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June 2020


A Contemplative Exercise for June


Saying for the month

“…remember, I am with you always”              Matthew 28.20  (NRSV)


To begin the exercise, first spend a short while in relaxation and preparing to be still; become aware of the sounds around you and put them aside; offer this time of prayer to God.

Say this introductory invitation to prayer, then keep a further minute or two of silence:

 “Come to me, all you who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest” Matthew 11.28

 

Introduction to the first silence – a preparation for listening with the mind:

 “…remember, I am with you always”

These are some of the last words spoken be Jesus. They are recorded by St.Matthew as the final words of his Gospel. According to Matthew, Jesus had directed his first disciples to a mountain in Galilee. It’s not clear which mountain or indeed whether this was the place of the actual Ascension.

Luke records the Ascension taking place at the Mount of Olives just outside Jerusalem where most commentators agree it happened.  There was clearly a time when Jesus stopped appearing to the disciples after he had been raised from the dead. An end, it was to be a complete departure from this world: an actual time when he disappeared from them. It is not exactly clear where, when and how, which adds to the mystery and authenticity of the event. The 40 days since the Resurrection recorded by St Luke in the Acts of the Apostles could just denote a long time.

One point that the Gospel writers are agreed upon is that this took place on a mount or mountain. When mountains are mentioned in the Bible it usually means something special is happening. We can think of Sinai or Mount Ararat as good examples in the Old Testament. And in the Gospels the Sermon on the Mount and the Transfiguration are good examples. Here at the Ascension, the mount or mountain denotes a very special place.

St Matthew writes that the disciples worshipped him, though some doubted and then Jesus announces what is known as the Great Commission. “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” And then come the final words “Remember I am with you always to the end of time.” So there is the command followed by the promise that He is always with us.

In these final words Jesus uses the familiar ‘I am’ saying.  It’s how we associate God speaking in the continuous present. He is with us always, every hour, minute and moment of the day. He is with us in Spirit, the Holy Spirit. His Ascension marked the end of his physical presence in the world and the beginning of his Spiritual presence. He is no longer confined to time and space but fills our world with his love and grace.

“…remember, I am with you always”

A time is now kept for silence of the mind – between 5 and 15 minutes

 

The silence concludes with a short thanksgiving, and/or repeat the Saying:

Father, we thank you for the gift of your Word.

“…remember, I am with you always”

 

Introduction to the second silence – a preparation for listening with the heart:

“…remember, I am with you always”

As we take these to be some of the final words spoken by our Lord, there is such a poignancy about them which is like the final goodbye to his first friends and followers. It was for them a huge ‘moment of truth.’ Endings are so important, when we say goodbye to anyone, be it family, friend or just an acquaintance. Depending on who it is, we often make much of saying goodbye. It’s usually accompanied by a wave or a hug and then the leaving, letting go and departure. Then we are left with our thoughts and feelings about the person and our relationship. It is what I like to think as ‘mini moments of truth.’ We often need time and space to understand and recognise what the person really means to us, the truth of our relationship.

When Jesus left his first disciples for the last time it was a huge moment of truth for them. The truth flooding into their hearts and minds about all that He meant to them and that they would no longer have his physical presence with them. There would now be time and space to contemplate the meaning of his life, death and resurrection. And this is a direct parallel to what we have in our lives today. He is not here is a physical sense but we can contemplate and enter into our relationship with him. Our faith is to all about our relationship with God through Jesus Christ.

So these final words of Jesus we can take to heart, contemplate and internalise as much as we can. They are true for us today, in the future and on into eternity. Jesus Christ is always with us. He left our world in that one moment of truth leaving the words that echo down through the ages, speaking to us today and every day ‘Remember I am with you always.’ And we can use these words for those on our hearts and minds, needing our prayers and for our world suffering and dealing with the Coronavirus pandemic. In the midst of it all is our Crucified and Risen Lord who is with us always.

“…remember I am with you always.”

A time is now kept for silence of the heart – between 5 and 15 minutes

 

Conclude the silence with a short thanksgiving and/or repeat the Saying:

Father, we thank you that your Word is alive and within us.

“…remember, I am with you always”

 

Introduction to the time of intercession – we use our will to reflect God's Word outwards.

“…remember, I am with you always”

We can use these words in intercession for others as we continue in uncertain territory following the outbreak of the corona virus. The joy of the resurrection  and ascension is that we are not losing Jesus, but he will be with us always – at all times and in all places, alongside us wherever we go and wherever we are.

Say the name of a person or a group of people, and after a short pause, repeat the saying.

 

Conclude the time of intercession with words of thanksgiving:

Father, we thank you that your Word has gone out through us to those for whom we pray.

Use the Fellowship Prayer or another closing prayer to conclude your time of contemplative prayer.

Ever Loving God, we thank you for all your unsearchable riches which pour forth from you as light from the sun, in boundless profusion and generosity, whether received, ignored or rejected. And now we offer to you, in so far as we are able, as an emptiness to be filled with your divine fullness, ourselves, our souls and bodies; all that we are, all that we have and all that we do, until you are all in all and we are complete. Amen.

You may wish to say the Grace together before departing.

 

          This month’s exercise was contributed by RF