Day 7: With Jesus telling stories


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

“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which someone found and hid; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls; on finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it. (Matthew 13: 44 – 45 NRSV)

“Or what woman having ten silver coins, if she loses one of them, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it? When she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” (Luke 15: 8 – 10 NRSV)

Psalm 100 (NRSV)

Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth.
 Worship the Lord with gladness;
 come into his presence with singing.

Know that the Lord is God.
 It is he that made us, and we are his;[a]
 we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving,
 and his courts with praise.
 Give thanks to him, bless his name.

For the Lord is good;
 his steadfast love endures forever,
 and his faithfulness to all generations.

5. Reflection

In times when whole societies seem lost in a desert, we are flooded with words of warning, advice and explanation. That is why journalists are told that a story or a picture is better than a thousand words. Jesus certainly understood that. He constantly tells little stories that engage our hearts as well as our minds. They help us to get it, not simply to understand the meaning of his words.

These three little stories illustrate what the world and our lives would be like if God ruled in them. They speak of the kind of people we know who have an experience of the kind that we have, and they respond in ways that we identify with. We have all had experiences of finding and losing things that stir our hearts deeply, and the care we take to treasure or to find them. The two men find a treasure and another a pearl so valuable and beautiful that they are enraptured by them. The woman who loses a coin, probably worth a month’s wages, is dead set on finding it. All are captivated by their treasure and drop everything, sell everything, to gain or regain the pearl, treasure and coin. They come alive in their search

Jesus tries to arouse in his hearers the same enthusiasm and whole heartedness for God’s promises. In this time of isolation in a country threatened by the virus and the economic turmoil that has accompanied it, he invites us to dream of what matters to us and to live boldly for other people. For Jesus what mattered was God’s love for us and our love for other people, especially the weakest. We pray that we are captured too.

6.  How to pray

If you find it helpful to pray with the Jesus’ little stories, read them slowly a couple of times and let them sink in. Then imagine the scene through the eyes of the people involved in them. Talk with Jesus about what matters deeply to you in this time of isolation, and ask him for the gift of being whole-hearted. Talk with him about it as you would with a friend.

Psalm 100 is a song of joy at God’s love and of the blessing of community. Pray it during the day if it is helpful.

Consider putting on some joyful instrumental music for your prayer.

7. Closing Prayer

Loving God, stay with me during this hard time in the desert. Also 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. Fill me with energy in my love of your and my brothers and sisters. 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 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 7  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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