Ignatian spirituality talks about the importance of repetition when praying a Bible passage. Sometimes we get something completely different from the same bit of scripture when we approach it a second or third time.
Here is a passage from chapter 25 of Matthew's gospel:
“Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?” And the king will answer them, “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.”
You might like to approach this in three different ways on three different days!
Use the method of lectio divina with the passage above. If you don't know how to do that try this summary.
Try not to analyse, but to mull over the passage, taking it into your heart. Take your time and repeat to yourself the part of the passage that speaks to you most directly.
Use the method of Ignatian imaginative contemplation: but for this you will need to read a little before and after the passage in order to get your bearings. The time is two days before the Passover when Jesus will be betrayed and killed. He has already spoken to his disciples about his coming death, but they have not fully grasped his words. These words were spoken on the Mount of Olives towards the end of a session when he taught his disciples - largely in parables. Use the following condensed passage:
Now allow yourself to imagine the scene unfolding and be in the story!
When he was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately, saying, ‘Tell us, when will this be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?’ Jesus answered them, ‘Beware that no one leads you astray. For many will come in my name, saying, “I am the Messiah!” and they will lead many astray....
‘When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory....
Then the king will say to those at his right hand, “Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.” Then the righteous will answer him, “Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?” And the king will answer them, “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.”
Afterwards, try making a few notes to remind yourself later.
Use your head! Yes, we have imaginations and we have bodies and emotions - but we also have an intellect and common sense.
On the third day, read the first, short passage above and this time ask yourself some searching questions:
- Who is my neighbour?
- What does God expect of me in my response to suffering and global inequalities?
- What do I currently do to care for the hungry, the sick, the stranger, the grieving?
Suffering God, you let nothing stand in your way of redeeming us, even though the cost was so immense. May I, in some part, be a reflection of you in the world. Amen.