Day 12: With Jesus at Golgotha

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29 Mar 2020

With Jesus in the Desert’ is an online retreat that has been developed for people who are in social isolation during the coronavirus pandemic. It has been designed to run for 14 days, but may be adapted and run as needed.

If you have someone to contact in any way during the retreat to speak about what is happening in your retreat and your day, that could be very helpful. Jesuit and Ignatian Spirituality Australia can put people in touch with experienced spiritual directors for one-to-one spiritual direction using online platforms such as FaceTime, Skype and Zoom. For enquiries, please contact (02) 9488 4597.

1. Preparation for prayer

Sit comfortably, aware of any tension in your shoulders or tightness in the chest. Allow yourself to relax. Look around the room that is your desert during this retreat. Look through the window at the world now closed to you. Allow God to enter the room and your life.

2. Ask God what you want

In a few words or an image, can you express how you are right now? How would you like God to be for you today? Ask God to open your mind and heart to what God wants to give you today.

3. Prayer to introduce day’s theme

Dear Lord, help me to be open to you now, and all this day. Believing that you are everywhere, may I sense your presence with me now. May I learn anew that you love to be with me. Amen.

4. Readings for prayer during the day

And the people stood by, watching; but the leaders scoffed at him, saying, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Messiahof God, his chosen one!” The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine, and saying, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!” There was also an inscription over him, “This is the King of the Jews.”

One of the criminals who were hanged there kept deridinghim and saying, “Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us!” But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed have been condemned justly, for we are getting what we deserve for our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come intoyour kingdom.” He replied, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” (Luke 23: 35 – 43 NRSV)

Psalm 71 (NRSV)

 My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
 Why are you so far from helping me, from the words of my groaning?O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer;
 and by night, but find no rest.

In you our ancestors trusted;
 they trusted, and you delivered them.
To you they cried, and were saved;
 in you they trusted, and were not put to shame.

But I am a worm, and not human;
 scorned by others, and despised by the people.

 All who see me mock at me;
 they make mouths at me, they shake their heads;
“Commit your cause to the Lord; let him deliver—
 let him rescue the one in whom he delights!”

 But you, O Lord, do not be far away!
 O my help, come quickly to my aid!
Deliver my soul from the sword,
 my lifefrom the power of the dog!

 Save me from the mouth of the lion!

5. Reflection:

Many people have lost everything in their encounter with the coronavirus. They have lost their lives or the persons they loved most. Death and loss will surely have been a source of fear and anxiety for us too in this time of isolation. It is good to spend a day with Jesus as he confronts the crushing of his life and his hopes. His death seemed to put an end to all that he had believed and promised.

For the Romans crucifixion was a death designed for rebels. It was tortured, public, drawn out and shaming. It wiped out people and their cause in a display of naked, brutal and superior power. So for Jesus’ followers it was almost impossible to see how God could have been working through him. Impossible, too, to continue believing in the promises he had made.

The story from Luke’s Gospel shows both the hatred and triumph of his enemies and Jesus’ own care for other desperate people in the middle of his own pain. The God who shares our life in Jesus to the extent of suffering the worst and most degrading things we can do to one another shows that wherever we may be we have hope. Through Jesus’ dying he brings hope to one of his fellow outcasts.

Our experience of isolation, of course, is not as tortured as Jesus’ death. But the virus and its economic effects on people can test our faith and our spirit severely. It can turn us in ourselves and make us lose all hope for the future. Jesus’ death shows that God will be with us in the worst of catastrophes, and that we can bring hope through kindness.        

6. How to pray

Imagine the story of Jesus’ death on the cross through the eyes of Jesus, Mary, his followers who had fled, the people watching, his enemies and the soldiers. Share with Jesus your own feelings in this time of isolation and anxiety and your care for people whose lives have been deeply disturbed by it. In your prayer, ask for the deep experience of God’s love for you wherever you are taken.

During the day you may find it helpful to pray Psalm 22 as a prayer of grief and of desperation .

Consider putting on some quiet instrumental music for your prayer.

7. Closing Prayer

Loving God, help me to see your love in the death of your Son Jesus who went to the hardest corners of our human experience in his death. Help me to see your love even in the most distressing events of my life. Console, too, my friends and all the other people who are isolated during the epidemic, and who have lost jobs and security, and are anxious for their families. Help me to seek out people like the bandit on the cross, the people you care for. I thank you, too, for the gift of all the people who care for me as did Jesus for the bandit, and for the gift of those whom I love and care for. Amen

8. Reflection on prayer

Spend a few minutes looking back at your prayer. Don’t try to judge whether it was a success or a failure – no attempt to pray is a failure. But recall the places where your heart was stirred – by love, anger, anxiety, and other feelings. Hold those moments out to God. If it is helpful, write them down.


Day 12 – Evening Prayer

1. Become aware of God’s presence.

Look back on the events of this day of self-isolation in the company of the Holy Spirit. Ask God to help you see as God sees.

2. Pay attention to your feelings.

The Spirit of God works in the movements of our hearts. Run through the day like a video camera. Reflect on the feelings you experienced during the day. How did praying on Jesus death affect you? Boredom? Resentment? Compassion? Anger? Confidence? Where are these feelings coming from? What is God saying through these feelings? Do they say something about what matters deeply to you?

3. Choose one time when you have felt strongly and live it again.

Ask the Holy Spirit to direct you to something during the day that has struck you: a feeling of love, boredom, irritation, tranquillity or hatred etc. It may be a significant encounter with another person or a vivid moment of pleasure or peace. Or it may be something, apparently insignificant, but one which touched your heart, such as seeing a flock of galahs turning into the sun. Allow your response to the feeling to flow spontaneously from your heart— whether you feel gratitude, regret, joy or anger.

4. Look toward tomorrow.

Ask God to give you light for tomorrow’s challenges of another day in isolation. Pay attention to the feelings that surface as you survey another day in isolation. Are you doubtful? Cheerful? Apprehensive? Allow these feelings to turn into prayer. Seek God’s guidance. Ask him for help and understanding. Pray for hope and good humour.

5. End with a conversation with Jesus.

Ask for healing, ask his protection and help. Ask for his wisdom about the questions you have and the problems you face. Say thanks for the gift of your life and for the gift of the people who love you and those whom you live.

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