1. The companions who decide to engage in this version of the Exercises certainly will have very different backgrounds of study and prayer experience with the Scriptures. Extended studies of biblical theology and exegesis are not necessary for the fruitful use of the Ignatian contemplations described in the Exercises, but some familiarity with the contemporary scientific knowledge of the development of the individual books, of their historical, cultural context and of their use of literary forms belongs to the basic education a Christian should have. Such familiarity with the Bible stems from the desire to know the origins and foundations of our faith and is necessary for an authentic scriptural prayer experience. We believe that as for the rest, the Holy Spirit will come to the help of the companions to do the exercises properly, and with the help of grace even if the members of a couple have different backgrounds, this will become a common experience for them.
2. St. Ignatius was a realist taking into consideration that exercitants might be unfamiliar with spiritual life and in particular with Scriptures. For this reason he attached to the Exercises a series of skeletal outlines for the use of biblical texts. Of course, the range of the contemplations does not need to be limited to these outlines and one should use it only if finds them helpful. We present here similar outlines to use at least at the beginning when the companions learn the Ignatian contemplation.
3. In the course of the Spiritual Exercises we encounter two distinct methods to pray with Scripture passages:
- In the First Phase St. Ignatius uses biblical texts for meditation or discursive reflection, which is done by “employing the three powers of the soul”  . In the First Phase these meditations serve to acquire a sense of salvation history, to experience one’s being sinner and broken in the context of the general sinfulness of humanity and to feel the need for redemption. In one word the Scriptures help to put together a diagnosis.
- From the Second Phase on St. Ignatius employs the method of contemplation to biblical passages . The Ignatian contemplation is not that wordless, imageless “contemplative” prayer for which other spiritual writers use the term. In the Exercises contemplation is a thematic prayer, employing the creative imagination of the companions to assimilate a message that is “here and now” for them, and from which discernment, decision, and healing of the diagnosed ill can come forth.
4. The companions might be accustomed to other ways of praying with the Scriptures like the “lectio divina”, the “liturgy of the hours” or even the readings of the daily Mass. As the companions enter the Exercises they need to focus on it and even if sometimes it might be difficult to get used to the Ignatian form of prayer it is necessary to use it in order to render the process fruitful. The Exercises is a goal-oriented method and its goal is to achieve an ability to decide and put into practice what was decided. This process is aided by the contemplations, which provide the companions with an intimate, experiential knowledge of the life of Jesus Christ through the use of creative imagination. Of course, if the companions find time for more prayer in addition to the exercises proper they might use other methods, too.
5. In the Exercises the method of contemplation is applied on the life of Jesus, but it can be used for any event of the salvation history contained in the Scriptures. This is a holistic experience in which some way all our faculties participate involving also our memories, hopes, desires and fears. Through this “putting ourselves in the picture” the contemplated event becomes our own salvation history. It should not be seen as an individualistic search of gratification but as personal involvement in the sacred history of the people of God. In the contemplation we become conscious of being part of God’s saving work and understand with our heart where is our place in it. As the companions pray together they imagine both of them present in the contemplated scene and realize that they are part as a couple of sacred history, that their common life is part of God’s salvation.
This effect of contemplation is made possible by a very important quality of the Scriptures, namely that these writings remain relevant for all ages. David M. Stanley calls this the “updating tendency”  of the Scriptures and it means for example, that when Jesus uses the expression “I say to you” we can retain it as something said to us here and now. Another example quoted by Stanley is in the Deuteronomy that was written during or after the Babylonian exile of Israel. The author speaks to his contemporaries when he makes Moses say to the people of the exodus in the desert: “Hear, O Israel, the statutes and decrees which I proclaim in your hearing this day… The Lord, our God, made covenant with us at Horeb; not with our fathers did he make this covenant, but with us, all of us who are alive here today” (Deut 5:1-3). Similar tendency is manifest in the Jewish celebration of the Passover where the participants are reminded to retain themselves as personally passed through the Red Sea with their forefathers, an attitude transmitted also to the “anamnesis” of the Eucharistic liturgy . It is the basis for celebrating the Eucharist efficaciously in the context of the liturgy of the Word and because of it we can say every Christmas “Christ is born today”.
- “When the fullness of time had come” (cf. Gal 4:4) the angel Gabriel appears to Mary and announces to her the conception of Jesus. The angel indicates also a “sign” that confirms his words: the barren Elizabeth is six months pregnant with the future John the Baptist. Note how carefully Luke is editing his text. If we add up the time from the conception of John the Baptist, the nine months to the birth of Jesus and the forty days until he is presented in the Temple, counting 30 days for a month we get 490 days or 70 weeks. This is a symbolic reference to a prophecy of Daniel predicting that after “seventy weeks” Israel’s guilt will be terminated and the Temple will be reconsecrated (Dn 9:24). Luke uses this allusion to point out that Jesus brings the redemption and his presentation in the Temple is the reconsecration of it.
- The answer of Mary, her acceptance of the mystery is the point where God’s action and mankind’s response meet in unity.
- Then the angel gives an explanation of the action of the Holy Spirit as the power of the Most High (God) that overshadows Mary. The Greek word for “overshadowing” is the same used in the Septuagint to signify the presence of God in the Holy of Holies in the tent of testimony and in the Exodus where we read that the glory of God came to overshadow the ark of covenant (Ex 40:34). Luke wants to say with this allusion that Mary from the moment of conceiving the incarnate Word of God becomes the ark of the covenant bearing in her the divine presence.
The pregnant Mary went “in haste” to visit Elizabeth and see the sign the angel has given her in proof that for God nothing is impossible. John the Baptist in the womb of his mother already acts as prophet, leaps of joy recognizing the presence of Jesus. Elizabeth also is filled with the Holy Spirit proclaims Jesus as Lord. Then Mary praises God with the hymn called “Magnificat” (named of the first word of the Latin version) reminiscent of the overjoyed song of the barren Hannah for becoming the mother of Samuel (1 Sam 2:1-10). Mary remains with Elizabeth for three months probably to help her at the childbirth.
Luke sets the birth of Jesus in an exact historical context in order to stress the reality of the event and speaks of an order from the emperor Augustus that everyone should be registered in the town of their tribe. Mary and Joseph go from Nazareth to Bethlehem, the City of David to be registered, since Joseph is from the house and lineage of David.
Mary gives birth to her son outside of the town since they did not find place in the caravanserai. (We probably don’t need to accuse the town people with heartlessness, a typical caravanserai with people and animals passing the night in a courtyard crowded together probably were not the best place for a woman in labor.) The text mentions that she wrapped Jesus in “swaddling clothes” and placed him in a “manger”, details that create a parallel between this scene and the death of Jesus. We can see in the swaddling clothes a reference to the linen in which Jesus was laid in the tomb and the manger alludes to the wood of the cross where he died. The parallel suggests that this baby was born to die on the cross for us, that the whole life of Jesus was oriented toward that final event. Further parallel can be seen between the angels singing the glory of God at the birth of Jesus and the hailing words of the crowd on Palm Sunday (Lk 19:38).
The “manger” is an obscure Greek word referring probably to a watering trough in open fields  and we can note that the text does not mention any cave or stable. The stable and animals of our manger scenes probably come from the passage of Isaiah “The ox knows its owner and an ass, its master’s manger, but Israel does not know, my people does not understand” (Is 1:3). Jesus was born as homeless and lived as an outcast (Mt 8:20) in solidarity with the poorest, and told that we could meet him in them (Mt 25:31-46).
The shepherds had a profession that was retained then of bad reputation, yet they receive the direct announcement of the birth of Jesus from an angel in a message, which amounts to a “mini-gospel”, proclaiming Jesus as Savior, Messiah and Lord . The shepherds who then go “in haste” to Bethlehem become also the witnesses of the birth of the Messiah. We can see in it a manifestation of Luke’s vision that the poor, the outcast, women and children who lived on the periphery of the society are favored by God.
Another reason for this pastoral scene might be the influence of the prophecy of Micah in chapter four (Mi 4:8-10) . The prophet refers to Magdal-eder, meaning “tower of the flock”, an ancient place name (Gn 35:21) in the vicinity of Bethlehem and the Palestinian Targum commenting on this passage asserts that it will be the place of the revelation of the Messiah in “the end of the days”. Micah further says that the “daughter Zion” gives birth to a child who is the eschatological king, the Prince of Peace of Isaiah prophesied of (Is 7:10-12:6). The mother of the Messiah should “go forth from the city and dwell in the fields” (v. 10). Luke’s narrative conserves all these associations in the setting of the nativity scene. Chapter five of Micah begins with the verse Matthew quoted in the story of the Magi asserting Bethlehem-Ephrathah as the birthplace of the messianic king; in verse 2 “she who is to give birth”, the mother of the Messiah is a reference to Is 7:14. The passage then speaks of a ruler who will shepherd with the power of the Lord and he himself will be peace (Mi 5:1-4).
With the circumcision Jesus become officially a member of the people of Israel. In this we can see a particular feature of the Incarnation. At this celebration he receives the name the angel gave him at the Annunciation, which in Hebrew is “Yeshuah” or “Yahshuah” meaning “God saves” (from “Yah”, abbreviation of Yahweh and “yeshua”, to save, to rescue alive). In the biblical culture where one’s name reveals something essential of the person, the name of Jesus refers to his mission revealing God the Father who wants to save all his children and realize their salvation.
The story of the visit of the magi in Matthew’s gospel is probably written in the literary form of “midrash”, a form of ancient Jewish interpretation of biblical passage or a historicization and amplification of an account embellishing it to emphasize its message. There are real facts somewhere but the intended message of the author is on a symbolic level not in strict historic account, and more often than not the symbolic language is more accurate and significant than the transmission of cold data. In the contemplations we use these texts exactly to reach their message for us here and now and not to pursue a historical exploration.
The magi or wise man are presented as astrologers in this story, generally seen as symbolizing the gentiles who come to faith in Jesus - in contrast with the leaders of Israel who will reject him notwithstanding the revelation they possess. The appearance of the star in antiquity was regarded as sign of a major event or birth of a king. Independently of the question of whether the story is inspired by an unusual constellation, comet or other astronomical phenomenon of that time the “star” here might be the future king himself as in the prophesy of Balaam (Nm 24:17), on which the author depends in this text; Jesus appears here as the guiding star of humanity. We see usually three magi in manger scenes although in the gospel there is no mention of their number; probably it is a deduction from the three gifts as well as the tradition that sees them as kings (v. 11) .
Matthew presents Jesus as a second Moses in his gospel (e.g. Jesus gave a new law from a mountain in the Sermon on the Mount, in Mt 5-7) and the reason for this is in the contemporary belief that the Messiah will come in the last days performing miracles like Moses. In this story for example, Herod like the Pharaoh decides to kill innocent children but Jesus as Moses escapes the slaughter (Lk 2:16-17 cf. Ex 1:15-2:10).
The offering Mary presents here for her religious purification after childbirth is that of the poor, since the law prescribed for those who cannot afford a lamb to sacrifice “a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons” (cf. Lev 12:1-8). The consecration of the firstborn was not required to take place in the Temple; this episode probably was inspired by the presentation of the prophet Samuel by Hannah for Temple service (1 Sam 1:24-28). The scene describes the entrance of the child Jesus in the Temple alluding to a prophecy of Daniel (Dn 9:24) as the rededication or reconsecration of it . Further inspiration to this episode is in Mal 3:1-5 where Malachi speaks of a “messenger” who prepares the way for the Lord who himself suddenly will come to the Temple . Luke’s intention with these allusions is to present Jesus as Prophet, Redemptor and Lord who at the end of time takes possession of the Temple. In the following encounters Simeon proclaims Jesus as Messiah (vv. 26-32) and Anna thanks God for the fulfillment of redemption in the child (v.38).
Apart that Egypt was the place to take refuge from dangers in the land of Israel, the episode is accounted in order to identify Jesus as the second Moses who will return from Egypt in a new Exodus. The text still deeper presents Jesus as the Son of God. The key of the interpretation is in the quote from Hosea in verse 15: “Out of Egypt I called my Son” (cf. Hos 11:1). The prophet spoke of the people of Israel collectively as the “son of God” called out of Egypt in the Exodus and Luke applies it personally to Jesus who is in a unique way the “Son of God”. Through the Exodus the people entered with God in covenant and in Jesus a new covenant will be stipulated.
This new covenant was foretold by Jeremiah (Jer 31:31-34), who is quoted by Matthew in the episode of the massacre of the children in Bethlehem (Jer 31:15). The prophet in the quoted verse says that the dead Rachel (whose tomb believed to be near Ramah) weeps for the people of the northern kingdom, herded together in Ramah waiting for their deportation by the Assyrians (722-21 B.C.), but in the next verse turns to the consoling message about the “return from the enemy’s land” (Jer 31:16) ushering the promise of new covenant and a law put in the heart of the people .
This episode continues to present Jesus as the new Moses when Joseph is warned in a dream to return because “those who sought the child’s life are dead” (v. 20). Moses fled from Egypt because the Pharaoh wanted to put him to death (cf. Ex 2:15) and later the Lord told him to return there “for all the men who sought your life are dead” (Ex 4:19). Also, by the return from Egypt “to the land of Israel”(v. 20) the promise of the new covenant begins to be realized (Jer 31:31-34, cited in ). Joseph brings his family into Nazareth and this gives occasion to a play of words with the prophesy of Isaiah that calls the future messianic king a “bud”, “nēser” in Hebrew on the root of Jesse (Is 11:1) and with book of Judges where Samson the liberator of Israel is called to be “consecrated” or “nāzîr” of God (Jgs 13:5.7). Of these references Jesus emerges as new Moses, Son of David, messianic King and Liberator of Israel, the consecrated or anointed One, or the Christ in Greek.
We know almost nothing about the major part of the life of Jesus, except this short remark of Luke mentions something of it. However, this “hidden” life of Jesus is certainly integral part of the “totality of His messianic mission” . The Incarnate Word of God spent thirty years in the simple, unnoticed everyday life of his kinsmen in Nazareth, immersed in the normal relationships of that time, and this might seem to be a waste of time at first. We can arrive however to understand that if Jesus spent the greater part of his “messianic mission” in everyday life then it was meant to be a powerful message to us who live in obscurity and rather in oblivion of the world.
We can say also that Jesus with his life in Nazareth “consecrated” the state of life of the lay people, elevating it to the dignity of saving, healing and sanctifying mission. For married couples this saving, healing and sanctifying function culminates exactly in their marriage, in their mutual love and in all the activities involved in it twenty four hours a day, seven days a week. In those years “Jesus advanced in wisdom and age and favor before God and man” (Lk 2:52), he the Son of God has set an example of spiritual growth, maturity and patience in front of us. Jesus in Nazareth lived in poverty and this lifestyle is the real and only motivation for the Christian ideal of modest and in a certain sense poor life .
The people of Nazareth wondered when Jesus later returned among them “Is he not the carpenter…?” (Mk 6:3)  suggesting that he had this profession and earned his livelihood by simple work. This laborious life of the Son of God might be encouraging for perseverance in our tasks and appreciation toward our often monotonous, banal and seemingly fruitless daily work. “He was considered to be the son of Joseph the carpenter; and He appeared without comeliness, as the Scriptures declared; and He was deemed a carpenter (for He was in the habit of working as a carpenter when among men, making ploughs and yokes; by which He taught the symbols of righteousness and an active life)”
The family of Jesus went up to Jerusalem to celebrate Passover every year, (showing a great devotion since most only went up to Jerusalem occasionally). Jesus probably the first time went with them after he passed twelve years. This was the traditional coming of age when the boy himself became “bar mitzvah”, “son of the commandment” in Hebrew, which meant the assumption of religious obligations like visit to Jerusalem for the festivities and to recite a blessing over the reading from the Scriptures on Sabbath . In contemporary Jewish education the majority were able to read and write and from the age of five or six children acquired extensive knowledge based on memorizing Scriptural verses and teachings.
