A few years ago I discovered the wonderful way in which God uses my imagination in my prayer.
Such openness to imagination when seeking God does not take us away from reality into fantasy but instead brings us into what is most real and inescapably personal and intimate.
Ignatius was a great teacher on this. One website devoted to Ignatius’ prayer encouragements explains:
“Imaginative contemplation is all about getting to know Jesus. It is a method of prayer in which you imagine yourself as present in a Gospel scene, stepping into the story and encountering Jesus there. It was St Ignatius’ firm belief that God can speak to you just as clearly in your imagination as through your thoughts. This way of praying will help you to see more clearly, love more dearly, and follow more nearly the person of Jesus Christ.
“The idea that God can speak to people through their imagination can seem a bit strange. Isn’t this just making things up in your head? On the contrary, the imagination is foremost a gift from God in the same way that a person’s intellect or memory is a gift from God. Christianity is clear that God speaks to people through the scriptures and the sacraments, through daily experiences and their emotions. If God can do all of these things, God can speak through the imagination too.
With that background let’s now consider today’s gospel reading.
I had always thought of Martha, Mary and Lazarus as a middle-aged (perhaps elderly) trio who had been unlucky in love and unable to muster the courage to leave the securities of their childhood home.
Recently as I was praying with this gospel account I felt prompted to imagine Martha and Mary as a couple of teenagers caring for and coping with their younger brother because of the absence of their parents, perhaps after a messy divorce or through their parents’ death.
Then tragedy befalls when Lazarus dies.
As Jesus arrives in Bethany after the death of Lazarus I sense the devastation of these young women at their little brother’s death, especially if he had been entrusted to their care by the departing parents.
I can see and hear the shock of the family and friends who have gathered to support Martha and Mary. Few things are more difficult to live through than the untimely death of a young person.
And I hear Martha, the great woman of faith, really put Jesus to the test: ‘If you had been here, my brother would not have died, but I know that, even now, whatever you ask of God, he will grant you.’
Martha expects a miracle, and Jesus does not disappoint.
Perhaps our problem is that we don’t expect miracles from the God who is waiting for us to extend bold and faith-fuelled invitations?
Today you might like to join me in approaching Jesus full of limit-less teenage energy expecting nothing less than miracles from the one who is eager to be miraculous in our midst.
And if you haven’t yet tried the FFF Homily Studio, listen to the half-hour conversation on today’s scriptures at this link.
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