Pray as you go
Sunday, March 10, 2019
From Luke 4
The devil said to Jesus, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.” Jesus answered the devil, “It is written, ‘One does not live by bread alone.’”
“This weekend is Saturday the 9th and Sunday the 10th of March, beginning the first week of Lent.” Thus the alternating voices of male and female British Jesuits begin each episode of “Pray As You Go”. Quiet, spiritual music from around the world leads into the reading of one of the day’s lectionary texts. A persuasive, personal, relevant question about the text accompanies me into a few minutes of meditation.
The guide returns, and the reader repeats the scripture. After ten or twelve minutes I am left alone within my own silence, richer than when I began.
Every year at this time we read scripture about Jesus’ baptism and immediate departure for forty days of fasting in the desert. We follow him there for our own forty days during Lent.
The quiet voice of my Jesuit companion says: “Jesus seems to believe that his Father wants him to work in a quieter, even at times more hidden, way. Think of the ways that Jesus is at work in your own life now. Is he present there with noise and spectacle, or does he work in more discreet ways, ways that can easily be overlooked by the unobservant?”
I look out my window and see a few chickens, a nearby hospital, the bleary gray sky, our rain-soaked backyard, and I FEEL the reality of Jesus’ discreet ways in my life. It is this present moment, however unspectacular, which provides the only possible intersection with the eternal. God is here, now, or he is nowhere, ever.
My spirit knows this is true. So I am caught off guard by the guide’s next question, “Once your material needs have been met, what else do you need to live a rich and full life?”
Every day I have plenty of bread. What else do I need? What thoughts pre-occupy me, what plans catch my attention? What regrets and fears clasp their hands around my heart? My quiet time loads up quickly with distractions away from Jesus’ offer of rich and full life. And following Jesus into the desert, resting with him in our eternal moment, seems impossible.
This first Sunday of Lent offers me the gift of temptation, described at the SSCM retreat I attended last week. The blessings over us included, “May you receive the grace to listen to the voice of temptation, a voice that disturbs you when you settle for something safe.”
Jesus, I want to follow you into the desert, but when you go deeper, and then deeper still, I am afraid. Then I hear the voice calling me away, back to the world of my own creation. Please, Lord, right then let me see how you turn and call me closer. Your voice is gentle, and your eyes are full of love. It is with you that I am safe. Always and forever.
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“Pray as You Go” is available as an app for your phone or tablet. It’s free, and it’s wonderful.
SSCM is the abbreviation for Servants of the Holy Heart of Mary.