In this episode Jesus remains behind when the family leaves Jerusalem and he was found three days later in the Temple amongst the teachers both listening and asking questions (v. 46). Since the contemporary method of teaching included questioning to elicit intelligent responses, so Jesus’ asking of questions may not have been just to obtain knowledge but also to teach. Probably “they were astounded at his understanding and his answers” (v. 48) not because the boy Jesus was in dialog with the teachers but for the manner of it. Explaining what he did, Jesus again astonishes the listeners, saying that he must be in his Father’s house (v. 49) calling God his Father in a special way.
This story shows Jesus’ growth in knowledge of his mission and probably presents a moment of a sudden recognition of his unique relationship with God. It gives occasion to reflect on our gradually evolving consciousness of mission.
The gospel of Matthew says that John the Baptist was preaching in “the desert of Judea” (Mt 3:1), west of the Dead Sea along the Jordan valley. He proclaimed a rite of baptism “for the kingdom of heaven [the reign of God] is at hand” (Mt 3:2). In John’s expectation the kingdom of God will arrive as imminent judgment in which all sinners will perish. His vision was in sharp contrast with the teaching of Jesus after him, who placed judgment at the end of times and proclaimed the good news that the kingdom of God had arrived in his person as prevalence of mercy for the sinners (Mk 1:14-15).
John practiced a symbolic baptism in the waters of the Jordan as preparation for the coming of the kingdom of God, a rite that is not to be confused with the Christian sacrament of baptism and which was also different from the lustrations used in Qumran at that time . Just like the people of Israel had prepared themselves at the Mount Sinai by symbolic washing for the covenant with God (Ex 19:10.14), the Baptism of John preceded the initiation to the new covenant of the Kingdom of God .
Jesus came to a ford of the Jordan not far from Nazareth when John baptized there (Jn 1:28). If we see the function of John’s baptism as preparatory initiation or consecration to the coming kingdom of God, we can understand why Jesus wants to submit himself to it. This consecration for the sinful people meant a “baptism of repentance” but for Jesus it was the act of submission to God’s saving plan, without ulterior motive . In Matthew’s gospel we read that John first declined to baptize Jesus, since he recognized in him the “mightier one” who will baptize not with water but with the Holy Spirit. The answer of Jesus was that he wants to “fulfill all righteousness”. “To fulfill” usually refers to a prophecy; in connection with “righteousness” [of God] it means “to do God’s will”, and here particularly “to act according to God’s saving plan”. Jesus ratified John’s baptism as being “of God”, “from heaven” (cf. Mt 21:25 ff), by the fact that he came to receive it as opening of his “public life”, consecration to the work for his Father’s Kingdom he already felt as a boy in the Temple as his mission (see ).
Interestingly enough, the intensive verb meaning baptism as such, occurs only two times in the Hebrew Testament; the first is in Naaman’s washing (2 Kgs 5:14), which is an episode of healing, while the second instance is in the book of Judith where she washes in the spring of Bethulia in preparation for her mission to liberate the town from the Assyrian army by killing their commander, Holofernes (Jud 12:7) . We can say that the bathing of Judith prefigures the baptism of Jesus as preparatory initiation to his work of liberation from the power of Satan.
When Jesus emerged from the waters of the Jordan praying he saw the Spirit of God descending on him and the voice of the Father proclaimed Jesus as the beloved Son. This theophany is an acceptance of Jesus’ consecration to his mission and ratification of him as the messianic King “the Son of God” (Jn 1:34). While in Matthew and Luke all hear the voice of the Father, John’s gospel presents it as given to the Baptist as sign to recognize the Messiah. In contrast, in Mark’s gospel this vision seems to be an experience of Jesus alone, having a personal meaning for his mission. This moment (where we can contemplate the Trinity together in one scene) has several associations . Peter in the acts of Apostles refers to it as the messianic anointing of Jesus with power for his mission of healing and liberation from the devil (Acts 10:38). We can see in this also the priestly anointing of Jesus, as the high priest was washed and anointed for his service. The words of the Father are a reference to the “Ebed Yahweh”, the “Servant of God” from the book of Isaiah (Is 42:1, cf. Ps 2:7 and Gn 22:2) declaring that Jesus with suffering and glorification will recapitulate the experiences of his people. When the gospels say that the Holy Spirit descended on Jesus like a dove does not mean that the authors retained this animal as the symbol of the Spirit. Rather, this imagery, which is used also in the Talmud, expresses the closeness of the Spirit as a bird that hovers over the nest without touching it and the “dove” might be an allusion to Israel (the dove was in fact the symbol of Israel) and to Jesus as the ideal Israelite . This image is also a clear reference to the first creation story in the Genesis that depicts the Spirit of God “brooding like a bird” over the waters of the primordial chaos (Gn 1:2) and the authors intend to say by it that with Jesus a “new creation” begins and he is the new Adam. One allusion might be to the dove that after the waters of the flood receded brought the olive branch, sign of new life and to the first covenant God made with humanity in Noah (Gn 8:11 and 9:1-17).
After the baptism the Spirit led (“drove” or “threw him out” with Mark’s a more violent expression) Jesus in the desert, a place of temptation but also closeness the God in the Bible. The temptations present Jesus as fully and truly human person and provide a realistic description of what might have been his state of mind after the great decision to begin his messianic mission. Common human experience is to be assaulted by doubts and hesitation after a major decision and this bears for us the message that these can be overcome.
The forty days of fasting (in Matthew and Luke) places Jesus in line with Moses and Elijah . Moses stayed on Mount Sinai with Yahweh forty days and forty nights without eating or drinking (Ex 34:28) and received the words of the covenant, the Ten Commandments. Elijah walked forty days and forty nights to the mountain of God, the Horeb (an other name of the Sinai) with the strength of the food received from an angel (1Kgs 19:8) and received the vision of God that opened his prophetic mission (1Kgs 19:11-13). The role of these figures respect the covenant and suggest that Jesus is the Messiah: Moses was the giver of the covenant, Elijah restored it and the Messiah brings it to perfection. They are also placed as contrast with Jesus since Moses and Elijah failed personally and in their mission with the covenant while Jesus is presented as victorious in both . We will see the same Moses and Elijah appear at the transfiguration of Jesus and they can be identified with the two witnesses in the Revelations (Ap 11:4-10).
Jesus being tempted by Satan corrects the Old Testament conviction that God is the origin of the temptations of the people and certainly contradicts the type of Messiah Israel expected. This fact underlines that the temptation story not a myth or legend but based on a real experience of Jesus that he himself related to his disciples. Instead of Jesus being tormented by the devil, Satan is supposed to fall on his face totally defeated in front of the Messiah, even the pinnacle of the Temple mentioned in the story is far from the place of the assault of the devil but from there the Messiah was awaited to proclaim his final victory . The temptations of Jesus as presented are intended to correct diagonally the messianic expectations. In all three temptations Satan offers Jesus to follow the easy way to convince the people by fulfilling these false expectations. The tradition waited for a Messiah with occult powers, like to turn stones into bread or to fly in the air, and the first two temptations suggested proceeding with these signs. On the other side, the popular messianic image was of a world-dominator, of a victorious king – the essence of the third temptation.
Jesus refuted the “help” offered by Satan by quoting directly from the second discourse of Moses in Deuteronomy the most prophetic book of the Pentateuch (Deut 8:3; 6:16; 6:13) used frequently by the Apostolic Church as guide for the community. Matthew’s literary construction stands on these three quotes and intends to present Jesus as “the Son of God” who has the same the temptations of Israel “the first-born son of God” (cf. Ex 4:22), but proves himself victorious where the people fell. The first temptation of Israel in the desert was at the time of the manna (Nm 11:4-34), the second at Massah (the name itself means “temptation”) when the people demanded water with presumption (Nm 20:1-13) and the third at the Sinai when they succumbed to idolatry with the worship of the golden calf (Ex 32:1-8).
In wider sense the temptations of Jesus represent the challenges every human being faces. John’s first letter calls this triple trap the “concupiscence of the eyes, the concupiscence of the flesh and the pride of life” (cf. 1 Jn 2:16). Desires of wealth, abundance, fame and power, or stating oneself as absolute are the stumbling blocks in the spiritual growth as well as in psychosomatic health.
After Jesus overcame the temptations, “angels came and ministered him” and Mark’s gospel mentions also wild beasts surrounding Jesus, showing a new Eden with the new Adam who lives in peace with all creation in the company of angels. Already at the beginning of his mission Jesus is shown as definitely victorious over Satan.
After refusing the offer of the help of Satan for a “successful” messianic mission, Jesus returns from the desert and begins his ministry by calling for the help of men, simple people just like the companions doing these Exercises. He calls these people to be collaborators in the work of salvations.
The stories of calling in the synoptic gospels have a stereotypical pattern, probably crystallized in the long oral tradition that preceded the written text. These stories point to the central message about the essence of Christian vocation and disregard the individual psychological process and the practical features of the actual events. The first element is that the future disciples are doing their ordinary job, then Jesus passes by and sees them; in this moment comes the call itself, the immediate following of Jesus and finally the reaction of the crowd around them.
The fourth gospel follows a different thread and first presents two disciples of John the Baptist who are drawn to Jesus the mysterious new rabbi after their master testifies that “he is the Son of God” (cf. Jn 1:29:34). They timidly follow Jesus and after staying with him for a while bring their brothers and friends to their new master.
As the companions contemplate the different stories of vocation and maybe discover similarities with these in their own experience, the meaning and message of these passages can become more personal.
The call of Matthew (Levi in Mark’s gospel) follows the same pattern of the other stories of calling but it stands apart. It seems like to have a special importance maybe because Matthew as a tax collector by his profession at that time was considered a “public sinner”. The story stresses the fact that Jesus calls sinners like all of us to participate in his mission: “Go and learn the meaning of the words ‘I desire mercy not sacrifice’. I did not come to call the righteous but sinners” (Mt 9:13). The passage from the prophet Hosea “I desire mercy not sacrifice” (cf. Hos 6:6) could have been one of the favorites of Jesus, as he quotes it again in connection with the story when the hungry disciples picked some grains on Sabbath (considered as forbidden activity on the day of rest).
To understand better the meaning of mercy Jesus refers to we need to recall the words the Bible uses for it, each having a different semantic nuance . The Hebrew “hesed” indicates faithful goodness and an interior commitment toward the other person and so had also a legal meaning. When used for God, the word “hesed” always refers to his covenant with Israel. This was a free gift of grace for Israel so much that even when the people broke the covenant God remained faithful to it out of a fidelity to his own goodness: “Not for your sakes do I act, house of Israel, but for the sake of my holy name, which you profaned among the nations to which you came” (Ez 36:22). The second Hebrew word used in the Old Testament for mercy is “rahamim”, describing a strong “visceral love”, the love of a mother (it derives from “rehem” meaning “womb”). Beautiful examples for this motherly love of God can be found in the prophetic books, like this passage in Isaiah: “Can a mother forget her infant, be without tenderness for the child of her womb? Even should she forget, I will never forget you” (Is 49:15). There are also further expressions for mercy used less frequently in the Bible. For example, “hanan” means a constant predisposition to be generous, benevolent and merciful, then the verb “hamal” “to spare a defeated enemy” and also the term “hus” for pity and compassion. Finally, the word “’emeth” for “solidity, security” meaning also “fidelity”, a concept that is near to “hesed” as used in the Magnificat (Lk 1:50.54), but also to “rahamim” (translated in Latin as “viscera misericordiae”) in the canticle of Zechariah (Lk 1:72) .
We saw that the merciful God is presented in the Bible with both masculine and feminine terms; we might rightly say that God is as much Mother as Father . When Jesus calls for mercy and love instead of outward acts of religiosity or extraordinary deeds, he has in mind all these nuances and wants his disciples to have the same attitude as God the Mother and Father (cf. Mt 5:43-48).
Reading the lists of the “Twelve” chosen by Jesus to be his closest disciples we see how ordinary, insignificant people were whom he called. Neither are their names remembered correctly. We can see in this choice and predilection an encouraging sign for our vocation to collaborate with God’s saving work for the world.
The presence of Jesus at the wedding Cana acquires symbolic importance in the light of the parable presenting the Kingdom of God as a nuptial feast (Mt 22:1-14). The Bible often used the symbolism of marriage for God’s relation to Israel and more closely, presented the final salvation as a banquet (Is 25:6). Just like the synoptic gospels proclaim at their beginning, the wedding as the scene of Jesus’ first “sign”  on the fourth gospel signifies that the Kingdom is near. The mysterious bridegroom in this story who never comes into the front might be seen as God who enters in the new covenant with his people, while also Jesus himself can be regarded as the bridegroom of this new marriage between man and God.
Mary is called the “mother of Jesus” without giving her name in the fourth gospel (v. 1 and under the cross Jn 19:25). She indirectly intercedes for the needs of the newlyweds who ran out of wine. As she utters her short remark “They have no wine” (v. 3), Mary acts as a representative of Israel, where the prophetic word and action symbolized here as the wine ceased to exist for a while. Jesus first refuses her with rather harsh words (similar to the outcry of the demons in Mk 1:24; 5:7). However, Mary’s faith remained unwavering and says to the servants (other representatives of the people of Israel) using the words of the Pharaoh during the famine in Egypt in regard of Joseph: “Do whatever he tells you” (v. 5 cf. Gn 41:55). Symbolically these two sentences of the Mother of God express her function in salvation history, which is to intercede for the poverty of humanity and to call “the rest of her children” to obedience .
The rich symbolism of the story extends to details like the mention of the six jars used for ablutions, ceremonial washings. These jars with their number falling short of the perfect seven represent the Old Testament in its inadequacy. Jesus orders to fill them to the brim before he changes the water in wine, sign of the messianic abundance and an act symbolizing the replacement of the weakness of the first covenant with the strong wine of the new creation. The wine turns out to be excellent, the best, and no one except Jesus Mary and the servants know from where it comes.
The second “sign” of Jesus is not a miracle but a prophetic act with a strong message. When Jesus chased out of the Temple area all those who were selling sacrificial items and changing money, the meaning of this is that he came to reconsecrate the Temple. Jesus indicates this meaning when he refers to a passage of the prophet Zechariah (v. 16) which says that on the day of the Lord, that is in the messianic time “there shall no longer be any merchant in the house of the Lord of hosts” (Zec 14:21). The disciples seeing this, quote from Psalm 69 a verse that changed into future tense became an allusion to the death of Jesus: “Zeal for your house will consume me” (v. 17, cf. Ps 59:10).
Questioned about the authority to do this, Jesus answered “Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up” (v. 19). This symbolic explanation refers to the replacement of the Temple after the resurrection by the person of Jesus and by the community of the Church, by the “temple of his body” (v. 21). This saying about the destruction of the Temple became one of the charges against Jesus during his trials and reason for his condemnation to death.
The “Sermon on the Mount”  is the first of the five great discourses around which Matthew arranged the account of the ministry of Jesus, just like the book of Deuteronomy is constructed around a series of discourses of Moses presenting the theme of the covenant. Of this parallel the first speech addressed to the crowd receives the meaning to be the counterpart of the Law received at the Mount Sinai. It presents the law of the Kingdom of Heaven as a free gift of grace given in the person of Jesus Christ and not as a system of morality . The foundation of this new law is that we are children of the Father and in consequence, all brothers and sisters. From this fundamental truth follows also the importance that Jesus gives throughout the “Sermon” to the prayer of petition, to the filial trust and perseverance in asking the Father .
