Day 3: How much does being in control matter?

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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

Then the devilled him up and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And the devilsaid to him, “To you I will give their glory and all this authority; for it has been given over to me, and I give it to anyone I please. If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.” Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.’” [Luke 4: 5-8 NRSV]

Psalm146 [NRSV]

Praise the Lord.

Praise the Lord, my soul.

I will praise the Lord all my life;
 I will sing praise to my God as long as I live.
Do not put your trust in princes,
 in human beings, who cannot save.
When their spirit departs, they return to the ground;
 on that very day their plans come to nothing.
Blessed are those whose help is the God of Jacob,
 whose hope is in the Lord their God.

He is the Maker of heaven and earth,
 the sea, and everything in them—
 he remains faithful forever.
He upholds the cause of the oppressed
 and gives food to the hungry.

5. Reflection.

In the midst of our frustrations at being in isolation we often think about what matters deeply to us. In that we follow Jesus. In the desert Jesus’ thoughts turned to his coming public life. He had dreams of what that might be like. The second picture suggested by the devil was to be a powerful leader who would rule over a mighty Empire and have a great reputation for success and generosity – Jesus the Great! He would be in control, able to do great things he would be able to do for the poor and the sick, and enlarge the Temple. All he needed to do was to live by the devil’s playbook.

Jesus didn’t dally with the dream. He cut it short by saying that only God had the place in his heart which the devil wanted for himself and his rule book, and that what mattered was to allow God to lead him, not to be in control.

Our time in the desert of isolation is also a time for daydreams about what kind of people we want to be and how we want to live. We can also dream of being always in control, dedicated and competent and making other people’s lives better. We won’t simply be a good the wife, father, worker, teacher, doctor or whatever, but the best. All we need to do is to take on and meet the expectations that society has of such outstanding people.

These dreams are attractive, but they become wearisome if they are all about us and our desire to be in control. They lead us ask us what really matters most deeply to us.

6. How to pray

There are many ways to pray. Do what you find the most helpful way to be with God.

If you find it helpful to pray with the Gospel story for today, read it slowly a couple of times and let it sink in. Then imagine the scene through Jesus’ eyes. How does he experience time passing slowly. Compare what he would have experienced with what you feel in your time of isolation. Does he sometimes feel the need to be in control? Do you? How does he respond? Talk with him about it as you would with a friend.

The Psalm gives you words to pray with during the day if you find them helpful. When you read the words, let the images you find there sink into your heart and strike you.

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. Show me what matters most deeply. Help me to be happy with not being in control. 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 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 3  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, 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 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.

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