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JRS Online Retreat: Day 8 – Life was Stronger than Death
Monday, November 08, 2010

"What did I do to crucify them? What do I do to stop the crucifixion? What must I do for these people to be resurrected from the dead?"

As you begin your prayer today, remember that you are in God’s holy presence. Become aware of how God gazes on you all the time, how tenderly and powerfully God regards you. Ask God for what you want in prayer:

Ask God to help you experience the reality of evil in the world, its sinful structures, and your own part in the world’s brokenness. 

Reflections for Prayer

by Fr. Lluis Magrina, S.J.
Provincial, Province of Tarragon
(Former Jesuit Refugee Service International Director)

Barcelona, 8 November 2010 – I recall an experience I had in 1995 in one of the many Rwandese refugee camps in the Kivu region of the Democratic Republic of Congo. These Rwandan refugees had to flee their own country to avoid being killed. They left everything they had, carrying the little they could on their heads or on their shoulders. The great majority were innocent victims of a war which claimed thousands and thousands of lives. There were several thousand refugees in the camps, mostly women, children and elderly people, lying or seated on the ground, staring into the distance with expressions of fear, suffering, desperation, anguish and many other emotions that were difficult to decipher. This mix of intense feelings literally paralysed people.  Literally, they could not stand up physically or psychologically. Even small girls and boys, who were generally cheerful, living for the moment, were sad. Absorbed in the fate of their elders, there were no smiles on their faces.

As I gazed across that plain full of children, women and elderly persons lay scattered on the ground still and silent. I felt a sorrow within me that is difficult to explain. As I contemplated this enormous crowd of people, a question came to my mind: “Why? Where is God? Where has he hidden himself so that there is no light, only darkness?”

After placing ourselves in prayer before the crucified Christ for a while, our team shared the inner movements of their hearts. All of us shared the common feeling that evil truly exists, causing sorrow and death in our world. We had just seen and felt this reality first hand.  Then a second movement of the spirit emerged from our shared experience of prayer: we had built a world where resources are unfairly distributed. This inequality is the cause of the suffering and agony of so many men and women in our world. The last movement of the heart we shared took the form of a question: “What can we do so that these brothers and sisters of ours—and we as well—can experience the resurrection and not just the death of Jesus?”

After a lengthy reflection, we decided to ask the refugees what they truly wanted. I believe that listening to their personal stories did us all a great deal of good. Gradually, the crowd of women, elderly people and children began to take on individual faces and concrete names. They told us that they had not eaten for days and that they had no food with them. They complained of having nothing to do during the day. They worried that their children had no school to go to. Little by little, they began to stand up and, amazingly, all of us together began to rediscover hope. Death did not have the last word. Life itself was stronger than death. 

Address God as a friend speaks to a friend. 

Talk to God about your response, your own needs and your deepest desires.

End your prayer with the Our Father, the prayer Jesus taught us.

Suggested Reading for Prayer

Romans 8: 35-39

What will separate us from the love of Christ? Will anguish, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or the sword? As it is written: "For your sake we are being slain all the day; we are looked upon as sheep to be slaughtered." No, in all these things we conquer overwhelmingly through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor present things, nor future things, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.


"I ask you to recite the conversation of St Ignatius in the first week of the Exercises in front of the crucified people. I ask you: What did I do to crucify them? What do I do to stop the crucifixion? What must I do for these people to be resurrected from the dead?" ~ Ignacio Ellacuria, S.J.