This is a chance to step back from your busy life. Spend a few moments letting go of all the concerns that have preoccupied you today. You can pick them up later – they won’t go anywhere – but for now, set them aside. Focus on your breath, listen to music, gaze at a candle or out the window, burn incense, or simply breathe the breeze that comes in through an open window. Do whatever helps you to quiet your mind and find a moment of peace. Let yourself rest in this moment for as long as you need to.

When you are ready, picture another scene from the life of Jesus. This time, imagine you see the adolescent Jesus as his parents take him to the temple and he begins to talk with the rabbis there. See how happy he looks as he sits there, asking and answering questions with men three times his age. Notice the men’s robes, their long beards, the fringes on their cloaks.

Now imagine you can also see Jesus’s parents, Mary and Joseph, who discover Jesus is missing from their large group traveling together. They don’t know where their son has gone. Picture them as they search for him through the crowded streets of Jerusalem, hear the growing fear in their voices, and let their anxiety fill your own heart. For a parent, losing a child is one of the most terrifying experiences.

Watch as Mary and Josph are reunited with Jesus. Hear the exasperation, even anger, in their voices as they scold him for wandering off on his own.

Next, imagine yourself sitting down with Jesus and Mary and Joseph to discuss what happened. Listen to what Joseph and Mary have to say – and then ask Jesus to tell his perspective. According to this story as it’s told in the second chapter of the Gospel of Luke, Jesus told his parents he was listening to God’s voice, following Divine direction rather than his parents’.

When Jesus has finished speaking, ask him if he used a process like Ignatian discernment when he decided to go off by himself. What does he answer? Imagine how he describes both the “consolation” and the “desolation”[1] he experienced as he made his choice.

At first glance, we might assume that Jesus’s priority as a young person was to comply with his parents’ expectations. Jesus, however, saw past this cultural assumption and answered a deeper call that came from his inner self. Consider for a few moments: Are there any societal assumptions that are holding you back from hearing the call of your deepest heart’s desire? Can you separate your desire to go along with what’s expected of you from your desire for a wider, more inclusive life?

As you return to the rest of your day, carry these questions with you. Be open to discovering new directions for your life.

[1] Ignatius’s process of discernment called for distinguishing between emotions that drive us closer to love (consolation) and those that pull us away from love (desolation). Consolation … energizes us to reach out in love; we feel encouraged and empowered, connected to the Source of life, as well as to other human beings and the entire cosmic world. Consolation brings a sense of freedom and rightness. It opens our hearts so we feel greater compassion for others, and it inspires us to actively work for justice and inclusion. Desolation … brings confusion and anxiety. It makes us feel cut off from the living universe, trapped within our narrow viewpoints, preoccupied with our selfish fears and urges. As our egos shout for recognition and control, they give us no peace or sense of fulfillment; instead, they drive us with an urgent sense of desperation, a constant restless seeking for pleasure and power.

Patrick Saint-Jean in The Spirituality of Transformation, Joy, and Justice