158-189.     The Fifth and Following Periods


After the two great decision-meditations from the Fifth Period of the Second Phase or Conforming we now return to the contemplations on the life of Jesus and continue from the moment when he decides the journey that brings him to his public ministry.

Evaluating the contemplations on the public life of Jesus Bernard Tyrrell stresses that in these events Christ is standing in front of us as a “whole and holy individual”[1] to whom the companions are called to be conformed to, revealing himself as a trusting and realist person, capable of firm decisions and self-control, full of initiative and creativity, free of guilt and capable of love and sacrifice and so on. More concretely, the contemplation of the words and deeds of Jesus, especially the Beatitudes can represent also powerful therapeutic instrument in healing of neurosis and addiction[2]. Although Bernard Tyrrell does not mention it explicitly, a healthy human psyche is characterized by a good sense of humor, too and we find also this in the personality of Jesus as the gospels present him. The humor of Jesus is subtle and manifests a great gift of wit and irony, precise timing and play of words, aimed to heal and convert the listener[3]. The capacity of humor is a manifestation of self-detachment, which along with self-transcendence is an intrinsic and exclusive human phenomenon. Self-detachment enables the person to laugh and to joke about himself or herself, to downsize his or her fears, while self-transcendence renders the person capable of forgetting and giving himself or herself and reaching out for a meaning of his or her existence. Humor is not only an intrinsic human capacity but also a powerful therapeutic tool, to which the logotherapeutic technique paradoxical intention deliberately recurs, and it is used also by behavior therapists [4]. We encourage the companions to read with this sensibility on humor the gospels when contemplating the life of Jesus, as he wanted this important human capacity to be alive and shine through. Surely, such reading it will bring the Scripture texts more near to as and help to take ourselves less serious then our vocation to be fully humans. The point of humor is transcendent and so it is easily missed, as Bernard Lonergan pointed out, and so the search for it in the Scriptures might be a bit impegnative work, but fruitful: “For as satire can help man swing out of self-centredness of an animal in a habitat to the universal viewpoint of an intelligent and reasonable being, so humour can aid him to the discovery of the complex problem of grasping and holding the nettle of a restricted, effective freedom” [5]

As we told earlier, the ultimate purpose of the contemplations of the life of Jesus is to help the companions in their own choices of life. These exercises are particularly fitting the situation of the companions at this juncture of the exercises, since the encounters and events of the life of Jesus always involve a decision for or against him and his way and the direction of that path. At this point instead of continuing meditations of decision in which the companions would deal with the concrete issues of their life, they deepen their conforming to Christ and that alone should become the source of solution for their unsettled questions and provide the criterion of decisions. The main issue is not that they choose something but that they are chosen for something. Ignatius expresses it in these words in [169]: “In every good choice, as far as depends on us, our intention must be simple. I must consider only the end for which I am created, that is the praise of God our Lord and for the salvation of my soul. Hence, whatever I choose, must help me to this end for which I am created. I must not subject and fit the end to the means, but the means to the end”. The correct view that helps the dilemma how to decide in decision-situations is that God does not want this or that thing from us but he desires our “becoming-like-Christ”[6]. From this perspective we see that the process of discernment, the entire Exercises and in final analysis our spiritual life has the purpose of understanding, recognizing and accepting the concrete task we are created for. The solution of the dilemma involved here is similar to the question of the meaning of life as Viktor Frankl pointed out: “As each situation in life represents a challenge to man and presents a problem for him to solve, the question of the meaning of life may actually be reversed. Ultimately, man should not ask what the meaning of his life is, but rather must recognize that it is he who is asked”[7]. When we decide for something, our choice becomes “God’s will” for us, he accepts our choice so to say, and permits or supports us in realizing it. God himself becomes in fact our servant to whom Jesus’ words about real authority and greatness apply by excellence [8]. Here we enter in the complex and mysterious dynamics of the collaboration between our free will and God’s omnipotence. Maybe it is useful now to dedicate some time for absorbing these thoughts. The companions might want to read the following quote for this meditation:

“It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name he may give you” (Jn 15:16)

Although discernment is always present throughout the Exercises, the importance of it is crucial as we get near a decision. Following the “Two Standards” meditation it becomes clear for the companions that they are drawn in two directions by the various impulses, inclinations, desires, dislikes, insights and thoughts occurring in them during the prayer and coming from their daily life. In particular way the Exercises in the everyday life the demands of daily existence, its events, experiences and conflicts form the field of discernment. As a decision-situation develops during this time, with the concentration on some specific issues, the spiritual movements become more frequent and sometimes violent, so it is important to put them in the perspective of the companions’ basic adherence to Christ and his value system in order to distinguish among these impulses, to sort them out and to follow what comes from the Holy Spirit, what is authentic and good. It is crucial for the companions to read and continuously apply to themselves the “Guidelines for Discernment for the Second Phase” [328-336], which are found in the Appendix C.

