Grace: To feel sorrow, compassion, and shame because the Lord is going to His suffering for my sins.
Text for Prayer: Jn. 6:44-63
Reflection: In his book Life of Christ, Archbishop Sheen notes about Jesus that “every other person who ever came into this world came into it to live. He came into it to die.” Socrates also suffered an unjust death, but his death interrupted his life’s teachings. Jesus’ death, on the other hand, was the culmination of His teachings. From the start of the Exercises, we have seen God’s total self-gift to humanity, putting Himself into creation and loving us into existence; entering into the world to save us; walking with us and guiding us on our journeys. Now, as we enter into Holy Week, we prepare to see Jesus give even His very life for us. Absolutely nothing is held back. This is what is needed to accomplish the Father’s will and help us attain salvation. It is the same total giving of self that we see in the Trinity, the perfect community where each of the three Persons gives all to the others, and in the Eucharist, where Jesus offers His body and blood to us.
In John 6, Jesus says that “he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood lives in me and I in him” (v. 56). Here, we will see the sacrifice literally re-presented in the Eucharist at each Mass, where Jesus gives His body and blood over for our sakes. With this, He will abide in us and we in Him, and Jesus will truly become food for our soul as we travel along our lives.
One of the main graces that St. Ignatius asks us to pray for is that of compassion for Jesus as He suffers. Literally, the word means “to suffer with,” and here we do just that. Not to pretend that we are Jesus, but to be with Jesus as He suffers. When we are with Jesus, we watch as He shows how totally human He is, even hiding His divinity, as St. Ignatius put it. We watch as He takes on “the shame of the Cross” (Heb. 12:2) and suffers as a criminal for us, though He is innocent. The gulf between God and humans has been overcome, and the sins which keep us from God that we prayed over at the start of the Exercises are being expiated. This is how much Jesus desires to be our companions: that nothing human is foreign to Jesus, including suffering, and that even if drawing us to Himself requires suffering and death, He will do it. Seeing how totally Jesus wishes to be with us, how should we respond?
As a change of pace, here is a link to a version of “The Old Rugged Cross” to listen to. As we enter into Holy Week, let us pray that we also learn to “cherish the old rugged Cross,” and see it for what it is– the sign of how truly united we now are with God.