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 be glad and rejoice intensely because of how the Risen Lord transforms our life.
Text: Jn. 20:1-9
Reflection: Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, the author of The Little Prince, was a pioneer of commercial aviation. He flew in the Spanish Civil War and World War II. He loved flying. And he loved writing about friendship and love. Because of this, he was nicknamed the ‘winged poet’. In his book Airman’s Odyssey, de Saint-Exupéry wrote about love transforms us – how, when we encounter love, it refashions our lives. Love invites us to contemplate a new horizon – the place where our hearts encounter the heart of the beloved. Love incites us to contemplate and to journey towards that horizon because intimacy is beyond fear. As de Saint-Exupéry states, “Love is more than gazing at each other. It consists in looking outward together in the same direction.”
The biblical accounts of the Resurrection point us toward this reality. The part that love plays in these stories is extraordinary. In the Gospel of John, Mary Magdalene is the first one to encounter the Risen Lord. He transformed her life. She loved Jesus deeply and became his disciple. At the foot of the cross, she witnessed Jesus’ death. In the garden outside the tomb, she was the first one to behold Christ after the Resurrection. Nobody could visit the tomb on the Sabbath because the journey would be a violation. The Sabbath is our Saturday, so it was on Sunday morning that Mary went to the tomb. She went very early. She went to the tomb as soon as she could. It was still grey dark when she went because she could no longer stay away.
Grace: To rejoice intensely because of the great glory and joy of Christ our Lord.
Text for Prayer: See below.
Reflection: During the Spiritual Exercises Ignatius wants the retreatant to contemplate and reflect upon a number of different appearances of the Risen Lord to his friends and disciples. Over a period of forty days Jesus appears to Mary Magdalene (Mark 16:1-11), to Peter (Luke 24:9-12, 33-34,; John 20:1-10), to the Emmaus disciples (Luke 24:13-35), to the apostles (John 20:19-23), to Thomas (John 23:24-29), on the shore of Gennesaret (John 21:1-17), on the mountain of Galilee (Matthew 28:16-20), to more than five hundred Christians at once (1 Corinthians 15:6), and right before he ascends into heaven (Acts 1:1-12).
Ignatius makes two important observations regarding the Resurrection. First, during the Passion the divinity of the Lord seems to be hidden by the cruelty and violence that his humanity suffers. The brutality and gruesomeness are so grave that even his disciples, who had witnessed the Transfiguration only a few weeks before, flee in terror. Yet now, after his Resurrection, Christ’s divinity shines through his humanity, manifesting itself in most glorious manner. Not even the finality of death could veil the divinity of Christ! His Resurrection opens the floodgates of grace, mercy, and love that had been waiting for us ever since our first parents gravely sinned in Eden. At every encounter with the risen Christ, the disciples are overwhelmed with joy, awe, and happiness.
Grace: To be jubilant because my Lord and friend is alive! To see Him standing right before my eyes.
Mary Magdalena weeps outside an empty tomb and mistakes Jesus for a gardener. The fearful disciples lock themselves inside their homes. Thomas doubts and Peter doesn’t recognize Jesus until John points to Him. At this point, it would seem appropriate for Jesus to scream and rip out His hair. These people didn’t get it the first time, and they still don’t get it!
Fortunately for the disciples, and for us, Jesus says “peace” and not “payback!” He asks, “Do you love me?” instead of, “Do you know how you’ve offended me?” He knows it takes us a little while to understand, and He has all eternity to wait. Even so, we don’t have all eternity to respond.
Grace: to be glad and rejoice intensely because of the great joy and the glory of Christ our Lord.
Text(s): See below
Reflection: The Gospels and other new testament writings provide many accounts of different encounters between the Risen Christ and His disciples. Jesus appears to Mary Magdalene (Mk 16:1-11), Mary the mother of James, Salome and Mary Magdalene (Mt 28:8-10), Peter (Luke 24:9-12, 33-34 and John 20:1-10), the disciples on their way to Emmaus (Luke 24: 13-35), to the disciples (John 20:19-23), to Thomas (John 20:24-29), on the shore of Gennesaret (John 21:1-17), on Mount Tabor (Mt 28:16-20), and forty days after the Resurrection and to St. Paul(1 Cor 15:6-8). After all this, he ascended into heaven (Acts 1:1-12).
