I have never been on retreat before, and as 2016 came to a close I promised myself I would look for an opportunity to go on retreat early this year. Then, I came across a retreat being put on in DC, one I had seen last year which involves at-home meditation along with a daily meeting with a spiritual director. Best of all, the focus is Ignatian prayer and spirituality, which is a sort of prayer that has always fascinated me. It involves studying scripture, often using one's imagination to experience the full scene of the Gospel at hand: the heat of the sun, the clothing on your back, and, most importantly, how Jesus looks and sounds right in front of you. You are always encouraged to speak with Jesus, as a friend, and ask yourself questions like, "What does my reaction to this scene tell me about me? Tell me about my relationship with God?"
So every day this week I am waking up early for 30 minutes of prayer and reflection. Did you know it's actually not all that hard to pray for 30 minutes? At least not the Ignatian way, because even that song playing in your head is a part of the experience. Or the distraction about an email you need to send, a conversation you must have, the things you must pick up from the store, are all okay.
What I'd like to share is the remarkable beauty of this form of prayer. It is interesting how each person can get a different impression from the same exercise; how you feel about "watching" the sermon on the mount may differ from how I feel; or the way a certain Psalm strikes you, that is to stay, how God speaks to you in that passage or parable.
During our opening session, the meditation was Luke 5:12-16, wherein Jesus heals a leper. After hearing the passage read aloud, we watched the scene from afar in our minds, coming closer, eventually being a physical participant, as Jesus heals the lepers and departs to the desert. We were asked to not only feel the cure ourselves, but to look at Jesus, looking at us, and to accompany him to the desert.
It sounds like a simple exercise, but for me it was deeply emotional. And all I could think was, "I am the leper." There is a part of each of us - and maybe it is not a part, but the whole - that needs to be healed, of something. That is what it means to be human, to be deep into a world that does not always honor us as spiritual beings. Anxiety, depression, feelings of worthlessness - whatever that fear and sadness is that keeps us from God, which needs to be healed - that is why I am the leper, that is why we are all the leper. And yet, Jesus look at each one of us with love, always.
I am seeing some themes emerge as I work my way through the week's meditations, mostly related to fear and love and the sheer expanse of God's care and interest in us as his creation. It's a large topic - as large as the universe - and I do not expect to have answers by the end of this week. But I am open to where the process takes me, and am joyful for the opportunity to meet Jesus in this new and personal way. It can only mean good things.