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 in the knowledge that Jesus’ words will not pass away despite the passing away of heaven and earth.
Jesus said to his disciples: ‘In those days, after that time of distress, the sun will be darkened, the moon will lose its brightness, the stars will come falling from heaven and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of Man coming in the clouds with great power and glory; then too he will send the angels to gather his chosen from the four winds, from the ends of the world to the ends of heaven.
‘Take the fig tree as a parable: as soon as its twigs grow supple and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. So with you when you see these things happening: know that he is near, at the very gates.
I tell you solemnly, before this generation has passed away all these things will have taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.
‘But as for that day or hour, nobody knows it, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son; no one but the Father.
The 33rd Sunday of Ordinary time is the penultimate Sunday of the Liturgical Year and in this extract from the Gospel of St Mark, Jesus teaches his disciples about the signs to look for that will herald the coming of the Son of Man. Let us enter the scene and listen to Jesus as he uses imagery to help his disciples read the signs of the times and counsel them to be vigilant regarding the end-times.
• Who are you in the scene? Are you one of the disciples? Someone overhearing the conversation? Yourself? Someone not mentioned in the passage?
• Notice what is going on around you. What is the mood like – of the disciples, of Jesus? What do you see and hear? What strikes you about the general atmosphere? What are the surroundings like?
• What is your mood like as you listen to Jesus talking about the end-times? Are you afraid? Do you think Jesus is trying to scare you? Or do you think he is just trying to emphasise that you must be vigilant at all times? Do you sense his urgency?
• As Jesus speaks in metaphoric language, what do you imagine? Do you imagine the start of a great tribulation or the beginning of a new world? Have you noticed that Jesus does not say he will come as a judge but as a powerful Saviour? Does that comfort you? Do you see from his words that what he is telling us is not meant as a threat to humanity but to bring hope and salvation? How does that make you feel? Joyful or fearful?
• What is going through your mind as Jesus tells the short parable of the fig tree? Does it simplify reading the signs of the times for you? Does being mindful of what is going on around you help you to prepare for the end-times?
• Have you ever listened to those prophets of doom who predict by various means that the end is near or that God will take out his anger on the world because of our way of life? How do you respond to such predictions? With fear and anxiety? Or do you trust in God’s love and mercy and compassion on us sinners? Do you trust from the words and deeds of Jesus that God does not take revenge?
• How do you feel when Jesus says “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away”? Does it bring you consolation and hope? Are there any words of Jesus that will never pass away for you? What are the words or passage from Scriptures that are particularly memorable for you? How have they brought you consolation?
• Do you feel that if you keep Jesus’ words close to your heart as you journey through life, you will have nothing to fear regarding the end-times? Do you feel that the word of God is spoken in love and is a light for your path for your life’s journey?
Speak to Jesus about what is going on in your mind and heart regarding the end-times and ask him for the grace to lead a mindful life and not a superficial one.
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