Sunday, September 07, 2008

A New Retreat; A New Life

I'm the kind of person who wouldn't know happiness if it hit me on the head.  I have been programmed to focus on tasks, goals, and aspirations, and to never be satisfied.  

No surprise then that when I became a renewed Christian, I applied the same struggle to conquer in my faith.  "Restlessness could mean a movement of the Spirit within us", said my parish priest to me just last week.  To not give up on this restlessness, despite the many ups and downs of my Christian walk, I finally said yes to an invitation given to me several years ago: I am going through the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola through the Retreat in Daily Life given by the Center for Ignatian Spirituality at the Ateneo de Manila.

Tired of running- towards God, away from God, towards an understanding of myself, and away from any thoughts and feelings that my true self was voicing out - I finally was ready to sit down through a three-month program of daily prayer and weekly direction, and to have a new spiritual director.

I attended the RDL launching today with clenched fists and a resolve not to participate more than what could be considered in law as "substantial compliance".  Gone were the days when I was always the first to respond to an altar call, or the first to volunteer for some obscure, undesirable service.  I was going to be pursued, if that was how it meant to discover my being.  

And God, who loved me in an unfathomable way, did not disappoint.  Pursue me, He did.

I had to sit through a day of recollection when every word was like a drop of water to my parched soul.  I had to shut out images and reflections too overwhelming to handle.  I knew I had to face my issues sometime; but to be on the brink of another cliff was not as exhilarating as it was when I was younger.

"Responsibilities take away the child in us", the speaker told us.  But he encouraged us to be creative in our prayer - to express it putting back our old, child's eyes, willing to dance, and to accept mysteries with joy; to be free in our prayer, and to cultivate the inner eye of love.

I wanted to "experience God in a  nearness and a graciousness impossible to confuse or mistake".  That was a promise made by Ignatius to retreatants, and I saw in that line a description of what I was thirsting for.

I had forgotten to discern the spirits.  I had been distracted by the many voices that mimicked my dreams, and whispered unknown desires, not all of which were from God.

I had deliberately shut out my heart, to Jesus whom I loved so much, and for whom I used to not count the cost of discipleship.

To see him, encounter him, be invited by him, be noticed by him - Jesus, the One I professed to follow since I could think for myself - was too much for me today.

To his invitation my only response was "Let's see where you are taking me."

No thunderous beating of my heart in anticipation.  No chorus of hallelujahs from the voices within me.  No promises to jump off cliffs and swim into deep waters.  Not this time.

I told Jesus, whom I love so much, "Thank you for loving me.  But I do not know how to be loved by You.  In this RDL,  I pray that I discover this, and much more."

I close this stream-of-consciousness reflection with a prayer that each of us who seek God may see Him, hear Him, believe Him, and follow Him... with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength.

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