On our Lenten pilgrimage our travelling companion is Ignatius Loyola, a man of passionate generosity and warm feeling who called himself ‘the pilgrim’. His Spiritual Exercises are used by people of every kind who are seeking a genuine, personal relationship with Jesus. Ignatius helps us to meet a God who is willing to meet us wherever we are. We also learn to recognize the movements within ourselves that lead us to or away from God and God’s ways.
- It helps to begin by becoming physically and mentally still. You don’t have to strain at this but try to let the tension drain out of your body as you sit or walk, relaxing any part where you feel uptight.
- Become aware of your desire to spend this time in God’s presence, to bring God all your hopes, anxieties and dreams. Now listen to the words of Jesus from the Gospel of Matthew...
Reading: Matthew 11:28-30
“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
- Notice how you felt when you listened to the scripture. Are you feeling weary and in need of laying down the burdens you carry? Can you hand them over to Jesus just for this time?
- A yoke helps animals carry loads, but Jesus says his yoke is easy and gentle. How does that make you feel?
- Our other retreat companion is Mary Ward, a seventeenth-century Catholic living under persecution in England. As a fifteen year old, her only spiritual guide was a book called Spiritual Combat. It offered strategies for achieving spiritual perfection, using military language. It said that in the struggle against evil we must “fight or die”… Mary found the practices encouraged by the book a heavy burden which made her anxious and self-critical. She found her way to a more gentle God, deciding, “I will do these things with love and freedom, or leave them alone”…
- God’s way of dealing with us is characterized by love and freedom rather than fear and self-blame. Both Ignatius and Mary teach us that our thoughts and imaginings and the feelings that go with them can lead us closer to or further away from God. If something increases our faith, hope or love it’s likely to be of God. If something, even though good in itself, diminishes our faith, hope or love, that is not God’s way. This includes learning to love and accept ourselves as God loves us.
- Jesus speaks of being weary. If you feel tired in body, mind or spirit the tiredness may come from external circumstances, or it may be driven by the way you choose to live. Do you experience a desire to grow in inner freedom?
- Our burden is light because Jesus carried it for us on the Cross. How would you like to respond to his willingness to shoulder your burdens?
- As this time of prayer comes to an end, take time to express any final words or prayers you want to share with Jesus.