Day 4: How much does being needed 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 deviltook him to Jerusalem, and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, saying to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, for it is written, ‘He will command his angels concerning you, to protect you,’ and

‘On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.’” Jesus answered him, “It is said, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’” When the devil had finished every test, he departed from him until an opportune time. (Luke 4: 9 – 13 NRSV)

Psalm 23 (NRSV)

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.
 He makes me lie down in green pastures;
he leads me beside still waters;
 he restores my soul.
He leads me in right paths
 for his name’s sake.

Even though I walk through the darkest valley,
 I fear no evil;
for you are with me;
 your rod and your staff—
 they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me
 in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
 my cup overflows.
Surelygoodness and mercyshall follow me
 all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
 my whole life long.

5. Reflection:

When we spend much time alone we often imagine ourselves as the person we would like to be. In the desert Jesus also had large dreams of how he would shape his public life. The third of the dreams that the devil put into his head was to do extraordinary things so that people would need to take notice of him. Things like going to Jerusalem, and throwing himself down from the top of the Temple, trusting in God to hold him up. It meant instant daredevil celebrity and a guaranteed audience. It was even more attractive because it echoed so many words and stories in Scripture.

Jesus, however, dismisses the devil and his dream abruptly. It was wrong because it put Jesus at the centre of the picture and not God and what God wanted for him.

In this time in the desert with Jesus we are more likely to dream of ourselves as a go-to person. We can imagine ourselves as the person who will intervene to fix quarrels, save our family from their troubles, be the key person in our workplace. With Jesus, we ask ourselves whether these dreams come out of compassion for people in need or from our own need to be needed. Sometimes God wants us to wait.

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, read it slowly a couple of times and let it sink in. Then imagine the scene at the top of the temple through Jesus’ eyes. How does he react? Compare what he would have experienced with what you feel in your time of isolation. Talk with him about it as you would with a friend and ask him for the deep experience of God’s love for you that will free you from the need to be extraordinary.

The Psalm gives you tranquil 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. Help me to see what matters most deeply in my life as Jesus did and to wait on God’s call. 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. 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 4  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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