In the Third Week of the Spiritual Exercises, we contemplate the Passion of Jesus. St. Ignatius advises us to pray for the grace of compassion—the ability to suffer with Christ—as we encounter the Crucifixion.
I ask for what I desire. Here is it what is proper for the Passion: sorrow with Christ in sorrow; a broken spirit with Christ so broken; tears; and interior suffering because of the great suffering which Christ endured for me. (SE 203)
As you prepare to enter into contemplation on the Passion, find a quiet place. Sit in a comfortable but alert position—not so comfortable that you will fall asleep. Take some time to silence your mind. As you enter the scene, open your heart, and remember that your encounter is less about you being the doer than the receiver. Let the Holy Spirit be the protagonist, and ask the Spirit to illuminate your heart and mind as you walk to the foot of the Cross upon which Jesus is hanging.
We have come to that “deathbed” moment—and there is no going back. The events have played out as God intended, and you cannot change history. What you can do is be there, be present to Jesus in his suffering.
Notice how none of the disciples are here except John, who is with Jesus’ mother, Mary.
Observe the scene using your five senses. See how dark the sky has become. Hear the sobs of Mary and John and agonized moans of Jesus and the two thieves piercing the silence of the hill. Upon your tongue, taste the dust that has been kicked up by the wind. Also carried on the wind are the nauseating scents of blood, sweat, and vinegar—the smell of death. Feel the dust sticking to your clammy skin in the humid air. It’s so uncomfortable, isn’t it?
Raise your eyes to Jesus. It is so hard to look upon him, so difficult to be with one who is dying. It is even more difficult when it is such a young person, and the death is unjust and the manner of death so torturous.
As you raise your eyes to Jesus, his eyes light up. He smiles. You wonder how he can smile when he’s in so much pain. A tear rolls down his blood-stained cheek, cleaning away the dirt in its path. He looks at you with such love that it breaks your heart. With his head, he motions for you to come closer. You move as close as you can to the wood of the Cross before the soldier extends his lance, barring you from inching any closer.
In a soft voice, Jesus asks you earnestly:
What is it that you are afraid of?
What is it that pains you?
What is it that tortures you?
I am listening.
Bring it to me. Leave it here at the foot of my Cross.
Let it go. I’ve got it.
You are speechless.
Mary comes up beside you and places her hand on your shoulder. “Do as he tells you,” she whispers gently in your ear.
Stay with his questions.
Jesus is pouring out his blood for you. It is time for you to pour out your heart to him.