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 have heartfelt knowledge of Jesus who wept over his friend Lazarus, so that I may love him more fervently and follow him more closely.
Text for Prayer: John 11: 1-44
Reflection: This past Sunday, we all heard this rather lengthy reading from John’s Gospel, in which Jesus raises his friend, Lazarus, from the dead. At the end of story, we can look back and better understand Jesus’ actions from the beginning. But if we were to insert ourselves into the various scenes of this passage, we cannot help but be like the disciples, Martha and Mary, who wonder why Jesus doesn’t immediately go to cure Lazarus if he considers him such a good friend or what Jesus means when he says that Lazarus is sleeping. Even after Lazarus dies and Jesus finally does come to Bethany, we might wonder if Mary stays at home because she is pouting and Martha’s initial reaction to Jesus is more filled with sarcasm than anything else: “Thanks for caring, Jesus. My brother wouldn’t have died if you had been here.” And finally, we cannot help but cover our noses outside of the tomb and think, “Why does this man want to open the tomb of a man who has been dead for four days?”
With its detailed plot, this passage shows both Jesus’s humanity and divinity in a way that is not always apparent in the Gospels. As Pope Emeritus Benedict said in a 2008 Sunday Angelus blessing:
Christ’s heart is divine-human: in him God and man meet perfectly, without separation and without confusion. He is the image, or rather, the incarnation of God who is love, mercy, paternal and maternal tenderness, of God who is Life. Therefore, he solemnly declared to Martha: “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and whoever lives and believes in me shall never die.” And he adds, “Do you believe this?” It is a question that certainly rises above us, rises above our capacity to understand, and it asks us to entrust ourselves to him as he entrusted himself to the Father.
What would our reply to Jesus’ question be? This passage in John appears to generate confusion for the people around Jesus and it seems difficult to utter a simple yes to the question Jesus poses to Martha. We are human, but we always called to rise above and make that leap of faith entrusting ourselves to the one whose heart is human, aware of our own weaknesses and shortcomings, but divine, infinite and capable of holding all of us within it.
Questions: Who do I most closely resemble in this passage? Are there things that make me doubt that Jesus is the resurrection and the life? What are they? Am I willing to entrust myself completely to Jesus and to be his friend?
Grace: To have heartfelt knowledge of Jesus who wept over his friend Lazarus, and raised him from the dead, so that I may love him more fervently and follow him more closely.
Text for Prayer: John 11:1-57
Reflection: This scene marks a pivotal point in the Gospel of John and the narrative of Jesus’ public ministry for three reasons. First, it is such a marvelous miracle that many people begin to believe in Jesus’ special identity and mission. This makes the Pharisees and the powers that be uneasy, since they had publicly opposed Jesus. Would the people turn against them on account of Jesus of Nazareth? This miracle instigates the plotting of the Pharisees, which will ultimately end with the decision to have Jesus killed.
Second, it reveals the deep love and affection that Jesus had for Lazarus, Martha, and Mary. Throughout the Gospels Jesus stays with these three siblings and is nourished by their warmth and friendship. Bethany, the town where they lived, becomes something of a spiritual oasis for Jesus, where he goes to rest and make merry. When Lazarus dies, Jesus is deeply affected but chooses not to act, deferring to the will of his Father. This is so that more may come to believe that Jesus truly is the “Christ, the Son of God, he who is coming into the world.” (Verse 27). When Jesus sees the tomb, he is moved to tears and openly expresses his sorrow over the loss of his dear friend.
Grace: The light to know Jesus more intimately so that I can follow Him more closely.
Text for Prayer: John 11:1-44. Read over the text slowly once or twice. Pay attention to your reaction to the emotions in the scene. Experience the sorrow, hope, and joy exuding from this rich text.
Imagine you are tightly bound from head to toe lying on a hard, cold stone in a dark tomb. Not one spark of light can be seen. You hear water dripping but cannot tell where. You hear the faint cawing of crows outside the tomb but do not know how many crows are there.
