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It is difficult to embrace the concept of God completely forgiving me and being there for me. I am trying to live in it this week but shame abounds.
Last week, as I created the mental photo album of my life, I could recall nothing before age 4-5. This week I realized why that was, Until age 4, I was the cherished Baby of the Family. Suddenly, my mom had another baby followed by 4 more! I was no longer the baby, but a middle in a sea of other middles.My life would never again be the coddled, cared-for experience of The Baby.
Fast forward over my lifetime, and I see I had never stepped into the new role God gave me. I wanted to remain protected by other people, but that protection was no longer there. Only by trusting God's protection now, can I finally feel safe, Furthermore, I had made some very dangerous and unholy choices over the years. This week as I held them up before God, in shame and humility, I saw that only by creating such distance between us could I feel this great loss and longing for Him. Only by looking around and seeing nothing but darkness do I flee to His light.I am grateful for the errors I have made that left me needful of God. I have learned by exhausting every other option, that no other help will arrive He is the ultimate on only help I need.
Week 17: This Poverty, and the call to Poverty....are unsettling, to say the least! I lived for more than a decade in REAL poverty...no transportation, no medical insurance, no job. I could go into detail, and am tempted to, but I'm realizing that would be pride....amazing, to be proud of the "hard times" I've survived! which makes me tempted to even greater pride about where I've come to: education, more food shelter, etc than any one person needs.
Week 17 has been very hard for me, and I am not sure why. Being 75, with somewhat limited physical abilities, I am looking to an unknown future both physically and financially. Hopefully the weeks ahead will give me answers to this confusion.
Week 19: One morning this week before I started my daily meditation I happened to come across a rendering of a sprititual song, "You are my hands ..." I found it interesting to listen to this imagining Jesus at my side and also imagining that this is the final meditation of Jesus before he enters baptism. He realizes that as the Son of God, He is the only way that God becomes truly present in the world. After His baptism He invites me to consider that now this is my calling along with others who will share in His ministry. He also promises to provide the sustenance for this journey in the form of His body and blood in the Eucharist.
As I enter the water of baptism I look closely at what I need to repent of ... What I need to change in order to make this journey. The concept of "busyness" rises in my mind. Can I stop being busy? Can I approach life more simply? I feel a sense of wholeness thinking about this.I ask Jesus' help to reveal how I can develop more with Him, to become equipped to be his hands, feet, eyes, ears, mouth ... knowing that this is not a journey I need to take alone, which is one of the constant reminders from this retreat.
Week 18: I continue on my meditation from last week by focusing on my relationship with money. I recall a few years ago I was assessing whether to move to another job and I couldn't really get straight where I was called to go. I consulted with a friend who was an executive coach but also steeped in Ignatian spirituality. We made a list of what could be important for me and how each played out against the role I was in and the new one. When making the list she observed that I didn't put money on it. "It's not important", I said. I remember her raising an eye as if to say "You're sure?" In this week's reflection I see that one of my patterns is to pretend it's not that important. If I do that I will be a "better Christian". I really show God I'm with Him. But subtly it's there. At other times, I make long logical arguments. If I buy this new television think of how I am rewarding all these engineers' creativity! Think of the people employed to produce it. Isn't it better that they have jobs and I have the satisfaction of watching soccer on a somewhat larger screen? These may well be good arguments in a debate about the type of society we live in but as I reflect on what I am doing I notice that in the argument God is not there. So money does play a subtle but insidious role in my life. I meditate on the third way and ask what God wants for me to be closer to Him; to walk with Him; for Him to save my soul. I see that I cannot be healed of the subtle but persistent distortions around my money and possessions by myself. I need to ask more earnestly for God's grace. I recognize I am afraid of this. I might be stripped somehow of my possessions. I don't want that to hurt anyone else and I know that God would not ask that of me. I recognize I cannot completely resolve this but what I can do is to more actively bring God into the "money parts" of my life. When I am choosing when to spend, how to give, how to save. I ask for the grace to listen to Him in these moments.
