A retreat for a pilgrim in a busy world

Session Four: Nativity, Baptism and Beyond


Praying with the Historical Jesus (see handout)

CHECK-IN Where are we at the moment?

SHARING SESSION See Note about Sharing
1. Matthew 13: 31–34 The Kingdom of Heaven is like a mustard seed or yeast.
2. Luke 9:22–25 To follow me take up your cross each day.
3. Prayer of St. Ignatius to follow our King
“Eternal Lord and King of all creation, humbly I come before you. Knowing the support of Mary, your mother, and all your saints, I am moved by your grace to offer myself to you and to your work. I deeply desire to be with you in accepting all wrongs and all rejections and all povety, both actual and spiritual—and I deliberately choose this, if it is for your greater service and praise. If you, my Lord and King, would so call and choose me, then take and receive me into such a way of life.” (Spiriutal Exercises # 98, Flemming S. J.)
4. Philippians 2:5–8 Christ Jesus emptied himself to be human.
5. The Incarnation: Handout and Luke 1: 26–38
6. Luke 1: 46–55 Magnificat
7. Repetition of the week

PRESENTATION: Two Leaders, Two Strategies, Three Types of Persons
Nativity, Baptism and Beyond

Food for the Journey

Concluding Prayer

Opening Prayer

Praying with the Historical Jesus

The goal of “Praying with the Historical Jesus” is to discover the supreme attractiveness of Jesus through concrete prayer experiences that are grounded within the historical imagination. By developing an intense awareness of our necessary and fundamental relationship with the incarnated Lord, we become more conscious of Jesus’ call to build the kingdom in our own time and culture. Thus, the purpose of these prayer experiences is to instill within us a sensitive heart so that we can achieve the goal of the Christian life: to choose what is more conducive to the end for which we are created.


1. Select a Passage: Select a gospel passage relevant to the themes or goals of your present life or prayer.

2. Reflect: Read through the passage. Notice the “sensory items” from the passage (what you see, hear, taste, touch, and smell). Similarly, take note of cultural images and social interactions you encounter.

3. Research (optional): Research these sensory items and social interactions by using Bible dictionaries, biblical encyclopedias, concordances, general biblical commentaries, gospel commentaries and such.

4. Recreate the Meditation: Construct a prayer meditation by drawing upon the historical information to unleash the gospel account. The goal of the meditation is to use the historical data to foster vivid imaginative prayer. Following St. Ignatius’ advice on praying with the five senses, place yourself in the gospel scene. Hear the dialog, feel the physical conditions, and taste and smell those things in the environment.

5. Contemporize Scene (optional): Search for contemporary parallels to the sense items and social images that were present in the gospel story. The goal is to be come aware of the relevance of Christ’s message and mission in our world today. Re-tell the story using modern situations and images.


Three Types of Person (The Tale of Three Couples)

First, I recall this little fantasy:

Three good and deeply faith-filled couples happen to pull off a business deal that nets each of them a million dollars. Now, these three couples are good people, with strong consciences, and they did nothing wrong in the business deal. After a few weeks, at one of their regular get-togethers, they rather shyly begin to mention a feeling that they have each noticed. They do not feel entirely comfortable about having that money. This is a spiritual matter, for their consciences remain clear and firm. But they notice changes in their spirits. They are no longer eager for Sunday Mass (and the homilies vex them as never before). They feel differently about the bishops’ pastoral on the American economy and the Pope’s letter about communism and capitalism. They no longer feel in harmony with the Church, somehow. They admit feeling exultant that they made the deal and got the million dollars. They like having the money and are doing great things with it. Still… maybe they want it too much or something? It seems to be tainting their lives.

· Second, at this juncture I set this fantasy aside and turn to God. I go and stand before the Blessed Trinity, with our Lady there, and the apostles, and in fact, I stand before the whole heavenly court.
There, I ask the Lord God Almighty for what I want: Lord, I ask to want, to desire, whatever will show in me Your holiness, Your power at work in the world and in me—whatever will make me more certainly Yours.

· Then I take up each couple as they go back and live out their way of dealing with this spiritual disquiet they feel, and I reflect on myself to see whether I would be with any one of the three couples.

First, this couple really wants to get rid of the disquiet. They talk a lot about it, at least in the beginning. But years later when they die—still rich—they have done nothing at all about it.

Second, the next couple can’t sit still in the disquiet. They want to keep the money and can’t figure why they ought to get rid of it. Still, they do not want to live with uneasy spirits, a little tentative with God. So they take some steps. Systematically, they give money to the poor and the dispossessed and the underprivileged, mostly through the Church. In this way, they try to bargain with God: “If we give this to the poor, You ought to give us peace.” When they come to die, they have done good things, but they have not reached solid inner peace.

Third, the final couple considered keeping the money and they also considered just giving the money away. But they had to admit that they did not really know whether either one would solve their uneasiness. Why would they keep it? Why would they give it away? So this is how they acted: They decided that they would not determine definitely to keep the money or definitely to get rid of it. They would wait to see what this disquiet really signified. Then, when they knew, they would act. In this way, they generously said to God: “Either way. Show us and we’ll do it.”

At the end, having reflected on yourself, pray to God with the aide of Mary and Jesus.

Food For The Journey

Session Four: Nativity, Baptism and Beyond
Grace Desired
I ask for the grace to know Jesus intimately, to love him more intensely, and so to follow him more closely.

Daily Passages for Prayer

1. Luke: 1: 39–45 Mary Visits Elizabeth
2. Luke 1: 46–56 Canticle of Mary-Magnificent Repetition
3. Luke 1: 57–66 Birth of John the Baptist
4. Matthew 1: 1–25 Ancestors and Birth of Jesus
5. John 1: 1–18 The Word of Life
6. Matthew 10: 17–22 Call of Jesus
7. John 20: 1–8 Feast of John, apostle, evangelist. Empty Tomb
8. Matthew 2: 13–18 Holy Innocents
9. Luke 2: 22–35 Presentation in the Temple
10. Luke 2: 22–40 Repetition of above plus Anna and return to Nazareth
11. John 1: 1–18 Repetition of Word of Life
12. Luke 2: 16–21 Shepherds praise God
13. John 1: 19–29 Testimony of John the Baptist
14. John 1: 29–34 More Testimony of John the Baptist
15. John 1: 35–42 Jesus says: “Come, and you will see.”
16. John 1–43–51 Jesus calls more disciples
17. Mark 1: 7–11 Baptism of Jesus
18. John 2: 1–11 Wedding at Cana
19. Matthew 2:1–12 Epiphany
20. John 1: 7–11 Baptism of Jesus
21. Mark 1: 21–28 Jesus cures a man with an unclean spirit

Reminders for Prayer
From now on, unless otherwise indicated, the prayer form called “Praying with Historical Jesus” can be used for all prayer periods. This form of Ignatian Contemplation uses “active imagination” to help the retreatant visually and sensibly to enter into the scripture passage, participate in the event, and draw understanding for daily life. The method has three parts. The first part is to read the passage, seeing the scene and noting who is present. The second is to listen to what the participants are saying, noting tone of voice, etc. And, third, watch what the participants in the scene do, how they act towards one another, how they touch, or not. As always the prayer ends with a COLLOQUY, or brief person-to-person, informal, chat with Mary, Jesus and God. An OUR FATHER to conclude the prayer period.

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