This week my father and I went on retreat to rest and refresh our souls this weekend. It was my second time and I invited my father to come along this time. Our retreat group’s focus is on building spiritual lives of men, esp. fathers and sons. My father and I thoroughly enjoyed our experience together of taking time to stop, look, and listen. To give you a good sense of what we try to stop, look, and listen to, see the “Imperatives of Jesus” from the Handbook of Spiritual Exercises. They are good questions to consider.
Love as I Have Loved You – the “new” and “greatest” commandment (John 13:34). I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another.
- Is the “greatest” commandment of Jesus the greatest commandment for me?
- What is love for me – standing with a person in good times and bad, for better or worse, in failure and success, in darkness and light?
- What healthy boundaries do I need to have in my life to be able to love?
- Do I believe Jesus does want me to love the way He loves and gives me the power to do so?
Change Your Attitude – the “first” commandment Jesus gave (Mark 1:15). The is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.
- Am I open to growth, challenges, new insights and experiences that will unlock new ways for me to live, worship, work and play?
- Do I realize that there are blind areas in my life that need to change and need the help of others to see?
- Do I believe that Jesus is calling me to a deeper change than just my behavior, but rather my heart, my attitudes and the source of sinful behavior?
- Am I open to honest criticism of my behaviors, attitudes and ways of living?
- Am I gentle with myself as I go through the growing pains of change?
Do Not Be Afraid – the commandment Jesus gave most often (John 14:27). Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.
- One of the two basic motives in life–love and fear–which do I choose most?
- Has fear prevented me from accepting responsibilities, new challenges, speaking the truth, living a free life?
- Why would Jesus give this commandment more than any other, over 80 times?
- Has fear caused me to wallow in guilt, force my opinion on others, try to control others to meet my expectations?
Forgive – “seventy times seven” (Matthew 18:21). Then Peter came and said to him, “Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often should I forgive? [Jesus answered, “I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times.”]
- Why would Jesus insist that forgiving is essential to entering His Kingdom?
- Why do people hold on to the poison of revenge, resentment, and hatred?
- What are the consequences of an unforgiving heart; what are the consequences of a forgiving heart?
- Does Jesus command us to forgive more for our sakes or for the sake of the person being forgiven?
- Am I able to ask forgiveness; and if not, why not?
Stay Awake – “You do not know the hour or the day” (Matthew 25:13). Therefore, stay awake, for you know neither the day nor the hour.
- How conscious am I of my actions–do I go through life reacting to events or making choices in a responsible way?
- Am I aware of the will of Jesus in the conflicts of society and the world, current events, social justice issues, a world of extremes (power, wealth, freedom)?
- Do I live mindful of choices I have in the present moment or hold on to the past which is over and the future which does not exist?
- Do I take time each day to meditate on the presence of God in my life and periodically take blocks of time to reflect on God’s wonders?
Believe in the Good News – Jesus’ mission to each of us and for each of us (Mark 1:15).
- Is Jesus a Person who has come to bring me joy, fulfillment, peace, freedom and love, or do I experience in my religion guilt, a lack of confidence, false humility, overbearing demands, and burdens too heavy to carry?
- Are the Gospels (Good News) a source I turn to or an obligation I need to read from time to time in the Bible?
- Is my attitude about myself one of gratitude or embarrassment, optimism or pessimism, freedom or confinement, joy or disappointment, love or fear?
- How does the Lord call me to proclaim, share and live the Good News?
Follow Me – our unique call from Jesus (Matthew 16:24). Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.”
- Do I believe Jesus has a unique call for me that He has given to no one else and that no else can do or be?
- What do I think that call may be?
- Does my fear of new challenges prevent me from following what I know is of God?
- Do the material things of my life and the comforts and securities I have amassed prevent me from following what I know is of God?
Give to the Poor – the road to “perfection” and treasure in heaven (Matthew 19:21). Jesus said to him, “If you wish to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to (the) poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
- Do I believe Jesus is telling the truth when He says, “Whatever you do for the least, you do for me,” or do I think He is exaggerating?
- Do I believe the worse condemnation in the Sacred Scriptures from Jesus is for those who do not help the poor (Matthew 25:41)? Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels…’
- Am I aware that my most precious wealth (family, friends, resources, faith, talents etc.) are all gifts from God that need to be shared with those less gifted?
- What “possessions” bring me true joy here on earth and can I take with me after I die?
Pray – the gift to be with Jesus (Matthew 26:41). Watch and pray that you may not undergo the test. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.
- Do I believe Jesus calls me to be His friend more than He calls me to be His servant (John 15:15)? I no longer call you slaves, because a slave does not know what his master is doing. I have called you my friends, because I have told you everything I have heard from my Father.
- Do I spend real time in quiet prayer so that I can grow in a deeper relationship with my God?
- Is my prayer based on a relationship with God whom I desire to know better, or an obligation to “get in” a set amount of prayers to appease God?
- Do I believe Jesus is present with me and desires me to be with Him when I choose to pray whether I am distracted or not distracted, bored or excited, disturbed or at peace?
Go in Peace and Be Cured – Jesus desires for all of us of faith (Mark 5:34). He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has saved you. Go in peace and be cured of your affliction.”
- Do I believe Jesus wants me to truly live in peace and be cured of my physical, emotional and spiritual diseases?
- Am I able to hand my diseases over to the Lord or do I have to fix them myself before I can approach God?
- Do I have faith not to lose heart when my cry for help appears not to be heard by God, but continue to ask for the Lord’s peace and cure?
- The peace of this world is an absence (absence of war, absence of life)–what is the Peace of Jesus, a Peace that this world cannot give?
(Fr.) Dennis JW O’Donnell, Ph.D.