Saturday, March 29, 2008

Our first gathering

This afternoon we gathered for our first day of prayer and fellowship for the year. Aaron, Alfred, Clarence, Lance and Vincent were present. Edwin came all the way from KL to be with us! The Jesuit Novitiate community joined too.

The theme for today's prayer and reflection was The Grace of Emptiness. Using the story of the Samaritan woman's encounter wth Jesus at the well, we were invited to reflect on ourselves as vessels God has loving fashioned into existence for a purpose. To help us in our reflection, these points were shared:

Like the woman with her vessel, we come to this time of prayer spiritually empty or half empty. Whether we are full of light or struggling with darknesses within, we all seek to Jesus and be filled with the life-giving water he offered her. We see something more: her encounter with Jesus transformed her. She recognizes her true self as a sinner but she also understands Jesus is lovingly promising her redemption. This good news moved her to proclaim Jesus's true identity to her own people. In prayer, we meet Jesus. Jesus can help us to appreciate ourselves as we honestly are: human and frail yet imaged in God's good likeness. Then, we can begin to claim our promised eternity with God by embracing Jesus' way of life. What prayer today offers us is this: let us ask God to fill the vessels that we are Jesus's Spirit to know, praise and serve Him.

These points ended with an invitaton to let go and let God lead. Indeed God leads us better to know His Will in our lives. We then had a simple but meaningful ritual of filling paper cups, symbolizing our lives, with water from glass bowls, symbolizing the life-giving water Jesus offers us all. We quietly prayed for the graces we each sought today while holding the cups in the palms of our hands.

An hour of quiet prayer followed. During this time, we read and prayed on the transforming gift of emptiness in St Ignatius's life: the canonball injury and his long recuperation from it were God's way of humbling him. We read how it was only in humility that Ignatius began to seek how he could more authentically live the life God desired for him. Ignatius discerned he was to be God's pilgrim servant for the greater wellbeing of others and not the proud soldier that lorded over them. This insight into Ignatius' life called us to reflect on our own lives and the emptiness that moves us to seek God.

After this, we offered our prayer experiences and the sharings we had in small groups at a Mass Fr Colin celebrated to close the recollection. After the homily, Aaron shared that emptiness was truly God's grace for us to grow. Alfred spoke about how it does not really matter what we ask for because God knows what best to give. Lance offered a reflection of thanksgiving on the vessel of his life as gift to be filled and shared.

Our dinner was simple but delicious and our conversation was happy. After dinner, Fr Philip invited us to share our dreams of journeying together this year. Several good suggestions were made: to have time for prayer and reflection; to do social apostolate; to recreate together. Our discussion ended with the comforting assurance that we want to walk with each other in prayer and life regularly this year. (See our gathering dates on the sidebar.)

Our day ended with a game of Pictionary: we returned to that childlike innocence of doodling the words from the cards drawn. At times, we were baffled with the sketches. Most of the time, however, we laughed! Thanks be to God!

artwork: christ and the woman of samaria by guercino c1647