Day 8: With Jesus curing the shut-out

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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.

And a large crowd followed him and pressed in on him. Now there was a woman who had been suffering from haemorrhages for twelve years. She had endured much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had; and she was no better, but rather grew worse. She had heard about Jesus, and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, for she said, “If I but touch his clothes, I will be made well.” Immediately her haemorrhage stopped; and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease. Immediately aware that power had gone forth from him, Jesus turned about in the crowd and said, “Who touched my clothes?” And his disciples said to him, “You see the crowd pressing in on you; how can you say, ‘Who touched me?’” He looked all around to see who had done it. But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling, fell down before him, and told him the whole truth. He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace and be healed of your disease.” (Mark 5: 24 – 34 NRSV)

Psalm 30 (NRSV)

To you, O Lord, I cried,
 and to the Lord I made supplication:
“What profit is there in my death,
 if I go down to the Pit?
Will the dust praise you?
 Will it tell of your faithfulness?
Hear, O Lord, and be gracious to me!
 O Lord, be my helper!”

You have turned my mourning into dancing;
 you have taken off my sackcloth
 and clothed me with joy,so that my soulmay praise you and not be silent.
 O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you forever.

5. Reflection:

As we are isolated from society, we may be reminded of other people whose illnesses have shut them out from society Lepers once had to live outside towns. Today people suffering from mental illness are often feared and suffer from prejudice by the community. In Jesus’ time there was a sharp difference made between what was clean and unclean, and so what could be eaten or touched. Bodily effusions, and particularly menstrual blood made people unclean. Women suffering from haemorrhages were unclean and became social outcasts.

The woman in the Gospel story had suffered from the bleeding and ostracism for years and thought Jesus could cure her. But she was too ashamed to draw the crowd’s attention to herself So she decided to touch his cloak, even though that would pollute him, too. She was cured but Jesus noticed and she had to admit to it. She was naturally terrified of the consequences, but Jesus welcomed her, confirmed the healing and told her to go in peace, reunited to the community.

Like most of Jesus’ cures the woman’s healing was not just physical. He gave people freedom from prejudice and mockery to live fully in their communities. They speak to us at a time when the fear of contagion has made so many of us have to isolate themselves. They remind us, too, that Jesus came to free us, and that illness is not a punishment or something to be ashamed of. The story invites us to pray for freedom for ourselves and all those who are excluded from society.

6. How to pray

If you pray on the Gospel, imagine it through the woman’s eyes: her condition, her shame and fear and her delight at being cured and the freedom it brought. Imagine the story, too, through Jesus’ eyes and as the crowd would have seen it. Share with Jesus your feelings at being isolated, and pray for others, people who seek protection from persecution, for example, who are similarly ostracised. Reflect with Jesus how you will live when you again have freedom.

If you feel anguished by your isolation you may find it helpful to pray the psalm.

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. Also be close to everybody who is isolated during the epidemic and all those who are excluded from the community. 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 8  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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