Day 9: With Jesus the Good Samaritan

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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.

Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus “Teacher,” he said, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” He said to him, “What is written in the law? What do you read there?” He answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbour as yourself.” And he said to him, “You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live.”

But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbour?” Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan while traveling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, having poured oil and wine on them. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, ‘Take care of him; and when I come back, I will repay you whatever more you spend.’ Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbour to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?” He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.” (Luke 10: 25 – 37 NRSV)

(Psalm 121 NRSV)

Praise the Lord!
Praise the Lord, O my soul!
I will praise the Lord as long as I live;
 I will sing praises to my God all my life long.

Happy are those whose help is the God of Jacob,
 whose hope is in the Lord their God,
                  who made heaven and earth,
 the sea, and all that is in them;
who keeps faith forever;who executes justice for the oppressed;
 who gives food to the hungry.

The Lord sets the prisoners free;
 the Lord opens the eyes of the blind.
The Lord lifts up those who are bowed down;
 the Lord loves the righteous.
The Lord watches over the strangers;
 he upholds the orphan and the widow,
 but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin.

5. Reflection.

Being isolated and confined can risk making us narrow and self-preoccupied. This is true especially if our world is being made a desert by constant criticism and opposition.

That was Jesus’ situation when he told the story of the Good Samaritan. His opponents among religious people and the public leaders constantly attacked him for reaching out to people whom they considered God’s enemies.

When one of his enemies asked him who was his neighbor, the question was loaded. Jesus responded with a story followed by a question. The key to the story is the hostility and contempt with which many Jews treated Samaritans. They regarded them as primitive and heretical in their beliefs and practices. They would never have shaken hands with them. In Jesus’ story representatives of the groups opposing him avoid the person who was mugged, perhaps because his blood would have made them unclean. So it is the Samaritan who not only cleans the Jewish man’s wounds but puts him on his donkey and pays for his recuperation in a motel.

The question Jesus then asks turns around the question he was asked, ‘Who is my neighbor?’. The lawyer had asked it abstractly. Jesus asks it personally from the point of the view of the man who was mugged. Who was a neighbour to him? The claims of neighbouring are measured by the need of the person in need, not by our own safe definitions. That was Jesus’ own way.

Our time in the desert of isolation invites us to reflect on what being a neighbour mean in our world of virus and economic crisis. Questions about neighbours often arise. We see people hoarding medicines and people exploiting gaps in the law to lay people off, or to short-sell shares to make profits. But we also see people going out of their way to make contact with elderly people who are shut-in, and to share their own scarce goods with those who have none.

Jesus own way was to treat everyone as his neighbour. He asks us, too, to do the same.

6. How to pray.

If you find it helpful to pray with the story of the Good Samaritan, read it slowly a couple of times and let it sink in. Then imagine the scene through the eyes of the person mugged, those of the person who crossed the road and those of the Samaritan. Where do you think you might have been? Talk with Jesus as you would with a friend about your experience of isolation and about his story.

The Psalm gives you Jesus’ priorities. Say it during the day if you find it helpful.

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. Help me to be generous to my neighbour. 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. 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 9 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 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.

Michael McVeigh is the Editor of Australian Catholics magazine, and senior editor at Jesuit Communications.
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