The Beatitudes (vv. 1-12) constitute an introduction to this discourse of Jesus presenting the characteristic features of the Kingdom, a program of Jesus for the realization of the law of the Spirit in Christian life. The ten sayings are in a certain sense a counterpart of the Ten Commandments. Each saying begins with the word “blessed” “makarios” in Greek, which literally means “happy” and in general is the adjective for a joyful, even divine existence. In the Bible the “makarios saying” is a frequently used literary form for praising someone.
The first four beatitudes speak particularly of those whom the Old Testament calls the “poor” (“anawim” in Hebrew), those who recognize their dependence on God. This does not mean necessarily a social class, but includes those who from their sufferings and threatened existence learned to trust God totally . Jesus recognizes the “poor” in those who “mourn” over their sins recognizing their responsibility, in the “meek” that face their sufferings with patient courage, and in those who hunger for “righteousness”, a strong desire for doing God’s will . The rest of the beatitudes proclaim the blessedness of the disciples, protectors of the poor, who like the prophets of the Old Testament stand up for social justice and peace. These new prophets are characterized as actively “merciful” and “pure of heart”, meaning that their only master is God, they are “peacemakers” like Jesus “the Prince of Peace” (Is 9:6) himself. The disciples who work for the brotherhood of all mankind will be persecuted similarly to the prophets of the Old Testament but they are blessed because like the poor in spirit they possess the Kingdom of heaven.
The Beatitudes are followed by an epilogue (vv. 13-16) that is an exhortation to follow the mission of Jesus to become the “salt of the earth” and the “light of the world”.
The rest of chapter five (vv. 17 ff.) is dedicated to compare the New and the Old Testament. As Edersheim pointed out this part of the Sermon has a certain analogy with the laws in Ex 21-22 . Jesus does not cancel the law but to “fulfill it” by turning the religiosity of Israel toward a profound and universal relationship with the Father. God is Father of everybody of which it follows, that all men and women are brothers and sisters . This change toward universality is aimed at by a series of six antitheses characterized by the expressions “It was said to your ancestors… but I say to you…”.
The renewed law is concluded by the final demand: “So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect” (v. 48). The word for “perfect” here is “teleios” in Greek meaning “mature”. In biblical sense the only way to love God is acting like him. If God is mainly characterized by the perfection that he is Father, that he loves everyone as his children, then to love him requires growing up as much as we are able to the task to love inclusively and taking into consideration in our arranging our relationships the “mature” love of God toward all.
The sixth chapter continues the criticism of the law and the question here is not the meaning of the law or the outward observance of it but the inner attitude with which to live its precepts. The criticism extends to the three principal religious observances of Judaism that are prophetically relevant universally in the practice of religion of all ages and peoples as Edersheim stressed in his analysis. These three observances are the alms or wider sense the acts of mercy (vv. 1-4), prayer (vv. 5-15) and fasting or more generally the relation of the physical to the spiritual (vv. 16-18). Practicing acts of mercy and abstinence in a certain way or praying with the “right formula” of the “Our Father” still could be interpreted externally if one does not understand the underlying spirit and filial attitude that should guide these. Real religiosity means that we understand what constitutes the real riches before the giving of alms (vv. 19-21), it requires a prayer that is openness shining through the person (vv. 22-23) and undivided dedication to God (22-24), finally it inspires real fasting that is a right view of how our needs stand in front of the Father (vv. 25-34). The connection between these observances is that the acts of mercy and fasting should be guided and permeated by a spirit of prayer that stems from an inner attitude of seeking first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness, from a filial trust in the Father who knows what we need before we ask him (v. 8).
The seventh chapter presents warnings and further teachings about the Kingdom of God. Jesus stresses again that the Kingdom is a universal brotherhood and sisterhood that cannot be restricted, as we are tempted to do by our vicious judgments (vv. 1-5), then he says that it cannot be increased by external means (v. 6), but comes from God as an answer for perseverant prayers (vv. 7-12) and one can enter there only by strong personal determination (vv. 13-14). The Kingdom of God is not to be preached by mere external signs as false prophets try to do (vv. 15-16); it manifests itself not in outward manners as expected, but in its good and true effects (vv. 17-20). Finally, the Kingdom of God once accepted is like a solid house on a good foundation that nothing can destroy from outside (vv. 24-27).
At the end of a day full of teaching and healing Jesus decided to cross the Lake Gennesaret probably to withdraw for a while. The disciples “took him in the boat just as he was” (v.36) without eating, resting or preparations for the journey. It is not said whether they were in such haste because the tired disciples were eager to get away from the crowd or because they saw signs of the coming storm. The Lake Gennesaret is famous of its frequent, sudden and dangerous storms so it is not clear what was the reason to haste . Anyway, other boats followed them. Then Jesus fell asleep in the stern of “the boat”, maybe that of Peter and Andrew or James and John put at his disposition.
The word for the “storm” in the gospel Matthew means literally “earthquake”, and used later as one of the events at the death of Jesus; the same is used in apocalyptic writings to accompany the arrival of God’s Kingdom, while in the Synoptic gospels it appears in the description of the second coming of Jesus (Mt 24:7; Mk 13:8; Lk 21:11). This allusion could give some light on the possible symbolism of this miracle of Jesus.
Jesus is presented fully human in his falling asleep from exhaustion and hunger so much so that even the fury of the sudden storm did not wake him up. The storm is getting stronger so much that the boat fills up and is in danger of sinking. The terrified disciples wakened Jesus and while Mark records their words as an impatient demand (v. 38), the other gospels account it as a request for being saved. It is unclear what they expect from Jesus but growing in the knowledge of their master they have already a vague belief in his unlimited power. The accounts then differ if Jesus first rebukes the sea and then the disciples because their faith is faltering (as in Mk and Lk) or in the other way (in Mt), but great silence fell on the lake . The word “rebuke” is the same used to describe Jesus silencing a demon (Mk 1:25) or ending the fever (Lk 4:39); Jesus stands in front of the disciples now as master of all the creation. The calming of the sea is an allusion to God’s power to control over the chaotic waters (Pss 65:8; 10; 93:3-4; 107:29) and implicitly proclaims the divinity of Jesus. The practice of the “dominion over the sea” (cf. Gn 1:26) is pointing at Jesus also as the second Adam, sinless head of the new creation .
Jesus’ walking on the water follows the miracle of the feeding of the five thousand (see ) and this might be helpful in understanding the symbolism of this episode. In the fourth gospel we learn that the crowd seeing the sign of the multiplication of the bread wanted to proclaim Jesus king, an act that he wanted to avoid absolutely since it was the manifestation of a false messianic expectation (cf. Jn 6:15). This was a moment of crisis: Jesus almost needed to use violence to force his disciples into the boat and make them leave for the other side of the Gennesaret (v. 22) while he dismissed the crowd and went up to the mountain to pray alone. The disciples might have been confused by the excitement of the crowd and by the possibility that their master would be the long-awaited king and were reluctant to leave - maybe they saw also that the wind on the lake was already against them . They were sort of overwhelmed by agitation, symbolized by the turbulent waters around them, when already out few miles on the Lake Jesus came on the waters walking toward them. They thought it was a ghost and were terrified. Mark says that Jesus would have passed by them, maybe to give them the occasion to call him , but seeing their great fear Jesus turned to them with the reassuring sentence “It is I, do not be afraid”, and as they let him in the boat the wind suddenly died down (Mk 6:5-51). “It is I”, literally “I am” is an allusion to the divine name (Ex 3:14) and an implicit reference that Jesus is Son of God. According to Matthew “those who were in the boat” (maybe not the disciples) confessed Jesus as “Son of God”. Mark’s gospel says on the contrary, that the disciples were completely astounded and did not understand neither the miracle of the loaves nor this, but “their hearts where hardened” (v. 52). With this miracle Jesus tried to teach the disciples that he is in fact King and Messiah in a different sense as the people who was ready to proclaim him at the multiplication of the bread waited it. That miracle has a clear reference to the Eucharist, to the “breaking of the bread” and Jesus walking on the water shows not only that he is master of the forces of nature (cf. ) but also that he can do whatever he wants with his body. This meaning is very clear in John’s gospel where this episode introduces the discourse on the bread of life in which Jesus proclaims that he can give his body as food for the world (Jn 6:22-59).
Only Matthew’s version has the episode of Peter walking on the water from his special traditions about this apostle. His request “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water” mirrors the two characteristics as he presented in the gospels, doubts and presumption. Jesus calls him on the water so as to heal Peter’s doubts and presumption by turning them into hope: as he begins to sink, Jesus saves him but reproaches him for his “little faith” (cf. Mt 6:30).
This entire chapter is dedicated to the institution of the Twelve and their mission, and while doing this it describes the life-situation of the early apostolic Church .
Matthew does not have a separate story of the choosing the apostles as the other synoptic gospels (Mk 3:13-19; Lk 6:12-16), but presents them as a known group that received from Jesus the commission basically to continue the same mission as himself. The names of the Twelve differ in the four lists we have (see also Acts 1:13) - an indication that the early Church was more interested in their function as a collegial body than in their personal identity. The story shows that the evangelical tradition firmly believed that Jesus during his public life indicated his intention to found a Church. This body with their number referring to the twelve tribes of Israel symbolized the Church as God’s people and their function was to serve the unity of the entire Church (and in fact, they did not found twelve churches).
After the presentation of the Twelve we have a discourse of Jesus that can be divided into two sections. The first part (vv. 5-15) describes instructions for the immediate mission of the Twelve to villages in Galilee, while the second section (v. 16 ff.) has the perspective and historical context of the experiences of the early Church. First Jesus instructs the Twelve to not even go near to pagans nor Samaritans (vv. 5-6) but in the second part they are called to give testimony in front of pagans before their kings and authorities (v. 18). In fact, Matthew’s passage gives an example how the early Church learned to resolve the problems of their times by contemplating and adapting the tradition on the life and teaching of Jesus. This dynamic use of the tradition is a similar technique to what we do in the Ignatian contemplation where by entering in prayer the scenes of the gospels we acquire the ability to find answers to our contemporary problems.
The greatest challenge the early Church faced was to pass from waiting for the imminent return of Jesus to understanding their mission to bring the good news to all humankind. This great struggle of the newborn Church to recognize its universal mission with the help of extraordinary signs from the Holy Spirit is illustrated well in the Acts of the Apostle and Paul’s letters. In the actions and words of Jesus preserved in the tradition there were only few indications of the calling the pagans to the Kingdom (as in Mt 8:11) besides this, the Church faced a very complex social and cultural issue with this mission. The sending of the Twelve to the villages of Galilee served for Matthew as a symbolic act that could explain the mission of the apostolic Church as a faithful following of the will of Jesus.
Traditionally the “sinful woman” in this story was identified with Mary of Magdala. This identification was based on the fact that she was exorcised of seven demons (Lk 8:2), and so was thought to be the sinful woman par excellence. There are in fact, different characters behind the stories and this episode is different also from the anointing by Mary the sister of Lazarus at Bethany in Jn 12:1-8. The latter is probably the same event as the one described without giving the name of “the woman” in Mk 14:3-9 and Mt 26:6-13. Although the symbolism of the anointing at Bethany refers to the imminent death of Jesus (see ), and in our story it has no such meaning, yet these episodes are often interchanged because of similar elements .
A Pharisee invited Jesus teaching in the town probably out of courtesy, but with some reservation questioned if he really is more than a simple wandering preacher as his followers and the enthusiastic crowd believed. The woman known in the city as a “sinner”, that is a prostitute, entered the house of the Pharisee with a totally different attitude - we don’t know how she could get in, maybe she was known by the owner or by bribing the servants. Probably she heard the teaching of Jesus and had come to believe in him and now wanted to express her gratitude for the healing and forgiveness received. She broke down in tears that bathed the feet of Jesus, which she dried with her hair and kissed. Then she anointed the feet of Jesus with the perfumed oil she had with her, probably worn around her neck in a little alabaster flask as it was customary . Nobody says yet a word, but the disapproving Pharisee thinks ironically, if “this man” were a real prophet would know who is the person in front of him (cf. Jn 4:19), would know that this woman is “a sinner” and would refuse her to touch him (v. 39). Then Jesus tells him a parable of which it is clear that he is not only a prophet who knows the thoughts of Simon but more than that, he also has the authority to forgive sins and call sinners to the Kingdom of God.
The sharp contrast between the humble faith of this “sinful woman”, and the self-righteous doubts of Simon might associate in us the warning directed to the Pharisees: “Amen, I say to you, tax collectors and prostitutes enter the kingdom of God before you” (Mt 21:31). The story also lets an insight into the dynamics of the conversion that works between the free gift of the grace of God and the human collaboration. The woman shows these spontaneous acts of great love and gratitude because she received the forgiveness of her sins already before entering the house, but now she receives the assurance of Jesus that indeed her sins had been forgiven and is called into the peace of the Kingdom of God.
This is the only miracle and the only story before Jesus’ last visit to Jerusalem recorded by all the four evangelists ; they present it with different accents, so it might be good to read all of them in repetitions of this contemplation. Matthew and Mark even have doublets of the story that they preserved out of respect toward the different oral traditions of the same event . These versions differ mainly in the numbers of the people fed, of the loaves, of the fish and of the baskets for the leftovers. The numbers often are symbolic; the first versions have twelve baskets as a reference to the importance of the Twelve while the second versions mention seven loaves and seven baskets, probably as an allusion to “the Seven” - to the first deacons appointed for the service of the community (Acts 6:1-6) .
The miracle is evidently a prophetic act referring to the Eucharist and this explains the particular significance it had for the evangelists . While the liturgy of the Mass is based on the words of Jesus during the Last Supper, the prayer of the consecration in Roman canon has a short phrase, “raising his eyes to heaven”, that is not found in the various accounts of the institution of the Eucharist but comes from the story of feeding the crowd in the Synoptic gospels (cf. Mt 14:19; Mk 6:41; Lk 9:16). By inserting this detail from the miracle of the multiplication of the bread in the liturgical recital of the Last Supper, the authors of the canon desired to underline and point out the connection between the two events . We can see Eucharistic allusions in all the six accounts of this miracle especially in the usage of the verbs for the actions of Jesus that are the same as in the Last Supper: “taking” the bread (and fish) he “blessed” it (or “giving thanks”), “broke” it and “gave” it. One more indication is that the bread has greater importance in the narratives than the fish so much that sometimes the fish even is ignored like at the collection of the leftovers in Jn 6:13 . John’s gospel alludes that it happened when Passover was near as a further allusion to the Eucharist instituted during a Passover meal (Jn 6:4) and this fact is corroborated by the mention of the “green grass” in Mk 6:39 that is possible only early spring in that climate .
Passover being near, it seems very likely the presence of many people on the roads, and as Matthew and Mark mentions that this event took place shortly after the death of John the Baptist, also his followers were on the search. A vast crowd came on foot and some even preceded them running to the other side of the Lake where they wanted to retire for a while. Jesus seeing this, felt compassion for them “for they were like sheep without shepherd” (Mk 6:34) and begin to teach them. Then evening came and the question arose how to feed the crowd. The disciples find that a boy has five barley loaves and two small fish (Jn 6:9) indicating the food of the poorest people. The peculiar word for this fish, “opsarion” means little salted or pickled fish, eaten with its bones like sardines commonly used around the Lake of Gennesareth. This “little fish” are mentioned again in the gospel of John, after the resurrection when Jesus appears to the disciples on the lakeshore and repeats for them the miraculous catch of “large fish” (Jn 21:1-11, ). When Jesus invites them for breakfast, he takes some of the already prepared bread and “little fish” (Jn 21:9.13) and gives that to them, not of the “large fish”. That last humble meal with Jesus reminded them certainly of the miraculous feeding of the crowd .
The gospel of John says that the crowd came only because they saw the healings (Jn 6:1-2), but they did not understand the meaning of these “signs” and after being fed by Jesus they want forcefully make him king honoring him according to their messianic expectations. Jesus needed to flee them and after the short episode of walking on the water (Jn 6:16-21, see ) John continues with the great discourse of Jesus on the bread of life (Jn 6:22-70), which is the presentation of the evangelist’s theology of the Eucharist.
