Three months ago when these FFF lockdown reflections concluded we were hopeful that the COVID crisis would pass quickly. Yet in the weeks since we have seen the viral growth of this infection affecting health, livelihood and taking lives in every part of the world. Even communities where the virus seems to be contained there is anxiety and the financial impact is everywhere evident.
You might like to join with me in considering our return to Level 3 lockdown in Auckland and level 2 throughout the country as an opportunity to deepen our personal relationship with Jesus: nothing too strenuous or demanding, just a daily desire to live with a renewed and deepened awareness of our dependance on God. I know that FFF followers in other parts of the world where lockdown is more strict will also welcome this invitation.
I’m suggesting a retreat-in-daily-life over the next week or so with a return to daily FFF reflections.
A few years ago I informed parishioners as Mass concluded one Sunday that I was spending the days ahead leading a retreat. In the chat after Mass I realised that few people really understood what I would be doing for the week. Some days earlier news bulletins were full of reports of government MP’s on retreat at a luxury hotel and a few parishioners joked that maybe I had joined them. Some others understood the word only in a military sense: the army retreating from the battle, and they wondered if I thought parish life was a bit of a battle.
In the Christian sense a retreat is not a stepping back from reality escaping routines and commitments. Instead disciples on retreat are seeking to engage more deeply with reality by retreating from “those false and superfluous certainties around which we have constructed our daily schedules, our projects, our habits and priorities” (that’s a quotation from Pope Francis – full text below) and engaging with the ultimate reality who is Jesus Christ present and active with us.
In this personal and vital relationship with the divine everything in life falls into healthy perspective and we find that we can breathe more deeply and live more fully.
If you don’t believe me, try it!
RETREAT in the midst of everyday commitments and routines:
- On waking, before getting out of bed, take a minute to be aware of your breathing and know that this breath is proof that Jesus is giving you life today. You might find it helpful to find your pulse and to know that this is undeniable evidence that you are not your own creation. You are not giving yourself life.
- Set five minutes when you are up and about, perhaps over a coffee, to become aware of Jesus present with you. Let your mind go through the day ahead calling to mind the moments and the encounters you are looking forward to, and those you would rather skip.
- Make a decision to be alert to the presence of Jesus with you in every encounter and every person of the day ahead.
- When you get a chance in the middle of the day, take another five minutes asking Jesus to reveal to you the moments when he has been especially active in your morning. You might be surprised at what Jesus reveals to you.
- Late afternoon or during the evening, recall the moments during the day when you have known Jesus present with you. In this relationship you are never alone.
- You might remember prayers you learnt by heart when you were younger. Which of these was your favourite? If you don’t remember it well enough find a copy on line and re-learn and pray it. Over the years many of us have discarded prayers that once served us well.
- As a preparation for sleep you might find the brief audio reflection helpful. PRAY TO SLEEP at this link.
“The storm exposes our vulnerability and uncovers those false and superfluous certainties around which we have constructed our daily schedules, our projects, our habits and priorities. It shows us how we have allowed to become dull and feeble the very things that nourish, sustain and strengthen our lives and our communities. The tempest lays bare all our prepackaged ideas and forgetfulness of what nourishes our people’s souls; all those attempts that anesthetise us with ways of thinking and acting that supposedly “save” us, but instead prove incapable of putting us in touch with our roots and keeping alive the memory of those who have gone before us. We deprive ourselves of the antibodies we need to confront adversity.
In this storm, the façade of those stereotypes with which we camouflaged our egos, always worrying about our image, has fallen away, uncovering once more that (blessed) common belonging, of which we cannot be deprived: our belonging as brothers and sisters.
“Be converted!”, “Return to me with all your heart” (Joel 2:12). You are calling on us to seize this time of trial as a time of choosing. It is not the time of your judgement, but of our judgement: a time to choose what matters and what passes away, a time to separate what is necessary from what is not. It is a time to get our lives back on track with regard to you, Lord, and to others.
How many people every day are exercising patience and offering hope, taking care to sow not panic but a shared responsibility. How many fathers, mothers, grandparents and teachers are showing our children, in small everyday gestures, how to face up to and navigate a crisis by adjusting their routines, lifting their gaze and fostering prayer. How many are praying, offering and interceding for the good of all. Prayer and quiet service: these are our victorious weapons.
- Is there a word or phrase anywhere above that speaks to you? Use this as a starter for your prayer as you sit in silence at home, at work or school, or while waiting at the red light.