I am on retreat this weekend, and will be sharing meditations and talks with you. It is not a moment too soon to take this break from the daily grind, and I hope not many moments too late.
St Luke tells us about the disciples on the road to Emmaus (Lk. 24:13-35). They were walking along, talking about everything that had happened concerning the death and resurrection of Jesus. He walks with us, too and, like them, we don't always recognize him.
"What words are these that you are exchanging as you walk and are sad?" He asks this of us, too, and desires that we talk with him about what troubles us.
Cleophas answered him, "Art thou the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?" Of course Jesus knew about the events in which he was the protagonist, just as he knows what is troubling us. But, he wanted them to express themselves from their hearts, like he wants us to.
"We were hoping that it was him who should redeem Israel." Perhaps they'd put their hope in politics, thinking that Jesus would free Israel from the yoke of a foreign oppressor. Perhaps we, too, place our hope in politics, and his ability to redeem the country and free it from oppressors who attack people of faith.
"Moreover, certain women of our company, who were at the tomb before it was light, astounded us, and not finding his body, they came, saying that they had also seen a vision of angels, who said that he is alive. So some of our company went to the tomb, and found it even as the women had said, but him they did not see."Like them, there are signs in our lives that we don't see. What is Jesus's response?
"O foolish ones and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken!... And beginning then with Moses and with all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things referring to himself."He spoke to them through scripture, just like he speaks to us. Fr. John gave us a practical tip regarding how to read scripture.
Think of it as a collection of love letters. If my wife sent me a love letter, I would drop everything as soon as possible, go to a private place, open and devour every word of it, absorb it, and then save it in a special place where only I could get at it. I would take it out periodically to reread it, to experience it anew, maybe even years or decades after I received it.
A retreat is like a second honeymoon. What with children, pressures, responsibilities, stress and the like, a couple can get so absorbed in their roles that they become like strangers living with each other. It is good periodically to get reacquainted with one's spouse, to revisit the original vision of what life together in marriage would be.
We are on retreat to reacquaint ourselves with Our Lord, and his plans for our lives. We are here for an encounter, just like the one that happened on the road to Emmaus.
I would be upset with my wife if she used our second honeymoon time on the beach together to network socially, or keep abreast of newsworthy events. It wouldn't be a very good second honeymoon, nothing like the first one when our world was a unity.
Similarly, it's good to get away from the social and regular media periodically, and refocus on unity with Our Lord.
It is good to rekindle one's eucharistic amazement, which is analogous to Gary Smalley's "wow factor" in marriage. I know the experience of seeing my wife and thinking "Wow! Here is someone who loves me despite all these years of living with me, despite knowing nearly everything about me."
I may experience the same amazement with my children. "Wow! This is an incarnation of my wife's and my love."
Whether I say it aloud, or not, she and they can tell I think it. They feel it; they see it on my face or in my eyes.
The same is true of the Eucharist. "Wow! Here is Our Lord who is waiting for me, staying here so that I can spend time with him, who loves me despite my defects.
Jesus opened the disciples' eyes in the breaking of the bread. "Was not our heart burning within us while he was speaking on the road and explaining to us the Scriptures?"
He did this to Karol Wojtyla in the first mass he celebrated as a priest on 11/2/46. His eyes were opened to the sacrifice of the mass at his hands, and he saw it as the place where time and space merge into the drama of Golgotha.
Many if not most of us have experienced moments of closeness to Our Lord. We all get caught up in things, and tend to forget.
It is important to get reacquainted periodically with the one who loves each and every one of us madly. It is a good time to ask him about the goals he would like us to strive towards.
Mary can also tell us many things about him if we turn to her, just as she did to St. Luke whose gospel is filled with details about the birth of Jesus that only she would have known.