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 undergoing His passion for my sins.
Text for Prayer: Jn. 18:12-40
Reflection: What do we hope will vindicate us? When all is said and done, what do we wish to be the justification for our thoughts, words, deeds, and omissions? One often hears people use phrases like “we will be vindicated by history,” meaning that hindsight will show either that they did the pragmatic (though not always honest) thing, or that their behavior will be vindicated by opinions fashionable at some future point. Jesus encounters these ways of thinking and others at His trial, but refuses to be vindicated by anyone or anything beyond Himself.
First, we see Jesus go before Caiaphas and the Sanhedrin. Before Jesus is even arrested, Caiaphas advocates His death by stating that “it is better for one man to die for the people, than for the whole nation to be destroyed” (Jn. 11:50). Caiaphas’ primary preoccupation is not whether Jesus’ claim is true or not, but whether Israel will be destroyed. In the second part of Jesus of Nazareth, Pope Benedict observes that
there were certain circles within the Sanhedrin that would have favored the liberation of Israel through political and military means. But the way in which Jesus presented His claim seemed to them clearly unsuited to the effective advancement of their cause.
Grace: To be with Christ as he faces those who indict Him unjustly. Their indictments say more about their character than Jesus’.
Reflection. GK Chesterton once wrote that man longs for simplicity, but tends toward complexity. So it was with the intentions of earthly powers in Jesus’ day, and so it is with us today. We pray with the Jesus who is feared, reviled, and made a pawn of others’ machinations and impurity of heart. It is easy and comforting to distance ourselves from their actions; but they reflect common responses to unwelcome truths of Jesus’ mission.
Caiphas and the Sanhedrin are the fearful ecclesiastical leaders, who are concerned not with the truth but with quashing the apparent Messiahship of Jesus which threatens their authority. Where do I find this pernicious abuse of power employed to quash unpleasant truths?
Grace: sorrow, compassion, and shame because the Lord is going to His suffering for my sins.
Reflection: The innocent Son of God was dragged from one tribunal to the next. His hands were bound and His feet were shackled like the most dangerous of criminals. He was charged with crimes that merited death while the crowd insulted Him. His judges sat in judgment of the Eternal Judge while His friends were nowhere to be found.
Consider the palace of Caiaphas. Here the Sanhedrin were gathered. The Sanhedrin were entrusted with leading the worship of God in the temple. They worked closely with their Roman governors and found ways to abuse their privileges. They were no longer living for the faith, but they found a way to make a living by the faith– attempting to serve both God and Mammon. Subordinating themselves to temporal powers, now they sat in judgment of the Divine King.
Christ’s message must have driven them mad. He was the beloved teacher, proclaiming a pure heart to be the greatest offering to God. He seemed to prefer children, fishermen, lepers and sinners to ecclesial dignitaries. While they sought crowns of gold, they offered Him one of thorns which He accepted in silence.
Jesus was interrogated. Was He asked about some strange doctrine? Was He asked His opinion of the law? No. He was asked if He was indeed the Messiah, the Christ, the Son of the Living God. This is what threatened His accusers. This question is the summit of all that can be said about Him. The answer Our Lord gave had to be written in His blood.
After the worldly churchmen pronounced Christ a blasphemer, there came the king. Herod had but one goal in life: to find satisfaction in amusement. Religion was only a source of entertainment. Now the Divine King went before the earthly one, the same one who had murdered John the Baptist.
Herod seemed uninterested in the charges of Our Lord’s accusers; his only interest was to be amused by the Incarnate Word of God. The earthly king was met with silence. So Herod mocked Him, forcing further humiliation upon an already broken victim.
Jesus was then brought before the clever politician. In Pilate’s world, religion had no significance. He lived for this world because his eyes could see nothing more. Strangely proud of his own sense of justice, Pilate seemed reluctant to condemn someone who appeared to be no threat. Pilates overriding concern, however, was the governance of a people that he both hated and feared.
To save his own sense of justice, Pilate could have denied Our Lord’s accusers their demands. Of course, he would have had to face a revolt on the part of his Jewish subjects. His superiors in Rome would have taken his post away and he would have been disgraced. He might have gone down in history as the first martyr for Christ. Instead, Pilate is remembered as the one under whom Christ suffered and died.
Be with Christ as the powers of this world mistreat Him. Allow yourself to feel the motivations of His accusers, recognizing a glimmer of this sin in yourself. Then run to His side. Loathe the privilege of the Sanhedrin. Reject what they embraced. Shake your head clear of Herod’s intoxicating lifestyle. See with the eyes of truth all that is fading in Herod’s world. Detest Pilate’s shortcomings. Beg God for the courage to act with conviction for justice. Most of all, cling to Our Lord. Let the insults that were heaped upon Him give you comfort. Accept your own crown of thorns and welcome the humiliations that marked our Divine King during His trial.
Pray: Oh Lord, You were reviled by the men entrusted with watching for your arrival. You were mocked by the men set up as guardians for Your people. You were found unworthy of defense by the powers charged with the work of justice. Forgive me for my same failings. Change my heart. Count me worthy to be in Your company. Call me closer to You and hide me within Your wounds.