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 we too have the courage to approach Jesus in our desperation and ask for the healing we need.
A leper came to him and pleaded on his knees: ‘If you want to’ he said ‘you can cure me’. Feeling sorry for him, Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him. ‘Of course I want to!’ he said. ‘Be cured!’ And the leprosy left him at once and he was cured. Jesus immediately sent him away and sternly ordered him, ‘Mind you say nothing to anyone, but go and show yourself to the priest, and make the offering for your healing prescribed by Moses as evidence of your recovery’.
The man went away, but then started talking about it freely and telling the story everywhere, so that Jesus could no longer go openly into any town, but had to stay outside in places where nobody lived. Even so, people from all around would come to him.
In last Sunday’s Gospel, we saw Jesus coming from the synagogue, healing the sick and driving out evil spirits. going away by himself to pray and then “And he went all through Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and driving out devils”. Let us enter the scene as a leper, someone on the margins of society, someone considered as unclean, approaches Jesus to plead with him.
Who are you in the passage? Are you one of the disciples? Perhaps someone who has followed Jesus? Perhaps the man with leprosy? Maybe an on-looker or a passer-by? Perhaps someone else wanting to be healed?
You see the leper approaching. How do you feel? Are you afraid when you see him come so near? Are you annoyed because he is breaking the law which orders lepers to keep their distance from people? Do you feel sorry for lepers in general who have to socially and religiously exclude themselves from others?
What do you do? Do you stand back? Are you tempted to keep your distance? Do you walk away? Do you stay where you are because Jesus has not distanced himself from this man?
Do you feel sorry for this man, who in an act of desperation, falls onto his knees and pleads with Jesus? Are you surprised that he is not taking Jesus for granted when he says, ‘If you want to, you can cure me’? Are you surprised that the leper focuses on Jesus’ will as opposed to his own?
Jesus says ‘Of course I want to!. Be cured!’ Are you surprised when Jesus’ stretches out his hand and touches the man? That by doing so Jesus has made himself unclean? Do you think it is reckless of Jesus? Do you think Jesus neither cares nor worries that he is doing something unconventional and law-breaking? Or is it that Jesus has a deep compassion and wants to help this man? Do you find it strange that despite touching the leper which made him unclean, people still come to Jesus?
What does this miracle tell you about Jesus? Do you think that the words and actions of Jesus tell us something about how we should relate to others? What expression does Jesus have on his face when he cures the man? What is the reaction of those watching?
Why do you think that Jesus orders the leper not to say anything but to go to show himself to the priests? After all people are going to notice as he journeys to show himself to the priests! Do you think it was because Jesus doesn’t want any sensationalism? That his priority was that this man should be reintegrated into the community before he says anything? That it isn’t just the physical healing that is important but also the social healing? That it is important that this man feel whole again before he begins to tell people? That he doesn’t want the healing to be a publicity stunt?
Are you surprised that the man immediately starts talking about his cure? That he couldn’t refrain from talking about his healing? Do you refrain from telling people about miracles that happen in your life? Does it surprise you that this man becomes an evangelist of the good news? That people came to seek out Jesus because of him? Do you feel this too is your mission – to be a spreader of the Good News? Are you encouraged by this man’s reaction? Do you have his enthusiasm?
As we spend 10 minutes in quiet contemplation, let us talk to Jesus about our role in evangelisation. Let us ask him for the grace of discernment for the right moment to spread the good news of the kingdom and the enthusiasm to tell others of our experience with Jesus’ healing touch.
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