Step 4:  Existential Experience of the History of Salvation


We go to our place of prayer quiet down a short while and begin with some prayer:

Opening Prayer:

We place ourselves in the presence of God and pray that everything we do would serve the good for us and for all.

Asking what we want:

In this step we ask the grace to feel shame for contributing to the sin of the world with our faults and to be confused seeing the absurdity of every sin. We don’t think about the individual faults for now but on the gravity and absurdness of our many sins.

Orientation and meditation:

“To help our imagination we can consider what represents for us the state of being a sinner and part of sinful societal structures - of which we are often contributors without knowing it - and use the image that comes in our mind. St. Ignatius describes for example this situation of the human person as living among wild and mean animals, symbolizing the threatening reality of drives and sinful tendencies that lead us to sins if not controlled. For some scriptural images we propose Ps 32:3-5 (painful illness), Ps 69:1-13 (flooding waters) Jon 2:3-10 (deep waters, a pit, nether world). The biblical writers were well aware also of the weight of social sin in the eyes of God. As examples for the words of the prophets against this dimension of evil we mention Amos who relentlessly spoke against the injustice and oppression of the poor in the wealthy Israel (2:6-16; 3:9-11; 4:1-3) and Jeremiah who spoke against the false trust in religiosity while oppressing the orphans, the widows, the aliens (Jer 7:3-15). Isaiah preached “woes” against the greedy and wasteful rich (5:8-16), against social injustice (10:1-4). In the New Testament especially the Letter of James speaks out against social sins, partiality (2:1-13), the emptiness of faith without concrete help to the needy (2:14-26), against the unjust and abusive rich (5:16). The companions can find many other examples with very touching imagery.

The beautiful words of Hosea are quoted several times by Jesus stress the crucial place of just relations in the context of faith:

“For it is love that I desire, not sacrifice” (Os 6,6)

“Go and learn the meaning of the words, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice’…” (Mt 9:13)

“If you would knew what this meant, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice’, you would not have condemned these innocent men” (Mt 12, 7)*.

“Sin occurs in actions that do not have to be posited. Therefore, there are differences in sinfulness, especially the essential difference between mortal and venial sin. There are differences that must be judged objectively according to accepted moral teaching; they must also be judged subjectively. Sin is nor just a dialectical opposite of grace; it is not a trick of God’s love that He uses to show us our poverty and ceaturehood so He can then show us how merciful He is. Sin in itself does not demand grace! And therefore, Christian existence is not a dialectical unity of sin and grace; rather, it is a road of decision from darkness to light, according to which the situation of each of us must be judged”**


Scripture Passages:

1.   2 Peter 2:4-9

2.   Genesis 3:1-24

3.   Jeremiah 5

4.   Isaiah 1

5.   Luke 13:34-35

6.   Luke 19:41-44

7.   Amos 2:6-16


Final Prayers:

We spend some time speaking with God about our experiences in this session and thank him for the graces received. Close with an Our Father...


*    See “The method and the First Exercise: existential experience of the history of salvation” in our Manual


** Karl Rahner, Spiritual Exercises, (New York: Herder and Herder, 1965) p. 36.