Ignatian contemplation is a way of praying with Scripture that is very powerful. It involves putting oneself into a scene in the life of Jesus as a participant and allowing the scene to unfold…allowing God to reveal to us what God wants to convey.
I recently read a statement by William A. Barry, S.J., that helps explain why this form of prayer is so powerful. Barry writes
I can know another person only if that person reveals himself or herself to me. So this desire to know Jesus more intimately is a desire for Jesus to reveal himself. If I have this desire, I must then take the time with the Gospels to let them stimulate my imagination so that Jesus can reveal himself, this is, reveal his dreams and hopes, his loves and hates, his hopes for me. As I engage in this kind of prayer, I will be surprised by what I discover about Jesus and thus about God, and myself. In the process, I will come to love Jesus and become more like him.
Barry’s statement serves as a good reminder. We sometimes forget that prayer is mutual, and focus on what we want to reveal to God. But prayer has to involve letting God reveal Godself to us.
The Second Week of the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius is about getting to know Jesus intimately so that we can conceive of nothing else but following him. Barry’s quote is a good reminder that such knowledge is crucial if we are to be Christ in the world. We cannot simply will ourselves to love like Jesus loves and to be like Jesus. But by knowing Jesus intimately and by falling deeply in love with him, we will come more and more to be like him.