Week 17: I find this reflection on the two ways of desiring to be challenging. Ironically, I am listening to an audiobook about “managing your finances”. I notice that I won’t listen to this walking to Mass. Why is this? There is something about money that gets in the way of me putting on my spiritual guise as I enter mass. Maybe I feel guilty about what I have. Maybe this is an area in my life where I want to pretend I have control even if the truth is I often do not. I recognize that I am blessed with gift of ample if not huge wealth. Often, I have returned to this theme as to whether this is fair and whether I am using it correctly. I can sometimes pretend that it doesn’t matter. But that attitude of detachment sometimes hides a more subtle attitude to not pay attention to what I am doing with my money. So in meditating about the desire for wealth and honors I can see how they add up. I can also see where I can keep adding to my possessions … sometimes not just with money but also things to do … because these gain me recognition … so I accumulate too many things to do. But my pride keeps me from cutting back … on tasks and possessions.
So I spend a good part of the time relating to the second desire and to earnestly join Jesus who does not look to acquire more but to give more of himself; who does not desire comfort but accepts where he has to go. I feel what it is not to be honored … to be ignored at the very least, to be ridiculed and as Jesus was at the very end to be convicted and killed. What does it feel like to be stripped of everything? What does it feel like to be just in God’s presence and that’s it? What does it feel like to not even feel God’s presence but to know that He is present? I practice this. I am surprised I do find consolation here but I also recognize I still need to journey with Jesus to understand more.
I resolve that it is also fine and maybe very necessary to bring my financial planning concerns to God … what will it feel like doing that from the point of view of humility. How difficult it is for the rich to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. How clearly, I see Jesus’ rider that “with God nothing is impossible”. I just need to put my trust in Him.
"God's delight in me"!!!! This is like the puzzle piece that I refuse to pick up...that there could be a love that is so much greater than the hurt...love without limit!!!! For some reason ( Thank you, God!), this is resonating with me today. That I want to decrease, so that God can increase...
The basic healing needed is the imaginary split between self and other. There is no other. God is all in all.
It back to week one again! I began this retreat in Sept but my Spiritual Director suggested going back to week one and starting again. At first I was disappointed and angry but as I began again I realized that I was loved by God wether or not I moved smoothly through the weeks or not. It occurred to me that God does not love me more or less any time things in my life don't work out as planned. A tremendous relief came over me realizing I didn't have to always be right and good enough for God. Grace is amazing.
Week 11: I truly want to give my whole-hearted Yes to my Lord. There is still that old nagging "what if" in the back of my mind. I still want to give to my Lord all he asks of me. Please pray for me.
Week 11: Yes, Lord.
Thank you, Lord.
Week 11: I am being pulled toward the "yes" that is trying to break open from my heart. I can feel my resistance, but I'm hoping that I will let myself be open to Christ's call. I want to say "yes" but I want to say yes tomorrow- not today. I guess that's fear? I don't want to lose my control?
I guess my prayer is that I hope for the trust to listen to God. I hope to let go of my need to be in charge. I've heard this message so often. I'm just starting to take it to heart. I pray that this advent , I will push past the fear of letting go of the reins, and let god be my centre.
As I am in the middle of week 12, I thank you all for your on line sharing. For whatever reasons, I have been feeling more like that tree, and with “that realization” a bit of desolation awareness ...came to me, only after really taking in the love you have all shared, especially in week 12, beautiful consolation. All of you with your shares, have been the expression of Jesus, of Love, of God’s redeeming power, in my life, thank you. I pray for all of you, this beautiful world, and each and every person, be they humbled and broken or too mighty and full of worldly wealth and ideas, we all matter, and ease each others burdens, through acknowledging and seeing each others weaknesses and suffering....Keep going and writing...it matters, to me, and I shall too
Week 12: Lord
How can I resist your love? I see you looking down on all the creativity and dynamism that surround me. I have no trouble appreciating that. But I wonder how you feel about our (my) selfishness.
Then I realize how much you became involved in our daily life and you still desire to. But I still want to know more. What does it mean for me? Yes, Lord, I am attracted to your ministry ... particularly to your outreach to the disadvantaged and your call to use my gifts to contribute to solving some of the more systemic issues that are barriers to the fulfilment of your Kingdom here on Earth.
Lord, I also recall how I need to keep you uppermost in this picture. I come back to a reflection of Father Rolheiser on John the Baptist. John was clearly able to see injustice and to preach eloquently about it. But however much he is honoured his mission is only completed in Jesus.
