Friday, June 17, 2011

Closing homily for retreat on June 17

Listening to St. Paul’s litany of adversity fills me with admiration and honor for the man who persevered in his mission to bring to Good News of Jesus Christ to many peoples. In a quick count, he lists twenty-six categories of multiple, severe calamites and adversities. It is mind-boggling. If we slowly absorb all his hardships, we would be astonished with the remarkable character of this man. I know I ought not to boast, but I am eternally grateful and proud of him.

I am proud of you as well. Though your stories of chaos and suffering are different from Paul’s, they are equal in dignity and worthiness. In other words, your pain and suffering are as real and as important as his, and thanks be to God that you came on this retreat to be with Jesus Christ. It takes real courage to do that and to let yourselves be vulnerable to the one who heals and saves. I don’t know what happened with each of you this week. God may have done numerous things with you. Perhaps Christ has saved you from something; perhaps he has saved you for something. All I know is you are here and you sought to be with the God who continues to create, to save, and to sustain you. I pray that you treasure this time with the Lord as you move forward into your summer season. I hope you can be like the mom of Jesus who treasures all these things in her heart and lets her song of joy emerge naturally from her core self.

Saint Ignatius, at the end of the Spiritual Exercises, hopes that retreatants are to see themselves as gifts by God to their very selves. We are to delight in these gifts, which means that we are to delight in our own goodness, worth, and dignity just because we are created and loved by God. As God is generous, we are to imitate God and give ourselves away to one another because love gives itself to others freely. Love consists in sharing what one has and who one is with another. Love expresses itself more fully in action than in words.

When we see the exhaustive way that God loves us, we can begin to love the world the way God does. What we see, what we acknowledge, what we affirm and praise becomes a way to see through God’s eyes. The lamp of the body is the eye and if your eye is sound, your whole body will be filled with light. So how do you see your retreat? What will Christ save for you to hold onto? We know from the first reading that our trials and toils are far from over, but I would gather we don’t feel so alone in our struggles. The Trinitarian God will work many angles to let us realize they are providing us with many spiritual resources.

We return to our daily lives – some of us to an empty house, others to a religious community, and some to spouses and families – and we all return to a larger community. What will we bring them? They will want to know what happened our own retreat – and more specifically, if we have changed. To be precise, they want to know if they have a valued part in our lives – even the person who rubs us the wrong way and annoys the Hades out of us. They want to know, in whatever unusual way, whether you still care for them and have a place for them and their chaos. Please. When you return to your home, community, or work, tell the people you missed them – even if you don’t mean it. Let them see in action how the retreat has worked within you. Let it emerge gracefully and with longstanding patience. Christ will be with you to gently let it unfold before you and them. Your retreat will be impelled to move outward like Mary’s song of praise that could no longer be contained when she saw her kinswoman, Elizabeth. Her song burst forth only after letting matters simultaneously settle and stir for a few months. Be patient. This special time is just about to bloom, and we can boast, but our boasting will be of those things that show our weakness because in that weakness, Christ hides and reveals himself. Our vulnerabilities that make us feel weak are what Christ uses to make him and us strong.

As we leave this sacred place, let us remember to save the treasures we have encountered here this week. We know these treasures are ones whether neither moth nor decay can touch. Bully, oppressor, victimizer, religious official, boundary transgressor, and unjust abuser of authority cannot touch these treasures. No one. Jesus Christ will save these for you. When we treasures these things, the Lord will save us from all distress because no harm or ruin can come to us. Give them over to Jesus and he will give them back to you in due time. He calls us to live as fully as we can with great joy, praise, and dancing. Our souls will be glad because it will receive what it most needs and desires – the presence of God through Jesus Christ and his Spirit. Our souls shall find the joy that stills all the turmoil around us and our lips shall praise the wonders of the Lord who remains steadfast and in radical solidarity with us.