The Birth of Jesus
Having rejoiced with Mary in her “yes” to God, we begin to walk with Jesus from his birth, through his hidden life and public ministry, to the foot of the cross at Calvary.
In these weeks, we ask repeatedly for a grace fundamental to the Second Week of the Exercises: “to know Jesus more intimately, to love him more intensely, and to follow him more closely” (SE 104). This idea of the “more”—encapsulated in the Latin word, magis—is vital for Ignatius. The Exercises are intended to tap into a zeal that impels us to more knowledge, love, and service of God and others.
The order of these graces is important. We can rush to find out what our calling in life is, without really knowing the One who calls us. If we focus on first knowing and loving Jesus, then the call to serve becomes clearer and we can approach it with less fear. We really cannot love someone unless we first know him or her on some deeply personal level. Ultimately, it is possible to follow Jesus only if we are rooted in our love for him.
The Grace I Seek
I pray for the following grace: to know Jesus more intimately, to love him more intensely, and to follow him more closely.
Read Luke 2:1–7. (The Birth of Jesus)
Contemplate the scene of Jesus’ birth. Ignatius suggests placing yourself directly in the scene:
See the persons; that is, to see Our Lady, Joseph, the maidservant, and the infant Jesus after his birth. I will make myself a poor, little, and unworthy slave, gazing at them, contemplating them, and serving them in their needs, just as if I were there, with all possible respect and reverence. (SE 114)
Some Insight into Redemption
Consider a blissfully happy couple finding all they need in one another. For no other reason than generosity and the desire to share their happiness, they decide to adopt children as their own. From then on their life undergoes a profound change. Now they are vulnerable; their happiness is wrapped up in the welfare of the children; things can never be the same again.
If the children choose to alienate themselves and start on the path to ruin, the couple are stricken. They will plead, humble themselves, make huge sacrifices, go out of themselves to get their loved ones to understand that the home is still their home, that the love they have been given is unchanging.
This perhaps, gives us some insight into redemption. In a mystery we cannot fathom, God “empties,” “loses” Himself, in bringing back to Himself His estranged, lost children. And this is all the Father wants. This is the only remedy for His wound. God is no longer pure God, but always God-with-humanity-in-His-heart.
So, God loves us unconditionally and will always take us back, no matter what I do or say. That's not so hard for me to believe, since I had a mother who was like that (fortunate me!) - it is harder for people who do not have someone in their background who gives that unconditional regard.
Jesus, who are you? Where are you? You love me that same way, right? Some days I feel very close; today, not.