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 minds so that we can ask for the grace to not be caught unawares and to be prepared at all times.
Jesus told this parable to his disciples ‘The kingdom of heaven will be like this: Ten bridesmaids took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and five were sensible: the foolish ones did take their lamps, but they brought no oil, whereas the sensible ones took flasks of oil as well as their lamps. The bridegroom was late, and they all grew drowsy and fell asleep. But at midnight there was a cry, “The bridegroom is here! Go out and meet him.”
At this, all those bridesmaids woke up and trimmed their lamps, and the foolish ones said to the sensible ones, “Give us some of your oil: our lamps are going out”.
But they replied, “There may not be enough for us and for you; you had better go to those who sell it and buy some for yourselves”. They had gone off to buy it when the bridegroom arrived. Those who were ready went in with him to the wedding hall and the door was closed. The other bridesmaids arrived later. “Lord, Lord,” they said “open the door for us.” But he replied, “I tell you solemnly, I do not know you”. So stay awake, because you do not know either the day or the hour.
In the past weeks, we have heard Jesus comparing the Kingdom of heaven to many familiar things in everyday life; a mustard seed, yeast, a pearl of great value, a grand wedding feast and so the list goes on. As we approach the end of this Liturgical Year, Jesus talks about the end-times by comparing the Kingdom of heaven to another scene that people at that time are familiar with – a Jewish wedding. But this time we are being warned to be prepared and warned of the consequences if we are not. So let us enter the scene and listen to Jesus tell us what will happen if we do not stay awake.
Who are you in the scene? One of the disciples? One of the crowd? Perhaps a Scribe or a Pharisee? A follower of Jesus? Someone who is not mentioned in the passage?
- Where is Jesus talking? In the temple? In an open space? In the market place?
- Why are you there? Are you with Jesus? Is there a crowd of people around Jesus? Are you there to listen to Jesus? Where are you in the crowd? In the front? Middle? On the margins?
- Jesus mentions that the kingdom of heaven is like ten bridesmaids who took their lamps to meet the bridegroom. Five were foolish and did not bring extra oil. The other five were sensible and did bring extra oil with them. Which group do you associate with in this scene? Would you have brought extra oil with you? Would you have been prepared so that no matter what time the bridegroom came, you would have had light? Or did you assume that the bridegroom would come at the time he said he would, so you only brought the required amount of oil?
- So who are you in the parable? Are you willing to wait on God (the bridegroom) even when you do not know the specific time he will come? Can you surrender yourself to the unknown with faith in God’s goodness and his infinite love?
- Do you grow drowsy and fall asleep whilst you are waiting because the bridegroom is late? Are you excited when you are awoken by the cry that the bridegroom is here? Are you looking forward to seeing the bridegroom? Are you a bit nervous? Do you feel prepared? Or are you tense because you realise you do not have enough oil for your lamp?
- When Jesus mentions in the parable that the sensible bridesmaids refuse to give some of their oil to the foolish bridesmaids, do you see this as a selfish act? Do you think they should have shared their resources? Or do you realise the point is perhaps that the ‘oil’ is metaphorical and not something that is transferable e.g. the oil of baptism, your individual gifts and graces that God has bestowed on you, the time we devote in prayer to God? Does the time you spend with God build up your supply of ‘oil’? Does your relationship with Him make your light shine brightly?
- Do you feel sorry for the foolish bridesmaids who acted on the advice of the sensible ones to go and buy some oil but had left it too late? Do you feel sorry for them because they had not looked beyond the present moment and had relied on the bare minimum? Does your relationship with God consist of doing the bare minimum? Are you generous in your relationships both with God and others? Do you realise that this is a time for action and that there is no time like the present to start?
Speak to Jesus about what is going on in your heart and mind regarding being prepared for his coming. Ask him to give you the wisdom to discern the here and now as it is there that we find God. Talk to Jesus about your readiness to find God in your daily life.
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