I bother with you? I can find another apostle who won’t keep doing this” would be understandable. But this is not the way of Jesus. Instead, He answers Peter’s plea for help by taking Peter by the hand, as one might take a child.
Grace: To know Jesus, who calms our storms and invites us to collaborate on his work, that others may know that he is our shepherd.
Text for Prayer: Matthew 14:22-33
Reflection: One of my favourite films is P. T. Anderson’s Magnolia. In this film, there is a scene where it rains frogs. It is a powerful and striking scene. Most people after watching the film wonder the significance of the amphibian downpour. The scene grabs their attention and, as they focus on it, they missed the effect it had on the characters in the film. The miracle of Jesus walking on water grabs our attention and we need to examine it carefully. In the process, we might miss the significance and effect this powerful moment had on the disciples.
In his account of the story, John tells us that “A strong wind was blowing and the waters grew rough” (Jn 6:18). Mark and Matthew both comment that the wind was against the boat. In all three accounts, there is a sense that the boat was in rough water. In Mark and Matthew, the wind stopped. In John, even though there is no mention of the wind stopping, once Jesus was in the boat with the disciples, they “arrived at the land to which they were going” (Jn 6:21). Jesus came to their aid. In some ways, this story is similar to Jesus’ stilling of the storm (Mk 4:35-41). Yet, there is something particular to this narrative. In it, (Mk 6:47-52; Mt 14:24-33; Jn 6:16-21) the Evangelists stressed a physical and a spiritual reality within the context of what Jesus tells the disciples when he meets them.
In terms of the physical reality, this story indicates that Jesus is the Son of God who walked on water and calmed the storming wind. He has power over nature. The disciples recognized this, and were astonished and worshipped him. The narrative also points to the spiritual significance this account had for the disciples, and later on it for the Church and for all of us. St. Augustine of Hippo invites us to reflect on this story in this way: “Let us think of the ship as the Church and the faithful soul. The sea is this world. The wind and the waves are persecutions and temptations. When the wind arises, the ship is tossed: but because Christ is there, it cannot sink.”
The author of The Confessions draws us into a reflection of the strong winds that at times affect our Church and our souls. In the midst of great scandals or persecution against the Church, or when we give into temptations or our problems seem too big, we seem overwhelmed by what is happening around us and may begin to wonder where Jesus is in the midst of all of it. And then the unthinkable happens. We recognize Jesus in the midst of the storm, when the winds might be picking up. At first, we might doubt that it is Jesus who comes to our aid. As we struggle with the winds and with our doubts, Jesus’ loving and compelling call draws us close to his Sacred Heart: “Take heart, it is I. Do not be afraid” (Mt 14:27).
One thing is certain, Jesus invites us to take heart, to take courage. He calls us to leave our fears and doubts behind. He is our shepherd, there is nothing we shall want (Ps 23). He will lead us beside still waters and will restore our Church and our souls. Even when I walk in the darkest valley, when I find myself in the midst of a storm, I shall not fear; for he is with me. He is by my side. He gives me courage.
To me, when Jesus says, “Take heart, it is I”, he is also inviting us to take his heart – to get to know him. He is calling us into a deeper relationship with him. He knows that struggles are part of our human condition. There will always be problems, persecutions and temptations. There are no easy solutions or quick fixes for most of them. Thus, he invite us to find courage, wisdom and strength in our relationship with him.
The invitation to take the Heart of Jesus is also a summons to allow our heart to become unto his Heart. It is an invitation to receive the sensus Christi that we may see like Jesus sees, think like Jesus thinks and feel like Jesus feels. It is an invitation to collaborate with Jesus in the work of redemption. As we enter into a deeper relationship with Christ, our sorrows and problems acquire a new perspective. Jesus becomes our very strength and we are drawn closer to those who, like us, are suffering and in need of comfort and peace.
The storms will continue. Many will struggle and doubt that anyone will come to their assistance. Jesus invites us to collaborate in his plan of bringing comfort, peace, justice, beauty, truth and love to those in need. He is calling us to deepen our bond with him so that we might become more like him. He is inviting us to feel with the feelings of his Heart, which are basically love for his Father and love for all women and men. Jesus is calling us to recognize the chaos and the suffering in our Church and in our soul, and in response to learn compassion – to “suffer with” those in need. We are called to be compassionate with the poor, the alienate, the infirm. We are called to help Jesus calm the storms of their lives. We are invited to stand along their side, and to invite them to see that the Lord is our shepherd and there is nothing we shall want.
