Day Five with Iggy: Prayer through Imagination

Today is Sunday and on Sundays it is really easy for me to see God at work in everything on Sunday. God is in the mass. God is in the Eucharist. God is in the songs. God is the prayers. Sundays were made for God.  I feel like I saw God a million times today.

St. Ignatius taught us many ways in which we can connect deeper with God. One of those ways is through finding God in all things. Another way is through the spiritual exercises*.St. Ignatius structured the Spiritual Exercises into what are referred to as “weeks.” Now, these are not seven day weeks, but rather, steps or stages on a spiritual pathway.  Through the exercises, there are prayers. There are two primary methods of  Ignatian prayer: meditation and contemplation.  You can think of meditation as centered on the mind and contemplation is centered around feeling.  Contemplative prayer is praying through the scriptures.

Today’s Gospel reading comes Mark’s Gospel (MK6:1-6):

Jesus departed from there and came to his native place, accompanied by his disciples.
When the sabbath came he began to teach in the synagogue,
and many who heard him were astonished.
They said, “Where did this man get all this?
What kind of wisdom has been given him?
What mighty deeds are wrought by his hands!
Is he not the carpenter, the son of Mary,
and the brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon?
And are not his sisters here with us?”
And they took offense at him.
Jesus said to them,
“A prophet is not without honor except in his native place
and among his own kin and in his own house.”
So he was not able to perform any mighty deed there,
apart from curing a few sick people by laying his hands on them.
He was amazed at their lack of faith.

Now, if we were using our imagination to pray through the scripture, we could imagine how Jesus felt coming back to his hometown and immediately getting dismissed. Was there a time when you were rejected by those in your community? What did that feel like?

When I heard this Gospel being read I felt frustrated. I put myself in the context of scripture. Everyone saw the miracles Jesus had done, but yet people STILL did not believe Him to be who He said He was.

When I was hearing the Gospel reading, I couldn’t help but remember when I came back to the Catholic Church and started getting involved with our parish. It felt very frustrating to me that even though, by rite of my baptism, I was/have been a Catholic my ENTIRE life, I was still being referred to as a “baby Catholic.”  Receiving the sacraments of Holy Communion and Confirmation made me complete. I was part of the family and not just a spectator, yet I  still felt out of sorts.

Though I am not Jesus, I can fathom, to some extent, his frustration. I share with Jesus his humanity and in our humanity comes  raw, human, emotions.  These emotions we experience give us an opportunity for growth while deepening our connection with God.

What I felt during the Gospel reading was frustration and I prayed through the reading, “Lord, what are you trying to show me through this emotion?”  I was shown  that each of us have times in our lives when we might feel rejected from our community.

How might we able to reach out to those who feel out of sorts?

When have we not seen or not heard?

How might we see or hear others in our community?

*Note: I am not a Jesuit priest (duh!) and I have not been trained (professionally) in the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius (yet!). I do not claim to be an expert on this topic.

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2 thoughts on “Day Five with Iggy: Prayer through Imagination

  1. Isn’t there a risk in using your imagination that way? Isn’t it somewhat presumptuous to think we know and can imagine how Christ felt beyond what is directly shown in the Gospels?

    It seems dangerous because you can easily build up an image of a person in your mind that is not true. I am the kind of person that likes to imagine myself talking to people when I am alone, now I mostly talk to completely imaginary people or characters from fiction because when I was younger I’d spend long hours imagining how real people would respond to me in conversation or in specific circumstances and I realised I was doing them a great dis-service, they never really reacted how they did in my imagination. I built up entire pictures of them in my imagination but the real persons were more complex and much harder to pin down than the imaginary ones. When it comes to them the worst that happened was that I was confused and dissapointed when things didn’t go how I expected and they were confused and frustrated by my reaction to them – but with Christ, to build up and worship a false mental construction of Him would be a really terrible thing.

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    1. I get what you are saying, but these are not my spiritual exerices. This comtemplative prayer comes from St. Ignatius of Loyola from 500 years ago. In his exercises, he says contemplation is praying through the scriptures. In doing this we put ourself in the context of the scripture. What do you see? What do you feel? What do you smell?By doing this we are engaged in our senses. I am not asking you to try to imagine what Jesus is thinking, but rather what he might have felt. I don’t mean, hey try to become Jesus for minute. Keep in mind Jesus was both human and divine. So he felt what we felt: anger, sadness, grief, pain, joy, etc. We might not be able to know for sure what Jesus felt, but we do know what certain emotions feel like because we are human. So when I said, “imagine what Jesus might have felt.” What I mean is, this is emotion (rejection) is what we all have felt, so imagine what it is like to feel rejected by your hometown. Or…imagine what it feels like to have those closest to you reject you? So think about how YOU would feel in this situation.

      A few weeks ago we read about Jesus calming the storm. You can put yourself into the context of the apostles and what they might have felt. I feel scared. I feel nervous. I feel worried. Maybe we can even imagine a time in our life when we wondered where Jesus was.

      Have you every felt empathy for a close friend? Perhaps you didn’t go through the same exact thing they did, but you know or have felt a similar emotion and said to them, “hey I will sit there with you and love you through this.” This is what I believe Ignatius wants us to try when he said to pray though the scriptures. OK, Lord, by puting myself in —–‘s shoes I can better understand what they are feeling and I can be empathetic and therefore love them more fully.

      If you have any questions about this, I suggest checking out this article:

      http://www.ignatianspirituality.com/ignatian-prayer/the-spiritual-exercises/pray-with-your-imagination

      Perhaps, this will make more sense. Life I mentioned in my blog, I am not a Jesuit, so perhaps my explanation is not as solid as a Jesuit.

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