Be willing to re-prioritize, shake up and surrender all. Jesus’ tools of discipleship. Palpable, inspiring, taken-to-heart messages when we are tucked away in the silence of a weekend retreat, in full out surrender on a pilgrimage in a distant land or swept up after an encounter in the communion line after the healing and heart opening prayers of the Mass. And yet, will we continue to stand with Christ as we meet the challenges of a daily life grounded in the reality of relationships? Will we stand firm in the face of family who may balk at any challenge to status quo or return to a less life affirming way? Will His Way become our new reality, our consistent way of being? Our intention behind each action or word? Will we meet each challenge set before us with the highest response of love, compassion, mercy, forgiveness, generosity and peace?
In Matthew 5, Jesus calls the first disciples Peter, Andrew, James and John. We are told James and John were sitting in a boat mending nets with their father and that they dropped everything and left immediately. They left, in a moment of inspiration, a spur of the moment prompting. much as we might experience the initial invitation to arrive on retreat. In the ensuing chapters we are given a view of the days that followed as Jesus lays the groundwork for His fulfillment of the laws, awing and angering those around with His ability to compassionately cure and courageously challenge. The disciples are steeped in the intimacy of their relationship with Christ away from their familiar ties. Today’s reading arrives as Jesus actively prepares his disciples to be sent forth to act in all ways as He had. He knows how easy it will be to lose sight in the face of their own internal and others’ external rejection of His ways, if not yet deeply rooted.
After decades of listening to, or reading the Word, it always amazes me when I hear a word or phrase pop out for the first time. “When Jesus finished giving these commands to his twelve…he went away… to teach and to preach in their towns.” There is something so endearing in those words rising from the page and into my heart. A conscious journey by Jesus to places with our most intimate human relationships.
How many times have I prepared to leave a retreat, ready and inspired, enlivened and encouraged, with the question looming as I sense or fear my aloneness on return? “How? How do I return with Jesus in my heart? To truly bring him home?” And then the narrative paves the way, “Jesus returns to teach and to preach in their towns.” The reality. There is never a place or time we are alone. Where Jesus has not actively entered or already laid the road. We are never alone. We are always walking alongside Jesus. Jesus enters each situation before and with us. It is only ours alone to change our heart and ways. It is up to Jesus to do the rest.
M. Walsh is a retreatant of Mater Dolorosa in Sierra Madre and friend of the Passionist Retreat community.