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 suffer with Christ who suffers for my sins.
Text: Mt. 26:36-46
Reflection: “Do you trust me?” That is the question the Father is asking of the Son. Jesus does not know why He must suffer, and so He asks His Father if there is any way He can be spared His Passion. His Father asks Him to trust Him. To undergo extreme physical and spiritual pain when one knows why one must is difficult; to do so when one does not know why is excruciating.
The life of Christ may seem desirable to imitiate when He is healing the infirm, forgiving the sinners, and feeding the multitudes, but what about when He is entering into His Passion? It can be easy to follow Christ when the way is pleasant and comfortable, but are we then loving the God of consolations or the consolations of God? The Father removes His consolations and asks His Son, “Do you still trust me, even though You do not understand why I am asking this of You? Do you trust me?”
Grace: Ask for the grace of being able to tell God, “not my will but yours be done.”
Text for Prayer: Luke 22:39-46
Reflection: The Garden of Gethsemane is located at the foot of the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem. Its name comes from the Hebrew word for ‘oil press’. It was in that garden that the events of Good Friday suddenly overtook Jesus. As Pope John XIII said in one of his homilies about the meaning of the cross, the most horrible ‘pressing upon’ experience Jesus had was bearing the heavy weight of all human sin.
Through his prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane the eve of his passion, Jesus expressed three aspects of response to the events that would follow. First, he conveyed his sadness and agony. He expressed with the Psalmist, “My soul is very sorrowful” (Ps 43). He felt a deep loneliness. After he had invited three of the apostles to stay with him, watch and pray, they fell asleep and he began to feel the burden of his loneliness. His expression of sorrow and loneliness is echoed on the cross as Jesus prays, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”(Ps 22; Mk 15:34).
Grace: To ask for sorrow with Christ in sorrow, anguish with Christ in anguish, and interior grief because of the great sufferings Christ endures for me.
Text: Matthew 26:36-46
Reflection: Stay awake with Jesus.
“My heart is nearly broken with sorrow” (Matt. 26:38). Jesus is experiencing deep inner turmoil as His hour approaches. From a human standpoint Jesus’ ministry appears to end in failure. The Jewish leaders reject Him as the Messiah, the disciples seem clueless and the masses will consent to His crucifixion. Despite this, Jesus seeks to fulfill the Father’s Will. Jesus’ interior suffering was also reflected in His physical suffering. (more…)
Grace: sorrow, compassion, and sham because the Lord is going to His suffering for my sins.
Text for Prayer: Matthew 26:30-46
Reflection:“Let this cup pass from me.” In the Old Testament, the cup symbolized one’s lot in life. The cup could be filled with the wine that makes men’s hearts glad; but it could also be filled with gall. Our hearts tell us that fairness demands that one who has lived a just life should reap the wine of gladness. Yet here is Jesus, already beginning to be abandoned by his apostles, gazing before himself at the bitter cup of the sinner. How could it be that Jesus, who has done no wrong, could reap the just reward of a sinner? Why does Jesus not return to Galilee and peacefully complete the remainder of his years in a quiet carpenter’s life? Why doesn’t He rebel against the Father and refuse the cup?
The Agony in the Garden reveals in stark terms the attitude that Jesus has maintained throughout his earthly ministry. He, the righteous one, in grasping that bitter cup, declares through His actions that God’s will is to be trusted above all things. And God’s will is that His Christ might redeem the world by freely entering into its suffering, even to the ignoble death of the sinner. “Not my will but yours be done.” Pain and sadness fill his heart as he is weighed down by the enormity of the world’s sinfulness. Jesus accepts. He accepts this moment as he has accepted each moment from the Father. Jesus lives life with thanksgiving (eucharistically), offering everything—everything—to the Father.
Praying with this passage, we simply need to gaze upon the scene and be affected. Now is the time to quiet all of our own words. Allow the scene to sink into yourself and allow yourself to be affected by God. Here is Jesus, drinking the sinner’s gall so that we sinners might drink the wine of gladness.
Questions: How is my heart affected by the scene of Christ’s Agony? What is my reaction to Jesus’ total readiness to accept His lot from the Father? Where do I need the help of the Holy Spirit in order to accept the Father’s will?