As I write this, I’m preparing to start an online retreat this week, and I’ve been taught that one should start a retreat by asking for the graces one would hope to gain during that time.
I don’t know. I’ve always felt a little guilty asking for things when I know there are others who need them more. I mean, I’m feeling pretty lucky right now. I have a relatively healthy family, a job I look forward to doing each day, and a community to live in where people still smile and say hello to one another when they pass on the street. So why should I “push my luck” by asking for more?
Because that is a “poor” way to look at God’s graces.
God’s graces are not a commodity. They’re not limited by the law of supply and demand. They’re not like rewards points where you have to save them up for a time when you really need them, or a time when you want to do something special. There’s plenty of God to go around.
If you don’t think so, just look at today’s readings. In the first reading, we are assured “And I will have compassion on them [the Lord’s people], as a man has compassion on his son who serves him.” Most parents would give everything they had for their son, if they knew it would benefit him.
And in the Gospel, how about, “If you then, who are wicked, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?” So maybe God’s graces are not like rewards points, maybe they are more like unlimited minutes in a cell phone plan. We all get the “anytime, anywhere, unlimited minutes” plan. And it’s free!
So today’s readings convinced me; I’ll ask already! In fact, just to stretch myself in regard to my imperfection, I’ll ask for a whole bunch of graces. How many souls are reading this reflection today? A thousand? Ten thousand? A hundred thousand? No matter how many, THAT’S the number of graces I’m asking for: One for each of you.
So what graces do I pray for as I begin this retreat? I ask that you, gentle reader, receive a special grace of some kind today. Maybe it will be a long-awaited answer to a question you really need to know to move on to the next step in an important relationship. Maybe it will be a little relief from a chronic medical condition that you’ve been bearing over the last few months. Maybe it will simply be a chance encounter, a real experience of meeting Jesus in a person or place or thing that you happen to run into today. Wherever and however it is that you need God’s graces today, I pray that it happens. But I mostly pray that you listen for it, watch for it, wait for it, and expect it. For when that grace knocks on the door, even in the middle of the night, we all have to be ready to open ourselves to it.
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