Give a few moments to letting the inner self find some quiet
As always it helps to close your eyes and to give a few moments to letting the inner self find some quiet. You are here to receive some new light on your life. Ask to be able to get in touch with your deeper desires. Lord Jesus, you said that you are the light of the world and our “way, truth and life”. Grant me to discover how to journey with you in this Advent time towards newness of light, towards you.
On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure-chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road.
Faith needs to be counter-cultural, not in the sense of being hostile to everything modern, but rather as alert to the darkness around us
- The Magi story ends with a change of direction where they are warned in a dream not to return to Herod and to depart to their own country by another way. In the light of this we can reflect on two concluding themes for our retreat: God rescuing us from evil and how discovering Christ means living differently.
- Dreams play an important role in the Bible and indeed in Matthew’s gospel. Think of St Joseph’s dream telling him to marry Mary. Without the message of their dream, the Magi could easily have collaborated innocently with Herod’s murderous plot. The last two words of the story may also have a special significance: “another way”. So these final words can remind us how faith entails a different way of life.
- The last line of the 'Our Father' - Deliver us from evil implies that we can often need God’s guidance and protection. If the star spoke to the Magi from outside, the dream speaks from inside. Although it is not explicit in Matthew’s text, this dream indicates how the Spirit acts in our lives. Jesus at the Last Supper promised to send the another Paraclete (literally defence advocate) to be our defender in the trials and complexities of life. Even after their encounter with the Child Jesus, the Magi needed a deeper grace to save them from evil, from Herod who had appeared trustworthy. What are some of the attractive but deceptive surfaces that we need to see through today? Give thanks for times when you have been saved from danger.
- Faith involves a battleground. The “world” in John’s gospel is loved by God so much as to send his Son, but the “world” is also a negative word, a place of resistance and refusal to God. Therefore faith needs to be counter-cultural, not in the sense of being hostile to everything modern, but rather as alert to the darkness around us. Try to make this personal, identifying prayerfully some of the attractive but shallow tendencies you see around you and which can undermine the quality of your Christian life.
Talk To God
Being a Christian means being changed by the encounter with Christ
- Being a Christian means being changed by the encounter with Christ and often choosing to resist the dominant lifestyle. In his encylical Laudato Si Pope Francis’ focusses on this challenge of how we see ourselves in this world. If we humans forget faith and put ourselves at the centre, then what is convenient becomes acceptable and “all else becomes relative”. A vision rooted in Christ asks us to “look at reality in a different way” – exactly the invitation of the final two words of the Magi text. In this spirit we are encouraged to live “a lifestyle and spirituality” that could “generate resistance” to many of the superficial assumptions of today’s culture.
- How can you embody the differentness of being a Christian? Can the horizon of our personal prayer embrace social challenges? Can it become a source, not just of individual transformation, but of an alternative way of acting in this world? These are not easy questions but our retreat needs to include them prayerfully. What Jesus so often called the Kingdom entails a new vision of God and of reality. All genuine religion is about transformation not just of the self but of the wounded world around us. Think of those who allowed the urgency of the gospel to lead them into courageous commitment: Blessed Oscar Romero could not keep silent about the evils around him and so he was silenced! As is sometimes said, if they arrested you for being a Christian, would they find enough evidence to convict you?
- What are the foundations of Christ’s new Kingdom? Surely the most challenging summary of his overthrow of worldly values comes in the Beatitudes. Here we have perhaps an autobiographical account of Jesus’ heart. You can ponder them slowly as invitations to a daily conversion of your own heart. But be careful not to not fall into the trap of making them too otherworldly. Surprisingly, they are true even in this life. Surely it is happier to be gentle than aggressive, to forgive rather than to resent, to nourish peace rather than hostility.
- T. S. Eliot wrote an unusual poem called “Journey of the Magi”, where he stressed more the struggle than the joy. Seeing the Birth of Christ was like “our death”.
We returned to our places, these Kingdoms,
But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation
Our journey also can be both liberating and healthily disturbing.