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 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: 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: The light to know Jesus more intimately so that I can follow Him more closely.
Text for Prayer: John 11:1-44. Read over the text slowly once or twice. Pay attention to your reaction to the emotions in the scene. Experience the sorrow, hope, and joy exuding from this rich text.
Imagine you are tightly bound from head to toe lying on a hard, cold stone in a dark tomb. Not one spark of light can be seen. You hear water dripping but cannot tell where. You hear the faint cawing of crows outside the tomb but do not know how many crows are there.
Where are your relatives? As far as they could tell, there was no life left in you. Your heart was stone cold. They were mourning your death about four days ago as they prepared your body for burial. You heard their prayers and cries. You smelled the candles and incense they burned. They expressed their gratitude and regrets, but you could not express yours. They spoke openly to the Lord about their frustration with Him. They were angry with you for not waking up. You heard and felt but could not respond. What would you give to be able to wake up and hug them and comfort them?
Grace: For an intimate knowledge of Jesus Christ our Lord who chose to be like us in every way except sin.
Text for Prayer: Mt. 3:11-17 Place yourself in the scene.
In a restless world that competes for riches, honors, and pride, a world of cage fighters trying to knock out their opponents while others cheer on, we can find rest and refreshment by the Jordan River.
People line up seeking the cool waters of baptism of John the Baptist, renouncing their sins and resolving to direct all their strivings toward something more than pleasure, success, and good fortune. There is a thirst that only a humble submission to the Divine through sincere repentance can quench.
Jesus arrives on the scene and His exchange with John is refreshingly counter-cultural. There seems to be a competition, but here humility is the game and God’s will is the prize. John has many followers, but without any hesitation, he steps aside for a mightier One’s arrival. Jesus is the Son of God, free from sin, yet He receives the baptism of a sinner for sinners. John’s humility makes him resemble the Son of God, and Christ’s humility unites Him fully with humanity. It’s no surprise that these men are cousins! As John submits to Jesus’ request, Jesus submits to the Father’s request, and He is well pleased (with both of His sons).
Jesus commences His public ministry with a profound act of humility, showing us that no talent, no career, no effort, no fight, and no accomplishment is greater than choosing what God has chosen for us.
“Do not deny your talents or your successes. Rather, thank God that he uses you to do his work, just as an artist uses simple brushes to create a work of art.” –Servant of God, Cardinal Francis Xavier Nguyen Van Thuan
Grace: For an intimate knowledge of our Lord Jesus who offered Himself to us so that we might know how to offer ourselves to Him.
Prelude: Journey to Jerusalem with the Holy Family. Listen to their conversations. Eat with them. Hold the Child for Mary every once in a while. Watch as Mary and Joseph dedicate their Son to God with care and devotion. Our first baby boy, He’s Yours, Lord! How do they respond to Simeon’s comment and Anna’s excitement?
Text for Prayer: Lk. 2:21-38
Reflection: Since we have reached the midway point of the Lenten season, let’s recall all the little (or big) sacrifices we have made so far. This meditation on the Presentation puts into perspective the meaning of “giving something up.” Joseph and Mary, after risking their lives to preserve the life of Jesus, did not claim Him for themselves, but dedicated this Gift to the original gift Giver.
Giving back to God what He gave to us sounds a bit odd, but it’s not the same thing as going to customer service to make an exchange for damaged or inadequate merchandise. After the Presentation, Mary and Joseph return home with the same Gift, and their responsibility for Him has not changed. A sword will still pierce Mary’s heart (soul). Things are not going to get easier, but in offering up their firstborn Son, the center of their lives, the best of all that they have, they become even more disposed to offer up whatever God asks of them.
Grace: For an interior knowledge of the Lord, Who sees what I don’t see and took on flesh so that I may love and follow Him more.
Point 1: God knew creating material beings with freewill could get a bit messy to say the least, but He also knew that the potential for these beings to love would in actuality resemble His love like no other. From the beginning, He loved humans and all creation into being, and out of love, He continues to sustain them.
Imagine the Holy Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, looking at the world racked with poverty, wars, human trafficking, genocide…envy, lust, pride, rage…lies, betrayal, neglect, apathy…“My people, My people, for why have you abandoned Me?”
Take a moment to gaze at the Divine Persons gazing at humanity, gazing at you.
See God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit zooming in on every human heart (try doing that on Google Earth!). They know every heart by Heart and count every beat of every heart. How do They react to what They see?
“Let Us work the redemption of the human race.”
Then They send the angel Gabriel to Nazareth.
“God became man so that man might become a god.” -St. Athanasius, De Incarnatione
Grace: To feel intensely the pain of those who are eternally separated from God, so that the very thought of eternal separation from Him would cause me so much sorrow that I would cry out to the Lord for strength to avoid sin.
Text for Meditation: Lk 15.25-32
Reflection: A woman writhes and screams in pain as she goes into another excruciating hour of intensive labor. A man gazes helplessly into the alert, tearful eyes of his teenage daughter as she breathes her last breaths. A wounded soldier cowers in the trenches, clenching a photo of his pregnant wife. Parents sitting in the cold courtroom waiting for the verdict that will determine their only son’s future. Children shivering under their blankets as their parents fight through the night.
All of us have experienced hell in one way or another. Hell happens in daily life when love seems to be lacking or losing to a stronger force. Even an apparent lack of love gives us a glimpse of hell. It’s when we have a taste of hell do we realize that we need love like we need oxygen. In realizing how much we need love, we realize how much those around us need our love. Seeing that the fires of hell on earth are beyond the capacity of our love to extinguish, we turn to Christ to increase our capacity to love before we drag those fires with us into the next life.
Grace: Ask for shame and confusion, seeing how many souls have chosen to live forever separated from God’s love, and for an acute awareness of my own potential of doing the same.
Text for Prayer: Isaiah 55:1-5
1st Point: By placing God at the center and all created things at His service and praise, we have a compass (or an updated GPS) that will help us better direct our intentions and lead us toward greater freedom. Throw this compass out and you throw yourself into the ditch. Our first parents had to learn it the hard way.
There were no mirrors in Eden, at least not the way we know them. God reflected Adam and Eve to themselves. Eve and Adam reflected each other. With their eyes on God, Adam and Eve learned how they were different from the other creatures. With their eyes on each other, they held each other accountable for keeping their eyes on God. Their loving relationship reflected back to God His own image. Then came the serpent. It would be an understatement to say he was like those carnival mirrors that gave everything a little twist. He was more like a smashed up mirror that distorted reality. He cajoled Adam and Eve to turn into themselves, not so they could admire their inner beauty, but to trap them in themselves.