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)
The problem is, this scene is WAY too far removed from us, me, now for me to feel comfortable with it. Removed in time, in geography, in custom & tradition and cell phones and animal stalls. I never knew a house without a TV set; the world Jesus was born into might as well be Mars. And, therefore, I feel uncomfortable with it. Foreign to it.
The way you get to know someone, REALLY know someone, so that later when you meet someone else from that place or religious group you are not afraid or put off by the other, is that you do something together. Like, you work a a job together, or build a house, or they are your colleague and you have lunch together and they tell you what it was like to grow up in Pakistan, and what Pakistani wedding customs are.
Of course, the fallacy in that may be that the first person you know is culturally Muslim, where the next one is devout. Also, it's a very surface knowledge
Such that they are learning about Christianity, in a small way, from knowing you, so that in a presentation by Dan Savage where he tells that many gay teens go to churches where they hear from the pulpit that "God Hates Fags," your culturally Muslim colleague leans over and asks if that is said in YOUR church. You want to get offended, because you sure wouldn't be going to THAT church, but they ask because they don't know and are curious.
I think this is what is called, running away from the question.
I'll be back.
And now that I'm back, I offer this, from someone who "followed the prompt":