Even For These, Father
In the Third Week (which is not a calendar week but more like a section or as a lawyer would see it, a "discrete sub-part") of the Spiritual Exercises, you enter in Christ's Passion in a deeply personal way, sitting with the Gospels for a period of imaginative contemplation each day. As you pray in this manner, St. Ignatius of Loyola invites you to use all five of your senses and become part of the scene itself. Sometimes you are an observer, sometimes Mary or one of the Apostles, sometimes Jesus. For me, the Third Week produced many of the most profound and memorable moments of the entire journey.
There are two weeks (I mean that literally, calendar weeks) where, like Jesus on the night before he died, you travel back and forth between the houses of Annas, Caiaphas, Pilate, and Herod.
This is my prayer journal entry for the second day I sat with Luke 23:6-12, Jesus Before Herod (where I saw the scene through the eyes of our Lord):
I am being moved to the palace of Herod. Normally, he is in the desert, in his palace. He must be here for Passover, not that he proclaims to be much of a believer. I do not know if I will die there. My Father's will be done. I long to have this end and my task be complete, but I accept whatever it may be.
When we arrive, I am taken by the Roman guards into a smoky room. There is music playing and many people talking and laughing. It is a party-like atmosphere. Herod sits on his throne, being entertained by performers. This group is clearly not here to observe the Passover. The chief priests and the elders have come with me and demand Herod's attention. His friends and followers laugh and ignore them, some of them mock them. Herod finally waves off the performers and tiredly asks what it is they want and who the prisoner is. When they tell them who I am, Herod brightens and sits up. His followers imitate him and a buzz begins to build as they stop what they are doing to look at me. Some clap with excitement. It breaks my heart.
Herod tells me he has heard of me and is very glad I have come. The crowd oh's and ah's and laughs. They do not wish to know me. They will not come to know me, even when I am in their midst.
There are many beautiful things and people in this golden room. Yet everything in here, everyone in her, is far from the Kingdom. It is a corrupt, venal, vicious place of pain disguised as pleasure.
The chief priests speak their accusations and Herod cuts them off. He asks what it is they want and they explain. They want to have me crucified. The crowd laughs, not even life is sacred to these people. I decide not to be a spectacle to the people, just to stand and pray for them as this goes on.
I look in their faces as I do this and some cast their eyes away, others meet my gaze with anger or lust, some go back to their party and ignore me.
I hear Herod's voice asking me questions, ordering me to perform a miracle. I try to drown him out with a prayer. I stop for a moment when he ponders killing one of his servants to see me raise him up again. I make no move, but simply call upon my father and the Holy Spirit to intervene and cause Herod's mind to go elsewhere. One of his concubines cries out that blood will make a mess of the lovely carpets and she'd much rather me turn the water from the fountain into wine. The party erupts into laughter and catcalls. When Herod sees I will not be one of his performers, he grows bored and orders me sent back to Pilate.
As the guards lead me back, I turn and look at him and all his followers. I silently bless them and say to myself, "Yes, Father, even for these will I lay down my life."