THERE are a few things to go over before we begin this retreat (which will start on Sunday, May 14th, 2023 and end on Pentecost Sunday, May 28th) — things like where to find the washrooms, mealtimes, etc. Okay, kidding. This is an online retreat. I’ll leave it up to you find the washrooms and plan your meals. But there are a few things that are crucial if this is to be a blessed time for you.
Just a personal note…. This retreat is truly entering the “now word.” That is, I actually don’t have a plan. Everything I’m writing you is truly in the moment, including this writing. And I think that’s okay because it’s crucial that I simply get out of the way — that I “decrease so that He may increase.” It’s a moment of faith and trust for me too! Recall what Jesus said to the “four men” who brought in the paralytic:
When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Child, your sins are forgiven… I say to you, rise, pick up your mat, and go home.” (cf. Mark 2:1-12)
That is, I am bringing you before the Lord in faith that He is going to heal you. And I am impelled to do this because I have “taste and seen” that the Lord is good.
It is impossible for us not to speak about what we have seen and heard. (Acts 4:20)
I have experienced the three Persons of the Holy Trinity — Their presence, Their truth, Their healing love, Their omnipotence, and absolutely nothing can stop them from healing you — except you.
Therefore, what is needed during this retreat period is commitment. Every day, commit at least one hour minimum to read the meditation I will send you (usually the night before so you have it in the morning), pray with the song that may be included, and then follow any instructions. Many of you may end up spending even more time than that as God begins to speak to you, but as a minimum, “keep watch for one hour” with the Lord.cf. Mark 14:37
Let your family or roommates know that you are doing this retreat and that you are not going to be available during that hour or more. You are being given permission for a “holy selfishness”: to make this your time with God, and God alone.
Turn off all social media and put your devices away. Find a quiet place where you will not be disturbed, where you will be comfortable, where you can be alone with God to open your heart to Him. It could be before the Blessed Sacrament, your bedroom, your cottage… whatever you choose, make it known that you are unavailable, and avoid all unnecessary distraction. In fact, I recommend that you avoid as much as possible during the next two weeks the “news”, Facebook, Twitter, those endless social media streams, etc. so that you can listen better to the Lord during this time. Consider it a “detoxification” from the Internet. Go for walks. Rediscover God speaking through nature (which is really a fifth gospel). Moreover, think of this retreat as entering the “upper room” as you prepare yourself for the graces of Pentecost.
And of course, because this retreat is not in a conference center but within the context of the duties of your day, choose a time when your normal obligations (like cooking meals, going to work, etc.) won’t obviously conflict.
Make your space sacred. Place a crucifix beside you, light a candle, place an icon, bless your space with Holy Water if you have some, etc. For two weeks, this is going to be holy ground. It has to be a space where you are able to enter into silence and you can listen to the voice of God,cf. 1 Kings 19:12 who is going to speak to your heart.
Finally, this really is your time with God. It is not the time to intercede for others, do ministry for others, etc. It is the time for God to minister to you. So, on Sunday, simply offer up all the burdens of your heart to the Father, entrusting your loved ones and your cares to Him.cf. 1 Peter 5:7 And then let go…
Let Go… Let God
I don’t recall any healings or many miracles performed by Jesus where those involved were not committed in some way; where it did not cost them the discomfort of faith. Think of the hemorrhaging woman who crawled on her hands and knees just to touch the hem of Jesus’ robe. Or the blind beggar crying out in the public square, “Jesus, Son of David, have pity on me!” Or the Apostles stranded on the sea in a terrible storm. So this is the time to get real: to let go of the masks and the charade of piety we set before others. To open our hearts to God and allow all the ugliness, brokenness, sin, and wounds to come into the light. This is the discomfort of faith, the moment of becoming vulnerable, raw, and naked before your Creator — as though dropping those fig leaves under which Adam and Eve hid after the Fall.cf. Gen 3:7 Ah, those fig leaves that, since then, have tried to hide the truth of our utter need for God’s love and grace, without which we cannot be restored! How silly that we are embarrassed or put barriers before God as if He doesn’t already know the depth of our brokenness and sin. The truth will set you free beginning with the truth of who you are, and who you aren’t.
And so, this retreat requires not only your commitment but courage. To the hemorrhaging woman, Jesus said: “Courage, daughter! Your faith has saved you.” Matt 9:22 The blind man was exhorted, “Take courage; get up, He is calling you.” Mar 10:49 And to the Apostles, Jesus implored: “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.” Matt 14:27
There is the discomfort of becoming vulnerable… and then there is the pain of seeing the truth. Both of these are necessary in order for the Heavenly Father to begin your restoration.
I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine grower. He takes away every branch in me that does not bear fruit, and every one that does he prunes so that it bears more fruit. (John 15:1-2)
Pruning is painful, even violent.
…the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent are taking it by force. (Matt 11:12)
It is a treatment of the unhealthy or dead branches — either those wounds that impair our life in God and relationship with others, or those sins that require repentance. Do not resist this necessary pruning, because it is love, all love:
For the Lord disciplines him whom he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives. (Hebrews 12:6)
And the promise for passing through this pruning is what we all long for: peace.
For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant; later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. (Heb 12:11)
During this retreat, if it is possible, attend daily Mass. The Eucharist is Jesus, the Great Healer (read Jesus is Here!). However, it may not be possible for many of you, so do not worry if you cannot partake daily.
However, I strongly recommend that you go to Confession at some point during this retreat, especially after going “into the deep”. Many of you will probably find yourselves running there! And that’s wonderful. Because God awaits you in this Sacrament in order to heal, deliver, and renew you. If you feel the need to go more than once as things come up, then follow the Holy Spirit.
Let Her Mother You
Beneath the Cross, Jesus gave Mary to us precisely in order to mother us:
When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple there whom he loved, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son.” Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother.” And from that hour the disciple took her into his home. (John 19:26-27)
So, no matter who you are, invite the Blessed Mother “into your home”, into the sacred space of this healing retreat. She can bring you closer to Jesus than anyone else in creation, because she is His mother, and yours too.
I encourage you at some point during each of these days of retreat to pray the Rosary (see here). This, too, is a time of “holy selfishness” where you can bring your personal wounds, needs, and prayers for your healing to Our Lady and before God. For it was the Blessed Mother who told Jesus that the wedding had run out of wine. So you can go to her during the Rosary saying, “I am out of the wine of joy, the wine of peace, the wine of patience, the wine of purity, the wine of self-control,” or whatever it may be. And this Woman will take your requests to her Son who has the power to change the water of your weakness into the Wine of Grace.
Let It Sink In
You may be very excited about the truths you encounter in this retreat and will be eager to share them with family or friends. My suggestion is to go through the process in the silence of your heart with Jesus. You’re going through a spiritual surgery of sorts and need to allow this work to take its effects and for these truths to sink in. I’ll speak a little bit more about this at the end of the retreat.
Last, I have created a new category in the sidebar called HEALING RETREAT. You will find all the writings for this retreat there. And bring your prayer journal to write in or a notebook, something you will use throughout this retreat. See you on Sunday!
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