Day 2: How much does comfort matter?


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.

Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing at all during those days, and when they were over, he was famished. The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become a loaf of bread.” Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘One does not live by bread alone.’”
(Luke 4:1-4 NRSV)

Psalm 121 (NRSV)

I lift up my eyes to the hills—
 from where will my help come?
My help comes from the Lord,
 who made heaven and earth.

He will not let your foot be moved;
 he who keeps you will not slumber.
He who keeps Israel
 will neither slumber nor sleep.

The Lord is your keeper;
 the Lord is your shade at your right hand.
The sun shall not strike you by day,
 nor the moon by night.

5. Reflection.

In our time of isolation we may have much time on our hands. That allows us to think about our lives and our future. The experience tests us. That was also true of Jesus in the desert. As he prepared for his future public life he was tested by hunger. After forty days of fasting that could have been unbearable. So when the devil working through the small voice inside him urged him to use the special relationship he had with God in order to make instant bread out of the stones around him, he would have found it hard to resist. A small thing, we might think. But on his answer hung his whole future – whether what mattered most to him would have been to live comfortably or to follow where God led.

In our self-isolation we shall also feel many needs and hungers that we normally don’t notice. We can be frustrated at not being able to go down the street to buy a coffee. Or we can worry about our future income, about the larger holidays or retirement we had planned, about our children’s and grandchildren’s education, or about our health.

Our feelings might make us ask how much these good things matter to us. To what extent does our happiness depend on our life-style and our standing in society?

In our prayer today we can allow our anxieties and needs arise to the surface, as Jesus’ did at the end of his forty days of fasting, and ask ourselves with him what matters more than bread and a comfortable life.

6. How to pray.

Pray in the way you find suits you best.

If you pray on Jesus’ testing in the desert, read the passage slowly a couple of times and let it sink in. Then imagine the scene through Jesus’ eyes. Imagine his hunger and his weariness after forty days fasting. Compare what he experienced with what you feel in your time of isolation. Talk with him about it as you would with a friend.

Use the Psalm to pray if you find it helpful. Linger over the images in it.

Consider putting on some quiet instrumental music for your prayer.

7. Closing Prayer.

Loving God, stay with me during this hard time in the desert. Soothe my anxieties and hungers and help me to see what matters most. Be close to everybody who is isolated during the epidemic. Thank you for the gift of all the people who love me and of those whom I love, especially those from whom I am separated. During these days show me how deeply you love me, and free me to love you more deeply. I ask this through Christ Our Lord.

8. Reflection on your 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 2 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. Boredom? Elation? 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 that was apparently insignificant, but 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 what’s coming up. 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.

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.

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