This past week, Fr. Bryan, Fr. Ryan, and I went on a mini-retreat for a couple of days together. All three of us love to ski, and although the weather has not been particularly great this year for skiing overall, there was enough snow to get a few good runs in. While we were down in Ellicottville enjoying God’s creation, we used the opportunity also to reflect on our priesthood. For Fr. Ryan, this was a chance to take stock of his young priesthood and the blessings and challenges that come with this vocation. I share with you his sense of affirmation in the vocation God has called him to and his joy in celebrating the sacraments. For Fr. Bryan and myself, having just over a decade of the priesthood under our belts between us, this was a time to look at the changes that have occurred in our lives because of our calling, the many responsibilities we have since taken up and responded to, and how we can further our priestly ministry in response to the prompting of the Holy Spirit in our lives. It was a good time for fellowship, prayer, reflection, affirmation, and growth. All of us looked to the future (and the future of our parish) with hope, and we challenged ourselves to continue to take better care of our relationships with God, ourselves, and our people.
The Gospel reading of this weekend likewise has Jesus “returning to Galilee in the power of the Spirit.” Jesus was coming off of a 40-day retreat which he took after his baptism, where, yes, he faced temptation in the desert, but also where he was reaffirmed in his mission as the Son of God. Indeed, Jesus came back energized for ministry and took Galilee by storm, as everything God promised came to fulfillment. We see how all were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth and he was praised by all.
The reality is that all of us could use a retreat. It’s probably worth mentioning that the more it doesn’t seem possible to get away, the more it is needed amid all that is happening in our lives. Don’t allow yourself to become overwhelmed. The antidote to exhaustion is not more rest but wholeheartedness. Read that last line again: the antidote to exhaustion is not more rest but wholeheartedness, says poet David Whyte. A retreat isn’t about going and vegging in front of the TV or the Internet. Even some of our vacations are exhausting as we are rushing still to take in all the many sights to see. Experience overload! How many times do we take such breaks and feel as tired as before? A retreat is about doing some heart-work and returning to that wholeheartedness that is needed for living life to the full. That’s how we can return to daily life in the power of the Spirit. God wants to help us in the midst of everything that is going on, but we need to open ourselves to that. Only then will we understand that the Holy Spirit is upon us too, and that this promise “is fulfilled in our hearing” (Luke 4:21). Disciples, following the lead of Jesus, find regular time for prayer and solitude and retreat.