Our five-day retreat began by the invitation to disconnect from our routine life as a prerequisite to enter into the sacred presence of God. Fortunately, the Benedictine Retreat House provided a good venue to disconnect us from our busy academic life. This enabled us to be mindful of ourselves and God. To be in God’s presence requires us to dispose of ourselves in a prayerful manner. By doing so, we were able to communicate with God through silence and words. It was not easy to be disconnected from our routine life. However, by God’s grace, I was able to live in a sacred moment with Him. When we disconnect ourselves from the routine realm of our life, our “chronos” sense of time turns into a “kairos” experience. This is the moment when we enter into God’s time, and that through the grace of the Holy Spirit we are able to discern our life, especially our religious missionary life.
The moment we disconnect from something, we are connecting or reconnecting to something new or that we have forgotten or taken for granted. In our retreat, we were reminded of our Redemptorist identity. This challenged us to reconnect again to the very core of who we are as Redemptorists. Fr. Sonny, our retreat facilitator, reminded and reconnected us by reflecting on our Constitutions and Statutes of the Congregation. Our Constitutions and Statutes said that a Redemptorist Missionary is “Strong in faith, rejoicing in hope, burning with charity, on fire with zeal, in humility of heart and persevering in prayer, Redemptorists as apostolic men and genuine disciples of St. Alphonsus follow Christ the Redeemer with hearts full of joy; denying themselves and always ready to undertake what is demanding, they share in the mystery of Christ and proclaim it in Gospel simplicity of life and language, that they may bring to people plentiful redemption (Constitution 20).” These very descriptions of a Redemptorist are able to capture our missionary spirit and identity. But this is somehow very ideal. Probably our founders and predecessors were the only ones who were able to imbibe this missionary spirit for even myself is struggling to live and give witness to the rule of our life. We know that this is our identity and that this should be the way to live and understand it. However, we also have our own understanding, priority, and will that we follow.
When Peter was asked by Jesus, “Who do you say I am?” With eagerness, Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” But when Jesus tried to explain how it is to live a Messiah, “to be killed and on the third day be raised,” Peter immediately changed his spirit and was absorbed by his own will, priority, and understanding. Therefore, Jesus reprimanded the dual character of Peter. This is the same with our religious life; sometimes we are living on our own “will” that deviate us from our very identity. We know the ideal but we never actualize it in the way we live. Indeed, the challenge is to continually anchor our life into the life that we are embracing now, that is, religious-missionary Redemptorist. Constitution 20 may be an ideal Redemptorist but to give witness and to live it in the grace of God is what we ought to do. We then, reconnect to the very core of our religious identity and to the will of the Father in our missionary life that we may be able to disconnect from our own desire and priority.
To reconnect from our identity is also to remember the love that we experienced as the main reason that we responded to His calling; the experience of the overflowing love of God for us. This is the love that urges us to share to others through our religious-missionary life. To rekindle this is to ask the same question, “Where are you staying, [Lord]?” (John 1:35-42) And to invite us again, “Come and see.”
The encounter of Jesus and the first two disciples in the Gospel of John will always remind me of my vocation as Jesus continually invites me to follow him, as a “Come and See” experience of my calling. I know that to follow Jesus is to radically leave my prior commitments in life and to receive new life in him. But more than just radical commitment in Jesus and receiving new life, Jesus continually invites me in his mission area. Hence, the first nameless two disciples represent us, Redemptorists, who are continually seeking and following Jesus.
Jesus asked, “What are you looking for?” Then I respond, “Where are you staying?” And Jesus looks to me intently saying, “Come and you will see.” I went and I saw where he was staying. Jesus was living among the poor and the most abandoned. He was living with them and this is what he wants me to do also, to live with the poor people and to let him be present among the destitute of our society so that I may be able to share the life and love that Jesus is so eager to give to us all. Therefore, I stayed with him that very moment when I said “yes” to my missionary vocation.
A radical commitment to the mission is what Jesus is asking us; ready to leave the “nets and boats” (Matthew 4: 18-22) in life so that we can easily take another means of going to the mission. And that we may be able to share the love that we first experience in Him. It may be hard at first but it is fulfilling just like the two disciples who willingly and happily left everything and followed Jesus Christ.
We disconnect from our own desire, reconnect to the will and mission of God and to experience and share again and again the Love that He gave to us.
About the Author:
Edward Allan Pandaan, CSsR is a member of the Redemptorist Missionaries from the Vice-Province of Manila. He is now in his 4th year Theological studies and is preparing for his synthesis paper as one the requirements of the priestly academic formation in RFC.