The Exercises: The 2nd & 3rd Weeks, or Getting to Know Jesus

The Ignatian Adventure by Kevin O'Brien, SJ

Editor’s note: The following is an excerpt from The Ignatian Adventure by Kevin O’Brien, SJ, copyright 2011 by Loyola Press.  This is reprinted with permission of Loyola Press. To order copies please call 1-800-621-1008 or go to www.loyolapress.com/obrien.

In our fourth excerpt from O’Brien’s The Ignatian Adventure, we encounter some material from his guide to the Second Week of the Exercises (meditations on the life of Jesus) and the Third Week (accompanying Jesus on way to the Cross).  Both of these weeks of prayer probe the depth and authenticity of our willingness to be lead by Christ the King.  Are we ready to answer that call, O’Brien asks?  If not, we do well to remember that it’s okay to “desire the desire,” to ask for the grace simply to want to be ready to answer it.  Christ the King will wait for us.

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Week of Prayer #15: The Call of Christ, Our King

We pray with another key exercise in Ignatius’s school of prayer: the Call of Christ, our King. The kingdom (or reign) of God is a central symbol in the biblical tradition. Like any symbol, the kingdom of God has many layers of meaning. Most basically, it expresses God’s dream for the world. Imagine what the world would look like if everyone acknowledged God as Creator and Lord and if everyone followed God’s law of love and life! Jesus spoke of the kingdom of God and revealed most completely God’s dream of the world in how he lived, taught, healed, and served others.

Note the grace we ask for this week: we ask not to be deaf to Christ’s call in our life and to be willing to do what Christ asks of us (SE 91). Praying through this exercise, we recall our colloquy before the cross during the First Week, when we asked, “What ought I do for Christ?” Christ calls us out of great love and concern for us and our world; ideally, we respond also in love and not in fear or obligation.

At times, we may resist opening our ears to Christ’s call because we are afraid of what we’ll hear (for example, we may not want to change something about our lifestyle). Or we may resist because we have an image of God as imposing the divine will on us to make us pay for some past sin. To the contrary, God’s call is meant to give us a fuller life of deeper meaning and authentic joy (though not without the sacrifices that accompany a life of discipleship). Far from being imposed from above, God’s will—or God’s desire—for us is found in our own deepest, truest desires.

Such honesty about our fears and resistances is helpful. If you cannot honestly ask for the grace of this week, then Ignatius would suggest that you pray for the desire to ask for the grace. Be honest.

At this point in the Exercises, we don’t have to make any offering or commitment if we’re not ready. For now, we just want to be open enough to hear the call and to get excited about Christ’s engaging vision for us and the world. We want to taste the disciples’ zeal for mission. We allow God’s Spirit to inspire holy desires. We let God work on us.

Week of Prayer #23: The Road to Calvary

We enter the third phase or movement of the Spiritual Exercises. In the Third Week, we pray through the passion of Christ. In the Second Week, we asked for the grace to know Jesus more intimately, to love him more dearly, and to follow him more closely. This love leads us to be with Jesus in his suffering. Such is our natural response when someone we love is hurting or enduring hardship. We just want to stay with them, to be present to them, even when words fail and we are powerless to end their suffering.

The grace we seek in accompanying Christ through his suffering is compassion. We reflect not merely on the physical pain he endured but also on the emotional, interior suffering of a person who is misunderstood, isolated, rejected, and alone.

In the Third Week, then, we focus on being with Jesus and less on all the “doing” of the Second Week, where we accompanied Jesus in his active ministry. A certain stillness pervades the Third Week. We keep our eyes clearly fixed on Jesus and avoid any intense self-examination or weighing of values, as we have done in prior weeks. In doing so, we become more like the One we walk with to Calvary: more loving, more faithful, more generous, and more compassionate.

The colloquy is very important in the Third Week. It should flow naturally in your prayer. We speak to Jesus as a friend would speak to a friend (SE 54). We speak words of sorrow, confusion, compassion, regret, fear, anticipation—whatever moves us. Or perhaps we are present to him without words. The comfortable silence shared between friends can speak volumes.

Prayer for the Week

“I ask for what I desire. Here it will be to ask for sorrow, regret, and confusion, because the Lord is going to his Passion for my sins” (SE 193).

Day 1: Read Matthew 21:1–11 ( Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem).

Day 2: Read Matthew 26:17–30 (Last Supper).

Day 3: Repetition.

Day 4: Read John 13:1–17 (washing of feet at the Last Supper).

Day 5: Read Matthew 26:36–46 or Luke 22:39–46 (agony in the garden).

Day 6: Repetition.

Day 7: Savor the graces of the week.