April 1, 2013 |

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.

In Gerard Manley Hopkins’s English rendition of O Deus Ego Amo Te (a Latin prayer-poem attributed to St. Francis Xavier) he writes:

Thou, thou, my Jesus, after me
Didst reach thine arms out dying,
For my sake sufferedst nails, and lance,
Mocked and marred countenance,
Sorrows passing number,
Sweat and care and cumber,
Yea and death, and this for me,
And thou couldst see me sinning:
Then I, why should not I love thee,
Jesu, so much in love with me?

On the cross Jesus suffered for me, for my sake.  He was beaten almost beyond recognition, scorned, and mocked.  He took on the sins of our race and endured the most brutal of tortures.  And all this in hopes that we would turn to the Lord once more, and lose ourselves in Him.  Why would he do this when he knew that we would probably continue to sin?  Because he knew that his grace was enough to overcome even the gravest of problems and sin—that sharing a life with his Father would mean conquering all the crosses in our life once and for all.  Hopkins wonders why we should love Jesus, who is so much in love with us.  This brings us to Ignatius second point about the Resurrection.

Ignatius wants us to consider how Christ reveals himself after his Resurrection.  He doesn’t appear to those that crucified him in order to bring them low and show them how wrong they were.  He doesn’t appear to Pilate to answer his question, “What is truth?”  He appears to those who loved him most—to his friends.  Ignatius wants us to see how Christ appears to those who need consolation: Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted.  Indeed, here in the Resurrection the Beatitudes are fulfilled. Christ appears as the One who consoles, who offers friendship and forgiveness instead of divine wrath and condemnation.  He speaks with his disciples as friends speak with one another: with familiarity and affection.  His friendship is redemptive—it saves us from ourselves and from the reality of sin.

Hopkins ends his rendition of St. Francis Xavier’s prayer-poem with the following lines:

Then I, why should not I love thee,
Jesu, so much in love with me?
Not for heaven’s sake;
not to be out of hell by loving thee;
Not for any gains I see;
But just the way that thou didst me
I do love and I will love thee:
What must I love thee, Lord, for then?
For being my king and God. Amen.

What is our response to so great a love?  What should we love God for?  Simply because he is our King and God.  There is no other, no matter how many things we turn into kings and gods.  Nothing can compare to the love the Lord has for us, nor can anything separate us from that love (Romans 8).  He proved it to us so many years ago on Calvary, and proves it daily to us now.  What will it take for me to believe in that love, to trust that love, to be friends with the One who loved me first?

Questions: What kinds of emotions arise when I think about how Jesus consoles his friends as their friend?  What is the reality of friendship in my life?  How can I make the words of St. Francis Xavier my own?   What gives me hope to continue to walk in the light of Christ despite my own limitations and imperfections?

April 1st, 2013 | |