On Day 3 of the combined university retreat, things were starting to get more positive as it is through reconciliation and praying over that we find peace, love and hope, and these are things that matter so much to us, sinners. I could feel the joy building in me, knowing that I am loved by Jesus and it is all that matters and being ready to anticipate more from the retreat.
The sixth session was called,”You are the City on a Hill” and its central theme was Walking with Jesus. An analogy was given to us to help us better understand the concept of journeying with Jesus. It was in the form of a ship (Lordship and Discipleship) and the fuel that the ship needs to move (the fire – to be always be filled with the Holy Spirit).
Despite living a natural life (Bios), we are called to also live out our spiritual life (Zoe) and to avoid darkness and sin (Skotos) by relying on the spirit. The Holy Spirit is interpreted as life giving breath of God in the scriptures which brings Joy to people as well. In Acts 19:1-7, the bible passage speaks about the disciples of John at Ephesus. It speaks of Paul making his way to Ephesus where he found a number of disciples. ” John’s baptism said, Paul’s “was a baptism of repentance; but he insisted that the people should believe in the one who was to come after him-in other words Jesus. When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus and they began to speak with tongues and prophesy.”
The bible passage shows that when Paul asks the disciples whether they had received the Holy Spirit when they became believers, their answer was no as they were not told there was such a gift called the Holy Spirit. Just like an iceberg submerged in water, if we see our religion as something we profess, then it becomes spiritless faith which is the tip of the iceberg. We need to see the rest of the iceberg which through our Baptism and Confirmation encompasses our catholic faith. Confirmation is also a time when we are confirmed in faith and spirit.
The relevant question is “Are our Catholic communities Spirit-filled or spirit-less?” Do we view Confirmation as a ceremony or a testimony to testify our faith to others and to give them Jesus? Thus begins the road to discipleship with Jesus. There are bound to be obstacles and difficulties along the way but we have to deny ourselves (let go our ego, pride, greed), renounce our sins and take up the cross to follow Jesus.
To rise up against sin, we are encouraged to turn to the Holy Spirit to revoke sin through the power of grace and love. By being crucified to the cross, Jesus emptied himself onto the world in transfusing his divine life to save us and we are reminded to choose good over evil. In Luke 11:9-13, the bible passage invites us to use the power of prayer in the fight against sin. It is through effective prayer that God has presented us with the Holy Spirit to guide us in our lives. This bible passage is one of my favourites: “So I say to you: Ask, and it shall be given to you; search, and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For the one who asks always receives; the one who searches always finds; the one who knocks will always have the door opened to him.” This is the true meaning of trusting in Jesus more and to trample the lies of the world and Satan.
The seventh session was called, “A City on a Hill cannot be Hid” and its central theme was pertaining to Evangelisation. The focus was drawn to the Domine Quo Vadis Chapel in Rome which dates back to the year 1637 and serves as timely reminders to St. Peter and St. Paul. The church better known as Chiesa del Domine Quo Vadis is translated in English as “Where are you going?” Tradition says that St Peter had a vision of Jesus at this spot and it convinced him to go back to Rome to be crucified. Pope John Paul II has defined the place, “as of special importance in the history of the church and Rome”.
Many a times, we do not know where we are going, with no purpose in mind, we just drift aimlessly which hopefully is also not the direction of our Catholic faith. St Peter and St Paul have sacrificed their lives for the growth of the church and we can do so too by following their examples in our own way.
Pope John Paul II saw the need for Jesus and held him close to his heart by taking time off his busy schedule to pray silently. He saw the need of the fire in evangelizing the Good News to young people in many parts of the world. By personally meeting them, he reconnected them with Jesus again. I admire Pope John Paul II’s intimacy with Jesus – by always clinging on to the cross for it is our salvation.
We need to ask ourselves, “What does Jesus mean to me?” Only we know the answer and will help us build our lives on Jesus by strengthening our faith and enable us to evangelize to others who might be struggling and want to know Jesus.
Next we had an short activity titled “My Story” which was to look at areas where Jesus has touched us in his own way. Here is my list of instances where Jesus continues to enter my life.
1) During the many assignments, at my most stressful moments, it amazes me that I still find time for Jesus through the Catholic Society and I can get this through his guidance and support.
2) My prayers were answered in many small ways such as the healing of someone, better family support and knowing that I can pray for people also.
3) A time when I felt closest to God was probably during the European pilgrimage when I got to visit the place where Pope John Paul II was baptized and confirmed as a child. It reminded me that Jesus is with everyone, no matter who we are.
4) My favourite scripture is probably taken from Psalms 23: 1-6 which is the Psalm of the Good Shepherd – “Yahweh, I lack nothing. In meadows of green grass he lets me lie. To the waters of repose he leads me; there he revives my soul. He guides me by paths of virtue for the sake of his name. Though I pass through a gloomy valley, I fear no harm; beside me your rod and staff are there to hearten me. You prepare a table before me under the eyes of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil, my cup brims over. Ah, how goodness and kindness pursue me, everyday of my life; my home, the house of Yahweh, as long as I live! “
I think at times, we view evangelisation as an effort to convert people to Catholicism. For me, I know it is hard to convert people due to their own beliefs. However, the true evangelisation for me is not about converting others but giving them Jesus. They need Jesus to know that they are loved and assured that during their darkest moments, there is a light and that there is hope if they move towards it.
To end off the night, we were grateful for the staff at OYP; they had prepared for us a sumptuous BBQ dinner, a live band to usher the festive spirit and fellowship with the retreatants and priests.
Praise God for letting me be fixated on the cross that I can cling onto Him and we will go through the good and bad times together!
Written By: Darren Chan Keng Leong