Questions: What are the storms in my life Jesus wants to calm? Have I ever felt with the feelings of the Sacred Heart of Jesus? How do I feel about feeling in that way? How do I receive Jesus’ invitation to collaborate with him in the work of redemption?
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: Matthew 14: 22-33
Reflection: Today Peter challenges the Lord to prove that he is who says he is. How is this different from Satan’s challenge to Jesus to prove that he is the Son of God? We heard that story at the beginning of Lent, how Satan took Jesus to the parapet of the Temple and said: “If you are the Son of God, cast yourself down. For it is written: ‘He will command his angels concerning you’ and ‘with their hands they will support you, lest you dash your foot against a stone.’ ” (Mt 4:6)
Both Peter and Satan say to Jesus, if you are who you say that you are then prove it. But Peter’s challenge is a topsy-turvy one. He actually puts himself to the test. Peter says to the Lord, “Lord, if it is you, bid me come to you on the water.” If it really is you, Lord, make me risk my life. Command me to do something that I can do only if my faith in you is strong enough. What he is really saying is: Lord, put me to the test! (more…)
Grace: To know Jesus more intimately, to love Him more devotedly, and to follow him more whole-heartedly.
Text for Prayer: Mt. 14:22-33
Reflection: The passage from Matthew’s Gospel that will be the subject of today’s prayer describes an unlikely encounter of the apostles (and particularly Peter) with Jesus during a journey at sea. Asked to go ahead of Him while He goes up to a mountaintop to pray, they are not aware of Jesus’s presence with them and are startled by His appearance upon the waters.
Not sure of what to make of what he seems to be seeing, Peter tests the vision in order to determine whether it is Jesus or only a ghost. He asks the Lord to bid him to come out to Him, walking on the water, and Jesus says, “Come.” At first, all is well and Peter is able to walk toward Jesus. But he then falls into fear of the waves and the wind. While he first is filled with amazement at his own walking on water, Peter realizes after a few steps that he is no longer relying upon himself, and this terrifies him.
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. 14:22-33
Reflection: Once before (Mt. 8:23-27), the Apostles were in a boat in the midst of a raging storm. That time, Jesus was with them. This time, He sent the Apostles ahead of Him while He tended to the crowds. Their Master was nowhere in sight. As far as the Apostles were concerned, they would have to fend for themselves in the storm without the aid of the Master. But Jesus was with them.
The Psalmist proclaims that “even thought I walk through a valley dark as death, I should fear no danger, for you are at my side” (Ps. 23:4). He never says he knows he will be fine because he can see God, but only that “your rod and your staff comfort me” (23:5). Despite the fact that the Apostles couldn’t see Jesus and thought that they were alone, He was in the storm just as they were.
Jesus is in the storm with the Apostles, walking toward the boat, when He sees that they are even more scared because they think He is a ghost, He calls out to them “Courage! It’s me! Don’t be afraid.” (Mt. 14:27). The Apostles are not given sunshine, calm waters, and a good breeze, but they are given the strength to endure the storm. With the courage Jesus has given them, they may walk through the valley of death without fear, so long as Jesus is there to strengthen and console them.
Upon seeing Jesus, Peter calls out “Lord, if it is You, tell me to come to You across the water” (v. 28). Jesus’ response is simple: “Come”. Peter climbs out of the boat, starts to walk on the water, ad things are fine, at first. While Peter is walking on the water, he begins “noticing the wind” and “he took fright” (v. 30). At that moment, what matters most to Peter is not that the Lord is with him, but that the wind is dangerous. So he begins to sink.
Even though Peter failed Jesus and doubted His care for him, and even though Jesus could expect Peter to do so again, He saves Peter from the waters. For Jesus to just say to Peter “Why should I bother with you? I can find another apostle who won’t keep doing this.” would be understandable. But this is not the way of Jesus. Instead, He answers Peter’s plea for help by taking Peter by the hand, as one might take a child.
After this, Jesus rebukes Peter’s lack of faith- and rightly so- asking “why did you doubt?” Peter knew first-hand that in all his labors and tasks, the Lord had never abandoned him or failed to provide for him- not twelve hours before he saw the Lord miraculously provide for 5,000 people. In rebuking Peter, Jesus rebukes Peter’s doubt that He will not provide for Peter and that He will not be there in Peter’s endeavors to assist him. After all this, Jesus leads Peter back into the boat, and the storms cease. Upon seeing all of this, the Apostles confess simply “Truly, you are the Son of God” (v. 33).
Questions: Why don’t the Apostles recognize Jesus? Why does Jesus take Peter back? When have you been in this situation, where you were afraid and overwhelmed, when Jesus reminds you that He is with you?