Ignatius invites retreatants imaginatively to join the three Persons of the Trinity as they look down on the earth at the panorama of people sinning and going to hell, and discuss how to rescue humanity.
This meditation asks for a realistic and unflinching view of the world, and of ourselves in it, which focuses on the selfishness so often characteristic of human relationships in commerce, war, family and politics, and on its lethal consequences. The prayer is not intended to evoke self-disgust or despair at such a flawed world. Our gaze is to mirrors God's gaze, which is not detached but compassionate, devising rescue for both the perpetrators and the victims of sin.
To understand what Christians celebrate at Easter we need this kind of perspective. A sensibility that softens the reality of sin, affirms human goodness in an unqualified way, and sees God as simply indulgent, cannot do justice to the stories of Easter. They include harrowing images of sin, of its murderous consequences, and surprising images of life and freedom won through death.
The calculation of those who wanted to kill Jesus, Judas' betrayal, Pilate's cowardice, the failure of the disciples to stand by Jesus, the casual brutality of the soldiers, and a death by crucifixion that was designed to dehumanise the condemned and to mock their pretensions, provide what seems to be a definitive demonstration of the power of sin over humanity.
The miracle of Easter is that the demonstration turns out not to be definitive, but is interrupted by Jesus' rising. Precisely the events that prove the power of sin turn out to be the source of life. God's gaze, and so the Christian's, takes in together the devastation made by sin of Jesus' life and the seeds of life that burst through sin.
This conjunction of sin and of life suggests that the stories of sexual abuse throughout the Catholic world are not a distraction from Easter. If we are to enter this Easter it is appropriate to attend in a sustained way to the complex patterns of sin that are involved in abuse and in its consequences. This kind of gaze resists the temptations to deny or to minimise the extent of sexual abuse and the harm done by it. Because the gaze also attends to the viewer's own sinfulness, it resists the group self-interest that removes from scrutiny church practices like clerical celibacy and the rituals of power and obedience.
God's gaze is also compassionate. In Christian faith, Easter is the culmination of God's plan to rescue humanity by sharing it and entering fully into the vulnerability and pain of our condition as both sinners and victims of sin. To look through God's eyes on abuse means looking compassionately on the victims of abuse, and seeing the way in which the harm they suffered has affected their lives for many years after.