An extract from John 20:1-11:
"EARLY ON the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, 'They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.'
"Then Peter and the other disciple set out and went toward the tomb. The two were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He bent down to look in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he did not go in. Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen wrappings lying there, and the cloth that had been on Jesus' head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; for as yet they did not understand the scripture, that he must rise from the dead. Then the disciples returned to their homes.
"But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb...."
HAD A GOOD RETREAT. It refreshed my spirit, but it was NOT a wonderful time with the Lord.
My spiritual director (SD) challenged me continually to pray from my whole being, especially from my heart, and not from my head. Kept giving me the same passages to pray over and over again. This is quite a challenge for me becausei tend to think rather than feel when i pray. Trying to do so turned out to be quite frustrating most times, though enjoyable at times.
One day, out of frustration, i asked my SD, "Must we feel on cue? Surely God wouldn't mind that i pray more with my head?" His response was swift, "No, God wouldn't mind. But it'll do your heart a lot of good!"
Near the end of the retreat, finally understood that when we pray (or do just about any other things), it is actually not for us or about us (e.g., our pleasure, for the love of ourselves), but rather for the Lord or about Him (e.g., His pleasure or will, for the love of Him). No, have not become masochistic. But there, isn't this the essence of St Ignatius' first principle and foundation which i had understood and accepted whole-heartedly earlier?
During our first and subsequent discussions, was a little surprised to hear my SD stress over and over again the importance of the John 15:5 verse, "I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing." Deja vu. Would i ever make a Jesuit retreat without being reminded of this?
This time though, there were no voices. Had a number of wonderful moments when beautiful and meaningful tunes resounded in my mind continually. The first few days, "Loving and Forgiving". On the 29th, was praying over Isaiah 55:1-11, then rested in the Lord, half-asleep, for a while. As i was waking up, there was a refrain in my head, "The Lord is my light, the Lord is my help, the Lord is my salvation." Psalm 27. Was rather amazed and gratified. Ended the session with a thanksgiving prayer.
That night, reflected over what had happened over the past few days. Partly due to the tsunami incident, i had not kept the silence as much as i did during previous retreats. And perhaps due to that 'emotional' challenge, had not been praying as much or deeply. With much regret and sorrow, prayed that God would grant me the grace to keep the silence and to pray more faithfully. What a surprise the next morning! Woke up with a refrain, "Change Our Hearts"!
Told my SD about all these. Was quite non-plussed a day or two later to hear him speak of them dismissively as "mathematical tunes". Humphhhh....
The passages for the last day of the retreat were John 20-21. After praying over them over and over again, a question persisted, "How does one recognize the Lord or the Holy Spirit?"
"Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed.... But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb.... So the other disciples told him, 'We have seen the Lord.' ... That disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, 'It is the Lord!' "
Asked my SD the next day (the day we were to fly back to Singapore). He explained how one could discern God's will through an open-dated Ignatian retreat, as long as 12 days or more! Why do i keep thinking that this is some straightforward "just apply some formulae" process?
Feeling rather ambivalent. Should i return at the end of this year to repeat this frustrating exercise of praying, for the better good of my heart? But why go against my nature? Yet, why not stretch myself spiritually? Fr Thomas Green's writings in his book, "A Vacation with the Lord", suggested that i should. And all these are not "for me" but rather "for Him", right?
Or perhaps they are both "for Him" and "for me"?
"For many are those who love beauty. But beauty is not in externals; true beauty consists in the splendour of wisdom." -- St Bonaventure, Collationes in Hexaemeron (Collations on the Six Days) 20.25
Yes, "...beauty is not in externals; true beauty consists in the splendour of wisdom."
Met an awe-inspiring couple at the retreat centre. The wife has a face that reminded me of the Elephant Man. But gosh, how well she carried herself (physically and spiritually) and how lovingly the husband gazed at her, walked beside her and so on.
(Reflection on today's readings by Sr Charleen Hug in Living Faith.)
"As they were leaving the boat, people immediately recognized him." -- Mark 6:54
Often we pray that Jesus be with us, maybe at the dinner table in the midst of the family argument, when in reality Jesus is sitting across the table from us. Or we pray that God help our sick mother when in reality Jesus is already next to her. Or that peace be restored among two persons when in reality Jesus is the peace between them.
Sometimes we pray that a neighbour be consoled after losing everything in a fire instead of also taking a pie to that neighbor affording them the chance to grieve aloud. Or we pray for help for a father of two children whose wife walked out on them instead of also meeting with the father and offering to baby-sit. Or hoping a child will do better on the next exam instead of also offering to tutor the child. We can count on Jesus being present with the lonely, the widowed, the sick, the struggling. We just need to recognize him in these disguises and go there.