Where are your relatives? As far as they could tell, there was no life left in you. Your heart was stone cold. They were mourning your death about four days ago as they prepared your body for burial. You heard their prayers and cries. You smelled the candles and incense they burned. They expressed their gratitude and regrets, but you could not express yours. They spoke openly to the Lord about their frustration with Him. They were angry with you for not waking up. You heard and felt but could not respond. What would you give to be able to wake up and hug them and comfort them?
Grace: To know Jesus more intimately, so that I may follow him with all my heart.
Text: John 11:1-44
Reflection: As we follow Jesus, praying and begging for the grace to know Him in the deepest part of our hearts, we hear that His dear friend Lazarus is sick. Martha and Mary have desperately sent urgent word to Jesus so that He may save Lazarus from an untimely death. And despite the urgency of this news, Jesus chooses to wait, saying, “This illness is not unto death; it is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified by means of it.” There are divine plans at work here, plans that we can only glimpse. Jesus asks for our trust.
Upon deciding to see His cherished friends, Jesus hears the disciples voice their doubts: Hadn’t they just narrowly escaped the wrath of the Jews who tried to stone Jesus to death? Why on earth would He go back? Jesus remains firm. He is walking in the light of God—He is the light of God. This is the light that scatters all fear and sin. We can hear the fear in Thomas’ voice when he says, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”
Grace: light to know the infinite love of our Divine King and to put all trust in Him
Text for Prayer: John 11:1-45
Imagine: Compose the scene in your mind, imagining the road to Bethany and the tomb of Lazarus
Reflection: By now, we have come to know a Jesus Who has set a course for us and Who constantly watches over us as we carry on His mission. St. Ignatius wants us to know that we are not alone, even when the road seems difficult, thankless and often fruitless. The present contemplation is meant to bring out the affectionate love of our Divine King and the infinite power which is His.
We see in the story of the raising of Lazarus the overflowing love of our Lord. Martha and Mary implore Jesus – love pleading to Love. “Behold, He that loves the sick.” John’s Gospel tells us that Jesus loved Martha, her sister Mary and Lazarus. Christ Himself refers to Lazarus as a friend and weeps at the news of Lazarus’ demise. “Behold, how He loved him.”
Let yourself feel the sadness of Martha and Mary. Let yourself cry out to Our Lord in this time of need. Allow yourself to feel the urgency of needing His presence – and the patience of waiting. How do you respond when Our Divine King shows no sign of hurry? How do you respond when He finally arrives and begins to weep?
Recourse in our need to our Divine Lord and friend shows our confidence in His love and infinite power. We learn this from the experience of having our sins forgiven by Him. Now we understand that He is our breath of life. “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall affliction or anguish or persecution or hunger or nakedness or danger or the sword?… Yet amidst all this we more than conquer through Him that has loved us.” (Romans 8:35-37)
Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in Me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?” She said to him, “Yes, Lord; I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.” Christ is the Resurrection and the Life. Through Him we rise from the worst of deaths – death to sin – to live the very life of God. Through Him we live eternally of His life, and although our body will have to undergo the penalty of death, it will one day rise by the power of Christ and share in the happiness and glory that souls were meant to share.
Can you rejoice with the others when Lazarus exits the tomb? The message of Christianity from its beginning, the aim of the Church’s work and her martyrdom, is “that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name.” The cry of Martha must be the constant cry of our souls, the rock on which our spiritual life stands unshaken and ever rising toward Our Lord’s throne.
Pray: O loving King, I know that You love me. I love You as a Divine King and as a friend. I am consoled knowing that however miserable I may be, I am the object of your infinite love. Come to my aid in times of distress, and stay with me and let me grow in Your love. Let me know your friendship so that we may never be apart.
Soul of Christ, sanctify me
Body of Christ, save me;
Blood of Christ, inebriate me;
Water from the side of Christ, wash me;
Passion of Christ, strengthen me;
0 good Jesus, hear me;
Within Thy wounds, hide me;
Permit me not to be separated from Thee;
From the wicked foe, defend me;
In the hour of my death call me,
And bid me come to Thee,
That with all Thy saints I may praise Thee
For ever and ever. Amen.