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 wonder at Jesus entrance into His kingly glory, that is His suffering, for me.
Text for Prayer: Lk. 19:28-44
Reflection: Today, Palm Sunday, begins in earnest our celebration of Jesus’ Passion. Jesus sets Himself with unshakeable determination toward Jerusalem, toward the ultimate purpose of His coming to earth.
Even though Jesus knows what awaits Him this week, the people of Jerusalem still do not understand. They acclaim Him as the king who will set them free, but Jesus is not the kind of Messiah they imagine. Rather, He is the meek and suffering King of Mercy who enters Jerusalem on a donkey and assumes His throne upon the Cross. All of this He does willingly, for me.
Jesus weeps over Jerusalem because she does not recognize her Savior, Who has come in a guise she least expected – come to save her from her sins, not Roman occupation. They remain blind to Jesus’ mission, yet He goes willingly and full of love to die for each of them.
Grace: To experience a complete conversion of heart that will allow me to be with Jesus on his way to the Cross.
Text for Prayer: Luke 19: 41-44
All glory, praise, and honor
To you, Redeemer, King!
To whom the lips of children
Made glad hossanas ring.
You are the King of Israel,
And David’s royal Son,
Who in the Lord’s Name comest,
The King and Blessed One…
The above hymn that will be played in many Churches on Palm Sunday helps set the tone as the Church enters into Holy Week and reminds us of Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem. It is not difficult to picture Jesus, his fame having spread throughout Judea, riding into the city on a donkey, greeted by the crowds who cry out “Hossana!” as they wave palm branches in their hands.
But the same hymn and the image of the scene cannot help but raise a few questions in our minds. What type of king enters a city riding on a donkey? Why are people so eager to greet Him, especially when a few days later they are no longer crying out “Hossana!” but rather “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!” How and why do they have such a quick change of heart?
By the time that Jesus rides into Jerusalem He has already established that He wishes to be a different type of king, one who serves others and is not served. The fact that He would choose to arrive in a Jerusalem on a donkey speaks to that desire of His, and His desire for us is that we follow His example.
The change of heart experienced by the people of Jerusalem is a more complex question to answer. Luke’s account of the entry into Jerusalem, however, can perhaps help us to gain some insight. Luke mentions that Jesus wept over the city as he approached it and lamented “If you only knew what lay before you…” (Luke 19:42) Luke, catering to his audience, might be referencing the fall of Jerusalem in the year 70 when the city was destroyed by the Romans. But could it not be, rather, that Luke is reminding us that sometimes we may want to recognize God in places where he cannot truly be found? Could it be that we want to make God into something He cannot be, and rather than seeing Him as He is, we only see Him as we want to see Him?
The people of Jerusalem may have wanted a king, and in Jesus, they weren’t getting the king they expected. But we, too, can sometimes place ridiculous expectations on God. We can think that God exists merely to answer our prayers or make us feel good about ourselves. When our prayers aren’t answered in a way that we prefer or if the good feelings disappear, we turn away. Similar to the change of heart experienced by the people of Jerusalem our cries of “Hossanna!” quickly turn to “Crucify Him!” We can think that God is merely out to get us and judge us or that he places too many rules and regulations on our lives that we can’t keep. We can be tempted to want to have Easter Sunday without Good Friday.
Palm Sunday and the start of Holy Week is a call to conversion. It is a call to put aside all of those preconceived notions of what God should be like and simply allow ourselves to be with God, with his Son, Jesus, to follow Him “on the way” that Luke mentions throughout his Gospel and stand beneath the Cross. Only if we make this journey can we fully enjoy Easter Sunday.
Questions: Do I place expectations on God that He cannot fulfill? Do I have any preconceived notions of what God should be like for me and for others? Are these expectations compatible with who it is that Jesus says He is and how He calls us to follow Him? Can I place these expectations aside and allow myself to be with Jesus on his journey to the Cross and allow myself to be with Him at the foot of the Cross?
This Lent has been about walking in the ways of Christ, meditating on his teachings and contemplating his life. And now Christ is leading us to some very powerful places of prayer: Jerusalem, the Last Supper, the Passion, Crucifixion, and Resurrection.
Are you ready for it? To be honest, I don’t think I am. You see, Palm Sunday always makes me nervous. I am timid to contemplate about the Pharisee’s conniving plans, Jesus’ passion and death, and the disciples’ betraying fear. Those contemplations take me to places within my own nature (and the nature of the world) that I would much rather skip over. (more…)
Grace: To wonder at the contradiction of Jesus’ upcoming defeat as well as victory, unfolding simultaneously.
Text for Prayer: Mt. 21:1-11
Reflection: Now continues the contradictions. In a way, the whole of the Christian life and mystery is the way of contradictions. What does not seem to go together, goes together.
Today, we contemplate the juxtaposition of the simultaneous triumph and defeat of Jesus. As the drama unfolds, there is Jesus entering the Holy City, Jerusalem in great triumph- “mounting his throne to shouts of joy” as the psalmist had prophesied.
The people think the revolution is about to begin. They are right- but not in the way they want it. Jesus knows that his triumph is to be preceded by defeat. On the edge of the city, He pauses to weep over Jerusalem, at the infidelity, at the separation of her members from the God who made them, at the depth of the sin in the human heart, at the capacity for evil among His beloved.
As He makes His way into the city, the people greet and pay homage to the one they believe will save them. Before the day is done, however, they will witness him not on the throne of political power, but on the throne of mercy, the Cross, where He will be humiliated and rejected. But it is on this throne where this King will ultimately conquer death itself -by love- for his subjects.
Questions: What is one action I could take these days, which we make me “small”, which would humble myself before another? With Jesus in mind, is there a way I can exercise my true power as a child of God my acting in the eyes of the world as one who is powerless?