TEEN HOPE REVISITED
Once again, this weekend, I had the privilege of being involved in a confirmation retreat from a local parish. Due to the pandemic, we had to conduct the entire retreat outside, which was no problem given our location in Southern California. The weather was beautiful, and the teens were pleased to be out in nature and not locked in a classroom or a fixed gaze to a computer screen.
As this was their main confirmation retreat, we wanted to look inward rather than outward for inspiration. Each time I am involved with confirmation candidates, I see how much easier it is for a young mind to make deep connections with God by a redirect of their focus towards the inner life.
One monk who has done a great deal of helping countless retreat leaders in this journey is Fr. Thomas Keating. His book Gifts and Fruits of the Holy Spirit helps us all, teens, in particular, see the importance of the inner life. He keeps the principles simple. One of which is that many in the world see God being absent in the world, particularly in their lives. Nothing could be further from the truth, but nevertheless, he challenges us to recognize this fact as a barrier to entry into the spiritual journey. He then further states the obvious, God is not absent but present. God is not near us, God is within us.
Keating reminds us that God is not just present but also very active. That the divine, as well as the human, dwells within us all. Fr. Thomas refers to this as the Divine Indwelling. We don’t have to go anywhere to find God; to get closer to God. Elvis (or, in this case, God) has not left the building. And yet, he explains how much of our lives focuses on the issue of trying to find God.
Even worse, he decries the activity of praying when we don’t believe that God is listening. All of this brings us to a place where our belief in the “Divine Indwelling” is crucial for our faith journey. Much of our rocky moments, particularly rocky faith moments, can be put down to believing God is absent or not within us.
As scripture tells us in so many places, God is Always with us (Mt 28:20); we can be assured this is true, but that does not always mean we accept it. Accepting God, the God within in, the parts of us made in his image, the Divine Indwelling, is perhaps the most essential first stage in our spiritual journey. It is always the point of return when we get off track. The Holy Spirit activates this Divine Indwelling, particularly with the Gifts of the Holy Spirit. Even when unrecognized by ourselves, providing these gifts activates the Holy Longing, the desire for God which we all have in our core. Let us begin the New Year remembering a line from the Baltimore Catechism which can bring us back where we should be:
Why did God Make Me: To know Him, Love Him and Serve Him.
God Bless. Mike