The Third and Fourth Weeks of the Spiritual Exercises has us reflect on the great pain of the death of Jesus and the joy in his resurrection. The common thread is that both of these events express the great love of God. This week Br. Mark Mackey, SJ, takes us through the end of the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius.
Just as we imagined Jesus’ life in the Second Week, so now in the Third Week we imagine his death.
I’m Br. Mark Mackey and I’m going to take you through the end of the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola.
What were the final hours of Jesus’ life like?
He had a Last Supper with his friends, he agonized in the Garden of Gethsemane over his impending death, he faced an unjust trial in which his own people called for his torture. He carried his cross, died, and was buried.
We sit with each one of these events in prayer to let them sink in. They become more real than just a passing line in scripture.
We don’t try to change or soften what Jesus experienced. Rather, we draw close to him and feel the gravity of his Passion. Then we wait expectantly alongside Jesus in the tomb.
With the coming of the Fourth Week, however, there’s a drastic shift.
SPOILER ALERT! He lives! The tomb is empty. Jesus rises from the dead.
Curiously, Ignatius has us contemplate something that does not appear in the Bible: the resurrected Jesus first appears to Mary, his mother. We imagine the immense joy of a mother who, having lost her son, finds him living again.
We move to scripture: Jesus surprises Mary Magdalene, his disciple, two disaffected followers on the road to Emmaus, and, of course, doubting Thomas.
All of this leads us to the pinnacle of the Spiritual Exercises: The Contemplation to Obtain Divine Love. Behind Jesus’ death and resurrection is the love of God. He died to save us and he rose to give us hope. With himself he lifts us up to share in the divine life of the family of God. Just as in creation God made everything in an outpouring of love, so too in the resurrection he redeems everything out of love.
God is a great giver of gifts. He gave us our life, our blessings, and, above all, his only Son. What can we do for God in response but give back to him in love what he has given to us?
And so Ignatius finishes the Exercises with the famous original prayer, the Suscipe:
Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty,
my memory, my understanding,
and my entire will,
all I have and call my own.
You have given all to me.
To you, Lord, I return it.
Everything is yours; do with it what you will.
Give me only your love and your grace,
that is enough for me.