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 sorrow, compassion, and shame because the Lord is going to His suffering for my sins.
Reflection: For all the portrayals of the Passions as a violent blood-fest, it was not primarily a test of Jesus’ endurance. It was a sacrifice which only Jesus could make. As He sat in prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane, this was something He must have been thinking of. The angels could minister to Him, the Father could comfort Him, but only He could carry out this task. Peter, James, and John were fast asleep as He prayed and waited for Judas. Jesus was totally alone.
Then Judas arrives with a group of Roman soldiers. Jesus now goes through an experience many of us know: betrayal by someone we love. After the initial sadness, sometimes we can lessen the pain by saying something like “He was a jerk anyway.” But Jesus never stopped loving Judas, and the pain He felt from the betrayal is only heightened by His knowledge of what this betrayal will do to Judas, and how this will destroy him.
Grace: Ask for the grace of being able to tell God, “not my will but yours be done.”
Text for Prayer: John 18:1-27
Reflection: In these scenes we see the betrayal of Jesus by two of his apostles: Judas who betrays him for money and Peter who denies him for fear of his own life. Judas appears two times in the Gospel of John before the Last Supper. On both occasions (John 6:70-71 & John 12:4) he breaks the general atmosphere of celebration, of community, of solemnity, and sacredness that Jesus had created. On the first occasion John makes sure to show how Judas is a victim to the will of the evil spirit. On the second occasion, when Judas protests the use of expensive perfume to anoint Jesus, John uses the word “pure” to describe the perfume. In Greek this word for “pure” could also be used to express fidelity and authenticity. Perhaps St. John’s use of the word is an invitation to reflect upon Judas’ desire to sell his own fidelity and authenticity, and that divided reality we experience in our own hearts when we sell our identity for much less.
The mystery of evil in Judas as told by St. John is present in more than just the man who betrayed our Lord. It will always be a symbol of a more profound and ancient rupture, at first glance an impassable fissure that even communion with God seemingly cannot mend. The Evangelist perceives that even among Jesus’ closest friends the spirit of evil, of division, and of hate works its way into the communion of the group. For Judas the reality of this evil is too much to bear, the fissure to deep to overcome, and he loses hope. How could he have known that what Jesus was going to undergo and endure would end with his glorious resurrection? Perhaps if Judas only believed in Christ’s words and deeds would things have gone differently?
Grace: Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord. (2 Cor. 10:17)
Text for Prayer: Keep your eyes on Jesus. Lk 22: 47-60
The mob breaks the silence of the dark night and charges toward Jesus with Judas leading the way. The disciple kisses his master on the cheek, and with that gesture of peace perverted, the restless mob grabs and arrests Jesus. The momentarily zealous Peter runs off and denies knowing his friend not once but three times. As those closest to Jesus move further and further away, the night becomes darker and darker. The Man who comforted the poor, healed the sick, and forgave sinners is now Jerusalem’s most wanted criminal.
On this night when power is weakness, reason is reversed, and confidence is shattered, what heart could be proud, what head could remain high? There’s no honor in apprehending an innocent man. There’s no glory in saving one’s life at the cost of another’s life. Who can boast of anything this night when the Reason for humanity’s boasting is being taken away?
Grace: To suffer with Christ who suffers for my sins.
Text: John 18:1-22
Reflection: In these final days of Lent, we are called to reflect upon Jesus’ final moments with His friends. After praying in agony throughout the night at Gethsemane, and knowing He was to be betrayed, Jesus calmly faces His betrayer. What kinds of emotions must have been coursing through His heart? Here is one of his friends! A man who chose to follow Him for at least three years—sharing in the pain and in the praise as one of Jesus’ disciple. Psalm 55 might help us to understand how Jesus felt: “It is not an enemy who taunts me—then I could bear it; it is not an adversary who deals insolently with me—then I could hide from him. But it is you, my equal, my companion, my familiar friend. We used to hold sweet converse together; within God’s house we walked in fellowship.”
Peter, overcome with righteous rage, draws his sword and strikes in violence. Jesus rebukes him—he still does not understand the type of messiah that Jesus is! Perhaps Peter cannot see past the fact that one of Jesus’ own friends betrayed Him. Perhaps Peter is still angry and ashamed from having fallen asleep while Jesus suffered and prayed alone. Perhaps Peter is still hurting from having been rebuked by Jesus during the Last Supper for not wanting Him to wash his feet. All these emotions surge to the surface. All these emotions end in violence and cowardice. Peter has to learn the hard way that Jesus needs to continue on to Calvary. Only Jesus can do this—only He can confront death. This is a hard lesson for Peter, as well as for us. He is called to follow to Golgotha. We are called as well. Called to follow Jesus and to allow Him to suffer, to let these things come to pass. We must let go.