Holy Week Reflection
By *Hiifan Ikyondo, SJ.
Is 50: 4-9a/ Ps 69: 8-10. 21-22. 31 and 33-34/ Mt 26: 14-25
The physical and human suffering of Christ is the subject or central meditation of the Third Week of the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius of Loyola. This meditation or form of prayer stands in contrast with the reaction of our world in the face of suffering especially where we are consciously schooled not to express any sign of emotions of pain because, our society tells us that it is a sign of weakness. This contrast is further heightened by the events of this week and specifically by the texts of today.
The images proposed for our reflection are troubling because they invite us to sense suffering in the form of contrary pairs. We are faced with the challenge of the price tag of obedience and disobedience, companionship and animosity, loyalty and betrayal, hope and despair, silence and noise, consolation and desolation, strength and weakness. While we are generally inclined to see and celebrate strength over weakness, the Third preamble of the second contemplation of The Spiritual Exercises and of course, the texts of today invite us to seek and find the grace that we are invited to ask for during this Week: "ask for what I want. It belongs to the Passion to ask for grief with Christ in grief, anguish with Christ in anguish, tears and interior pain at such great pain which Christ suffered for me" (SpEx 203)1.
The Third Week teaches us that in the face of human suffering and misfortune, instead of lament in despair, we may see in suffering new 'meaning about life'. We are invited to believe that such hurts contribute in the salvation narrative exemplified by the Passion of Jesus-Christ.
As a result, the Third Week is not simply a spiritual detached meditation, but a proper contemplation of the suffering Christ, one that permits us to see Him still present in people around us today. We are thus forced not to remain indifferent because it is not a disconnected exercise but a genuine moment of God encountering human suffering. Christ therefore reveals himself all through this Week in those who suffer in silence, die of hunger or as victims of human violence and betrayal. He reveals himself on the bed of those who are suffering or (dying) of diseases such as AIDS, cancer and diabetes today. At the table of Passover, Jesus also reveals himself to the depressed faces of abused girls and women, refugees and migrants from war torn cities and villages of the world.
Ultimately, our contemplation of the Passion of Christ pushes us be committed and choose between good and evil. This implies that our choice must not be a passive response but an active choice to reject and stand up to greed and to the evil price tag of betrayal in all its forms. The price tag of betrayal is not an imaginary or theoretical aspect of evil; but concrete form of all the injustice that we must not promote through our personal or collective selfish interests. It is there in the crosses pierced into so many bleeding hearts: the poor, the falsely accused, judged and condemned. The price tag of evil is introduced and installed on every occasion when we refuse to listen and see the suffering in people. Yes, it takes only one action to define your price tag between good and evil. Jesus chose a price tag of obedient-suffering for us as opposed to the price tag of greed and betrayal in the person of Judas Iscariot. Perhaps, the most important question for us here is: what is your or my price tag today?
*Hiifan Ikyondo, SJ, is a scholastic studying theology at L'Institut de Théologie de la Compagnie de Jésus in Abidjan, Ivory Coast.
1SpEx - The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola