A Shepherd's Message - Jan. 28, 2014
January 28, 2014
In Chapter One of the Gospel of St. Mark, the sacred author records a series of events in the early public life of Jesus in Galilee which rightfully can be called "a Day in the Life of Jesus."
Beginning with prayer, teaching and the curing of a man with an unclean spirit who cries out in the middle of the synagogue service, Jesus continues His day with a visit to the house of Peter, the curing of Peter's mother-in-law and more teaching and healing — it's almost a frenzy of activity such that there seems to be little time to eat.
St. Mark then writes that very early the next morning, before anyone else is awake, Jesus rises and goes to a deserted spot to pray!
The disciples soon "discover" Him and indicate that "everyone is looking for you." Jesus bids them to set out for another town as He continues to pray.
This narrative is instructive about Jesus and about anyone who is a disciple of the Lord Jesus, namely us!
Not only does Jesus take time aside to pray; He also went on some extended periods of prayer.
He went on retreat, sometimes alone, sometimes with His disciples. Through this, Christ has given us an example — it is good, even necessary, to seek times and occasions to listen to the voice of the Father and to abide with the Lord.
We are prone to distractions and besieged by "noise" in our life. It is an everyday reality and was a reality for Jesus and His disciples.
Time set apart for the Lord, even if it is a brief time, is worth the effort. We engage ourselves in a different kind of listening — an attentiveness to the Word of the Lord and the presence of the Lord.
This is solitude, not loneliness, a solitude where dialogue with the Lord and friendship with Him can flourish. It refreshes our lives and makes the "everyday-ness" of things more alive with the Lord Himself.
There is a group of lay women and men who have formed the Lay Advocacy Retreat Committee.
This group has one goal — to promote retreats across the Archdiocese.
It is convinced that the various styles of retreats, fitted for the many varied and different people of our local Church, are an effective way for Catholics of all ages to grow in communion with the Lord and with one another.
They are a way to deepen a sense of God's presence in one's self and in the world, they lessen the stress and the fatigue that sets in even in daily tasks when we are distracted and unfocused, and they enable us to become a person of the Gospel, of joy and of love.
The Lay Advocacy Retreat Committee has met with me several times and has tried to gather together all those who conduct retreats into a coherent body of promotion for retreats. The Committee especially wants to set up direct relationship with pastors and parishes.
Additionally, they want to become a kind of clearinghouse and resource for various styles and kinds of retreats, and they want to set up a network of support people and promotional literature about retreats.
The efforts have already begun to bear fruit. The Archdiocese already has some 10 retreat centers in its boundaries.
Also, a disciple of Jesus can make a personal retreat by simply getting away from noise for a little time and spend some quiet moments with the Lord.
Most of us respond to the invitation to "come away a little and pray with me" by saying that such a reality is beautiful, but "I do not have the time and I am already too preoccupied with too many things."
There are a thousand variations of this excuse, including economic hardship. This is all very understandable, but it fails to see the possibilities in multiple kinds, styles and timings of retreats. The busier you are, the more you need some form of a retreat!
We will be talking more about this in the future. Whatever this local Church does in pastoral planning, in education and formation, in outreach and advocacy, all the activities hinge on being a friend of the Lord Jesus, it is a reality that demands our attention.
Everyday prayer and living a disciple's life is critical, but such living and prayer needs a "jumpstart" at regular intervals for it to stay alive.
"Come to me all you who heavily labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest" (Matthew 11:29). †