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 SpiriLet the Spirit enter our hearts and enlighten our minds to help us be aware of the unwanted baggage that prevents us from meeting Jesus at the narrow door.
Through towns and villages Jesus went teaching, making his way to Jerusalem. Someone said to him, “Sir, will there be only a few saved?” He said to them, “Try your best to enter by the narrow door, because, I tell you, many will try to enter and will not succeed.
“Once the master of the house has got up and locked [he door, you may find yourself knocking on the door, saving, ‘Lord, open to us,’ but he will answer, I do not know where you come from. Then you will find yourself saying, ‘We once ate and drank in your company; you taught in our streets,’ but he will reply, I do not know where you come from. Away from me, all you wicked men! “Then there will be weeping and grinding of teeth, when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, and yourselves turned outside. And men from east and west, from north and south, will come to take their places at the feast in the kingdom of God.
“Yes, there are those now last who will be First, and those now first who will be last.”
On this 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time C, we are continuing to follow Jesus on the road to Jerusalem where he preaches to the towns and villages on the way. On his travels, it is not unusual for Jesus to tell a parable in answer to a question made by someone in the crowd. If you remember a few weeks ago the answer to “What must I do to inherit eternal life” was the parable of the good Samaritan. Let us enter the scene and listen to Jesus’ answer to “Sir, will there be only a few saved?”
• Who are you in the scene? One of the crowd? One of the disciples? The person who has asked the question? Someone who has been following Jesus to Jerusalem? A passer-by? Some or something not mentioned in the passage?
• Where is Jesus teaching? Are there many people listening? Look around you. What do you notice about the crowd? Are they listening intently? Are they discussing Jesus’ teaching amongst themselves? What is the atmosphere like? Are people inspired? Hostile? Indifferent? Critical?
• Who is the person who comes out from the crowd and asks “Sir, will there be only a few saved?”. Do you know them? In what manner do they ask the question? Innocence? Intrigue? Honesty? Challenging? Menacing?
• What is Jesus’ reaction to the question? What is your reaction to the question? One of surprise? One of liberation? Do you think this man is brave to ask the question in front of the crowd? Are you surprised that Jesus does not give a direct answer to the question? Or have you come to the realisation that Jesus’ replies are always challenging?
• Are you surprised to hear that just because you have been chosen by virtue of your baptism, Jesus may still not recognise you? That even though you are one of his followers, you may still be sent away? Does this make you think you must not take anything for granted? Are you surprised that what Jesus is saying is that your entry into the Kingdom of heaven is not guaranteed? How does that make you feel? Confused? Afraid? Wondering how to guarantee your place in heaven?
• Or are you consoled that people “from east and west, from north and south, will come to take their places at the feast in the kingdom of God”? Do you find it reassuring that there is not a specifically “chosen race” but all have the same chance of experiencing God’s love and mercy? Does it make you feel liberated in that you too, despite all you faults and failings also have the same chance as everyone else? Can you see that no-one has any more right or privilege over others? Do you sometimes find yourself excluding others just because they are a different religion, do not think as you do, do not appear to be following the “laws” and “commandments” of your church community?
• Do you now see that entering through the narrow door is not as bad as it seems? In fact do you now realise it is liberating as we rid ourselves of our unwanted baggage? That unwanted baggage is hindering you? What unwanted baggage would you like to rid yourself of so that you have the space to enter though the door? Is it perhaps your pride and status in life – thinking that you deserve more than others to get into the Kingdom? Or perhaps your possessions hold you back?
Talk to Jesus about your unwanted baggage and ask him to help you free yourself of your burdens so that you too can be one of those who “take their places at the feast in the kingdom of God”.
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