By Monika Manser
The most frequent way of praying that Saint Ignatius uses is that of imagining ourselves in a Gospel scene. We imagine ourselves as a character in the story. We take part in the story, seeing Jesus and all the other people, being aware of what’s going on and how we are feeling. The purpose of praying with the imagination is to allow Christ in the Scripture to speak to us. To bring the Gospel stories to life for us. We are not trying to recreate history. It doesn’t matter if your imagination takes the story off in a different direction to the Scripture. It doesn’t matter if the story takes place in 1st century Palestine or where we live now in the 21st century. What is important is what God wants to say to us through this passage.
Let us sit and relax so that together we can contemplate the Gospel using our imagination.
We acknowledge we are in the presence of God so let us say together:
Direct O Lord and guide and influence all that is happening in my mind and heart during this time of prayer: all my moods and feelings, my memories and imaginings; my hopes and desires; may all be directed and influenced to your greater glory, praise and service and to my growth in your Spirit.
Let the Spirit open our hearts and minds to Jesus instructions on how to be ready to receive the message of God.
Jesus said to his disciples: “There is no need to be afraid, little flock, for it has pleased your Father to give you the kingdom.
“Sell your possessions and give alms. Gel yourselves purses that do not wear-out, treasure that will not fail you, in heaven where no thief can reach it and no moth can eat it. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.
‘See that you are dressed for action and have your lamps lit. Be like men waiting for their master to return from the wedding feast, ready to open the door as soon as he comes and knocks. Happy those servants whom the master finds awake when he comes. I tell you solemnly, he will put on an apron, sit them down at table and wait on them. it may be in the second watch he comes, or in the third, but happy those servants if he finds them ready. You maybe quite sure of this, that if the householder had known at what hour the burglar would come, he would not have let anyone break through the wall of his house. You too must stand ready, because the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.”
‘Peter said, “Lord, do you mean this parable for us, or for everyone?” The Lord replied, “What sort of steward, then, is faithful and wise enough for the master to place him over his household to give them their allowance of food at the proper time? Happy that servant if his master’s arrival finds him at his employment. I tell you truly, he will place him over everything he owns. But as for the servant who says to himself ‘My master is taking his time coming’, and sets about beating the menservants and the maids, and eating and drinking and getting drunk, his master will come on a day he does not expect and at an hour he does not know. The master will cut him off and send him to the same fate as the unfaithful.
“The servant who knows what his master wants, but has not even started to carry out those wishes, will receive very many strokes of the lash. The one who did not know, but deserves to be beaten for what he has done, will receive fewer strokes. When a man has had a great deal given him a great deal will be demanded of him; when a man has had a great deal given him on trust, even more will be expected of him.”
In today’s Gospel of the nineteenth Sunday of Ordinary time C Jesus continues on from last week’s Gospel by affirming what he told us i.e. not to be greedy but to share what we have with those around us. But not only that, we must remain ever watchful and not to get distracted so that we can be ready to welcome him whatever time he arrives. Let us enter the scene and listen to Jesus’ instructions as to how we can attain alertness.
• Who are you in the scene? One of the disciples? Someone on the periphery? Perhaps you are someone or something not mentioned in the story.
• Where is Jesus teaching his disciples? Are there others present? When Jesus says to you, “There is no need to be afraid, little flock, for it has pleased your Father to give you the kingdom”, look around at the little flock you belong to. Do you wonder how you can spread the good news when you belong to such a small flock? Do you feel disheartened or discouraged? Or perhaps comforted and encouraged because Jesus has told you that what you are doing pleases his Father?
• When Jesus tells you about the treasure in heaven that will not fail you, that no thief or moth can reach, do you desire such treasure? What kind of treasure do you think he means? Do you think he means living in God’s kingdom here on earth? In heaven? Living in peace? Living in the love of God and neighbour? What treasure do you long for?
• As you listen to Jesus telling the parable about people waiting for their master to return and the consequences about them being ready, what is going through your mind? Do you feel dressed for action with your lamps lit? Do you sometimes get distracted by what is going on around you and lose focus of your mission? Do you find it challenging to remain “on-duty” all the time? Does Jesus ever come to you at a time when you do not expect? Through people and events? Are you there to welcome him or do you not recognise him?
• Are you surprised when Jesus refers to God as a thief in the night? Do you think if we are prepared, then we will not be surprised? Do you like surprises? What signs do you think we should be looking for so that we can expect this “thief” i.e. the coming of God? Do you think this parable is intimidating?
• When Peter asks the question “Lord, do you mean this parable for us, or for everyone?” what do you think was going through his mind when he asked it? Do you think that because you have been chosen by virtue of your baptism that you are exempt as your place in the next world has already been decided? Or do you think he asks it because being a disciple you have a responsibility to remain vigilant so that you can complete your mission?
• When Jesus responds to Peter’s question with another parable, this time about the consequences of being ready and not being ready, how do you feel? Do you think the consequences of not being ready are harsh? Do you think Jesus is warning us that we have to be alert to what is happening in world around us? That we cannot stand and ignore the injustices that we see around us? That if we do we are as much to blame as the perpetrator? Do you wish for wisdom so that you can be alert to what is happening around you?
Speak to Jesus about your readiness to welcome him. Ask him for the grace to open your ears to his call and your eyes to recognise his coming.
Let us now share what we thought, felt etc. only if you are comfortable to do so.
Suscipe of St. Ignatius of Loyola
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.
Scripture texts: from the Jerusalem Bible 1966 by Dartington Longman & Todd Ltd and Doubleday and Company Ltd