Lord, let all that I do be completed in You.
Week 13: Waiting and being patient - these are areas I have not mastered at the best of times and in this season where it seems work speeds up to be completed for the holidays I find it particularly difficult. But I do find the process in this retreat helpful. I sit with Jesus trying to figure out what these people that form his genealogy mean. I see in them examples of tremendous trust and faith but also sometimes character flaws or worse that bend the way they travelled. Then I see in my own life that God has been there in the flaws and the cracks on the way (not causing these but present with me and despite the flaws). I think particularly what does it mean for Jesus to fulfill the promise of restoring King David's lineage. David is certainly a great leader but he does have some flaws and cracks along the way! For Jesus to fulfill the promise to be on the throne of David is a clear metaphor that Jesus wants to be involved in the day-to-day affairs of our (my) lives. He is involved in the midst of the clamor and the tensions of today. He reminds us that in the turns on our journey and on the cracks on that road that we travel He is there. I resolve to walk with Him, to be more aware of Him but also to be His agent in this world.
Week 14: During this week I keep coming back to Zechariah. I have always had sympathy for Zechariah. What was so exceptional about his question? Wouldn't I have asked that myself? As I wandered with Him in the sanctuary, I recognized the same feelings I often have at Church. It's my "Mass appearance". Zechariah is focused and comfortable in that place. But deep down the longing and the dissatisfaction rumble. The possibilities of having a son and what that son could become surface as part of his prayer. Then there is the sudden apparition. The promise is so concrete. But outside there is the dissatisfaction, the disappointment, the irritation, the annoyance. How can God be there? How can God transform physically and if He can how painful the long periods of doubt feel. And so Zechariah has a special grace to observe but meditate in silence at the world he was so disappointed in and to observe and reflect on God's power to transform. Lord, let me accompany Zechariah and meditate on how you intervene in our world and in my life.
Week 15: I follow the Holy Family to the Presentation at the Temple in Jerusalem. How far we have come since Mary and Joseph took off on this long journey. Mary pregnant. Joseph eventually trusting while being pragmatically aware of what was going on around them. There were dangers. Of course, a good number of people just didn't care .. So absorbed in their own affairs. But Joseph and Mary have never been absorbed like this. They have studied and prayed around God's historical promise. Yes it seems so ridiculous that from their ordinary backgrounds God has called them. But they have learned and they are learning even faster to place their total trust in God.
Then there is the birth itself. Not in the best of places. Homeless ... Dependent on strangers to support. But over the days after the birth between the feeding and sleeping periods of this new baby; between the joyful appreciation for the miracle of life and the anxiety about looking after Him just right; between these periods others come into the picture ... Shepherds ... Boisterous laboring ... Definitely working class; then wise men from far away ... Definitely the "professional class". What this means Mary and Joseph don't discuss much with me but I can see that like me these visitors know much more is going on here. I notice too that apart from a few casual visitors, these are the only close visitors. People still go about their affairs.
So Joseph gently reminds Mary that they must do their duty and go up to Jerusalem and make their offering. This is key to their religious upbringing and key to their trust in God. Yet they do so somewhat fearfully. What will people say? This is a child conceived outside of marriage and by an unnamed father. There are dangers (somehow there are always dangers associated with Jerusalem). Again I see the deep trust Mary and Joseph have that God will be there and they must return to Him in worship. Then there is the affirmation in the temple as Simeon and Anna take the baby and relate how they see this baby as the fulfillment of their prayers.As we travel onwards from Jerusalem I discuss what has happened with Mary and Joseph. We do not really understand it all. We only know that we have to travel onwards and work to bring Him into this world. Mary as a young girl has dreamed of being a mother. Joseph at his carpenter's table has often thought about having a family. Both have deeply prayed like Simeon and Anna for God's promise to be realized. Now they see all these desires dome together. They ask me what I have deeply desired and like Anna and Simeon I feel it is fulfilled here. How? I'm not sure but I want to continue in the journey whether it is in the quietness of the desert, the noise of the refugee camp, the bustle of the village or the lurking attraction and danger of Jerusalem.
