Have you ever shared the pain or struggle of a loved one? Although you were not directly experiencing the same challenges, you could feel their very pain as a part of you? This meeting invites the group to engage in Ignatian Contemplation as they grow in compassion for Christ in his passion and become sensitive to the presence of God in the midst of suffering.
Often, we can think about suffering, asking questions like, “Why do bad things happen to good people?” or “Why me?” While there is some merit to these questions, often they allow us to keep a safe distance from the authentic experience of suffering itself. The invitation of the Third Week of the Spiritual Exercises is to let ourselves take in the suffering of others—to be with others and share their suffering. We do this primarily by entering into the suffering of Christ, feeling with Christ in all that he feels through his Passion and Death. From this vantage point, compassion may expand the walls of our hearts to make room for our own suffering and the burdens of others. This sharing of suffering itself makes room for the presence of God to be felt in times of sorrow and despair. A strange healing occurs when life broken is shared together.
Supplies: Meditation music
Consider opening and closing the meeting with the song “Stay with Me” from the Taizé community.
“Stay with me, remain here with me. Watch and pray. Watch and pray.”
Ask for the grace to experience compassion for Christ in his suffering and to remain open to God’s presence in suffering
Where is a place you have witnessed suffering this week?
Include the following reading: “Grace of Compassion” by Dean Brackley, SJ as a way to open your meeting as you introduce the theme of seeking compassion for Christ in his Passion.
I invite you to find a comfortable position in your chair- with both feet on the ground and palms resting open on your lap- these two postures indicating a rootedness on the holy ground below us and receptivity to God’s abundant gifts surrounding us. I invite you to take a couple of breathes, slowly, inhale, and exhale. With each exhale, allow your body to fall more deeply into your chair allowing any tension to be released with each breath. Keep breathing and recognize the rising and falling of your body. Notice God’s very life present in the stillness of your body.
I will read the following passage a couple times through. Listen to the words and take note of any images that emerge.
Then, read the following passage (two times through):
Then Jesus came with them to a small estate called Gethsemane; and he said to his disciples, “Stay here while I go over there to pray.” He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee with him. And sadness came over him, and great distress. Then he said to them, “My soul is sorrowful to the point of death. Wait here and keep awake with me.”
- (The contemplation should be about 15-20 minutes. Be present to the spirit moving and do not feel rushed. Try to not move forward if you sense yourself moving forward from fear of further silence. Allow your inner sense of the spirit to be the one guiding the contemplation. Trust your inner voice of truth.)
- Allow yourself to enter the scene. Tap into your five senses as you leave the Last Supper with Jesus. Notice your place in the scene as Jesus makes his way to Gethsemane. Where other people in relation to Jesus? What does the road look like as you walk? What else do you see?…nature? lights and shadows? movements? (pause for 1 minute) What are you hearing? perhaps the sound of feet walking, people talking or whispering, animals in the night? silence?… (pause for 1 minute) What are you touching? … clothing, something you carry, the hand of another… What does the air feel like—cold or warm? Is there a breeze?…Notice all these elements and be present to them. (pause for 1 minute)
- As you walk, notice pay attention to Jesus. What is his demeanor as he walks? Is he traveling a fast pace or a slow pace? (pause for 1 minute) Now notice where you are in the scene and where your proximity is in relation to Jesus. What influences or factors shape how close you are to Jesus? What draws you in or keeps you at a distance? (pause for 2 minutes)
- Now, imagine you have arrived at the garden. What does it look like?… do you notice any particular plants or paths in the garden?…do you feel any of the plants—their soft textures or their sharp thorns?…what does the garden smell like? (pause for 1 minute)
- Let your attention focus now on Jesus. You sense he is overcome with sadness and distress—what is it that gives you this impression that Jesus is so sad? (pause for 2 minutes) How do the people around you respond to Jesus’ sorrow? (pause for 1 minute) How do you respond to Jesus’ sorrow? (pause for 1 minute)
- Jesus moves deeper into the garden, and he now asks one or two friends to go with him…are you drawn to go with him?…What do you do as Jesus walks deeper into the shadows?…How are you feeling? (pause 2 minutes)
- From where you are standing, you can hear Jesus say, “My soul is sorrowful to the point of death.”…As you see or imagine Jesus’ distress, what do you feel for him? What do you desire for him? (pause for 2 minutes)
- Once again you hear Jesus speak, “Wait here and keep awake with me.” As you hear Jesus’ request, what do you feel?…“Wait here and keep awake with me.” How do you respond to Jesus invitation? (pause for 2 minute)
- The time with Jesus in the garden is drawing to a close. Before the guards come to take Jesus away, is there something you would like to leave Jesus with? A word, a gesture, a gift?…(pause)…What stirs within you as you spend these final moments together? (pause for 2 minutes).
- In gratitude, we thank God for the time to be with Jesus in his time of need. We pray for the continued grace of compassion as we strive to be with those who suffer in our own lives and world today.
- When you are ready, please open your eyes and become aware of your presence in this room and gathering.
- What is remaining within you? Images, words, themes present?
- How were you surprised, challenged, or consoled?
- As always, if the meditation did not speak to them, create the space for anything else that is stirring within their hearts at this time to be shared.
- Have you ever “abandoned yourself” to the grief and tragedy of others’ suffering? Or are you more tempted to stand at a distance from suffering?
- Has an experience of grief or sorrow ever had a ‘centering’ effect on you, bringing you to new vision or purpose?
- Do you have an experience of “shared suffering” which made the burden lighter for you or another?
- What has struck you as you have been listening to others share? Do you notice any patterns or commonalities?
- How have you been feeling throughout the meeting? Comfortable? Anxious? Curious?
- Is there anything you would like to share after listening to another person share?
Pay attention to how suffering is present in your week. How do you notice it present in the lives of loved ones, in your community, in the news, in the world? Pay attention where you feel moved to respond.
In addition to sharing prayers for those who are suffering in your own lives and communities, consider closing the meeting with the Taize song, “Stay with Me.”
“Stay with me, remain here with me. Watch and pray. Watch and pray.”
“Living with the poor and sharing their condition, Jesus invites all of us to give ourselves continuously to God and to bring about unity in our human family. Inspired by the Holy Spirit, we respond with gratitude to God for this gift of Jesus in every circumstance of our lives” (CLC-USA General Principles #1).
“In the Passion it is proper to ask for sorrow with Christ in sorrow, anguish with Christ in anguish, tears and deep grief because of the great affliction Christ endures for me” (Spiritual Exercises ).
“It is also consolation when one sheds tears which move to love of the Lord, either out of sorrow for sins, or for the passion of Christ our Lord” (Spiritual Exercises ).
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all consolation, who consoles us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to console those who are in any affliction with the consolation with which we ourselves are consoled by God.” 2 Corinthians 1:3-4
“I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by becoming like him in his death, if somehow I may attain the resurrection from the dead. Philippians 3:10-11