This event is presented in the three Synoptic gospels at the climax of the public life of Jesus right after the confession of Peter (Mt 16:13-20; Mk 8:27-30; Lk 9:18-21), and the two scenes together form a diptych, a double image reflecting the good news that God personally entered human history and his transcendent presence can be experienced. On one side of the diptych we see an act of commitment and deep faith on the part of Peter, while the other side reveals the ineffable mystery of the person of Jesus that surpasses any human expectation. After this turning point Jesus begins to reveal the mystery of the suffering Messiah to his disciples. The evangelists carefully constructed into their particular concept of gospel these two complementary passages between which the connection became clear only in the light of the post-resurrection faith .
The transfiguration happened on a mountain, which is generally retained as a place of revelation in the Bible (see the Sermon on the Mount ). Jesus took with him Peter, James as John, the same three disciples present at the raising of the daughter of Jairus (Mk 5:37; Lk 9:51) and whom we see with Jesus in Gethsemane (Mt 26:37). While in prayer, Jesus “transfigured”, his appearance changed, his face became radiant and his clothes dazzling white . Then Moses and Elijah appeared and conversed with Jesus. Luke’s narrative tells also that they spoke about the exodus Jesus should carry out in Jerusalem (v. 31). The word exodus (“exodos” in Greek means “outgoing”) refers to his death and resurrection and is an allusion to the exodus of Israel out of Egypt, the deliverance from slavery and the covenant of the people with God . The term so rich with meaning becomes an expression for the definite liberation and covenant for which Israel had waited and now was about to be accomplished by Jesus. Moses and Elijah both of whom had a very intimate experience of God represent the entire religious tradition of Israel; Moses, the mediator of the covenant at the Mount Sinai represents the law and Elijah the greatest prophet who renewed the covenant is the paradigm of the prophetic tradition. The scene suggests that the history of Israel was oriented toward Jesus in whom the law and the prophetic tradition reached their final accomplishment .
While Jesus prayed, the three disciples fall asleep - just what happened with them in the Gethsemane later – but were able to wake up and saw Jesus’ glory and the two men speaking with him. Peter took the initiative and offered to prepare three tents or booths for Jesus, Moses and Elijah to prolong the experience (v. 33). These tents are reference to the feast of the Booths or Tabernacles, when the tradition required living during the festival that lasted eight days in little booths made of branches of trees. The feast of the Booths is one of three great Jewish festivals besides Easter and Pentecost; it is a thanksgiving festival after the harvest, celebrated in an elaborate and joyful manner. Men were clothed in white, carried branches of palms and pomegranates and sang Psalm 118, the “Hosanna”. This feast had an eschatological connotation in the Old Testament and in the rabbinic literature and referred to the future reign of God in the world. The transfiguration presented with the symbolism of the festival of the Booths acquires a meaning as a revelation of the “eschaton”, of the “end times” erupting in history. The symbolic language is the most efficacious way to describe an experience of a mysterious, transcendent reality and the evangelists found the rituals of this great feast the most appropriate way to speak about the transfiguration of Jesus. The same symbolism is applied in the book of Revelation where heaven is described as being in a constant feast of the Booths, picturing the saints and martyrs in white robes waving palm branches in their hands and singing the praise of God (Rev 7:9-17). The events of Palm Sunday (see ), with the crowd waving palm branches and singing “Hosanna” might be another reference to this symbolism rendering to Jesus’ entry in Jerusalem an eschatological meaning.
The story of the transfiguration continues with another deeply significant episode. While Peter offered to prepare the booths, a cloud, biblical symbol of the divine presence covered them and a voice declared Jesus the beloved Son of God (v. 5). The evangelists applied here a rabbinic literary instrument, the “heavenly voice” (“bath kol” in Hebrew) used often for describing a public or semi-public announcement of a revelation or command . The same words that at the Baptism of Jesus are heard only by himself, or by the Baptist or by everybody in the different gospels (see ) are now uttered in third person and directed to the disciples in all the three versions of the story.
This miracle prefigures the resurrection of Jesus himself and is the culmination of the series of “signs” in John’s gospel and prelude to the passion . When Jesus is told that his friend Lazarus is sick, he delays two days to go to him saying that this illness is “for the glory of God” (v. 4). The “glory of God” in the Old Testament indicates a theophany, a manifestation of God’s presence in the world while in John’s gospel “glory” has a special connotation referring to the self-revelation of Jesus “the Fathers only Son” (Jn 1:14). Jesus by this “sign” revealed himself as the giver of life who will raise those who believe in him (cf. v. 25 and Jn 5:21), a divine prerogative in the Bible.
Jesus raises Lazarus by calling him out of the tomb, which is a reference to the promise: “…the hour is coming in which all who are in the tombs will hear his voice” (Jn 5:28). The “hour” of Jesus, his passion death and resurrection got near since this miracle led to the formal resolution of the Sanhedrin to kill him (Jn 11:53) and it remained only to find the occasion to carry out their decision. Jesus had raised dead people before, but this miracle happened right at the gates of Jerusalem, witnessed by many.
In the chronology of John’s gospel Jesus arrives at Bethany on the Mount of Olives six days before Passover (v.1). The leaders, “the chief priests and Pharisees” already were searching for Jesus to arrest him at an appropriate moment (Jn 11:56-57). In this climate of danger the people of Bethany prepared a dinner for him, that might have been a special meal of Sabbath . This event is different from the anointing by the “sinful woman” in Lk 7:36-38, which has a different context and meaning (see it presented in ).
The accounts of Mark and Matthew name the host as “Simon the leper”, maybe he gave room because he was someone whom Jesus healed or he had a large enough house or for an other reason. Among the guests of this supper John’s gospel names Lazarus, raised from death, and his sisters Martha and Mary. Martha was serving while Mary (whom the other gospels don’t name, but call “a woman”) took some very precious perfumed oil of genuine nard and anointed with it Jesus’ feet and dried them with her hair (in the other two versions she poured the oil on Jesus’ head, as a symbol of a regal anointing of the messianic king). We know that women were in Jesus’ company (cf. Lk 8:1-3) and nothing prevents us to think that they were as well disciples of him. Mary, whom Luke presents as the ideal disciple (Lk 10:38-42) might have been one of them. Listening to the Jesus’ teaching about his suffering and death in Jerusalem, she understood him quicker than the men who were hindered by preconceived ideas about the Messiah. She had put aside this precious oil and kept it for the burial of Jesus; that night, sensing how near his death was, she performed the anointing that would not be possible if Jesus were to be executed as convicted criminal . From the defense of Jesus it is clear that this anointing was not just an excessive gesture toward the important guest at the supper but performed in view of his death. Some of the rabbinical tradition retained that burying the dead is the greatest act of mercy and had seen anointing not only as part of the proper burial but as necessary condition for the resurrection. Hence of the act of Mary acquires a great importance equal with the gospel itself as the last remark of Jesus in the version Matthew and Mark indicates (Mt 26:13; Mk 14:9).
The significance of this act was not clear for the other disciples and some became indignant for the waste. John’s gospel indicates as the source of indignation for Judas the betrayer, who already might have been thinking of giving up Jesus to the authorities. He is presented here as a greedy thief who voiced concern for the poor to whom the price of the perfume could have been given, but in reality desired to steal it for himself (vv. 4-6). As Edersheim points out with beautiful expression, Jesus who himself became poor that through his poverty might make us rich, answering to this argument changed it into a plea to help the poor. Jesus left us with a command to serve the poor in whom after his death and resurrection he would be always with us .
In several aspects this supper at Bethany is the feminine counterpart of the all-male Last Supper. Instead of Jesus washing the feet of the disciples here we have Mary anointing the feet of Jesus who leaves his last will as the service of the poor. The rich symbolism of this scene includes the breaking of the alabaster jar (Mk 14:3) in order to pour the oil of which fragrance filled the house (Jn 12:3) - allusion to a complete and pleasing sacrifice and maybe a Eucharistic reference. The act of Mary can be seen as the iconic symbol of the “feminine” ecclesial service of compassion equally important as the preaching of the gospel and complementary to the “male” apostolic service.
All the four evangelists record this important event although from different standpoints . It is presented as the unique occasion when Jesus contrary of his usual refusal to let people call him Messiah permitted the crowd to acclaim him openly. As the messianic entry ushered the last days of the earthly life of Jesus the time of silence was over time for public acknowledgment had arrived. The importance of the scene is stressed in the synoptic gospels by the fact that Jesus seemingly took the initiative to prepare the circumstances of his entry to Jerusalem (vv. 1-3). As a prophetic act or parable-in-action it intended to represent the entire work of redemption accomplished by Jesus . John’s gospel speaks of more visits and presents the cleansing of the Temple at the beginning of the ministry of Jesus (Jn 2:13-25; ), while the synoptics describe it as the first time Jesus went up to Jerusalem during his public life according to the simplified outline of the life of Jesus they follow. In their view Jesus enters Jerusalem in order to get in contact with the sanctuary of the Temple . The author of the letter to the Hebrews in the passage speaks about Christ as highpriest who entered the sanctuary of heaven once for all to offer a sacrifice to take away the sins of many (Heb 9:11-10:22). The letter to the Hebrews uses the liturgy of the day of Atonement (Lev 16:1-19) to present the redemptive work of Jesus: by his death and resurrection Christ entered the heavenly tent of testimony and there intercedes for mankind until one day he will reappear as the highpriest did after the sacrifice and lead his people to the throne of God. This interpretation sheds light on the messianic entry in Jerusalem as a symbolic act signifying of what was to come in the work of redemption. This comprehension became possible only following the resurrection and after lengthy reflection (cf. Jn 12:16); the disciples present at the events did not understand at all the meaning of it, but were probably just overwhelmed by the enthusiasm of the crowd and happy the attention their master got.
Even if Jesus accepted the acknowledgement of being the Messiah at the same time he tried to correct the expectation of Israel; he did not arrive as the conquering warrior king, the awaited Son of David who makes the triumphal entrance as Messiah, but came as the meek Prince of Peace riding a borrowed donkey. In the climate of great expectation probably the news already had spread that Jesus would soon come to the city and hence for example the willingness of the owners of the donkey to let the famous teacher use it . Matthew remarks (v. 4-5) that this happened, to fulfill what “the prophet” had told about the meek messianic king who would come riding on a donkey instead of the war-horse, symbol of peace that he would bring; the actual text of v. 5 is a gloss composed of two prophets, Is 62:11 and Zec 9:9, which was a usual way to use Scriptures . This sort of royal entry into Jerusalem suggested that Jesus is a king in a very different sense whose kingdom is not of this world as he stated it later in front of Pilate (Jn 18:36-37).
The crowd gathered around the city hailed Jesus as “prophet” because they witnessed the miracle of raising Lazarus (Jn 12:17-18) . This enthusiasm explains that a “very large crowd” (v. 8) waited for Jesus already on the road, composed mostly of pilgrims already present for the Passover celebrations. Luke admits however that Jesus received this welcome from the “whole multitude of his disciples” (Lk 19:37), who came with him while the habitants of Jerusalem in general remained hostile toward the Galilean prophet. This might explain how it was possible that just a few days later there is a crowd shouting for the death of Jesus . The multitude who greeted Jesus as their king were the powerless country people, pilgrims and disciples while his enemies were from the seat of power with authority and means to do whatever they wanted against him. Maybe they could even to turn excited enthusiasts against Jesus since the masses are always vulnerable to manipulation.
The crowd waving the palm trees and singing utterances from Psalm 118, which is part of the great Hallel (Pss 113-118) that was sung on the great feasts of Israel might be a motive from the feast of the Booths and so indicating that the eschatological reign of God arrived . Matthew paraphrased Ps 118:25-26 by inserting “to the Son of David” after “Hosanna” which indicates that it is a later construction to underline Jesus’ being the Messiah . This interpretation of the Psalm is stressed further by the demand of the Pharisees that Jesus rebuke his disciples mentioned only in Luke’s version (Lk 19:39). Jesus’ reply that the stones around them would cry out if the people kept silent is maybe an allusion for the destruction of the city where only desolated rocks remained as witnesses of his coming in the name of the Lord. The reference to the future devastation of Jerusalem becomes clear in the episode mentioned only by Luke. When arrived to the rocky ledge from where the city can be seen Jesus wept over it, not with quiet weeping as at the tomb of Lazarus (“edakrusen”) but with loud lamentation (“eklausen”): “If this day you only knew what makes for peace…” (cf. Lk 19:41-44) .
The synoptic gospels account that after the entry in Jerusalem Jesus went to the Temple and drove out those who were selling and buying things there, a prophetic act that in John’s gospel is recorded at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry as the second “sign” . With this Jesus publicly claimed authority over it - something highly provocative for “the chief priests and the scribes ”. The hostility of these religious authorities from here on during the passion story became open, just as Jesus had predicted it (Mt 16:21; 20:18).
After the symbolic cleansing and reconsecration the Temple became a proper place for teaching and Jesus went up there every day on this last week of his life to preach and for the nights returned to Bethany or went to the Mount of Olives outside of the city (Lk 21:37-38). The rich content of these teachings is collected in Lk 21 and 22 (see also Mt 21:23-25:46; Mk 11:27-13:37; Jn 12:20-50).
This contemplation can be seen as the foundation of the Third Phase of the Exercises in a similar way as the “Principle and Foundation”  is for the First and the “Kingdom” meditation [91-99] for the Second Phase .
When contemplating the Last Supper, we need to remember that eating together in the ancient cultures and particularly for Semitic peoples had deep social and even religious significance. For oriental semi-nomad peoples who lived and traveled in an unforgiving harsh climate hospitality and sharing food was necessary for survival (and sometimes it is also today). A common meal was not only a social event, a sign of friendship but occasion to express mutual commitment of support and also became a form of divine worship. This sheds some light on why the most important events in the Scriptures are almost always connected with a meal . Let us just recall the episode of Melchizedek who brought bread and wine to bless Abraham (Gn 14:18-20) or the scene of Moses and the elders of the people eating on the sacred mountain as ratification of the covenant (Ex 24:1-11). With this background it is understandable that Jesus chose a sacred meal for the institution of the new covenant.
We might note also the dramatic character of the Last Supper scenes in the gospels; the reader can easily enter in the dialogs by identifying oneself with the characters, as in a formalized and schematic way it happens in the Palm Sunday liturgy of the passion readings.
The Last Supper begins with a deeply disturbing episode when Jesus reveals that one of his closest disciples would betray him: “…one of you will betray me, one who is eating with me” (cf. Mk 14:18). The betrayer was part of the table fellowship (cf. Ps 41:10), which renders his act still graver in the light of the sacredness of the common meal in the biblical world. To express the gravity and the mystery of this act John’s gospel refers twice to a direct influence of Satan on Judas first in the decision to hand Jesus over to his enemies (Jn 13:2) then during the supper (Jn 13:27).
Luke mentions that during the supper the disciples argued who is the greatest among them (Lk 22:24) maybe during finding the order of sitting or reclining around the table. It seems like that Judas made his way to the most important place on the left side of Jesus . At this place he could receive the dipped morsel from Jesus (Jn 13:25-26) and ask easily if he is the traitor (Mt 26:25). It seems that these were moments when Judas could give up his intentions as well as when he too received the washing of the feet, but he did not and left before the main part of the meal with the institution of the Eucharist.
