Saturday, March 26, 2011

Notes from a Recent Retreat

These are notes I used recently in a retreat talk.

Reconciliation

• What is reconciliation? It is to accept ourselves as we were made, to acknowledge our choices, and to allow God's glory within us to be held by Christ. Reconciliation is integrating who we are with what we have done and allowing Christ to befriend us and make us the creation that God intended. We establish right relations.
• Fruit: peace, comfort, feeling settled, confident that you've done your best.
• Christ wants to help you love yourself.

1. Re-imagine Jesus Christ

• Learn to behold Christ. Contemplate him. Is he flat and one-dimensional? Is he the only one in prayer? I guarantee you that you will be satisfied. Ask that you come to a deeper, more intimate knowledge of the man.
• Our starting point is to behold the man. It is a good practice for us to separate Jesus of Nazareth from our Christ of faith. We model our lives after Jesus, the man, the one who was like us in our humanity. It is because he was a man that makes him so extraordinary.
• We really do have to get to know him and the best way for that to happen is to challenge our assumptions. Challenge what you know about Christ. We have to learn how to meet Jesus again as if for the first time.
• Personally intimate; If the heart of Jesus isn't there, then think of another image.
• Read the Gospels and pay attention to the feelings of Jesus or of the disciples. When you come to an emotion, just linger. Wonder about it. Align your feelings to theirs. Ask Jesus to share his feelings - even if they are dark or negative.

2. Rehabilitate our image of God.

• God has to be accessible. Ponder over the characteristics of God and God's abiding presence throughout salvation history. Focus on what God desires.
• To whom do we pray? We often don’t know and blur the distinctions. We know that when we pray to one we pray to all, but it is helpful to develop our friendship with each unit of the Trinity.

3. Cherish your Friendship with God.

• And so we behold the man. Just as we gaze upon a painting in a museum, we gaze upon Jesus and appreciate who he is. We notice the tiny details of his life that reveal and hide something special. It is in these distinctions that we find God’s glory.
• Beholding is like falling in love. You see new details and you become fascinated. You find something distinctively personal. Your heart has to fall in love with Jesus.
• When we pray, we look into his eyes so one day we can see through his eyes. Facial expressions, tone of voice, body language and posture. Is he relaxed? Glancing away? Does he look at your with love and compassion?
• Know what he is feeling. Ask him. Remember that we relate to God as we relate to other. If we have patterns of communicating that are problematic with others, we will replicate the same tendencies with God.
• You will become what you behold. When we contemplate his humanity, we see his divinity. It is being transfixed. Our senses and understanding are transported to a new realm where we cannot go one our own.

4. Be Gentle

• For God's sake, be gentle with yourself. You are not perfect. You can't achieve much in prayer, so take the pressure off yourself. Many people think they are responsible for their own progress.
• Love yourself enough to let Christ love you. In prayer, after you have beheld Christ, let him behold you. Let him tell you how beautiful you are to him, that he misses you and wants to spend more time with you. Let him caress your face with his hands or massage an aching or hurt part of your body. Give him the opportunity to actually speak tender, caring words to you.
• God does not act through force. God acts in the gentlest of ways (1 Kings 19). God will not appear with trumpets sounding, but in that small sweet voice or the appearance of a tiny bird or butterfly. You will notice God's message, but it is not going to bang you over the head.

5. Heart over Head; Feelings and Desires

• Prayer is effective when your heart wins out over head. You need both, but we suppressed our heart so much that it distrusts that we want it to do its job. We have to find ways to open it up once again. It yearns to be free, and our head bullies it and dominates.
• Name your desires; know your feelings; this is very difficult to do. We have so many feelings at one time, we get too confused and we cannot begin to isolate our strongest feelings and needs. Refrain from judging them.
• Culture, movies, books.

6. Let Christ Act and Speak First

• What do we want?
   o To be cared for. To matter. To have meaning.
   o We want our voices heard.
   o To belong, to feel honored, and to be respected
   o To have an intimate touch by someone who loves us
   o We crave intimacy

7. Distractions in Prayer

• When we gaze upon Ignatius of Loyola tells us that true contemplation is when you gaze upon Christ and all the stuff of March 2011 rushes to the foreground. And we all need the consoling, reconciling presence of our Christ of faith. These are not distractions, but the core of our prayer. These are areas Christ wants you to let him into.
• Experience of forgiving parents; I cannot achieve it on my own; Christ has to give it to me; and it only comes through a deeper love, a deeper affection. Reason won’t do it.

8. Memories

• How does Christ see me? How does Christ feel about me? Where was he present in my life's events?
• Some memories are too painful to touch. Our will is too strong.
• Environmental project: pruning the vines.

9. Our Bodies; Our Selves

• Bring sexual self into prayer. Intimacy is found here. Free yourself from the constraints you put on yourselves. See yourselves as lovable sexual beings – glorified by God.
• You won't be free until you accept your humanity. Jesus had it too. Desires are good and life-giving.

10. Beg

• Beg for what you want; at each prayer, ask for a grace. At the end of the prayer, we check to see if we received the grace. Get over your timidity. Christ wants to tell you that you are worth it. Let Christ spoil you with his generosity.

11. Healing and Reconciliation of Sins

• Know what Jesus Christ thinks of our sins. They often are not what we expect them to be. What do we normally think of sin? Anger, masturbation, impure thoughts, speaking a bad word. All sin has to deal with relationships, with transgressing boundaries.
• We also have to look at the ways our boundaries are transgressed. This is where we need healing and to receive forgiveness from others. We need to know that what happened to us should not rightly have happened. The problem is that we develop.
• Often what happened to us is not our fault. We confess our sins when in fact we were sinned against.
• Give him a chance. We are not God. Christ is God. This is not an easy lesson, but we put ourselves in the place of God when we control and judge our actions and those of others. Let go of your need to be in control.
• Don’t try to change another person. Respect a person's free will.

12. Be Open (The Last, and a very important one)

• Be opened to the possibilities.
• Daydream. Often. Notice them.
• Look at all the ways we say no to invitations. Be opened. I have come across this as the most significant part of our spiritual formation. We are unaware of how many times we stop ourselves from receiving grace.

Know that we are in this for the long haul. We may not change overnight. We can have the joy of coming to know Christ again for the first time if we only behold him and let him behold us. We spend our time in fascination.