A retreat is a definite time spent away from one's normal life for the purpose of reconnecting with God in prayer.

After two years of being homebound because of the pandemic, a three-day retreat is truly perfect to start a new year of catechetical instructions for most of us catechists from the Archdiocese of Manila. 

Why go on a retreat?  Fr. Carlo, our retreat facilitator stated…para ma-layo naman (sa usual na kinalalagyan), para makapagpahinga, para manahimik, para magdasal at para ma-wala lang (to disappear to ordinariness of life).  This retreat is basically our “Pagbalik sa Kanlungan.”

The first session started with an introduction of a music video, a modern oratorio entitled The God Who Sees, telling the stories of Hagar, Ruth, David and Mary Magdalene and the promises God made to them.

Fr. Carlo reminded us that we are given these days of the retreat to come to our own desert, like Hagar wandering and lost in despair, like Ruth without no future at all, like David running away from the enemy and like Mary Magdalene crying away her sorrows.  We think God does not really see but He sees the bigger picture.

In this retreat, we are invited to rest and pray with the heart.  To ask God to touch us not just intellectually but also affectively so we may let go of all our thoughts and be present before God.

Session 2 entitled Discipleship: A movement from fear to love challenged us to place ourselves in the God who sees and then let it go because following Jesus is moving away from fear.  Fear is a pervasive quality in our lives that makes us think in terms of scarcity.  Jesus is inviting us to move away from the world of scarcity and live in abundance.  According to Fr. Carlo, abundance is not about me becoming RICH but me having a Father in Heaven who is RICH.

How do we overcome this mentality of scarcity?  By letting go…by giving away our five loaves and two fishes.  To follow Jesus means to give a unique witness to the love of God as revealed in Jesus. 

In following Jesus, let us keep our eyes on the “God of Abundance” as Jesus says in John 10:10, I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

The last part of the talk started with an opening song Come to Jesus and the Bible text for reflection from John 21:18, Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.”

This Bible text depicts the two movements in our spiritual journey.  The first half is the Path to Ascent: When you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted and the second half is the Path to Descent: But when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.

The path to ascent is like forming a container and making it ready for the contents while the path to descent is filling the container and making it ready for sharing.

In the first half of our spiritual journey, we need ego boundaries to function in the world.  Ego boundary is a psycho-analytic term that refers to the ego function of distinguishing between self and non-self just like the Rich Young Man in the Bible.  While in the second half, we detach from all identity markers of the first half.  We let go of the container, we move beyond the needs of the ego and we are able to die to self just like Zaccheus.

Therefore, it must be understood that Laws and Traditions are necessary to reveal and limit our basic ego-centricity and make community, family, and marriage possible.

The battle of the first half is fighting the devil and having the illusion of winning while the second half is fighting God and we always lose.  

According to Fr. Carlo, there are three types of discipleship.  First is essential discipleship where you build your life between 30 to 40 years after puberty.  The second is generative discipleship where you give away your life as a gift and lastly radical discipleship where you give away your death as a gift.

In general, the retreat which was divided into two batches has been very meaningful, relaxing and invigorating.