The washing of the disciples’ feet is accounted only in the fourth gospel (Jn 13:1-15). The importance of this gesture is underlined by the solemn introduction to it (vv. 1-3). Knowing that his “hour” arrived and fully conscious of what he was to do Jesus rose and washed the feet of all the disciples, since Judas was still present. Jesus probably replaced the washing of the hands prescribed only for the head of the family for fellowship with this prophetic act, transforming this external rite of distinction into a very special humble service of love. This transformation might explain the meaning of the answer given to the protesting Peter (v. 8): submission to this washing was meant to share with Jesus in his service of love, to have “part” in it (instead of “part” certain translations have “inheritance”). This mimed prophecy symbolized the work of redemption in which Jesus wanted his disciples to have part, and it was intended also to be the symbol of the disciples’ future participation. This participation is not totally passive; to be redeemed we need to share personally in the saving work, in the death and resurrection of Christ (v. 10). Those who have “bathed” and so belong to Christ don’t need to repeat it (maybe a reference to baptism), those who have been washed fully by him are asked to have their feet washed in the daily consecration of their life to the service of love on the example of Jesus himself .
John’s gospel omitted the narrative of the institution of the Eucharist found in the synoptics and seemingly substituted it with the washing of the feet and by the giving of the new commandment of love that replaces all the other commandments (Jn 13:31-35). The word for “new” here is the Greek “kainos” expressing something novel, unprecedented, a creative beginning . This commandment is novel as it replaces the two commandments Jesus mentioned as the sum of the Old Testament spirituality (Mk 12:28-34, the commandment to love God and the second to love one’s neighbor. Yahweh revealed himself in the Old Testament not so much of fear as it often thought mistakenly but as a God of love and asked the people Israel to love him with all her heart (Dt 6:4-5). As St. Ignatius pointed out love manifests itself in deeds rather than in words and it consists in mutual exchange [230-231]. How could Israel love her God, what could they do for him, how could they give him in exchange anything for his love? They also understood that Yahweh is transcendent, totally other (cf. Is 40:12-27) who needs nothing from his creatures. The answer they have found in the second commandment that says to love one’s neighbor as oneself (Lev 19:18). The people of Israel understood from this that they should give God their mutual love as reply to the covenant given to them. The sensitivity toward just human relations as unique feature of Israel’s faith is reflected also in the Decalogue (Dt 5:6-21), the greater part of which actually deals with these relations and social justice. Even the institution of the Sabbath is a measure that gave the workers a day of rest each week and set limits to human avarice (Dt 5:14-15).
The commandment Jesus gave is new also as it not even mentions our love toward God, only the love toward one another on the example of Jesus . It commands an effective love modeled on the redemptive love of Jesus who opened a new and efficacious way to love God. Since through his death and resurrection Jesus assumed in himself all mankind, the “good news” is that we can love him in reality and truly in all our fellow human beings. To love each other in this way is made possible through the power given in the Eucharist. The new commandment of love constitutes the essence of the new covenant, which was stipulated through the institution of the Eucharist .
The Eucharist is a sacramental representation of the love demonstrated by Jesus and which he asked in the new commandment. Thus the washing of the feet, as a symbolic act of love and service signified the real meaning of the participation in this sacrament and could replace the narrative of the institution of the Eucharist in the fourth gospel.
We conclude the presentation of the Last Supper with the institution of the Eucharist. To enter this contemplation the companions might use the “Second Method of Prayer” [249-257], the simple meditative reflection on the words of the passage . They can note that the text of the institution is organized around four verbs that express the actions of Jesus  and which entered the liturgy of the Mass at the moment of the consecration: he “took” the bread and the wine, he “blessed” them, he “broke” the bread, he “gave” them to the disciples. The prayer with this scene can focus on these words and their connection with the use of bread and wine for the creation of the new covenant. Bread and wine were the most common and basic staples of the time and culture of Jesus and the choice of these is meaningful on the importance and sacredness of the ordinary things and of ordinary people. Jesus took the commonest food to turn it in his own body and blood by blessing them; similarly, he consecrated us and with us the elements of our daily life to become means of communion with God. We can apply the words of the institution of the Eucharist on our personal lives and vocation as married or single, lay or priest . In the light of this context we understand how after chosen and blessed we are also “broken” and “given” for the world. Certain suffering expressed by the word “broken” is connected with our lives to become instruments of grace, to be “given” as efficacious signs for the good of others.
The evangelists reconstructed the agony of Jesus in Gethsemane from what little they could know about this personal experience in a similar way as they described the temptations (see ) . Luke uses for this experience of Jesus the word “agony” meaning, “struggle” expressing by this that the confrontation with Satan at the end of Jesus’ life became open. Jesus lived this struggle in utter loneliness as Peter, James and John whom he asked to pray with him, fell asleep (as at the transfiguration, see ). The decisive eschatological struggle against evil was seen in the Old Testament and in Jewish apocalyptic writings frequently as a necessary event before the establishment of the reign of God; Jesus as Son of God must have engaged alone in this terrible trial against Satan, his declared enemy .
The prayer of Jesus began with the Aramaic word “Abba” (Mk 14:36), which indicated the special filial relationship with God  since the term was used by children toward their father but as too familiar like “Dad” in English it was never applied to God before. Paul used the word “Abba” referring to the prayer inspired by the Spirit in our hearts (Gal 4:4-6 and in Rom 8:14-17). This prayer is a proof that after Pentecost the Spirit of the Son in whom we can say “Abba, Father!” empowers us to enter the same filial relationship of Jesus with God.
To describe the prayer of Jesus (who probably prayed silently) the evangelists used the model of the “Our Father”, the prayer Jesus himself had taught to his disciples. The first part of the “Our Father” expresses in a threefold manner the wish that God’s kingdom and will would be realized fully in human history, while the second part asks for help that we could become collaborators of God in this goal; the help we need is described as the daily bread, forgiveness of sins and deliverance from the forces of evil. Jesus prayed three times that not his, but the will of the Father would be done and accepted the “cup”, the fullness of trial, suffering and death. In the same time Jesus wanted the disciples to pray to be not exposed to the “trial” or “test” (Lk 22:40), which is the same prayer as last petition of the “Our Father”: “…do not subject us to the final test but deliver us from the evil one” (Mt 6:13). This final test (or temptation) is the terrible trial that Jesus alone should have suffered. From this prayer of Jesus we learn the inner necessity of his suffering and death on the part of God; we cannot know the answer to the “why”, we can just arrive to accept that it was inevitable in some way that belongs to the mystery of God.
The intensity of this moment as the struggle against the evil that accompanied Jesus’ life entered in the definitive phase in this final “hour” is indicated in various ways by the gospels. Matthew and Mark accounted that Jesus in his sorrow and distress exclaimed that he was near to dying (Mt 26:37-38; Mk 14:33-34), while Luke said that his sweat turned blood from sorrow (Lk 22:44).
John’s gospel does not give the name of the place of Gethsemane where Jesus was arrested but calls it “the garden” (v. 1), as an allusion to the first “garden” of Eden. The evangelist thus gives an original meaning to the scene presenting Jesus as the new Adam bracing himself for confrontation with “the ancient serpent” (Rv 12:9). Satan is presented here in Judas of whom John told that during the Last Supper “Satan entered him” (Jn 13:27). Judas led the soldiers who came to arrest Jesus ignominiously in this hidden place (cf. Mt 26:55). Jesus confronted them and as they replied that they were searching “Jesus of Nazareth” he declared, “I AM”, pronouncing the divine name for which the soldiers fell on the ground (vv. 4-5). Jesus submitted to the arrest only after repeated confrontation, not because forced but freely since this was part of the divine plan (cf. Jn 10:17-18) .
Peter who had a sword tried to stop the arrest and fight but Jesus did not allow him to interfere with the course of events saying that he should drink the “cup” (vv. 10-11), a theme of the agony in the synoptic gospels (). Then the disciples fled since Jesus himself gave order to the soldiers to let them go (vv. 8-9), thus demonstrating again that he was the master of the events. The “band of soldiers, the tribune and the Jewish guards” brought Jesus to Annas, the ex-high-priest (vv. 12-13). Peter and the other disciple (probably John) followed them and standing at a charcoal fire  the frightened Peter denied Jesus first time (vv. 15-18).
This interrogation during the night was an injustice in itself since Annas as deposed high priest had no authority whatsoever to question Jesus. During this unofficial interrogation  Annas let his servants abuse the prisoner (vv. 22-23) committing further shameful injustice. Then they brought Jesus to the house of Caiaphas the actual high priest.
This trial should have taken place in the morning when the entire Sanhedrin gathered around the high priest. They were not able to find other than false witnesses to support some sort of charges against the prisoner, but for the solemn questioning of Caiaphas Jesus gave an answer (v. 64) that provided them with something, although it is unclear if Jesus actually acknowledged that he was the Messiah or denied it . Denial seems plausible if we recall how consequently Jesus refused the type of Messiah his contemporaries expected . However, Jesus continued his answer with a declaration that combined a passage from Psalm 110 applied to the royal enthronement of the Messiah (Ps 110:1) and a paraphrase of the prophecy of Daniel on the mysterious figure called “Son of Man” (Dn 7:13-14), a title that seemingly Jesus used for self-designation to create a distance from the contemporary messianic expectations . The symbolical representation of the eschatological triumph of Israel in Daniel is used here to describe the final manifestation of the glorified Christ at the end of times. The Sadducean high priest and his colleagues understood this declaration as blasphemy, a capital crime, although the words used by Jesus could not be interpreted as such by any Jewish court and so they broke the law in this already illegal proceeding . After pronouncing the death sentence the guards and the members of the Sanhedrin adding to the shameful character of their session began to physically abuse Jesus. This the gospels describe in a way recalling the sufferings of the Servant of the Lord described in Isaiah (Is 50:6). While the trial went on inside, Peter in the courtyard repeatedly denied Jesus (vv. 69-75).
In the fourth gospel Pilate began the hearing with the intention to humiliate the Jewish leaders (“the Jews” as John calls the hostile authorities) pointing out that their religious charges of blasphemy are irrelevant for him and that they lost their right to inflict death penalty (vv. 29-31). Probably then they came up with the new, political charge that Jesus pretended to be the king of the Jews . The original charge for blasphemy was punishable with stoning (Lv 24:16) and in this act of bringing Jesus to Pilate with a new accusation to be crucified John sees the fulfillment of the prediction of Jesus that he will die “lifted up” (v. 32; cf. Jn 3:14; 12:32). We can feel in all gospels a certain polemic tendency toward the Jewish authorities as they present as more guilty in the execution of Jesus than the Romans.
While John has the most dramatic description of the dialog between Jesus and Pilate also the synoptic gospels report the central inquiry about the kingship of Jesus with the equivocal answer: “You say so” (Mt 27:11; Mk 15:2; Lk 23:3) . The title however used in Pilate’s question “Are you the king of the Jews?” (v. 33) was inaccurate, the real accusation having been that Jesus declared himself “Son of God”, of divine nature, and God’s title was “King of Israel”. The fourth gospel indicated to this distinction as Jesus answered with a question to Pilate asking if the Roman procurator simply did not know about the difference or had accepted the political charges (v. 34). When Pilate then wanted to hear what Jesus did to be indicted by the religious leaders Jesus explained the nature of his kingship with understandable terms for his judge (v. 36). For the repeated question if he was in fact a king Jesus pointed to the essence of his mission as “…to testify to the truth” (v. 38). For this Pilate rebuffed, “What is truth?” (v. 38) posing the fundamental question investigated in John’s gospel. For John “truth” is a reality one lives or does . Jesus’ entire existence was directed toward establishing the reign of God in human history, toward testifying to the truth that the reign of God is present in his work and in his person. As the reign of God was inaugurated in him as incarnate Son, Jesus is king not only “of the Jews” but all mankind .
This section of the trial ends with the conclusion of Pilate that he did not find grounds for condemning Jesus and wanted to release him, by making the crowd to choose between Jesus and another prisoner, Barrabbas . They preferred Barrabbas (vv. 39-40). The name means (ironically or symbolically), “son of the father”, which simply stands for “man”. This prisoner condemned to death was freed instead of Jesus, true “Son of the Father”.
This episode is recorded only in Luke’s gospel where Herod Antipas appeared more times (9:7-9; 13:31-33). Pilate’s motive to send him the prisoner for trial might have been to discharge the case he did not like or to show some recognition of the rights of the tetrarch of Galilee with whom he had an enmity before . Luke reported that Herod and Pilate became friends after this episode (Lk 23:12). In the Acts of the Apostles he pointed out that the political leaders, the kings and princes, Herod and Pilate conspired together to destroy Jesus just as predicted by David (Ps 2:2) and so fulfilled God’s plan (Acts 4:24-30).
Herod is presented as curious of Jesus of whom he heard a lot and wanted to meet for a long time to see some magic performed (v. 8). Herod questioned the prisoner, but as Jesus did not say or do anything. The accusers came along to accuse and abuse Jesus also here. They probably brought up political charges, but Jesus being a Galilean made him already suspicious as a rebel or zealot. Herod was disappointed in Jesus whom he thought to be a prophet and miracle maker and now judged as a helpless idiot. He and his soldiers abused Jesus and for mockery clothed him in resplendent clothes (a strange detail that might be a reference to the transfiguration, ) and sent him back to Pilate (v. 11). As Luke was generally concerned in his gospel to show the right attitude of becoming a disciple, this episode served to teach that to reach Jesus not curiosity but faith is necessary (7:50; 8:48-50; 17:19).
The second part of the trial before Pilate in John’s gospel began with the scourging of Jesus, which was interpreted by this evangelist as an attempt on the part of the procurator to satisfy the bloodthirsty crowd. He orders this cruel punishment notwithstanding that he just declared Jesus innocent and even without formal judgment (Jn 19:1). Scourging was in fact a usual introductory part of the crucifixion, called “the intermediate death” . The abuse followed also the scourging, as the soldiers felt free to play their vulgar mockery with the bleeding prisoner (vv. 2-3). Pilate presented Jesus to the crowd “Behold, the man!” John stresses that Jesus was “still wearing the crown of thorns and the purple cloak”, while Pilate threatened to stop the trial by acquitting the prisoner of the charges (vv. 5-6). Contrary to Pilate’s expectations the religious leaders were not appeased, but feeling humiliated repeatedly by the procurator and seeing their messianic hopes mocked became furious, turning their embarrassment into anger. They even confessed their real motive that they were seeking the execution of Jesus because he claimed to be the “Son of God” (v. 7). This statement caused the already ambiguous Pilate to be overcome by fear, maybe by superstitious dread, maybe by a sense of something greater than his understanding. We can recall the episode mentioned only by Matthew that Pilate’s wife warned him because of a dream she had regarding Jesus (Mt 27:19) indicating a divine message. The startled Pilate now earnestly questioned Jesus whence he came from (cf. Jn 6:25). As Pilate did not receive answer, his fear became more intense and to compensate it sought assurance in his power over life and death. Pilate did not know that the power he claimed was given to him by God whom the procurator was not familiar with. Jesus pointed out that the religious authorities, the high priests and scribes, knowing God from whom the power came and to whom they were responsible were guiltier in abusing it (vv. 10-11).
There was an ulterior attempt on the part of Pilate to release Jesus, but then the Jewish authorities came out with their last move, threatening to implicate the procurator himself before the imperial tribunal in the charge of rebellion against Ceasar if he would let Jesus go free (v. 12). This was too much for a Roman official and so Pilate formally condemned Jesus to crucifixion. The evangelist stressed the solemnity of the moment of condemnation by giving the exact place as the Stone Pavement or Gabbatha under the fortress Antonia and the time as about noon on the preparation day for Passover. In the chronology of the fourth gospel this was the same hour when in the Temple the priests began the slaughter of the lambs for Passover, alluding that Jesus is the true Lamb of God (cf. Jn 2:19). This theme alludes also to the Suffering Servant of Yahweh who was executed “like a lamb led to the slaughter” (Is 53:7). John accounts that Pilate seated Jesus on the judge’s bench, as in the thought of the evangelist Jesus is the real judge who has the right to sit there (vv. 13-14).
