January 15, 2020 (Wednesday) - Company In Solitude - A Reflection on Mark 1:29-39

As soon as they left the synagogue, they entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. Now Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they told him about her at once. He came and took her by the hand and lifted her up. Then the fever left her, and she began to serve them.
That evening, at sunset, they brought to him all who were sick or possessed with demons. And the whole city was gathered around the door. And he cured many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons; and he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him.
In the morning, while it was still very dark, he got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed. And Simon and his companions hunted for him. When they found him, they said to him, “Everyone is searching for you.” He answered, “Let us go on to the neighboring towns, so that I may proclaim the message there also; for that is what I came out to do.” And he went throughout Galilee, proclaiming the message in their synagogues and casting out demons.

I am close to completing my personal retreat, which I am making at a Jesuit center in Goa. This is the second time I am making an Ignatian retreat, which is very different from the Charismatic-style retreats that many of us have become accustomed to, While those tend to be very “active” with a lot of preaching and praise and worship, often loud, these retreats are very contemplative. You remain in silence except for some time that you spend with a guide each day, usually an hour or less.

The first time I made such a retreat was in 2008 at the conclusion of a nine-month-long tour. The retreat lasted eight days, just like this one, and proved to be an incredible journey of discovery. But although I have often shared my experiences, I have realized that most people are reluctant to make retreats like this, and I think I know the reason. It is because we are afraid of solitude and silence.

When we are in the world, surrounded by people, it gives us the illusion of belonging. The noise helps to drown any thoughts of loneliness. We are able to pretend that everything is ok. But when we are on our own, we have to look at ourselves and face the reality of who we are. There is nowhere to hide. And nowhere to run. And this can be very scary. There is also a disconnect from the world around us, which can also be frightening. We don’t know what’s happening “out there.”

But this solitude can also be very liberating because we soon begin to realize that we don’t need the noise, and we don’t need the people. We don’t need to know what’s happening in the world because it doesn’t really impact us at all. And this knowledge also frees us. And then, in our aloneness, we begin to discover that we are not really alone. That God is with us. And he is somebody we can be with and talk to and listen to. And it changes us deep within.

Jesus often went to deserted places to be away from the noise and the crowds. And now he invites us to join him in a deserted place. It need not always be in a retreat center like the one I am in now. It can be in a little prayer area that you create, where you can be alone with him for a little while. As Jesus said once: When you pray, go to your room, close the door, and be with me in secret .....

Why don’t you do that today? Why don’t you do that now?