Day 5: With Jesus in the Flight into Egypt


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.

Now after they had left, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” Then Josephgot up, took the child and his mother by night, and went to Egypt, and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfil what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet, “Out of Egypt I have called my son.”

When Herod died, an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother, and go to the land of Israel, for those who were seeking the child’s life are dead.” Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother, and went to the land of Israel.
[Matthew 2: 16 – 17, 19 – 21, NRSV]

[Psalm 42 NRSV)

As a deer longs for flowing streams,
 so my soul longs for you, O God.
My soul thirsts for God,
 for the living God.
When shall I come and behold
 the face of God?
My tears have been my food
 day and night,
while people say to me continually,
 “Where is your God?”

 Why are you cast down, O my soul,
 and why are you disquieted within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
 my help and my God.

5. Reflection.

In Matthew’s story Mary’s and Joseph’s love for their child Jesus took them into the desert. For many of us our life in the desert time of isolation is made particularly difficult because we are separated from people we love – from relatives untouched by the virus, from visitors. We may also fear for the financial security of our families and our helplessness to do anything to help them.

For Jesus, of course, the journey across the desert to Egypt and back would have been relatively peaceful. Mary and Joseph bore the pain and the worry of it. They knew, of course, the reason for it, but they could hardly have avoided asking themselves why God made Jesus’ life and their own so risky when he was so special. That question would not have gone away when Jesus grew into his mission.

For the readers of the Gospel the reason is made clear. Jesus represented the whole Jewish people. As they were called out of slavery in Egypt, so after Herod’s death God called Jesus out of his refugee life in Egypt to freedom. As God will call us out of our different forms of slavery to freedom.

The story invites us to reflect on our own feelings at the virus and the economic shock that has made us live in isolation. It is natural to be angry with God for treating us so severely. And like Mary and Joseph we are often left to scramble without answers, hoping that God is with us on our journey.       

6. How to pray.

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. Imagine the journey through the eyes of Mary and Joseph as they keep Jesus safe. 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.

Psalm 42 gives words to describe the experience of God’s absence in exile.

Consider putting on some quiet instrumental music for your prayer.

7. Closing Prayer.

Loving God, stay with me in my own time in the desert as you were with Mary, Joseph and Jesus. Help me to trust in your love and to wait on your leading in 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. Be with refugees and people who seek protection, too, who too often know only Herod’s sword. I thank you, too, for the gift of all the people who care for me as Mary and Joseph did for Jesus, and for the gift of those who love me deeply. I ask this through Christ Our Lord.

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 5  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 of strong feeling of the day and pray on it.

Ask the Holy Spirit to direct you to something during the day that is important: love, irritation, anxiety, tranquillity or hatred. It may be a significant encounter with another person or a vivid moment of pleasure or peace. Or it may be something that seems rather insignificant like suddenly feeling empathy with people who flee persecution. Pray about it. Allow the prayer to arise spontaneously from your heart—whether praying for someone, thanking God or saying sorry.

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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