Only Matthew accounts that Pilate employed a Jewish rite in connection with the condemnation (Mt 27:24), the handwashing prescribed for the elders of a town where a murder happened but the killer was unknown, in order to free themselves from guilt (Dt 21:1-8). This rite done by a Roman justice could appeal to the Jewish leaders powerfully and should have resulted in their declining from the death sentence. The prescribed reply for this rite was indeed a prayer on the part of the priests asking forgiveness and to be free from “innocent blood”, but the reaction in Jesus’ trial was just the opposite .
At the end of the trial Pilate threw a last cynical insult to them by saying “Behold, your king!” after which they cried out again for crucifixion and the chief priests burst out: “We have no king but Ceasar” (vv. 14-15). With this they practically committed apostasy and blasphemy, abjuring their faith in God the only King of Israel .
As a customary part of the crucifixion the soldiers made Jesus carry part of the cross to the place of the execution on a hill outside of the city walls called in Aramaic Golgotha or Place of the Skull (in Latin Calvaria) because of its shape. John reported that Jesus carried the cross on his back all alone (v. 17) and with this fulfilled the typology of Isaac who brought the wood for the sacrifice (Gn 22:1-14) . While John represented Jesus as fully in control of his destiny (cf. Jn 10:18) the synoptics mention the episode with Simon of Cyrene forced at a certain point to carry the cross instead of Jesus (Mt 27:32; Mk 15:21; Lk 23:26) .
At the crucifixion of Jesus the fourth gospel gives the fullest detail of the inscription over Jesus’ head with the name and charge “Jesus the Nazorean; the King of the Jews” (v. 19) and that it was written in three languages, Hebrew, Latin and Greek, so that many could read it (v. 20). John’s gospel accounts the story that the chief priests protested against the sign as an insult for them but Pilate kept it unchanged (vv. 21-22).
John describes the episode of the soldiers dividing the clothes of Jesus among them in the most detailed way among the gospels ; he adds that they have cast lots for the seamless tunic of Jesus and quotes the verse of Psalm 22 he saw fulfilled in these two actions (Ps 22:9). The mention of the seamless tunic, part of the regalia of Jewish high priests (Sir 50:11) is a reference that Jesus is king and also high priest in this moment .
The mockery of the bystanders (see Mt 27:39) is a further a reference to Psalm 22 describing the sufferings of the Messiah (cf. Ps 22:7-8). The challenges thrown at Jesus demanding convincing signs recall the suggestions of Satan in the temptation story (see ) - an indication that the gospels see these people as instruments of the evil one. Similarly to the temptations some of the verbal abuses are quotations from the Scriptures (like in Mt 27:43 that of Ps 22:9 and of Wis 2:12-20).
The gospels recorded Jesus speaking on the cross altogether seven times (traditionally called the “seven words” of Christ). (1) He prayed, “Father forgive them, they know not what they do” (Lk 23:46) for the executioners first of all, though this prayer can be extended for the authorities condemning Jesus (cf. Acts 3:17; 1 Cor 2:8) even interpreted as a sign of universal mercy and as astounding paradigm for forgiveness (cf. Acts 8:60). (2) There is an episode recorded only by Luke when Jesus promised to one of the two criminals executed together with him “Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise” (Lk 23:43), echoing this gospel’s view that the destiny of a disciple is “being with Jesus”. (3) The mother of Jesus presented as the first disciple by John appeared under the cross a second time in his gospel after the wedding of Cana (cf. ). Jesus recommended John to his mother by saying to them “Woman, behold, your son” and “Behold, your mother” (cf. Jn 19:25-27). Mary was asked to become the mother of the beloved disciple who represented there all the believers and thus she accepted to be mother of the Church . (4) Then “…in order that the scripture might be fulfilled, Jesus said, ‘I thirst’”(Jn 19:28). It might be a reference to Ps 22:16 (which is the most often quoted Psalm in the passion accounts) or to Ps 69:22 “… for my thirst they gave me vinegar”. They gave him in fact wine, which probably went sour, turned “vinegar” on the hot sun, soaked in a sponge put to his mouth on a sprig of hyssop . This latter is probably an allusion to the hyssop with which the blood of the paschal lamb was sprinkled on the doors (Ex 12:22). (5) Jesus cried out in loud voice in Aramaic “ ‘Eloi, eloi, lema sabachthani?’ which is translated, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’” (Mk 15:34; cf. Mt 25:46). These are the opening words of the often-quoted Psalm of lament and trust (Ps 22:2a), but which the bystanders misunderstood, thinking Jesus called Elijah the prophet who was believed to help in distress. (6) John accounts that having taken the wine Jesus said, “It is finished” and dying “handed over the spirit” (cf. Jn 19:36). In the fourth gospel the death of Jesus is the moment of glorification and by his last breath the glorified Christ gave the Holy Spirit to the Church, represented by his mother and John. (7) In Luke’s gospel Jesus died with the words “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit” (Lk 23:46), which is a verse from Psalm 31 that continues with an expression of trust “you will redeem me, Lord, faithful God” (Ps 31:6) .
The synoptic gospels described Jesus’ death with apocalyptic imagery, a symbolic expression that the final age arrived. They mention earthquake (cf. Mt 24:28; 28:2), splitting rocks, opening graves, resurrection of the saints (cf. Dn 12:1-3) solar eclipse and that the veil of the sanctuary was torn apart. This was probably the veil of the Holy of Holies (Ex 26:31-36) through which only the high priest was allowed to pass once a year on the Day of Atonement; it’s being torn might alluded to the looming destruction of the sanctuary, the end of the Old Testament or meant that the access to God is open for all.
John accounts that after the death of Jesus the soldiers broke the legs of the others but not those of Jesus (Jn 19:31-33.36) which is an alluding to the psalmist’s depiction of persecution of the just (Ps 34:20) and continuing the theme of the paschal lamb the bones of which should not be broken (Ex 12:46). Jesus’ death fulfilled the prophetic element contained in the paschal sacrifice of the lamb, realized definitely the work of liberation and redemption. To assure the death one of the soldiers, as it was customary pierced the heart of Jesus of which blood and water flowed out (Jn 19:34-35.37, cf. Zec 12:10). These signs serve John to stress the reality of Jesus’ death as an eyewitness against the docetic heresy of mere appearance, while the scene maybe contains also a symbolic reference to the sacraments of Baptism and Eucharist.
John’s gospel describes the anointing of Jesus’ body for the burial immediately after his death and removal from the cross  and mentions the use of a huge amount, a hundred pounds of spices (vv. 38-39). This indicates a burial with royal grandeur according to John’s dominant theme in the passion story of Jesus being a king. For John it was an important enough factor to mention explicitly that the burial was performed according to Jewish custom (v. 40). With this he intended to suggest that Jesus’ body, which in John’s view was already glorified, remained intact for the imminent resurrection.
Matthew reports that the tomb in which they laid Jesus was of Jesus of Arimathea a rich man (Mt 27:57) maybe a member of the Sanhedrin (cf. Mk 15:43) and secretly a disciple of Jesus. This was a newly hewn tomb of a distinguished rich man, seen by the women, which makes it a well identified a detail serving apologetic purposes. The gospel of Matthew ends the account of the burial by mentioning also that the Jewish authorities fixed a seal on the tomb and placed a guard there to secure that nobody could steal the body (Mt 27:62-66).
The gospel of John has a different, symbolic remark regarding the burial place of Jesus. He says, it was a new tomb nearby in “a garden” which is an allusion to Jesus as new Adam placed in a garden. This new garden is different from the place of the agony that symbolized the first Eden (cf. ), it is a sign of the future heavenly paradise where Jesus on the cross promised to bring with him the penitent thief (Lk 23:43).
We can feel the devotion of St. Ignatius toward Our Lady, as he wanted to include the encounter of the risen Lord with his mother in the mysteries of the life of Jesus - the only contemplation in the exercises that is not based on the gospels. He argues: “Though this is not mentioned explicitly in the Scriptures it must be considered as stated when Scripture says that he appeared to many others” (). The appearance of Jesus to his mother is a realistic supposition as the gospels record that he appeared first not to the disciples but to the women who were closest to him in affection (Lk 24:10). These were the women who accompanied and served him on his travels (Lk 8:1-3), stood with him at the cross as witnesses of his death (Lk 23:49) and took care of his body for the burial (Lk 23:55-24:1). The contemplations of these appearances might stress again to the companions the importance of emotions, warmth and care in the bond with Jesus Christ who is now living as the risen Lord and in the same time mysteriously identified with all humanity.
The scene of the risen Jesus with his mother touches deeply the religious feelings of many believers. Let us account here a personal experience of Kris who was present in one Easter celebration in the town of Nicosia in Sicily, Italy. It is customary there to represent on the morning of Easter Sunday on the main town square the encounter of Jesus with his mother Mary as the much-awaited high point of the celebration. They carry out of the church the statues of the risen Jesus and Mary to the opposite sides of the square, then amidst growingly intense sound of many drums strong men from certain confraternities bring them together until their arms touch each other. Then the entire crowd explodes in cheers, people embrace each other and exchange joyful greetings. Resurrection became reality again.
This apparition is described only in John’s gospel (Mk 16:9-11 mentions it shortly). Mary of Magdala went to the tomb of Jesus together with some other women  on the “first day of the week” after the Sabbath (Jn 20:1), which meant by Jewish calculation the “third day” from the death of Jesus. The “third day” has rich scriptural allusions and in particular a reference to the resurrection of dead in the book of Hosea (Hos 6:2).
These women were the first to discover that the tomb was empty (see ). The fact that they sought the tomb in order to perform an anointing shows that they did not expect the resurrection at all. This lack of expectation is confirmed by their sorrow, by the fear the women experienced at the tomb of Jesus (Mk 16:8) and by the doubts of the disciples who did not believe the story of the women (Lk 24:11) or as in John’s account they went home after seeing the empty tomb as if nothing happened (Jn 20:10). The attitude of the disciples (both men and women) might have been caused that they had a different concept of resurrection and perhaps waited Jesus returning gloriously in his Kingdom . The sorrow, doubts and fears might have been expressions of lack of faith and these accounts conveyed criticism of certain disciples and in the same time (mostly in Mark’s gospel) might have served to give hope to Christians who lost faith or became apostates during the persecutions: also these important authoritative figures failed, but it was never hopeless to regain faith .
Mary of Magdala reacted to the empty tomb by assuming the body was removed and not even seeing the risen Jesus was enough, only when she heard his voice did she recognized him (v. 16), an allusion to the figure of the good shepherd who calls the sheep by name and they recognize his voice (Jn 10:3-5). Mary came to faith in the resurrection and received from Jesus the mandate to announce the good news to the disciples. The words of Jesus to Mary reflect John’s theological view in which resurrection, ascension, glorification and the sending of the Spirit forms one event. Jesus’ answer first suggested that soon after this encounter he would ascend to the Father and then he sent Mary to prepare the disciples for receiving the gift of the Spirit (v. 7).
In the description of the events in this passage Matthew depends on Mark (Mk 16:1-8) but he changed his source significantly and added some own material to it.
Matthew describes the scene with signs of divine presence and of arrival of the final age: an earthquake, an angel descending from heaven to roll away the stone like lightning in clothes white like snow (2-4). He rendered the text less critical toward the women than Mark by saying that they went to see the tomb (v.1) without mentioning the intention of anointing the body of Jesus (Mk 16:1).. Mathew changed the disobedience of the women in Mark to obedience (Mt 28:8 cf. Mk 16:8) and says that they quickly went away from the tomb (instead of “fled”) fearful yet overjoyed (instead of “trembling and bewilderment”) and ran to announce the good news to the disciples as the angel ordered them (instead of “they said nothing” disobeying the command).
Matthews own account continues by saying that these women suddenly met with Jesus on their way and as they embraced his feet and worshiped him; he confirmed their mission to go and give the good news to the disciples (vv. 9-10) . In Matthew the disciples are told to go to Galilee, to return from Jerusalem to the place where they received their first call. The choice of Galilee, the borderland, where poor and mixed people lived as the center of their activity is significant for the understanding of the basic message of the gospels (see ).
We saw in this contemplation particularly great differences in the view of the events in two of the gospels. This example stresses how often the sacred writers used their sources with freedom in order to express different truths according to their sensitivity and the need of their communities to whom they addressed their work. The differences in the gospel accounts rather than decreasing the value of these accounts serve as indirect proof of authenticity and notwithstanding the contrast between them these are equally inspired writings and part of the canonic books of the Scriptures.
Luke’s gospel mentions this apparition of Jesus to Peter alone in conformity with Paul’s list of appearances (cf. 1 Cor 15:5), without any details of it. Earlier Luke speaks of the general disbelief of the disciples hearing the story of the women (v. 11) and presents Peter running to the tomb of Jesus alone and that he saw the burial clothes with amazement (v. 12). The fourth gospel has both John and Peter running to the tomb (Jn 20:2-10), and accounts that Peter entered and “carefully examined” (“theoorei” in Greek) the clothes (Jn 20:6) but in contrast with the “other disciple” who saw and believed (v. 8) nothing is said about the faith of Peter, just that they went home as if nothing happened (v. 10). This scene continues the contrast between Peter and John implicitly present in the story of Peter’s denial (Jn 18:15-16). John’s gospel particularly stresses the lack of the faith of three disciples, Peter, Thomas and Mary of Magdala (cf. ), of whom the last two were presented meeting the risen Jesus in personal encounters, while instead of accounting the special apparition to Peter this gospel has the dialog during the apparition on the Lake Tiberias when Peter’s authority was restored (Jn 21:15:19; cf. ). From the short account of Luke we learn of a special apparition in which Peter evidently arrived to faith in the resurrection. Luke presents Peter in the Acts shortly after this as preaching with certitude about the risen Lord and leading the first community of the Church. The character of Peter as presented in the gospels is very rich and if the companions choose to do this contemplation they might use various scriptural passages about Peter in order to help to enter the scene of this apparition.
This encounter with Jesus has its peculiar character among the apparition stories. The two disciples who left Jerusalem on the afternoon of Easter Sunday to go to the village of Emmaus were Cleopas and an unnamed companion, probably his wife (v. 18) . The couple was part of the circle of disciples who followed Jesus at least part of the time and in this scene they were returning home disheartened.
Similarly to other apparition stories the pair did not recognize the risen Jesus when he joined them on the road. The moment of recognition however did not happen even when he began to interpret the Scriptures and explained them the idea of the suffering and glorified Messiah (vv. 25-28). There is no overwhelming miraculous event as was the vision of Saul on the road to Damascus (cf. Acts 9:1-9). Only when they invited Jesus to stay in their home and share their meal with them were their eyes opened and they recognized (vv. 31-32). Without the invitation and the shared meal Jesus would have remained a stranger for them, notwithstanding that they heard the scriptural explanation from him on suffering and resurrection.
This story that has a catechetical character with strong Eucharistic reference and might have served as a paradigm of the catechumenate. We see in it a symbol of the theme of our presentation of the Exercises for companions, a paradigm of the journey of growth and healing included in “Finding our way”. The companions as the couple from Emmaus walk along with the risen Jesus, while learn to understand salvation history and their place in it. They will experience slow growth and moments of “peak experiences”, high intensity encounters with the living Jesus, who can be reached only and exclusively by offering a shelter and sharing a meal with some stranger. They learn that theology and prayer is not sufficient; Jesus the risen Lord is recognizable only in practicing justice and in living communion with others. They discover the sacramentality of the everyday life, as the ordinary becomes the place for the extraordinary and divine. Not unlike the couple that set out after this encounter at once back to Jerusalem to communicate their experience to the others (v. 33), the companions might feel the desire to share in some form what they received during this retreat.
