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An Advent Retreat by Fr. Larry Gillick, S.J. (2005)
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Fr. Larry Gillick, S.J. gave this retreat at the Demontreville Jesuit Retreat House,Lake Elmo, Minnesota, November 17-20, 2005.These Retreat Conferences begin with a short introductory prayer followed by a thirty-minute conference based on the movements of the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius, with Advent in mind.This retreat offers two presentations on each of the Sundays of Advent. It may be made in a variety of ways, by individuals or a group. over a 3 day weekend, early in Advent over 8 days, one conference a day over 4 weeks, two conferences each week.First Talk: First Sunday of AdventGod labors to come to us, respectful of our freedom. We often come with an inferiority. How do we escape spiritual inferiority? God is always faithful. We are precious in God's eyes. We await the coming of God to give us ourselves. Love wants to give the beloved all that the beloved is. Do I really want the new life God comes to bring me. Do I want to be freer? Our Advent tension: our resistance to change. Isaiah 63.Second Talk: First Sunday of AdventTagore poem: Silent Steps. God wants to respect our freedom and come close enough to attract us but not close enough to force us. There are things than can dull our watchfulness and attentiveness. One of them is security. All depth begins with being observant. The gift of watchfulness comes from the gift of insecurity. As I wait, I ask: "Am I at the right place?" Waiting is a way of loving. The goodness of God is that God calls us to journey, because that is what's lively for us. Real wisdom is to know what God's gifts to us are for. We have to be alert and watchful for all the ways he comes to change our image ourselves. "Live according to who I say you are." Mark 13. Psalm 8. Gen. 1 & 2. Just looking around at things. Slow down to see again: in everything is the hand of God.Third Talk: Second Sunday of AdventIn Advent, we look at our unfreedoms. It is hard to know how we should be. Once we've tasted some kind of freedom, we know there is life somewhere; it doesn't have to be this way. Is. 40: "Comfort. Give comfort to my people." Mk. 1: "Prepare the way of the Lord." One of the features of someone in addiction or an unfree relationship is to say I don't know what life is like outside of this. They have become accustomed to the unfreedom. How vulnerable will I be if I am free? It can be frightening to be un-controlled from the outside. What are the valleys and mountains for us? Jesus wants to give humanity back its own identity. There is a movement of the evil spirit to attract us to get a false identity. The root of our unfreedom is envy. I want to accumulate myself, so I can point to it. Sooner or later we need people telling us who we are. Envy says I want independence from God, independence to choose my unfreedom. The call of God who comes is to a greater dependence on God.Fourth Talk: Second Sunday of Advent1 Cor. 2. We have received the Spirit that we might understand our other gifts. The work of the Spirit is a wisdom of how to live in this world. Mk. 1: There is going to be a new way. The One who is coming will baptize you with the Holy Spirit, who will announce to you what freedom is and the giftedness of yourself, give you your identity and make you dependant. His way needs to be prepared. His coming will be with a new wisdom. I don't always respond well. The coming of Jesus calls for a conversion from what I depend upon - to let go of those things I'm hanging on to for my identity. Gospel of repentance. I will start from a stance of gratitude. The difference between what I have, used to prove myself verses what I have been given, used to express myself. The call to receive things, as the gifts they are. Not only do I receive things gratefully, I want to be open to the rejections and challenges to my identity and I will do that gratefully. I use them for an affirmation that I am a gift of God. Where am I going to get my name and what will sustain me? In our prayer we try to listen to the Wisdom and the ways of Jesus. What is it in the Gospel that I wish he hadn't said?Fifth Talk: Third Sunday of AdventPhil 4: Rejoice. The Lord is near to us. What is the source of joy in our life and what is the source of sadness. Our bad choices seem to come from our expectations of how life ought to be. Can I live with what is, with "the Lord is near," even while I'm longing. One sadness is an inferiority that keeps us hidden. The Spirit of God is trying to bring forth what is good in us. Some of my sadness is isolation - that God can not touch me through the needy, through the poor, through everything. Everything is to bring me to a life that is joyful. I am sad because I have expectations of others and no one can complete me. The One who calls you is faithful and he will accomplish it. The coming of Jesus into this world is still through human vehicles - you and me.Sixth Talk: Third Sunday of AdventThe graced person is graced to let the light within them shine through. Part of the mystery is how Christ dwells within us and we are to let Christ play through us - to be a sacrament. Prologue: John the Baptizer says, "I am not he. Be alert, be watchful, for all the prophetic metaphors of grace. God is coming." The key is to live so as to allow mystery in our lives. There are mysteries in our lives - things that can never be figured out. We allow the mysteries of life to come into our lives, if we are to let the mystery of Christ in our lives. Tensions are a grace for us. What am I to do with mystery? Jesus is the light so that we can see clearly. As sacraments, we can see the sacramentality of everything. The opposite of sacramentality is judgementality. Pray with your own sacramentality. Seventh Talk: Fourth Sunday of AdventJesus meets us where we'd rather not be. We'd like to meet God, after we've accomplished our own holiness. He leads us to where it is good for us to be. That's what we are waiting for. Once God comes among us the holy is among us. It is a great praise to be a house of God into which God comes. It gives up the necessity for great accomplishments. A conversion from greatness to littleness as God makes greatness from littleness. Jesus converts us where we are, from flight to faith. There is a holiness in receiving what he wants to give us. Pray where Jesus goes in houses. Ps. 89. 1 Cor. 6. What of your house do you most want to run out of? The place where he most wants to meet us.Eighth Talk: Fourth Sunday of AdventSignificance verses Importance. He came down to a cottage in Nazareth. Luke 1. An interruption and a commitment. Use your imagination to get there. There's something for all of us there. Mary is invited into insecurity - into the mystery of her life. We're getting close to Jesus by looking at the people who were significant in his life. Jesus didn't come to solve me, but to save me - to comfort me, lovingly. Mary trusts the promise, the invitation. Faith, like love, is a real leap. Some things that come into our lives throw us on our knees. How close do we let mystery, uncertainty and doubt get? Fear is a natural response to interruption and invitation. God was making a promise: "this is how I want human beings to know me." Each of us is asked to play our role: to give him birth. In order to be significant, I have to let go of my desperate search for importance. In her simplicity, poverty, emptiness, isn't she a symbol of the world in its vacancy? That is redemption. A relationship: "I want to give you more of yourself. We will show you what the deepest meaning of life: significance." Mary's significance: she allowed what was simple to be made much of. What we see in Mary, we see in her son. He invites us to receive the grace to trust promises and not be confined to the desperate search for importance. Advent: life is still possible; the promises are still keepable.