I’ve always been intrigued by stories and movies of battles: maybe fantastical myths of Jason and the Argonauts or Sinbad; of battles throughout the development of the Roman Empire and of Europe; of our own growth as a union of States. In each of those stories, there is always one scene where the sounding of “retreat” is issued to the troops: they are instructed to “pull back” and retreat from present positions of danger and probable defeat…to retreat into safer ground, into a place to re-group, recover, and re-assess how to move forward once again.
As Lent falls upon us today; as we begin a forty day journey of retreat, I would like to invite you to reflect with me on what it is we might “retreat from” and then what it is—or who it is—we might “retreat into”. Just take the last three or four months, and we’ll quickly see what we might best retreat from:
- Our country saw a great divide in our recent national elections, the likes of which we have not seen before;
- Our own fellow citizens saw devastation all around them as the waves and winds of Hurricane Sandy caused destruction that can still be evidenced across the shores of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut;
- Economic irresponsibility and recklessness continues to shape our financial uncertainty, both as a nation and as individuals and families;
- Violence continues to grip our nation and our world as wars abound, individuals ravage, nations take siege, and innocent victims are silenced forever;
- Those seeking refuge from tyranny and oppression, from violence and danger are still “unwelcome guests”, “illegal aliens” in our land of freedom;
- We have lost so many parishioners in these last months to sickness and violence, some old and others young, some unexpectedly swift and some prolonged…all to the point that may jeopardize those fragile gifts of faith and hope which are ours with oft-great fragility;
- Those of us who, in the world, profess faith and practice religion are further and further chastised and castigated, relegated to the quietest corners of our communities; all while a new religion of personal opinion, anonymity, isolation, independence and irresponsibility are the creed by which ‘reasonable’ and ‘elite’ citizens govern God and re-define ‘the Good’.
And there are so many other things that we might find we must retreat from, in order for us to discover not only a deserved respite, but a keener vision about such realities. And as we retreat from such things, what is it that we “retreat into”?
- In this Year of Faith, we might retreat into the growth of our faith—not blind or stupid—but reflective and informed…a faith in which each of us might proclaim with renewed fervor, “I believe!”;
- Maybe we can take this sacred season of 40 days and retreat into a renewal of our deep appreciation for, and love of, the revealed, abiding love of Christ, poured out for us in the Holy Eucharist. We might visit in adoration the Blessed Sacrament exposed in our church every first Friday morning or every third Wednesday evening;
- We might benefit from commemorating the Stations of the Cross with our great Lord on the Fridays of Lent, or even stop in the church throughout any weekday and walk our own stations with Christ, letting Him help us to carry our own crosses;
- “Return to me with your whole heart; I am gracious and merciful, slow to anger and rich in kindness” says the Lord through the prophet Joel. We might retreat into the blessed rest of God’s embrace, simply contemplating God’s great love for every single one of us;
- Some of us may want to “give alms to another in secret”: by participating in the H2O Project again this Lent, we will be able to provide another permanent well of drinking water for a community that thirsts;
- “God made His Son to be sin, so that we might become the righteousness of God” writes St. Paul. We might retreat into the grace of God, to discover again the gift of our Savior’s love…maybe taking one Sunday—March 10th—and entering into retreat with fellow Catholics to ponder the freedom and new life God gives us whenever we return to Him.
Each of these possibilities hold out the invitation for every one of us to “retreat into” the deeper life of God; to “retreat into” Him who holds out so much for us: joy, holy company with the saints, renewed faith in His love, and countless other blessings.
Recall, too, in whatever you do: Christ came into the world to redeem the world, thus in our work and our prayer, we retreat from the world not to escape it or run from it; rather, we retreat so that we might re-enter it in order to transform it with the power and light of the Gospel.
Finally, for those of us who might wonder where we might find the time or limited energy to retreat in any of these ways this Lent, rest assured that whatever time—even small—that you give to such a retreat is a privileged time with God and within His Church. See this season as an opportunity to “redeem the time and effort you give” to God and His people. And God—who sees your goodness, even in secret—will repay you over and over.
Yours in Christ our Savior,
Fr. David LeFort