The structure of the upcoming periods will be the following. The contemplations need to be done twice followed by two repetitions and the “application of the senses” (see in [121] and [65-71]). So each period will have five prayer sessions of contemplation and as usual, the repetitions serve to return to that points only that touched us and let emerge significant elements. For this time in the Exercises a topic of decision becomes somewhat clear on which the companions will naturally focus. To aid further this process of conforming and decision there are also reflections to read during the time and the companions need to arrange this material alongside the supporting basis of contemplations beginning from the Fifth Period. That means that between the prayer sessions dedicated to contemplation the companions need to return time to time to these reflections and think them over, share and jot down the insights. We propone that during the Fifth and Sixth Period the companions take the meditation on “Three Degrees of the Love of God” [165-168] followed from the Seventh Period by “Arriving to a Decision” [169-189]. Each prayer session needs to be finished with the threefold prayer to accept the way of Christ as in the “Three Types” [156] and in the “Two Standards” [147], or the prayer of “paradoxical intention” described in [157].

The scriptural passages and their presentation for our contemplations are the following:

Fifth Period: the baptism of Jesus (Mt 3:13-17 and parallels), see in [273];

Sixth Period: the departure of Jesus for the desert and the temptations, see in [274];

Seventh Period: the call of the disciples as in [275];

Eight Period: the “Sermon on the Mount”, the presentation of Jesus’ program, especially the Beatitudes as in [278];

Ninth Period: Jesus walks on the waters of the sea, see in [280];

Tenth Period: Jesus teaches in the Temple of Jerusalem, see [288];

Eleventh Period: Jesus rises Lazarus from death, see in [285];

Twelfth Period: The happenings of Jesus’ entry in Jerusalem, as in [287].


The contemplations of the events assigned to these periods follow a logical progress from the following the call of Jesus through the demands of his way and the risks involved to the consequences as we arrive to the events leading to the Passion. The Second Phase might be lengthened or shortened depending on the judgment of the companions. They need to evaluate the progress of the Exercises sometimes after the Seventh Period focusing on the question how long they desire to continue with the contemplations and which to choose as better suited for them. For lengthening the Phase use the events described in the Appendix B under the title “The Mysteries of the Life of Jesus Christ” up to [288]. Some might decide to omit some of the assigned contemplations, but in any case the best event to end this Phase is “Palm Sunday” in [288] as leading toward the contemplation of the Passion in the Third Phase. The companions will see when they feel ready to enter the Third Phase, depending also how the decision-making process will take shape. We will discuss how to conclude the Second Phase at the end of the chapter “Arriving to a Decision” [169-189].



[1] Tyrrell, “Christotherapy II,” p. 185

[2] Ibid., p.188.

[3] Jesus as master storyteller widely used humor in the parables as means to reach people directly through situations and language they knew and understood. Humor breaks down barriers, brings close and unites people, lightens the burden of hearts, and Jesus wanted achieve all of these with his words. In his classic book “Humor of Christ” (San Francisco: Harper, 1975), Elton Trueblood cites 30 examples of Jesus’ use of humor. Such example is the naming the impetuous, overly eager Peter “the rock”, since he was anything but a rock in difficult situations. Yet Jesus says, “Upon this rock I will build my church”, maybe with a smile (Mt 16:18). The irony must not have been lost on the other disciples. Jesus wit is the sharpest when speaking of the Pharisees clad in their solemn righteousness. Think just about the ridiculous image of straining out a gnat while eating a camel (Mt 23:24), which was still more humorous for Jesus’ contemporary listeners since the Aramaic word for gnat is galma and the word for camel is gamla.

[4] See in Frankl, “The Unheard Cry for Meaning,” pp.120-122.

[5] See Bernard J. F. Lonergan, Insight. A Study of Human Understanding, (San Francisco:Harper and Row, 1978) p. 626.

[6] Cf. Lefrank – Giuliani, “Freedom for Service”, pp. 94-96.

[7] Frankl, “Man’s Search for Meaning,” p. 172. Here and in Frankl’s works in general “man” refers to humankind, to both sexes, to men and women in general.

[8] Cf. Mt 20:25-28.