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 enter our hearts and enlighten our minds to the mystery that Jesus, by his crucifixion, is shown to be King and Saviour of all.
The people stayed there watching Jesus. As for the leaders, they jeered at him. “He saved others,” they said “let him save himself ‘ if he is the Christ of God, the Chosen One.” The soldiers mocked him too, and when they approached to offer him vinegar they said, If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself.” Above him there was an inscription: “This is the King of the Jews.”
One of the criminals hanging there abused him. “Are you not the Christ?” he said. “Save yourself and us as well.” But the other spoke up and rebuked him. “Have you no fear of God at all?” he said. “You got the same sentence as he did, but in our case we deserved it: we are paying for what we did. But this man has done nothing wrong. Jesus,” he said “remember me when you come Into your kingdom.” “Indeed, I promise you,” he replied “today you will be with me in paradise.”
On this, the last Sunday of the Church’s Liturgical year, we celebrate the Solemnity of Christ the King and reflect on the title we have given to Jesus. The Gospel passage is taken from St Luke’s account of the crucifixion in which we see that the inscription which has been place on the cross in mockery contains a profound truth. Jesus in his crucifixion has shown that he is King and Saviour of all. Let us enter the scene and see if we too can recognise Jesus, the crucified one, as our Lord and Saviour.
• Who are you in the scene? Are you one of the disciples? Someone who has stayed to watch? One of the leaders? One of the soldiers? One of the criminals being crucified with Jesus?
• Notice what is going on around you. The sounds that you hear. The smells that fill the air. Are there a lot of people watching this horrific scene? What is the mood like of those around you? Is it noisy? Notice the reactions of those watching. How do you respond?
• Why are you there? What emotions are you experiencing? Sadness? Helplessness? Fear? Anger? Do you find it hard to watch Jesus in his agony? Are you angry because you know Jesus is innocent? Are you aware of the innocent people today who are suffering? Do you wonder what you can do to help?
• What is going through your head as you hear the jeering – “He saved others, let him save himself “? Are you puzzled by this because those who are persecuting Jesus realise he came to save all of us? Do you wonder why, despite this realisation, they are jeering?
• When you hear the soldiers joining the mocking, do you wonder why? Do you think they are copying the leaders or do you think that they too have heard of Jesus’ saving power? Do you too, having experienced Jesus’ healing power, want to tell him to save himself from this terrible situation? Do you realise that only by the cross and resurrection can he redeem the world? Or is the situation to horrific for you to see that this is how it must be? That this is not the end but the beginning of salvation for the world?
• What is going through your mind when you hear one of the criminals admonish the other saying “Have you no fear of God at all? ….we are paying for what we did. But this man has done nothing wrong”. Do you see that this criminal recognises Jesus as a just man? That he recognises his own sinfulness? Do you see that salvation has already begun to work in this gruesome situation? Do you see that this man’s humility is the ground by which to meet God?
• How do you feel when you hear the exchange between the good thief and Jesus – “remember me when you come Into your kingdom.” “Indeed, I promise you,” Jesus replied “today you will be with me in paradise.” How do you feel when Christ promises his Kingdom to a penitent thief? Do you too think that Jesus’ promise of redemption and forgiveness is for you too?
• When you hear Jesus’ promise to a criminal, is that proof to you that God is listening to your voice up until the last minutes of your life? Do you find this comforting that God is listening to us amidst our troubles? That Jesus is telling us not to despair? Do you, like this criminal, recognise that Jesus is indeed King and Saviour of all?
Speak to Jesus about how to be part of his kingdom – a kingdom of truth and life, a kingdom of holiness and grace, a kingdom of justice, love and peace.
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