Day 6: With Jesus lost in the Temple


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. Reflection on the theme for the day

Where do you think God can be found? In a church or Temple? Before a candle? At a beach? At the shops….? What about in your own home?

5. Readings

Now every year his parents went to Jerusalem for the festival of the Passover. And when he was twelve years old, they went up as usual for the festival. When the festival was ended and they started to return, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but his parents did not know it. Assuming that he was in the group of travellers, they went a day’s journey. Then they started to look for him among their relatives and friends. When they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem to search for him. After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers. When his parents saw him they were astonished; and his mother said to him, “Child, why have you treated us like this? Look, your father and I have been searching for you in great anxiety.” He said to them, “Why were you searching for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” But they did not understand what he said to them.
[Luke 2: 41-50 NRSV]

But will God indeed reside with mortals on earth? Even heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain you, how much less this house that I have built! Regard your servant’s prayer and his plea, O Lord my God, heeding the cry and the prayer that your servant prays to you. May your eyes be open day and night toward this house, the place where you promised to set your name, and may you heed the prayer that your servant prays toward this place. And hear the plea of your servant and of your people Israel, when they pray toward this place; may you hear from heaven your dwelling place; hear and forgive.“If someone sins against another and is required to take an oath and comes and swears before your altar in this house, may you hear from heaven, and act, and judge your servants, repaying the guilty by bringing their conduct on their own head, and vindicating those who are in the right by rewarding them in accordance with their righteousness. “When your people Israel, having sinned against you, are defeated before an enemy but turn again to you, confess your name, pray and plead with you in this house, may you hear from heaven, and forgive the sin of your people Israel, and bring them again to the land that you gave to them and to their ancestors. “When heaven is shut up and there is no rain because they have sinned against you, and then they pray toward this place, confess your name, and turn from their sin, because you punish them, may you hear in heaven and forgive them.
[2 Chronicles 6 NRSV]

6. Reflection

For every year of his life Jesus had visited the Temple at least once. Each year, as he grew older, he would have noticed more and understood more. Perhaps his first impressions would have been of its enormous size (like a modern day cathedral), then he would have noticed all the types of people who prayed and attended services there (young and old, male and female, rich and poor, Israelites and foreigners), and he would have started to ask questions about what goes on in the Temple. His parents would have reminded him that it was here that they offered a thanksgiving sacrifice to God for his coming into their lives (a pair of doves).

Now Jesus is twelve. As Mary and Joseph have taught him well, he knows God as a heavenly Father, one whom he will call ‘Abba’ (daddy). Perhaps on this visit to the Temple for the first time he is recognising some of its religious significance for the people of Israel. Here it is that God resides on earth, within the inner most sanctuary of the Temple building. Here, three times a year, all male Jews were expected to make pilgrimage for a feast day. Here is the place of the promise where all peoples of the world will gather to worship the one God. This is the centre of all time and all place.

And so it is that when his parents leave the Temple to return to Nazareth, Jesus stays on to ask the Teachers questions, perhaps about God’s role in human life, about how to live well in response to God’s care for each one, about the role of priests – and prophets – in the history of the Israelites. Perhaps Jesus is trying to work out how the one he knows intimately as ‘father’ also is the majestic presence in the Temple.

The other visitors to the Temple come and go. They are not drawn to stop and consider its meaning for them personally. Jesus stays. He discovered something there that he never noticed before.

What about your home? You have been constrained to stay in it (not just for three days!), but as you look around it now, what do you notice of its significance? What stories does its walls hold? How sacred is this place for you? You may never have thought of it as a holy place, as a place of God, a Temple, but perhaps it is. Is it not here that love is found and shared? Is it not here that you offer most thanks for the gifts in your life? Is it not here, aloud or in your heart, that you speak to God? Has not God come to earth, in person, to mix with sinners and the poor, to remind them – us – of his desire to be friends with us?

Take some time now to consider how God might be present in your home.

7. Concluding prayer

Father in heaven, it is a wondrous thing that you desire to live amongst us, as one of us, even knowing how foolish and fearful we are. We give thanks at the Eucharist each week, but I give you thanks here, in my home, now, for your presence with me and my family. I ask you to make your presence known to so many others who are trapped in their home at this time. May they recognise your presence and be blessed with it. Amen.

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 6 Evening Prayer

1. Become aware of God’s presence.

Say thank you to God for getting you through the day. Look back on the events of this day of self-isolation. The day may seem heavy and uneventful to you. Ask God to help you see as God sees.

2. Pay attention to your emotions.

The Spirit of God works in the movements of our hearts. Look back through your day like a video camera. Reflect on the feelings you experienced during the day. Boredom? Elation? Resentment? Compassion? Anger? Confidence? Joy? Where are these feelings coming from? What might God be telling you through these feelings?

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. Ask God for guidance and understanding or for the gift of hope and good humour.

5. Finish with a conversation with Jesus.

Ask for healing, ask his protection and help or wisdom about the questions you have and the problems you face. Say thank you 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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