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: A deep desire to have sorrow and compassion for Jesus, to suffer with Him, because He is going to His Passion for me.
Text for Prayer: Mk. 8:31-38
Reflection: At this point in the life of Christ, it is clear that Jesus knows what is coming. The cross is immediately before Him, and His words to His disciples now become the hard words of warning that they just cannot seem to understand or accept. Caught up in their own notions of what the Messiah’s reign will look like and what the Christ will do for them, they lose sight of the fact that Jesus is now speaking to them quite plainly. He is inviting them to the cross.
The cross of Christ is made of wood, but the cross we are invited to bear is likely made up of something quite different: a painful memory, a broken relationship, a physical ailment, a loved one who does not return our love, or some other source of pain and shame. It is characteristic of the cross that it not be desirable or fashionable, that it be immensely difficult to carry, and that it often tempt us to put it down or seek someone else to carry it for us. By its very nature, the cross is hard to bear, and so the invitation of Christ to carry our cross with Him is an invitation to hardship.
Grace: The grace that my heart might always be a welcome abode for the Divine Word which so longs to dwell there.
Reflection: We consider two points in this meditation. The first point is that between His entrance into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday and His Last Supper, Jesus continues to labor on our behalf by preaching daily in the Temple. The second point is that, due to men’s neglect, there is no one to receive Him in Jerusalem, therefore He goes back to a place where He is loved and welcomed: Bethany.
Regarding the first point, let us note that this passage (Luke 19:47-48) is one of the many instances in the Gospel where the evangelists tell us that Jesus spoke to the crowds and instructed the people; however, the evangelists do not inform us what the specific words were or what lesson Jesus may have taught on these occasions. Instead it is left up to our prayerful imagination to discover what Christian message the Lord desired to convey to His hearers. This allows us to have a deep encounter with the Lord in our own prayer and to discover the lesson that the Lord desires to teach us today in the intimacy of the conversation we will have with Him in our heart through the mediation of the Holy Spirit. Whenever He taught the crowds, Jesus desired for His Word to be received with love in the heart of each person who listened and He desired for His Word to abide there. It is the same with us whenever we meditate on His preaching and think about the words he used on these occasions.
Grace: Not to be deaf to the Word, but prompt and diligent to welcome him.
Text: Luke 20:19 – 21:4
Reflection: In these final few days before his death, Jesus comes to the Temple every day to teach the people, to communicate to them the Word of the Father. Out of love for us, he continues to labor, even as it has become obvious to everyone that his days are numbered.
The Lord spends much of his last week answering questions. But they are fake questions — which is to say, not really questions at all. The people who pose them have not come to Jesus in search of answers. They come to do combat with him, laying questions like traps. If Jesus answers in one way, they reason to themselves, he will alienate the people. If he answers in another way, it will be possible to convict him of a violation of the Law. Either way, these questions will be the gotcha moment they have been waiting for.
The trouble is, none of the questions succeed in baiting Jesus. The truth of the Word is impervious. The scribes and chief priests send spies to ask him about whether Jews ought to pay taxes to Caesar. If he says yes, he risks looking like the hated Roman puppet-king Herod. If he says no, his enemies will be able to denounce him to Pilate as a dangerous revolutionary. Jesus turns the question on its head: sure, give to Caesar the things that belong to him, but you must also give to God the even more important things that belong to him (genuine praise, reverence, and service). And how often have you paid those “taxes” ? (more…)
Grace: wonder and sorrow, as our Lord labors so diligently for us even though He is shunned by all.
Reflection: Palm Sunday is over. With Jesus’ grand procession and then driving out the money-changers from the temple, it was an exciting day to be a follower of Jesus. But the excitement is starting to wear out.
Jesus came into the Temple every day to teach. Once, He had stood in the Temple before the doctors of the law and amazed them. Now, the scribes and Pharisees plot to bring Him down. They cannot simply get rid of Him; He is too popular. But they challenge His authority to try and trap Him with various questions. He warned of the difficult days that lay ahead for anyone who followed Him. This must have been a shock to the people who saw Him enter into Jerusalem in glory and cause such a commotion in the Temple. Jesus must have seemed unstoppable then. To get on board with Jesus meant to follow the winning team all the way into an easy victory. But now Jesus is proclaiming long, protracted struggles, telling His followers that “you will be seized and persecuted, you will be handed over to the synagogues and to imprisonment, and brought before kings and governors for the sake of My Name” (Lk. 21:12).
Still, even after this people crowd around Him in the Temple all day long to hear Him teach. Yet for all their enthusiasm, not one of them took Jesus into their home. He spent His nights sleeping outdoors on the Mount of Olives in Bethany, a town about five miles away from Jerusalem. The crowds of people gathered around Him were as thick as those surrounding any modern celebrity. But no one thought to provide Him with a roof over His head. No one would let Jesus in.
Their response to Jesus is just another fad. He is the prophet! He is the teacher who will show you how to finally transform your life and live in God’s covenant! But what is transformed and different? In his encyclical Spe Salvi, Pope Benedict points out that our faith is not just informative, but performative. We do not just hear nice things and come away better informed, but we are moved to act on what we have learned. But here, when it is time for the rubber to meet the road, nothing happens.
In many respects, their response is like the first class of men. They may not be sinning, but neither are they taking any meaningful steps to do what God is asking of them. The response now is lukewarm, and things are no more difficult than usual. But to follow Jesus means sooner or later following Him to the Cross. If we cannot follow Him or respond to anything He says in moderate times, still less will we be able to stay by Him in challenging times.
Questions: What keeps the people from letting Jesus into their homes? How does He react to this? Why does He keep coming back to the Temple if nothing new is happening?