31 March, 2020

O Lord, hear my prayer, and let my cry come to you. Hide not your face from me in the day of my distress. Incline your ear to me; in the day when I call, answer me speedily.

~ Psalm 102 ~

Numbers 21:4-9; Psalm 102; John 8:21-30

Reading today’s Psalm, I thought about the nature of God’s friendship. I often say to myself that “As soon as I have everything sorted out and my life back on track, I’ll turn back to you, God.”


This reminds me of my friend’s five-year-old daughter. She loves to bake and frequently will try and bake by herself. Often a mess emerges, which she tries to clean-up. In reality, the solution is even more of a disaster than the initial mess.


In my own prayer I often find this at work. I will get too stressed, too busy, or sick, and my prayer life will falter. Then I go into “fix it” mode and start thinking of how I will get back on track, which makes me anxious and less able to pray. I listen to how others pray and compare my own prayer unfavourably to theirs. I will spend time reading about prayer and thinking about prayer, but not actually praying.


After trying to ‘fix’ things, often by surprise, God will remind me that he has been there all along, just waiting for me to turn my attention back to him.


I was trying to prepare material for a big retreat I was doing, spending lots of time thinking about scripture text etc. But inside, I was in desolation. My own prayer was dry and my temptation was to replace prayer with preparing to help others with their prayer.


As the retreat got closer I started to panic, I knew that something was off-key, but what I did was to try even harder to prepare the material, rather than spending time just being with God. As I was working one morning, I read, as if for the first time, Jesus’ words to the young man he heals: “Your sins are forgiven.” I recognised myself as a sinner and felt myself loved and held even in my sinfulness. I remembered the reality that any retreat is a time for God the Creator to deal with the Creature. I was able to relax and let God work through me and in me.




I ask for the grace to always remember that you are God and that you are filled with compassionate love for all of us.


When I fall into distress and anxiety, help me to remember to turn to you for help.




Catholic Parliamentary

Liaison Office

Jesuit Institute
South Africa

This reflection has been adapted from Have Mercy, O Lord! Daily Reflections for Lent by Grant Tungay SJ, Russell Pollitt SJ, Annemarie Paulin-Campbell, Puleng Matsaneng, Anthony Egan SJ and Frances Correia, & published by the Jesuit Institute South Africa in 2016.

Reflection prepared by

Fr Matthew Charlesworth SJ

Fr Matthew Charlesworth SJ entered the Society of Jesus in 2005 and underwent the usual course of studies in his formation, which took him to such varied places as Canada, France, Ireland, Kenya, Spain, Tanzania, the United Kingdom, the United States, Zambia, Zimbabwe, and South Africa. Whilst working at the Institute, Matthew managed the background technical aspects of much of the Institute's work and was involved in the Spirituality work, completing the Advanced Spiritual Directors Training Course and the Spiritual Exercises Training run by the Institute. He is a member of Spiritual Directors International and was also a part-time lecturer in Sacred Scripture at St Augustine College of South Africa. He is currently the Director of Communications for the Jesuits in Southern Africa, based in Lusaka, Zambia.

m.charlesworth@jesuitinstitute.org.za @mcharlesworth
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