This appearance to the disciples that constitutes the base of official apostolic testimony is recorded in all the four gospels although with some different details like that Matthew places it in Galilee while the other evangelists in Jerusalem. It is important to note that in Luke’s version besides the “eleven” there were present others with them when Jesus appeared (Lk 24:33-36) signifying that the mandate to preach and the promise of the Spirit was addressed to the entire community not only to the apostles . The general attitude of the disciples was fear and lack of faith in the resurrection notwithstanding the apparitions already witnessed and the familiar greeting of Jesus conferring peace on them (v. 19, cf. Jn 14:27) . Only after witnessing the reality of the risen body of Jesus and seeing his wounds (v. 20) they arrived to understand the meaning of resurrection as it happened and opened up to joy (v. 20 cf. Jn 16:27). The wounds have great importance in this scene for showing the identity of Jesus to the disciples and beyond it they stress the continuity with the past that is not canceled or denied but receives full meaning in the new risen life.
Jesus then sent the disciples as the Farther had sent him, meaning that he gave mandate to continue his own mission. The moment of this solemn mandate is the central theme of this apparition in all four gospels with different emphases. Mark describes the signs that authenticate the preaching of the disciples (Mk 16:17-18) and Matthew ends his gospel with this scene and Jesus promising to be present until the end of age (Mt 28:20). Luke accompanies the mandate with the promise of the Spirit and with the order to remain in Jerusalem and so prepares the scene of Pentecost (Lk 24:49). John follows it with the immediate giving of the Holy Spirit symbolized by Jesus breathing on the disciples (v. 22 cf. Gn 2:7) since this evangelist sees resurrection, ascension and conferring the Spirit as one event (cf. ), and ends the scene with the disciples receiving power to forgive sins (v. 23).
This apparition is accounted only in fourth gospel. The story presents Thomas’ lack of faith in contrast with the beloved disciple who believed at the empty tomb (cf. v. 29 and Jn 20:8; ). It is also a powerful story of healing in which the risen Jesus not only helped Thomas to believe in the bodily resurrection but conveyed reconciliation to him.
Thomas wanted personally verified evidence of the risen body of Jesus (v. 25) and he obtained it not only for himself but also for all later believers. The disciples stayed behind locked doors, closed in and maybe also symbolically searching defense from any disturbance when the risen Jesus appeared there with his wounds (v. 26). He made Thomas put his fingers in these wounds and open up to faith and reconciliation with the painful events of the precedent days (v. 27). Thomas answered with the most complete profession of faith of the gospels that prompted Jesus to give a new beatitude for the future generation (v. 28).
The scene with Thomas has a meaning for the healing of human relationships even on societal level. Healing requires getting in touch and express solidarity with the wounds of injustice inflicted at least implicitly by us on the body of Christ who identified himself with the poor .
This apparition belongs to the epilogue of the fourth gospel that seems to be a later addition. Lake Tiberias is another name for the Lake Gennesareth in Galilee and is used only by John. The disciples or at least the seven mentioned in the story went back here on the place of the beginning of the ministry of Jesus. They also returned to their original profession as fishermen, it is not said if temporarily or definitely (v. 3). When Jesus appeared they did not recognize him neither when he gave instructions that led to a miraculous catch of “large fish” (vv. 4-7) reminiscent of the one at the call of Peter (Lk 5:1-11; ). The “beloved disciple” was the one who from this “sign” recognized Jesus and told it to Peter who jumped in the lake to arrive first (v. 7); a detail that characteristically to the fourth gospel puts these two disciples in contrast (, ). The mention of the “charcoal fire” (v. 9) on the shore creates an allusion to Peter’s denial (Jn 19:15-18; ) while the fish and bread refers to the miraculous feeding of the crowd (Jn 6:1-15; ) and the shared meal has a Eucharistic significance (v. 13).
The scene continues with an account of Jesus testing Peter three times questioning him about his love (vv. 15-17), a dialog interpreted traditionally as the validation of Peter’s mission and universal jurisdiction. Jesus presented also in this apparition in the role of consoler; the strong reference to the triple denial of Peter although painful but with the corresponding triple confirmation of the trust in him constitutes a powerful process of healing and reconciliation deeper still than the encounter with Thomas (). The final dialog about the fate of Peter and John shows that this passage was written after the death of both, the first as martyr and the second after an especially long life (vv. 18-23).
This is the final scene in the gospel of Matthew that ends the story where it began, in Galilee. After the reconciliation with the disciples Jesus ordered them to return there to meet him again (Mt 28:7.10). “Galilee of the Gentiles”, where Jesus lived and worked most of the time and where he gathered after the resurrection the new community to give them a universal mission has a special significance as a despised borderland with mixed people of bad reputation. The rabbinic literature ridiculed the speech of the Galileans (the particular Aramaic dialect that Jesus spoke), it generally considered the people ignorant of the law and proper religious rites, racially and culturally impure because of their contact with pagans . However, God chose for the place of the incarnation and of the beginnings of the Church this borderland of lowly and rejected people and the risen Jesus promised there to be always with the disciples (v. 20). The risen Jesus can be seen and encountered truly in the rejected and poor of the world, reached by touching the untouchables, the people with whom he identified himself. There is a powerful healing involved in letting down the walls of division and exclusion ; it is a healing that makes one participate in the resurrection .
The eleven disciples gathered on a mountain (v. 16), symbolic place of divine presence and revelation (see ). As Jesus appeared they worshiped him but some had “doubted” (v. 17; cf. Mt 14:31), their faith was not enough deep . The risen Christ is presented in this scene as the real master of history, possessing universal power and giving a universal mission to the disciples to baptize and to teach (vv. 19-20). When he was to part from his disciples definitely, he promised to remain with them until the end of human history. Matthew’s gospel ends in this way with a reference to Jesus as Emmanuel, with the name given to him before his birth (Mt 1:23). He is now and forever “God is with us”.
To prolong the Fourth Phase St. Ignatius proposed from the list of six in the First Letter to the Corinthians (1Cor 15:3-8) three apparitions for contemplation (vv. 6-8): “After that he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at once…” (v.6); “After that he appeared to James…” (v. 7) and “Last of all, as to one born abnormally, he appeared to me [St. Paul]…” (v. 8).
St. Ignatius brings for the contemplation other apparitions also from the tradition “He appeared to Joseph of Arimathea, as may be piously believed, and as read in the Lives of Saints” ; “He appeared also in soul to the Fathers in limbo; He appeared to them likewise after He had taken them from there and assumed His body again” . This latter apparition refers to the passage of the Apostolic Credo stating that Jesus “descended into hell”. Eastern Orthodox iconography uses this moment for representing the resurrection and such representation might be very useful aid for the contemplation .
Luke ends his gospel where he began it in Jerusalem and with the scene of Jesus taking leave from the disciples and ascending to heaven (Lk 24:53; cf. Mk 16:19-20). In John’s gospel there is only an allusion to the imminent ascension in the scene of the appearance to Mary of Magdala ( cf. Jn 20:17).
The Acts of the Apostles takes up again the event of the ascension in a more detailed way as marking the end of forty days of apparitions and instructions to the disciples (vv. 1-3). There is a repeated mention of the order of Jesus to remain in the city, but wait for the promised Holy Spirit (vv. 4-5; cf. Lk 24:49). The disciples then witness Jesus’ ascending to heaven, a scene modeled on the typology of the taking up of the prophet Elijah in front of Elisha (2Kgs 2:9-15). Elisha was told of being able to have a double share of the spirit of Elijah if he saw his master taken up to heaven, and likewise the community of the disciples inherited the Spirit of Jesus . The text says that Jesus was taken up by a “cloud”, with an imagery inspired by the vision of Daniel on the mysterious “son of man” (, cf. Dn 7:13-14), and points out that he will return (vv. 9-11) but the time of this second coming will not be revealed to anyone (v. 7). The cloud mentioned here is symbol of the divine presence and also frequently used in biblical and rabbinical writings as an image for “heavenly transport” .
The departure of Jesus is in the same time the beginning of his new presence as he promised to remain with the disciples forever (, cf. Mt 28:20). He is not confined to a physical body and is more deeply involved in our world than when he walked on the roads of Palestine with the little group of followers. The new presence of Christ is made possible through the Holy Spirit, whose power enabled the disciples to announce the good news of the kingdom of God and be witnesses to the entire world (v. 8). Jesus is now the glorified Lord who lives with the Father, but in the same time in a mysterious way he is identified with all mankind. Christ’s presence sanctifies also the whole creation, rendering sacred what was thought profane. The mystery of the ascension means that through the new presence of Christ one can access God in common human experience and love him by loving others. This is the good news of Christianity to proclaim “to every creature” (Mk 16:15).
 Cf. “On the Three Powers of the Soul”  and Rahner, “Spiritual Exercise,” p. 43.
 See the method presented in the introduction to the Second Phase and in the “First Exercise On the Incarnation” [101-109].
 Cf. Stanley, “A Modern Scriptural Approach to the Spiritual Exercises,” pp. 9-10.
 See also the presentation of the concept of “anamnesis” in the First Point of the “Contemplation to Attain Love of God” [230-237].
 Cf. Stanley, “A Modern Scriptural Approach to the Spiritual Exercises,” pp. 114-115.
 Cf. Ibid., p 123.
 Luke is the only synoptic evangelist to call Jesus savior (cf. the fourth gospel uses the title e.g. in Jn 4:42). Savior means author of healing as well as salvation healing; we might speak of the entire work of salvation in terms of healing, as healing from sin and its consequences.
 Cf. Ibid., pp. 122-123.
 The magi could not be there at the night of the birth of Jesus on the open fields as the manger scenes suggest since they enter a “house” where Jesus lives in the time of their visit. The two series of events on the childhood narratives of Matthew and Luke in general contain contradictions. For example, the visit of the Magi and the flight to Egypt in Matthew cannot be harmonized with the presentation at the temple in Luke. These texts were written to convey religious and theological messages and not historical data. Cf. Ibid., pp. 111-112.
 See the explanation in “The Annunciation to Mary” .
 The “messenger” was identified in the late Judaism with Elijah, waited to literally return before “the day of the Lord” (Mal 3:23-24; Sir 48:10). Jesus declared that John the Baptist was the awaited messenger (Mt 11:14; 17:10-13); see also Lk 1:17. Cf. Ibid., pp.115-116.
 Ibid., p.117-118. Rachel’s grave is placed by the book of Genesis (35:19 and 48:7) in Bethlehem, called also Ephrath, although actually it was in Ramah, six miles north of Jerusalem. Assuming this tradition the quote means that the lamentation was so great to be heard it in great distance.
 Cf. Rahner, “Spiritual Exercises,” p. 156.
 Cf. Ibid., pp. 157-158.
 The parallel passage in Mt 13:55 calls Jesus the “carpenter’s son”. It might well be that the meaning of this remark is rather different as we think of it. Geza Vermes highlights the Aramaic use of the term carpenter or craftsman (“naggar”) to metaphorically describe a “scholar” or “learned man” in Talmudic sayings (Cf. Geza Vermes, Jesus the Jew, (London: Collins, 1973) p.21.) However, the majority of wandering rabbis had to have a trade to support their learning and teaching. Carpentry may have been that of Jesus as for example Paul was a tentmaker. Beginning from Noah who “walked with God” (Gn 6:10) and built the ark for the salvation of his family carpenters were retained men with knowledge of the things of God. We see this kind of intimacy with God’s things in one possible interpretation of the hesitation of Joseph to take with him the pregnant Mary. He as “righteous” or wise man understood that they deal with an intervention of the Holy Spirit of God and thinks that he should step respectfully aside. Only the command received in a dream overcomes Joseph’s fears in front of the miracle and he takes Mary in his home and accepts the child as his own (Mt 1:18-20).
 Justin Martyr, “Dialogue with Trypho the Jew”, 88
 “Bar mitzvah” is the boy himself at the age of thirteen and not the name of the feast (lately also for girls is a ceremony when one becomes “bat mitzvah”, “daughter of the commandment”). In biblical times coming of age meant simply to enter manhood and was not yet the elaborate celebration as it became for today. Besides religious duties reaching the age of majority meant also the capacity to stipulate binding contracts and to marry.
 Cf. Stanley, “A Modern Scriptural Approach to the Spiritual Exercises,” pp. 131-132.
 Cf. Alfred Edersheim, The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, (Maclean, VA: MacDonald Publishing Company, undated) pp. 127.
 Cf. Ibid., pp.129-130.
 John P. Stangle, A Search for a Structural analogy of the Christian Sacrament of Initiation in the Culture and Cultus Of Israel, (Spokane, WA: Gonzaga University, June, 1984, unpublished thesis for the degree of Masters of Art) p. 17.
 Cf. Stanley, “A Modern Scriptural Approach to the Spiritual Exercises,” p. 133.
 Ibid., p. 133.
 We rely mainly on Stanley’s analysis of the temptations of Jesus in this presentation. Cf. Ibid., pp.140-146.
 Moses fell in anger against the people coming down from the Sinai, Elijah despaired of Israel and fell in depression. See more aspects of this parallel in Edersheim, “The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah”, p. 135.
 Ibid., p. 135.
 Cf. John Paul II, Encyclical Rich in Mercy (“Dives in Misericordia”, November 30, 1980), 4., footnote 52.
 Ibid., 5., footnotes 60-61.
 In order to find expression for the motherly tenderness of God, Christian spirituality appropriates the feminine characteristics of the divine love to the Mother of God, although avoiding the divinization of Mary. With this caution we might contemplate a beautiful image of the “tender mercy of God” in the Byzantine icon called “Glycophilousa” meaning in Greek “sweet tenderly loving mercy”. The child Jesus places his hand around the neck of his Mother, Mary caresses him and their faces touch tenderly while they gaze on each other speaking about the mysteries of God. Glykophilousa is a more pronounced version of the icon of the “Mother of God of Tenderness” or “Eleousa” (meaning “the Merciful”) in which the Mother looks elsewhere not on her child. The most well known icon of the Eleousa type is the “Mother of God of Vladimir” one of Russia’ s most venerated icons.
 “Sign” in Greek is “semeion”. John prefers to call the miracles of Jesus “signs” instead of “wonders”, stressing that they are symbols of the “glory”, of the hidden divinity of Jesus. The fourth gospel accounts seven “signs” and the ultimate manifestation of Jesus’ glory is not the resurrection, but begins in the passion. Cf. Stanley, “A Modern Scriptural Approach to the Spiritual Exercises,” p. 102.
 Cf. Ibid., pp.192-193.
 Luke has the parallel material arranged differently and gives the account of a “Sermon on the Plain” directed only to the disciples (Lk 6:17-49), a scene more in harmony with the general outline of the narrative of his gospel.
 Cf. Edersheim, “The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah”, p. 242.
 Cf. Stanley, “A Modern Scriptural Approach to the Spiritual Exercises,” pp. 160 and 163-165.
 Cf. Ibid., pp. 160-161.
 See the meaning of “righteousness” in  “The Baptism of Jesus”.
 Cf. Edersheim, “The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah”, p. 243.
 Note that in the sermon of the Mount Jesus always refers to God as Father, my Father, your Father, our Father, Father in heaven. Cf. Stanley, “A Modern Scriptural Approach to the Spiritual Exercises,” pp. 160.
 Only Matthew uses it here, Luke has “merciful”. St. Paul applies the term “teleios” for the Christian who arrived to the wisdom of faith (1 Cor 2:6 cf. Ibid. 162).
 Cf. Edersheim, “The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah”, pp. 243-244.
 Cf. Ibid., pp. 276-277.
 Matthew uses the expression “of little faith” peculiar to Jesus in this gospel (see in 6:30 and elsewhere) rebuking the disciples whose faith is not as deep as it should be.
 Cf. Ibid., p. 278.
 Cf. Ibid., p. 319.
 See a similar attitude of Jesus in the story of the apparition to the disciples of Emmaus in Lk 24:28.
