The following story appeared in the February 10 Idaho Catholic Register.
Photo of the City of Rocks National Reserve. (provided by commons.wikimedia.org/)
By Father Nathan Dail
This month I thought I would give a word about our retreats since we’ll be hosting two separate men’s and women’s retreats the first and third weekends of February.
We’ll be spending the weekend at an Airbnb in the wilderness of Cassia County near the City of Rocks National Reserve. I’m looking forward to this year especially because our retreatants will be in a secluded location. In order to really enter into a silent retreat, we must first be able to enter into an environment of external silence.
The primary temptation of the Israelites in the Old Testament happened when they would inhabit cities where pagans dwelt, and, little by little, they would take on the customs and even false worship of those who did not follow the commandments of God. In order to remind them who God is and who they are, over and over again the Lord would lead them into the desert in order to convert their hearts. “I will lead you into the desert and speak to your heart.” (Jeremiah 17:6)
God leads us into he desert because it is there that we become more attuned to His voice and His Presence. Without the distractions of the city and multitudes, we become more aware of our own inner longings and poverty, our need for God, and, simultaneously, God’s desire to share Himself with us in response.
There is a saying, “If the devil cannot make you bad, he’ll make you busy.” This refers to the temptation to fill our deeper desires with superficial results, and then we become distracted from our deeper need for God. Perhaps this is the reason Christ warned us, “It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.”
He told the parable about a king having a wedding feast for his son. When he sent messengers to invite people from the city, each one re-fused because they were ‘too busy’ with worldly pursuits.
The primary temptation in life is to become too busy for God in our life, even to the point where the Sunday Mass obligation becomes too much of a burden. At this point, God has very little room to speak to us in our lives. And we wonder why it becomes so difficult for modern man to hear the voice of God speaking.
The topic of the retreat is “Discerning the Voice of the Father.” How do we know the voice of God? How do we separate it from our own voice and, even more, the voice of the evil one who is always tempting us?
We become what we listen to. If we listen to the voices of the world, the voices of fear, the voices of the flesh, then we become worldly, fearful and hardened. On the other hand, when we listen to the voice of God speaking to our hearts, we become an image of His Word, His own Son who lived His entire life on earth listening, following and assimilating that voice.
I’ve come to see that the secret not only to Christ’s ministry, but to His very Person and His deepest identity, is in hearing the voice of His Father: “The Son can do nothing except what He sees His Father doing.” Or, “My food is to do the will of the one who sent me.”
His goal in life was to remain in the voice of His Father so that He would always be faithful to His Father’s mission and not become distracted by all the voices around Him. Everyone had an opinion on who the Christ should be and how He should save them. That has not changed today. Everyone has an opinion about who Jesus Christ was and how following Him should be.
What allowed Christ to remain true to Himself was by remaining in the voice of His Father. This is how we can be sure of Who we follow in our understanding of Christ -- by remaining in that same voice.
Please pray for our students as they step into the desert silence to hear that voice and learn to live their lives by it.
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