On the Sunday 16th of August, over 50 people across the country gathered virtually to attend ACOY Victoria’s first-ever online evening retreat titled Just for You(th).
The aim of the retreat was to provide the guidance and tools we need to tackle modern-day issues and remain close to God and our Faith. As each face popped up onto the screen there were smiles all round, given this was the first time many of us had seen each other in months. After some catching up, we set to begin our evening.
Our first speaker of the evening was Johnny Rabahi, delivering a talk on laziness and pride.
Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.
Johnny reminded us with this verse that it is easy to fall into laziness and pride because the gate is wide, it requires no effort but will lead us to destruction. He beautifully explained how laziness in our everyday lives impacts our spiritual lives. We cannot expect to approach our everyday tasks, cleaning, exercising, studying etc. with laziness and not expect that energy to flood into our spiritual lives. We must be active and diligent in our everyday lives in order to flourish in our spiritual lives.
We then moved onto pride, the world that we live in has a major focus on self-dependence and self-satisfaction. We believe we are able to achieve things alone without God and thus take God for granted. Pride is the mother of all vices and if untreated will lead to our spiritual death. You can’t open your hand to receive God, while also holding onto your pride, we must make a choice.
Our second talk of the evening was delivered by Fr Jean Mawal. He discussed how we can aim for perfection as demonstrated by Christ through asceticism and obedience. Asceticism is the first step of the ascent to perfection, it’s the practice of self-discipline and self-denial. It is not easy to obtain and requires effort, as well as faith ‘So faith without works is dead also’ (James 2:14-26). Likened to the athletic competition by St Paul, we too must train and run towards our prize, Salvation.
Obedience much like laziness needs to be practiced day to day. If you want to achieve spiritual heights, you need obedience in your everyday life and the reward for obedience is freedom. Fr Jean reminded us that it is important for us to remember that obedience is an act of love towards God not to simply be obedient out of fear.
After our incredible talks, we broke out into 8 groups to discuss the examples of laziness and pride and remedies to heal.
All groups discussed the importance of having a spiritual schedule, regular self-examination, fasting, prayer, confession and setting spiritual goals. To set achievable goals they must be specific and measurable and as Christians, the way we measure is not by measuring against other people but by the Bible and the Church. The retreat emphasised the importance of having a spiritual father in order to ensure we are moving in the right direction in accordance with the sacraments of the Church. We cannot have real asceticism without the sacraments of the Church.
The retreat being the first of its kind ran smoothly without a hitch. It was set out to give everyone an opportunity to ask questions and contribute. It was a great evening filled with incredible insight and left us spiritually uplifted.
We pray that everyone in attendance was able to take from the evening the tools needed to strengthen their spiritual lives and choose the narrow gate.