After seeing the pretty extensive list above, perhaps picking one that draws your attention and praying with it would be the best bet. The following considerations should be taken into account during the prayer.
Grace: to be glad and rejoice intensely because of the great joy and the glory of Christ our Lord.
Text for Prayer: any of the appearances in the Gospels: Mt. 28, Mk. 16, Lk. 24, Jn. 20–21, or Acts 1:3-11. As with the previous prayer, while you are contemplating the event itself, be also mindful of how Jesus reveals His divinity, and how Jesus consoles the individual(s) in the scene.
Reflection: In the fifth point that St. Ignatius gives for contemplating Jesus’ appearance to His mother, he says to consider the office of consoler that Jesus exercises, and to compare it with how one friend consoles another. When a friend is in trouble, we don’t usually just give the same stock advice and help to them. In each of His appearances, Jesus does not just appear with a generic “Here I am!”, but meets in the individual in a very personal way to give consolation. This is something Ignatius asks us to continue considering in each of Jesus’ appearances.
Mary Magdalene is the first after His mother that Jesus appears to. When she arrives at the tomb, she cannot find the body, mistakes Jesus for a gardener, and asks in a panic what has happened to Jesus’ body. His response to her is simple: to call her by name. Instantly, Mary realizes that it is the Lord standing in front of her, and she is overcome with joy and excitement.
Peter and John hear about this, run to the tomb, see it empty, and realize what has happened. Even thought John’s Gospel says they both understood what happened, it also says that the very same evening the Apostles were locked in the upper room, afraid of retribution. When Jesus passes through the locked door, the first thing He says to the frightened group is “Peace be with you” (Jn. 20:19) and after showing them His wounds to prove that it really is Him, says it again.
When several of Jesus’ followers see His violent death, they become afraid, and make their escape towards Emmaus. Jesus meets them along the way, and walks with them, reassuring them by interpreting Scripture that the shame and horror they witnessed in Jerusalem did not contradict their faith or God’s covenant, but was its necessary fulfillment. He does not force Himself on them, but allows them to invite Him to stay, and breaks bread with them. Gradually, they come to see that it was Jesus who was with them the whole time.
Even though the other Apostles and several disciples have seen Jesus risen, Thomas refuses to believe. People simply do not rise from the dead. Even with the assurance of people he trusts, Thomas says that “Unless I can see the holes that the nails made in His hands and can put my finger into the holes they made, and unless I can put my hand in His side, I refuse to believe” (Jn. 20:25). Eight days later Jesus comes, again giving His peace. The first words He says to Thomas are words to help him believe: “Put your finger here; look, here are my hands. Give me your hand; put it into my side. Do not be unbelieving anymore but believe” (Jn. 20:27).
All the while nothing has been said by Jesus or Peter about the white elephant in the room: Peter’s total denial of Jesus outside Annas’ house. When Jesus next appears to the Apostles on the shores of Lake Geneseret He speaks to Peter privately. The way He talks to Peter and resolves the issue shows a personal concern for Peter and what he had done, and also a desire to strengthen and console Peter for what lay ahead, including his death.
Jesus does not stop with just Peter. For the next forty days, He stays with the Apostles, preparing them for what was to come by speaking “about the kingdom of God” (Acts 1:3). On Mount Tabor Jesus gives the Apostles the universal mission each of us heard in the Call of the King, sending them to every nation to make believers out of all people. He reassures them that He will always remain with them, even though He is ascending to rejoin the Father, telling them that “I am with you always; yes, to the end of time” (Mt. 28:20). True to form, the reassurance and consolation that Jesus gives to the Apostles is not a distant and impersonal declaration that all shall be well, but the promise that He will walk with each of them as their companion and guide in all the endeavors they undertake in love for Him.
Questions: How does Jesus give consolation to each individual? How does His Divinity show itself at each time? How does Jesus give you consolation in your daily life? How do you react when He does?