Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of June 2, 2003
Retreat, restore, return to life
Smooth out life's wrinkles with scheduled solitude
By FR. JACQUES JOHNSON
In today's world, most people I know are very busy. They have many pots on the fire at the same time. The pressure is on constantly. How are they to survive?
Reading the Gospel, one is amazed at how busy Jesus was with the training of his disciples, the proclaiming the Good News to various groups of people, the long journeys he covered on foot, the care he took of the suffering people. How did he manage?
The Gospels give us some indications of that. "In the morning, long before dawn, Jesus got up and left the house and went off to a lonely place and prayed there" (Mark 1:35). Again in Capernaum: "When daylight came, Jesus left the house and made his way to a lonely place" (Luke 4:42).
"Jesus made his disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to Bethsaida, while he himself sent the crowd away. After saying goodbye to them, he went off into the hills to pray" (Mark 6:46).
Furthermore, Jesus said: "When you want to pray, go to your private room and when you have shut the door, pray to your Father who is in that secret place, and your Father who sees all that is done in secret will reward you" (Matthew 6:6).
Jesus needed solitude and peace. He needed to get away from the crowds and in the peace and quiet he could hear the gentle voice of God speaking to his heart. And this inner voice of God calmed his frayed nerves, brought healing to his heart and peace to his soul.
In the process his mind cleared and the vision of what he was to do and say became clear. With renewed energy he could go and deliver the Good News with joy and fidelity to his call.
We too, like Jesus, need a quiet space where we can find peace and allow the presence of Jesus to enfold us and bless us with words that come to us from the very heart of God. It's not easy to do as we are involved in many things and in various demanding relationships with family, friends and colleagues on the job.
As a young priest assigned to the care of high school youth in a small college in northern Alberta, there were periods when my nerves got frayed with caring for these young men seven days a week. I learned that at times I just needed to get lost, move away, or just go crazy.
I discovered that the best place for that was the college chapel. For one thing the traffic was never very heavy there and I could just be alone. My first motive for going there initially was not to pray: it was to just get away.
And finally alone with myself, as I caught my breath, so to speak, I gradually felt peaceful, quietness gently invading me, with no particular thought or prayer. Just simply abiding there. And in the quiet peace that gently invaded me I felt really good, probably not unlike a child resting in its mother's arms. Secure, I could abide there with no consciousness of time.
After a while, perhaps a half hour or so I could go back into the fray with my batteries recharged, with renewed energy and with a new heart as the issues and battles I felt having to wage before had been - for the most part - dismissed in the process.
And I could actually really care for these boys again. Some call that meditation. I call it survival.
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