By Gloria Michael Raj
“What’s next?” On the surface, this may sound like a simple question; but to many young people, especially to the 27 youths who decided to get away from the hustle and bustle of life for a weekend of silence with God, this question weighed heavily on our hearts and conscience. Life is a maze with unexpected twists and turns at every corner, and it can be challenging, trying to decide which path is right and aligns with God’s purpose and plans for our lives. It’s almost like the story of the disciples that were terrified when they saw Jesus walking towards them on water in Matthew 6:49. None of the disciples realized that they could do the same; all they needed was faith. Peter tried, but his doubts got in the way of his faith. During the introductory module to the retreat, we were all asked to talk about our reasons for attending the retreat and what we expected of it. Our responses, according to Rev. Fr. Ted Gonzales, a Jesuit priest based in Manila, Philippines, who led the retreat, could be summed up into one sentence : we were all searching. We wanted to be able to discern what God’s calling was for us; where did God want to lead us; how do we proceed and what’s stopping us from walking the path that has been set for us before we even came into existence.
The retreat, themed ‘Life’s Directions’, seemed therefore perfect for what our souls seemed to be searching for. The retreat comprised of 5 modules. They were, ‘Locating the Driver’, ‘Journeys Back Then’, ‘Attractions Distractions’, ‘Discover Your Centre’, and ‘Listening to God’s Call’. While I found all of these modules enriching and very eye-opening, if I had to choose one that had a profound impact on me, it would be, ‘Journeys Back Then’. This module taught us to thoroughly analyze different events in our past and the impacts they have had on our lives; we were asked to look at the best and the worst. Some events that were memories we would always treasure was something we were asked to go back to every time we felt lost; it’s sort of a happy place. There’s a reason we have those memories. Then there are things that have had negative impacts on us, and these are the ones, we realized, held us back from moving forward on the path God has set for us. We were taught to centre ourselves whenever the effects of the scars left behind by these negative events, distract us from God’s voice and calling for our lives. We meditated, and as we did, we “parked our troubles”, in the words of Father Ted, and could finally hear God’s voice. The experience was surreal.
My fear of reaching out into the unknown and delving deeper into this mystery of Christ’s presence in my life blinded me from seeing the loving presence of God that seeks to quench thirsting souls with living water that flows from the depths of Heaven. I chose to attend the retreat because I was on a search for clarity. It’s astounding how God reveals Himself to us in the simplest of situations. God doesn’t need extravagance, He doesn’t need perfection, all He needs is an open heart, ready and willing to listen to His voice.
But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.– Isaiah 40:31.