Week 16: I wasn't expecting much this week. Although I have found fruit in imagining this period of Jesus' life before, for some reason I started out with low expectations about my imagination and God's power to challenge me. However, I did find much fruit. I developed some vivid images of Jesus encountering people as he grew up. I imagine how these encounters shaped the way he was able to deal with people in his ministry. I thought of how he develops love for everyday people as they went about their business, understanding the fears, loves, dilemmas and challenges they faced. I see him develop a sceptism about the really religious people who follow just rules for their own good. I then enter into conversation with Jesus about the experiences that have shaped me. I see that Jesus has many of the same experiences but that he is able to shape them in different ways as he brings God the Father into each encounter. How can I do this better? That is certainly an area of challenge. I also ask Jesus where he finds the roots of his desire to reach out to the poor and needy and discuss where that emanates in my life. I find reassurance in Jesus' desire to see that I can still develop and still be challenged.
What attracted me to you first was the recognition that I received a miracle of healing from depression and that miracle came from you. I had done all that I could to relieve my depression, but I still wore its heavy cloak. I had done all that I could to remove the shame of my past, but I still bore its leprosy. I had done all that I could to grieve the pain, suffering, and loss of my dignity and personhood, but the burden of it would not leave me. I cannot pinpoint the exact day the miracle happen. Sometime in 2013. How do I know it was you? How do I explain it? I just know. One day the cloak, leprosy, and burden were gone. To me it was a miracle. You are the only person I know that miracles come from, so there you have it, that’s how I know it was you! Plus, the very coming about of this miracle took place within the context of charities done in your name, theological writers, and study of SS. It moved my mind and heart. The cloak and burden just fell of my body, heart, and mind. Just POOF – GONE. That’s how I know it was you!...
Week 1: I am finding this very first day very difficult
I am in Week 5. Thank God for His willingness to forgive.
What a wonderful Christmas this has been! I have been w Mary thru the most glorious part of motherhood, the birth of the babe. I felt her joy and confusion about what was in store for her little family's future. She trusted in her unlimited love of Jesus and the Father to face her future.
Lord, help me to love as you do!
As I reflect and pray with the 12th week of this retreat, I am thankful for the people who are all joined together in these prayers. For those who carefully organized this retreat and for all those who are alongside in their longings and hopes. What a privilege it is to feel your presence and what a gift it is to be touched by faith. I pray that we all continue to be mindful of Christ's presence and mindful that we are all One Body.
It is very difficult to escape the snares of the past but I am finding more and more the true definition of "I can do all things through God who strengthens me". Oh praise Him for He is our help and our salvation. What a wonderful and loving God we serve. I went back and reexamined myself in the first and second week prayers and readings. The thought processes invoked by that stimuli were painful both times but glorious. God continues to give me the ability to forgive myself. I have continued to hide myself from it all in my daily life since then. The counterfeit life I have led being someone God has known about and the layers I have painted over it hiding from Him.
Oh God what a wonderful feeling to know or begin to know more about who You have so wonderfully made in Your image that I disfigured and reshaped in my own to hide from myself and the past. Thank you. You are so wonderful and alive in me. What a feeling of purpose now to look forward to each moment You are bringing in my path with wide eyed wonder. To actually feel what is real instead of what was felt through the layers hiding the pain and the hurts of the past.I look with joy now through God to face a new day without any hiding or fear of being "found" out. I don't know why I have being running so hard away from God all my life. This feeling is beyond explanation and definition. Thank you all who are praying constantly for all of us who are seeking His love and understanding.
Thank you for introducing me to these spiritual exercises.
Week one: The photo album has been extremely difficult. I’m on day three and up to year 23 of 49. All my ‘photos’ so far have been less than pleasant and the common emotions are frustration, sadness, isolation and loneliness, all accompanied by extreme anger. Not to mention the guilt and regret at the thrashing out at those around me. I now know why I do not think much about my childhood and teen years. I suffered from depression for many years and am realizing that it started much earlier than I thought. I believe our Lord was with me, even though I have no photos saying as much. I can feel the depression trying to resurface. I was tempted to stop this retreat the 1st day, but am determined see it through as I feel this it necessary at this point in my life. However, It’s so very hard for me. Please pray for me.