I went for a five-day spiritual retreat at “The Seven Fountains” Retreat Centre in Chiangmai from 11 – 15 August. I have been serving in East Asia for the past 10 years, but due to recent changes in the government policy there I was forced to leave earlier than planned. It is a good time for me to seek God’s will and direction for the next phase of my life.
Day 1: Learning to be still
Met our spiritual director Father David Townsend, a Jesuit priest who gave us some instructions on how we were to spend our time the next few days. We were not to use our phones, or to talk to our friends even during meals. Besides meal time, we were to spend time alone in silence and prayer.
For a start, we were to reflect on Psalms 8, 103,104 – to be still and know God (Psalms 46:10), and to enjoy God’s love and presence through nature. The surrounding is beautiful and quiet with plenty of trees. It was difficult to “be still” as I tried to settle down to do some walking, reflection and prayer.
Day 2: Following Jesus
The spiritual director told me to reflect on the ministry of John the Baptist (John 1:29-42) – what it meant to me in my context right now. Three questions I need to ask myself for the next 3 days:
What am I seeking? What do I need to let go? What are the obstacles I faced?
So, I spent some time reading and re-reading and reflecting, walking and praying. This was what I jot down in my journal:
John the Baptist’s ministry was to prepare the way for people to follow Jesus. He pointed people to Jesus:”Behold, the Lamb of God” (John 1:29, 36- 37).
His own two disciples, one of them was Andrew, heard and followed Jesus. Andrew in turn brought his brother, Simon (Peter) to Jesus. This is a familiar truth in the Bible which we know but practice little.
All of us as disciples of Jesus do not just follow Jesus but are to help others to follow Jesus – to be disciples of Jesus .
My prayer: Lord as I follow you, help me to direct others to follow you – to be your disciples.
Day 3: Overcoming obstacles
Attended Mass on Sunday.
The scripture texts were taken from I Kings 19: 1-13 on Elijah fleeing from Jezebel after he killed all the prophets of Baal, and Matthew 8:23-27 on Jesus calming the storm. Both Elijah and Peter were afraid – their lives were in danger and their faith in God faltered despite having experienced God’s power personally. I realized very often I had also failed to trust God in difficult situations and was fearful of the unknown. So fear is one of my obstacles I need to overcome and learn to trust him completely.
Day 4: Letting Go
This morning, the spiritual director told me to reflect on the wedding at Cana (John 2:1-12) . He suggested that I walk through the labyrinth in prayer. This is something new I learnt there – the labyrinth is an ancient way of prayer. As you move into the labyrinth, repeat your favourite Bible verses, sing your favourite spiritual-orientated song, and pray.
– At the entrance: What am I leaving?
– On the way in: What am I seeking?(/br>
– In the centre: What am I celebrating?
– On the way out: What will I offer?
It was a wonderful experience to pray this way walking through the labyrinth.
Day 5: Offering myself to the Lord
The final day of the retreat: I continued to read John’s gospel chapter3 and 4 and walked through the labyrinth again.
Jesus said in John 4:34,”My food is to do the will of him (God) who sent me and to accomplish his work.” Yes, indeed this should be what all of us need to do: the will of God and accomplish the work he has for us to do.
One of the verses that I reflected and prayed while walking in the labyrinth was Romans 12:1-2.
My prayer to God there as I stood in the centre of the labyrinth: Lord, I offer myself as a living sacrifice to you, transform and renew me so that I can do your will – as your will is good, pleasing and perfect.
By Lai Choy Fong