Day 2 third session of the combined university retreat was called “You are the Light of the World” and its central theme was “Who is Defining Who We Are?” The hardest battle would be probably to be ourselves without any barriers or facades and if we are letting the secular world define who we are as a person, then we find that we are more susceptible to temptations.
In the book of Psalms, Psalm 139: 1-6 is in praise of God’s omniscience. The psalm goes like that , “Yahweh, you examine me and know me, you know if I am standing or sitting, you read my thoughts from faraway , whether I walk or lie down, you are watching, you know every detail of my conduct.” We are called to block out the secular world and listen to God’s message through the bible, group sharings in our own schools or through personal prayer.
Jesus is personally inviting us to build a Christian identity in him as we need to always remember that Jesus loves us. I learned that it is necessary to set aside time to just be still and rest in his presence. I just finished my examinations before attending this retreat and it has made me realise that success and failures could have its roles exchanged which are in the form of diminishing success and yet life-changing failures. Through our failures and crisis in life, Jesus can change us and draw us closer to him in the process.
During the retreat,we were told of the story of the “Empty Chair” which is a touching story of the power of prayer and God’s invitation for us who hunger to have a deeper relationship with him. Even in our emptiness and barrenness of our lives, Jesus promises that he will always be there for us through the Holy Spirit.
The next activity was “Come out of Hiding” which focused on the bible passage of the inward struggle taken from the book of (Romans 7:14-25). “The Law of course as we all know is spiritual but I am unspiritual, I have been sold as a slave to sin. I cannot understand my own behaviour. I fail to carry out the things that I want to do, and I find myself doing the very things I hate.”
It is a constant struggle for me and everyone to choose between right and wrong which decides who we are actually. There are two distinct roles that have come to define me, and they are self-worth and rejection. Self worth in the sense of unworthiness that I am not worthy of Jesus’s forgiveness due to my repeating the same sin over and over again and that I do not belong to his flock of sheep. Self rejection in the sense that all hope is gone and that sin has come to define me. The feelings just get worse and worse which affects me on many levels as often we run away from our own self and our sins.
Time and patience are needed to find Jesus again and to know that he is always with us in our brokenness so that we can have the courage to seek his mercy, and we should not let our sins hold us back from experiencing Jesus.
The fourth session was called “Walking in the Light” and its central theme was to acknowledge that there can be only One King, which is Jesus. We are battling many wars in our lives due to the presence of many kings (Materialism, Consumerism) other than Jesus who is our one and only King.
The pivotal point of this session was the wise men in the Nativity Story who embarked on a journey together to pay homage to Jesus whom they recognized as the Messiah. To them, the journey was important and the search necessary. The wise men were ready to meet with Jesus and submit to him by presenting their own treasures to Jesus. The question is “Are our treasures open or closed to Jesus?”
If it is closed, than we are like Herod, who sits on the throne to wait. The throne represents the comforts in our lives and we feel that things are going so well that we do not need Jesus. We desire to be autonomous and want to write our own story. This is where some people try to outsmart the system by taking our Catholic practices for granted such as a marriage where it becomes a process instead of a journey. We must avoid “Lip-Service Christianity” which is the manipulation of God and leaving out our faith on a surface level. Indeed, the lordship of Christ is not a momentary decision but a life-long commitment which is the reason why Catholic churches have special programmes for couples considering marrying in church.
I learned to be sincere in my prayers which is to pray for assistance, rather than demands from God. It is essential to make God the first resort and not the last resort in our lives. If God becomes our last resort, it weakens our faith as it becomes a mentality that we pray to God only in time of trouble and need. As young Catholics, we are called to open our own treasure (needs or sins) to Jesus in showing our readiness to change ourselves.
The wise men were told in a dream to take a different way after meeting Jesus and not go back to Herod. The misconception is that “Many of us want to be good to meet Jesus” but the reality is to “Meet Jesus, and then you will become good.”
The fifth session of Day 2 was called “Bringing Things to the Light” and its central theme was Jesus and his family. It puts the spotlight on the ancestry of Jesus (Matthew 1: 1-17). It speaks of the different people in Jesus’s lineage from Jacob to Ruth who struggled with their own fears and temptations. This is the crucial part of the retreat as I went for the Sacrament of Reconciliation (I have to go for recon more often!) and praying over by the dedicated OYP intercessory prayer team.
It was a night where I let go of all my burdens that were holding me back, and we were encouraged to create a gratitude list to thank God for all that he has been doing for us. Here is my list of 10 things for which I am truly grateful:
1) Parents, Relatives, Friends
2) Teachers who have encouraged me
3) Priests that I know who have affirmed me
4) SIM-CS community
5) Animals (By caring for them, I find myself in them)
6) Gift of Writing
7) Courage to confess my sins
8) Passing my first semester in SIM
9) Speaking through the people in my life and music
10) Career opportunities
Praise God that he has given me the courage to seek self-renewal through healing and repentance!
Written By: Darren Chan Keng Leong