Sunday, March 22, 2015

Preparing for Holy Week

Today’s mass marked a sharp turn in Lent’s journey. The Fourth Gospel reminds us, “The hour has come.” Some Greeks, who represent all the gentile nations, come to the holy mountain of the Lord to see Jesus, that is, to gaze upon God’s dwelling. The prophetic signs of scripture have been fulfilled and the “hour” has come. This is the time to glorify God, but ironically it happens through the honor-defacing Cross. This is likewise the time of Satan, the Prince of this world, to make his move. Everything is set in place. All we have to do is to actively watch and pay attention to the emotions of Jesus.

During an Ignatian retreat (or for that matter, any type of prayer), Ignatius reminds us that five people are involved: me (the director), you (the one who prays), Ignatius, Christ, and Satan. We must be always aware of the various roles each of these participants have upon your prayer. Hence, the discernment of spirits is crucial to understanding your interior movements. You are never alone.

Our faith is odd. We believe that Jesus is fully human and fully divine, but most do not wrestle with what that means. How can both be true at the same time? It does mean that while Jesus walked on this earth, he was fully human. Most of the time, we consider him in a Resurrected mode, even when he was only human. We somehow think that Jesus was 70% God while only 30% human, give or take a few percentage points. Our faith reminds us he was 100% human as he entered his Passion. His life, his teaching, his person was validated by God in the Resurrection and he became our Christ of faith.

Since he was human, Ignatius tells us it is important to pay attention to the emotions of Jesus. He has plenty of them as he readies himself for his entry into Jerusalem where he will be arrested, betrayed, mocked, beaten, reviled, and crucified. We must be ready to hold these emotions for him as he tells us what he is experiencing. It is a kind act that we can do for him. Anyone who suffers needs to tell his or her story because suffering isolates, but compassion reconnects.

Holy Week is alive. It is way beyond us. It moves in distinct ways whether we are ready for it or not. Just think of our Palm Sunday celebrations. We enter the church joyfully waving palms and everyone walks out silently, sobered up by the realization that this took a solemn turn. Even though we know it, we do not control our emotional reaction.

In true Ignatian contemplation, we gaze upon the person of Jesus and notice what he is doing, what he is saying, examining his tone of voice, and measuring up his facial expressions. When we contemplated Jesus, we are befuddled by all the stuff of March 22, 2015 of our lives that rushes up for us to examine with Jesus. These are not distractions, but the true stuff of prayer. We want to push all that stuff away, especially the turbulent chaos of our lives, but it is precisely the stuff Jesus wants to examine with us. He cannot do anything with it until we assent to look at it with him.

Do not be alarmed if Holy Week becomes messy and turbulent. It is natural that it does. Go with it. You will receive particular surprising graces when you engage these areas of your life where Jesus wants to bring meaning and order. It is part of his task of liberating you and saving you. He is always working for your salvation, but we notice it even more now.

Quiet down inside yourself this week and prepare your hearts and minds for the mystery that may come. Observe our dear friend and let him tell you what is in his mind, heart, and imagination. Let him tell you his fears and concerns. Keep connected, but know it is O.K. if you fall away as Peter, James, John, and the other disciples did. We are human and it is difficult to hold the suffering of another person. Simply notice what you are feelings and speak of those feelings to yourself and to Jesus.

Embrace this mystery…