By PEDRO MENDEZ
CONNECTING FAITH AND LIFE
Isn’t it true that, at the lowest point of our lives, we realize that all we have built in our lifetime without God is insufficient to find the way out of it? It reminds me of when I discontinued my formation toward the priesthood. Amid the devastating experience, I came to realize that all that I had built was insufficient, and that only God could restore me holistically. What was it for you? Was it a divorce, an incurable illness, dysfunctional family dynamics or the death of a loved one? As a Church, we can also come to realize that all we have built without God is insufficient when facing difficult times.
In my last article, I mentioned that having 69 percent of Catholics not believing in the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist was like being at the lowest point of our life as a Church. I also said that our access to philosophical and theological courses are not enough, and that we needed spiritual discipline and thirst! This article will address one spiritual practice – our need for solitude with God. I will continue using Jacob’s story to accomplish this.
At the lowest point of his life, Jacob decided to be alone (Gn 32:23-24a). He seemed to realize that all he had built – an economic empire, two wives, 11 children, two maids, and livestock – was insufficient to help him find his way out. He decided to be alone, as if nothing really mattered.
We also need to realize that all we have built without an encounter with God is insufficient to redirect our Church to a Eucharistic renewal. Our spiritual attitude toward the Church’s theological, sacramental and spiritual teachings on the Eucharist, without this important encounter with God, is like drawing a blueprint without ever building a house. It is time to see everything we have built without encountering God as nothing, and to choose times of solitude with him as the Holy Spirit leads us, personally and communally, to a renewal in a spiritual desert (Hos 2:14)! Throughout the ages, God’s soldiers, lovers and apostles are formed, renewed and refreshed in solitude with him!
Personal solitude is our disposition to accept God’s invitation to be alone with him. Communal solitude is the intentional facilitation of communal spiritual spaces as a response to God’s invitation to be alone with him with the guidance of a spiritual leader. Personal and communal solitude have the goal of going through a spiritual struggle to let God reveal himself and place his truth at the core of who we are. But if we, personally and communally, don’t choose times of solitude with God, God will allow life itself to provide those opportunities.
What do we have in our solitude with God? We have nothing but God, ourselves, our struggles and what God has chosen to reveal to the Church. But how do we even know that God is with us? We will explore this question as we journey together in this series of articles. For now, I will say that we know God is with us because Sacred Scripture says so (Dt. 31:6; Mt. 28: 20b; Rom 8: 35-39), and because we experience the contrast of his holiness and our sinful condition through fear and awe (Is. 6:1-5; Lk. 5:8-11).
God’s presence makes us feel somehow uneasy and uncomfortable, yet peaceful. The wrestling starts by the encounter of God’s perfect nature and ours in imperfection. How we deal with this contrast is a matter of humility and vulnerability to God’s touch. What follows cannot be addressed without prayer, which will be explored in the next article.
Of course, we can decline God’s invitation to solitude. At our lowest point in our lives, we might have chosen to deal with our issues without God. Instead of God, we might have chosen to try to cope with insufficient mechanisms. The results are devastating; you might have even been in a worse situation than before! But God is still with us…waiting for us (Rev. 3:20).
Will you join me to find solitude in this spiritual desert?