For the second time, I was able to attend the Holy Week retreat organized by the RA sisters. And it was purely grace from the Lord.
I remember it was the first week of March when I asked Sr. Maitel if I could still join this year's Jesus Week (my first Jesus Week was in 2015 in San Simon, Pampanga). She told me to text her again on March 10 to see if there are still available slots. I understand that they give priority to first-timers. And so I really begged God to allow me to spend my Holy Week with Him in the Jesus Week.
Thankfully, my prayer was answered with a YES. :)
But come Holy Monday, something came up which made me think again if I would still go. The retreat will start on Holy Wednesday. By Holy Tuesday, I was still unsure.
Divine intervention came through my angel on earth. So I was able to go.
Up in the hills, away from the noise and chaos of the city, I spent my Holy Week in silence, in an intimate vacation with my God.
|Assumption Sabbath Place. Such a beautiful home.|
We were more than forty in the group but God has been so personal to me like He was with the rest of my fellow retreatants. Every encounter (be it a personal reflection or a group sharing), every session, and even every meal, was an invitation to be in union with the Lord. Indeed, I felt extremely close to Him. And I didn't even exert much effort to come near Him, it was He who constantly pursued me. He made His way to me. Such a perfect Lover.
|Let Him love you. ♥|
Every day of those five days was special. From Cry Wednesday, to Envy Thursday, to Worst Friday to Black Saturday, to Winner Sunday - every detail was a loving gesture from God. (Ask me about the descriptions for each day. :D)
And I couldn't help but be in awe of how great this God is. My heart is just filled with joy and gratitude for everything He has revealed to me during the retreat.
I came up to Baguio with a lot of "baon" - worries, fears, hurts and pains, frustrations, confusion, questions (specifically "what", "why", and "when"), I came down to Manila with peace, joy, and clarity. Of course it wasn't some sort of magic that everything in my personal baggage just disappeared, but I've had a change of perspectives and the load I was carrying became so much lighter.
|One of my favorite spots in the retreat house.|
If I were to pick my top three moments of grace - my most favorite encounters during the whole retreat, they would be the following (in order of occurence):
1. Confession with Fr. Mon (Maundy Thursday)
I didn't have the intention to confess just yet. I originally scheduled it for Friday. But God said it was time. So He brought me to Fr. Mon. And I did not have to wait for a long time, because unlike in my previous confessions, I was actually the first in line.
I came to Fr. Mon with the list of my sins, keeping in mind that I wasn't there to consult (we were also reminded to limit our conversation so as to give time to others; besides, there's a separate time for consultation). So when I was done enumerating my sins, I was expecting Fr. Mon to say a few words then give me my penance. I did not expect silence. I guess it was after a minute or two when he tapped my shoulder and said, "You know what, everybody deserves a graceful exit. God will give you a graceful exit. Believe that." He went on sharing a part of his own journey before he became a priest. And the whole time I was listening to him, I felt like listening to God himself. I have this little book entitled "The Magnificent Vision: Seeing yourself through the eyes of Christ." And my confession with Fr. Mon was like reading the whole book in one session. It was an authentic Christ experience and I will forever be grateful to God for speaking so powerfully through Fr. Mon.
|I'm with one of the best Salesian priests! ♥|
2. Emmaus Walk with Leslie M. (Good Friday)
I'm a decade older than Leslie but she has taught me A LOT during our Emmaus Walk. We only had a few things in common, but our many differences made me realize how blessed I am with what I have. And what I have is not little after all. Leslie is a living proof that perspectives matter - that it's not what happens to you that would either make you or break you - it's how you react to them. Like what I told her, I admire her strength. Hearing her share her life, I couldn't help but be amazed at her resilience and faith. Mas malalim ang hugot ng batang ito pero iba rin ang katatagan niya. Sobrang nakakabilib lang. After our conversation, I became more grateful for the people in my life - my family, my friends, Paolo. Sometimes I fail to appreciate the little things because I am striving for something more. But my "now" is actually more than enough. It's just that the human in me has lost a sense of contentment. And God needed to use Leslie to point that out. Too bad I wasn't able to take a photo with her :(
3. Consultation with Sr. Fidelis (Black Saturday)
This was the time when all (as in ALL - the "what", the "why", and the "when") my questions were answered. Speaking with Sr. Fidelis gave me CLARITY. I left the room with a better understanding of the "why" and knowing exactly what to do next. As to the when, well, as what Sr. Fidelis said, "hindi nagmamadali ang Diyos." What I have is the now. And it is my only moment, so why bother about something that is yet to come? Totoo nga namang kahit kailan hindi ako pinabayaan ng Diyos. Alam kong Siya na rin ang bahala sa bukas ko. I just have to allow Him to surprise me with His best. :)
|My new spiritual director! ♥|
Jesus Week was a time for me to rediscover the joy in serving, the joy in suffering, the joy in waiting, and the joy in letting go. Yes, there is joy in all those circumstances! But you will only be able to discover and experience that joy if you look through the eyes of love and of faith.
If my first Jesus Week experience was a time to HEAL, this time it was a reminder to REST:
Rest in the love of the Lord. Take time to breathe and savor the present moment, because it's the only real moment. Smile. And cast your worries upon the Lord. He cares for you, and He loves you so much.
Examine one's life and evaluate the areas that need healing or improvement. This entails silence. You really need to spend some quiet time with God to be able to fully evaluate your current state.
Surrender everything - plans, hopes, dreams, frustrations, and ALL. The hardest yet most liberating thing to do is to let go. And let God. :)
Trust in the Lord's promises; He will fulfill them all in His time. God can and will never lie. He keeps His promises. We can hold on to His Words. Sabi nga ni Mrs. V., "may palabra de honor ang Diyos."
And this reminder to REST is not only for the Holy Week - but for our day-to-day living - for the rest of our earthly lives.
Jesus Week may be over but for me, the real challenge has just begun. It's been two weeks already and I haven't perfected that RESTing part yet, but slowly, I am learning. And I pray for the grace of consistency and perseverance. Because on my own, I cannot, but with God, I CAN. ♥