Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Invitation to a Retreat (1)

There must be times in your life that you yearn for more of God than your schedule will allow. We all have. We are tired, stressed by our jobs, crowded by friends and burdened by obligations. We have abundant life but are too busy for it! Even good obligations and commitments can turn toxic to our soul. Christian author, Madeleine L’Engle resonates within us when she writes in A Circle of Quiet that “(e)very so often I need a OUT; something will throw me into total disproportion, and I have to get away from everyone- away from all those people I love most in the world-in order to regain a sense of proportion.” However this is more than just a need to get away. There is also a need to get to (somewhere). And in our case, the need is to get to the presence of God. In other words, we need to go to a spiritual retreat.

“Spiritual retreat,” explains Emilie Griffin in Wilderness Time, “is simply a matter of going into a separate place to seek Christian growth in a disciplined way. Retreat offers us the grace to be ourselves in God’s presence without self-consciousness, without masquerade. Retreat provides the chance to spend time generously in the presence of God. In such time, God helps us to empty ourselves of cares and anxieties, to be filled with wisdom that restores us.”

Jesus himself sought times of quiet and solitude. The evangelist Mark tells us in middle of a busy schedule, “(v)ery early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. Simon and his companions went to look for him, and when they found him, they exclaimed: "Everyone is looking for you!"” (Mark 1:35-37). This is not an isolated incident for Jesus. After his miraculous feeding of the five thousand, “(i)mmediately Jesus made his disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to Bethsaida, while he dismissed the crowd. After leaving them, he went up on a mountainside to pray” (Mark 6:56-46).

The evangelist Matthew too made a similar observation of Jesus: “After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone.” (Matthew 14:23). Luke too remarks on this peculiar characteristic of Jesus: “Yet the news about him spread all the more, so that crowds of people came to hear him and to be healed of their sicknesses. But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.” (Luke 5:15-16). It appears that the more his fame spreads, the more he is in demand as a teacher and healer, the more Jesus looks for a quiet place, to be away from the crowd that he serves. And what does he do when he is alone? He prays. He commune with his Father. As soldiers in battle in the frontline need to be rotated back to the rear to rest or team sportspersons have time out, Jesus after every spiritual battle needs a retreat; a retreat, not in the sense of a setback but in the concept of a timeout. It is in his Father that Jesus finds rest.


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