On more occasions than I care to count, people will comment to me, “Ignatian spirituality does not have enough to do with Jesus. All you hear about is finding God in all things.” While in my head I am thinking of all the things I really would like to say in response to that comment, I typically take a deep breath and ask them, “Have you ever gone through the Spiritual Exercises? They are all about Jesus and a relationship with him!”
Here are the top five things the Spiritual Exercises taught me about Jesus.
- Jesus was human. This understanding deepened within me during the Second Week of the Exercises as I prayed with the nativity Scriptures, holding a six-month-old in my arms. It was really Mary who showed me Jesus’ humanity, as a mother nurturing her infant son. Mary carried, birthed, and loved a child. I carried, birthed, and loved a child. The infant Jesus went through all the phases of growing up that my own children go through.
- Jesus discerned his Father’s will. Praying through the Exercises helped me understand that Jesus grew in wisdom and understanding. Jesus asked his Father, “What is my next right step?” I, too, am called to ask God, Jesus’ Father, what is my “next right step?”
- Jesus gets suffering. At times Jesus’ discernment of his Father’s will led him to some challenging situations: mockery by family and friends, unwelcome in his home town, betrayal by friends, and physical pain. Walking alongside Jesus and praying with Jesus’ experiences of suffering, especially during the Third Week of the Exercises, showed me how Jesus, a human (see #1), felt pain. Jesus gets our suffering because he experienced his own share in his life.
- Jesus remained rooted in his Father. Through all of the challenging times Jesus faced, he trusted in his Father and turned to him in time of need for strength on his journey. With his Father’s help, Jesus entered Jerusalem and faced his death. What does Jesus’ dependence on his Father teach me? That when my own discernment leads me to face challenging situations, I, too, can lean on God, and God will walk with me through the journey.
- Jesus was hopeful. Jesus’ hope came from his trust in God. Jesus understood that his passion was necessary for God to complete the rest of the plan—the Resurrection. Because Jesus was hopeful, I have a reason for hope in my own life. Because of Jesus’ trust in God, I have a reason to believe that in tough times, light will eventually come.