This is an important week to see that there is a natural progression to our retreat. These exercises build on the graces of the previous weeks, just as the upcoming weeks will build on the graces of this week. This week we will be reflecting on some realities that we normally don’t reflect on. Here are some practical suggestions for making this week more fruitful.
Pay attention to the beginning and ending of each day. This remains key to our being able to stay focused each day. As I wake each day, and put on my slippers or robe — for a very brief few moments — I will recall the grace I desire today: to enter more deeply into a sense of what sin really is. I may say, for example, “Lord, let me see and feel the outrage of the evil that seems to reign in our world. Lord, I so want to be moved by the profound depth of your love and mercy.” At the end of each day, let all these images be replaced by the one image of Jesus on the cross. Each night, try to return to that image. Try to let it become more real. Perhaps I can imagine looking up into the face of Jesus and speaking to him my gratitude. Perhaps I will imagine speaking face-to-face with our risen Lord, as he is today, asking him to show me the holes in his hands and feet and side today, as they remain the signs of the power of God’s love.
The content will take some effort this week, but it will be worth it. The photo of the horror of Bosnia can be the entry way into all the other appalling evils of our world. I think of all of the wars in history and the atrocities committed for the sake of some leader or because of people’s lust for power. I think of all the innocent children, deprived of even a chance to experience human freedom and dignity. I imagine systemic corruption and the resulting cost to all of humanity. I remember loved ones and friends who are real victims of sin. Perhaps I have experienced the tragedy of caregivers who failed to love or the betrayal of a loved one.
How does this grief, or even outrage, become the background of my everyday life this week, without affecting my mood, my attitude at work or with my family? We do want it to affect our hearts. We want to take our blinders off and really see and feel the power of evil. But at the same time, we want to experience the power of God’s response. This week should not discourage us. It should give us hope.
This week will be a great grace if we keep mindful of the focus: asking for the grace to see the outrageous, rebellious evil of sin in the world and the merciful love of God in the death of Jesus for the sin of our world.
Writing down a grace, sharing it with another, e-mailing someone, or sending it in to be shared here are all ways to deepen the experience.
Perhaps by midweek we can ask ourselves how we are doing. We can ask, “Is it difficult for me to look at the evil of the sin of the world? To be outraged by it? Is it difficult for me to grow in gratitude for the mercy of God?”
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