Day 13: With Jesus and Mary Magdalene

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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 or lie comfortably, aware of any tension in neck and shoulders, hands, tightness in the chest and muscles. Allow them to relax. Look around the room and house that are your desert, 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

But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to lookinto the tomb; and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other at the feet. They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni!” (which means Teacher). Jesus said to her, “Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”; and she told them that he had said these things to her. (John 20: 11 – 18 NRSV)

Psalm 126 (NRSV)

When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion,
 we were like those who dream.
Then our mouth was filled with laughter,
 and our tongue with shouts of joy;
then it was said among the nations,
 The Lord has done great things for them.”
The Lord has done great things for us,
 and we rejoiced.

 Restore our fortunes, O Lord,
 like the watercourses in the Negeb.
May those who sow in tears
 reap with shouts of joy.
Those who go out weeping,
 bearing the seed for sowing,
shall come home with shouts of joy,
 carrying their sheaves.

5. Reflection:

When we come to the end of our time of isolation – which for some of us may be quite distant – most of us will feel relief and some happiness. In Jesus’ followers his rising from the dead also marks the change from grief to delight.

We see this vividly in the story of Mary Magdalene at Jesus’ tomb. She goes there totally overcome by her grief. She is so preoccupied with anointing Jesus’ dead body that she does not register the extraordinary presence of two angels in white sitting on the tomb. Nor does she recognise Jesus alive until he calls her name. Then she embraces him. Jesus then prepares her for the next stage for their journey when he will be with us in a way that is beyond touch.

At the heart of the story is love. Though overwhelmed by his death, she hangs in with him out of love. Her love meets God’s love in her meeting with Jesus alive. His love for her is of a piece with the love he showed when turning to the bandit on the cross. Love conquers death.

The story reminds us how central love is in our faith and to our lives. It is a good time to pray for all the people we love and who love us. We pray, too, that love may overcome all the forces that make for death in our society

6. How to pray

If you would like to pray on the Gospel story, imagine it through Mary’s eyes, from her grief arriving at the tomb to her joy as she runs back to the disciples. Share with Jesus your own feelings as you come to the end of this time of isolation and anxiety and the love that has helped you to endure it. Pray again in thanks for all the people to whom you are joined in love. In your prayer, ask for the deep experience of God’s love for you wherever you are taken.

Psalm 126 is the song of people returning from exile, a good prayer in times of joy.

Consider putting on some joyful instrumental music for your prayer.

7. Closing Prayer

Loving God, thank you for the love that brought Mary to the tomb i tears and took her away in joy. Thank you for your love that took Jesus through death for us to life with us. Thank you for the love that joins me to so many people. Be with all who suffer in this epidemic. May love lead me, both during my time of isolation and after it. Amen

8. Reflection on prayer

Spend a few minutes looking back at your prayer. Don’t judge it, 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 13 – 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 the risen Jesus’ meeting with Mary affect you? Joy: Boredom? 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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