Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Journey Within, Journey with Jesus

It is indeed a difficult task for me to write something about the 30-day Ignatian Retreat, my very own retreat. It is difficult because no words could ever capture the profound meaning of a relationship with Him who, Himself, is beyond mere human words. It is difficult because it is impossible for me to put into writing an experience, no less than a grace-filled experience with a dear friend Jesus. 

Anyhow, let me just present in a simple narrative how my days went through in the retreat house where the envisioned desert experiences providentially took place. Kuya Dindo, my retreat companion, has also been very instrumental in keeping me on right pacing throughout the journey.

My first week was marked with ambivalence. I was dreadfully excited to get into the prayer exercises following the proposed schedule. At the same time, I was missing the life in the city with all the luxury of company, communication and entertainment. I interestingly did the suggested prayer guides and hastily looked for the possible immediate effect. 

But nothing happened. 

The more I forced myself, the more I grew helpless. Such disposition led me to be harsh on myself, pushing me too heavily into the exercises, and the consequence waiting for me was disappointment. I was lost. I was disappointed. There, I found myself so down, deep down on my knees. 

One Friday morning, at the brink of giving up, I found myself totally caught by a text from the Letter of Paul to the Ephesians 4:30, "Do not do anything that will sadden the Holy Spirit…" 

These words breathed to me like a soft whisper yet bearing a strong message. Then I knew that it was His message.

It was His message of love. It was His message of mercy.

I could not help but shed tears of joy and gratitude. It dawned on me that I have been very proud and confident about myself, confident about what I can do. That message called for the awareness that I am but weak and frail every time I get so conceited about myself. And in my helplessness, the Lord extended His hands full of concern, showing to me that His grace is enough and that He is always there for me. I just have to humbly surrender myself and allow Him to embrace me from the bounty of His love.

That awakening introduced the graceful pace for the formal four weeks of prayer exercises. I was already at home with silence. I was getting comfortable with prayer. This disposition lasted for a week until a big group of Australian guests came. They visited the Philippines for some outreach programs and will be staying at the retreat house for two weeks. These guests just graduated from High School and were also eager in making friends especially with us, Filipino seminarians. Personally, I found it difficult to ignore their relatively ‘bizarre' presence. This time, however, we were already centering on the reality of sin in our prayers. Deep within me, I can feel an enormous battle. It is a battle against myself. It is a battle against what I want to do and what I should need to do. I have struggled on how to find reconciliation within. I wanted to faithfully do what a retreatant should do. But I just couldn't. I felt what St. Paul felt as written in his letter to the Romans 7:14,

"We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me. I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it."

This awareness again pulled me down and snapped me back. To my senses, I was becoming conscious about how easy it was for me to be attracted to honor, riches and pride. I likewise saw these ways as a prevalent energy adopted by individuals and communities of our world today. Great indeed is the contrast from the ways of poverty-contempt of worldly pleasures-and humility as exemplified by the Lord Jesus. It was just so disheartening. I even felt like melting, melting in shame and regret. 

However, having been usurped in distressful lament, the Lord again sought for my gaze and had it fixed on him beyond the dimness of horizon. In my humblest prayer, I was captivated by my uplifting contemplation on the very life of Jesus himself. It was very much like personally journeying with Him. It was so special. It was so true. I believe it was the apex of my entire retreat experience. There was no need for rationalization, no need for intense thinking. There was just me and my dear friend Jesus. It was a journey within, a journey with Jesus.

And these were the lasting words to say after the momentary journey:

"The divine child whom I love to honor during Christmas, I came to embrace and cuddle under the warmth of a lowly stable. The boy who was lost in the temple after the feast of Passover, I was able to gleefully play and crack jokes with. I have seen the ever-present company of Him whose life was hidden before His baptism at Jordan. I was absorbed in drowning sadness and unfathomable fear as a dear friend welcomed His agonizing fate in Calvary. And finally, I likewise rose up in great jubilation as He, in glory, came back to life."

Jesus invited me to relish the beauty of experiencing Him so that I may long for Him forever. Friend, please don't let me stray from your company.

Sem. Christian Durango is a 4th Yr. Theologian from the Diocese of Dumaguete taking up Licentiate in Philosophy. He is currently the ALPA Coordinator of the UST-CS. This article ws made during his SPFY last year. 

No comments:

Post a Comment