"Remember, I am with you always to the end of the age" (Mt 28:20)

4/5 'GIVE': Saint Ignatius of Loyola Speaks About The Five Elements Of Ignatian Prayer


ctions that were considered detestable during the last crucial hours in Jesus's earthly existence were certain boo-boos of his disciples, particularly, Judas and Peter. Judas acted in a way that he put in his own hands what was not his to do or give. He betrayed Jesus with a kiss which is remembered as Judas’s act of despair before he finally took his own life. Peter, on the other hand, was like Judas. He was the apostle who had himself armed thinking it was necessary. He was ready to kill anybody just to protect himself or Jesus. Thank God it was just the ear of the soldier and a few drops of blood that fell and not somebody else’s precious life.


We come to the fourth element of Ignatian prayer which is the act of giving that makes prayer the most loving act. A prayer is an act of giving, e.g., we give time, resources, and oneself praying for personal petitions or for others. It is natural to give back after having received something. Most silent retreats start by pondering that God loved us first with infinite love. An authentic giving back of love flows from this deep realization of God's providence in one's life. In the 'Contemplation to attain love' in the Spiritual Exercises where we pray the Suscipe (Latin for receive) or Take Lord and Receive, the retreatant would only be able to pray this after receiving, claiming, or acknowledging God's love. The last verse of the prayer has been often translated as "... give me only your love and your grace, that is enough for me." This English translation fails to capture fully what St Ignatius most probably had in mind in the original Spanish, i.e., "Give me only the love of you, and together with it, your grace, that is enough for me." In this latter translation, i.e., love of God, we have a more complete sense which includes both love from God and love for God. After realizing we have received so much love from God, we pray the Suscipe to ask also for the grace to be able to love him back.

This love, sustained by God's grace, is what St Ignatius calls discreta caritas (discerning love). A person with discerning love has the ability to expose the enemy that acts like a 'false lover'. St Ignatius teaches about the rules of the discernment of spirits in the Spiritual Exercises. Satan “entered” Judas and Peter in two varied but similar ways. Peter, being the proverbial "one egg short of a dozen," which literally alluded to their group of disciples, aka "The Twelve," failed many times at first in cultivating discerning love and so did Judas. Peter, however, unlike Judas, was a clear recipient of Jesus's love as the gospels have portrayed. Peter is the epitome of the cheerful giver starting when he left everything to follow Jesus and "God loves a cheerful giver" (2 Cor 9:7). Despite Peter's boo-boos, Jesus did not only love Peter but he definitely liked him even more. This bond of love was much stronger than the demon in him. Peter, nevertheless, continued to struggle with his own demon until the end. It did not leave him. He remained like that until his last breath. He negotiated his own martyrdom. He asked his executioners to crucify him upside down because he deemed himself unworthy to be crucified like Jesus which he, at first, detested. See, Peter never really changed entirely. But at the time when Jesus asked Peter “Do you love me?” three times, we know that our Lord had accepted Peter’s kind of love no matter how imperfect it was.


To give back love is costly not in terms of our own estimation but always in terms of God’s. Before Jesus’s final end in the Gospel of Mark, there were two unknown women whose humble gestures, in Jesus’s estimation, were both costly. First is the widow who contributed two small coins worth a few cents. Jesus contrasted it with the flamboyant actions of those who gave out of their surpluses. What did the widow give that caught Jesus’s attention? I have a hunch that Jesus must have seen in her his mother who also contributed in her own little way. The unnamed widow, like Mary, truly lived out the idea that “to whom much is given, much will be required.” Jesus must have felt that his end was getting nearer, the die was cast, and there was no more turning back. The widow was Jesus's mirror. And what did Jesus see in the mirror—himself and what was being asked of him to contribute to the treasury—all of himself. Before he called the attention of his disciples to this woman, Jesus was already contemplating and, perhaps, told to himself "This is how much I ought to give back to my Father who loves me so much." What he showed during his passion and death flowed from his discerning love for the Father whose love became the catalyst to totally give back without keeping anything to himself. This is the act of pure and perfect love and only God could pay such a very costly price because God is love.

There is another woman whose costly giving caught Jesus’s affection and great admiration. The last teaching of Jesus to his disciples before his passion and death was the washing of the feet. Before the last supper was a dinner in the house of Simon the leper in Bethany. I have another hunch that the unknown woman with an alabaster jar of perfumed oil became a second mirror for Jesus. The unnamed woman poured costly perfumed oil to anoint his head to the indignation of the men who were reclining at the table with the Lord. Jesus said, “Amen, I say to you, wherever the gospel is proclaimed to the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her” (Mk 14:9). Jesus saw himself in another mirror through this woman who bathed his feet with her tears and revered them with her endless kisses. “For this reason, I say to you, her sins, which are many, have been forgiven, for she loved much; but the one who is forgiven little, loves little” (Lk 7:47). Jesus did a similar gesture of washing the feet of his beloved disciples not out of being forgiven. He knew that his disciples will desert and betray him. But the lavish giving on the part of the woman who was forgiven for her many sins made Jesus realize what he would do to pour out all the love to those who will not love him back. He would simply forgive and the highest cost would be on him. Benedict XVI says "It is so great that it turns God against himself, his love against his justice" (Deus Caritas Est 10). For “love ought to manifest itself more in deeds than in words.” But let us not forget that, first, there has to be love. Simply put “they do not love who do not show their love” (Two Gentlemen of Verona, act 1, sc. 2, line 31, William Shakespeare).


In the “Our Father” that Jesus taught to his disciples, there are only two acts of giving that are really being asked of us to pray about. The first act is to give all the praises to God who is the source of everything—praising God through giving of thanks for all of the Father's providence. Meister Eckhart once said, “If the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is thank you, it will be enough.” The second act of giving is forgiveness. Whenever we ask for forgiveness for ourselves, it is hoped that we think not only of wrongdoings we did but most especially for having done nothing. John Stuart Mill said, “Bad men need nothing more to compass their ends than that good men should look on and do nothing.” But in prayer we are doing something, we receive grace, we give thanks, we forgive, and above all we love.

Fr JM Manzano SJ