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.
Sit and relax by focussing on your breathing for a few minutes so that you can contemplate the Gospel using your imagination.
Acknowledge you are in the presence of God by saying the following prayer:
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 so that we, like the poor widow can empty ourselves in an act of generosity and put our trust in God’s providence.
In his teaching Jesus said, ‘Beware of the scribes who like to walk about in long robes, to be greeted obsequiously in the market squares, to take the front seats in the synagogues and the places of honour at banquets; these are the men who swallow the property of widows, while making a show of lengthy prayers. The more severe will be the sentence they receive.’
He sat down opposite the treasury and watched the people putting money into the treasury, and many of the rich put in a great deal. A poor widow came and put in two small coins, the equivalent of a penny. Then he called his disciples and said to them, ‘I tell you solemnly, this poor widow has put more in than all who have contributed to the treasury; for they have all put in money they had over, but she from the little she had has put in everything she possessed, all she had to live on’.
On this the 32nd Sunday of Ordinary time, we are getting to the end of St Mark’s Gospel. The disciples have walked with Jesus and bore witness to him curing the blind and the deaf whilst instructing them in their mission and preparing them for his passion and death. Let us enter the scene as Jesus further instructs the disciples about hypocrisy and generosity.
• Who are you in the scene? Are you one of the disciples? One of the crowd? Someone in the temple? A scribe or Pharisee? Yourself? Someone not mentioned in the passage?
• Notice what is going on around you. What is the mood like – of the disciples, of the crowd, of the worshippers in the temple? What do you see and hear? What strikes you about the general atmosphere? What are the surroundings like? Why are you there? Do you notice Jesus coming in with his disciples? Do you stop and listen?
• What do you think of Jesus condemning the conduct of the scribes? Are you surprised because they are the ones you look to as interpreters of the Scriptures? Do you feel that because of their status, their qualifications and knowledge they deserve to be honoured and respected? Or do you feel they misuse their position of authority?
• Does what Jesus say strike a chord with you regarding honour and power? Do you want to look good in your community or are you happy in your own skin? Do you obsess on what others think of you or are you true to who you are? Does your status in the community influence your behaviour in a way that is beneficial to the community or in a way that you think makes you look good amongst your peers? What values do you place on success? Are your thoughts on success in tune with what Jesus is showing us through his words and deeds?
• Do you hear in Jesus’ words that he is telling you not to obsess on external appearances but on our inner spirit – a spirit of service, of love, of compassion, of mercy, of peace, of courage to be a voice for those in the community whose voice is unheard or ignored?
• Do you notice the people giving in money to the treasury? Do you feel that some are making a big show of it, want the amount they are contributing to be noticed? Do you see the poor widow that Jesus is talking about? Do you think she knows she is being watched? Would you have noticed her if Jesus hadn’t pointed her out to you? Do you think that the amount she gave seems insignificant compared to what others were giving? Would you have thought about the fact that it was all she could afford if Jesus hadn’t pointed it out to you? Now that it has been pointed out, do you admire her generosity and trust in God’s providence?
• Have you ever given all you had to the service of God for example, your time, your energy, your resources, trusting that God would take care of your needs?
• How do you feel about Jesus’ teaching? Do you find it challenging, shocking or are you attracted to it?
Speak to Jesus about what is going on in your mind and heart regarding his teaching and his way of seeing what is going on around him. Ask him for a generosity of heart and a mindfulness to see what he himself sees.
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