 In this presentation we used mainly David Stanley’s analysis of the passage. Cf. Stanley, “A Modern Scriptural Approach to the Spiritual Exercises,” pp. 167-175.
 For example, the host is “Simon” in Mk 14:3 bearing one very common Jewish name and so on. Cf. Edersheim, “The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah”, p. 259.
 Ibid., 260.
 Ibid., 312.
 This solicitude to save the sacred tradition has precedent in the Old Testament, Gn 12:10-20 and 20:1-18 tell versions of the same trick that Abraham and Sarah pulls first on the Pharaoh then on Abimelech. Cf. Stanley, “A Modern Scriptural Approach to the Spiritual Exercises,” pp. 179-180.
 This might be a sign that the second versions derive from the Hellenistic tradition, since the Seven were part of this group. Cf. Ibid., p. 181.
 Another gospel passage with Eucharistic allusions for example is the appearance of Jesus to the disciples of Emmaus who recognize the risen Lord in the “breaking of the bread” (Lk 24:13-35, ) a story that was constructed to explain the theology of the Blessed Sacrament in the catechetic instruction. Cf. Ibid., 181.
 Ibid., p. 182.
 Ibid., p. 183.
 Cf. Edersheim, “The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah”, p. 312.
 Ibid., p. 215.
 The fourth gospel has a different form of Peter’s confession at end of the discourse on the bread of life (Jn 6:67-69), but follows it with the feast of Tabernacles or Booths, the symbolism of which is present in the scene of the transfiguration.
 See more on Peter’s confession and the connection with the transfiguration in Stanley, “A Modern Scriptural Approach to the Spiritual Exercises,” pp. 195-201.
 The second letter of Peter as well as the gospel and the first letter of John mentions this episode, all references to the apostolic testimony of experiencing the glory of Jesus (2 Pt 1:12-18; Jn 1:14; 1 Jn 1:1-3).
 Luke uses the word “eisodos” meaning “incoming” for the birth of Jesus (Acts 13:20); it makes clear that the “outgoing” includes not only the death but also the resurrection and ascension. Cf. Edersheim, “The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah”, p. 366.
 For this and the following insights we rely mainly on the presentation of the transfiguration in Stanley, “A Modern Scriptural Approach to the Spiritual Exercises,” pp. 202-205.
 Cf. Vermes, “Jesus the Jew,” pp. 91-92 and p.205. See also the vision of Peter in Joppa (Acts 10:10-16).
 See more about the “signs” of Jesus in “The Wedding in Cana”.
 Cf. Edersheim, “The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah”, p. 492.
 Cf. Ibid., p 493.
 Ibid., p. 494.
 Even in that detail they differ that the synoptics describe the entry from Bethphage of Bethany and John from Jerusalem. Cf. Ibid., p. 496.
 Our presentation of the event as parable-in-action relies mainly on Stanley, “A Modern Scriptural Approach to the Spiritual Exercises,” pp. 79-84
 To stress this point Mark ends the story abruptly stating that Jesus entered the Temple area, looked around and returned back to Bethany to stress the importance of the contact with the sanctuary.
 The remark about the donkey “on which no one has ever sat” (Lk 19:29) is probably a reference to the general conditions of consecration to God described in Nm 19: and Deut 21:3. Cf. Edersheim, “The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah”, p. 496.
 The author probably was Greek since he misunderstood the poetic parallelism in Zechariah (a literary means mentioning “ass” twice in different ways) and speaks of two donkeys, with confusing image that Jesus rode on “them”. Cf. Vermes, “Jesus the Jew,” p. 145. John’s gospel when quotes Zec 9:9 glosses it with Is 40:9 (Jn 12:15).
 Cf. Ibid., p. 87.
 Cf. Edersheim, “The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah”, p. 499.
 See more about the feast of the Booths at “The Transfiguration of Jesus” . Some like Edersheim retain that the waving of palm branches signifies a welcome visitors or a king, not necessarily tied to the feast of the Booths, and the Hallel was sung also on Passover. Cf. Edersheim, “The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah”, p. 500.
 “Hosanna” means “save, please” and is beginning of a prayer; the use of “the Son of David” indicates that the gloss in Mt 21:9 and 15 is not from Aramaic or Hebrew, but later development, maybe when “hosanna” became a jubilant acclamation without its original meaning. Cf. Vermes, “Jesus the Jew,” p. 157.
 Luke probably refers to the destruction of the city in the first Jewish war in 70 A.D. See also Edersheim, “The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah”, p. 498.
 Cf. Stanley, “A Modern Scriptural Approach to the Spiritual Exercises,” p. 213.
 Stanley refers at this observation about the frequency of meals to a book of Solange Hertz reflecting a housewife’s reactions to the Bible, Cf., Ibid., pp. 236-237.
 Cf. Edersheim, “The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah”, pp.559-560.
 Edersheim instead of the daily forgiveness of sins mentions this interpretation to the necessity of washing the feet, Edersheim, “The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah”, pp.562-563. Cf. Stanley, “A Modern Scriptural Approach to the Spiritual Exercises,” pp. 239-242.
 There is another word for “new” in Greek, “neos” that indicates fresheness, something just made and even immature like the new wine (Mk 2:22) of which is said that the old is better (Lk 5:39). Cf. Stanley, “A Modern Scriptural Approach to the Spiritual Exercises,” p. 224.
 Cf. Ibid., pp. 222-223.
 St. Paul gave a similar view of the new commandment as the prophetic fulfillment of the entire Old Testament law in the one commandment of love toward the neighbor (Gal 5:13-14; Rm 13:8-10). Cf. Ibid., pp. 223-224.
 Cf. Ibid., pp. 224-225.
 David Stanley proposed this form of praying with the words of the institution of the Eucharist. Cf. Ibid., p.213.
 The same verbs used in the accounts of Jesus feeding the crowd. Cf. .
 David Stanley presents this reflection adapted for the life of the priest. Cf. Ibid., pp. 213-218.
 In this presentation we rely mainly on the reflection of David Stanley in Ibid., pp. 243- 249.
 John’s gospel does not mention the agony but describes this inner struggle in the episode with the Greek pilgrims (Jn 12:27-30). He presents Jesus in the garden scene () not as someone in agony but at the beginning of his triumph. Cf. Ibid., pp. 243-244.
 Matthew omits the Aramaic word and translates it with “My Father” (Mt 26:39.42), used in the gospels exclusively by Jesus to indicate God.
 In John’s gospel the “I am” sayings serve to express the divinity of Jesus.
 Cf. Ibid., pp. 255-256.
 “Charcoal fire” appears in the New Testament only here and in the apparition of Jesus at the Lake Tiberias () connecting the two events concerning Peter.
 This episode recorded only by John would not be a formal trial since trials involving capital case could not be held during the night according to Jewish law; thus the synoptic tradition of two trials is contradictory (see Mk 14:53-65; 15:1). John instead omits the formal trial with the Sanhedrin, stressing his theological point that judgment belongs to God who already condemned that assembly of men (see Jn 12:31) and to the coming Spirit who will convict the world on three counts (Jn 16:8-10) Cf. Ibid., pp. 257-258.
 Even Mark’s direct version “I am” (Mk 14:62), has variants that are consonant with the other synoptics: “You say that I am”. This formulation from other rabbinic texts is more likely a denial and a courteous refusal to continue the dialog. Cf. Vermes, “Jesus the Jew,” pp.148-149.
 See the temptation story in .
 This title (that the synoptics use exclusively on the lips of Jesus) is an appropriate an expression for the divinity of Christ as it points to a more-than-human character coming “on the clouds” (otherwise “son of man” means simply man). It is an even more apt title than the “Son of God”, which was used also for Israel, for kings or judges. Cf. Ibid., pp. 199-200 See also Vermes, “Jesus the Jew,” pp. 161-186.
 The Mishnah stated that only the abuse of the Tetragram, of the name of Yahweh accounts for blasphemy, a claim to be the Messiah created no ground for this charge. Cf. Vermes, “Jesus the Jew,” pp. 35-36.
 The trial in John’s version can be divided in two sections, of which this point presents the first. The second part (Jn 19:1-16) following the scourging of Jesus is to be found in . Cf. Stanley, “A Modern Scriptural Approach to the Spiritual Exercises,” pp. 258-260.
 Cf. Vermes, “Jesus the Jew,” pp. 36-37.
 It can be an acknowledgement as well as denial. Matthew and Mark left it open while in Luke’s version Pilate interpreted as a denial and immediately declared that Jesus is not guilty of the charge (Lk 23:4). Cf. Ibid., p. 149.
 Cf. Stanley, “A Modern Scriptural Approach to the Spiritual Exercises,” p. 258.
 We might note that this meaning of truth brings it near to the notion of love, which manifests itself in deeds rather than in words as St. Ignatius stressed it . Truth and love are the two most fundamental human realities, in a dynamic and mutual relationship with each other that could be a theme for reflection, too.
 See also Edersheim, “The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah”, p. 596
 See also Mt 27:15-26; Mk 15:6-15; Lk 23:18-25.
 Cf. Ibid., p. 597.
 Ibid., p. 600. Matthew and Mark present it as such preliminary to the crucifixion itself (Mt 27:26; Mk 15:15).
 Ibid., p. 600.
 Cf. Ibid., p. 601 and also Stanley, “A Modern Scriptural Approach to the Spiritual Exercises,” p. 260.
 Ibid., p. 260.
 Mark named also Alexander and Rufus, the sons of Simon, probably known to the community for which the evangelists wrote his gospel, maybe Christians themselves. Luke pictured Simon carrying the cross behind Jesus together with a large crowd, exemplifying a central theme of his gospel, discipleship as taking up the cross and following Jesus (Lk 9:23; 14:27).
 This detailed and in many ways different account from the synoptic gospels might be due to the fact that John was a direct eyewitness of the death of Jesus. The tunic was cut into four parts as four soldiers accompanied each prisoner to the execution. See more on the details of crucifixion in Edersheim, “The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah”, pp. 601-607.
 Cf. Stanley, “A Modern Scriptural Approach to the Spiritual Exercises,” p. 260.
 Ibid., p. 260.
 This should have been the cheap wine the soldiers had with them, not the wine mixed with myrrh to dull consciousness, which they (maybe an association of pious women) offered to Jesus before the crucifixion but what he refused (Mk 15:23). The mention of the short sprig of hyssop as well as the possibility of the communication with Jesus renders it probable that his cross was not high. Cf. Edersheim, “The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah”, p. 605.
 Matthew and Mark recorded only that Jesus died with a loud cry (Mt 27:50; Mk 15:37).
 Cf. Stanley, “A Modern Scriptural Approach to the Spiritual Exercises,” p. 261.
 The synoptic gospels omit this anointing that was part of the Jewish funeral process, but account that the women went to perform it to the tomb on the morning of the resurrection.
 In this all four gospels agree. See Mt 28:1; Mk 16:1; Lk 24:10 and although Jn 20:1 names only Mary of Magdala as most prominent of the group of women, in v. 2 she used the plural “we”.
 The “third day” appears also in Abraham’s sacrifice (Gn 22:4) and in the story of Joseph and his brothers (Gn 42:17-18). In contemporary Judaism it was supposed that the soul of the dead parted from the body on the third day from the death and relatives visited the grave up to the third day to assure that the deceased is really dead. Cf. Edersheim, “The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah”, p. 605.
 The apparitions are described in a form that would not be acceptable in the Jewish tradition, a fact that indirectly supports the authenticity of these accounts. Cf. Ibid., pp. 619-620.
 Mark might have written to a community where apostasies happened during the first Roman-Jewish war in 66-74 A.D. Mark especially is a critic of the inner circle of Peter, John and James (Mk 14:32-42), while John underlines of the lack of faith of Peter (who saw the burial clothes but did not come to faith in contrast with the beloved disciple, Jn 20:3-8), of Mary of Magdala (who saw the empty tomb but thought that the body was removed, Jn 20:13.15) and of Thomas (who needed to touch Jesus to believe, Jn 20:25; ). Cf. Crossan, “The Birth of Christianity” pp. 556-562.
 Only from Jesus’ answer do we know that Mary was holding onto his feet, like the women in Mt 28:9. The verse alludes also to Ru 1:16 and expresses that the Father of Jesus became the Father of the disciples; hence he called them “my brothers”.
 The wish to perform this rite was an act of love toward Jesus but sign of lack of faith in the resurrection (see above ). Their failure to believe in this is contrasted with the faith of the woman in Bethany (whose name Mark does not mention, see Mk 14:3-9 and cf. ), who believed in the resurrection and for this reason performed the anointing for the burial of Jesus then since it would not be possible later when Jesus would have risen from the dead. Her act of faith is praised in an unparalleled way as equivalent with the gospel itself (Mk 14:9). Cf. Ibid., p. 558.
 Ibid., p. 560.
 John’s account of the appearance to Mary of Magdala in Jn 20:17 depends in part on these verses, cf. .
 Then we learned that Peter denied Jesus three times while nothing is said about John; at the tomb it is said explicitly that the other disciple believed but nothing about Peter. Cf. Ibid., 566.
 Cf. Crossan, “The Birth of Christianity” p. xi. The contemporary patriarchal culture makes this interpretation plausible and we adopted it as one very befitting to our present work. The general presentation of this scene shows two male disciples; the companions might choose the scene and personages, as they feel more fruitful for their contemplation.
 Cf. Edersheim, “The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah”, p. 628. Luke presents similarly the entire community present at Pentecost (Acts 2:1) and quotes the prophet Joel speaking of the universal outpouring of the Spirit upon all mankind (Acts 2:17 cf. Jl 3:1-5).
 They stayed behind locked doors because of fear (Jn 20:19) and were terrified seeing Jesus thinking him a “ghost” (Lk 24:37); in Mark Jesus even rebukes them for their unbelief (Mk 16:14).
 Lk 24:40-43 also says that Jesus ate in front of them.
 The profession of faith of Nathanael is similar with an analogous answer (Jn 1:49-51). Cf. Ibid., pp. 629-630.
 The connection between woundedness, social justice and healing is presented in a strong way in an article of Roberto S. Goizueta in America entitled “The Crucified and Risen Christ. From Calvary to Galilee,” Vol. 194 No.14, April 17, 2006. pp. 10-15.
 The difference between the “large fish” and the “little fish” (opsarion) is mentioned above in the story of feeding the crowd in . The number 153 of the fish in v. 11 probably had a symbolic meaning which is not clear. St. Jerome sees in it a reference to Ez 47:9-12 where there are fishermen along the waters flowing from the Temple (Chirst being the new Temple). It could mean the great number of people the disciples will convert and the fish catch might be even reference to the sacrament of baptism. St. Jerome Cf. Raymond E. Brown, S.S. New Testament Essays, (Garden City, NY: Image Books, Doubleday, 1968) p. 103-104.
 For example Jn 7:41-52 shows very clearly this negative attitude. Cf. Vermes, “Jesus the Jew,” pp. 52-57.
 The theological significance of Galilee is presented in a compelling way in the article quoted earlier by Roberto Goizueta, “The Crucified and Risen Christ. From Calvary to Galilee,” pp. 14-15. He quotes the Chicana writer Gloria Anazaldúa saying that the border is “una herida abierta”, an open wound of Christ; through touching these wounds there is reconciliation and healing (cf. Is 53:5 and ).
 This might be a reference to the need of the Pentecost that would transform them definitely.
 We described earlier this type of icon in the First exercise of the Fourth Phase [218-225] under “Visualization of the history”. The companions can see it online for example at http://www.iconsexplained.com/iec/lib/02356_resurrection.jpg
 Cf. Vermes, “Jesus the Jew,” p. 41.
 Cf. Ibid., pp. 186-188.
 Stanley, “A Modern Scriptural Approach to the Spiritual Exercises,” pp. 228-229.