Retreat is a military term, meaning to withdraw from the fight to reassess how you can better enter into and execute the fight so as to win victory. Yet for most of my life the retreats that I went on were really more like assaults or attacks. Good programs like SEARCH or TEC were more of a marshalling of forces to enter the battle and win new ground as opposed to withdrawing to regroup. So when I took my first silent retreat in 2000, it was something completely different.
I enjoyed it so much that in 2002 my 3-day silent retreat became an 8 day and then in 2004 my 8 day silent retreat became a 30 day. For 30 days I had two responsibilities: to pray 4 holy hours a day and to be prepared for my next hour of prayer. I spoke to my spiritual director- who guided me through Sacred Scripture, but aside from the responses at daily Mass, I listened to our Lord. And I heard him.
That is why I spent last week on another silent retreat. To hear the voice of Jesus.
What does Jesus say today? “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”
Love and commandments don’t often go together, we often think: “If you loved me, you’d let me do what I want!” But when we reflect, even on our own lives, we find recognize this as an immature vision of love. True love demands a true response. This is why married couples wear rings- to signify the commitment they made at before the Lord. Even when they’ve been married 50 years, they wear the ring.
Following Jesus’ commandments is our ring. Following Jesus’ teaching, as taught by the Catholic Church, is the way we show our love. The more perfectly our lives reflect the Truth of his teaching, the more perfectly our lives reflect the Beauty of his love.
Let me put this different way. If we sit here and think, “I’m a Catholic, but…I’m a Catholic, but I don’t understand what the Church teaches about abortion…but I don’t agree with Confession…but I don’t agree with the ban on artificial birth control…I don’t think I need to go to Sunday Mass to be holy…I’m a Catholic, but…”
If this is you attitude, with great confidence, I invite you to ask our Lord to teach you. Buy yourself the Catechism of the Catholic Church, find those passages you disagree with or struggle with and ask our Lord to teach you. For twenty minutes day, in quiet, as you read and listen to his teaching through his Church, I am confident that your heart will hear his voice.
As we hear his voice teaching in his Catholic Church, we receive joy. We understand with new confidence how he says, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” As the youthful rebellion of our hearts and minds is washed away in his love, we realize that there is nothing he will ask from us that he will not replace with the greater gift of his love.
Today, let us pray for new ears and new eyes to receive his call to live within his commandments, to live within his love.