Helping someone respond to a personal invitation of love is a little like helping someone pick out a birthday or anniversary gift for a loved one. The questions might be these: How close are you to this person? What do you want the gift to say? How much do you want to spend? At this point in the retreat, the questions are these: How deeply have I been touched by God’s love and mercy? How grateful am I? How deeply did I experience the call of Jesus? What response is forming in my heart?
The first advice for this week is to get started with the simplest of responses. Just say yes. Practice saying it out loud. What does it feel like to say it in different ways? With different degrees of conviction?
The next exercise might be to be more specific about the yes. I can say yes and mean that I will accompany Jesus in the mission he has from God by being faithful to whatever comes my way today.
I may sense that there is a special kind of fidelity that is wrapped up in the invitation of Jesus to me. So, I might make my yes even more explicit: “Yes, I will be with you in the costly fidelity of loving my spouse” (or in loving my children, in accepting the difficult challenges of my job, in forgiving that relative or neighbor, or in acting against that self-defeating bad habit I have).
I may feel the invitation reaching to the areas where I have heard the call but have not responded. I might make my yes more open ended. “Yes, I want to be with you in the ways you are loving, and I will open my heart more completely to the needs of others, especially the poor” (or make time to get more involved, or respond to that invitation to service at my church, or write that letter to my political representative).
There may be such a desire growing in my heart to respond in growing love to the love of Jesus that I may want to express my yes more affectively. I may want to try words and expressions that are personal and loving and full of tenderness, from deep inside. I could try to express my desire to be so close to Jesus that I want to experience the same vulnerabilities he experienced and experiences today. As lovers do, I may want to place my heart with his. I can practice saying out loud, or writing out, my growing desire to know and enter into the same struggles and poverty and surrender that fill the heart of the One I love. Then, my yes and my desire for intimate togetherness come together.
In the weeks ahead, we will take up our desire to grow in knowledge of, intimacy with, and togetherness in service with Jesus. This week, we have the luxury of letting our consciousness be on all the ways we can say the yes of grateful love.As we do each week, let the graces we are asking for be part of the background from the moment I awake, through all the in between times, to the time I prepare to sleep. I can practice taking a slow, deep breath as I go from one thing to another, as I answer the phone, as I get in the car, as I do whatever I’m doing. That deep breath can be a slow, deep yes. Practice letting my response fill the background of my everyday life and experience the power that growing in this relationship of love can have.