By Monica 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 guide and enlighten your minds as you read the Gospel and reflect on what it means to envisage Jesus as “the Way, the Truth and the Life. Let the Spirit enter you so that you too can hear the voice of Jesus, our Way to the Father.
Jesus exclaimed, “I bless you, Father, Lord of heaven and of earth, for hiding these things from the learned and the clever and revealing them to mere children. Yes, Father, for that is what it pleased you to do. Everything has been entrusted to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, just as no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.
“Come to me, all you who labour and are overburdened and I will give you rest. Shoulder my yoke and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. Yes, my yoke is easy and my burden light.”
Let us start our contemplation by setting the scene. This passage comes from Matthew Chapter 11 in which Jesus is reproaching those who fail to receive him and listen to his word. It is people in places like Capernaum and Chorazin where he has performed many miracles and where people have witnessed to him first hand who have refused to accept his message. So with the help of the Spirit, place yourself in the story and embrace Jesus’ desire to shoulder your weariness and give you, his child, an insight to his message.
- Who are you within the story? Are you one of the Twelve? Perhaps a passer-by? Or someone else who is not mentioned in the passage? Or someone who feels they are not highly educated and struggles to understand what Jesus is talking about?
- Where are you listening to Jesus? Are you out in an open space? Are you sitting with the group of disciples? Or are you passing by and you stop to listen and perhaps rest a while?
- When Jesus exclaimed “I bless you, Father, Lord of heaven and of earth, for hiding these things from the learned and the clever and revealing them to mere children”, what is going through your mind? What do you think he means? Does his words give you encouragement that his message is for you, even though you do not feel learned? Do you feel that perhaps Jesus means that the learned analyse his words too much and approach them with their head and not their heart? What is going on in your heart and mind as you listen to Jesus?
- When Jesus praises his Father and reveals his unique and loving relationship with him, how do you feel? Do you also desire this unique relationship with God, one of love and trust?
- When Jesus invites you to come to him and rest and he will carry your burdens. What is going through your mind? What burdens would you like to unload? Are you weary and tired? Perhaps you carrying the heavy burdens of failure, pain, loss, shame, guilt, depression, hopelessness, or anxiety? Do the Scribes, Pharisees, your employer, those in power, those who think they know better, add to your burdens? Are you weary from the struggles and disappointments life brings you?
- What do you think it would be like to carry your burdens with Jesus’ help? What difference does it make to you when Jesus helps you to carry your burdens? Do they feel lighter? Do you now feel that you can cope? Does his help give you the energy you need to continue? Does it make you feel less weary?
- Do you want to go to Jesus and sit with him and rest awhile? Do you want to learn from him? Learn how to be meek and humble of heart? What do you want to say to him? Do you want to unburden yourself from everything that is going on in your life at the moment? Do you want to put your life in his hands?
Sit and imagine the scene and perhaps write down how and what you feel, your emotions – anything that comes into your mind. Sit and reflect on Jesus’ invitation and enjoy the peace.
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