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Friday, June 3, 2016

Daughters of St. Paul: Subject: Retreat Day 2: Your relationship with God

Retreat Day 2: Your Relationship with God
I always remember the wise words spoken in a Pastoral Ministry class which could be summarized: "Don't think that people only begin to have a relationship with God when and if they begin to converse about it formally. Remember, God has been in relationship with each person from the beginning of their lives and all along their journey."

Each one of us, whether we realize it or not, has had God walking along with us our entire lives. Perhaps we were not so aware of him, but this good God was definitely aware of us. For those of us who are baptized, we know our relationship involves the Trinity: the loving, provident Father, the self-sacrificing Son, and the gift-giving Spirit. The New Testament tells us that in the fullness of time God sent his Son to bring us salvation. Then at Pentecost the Holy Spirit descended to empower all believers to live and proclaim this new way. The Acts of the Apostles chronicles the activities of those who are sent, showing that God's Spirit continues the work begun by Jesus through the actions of the early Christians.
We need confidence so that we hold onto the God who is so good and caring, not allowing ourselves to be overwhelmed by our own limitations!
Today, we followers of Christ, belonging to "the household of God" (Eph.2:19) are writing our own “Acts of the Apostles” (those sent!). We are writing it with our lives, and all the world is reading it. What do those around us make out as they read? Hopefully they are able to clearly recognize the life of the Son in whose image we are being formed. It is a gradual transformation—or divinization, as our brothers and sisters of the Eastern tradition call it. God slowly refines us, purifying us to become lovers like unto himself. In the meantime, the Spirit mysteriously works, despite our limitations and failings, to give life to the world.

St. Augustine encourages us to go to God walking with both feet, specifying these feet as humility and confidence. First we need humility because we need to be profoundly aware of who we are and whose we are. This is such an important grounding; otherwise, we may lose ourselves in the many false messages swirling about us, telling us who we should be and what we should have in order to be “somebody.” Secondly, we need confidence so that we hold onto the God who is so good and caring, not allowing ourselves to be overwhelmed by our own limitations! We walk by faith, and with our brothers and sisters who have gone before us, the saints, we know we can accomplish much good since we are in Christ. We just need to let him work in us.

I would like to suggest for this summertime retreat day that you do three things:
  1. Thank the Lord for his presence in your life since the beginning of it
  2. Recall who you are (God's beloved child) and whose you are (you belong to the Father, Son and Spirit!)
  3. Make an act of trust or confidence in God as you continue to love and serve in your own walk of life

As a follower of Christ, a member of God's household, your life and your activities make a difference for those around you, and much more than you think! Your faith-filled life and activities are a continuation of the same Spirit that worked in the life of Christ and in those of his Apostles. That sacred story continues with your own journey. Ask the Lord that this summertime retreat may bear fruit in your everyday life: family, work, relationships, etc. Perhaps there is one specific area where you especially need the Spirit to powerfully work. Ask for that now:
Before You, Lord, in Prayer
Lord, I trust in you who bless my life in so many ways. As I make my way through this day, help me hear your invitations and act upon them. 

Give me the courage to say "yes" to you in the opportunities that present themselves: to do good, to say an encouraging word, or to show kindness and understanding when it is lacking.

May all that I do be a continuation of the work you started on earth. May it truly bear fruit that will last because it is done in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Book Suggestions
Bishop Simon Barrington-Ward knows that your relationship with God begins in simplicity, and so he starts with the simplest of all prayers, the Jesus Prayer. Take a moment to journey with him into a deepened relationship through this simple yet profound prayer.

“Prayer is essentially an entering into that knowledge of the divine love holding us. It is an entering into being loved—and even while we are dirty, broken, battered, and may feel unworthy, we are in reality being swept into this tremendous acceptance. I believe that this is the beginning and the end of prayer—being grasped by this love. As we dwell in that love, and rest in it, we find ourselves rejoicing and giving thanks.

“Of course we all have an instinctive sense—which you can't help having if you become aware of being in the presence of God—of being unclean, unholy, unready, and that feeling can rightly be painful. But, at this point, we invoke the name of Jesus: a name to which the seventeenth-century Welsh poet and Anglican priest George Herbert, using the form "Jesu," wanted to give the meaning "I ease you"—a name which for him expressed the love that bids us welcome and wants to make us at home and event to wait upon us, as Christ waited upon his disciples, washing their feet. As we invoke Jesus's name, we must let God's "yes" to us in Christ overcome all our negative feelings and affirm us fundamentally.”

Simon Barrington-Ward, The Jesus Prayer A Way to Contemplation, pp.22–23

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