The First Spiritual Exercises of Jesus’ Disciples
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me
He has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed, to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives, and release to the prisoners;
to provide for those who mourn in Zion,
to give them a garland instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning,
the mantle of praise instead of a faint spirit.
1. The First Spiritual Exercises bring wholeness, freedom, gladness and strength in need.
When Jesus saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest”.
2. The FSE helps the harassed.
Jesus went up the mountain and called to him those whom he wanted, and they came to him. And he appointed twelve, whom he also named apostles, to be with him. Now during those days he went out to the mountain to pray; and he spent the night in prayer to God.
3. The FSE brings prayer to choices.
These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: “As you go, proclaim the good news, “The kingdom of heaven has come near’ Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons” .
4. The FSE spreads new life.
You received without payment; give without payment. Take no gold, silver, or copper in your belts, no bag for your journey, or two tunics, or sandals, or a staff; for laborers deserve their food.
5. The FSE is always given at no cost
Whatever town or village you enter, find out who in it is worthy, and stay there until you leave. As you enter the house, greet it. If the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it; but if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you.
6. The FSE gives deep inner peace.
After this the Lord appointed seventy others and sent them on ahead of him in pairs to every town and place where he himself intended to go.” Whoever listens to you listens to me, and whoever rejects you rejects me, and whoever rejects me rejects the one who sent me”.
7. The FSE holds the voice of Jesus.
The seventy returned with joy, saying, “Lord, in your name even the demons submit to us!” Jesus said to them, “I watched Satan fall from heaven like a flash of lightning. Nevertheless, do not rejoice at this, that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven”.
8. The FSE helps to discern the spirits.
At that same hour Jesus rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will”.
9. The FSE is a simple joy.
Jesus said to his disciples privately, “Blessed are the eyes that see what you see! For I tell you that many prophets and kings desired to see what you see, but did not see it, and to hear what you hear, but did not hear it”.
10. The FSE hears God in all things.
The fire beneath the First Spiritual Exercises
This calling and sending of the disciples by Jesus is the model we have chosen for the ministry of the First Spiritual Exercises. So literally, we go in groups of pairs, travelling outwards, giving and receiving without cost, empty handed, seeking local hospitality, to open people to the God who desires to bring about a new earth. Similarly, the fundamental purpose of the FSE is deep inner peace, a discerning life in company with the personal God, bringing gift where it is most needed. Like the disciples, givers of the FSE are ordinary people, alight with the Spirit, with various life stories but not needing long training. And like the early Christian communities, we encourage receivers to become givers, that the action of the fire-filled Spirit might ripple out like the seeds of a sunflower.