“We have come to believe in God's love: in these words the Christian can express the fundamental decision of his life. Being Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction” (Deus Caritas Est).
These words from Pope Benedict sum up the experience of our Fall Retreat: Into the Darkness You Shine. We have come to believe in God’s love – that light that shines into the darkness of our brokenness, the pain from the hurt we’ve experienced, the parts of our humanity dead from sin. God’s love for us is light, and in Him, there is life.
“I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (Jn. 8:12).
We have come to believe in God’s love. This is indeed a fundamental decision that must change everything. The decision to believe in a personal God, intimately involved in my existence, who longs to be in relationship with me, so much so that he sends his only begotten Son to take on man’s flesh as a sacrifice of redemption is in itself an event. The essence of Christianity is not rules and regulations, holy days of obligation, commands, lofty and abstract ideas, but a living and breathing relationship with a God who manifested his love for humanity in the Incarnation, Death and Resurrection of His Son. A relationship with Christ changes everything – it is a fundamental decision.
It’s remarkable how fundamental it really is. Life, in itself, thrusts us into the midst of relationships. We are inextricably bound up within them – family, friends, relatives, etc. In our most natural form, we are made for and are dependent upon human relationships. It is not coincidental that God meets us within this experience of humanity and calls us into relationship. The relationship with God is fundamental in precisely this fashion. It is a relationship with the Mystery in whom I have my being and dependence. Recognition of this Mystery, of this personal God, changes everything – not unlike a romantic relationship, or a beautiful friendship that demands everything, including change. Yet, the demands are submitted to freely, and bring about greater freedom.
The encounter with Christ fully awakens my humanity. The light of truth permeates my entire being, and makes life fully life. This Light makes man fully man.
In the midst of the 60 people mysteriously gathered together for the weekend – people of completely different backgrounds, different ages, desires, hopes, thoughts, pasts – Jesus Christ was present. He presented himself as one to be encountered. He shined his light into the dark places of our lives. He called each of us out of the darkness and into his marvelous light.
This experience is a great example of the Church. The Church is the place where Christ becomes present for us today. What is present in the Church is nothing other than the dynamic relationship of a God in love with his children. This Presence is alive and made known through a cloud of witnesses – a group to which we are all called, a group that makes the light of Christ a lived experience in the world.