How radical would it sound to you if I told you I spent this past weekend on a retreat with eight men, whose purpose was to pursue God’s will in their life and ultimately be blessed with sainthood? Would you think these men were too audacious trying to pursue sainthood? Well that’s exactly what our purpose was and when you finish reading this email I hope you set out in pursuit of the same ideal, and that is discerning God’s willin your life and striving for sainthood.
The word “saint” literally means “holy,” and, in the New Testament, “saint” referred to all who believed in Jesus Christ and followed His teachings. St. Paul often addressed his epistles to “the saints” of a particular city (see, for instance, Ephesians 1:1 and 2 Corinthians 1:1). In other words those who followed Christ had been so transformed that they were now different “saints” or holy ones if you will.
Today the word “saint” has become more narrowly applied to people who have been venerated after their deaths as saints. I am referring to the former use of sainthood as men and woman who seek to be transformed and seek to carry out the will of God in their lives. Using this definition don’t you too seek sainthood? And just how do we discern the will of God either individually in our lives or collectively as a group?
Our group is a group of eight ordinary men. We come from all walks of life and range in age from 30s to 50s. Over the last five years we have become close friends with our friendship rooted in Christ. The way we came to meet might to some appear to be happenstance, but I assure you as one of the eight we all believe God had a purpose for us coming to know one another.However, after five years it was time to try to find out what our real calling from God was.
I decided to host a two day retreat in my home. I invited these men to give up a weekend and by God’s grace all of these men were able to fit it into their schedule so we spent just over 28 hours together starting on Friday at 5pm and concluding at 9pm on Saturday. We began with Friendship Group Reunion while breaking bread together during dinner.But this email is not about us it is about you! We all must make time for discernment.
We chose to build our retreat around three key talks: “A Call to Repentance, Mercy, and Forgiveness”, “A Call to Vulnerability, Honesty, and Holiness” and”A Call to Discipleship, Mission, and Sainthood”. A key area of focusfor us was the realization that in order to hear God clearly weeach had to seek to remove firstour obstacles (sin) andsecond the shame that walls us in withreocurring sinful habits. We were blessed that our Pastor was able to join us for a few hours on Saturday where he made Reconciliation available to us andcelebrated mass. Our retreat schedule also allowed time for journaling, periods of silent reflection, and group discussions, and perhaps most importantly time to deepen our friendships. We clearly felt God’s presence with us.
I have written extensively on the importance of Christians living out their lives in small communities or Friendship Group Reunions. It is important that these small groups stay authentic to their purpose which is to help those in the group grow in their relationship with God and grow in their own personal character. In other words the ultimate goal of these groups is to help everyone in the group be blessedwith sainthood. We do this as you know by sharing what God is revealing to us in our prayer time, and sharing what God is revealing to us about us and about Him and finally sharing how we are taking God’s good news to others.
As a group, we wanted to discern if God was calling us as a group of eight men into one mission or was He calling us each separately into eight separate missions. We wanted to know so that we could respond by following in the direction He wasleading us. I bet you also want to know where He isleading you!
Volumes have been written on discerning God’s will. Just go to Google and search for “discerning God’s will”. We chose the method of allowing the Christ who resides in each of us to reveal Himself and His will to us through our brothers. This included seeking repentance and removing any false masks of pride or shame that we hide behind, to allow Christ’s light to illuminate even the darkest areas of our beings, and to acknowledge that He calls us to mission, even knowing we are broken.
Christ’s message to this world is radical. Modern day motivational speakers tell us we must be self-reliant and depend on our own strength. Jesus taught us just the opposite. By professing our weaknesses, and by professing our dependency on Him, it is only then that we can follow and discern His will and come closer to the goal of achieving sainthood.
Of course in the end discernment takes time and takes PRAYER. By the end of our retreat we had a deeper understanding of His will than when we began, but we know we need additional prayer time before we might fully understand His will for us. I encourage each of you to make time either with your small group or alone, to discern God’s will and direction for your lives.
I assure you our group of eight men is in no way special. We do profess we are sinners, yet we are on fire for our Lord and trying our best to be followers of Jesus Christ and that we find our strength in Him. If one, some or all of our group of eight men could ever help you individually or as a group with discernment, if we could ever help by sharing our retreat with your small group or with your churches or parishes in a one day mission we would be blessed to do so. Please let me know if you have any interest in this.
The bottom line is to pray. Don’t try to “find time,” but rather, MAKE TIME today to seek His will.
Come Holy Spirit; enkindle in us the Wisdom to seek the Father’s will in our lives and the strength to follow where He leads us. Amen.